Myrtle Beach City Council’s Tuesday vote allowing City Manager John Pedersen to enter into a sale agreement (of taxpayer purchased property) with a city chosen, preferred buyer came right out of the MASC (Municipal Association of Cities) playbook.
Factions that previously led the city, including the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce (in lock step with), five key property hotel managers, Mark Lazarus – Horry County Council Chairman, the local state delegation, and the Coastal Carolina Association of Realtors have all been broken apart and marginalized.
This marginalization of colluded government power, through concurrent elections, leave Brenda Bethune, John Pedersen and Marilyn Hatley as now the three most powerful people in Horry County.
These three are increasingly taking their cues from the MASC.
S.C. legislators we called today raised concerns about MASC. A text from S.C. House District 8 Representative, Johnathan Hill about the group stated, “I’m familiar with them! I can’t think of a single issue that they have been good on.”
MASC is a highly influential organization among 95 cities and city managers state-wide. Much of MASC’s focus centers around city revitalization. These efforts often feature uses of zoning changes, penny taxes, fees, and federal and state matching funds to re-shape and re-engineer cities.
The consensus among those we spoke with today in the S.C. House of Representatives was that MASC preaches autocratic government principles.
Two representatives, who asked not to have their names published, stated that MASC is a fascist organization.
GONE ARE THESE DAYS IN S.C.’s AMERICAN CITIES
We found theses statements politically charged. In light of that, we researched the term for our readers. Merriam Webster defines Fascism as follows: a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts government above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government with severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of government opposition.
Below are headlines about Myrtle Beach City Government over the past 2 years in which the city has increasingly followed MASC principles. These recent headlines do appear to support statements made by State Representatives:
MARCH 1, 2017 Myrtle Beach may use eminent domain to acquire Five Points buildings https://www.myhorrynews.com/news/myrtle-beach-may-use-eminent-domain-to-acquire-five-points/article_20d60cc2-fe3f-11e6-8a13-476d156cfb11.html
August 8, 2019 Myrtle Beach Mayor Bethune Supports Gun Control https://myrtlebeachsc.com/mayor-makes-shootings-a-local-issue/
AUGUST 14, 2018 ‘We are desperate’: Smoke shops, CBD oil banned from Ocean Blvd. https://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/news/local/article216654595.html
AUGUST 15, 2019 Myrtle Beach City Council has passed a motion to allow food trucks to set up shop at five public parks in exchange for providing surveillance for the Myrtle Beach Police Department. https://wpde.com/news/local/food-trucks-to-provide-surveillance-at-myrtle-beach-public-parks
August 1, 2019 CITY BULLIES DOWNTOWN MERCHANT AND LOSES BIG https://myrtlebeachsc.com/city-bullies-downtown-merchant-and-loses-big/
August 14, 2019 City shops for new merchant https://myrtlebeachsc.com/city-shops-for-new-merchant/
July 24, 2019 ‘Confidential’ re-zoning in Myrtle Beach raises ownership questions https://myrtlebeachsc.com/confidential-re-zoning-project-in-myrtle-beach-opportunity-zone/
Aug 2, 2019 Frustrated with Myrtle Beach leaders, some business owners are trying to remove their properties from the city limits https://www.myhorrynews.com/news/local/horry_county/frustrated-with-myrtle-beach-leaders-some-business-owners-are-trying/article_bf9ca2c4-b58c-11e9-ace8-8b0cf42b59d3.html
Despite being hated by Horry County residents and Myrtle Beach city merchants, City Manager John Pedersen and Mayor Brenda Bethune are now two of the three most powerful people in Horry County.
Bethune and Pedersen are clearly taking their lead from the MASC.
About the MASC: Formed in 1930, the Municipal Association of South Carolina represents and serves the state’s 271 incorporated municipalities. The Association is dedicated to the principle of its founding members: to offer the services, programs and tools that will give municipal officials the knowledge, experience and tools for enabling the most efficient and effective operation of their municipalities in the complex world of municipal government.
Below is from the MASC website, in which the Greenville, S.C. Mayor speaks about how Greenville converted private businesses into public living spaces.
Merchants in Myrtle Beach are suing the city of Myrtle Beach, stating that the methods city government is using to drive them from downtown are illegal and UN-American.
MASC NEWS FROM ITS WEBSITE
Greenville Mayor Talks Downtown Reinvention at Annual Meeting
The City of Greenville has built a reputation for national accolades in recent memory. In its list of best places to live in the nation, U.S. News & World Report highlighted Greenville’s downtown as well as its growth in manufacturing jobs, while the Condé Nast Traveler 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards for the best cities in the nation described the city’s farm-to-table restaurant scene as rivalling Asheville, N.C.
Greenville Mayor Knox White. Photo: City of Greenville.
Despite this praise, Greenville is only a few decades removed from an era of disinvestment that emptied out its downtown. The story of its transformation from that time to now is one that Mayor Knox White will tell at the Municipal Association of SC Annual Meeting in Greenville, July 18 – 21. It’s also one that he told at the joint meeting of the SC Community Development Association and Main Street South Carolina in Aiken and North Augusta in May.
White credited the first steps to the city leaders of the 1970s, who he said had the foresight to “bulldoze” the four-lane Main Street to open up space for the wide sidewalks and the large tree canopy the street now enjoys. From there, he said, the push could begin to create substantial activity on evenings and weekends with an intense focus on mixed-use development. Now, he said, the busiest time downtown is 3 p.m. on Sundays.
“No matter how you cut it, no matter how you slice it, to get vibrancy on the street, you’ve got to get residential. You’ve got to get people living in the downtown area,” he said.
Efforts in the mid-1990s focused on creating residential space on second floors above storefronts. It continued through projects like Fluor Field in 2006, a development that included condos and is now surrounded by residential development.
Courtesy City of Greenville, SC
Mixed use, White concluded, is capable of having “a magical effect,” adding that Greenville’s leaders have been stunned by what it has accomplished. He encouraged his audience to push for it at any scale, even if they are pushing for just a single block.
“Whatever the scale, the rules are the same,” he said.
Mayor White will speak during the opening general session of the Annual Meeting Friday, July 19 at 9 a.m. Downtown Greenville revitalization efforts will also be spotlighted in a preconference mobile workshop Thursday, July 18 at 8:30 a.m. Learn more about the agenda for the Annual Meeting and registration information.