What started out as a city ordinance to discourage parking in the Golden Mile of Myrtle Beach has turned into a growing resident voice of now over 7,500 people.
This month, the group, Make Myrtle Beaches Free, Clean and Safe is celebrating its first full year of coming together as a community. These residents are unquestionably among the most powerful voices in Horry County.
The discussion group focuses dialogue online as to how both county and city residents can help the city of Myrtle Beach become a healthier part of a dynamic SMSA that runs along the coast from Brunswick County, N.C. to Pawleys Island, S.C. While areas in the SMSA like Highway 544 and Highway 17 in Surfside Beach, the entire city of North Myrtle Beach, and the entire Carolina Forest community have experienced positive development and dynamic growth, the downtown areas of Myrtle Beach have been highlighted by ongoing shootings, homelessness, vacant buildings, volatile beach bacteria spikes, and high crime.
As homeowners and investors in the region, Make Myrtle Beaches Free, Clean and Safe residents provide a discussion platform for opinions and facts on ways to move the city of Myrtle Beach forward. Through shared news items, posts, and comments ideas are vi-rally shared inside the group.
The success of the grass roots group has even caused Brad Dean of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce to create the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber’s own copycat group called Keeping Myrtle Beach Safe.
Many locals, however, believe the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber does not have the right nor the authority to serve in a large portion of the political and governmental capacities the “not for profit” has taken upon itself to fill. Those areas include the political action committees funded by chamber of commerce related board members that largely fund the campaigns of incumbents, serving as the voice for safety issues inside the city, speaking as an authority on beach bacteria concerns, and often speaking as the authority on various city government concerns instead of allowing those who have been elected to provide a response so as to be held accountable to city voters.
Rich Mazlone, a key spokesperson for the group says, “Part of the problem is that the city of Myrtle Beach is just chasing dollars. The budget for the Chamber of Commerce is the driving thing and decisions get made that affect those dollars, not that affect the people [area residents]”.
The current Tourism Development Fee (1% tax) legislation that funds the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber is set to expire in 2019. The tax funds the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber to the tune of over $20 million annually. The funds, by law, must be used to advertise the Myrtle Beach area. The funds, by law, are also not subject to a public audit.
Several challengers for city government believe the funds could be better spent improving the downtown city of Myrtle Beach. These challengers say they believe the city needs improvements in policing and cleaning up storm water runoff drainage areas before investing large sums in additional advertising. Incumbents and those supporting incumbents also post counter view points inside the discussion platform.
As the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber has taken such a key comprehensive role that includes crime, beach public safety, environmental beach safety, government and state politics there is hardly any facet of issues Myrtle Beach that the Chamber is not now connected to. Residents have stated they would like to see their voices and roles increase above and beyond the Myrtle Beach Chamber’s in these matters.
S.C. State law allows for the tourism development fee tax to be renewed by a city-wide referendum or a 5 out of 7 city council member/mayoral vote. That 1% tax renewal has put the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber at the epicenter of all things political in the coming November 2017 elections. As such, many of the current discussions in the group focus on issues that surround and include where candidates stand on those and similar issues for this Fall’s city elections.
Mr. Malzone said the group does not have a particular set of candidates they endorse at this time. The group has an open ear for listening to all challengers as to what positive changes each believes he or she can accomplish if elected.
Myrtle Beach is certainly a better, stronger and more accountable city now that the group exists and continues to bring light on all things of concern about the city and Horry County.