Mayor John Rhodes To Run
Mayor John Rhodes announced last Friday to a local newspaper that he will be running for re-election as Mayor this November 2017. Since his announcement Myrtle Beach has witnessed 5 shootings in the downtown area.
Earlier this week, in the middle of the downtown crime spree, Mayor Rhodes met with Myrtle Beach Area Chamber C.E.O. Brad Dean and Senator Lindsay Graham in private discussions not open to the media. Senator Lindsey Graham sent out a note to the media on Monday at 3:40 p.m. to let them know that he would be meeting with the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. He invited the media to attend documenting coverage of his visit. Then, at 5:11 p.m., the senator sent out another note: Only the first 5 minutes of the chamber meeting would be open to the media for photo ops and introductions. The rest of the meeting was held in private.
During his announcement, Mayor Rhodes told MyHorryNews that he did not deal in rumor and innuendo. Rhodes has been the Mayor of Myrtle Beach since 2005. In defense of his ongoing Chamber of Commerce and other paid trips to China, Rhodes said, “As mayor of a resort city, I have an obligation to find people to come here. Tourism is our lifeblood and the Chinese have become the largest bloc and the biggest spending bloc of tourists to this country.” In defense of his WPDE ABC TV/Sinclair Broadcasting paid trip to Monte Carlo, Rhodes said the Monte Carlo trip was a “business incentive” offered to him by Sinclair Broadcasting. Local TV station WPDE is a Sinclair affiliate. “We broadcast 21 games on national TV with the help of Sinclair,” Rhodes explained.
Residents of Pine Lakes began to speak out on social media this week, however, demanding change in light of 5 shootings in just six days. One such comment by a Pine Lakes resident online stated: “I am speechless. This is not acceptable. The powers that be need to be held accountable. There is no excuse.“
With high violent crime, an ongoing heroin epidemic, contaminated runoff from 8 oceanfront beach areas, mounting city debt, city government forcing business owners out of their own private properties through eminent domain, city parking issues associated with the DRC, and shady Chinese golf course purchases brokered by Mayor Rhodes, local residents are now wondering publicly online if these long-standing elected leaders vying again for re-election this Fall can continue to purchase their way into office.
It is no rumor that four PACs run by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber will spend well over $500,000 to ensure that incumbents stay in office. With $20 million in tax welfare for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber at stake, $500,000 is considered a small investment.
THE BRAND PROBLEM
While all incumbents continue to win election after election, the Myrtle Beach brand continues to take hit after hit. In a very city friendly article produced by WPDE concerning Easter week shootings, the station asked Mark Kruea, City Public Information Officer about downtown crime. “Ocean Boulevard by its very nature invites crowds and activity. That’s the appeal– it’s a happening place. The problem we had this past weekend was that there were people who had bad intentions. There was some gang activity, young people. It’s a small percentage of everybody who enjoys Ocean Boulevard,” said Kruea. Multiple Pine Lakes residents responded online after the article was posted that those statements are simply not true.
FACTS: Brands attract people who engage with those brands. Examples: Pabst Beer, Red Bull, “Pay Day Loans”, Cadillac Escalade – When our readers consider those brands, certain customer groups immediately come to mind.
While the cities of North Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach, Garden City and Pawleys Island have each worked hard to improve their city brand image, Myrtle Beach has been asleep at the wheel.
Those cities have now taken the higher end, longer stay families that pay more and behave in a manner appropriate for a family beach. The Myrtle Beach brand is attracting fewer customers, as the below city water and sewer graph shows:
While the Myrtle Beach Chamber touts over 18 million tourists to our greater area, toilets flushed inside the city show that more sewer was used in 2007 and 2008 than 2016. Unless 2014, 2015, and 2016 can be explained as outliers, a troubling trend is becoming obvious. These numbers are facts and are certainly not rumor. Facts are, over the past 3 years, the city of Myrtle Beach has had fewer guests. The city is also increasingly attracting a nonfamily friendly audience who themselves are attracting even more nonfamily friendly clients. A nonfamily friendly, unsafe brand identification has now been imprinted on American consumer minds concerning what the city of Myrtle Beach brand is. As such, we are now attracting more customers fitting that brand image. This growing new and dominant client group now contribute to the increasing criminal activity inside the city limits.
Other area beach towns have made family brand identification their priority. As such, these towns are garnering the highly prized family guests Myrtle Beach once took for granted. Crime rates in those towns show these are safe and family-friendly brands.
STAYING IN OFFICE
How the circular system currently works: Myrtle Beach City collects tourist taxes that are then handed out like candy to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber, corporate local media, local resident homeowners, and insider groups. The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber, local corporate media and insider groups then work to see that incumbents stay in office.
All the while, the Myrtle Beach brand continues to decline as no one is held accountable. This is surely a system that will implode over time, even if all four incumbents get re-elected this Fall. Like all Ponzi scheme systems, this system will run its full course in the short term future.
We asked Mayor Rhodes the following concerning as a follow up to his announced run:
- 1. Do you believe it is the role of the Myrtle Beach Mayor to help facilitate a private business transaction like the golf course corporate sale you helped arrange between FGI (Dan Liu, his wife, and Nick Dou) and National Golf Management?
- 2.Do you believe that this particular private business deal actually brought in new investment into the area, or was it simply a purchase transfer from one owner to another?
- 3. As you personally investigated the deal, did the fact that NGO (National Golf) was a shell corporation created for the sole purpose of selling assets which had a negative revenue stream concern you? Does it concern you now?
- 4. Are you currently aware that Dan Liu’s Chinese partner is in prison in China for issues that also include this purchase transaction?
- 5. Are you currently aware that Dan Liu and his wife are wanted for questioning in China for issues that relate to this purchase transaction?
- 6. Does the Chinese government or people associated with the Chinese government have any interests in speaking with you personally in China concerning these transactions?
- 7. Do you believe that the likely coming arrest of FGI owners in China could furthermore tarnish the Myrtle Beach brand as a result of your high profile actions in this transaction?
- 8. As we have now heard from some area golf pros calling the investment a “house of cards”, do you believe these investments are currently money makers for FGI that will withstand the current climate and survive?
- 9. How do you expect homeowners owning homes around those golf courses to respond should these investments fail? Example: Pine Lakes
- 10. Noting that Sinclair Corporation did fund your trip to Monte Carlo, if were you an outsider running against yourself, would being covered by WPDE/Sinclair in the Fall election concern you?
- 11. County Councilman Mark Lazarus has spoken about considering casinos in Myrtle Beach. Mr. Liu has told locals that he plans to build an Oceanfront Hotel in front of the Dunes Club once legalized gambling is approved. Myrtle Beach has had no word from you on this most recent issue now being discussed in the Statehouse this April 20th. Where do you stand on casinos in downtown Myrtle Beach?
- 12. As to Home Rule 75, which states that libraries are the jurisdiction of Counties, how can the city legally run a “public” library in Myrtle Beach? The County Library board has informed us that the Superblock library must be private, chartered under the Chapin Foundation. Is this true?
- 13. If true, why would city taxpayers pay $10 million in taxes for a private library?
- 14. Do you believe, as does the Coastal Conservation League and NextGen Climate, that the 8 infected areas recognized by DHEC Oceanfront are health concerns and should be a top priority concern for City Government?
- 15. If so, what timelines should be placed on completely eliminating this threat and cleaning up these areas?
- 16. How would you fund those oceanfront cleanup efforts?
- 17. Do you believe Myrtle Beach’s current debt load of $220 million should be of concern?
- 18. Do you feel Myrtle Beach downtown crime is too low? about average for a tourist city? Too high?
- 19. What do you consider your most key signature accomplishment during your entire tenure as Mayor?
We gave Mr. Rhodes six days to prepare a response. Mayor Rhodes never responded to any of our questions.