HICKS COLUMN: Folly turns down unfortunate, but necessary, path
No one can accuse Folly Beach of not acting fast.
Less than a week after a Fourth of July riot on the beach that left several police officers injured and a few more knuckleheads in jail, City Council passed a 60-day ban on alcohol.
Council followed that up two days later with a decision to give voters a chance to ban booze on the beach for good.
Some folks believe the city is actually acting too fast ó and perhaps a bit on the rash side.
These critics say the beach has laws against obnoxious behavior, and that if the police would just enforce the law, everything would work out. You know, arrest the bums.
To do otherwise, they say, is allowing a few ignorant, disrespectful folks to ruin the beach for everyone else.
ďThatís the way the world works sometimes,Ē Mayor Tim Goodwin says.
Unfortunately, heís absolutely right.
Not enough cops
There are no bad guys here ó well, other than the drunken idiots who have turned Folly Beach into Animal House. Very few people, including the mayor and City Council members, wanted it to come to this. And no one blames folks for opposing something the island shouldnít have to do.
After all, Folly is not a place that likes to tell other people what to do.
But the truth is, this situation calls for a bold ó and uncomfortably extreme ó move. And saying the police department is responsible for the islandís current predicament is a little like blaming firefighters for fire.
Folly Beach can afford only so many cops. The city has 16 full-time officers and gets help from county deputies on the weekend. Sorry, but thatís not nearly enough for a city that swells to 30,000 ó or even 60,000 ó on some summer weekends.
No amount of training will change that. Itís just math.
Time was, the Folly Beach police were accused of being too tough on people. Residents asked for a more people-friendly force. So they got officers to carry trash bags to gently remind folks to clean up after themselves, and handed out cups for people drinking out of beer cans.
That was friendly, and look what it got us.
A sad inevitability
Truth is, July 4th was just the final straw ó this has been coming for a long time.
As former Mayor Bob Linville noted last week, the old Folly has been gone for years, replaced by an island that is overrun by a culture of carelessness and a now-chronic disregard for other peopleís property, safety or rights.
Every holiday the beach looks like a landfill, private yards become public toilets and far too many people drive off the island drunk. Since this atmosphere has set in, longtime locals have known it would eventually come to this.
City Councilman Eddie Ellis recalls that at candidate forums last spring, he and every other council hopeful were asked the same question: Would you support a referendum to ban alcohol?
All of them, including Ellis, said they would. And thatís why he voted the way he did last week.
A lot of people arenít going to like the outcome here, but it canít be any worse than the free-for-all Folly puts up with now.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.