In a recent column titled "Just when you thought it was safe to go into public relations," Brian Hicks took issue with my comments offered in response to questions posed by local media regarding the tragic events that occurred in Myrtle Beach during Memorial Day Weekend. Certainly, comments offered by me or any other public official are fair game for criticism. After all, that give-and-take is a cornerstone of the free press and essential to our democracy.
What I find most disappointing is that a professional journalist employed by The Post and Courier would resort to name-calling instead of simply sticking to the facts and his opinions. Does name-calling enhance his message? Does that lead your readers to a better understanding of the problems we face?
Behind the acidic tone of his commentary, Mr. Hicks raised a very important point: The loss of three young lives is tragic. That is a point upon which we all can agree.
Had the author considered my comments in full context, perhaps he would understand that I, like him, abhor the senseless violence which marred Memorial Day Weekend once again. I say "once again" because this violent behavior has become all too familiar one weekend every year in Myrtle Beach. We've tried to solve this issue, but as of yet we've been unsuccessful.
Sadly, Mr. Hicks believes "this is all about race." That comment would be laughable if it were not so misguided.
The issue we must deal with in Myrtle Beach on Memorial Day Weekend is not one of race; the issue is responsibility and public safety. We must ensure our residents and visitors feel safe, but this event, which is not sponsored or approved by the City of Myrtle Beach, overwhelms our community and our police officers.
This is not a race issue. Other weekends attract similar-sized crowds but lead to fewer problems with a much smaller police presence. The vast majority of our visitors - of all races - come to Myrtle Beach to enjoy everything our community offers while following all of our laws. Unfortunately, if a few people arrive with no regard for life or property and choose to break the law, they ruin it for everyone.
I did, in fact, make public our attempts to address the negative publicity. In a community where two of every three jobs is tied to tourism, any impact to tourism is of great importance.
The question, "What is the chamber doing to help?" was asked of us and, in the interest of accountability and transparency, we responded. Perhaps Mr. Hicks believes we should ignore that question, or simply do nothing. The truth is that we did all we could to assure visitors planning to travel to Myrtle Beach soon that we value their safety.
This answer was never intended to marginalize the deaths and other crimes that occurred but, rather, to answer the questions posed to us.
Tourism is South Carolina's number one industry, and the Charleston area understands that very well.
Likewise, Charleston receives unprecedented media attention, a testament to the power of publicity.
I would hope that Charlestonians would appreciate the challenge your sister to the north faces in handling what has become an out-of-control weekend that results in loss of life and the resulting negative publicity.
While name-calling is unnecessary and criticism, no matter how pointed, will be considered, what we genuinely need are your prayers and best wishes.
And, perhaps, to borrow a few of your police officers next year.
President and CEO
Myrtle Beach Area Chamber
North Oak Street