Here's a little something to light your firecracker:
In the waning days of the legislative session, state lawmakers authorized Myrtle Beach to spend up to $5 million on security during next year's Atlantic Beach Bikefest.
Think about that: $5 million. Do you know how much money that is?
Well, it is:
Enough to pay 500 cops $10,000 each for three days' work.
Exactly $4,956,650 more than Atlantic Beach itself makes on the bike festival.
And, perhaps most notably, it is exactly the same amount of money Charleston got to put toward its $75 million, world-class African American history museum.
So excuse local officials if they think it's ridiculous to spend Secret Service-level money on a Memorial Day weekend festival.
"For that amount of money, they could buy them all motorcycles and let them ride up to the Sturgis rally in South Dakota," says Charleston County Councilman Joe Qualey.
Yeah, on our dime. Well, 500 million of them.
Of course, the idea for all this security is a reaction to the shootings at the event known casually as "black bike week" back in May.
Three Lowcountry residents were shot to death at the Bermuda Sands motel, and another was injured on May 24. That was just one of several shooting incidents during the festival.
So, yeah, something is not working there.
But the funny thing is, Horry County got the idea for state-funded security from Charleston. See, state Sen. Marlon Kimpson had requested $275,000 in the state budget to help North Charleston deal with some high-crime areas. That's a noble pursuit.
It was such a good idea that it got copied.
"Representatives from Horry County saw we were working on something to help with crime prevention in North Charleston and they signed on," Kimpson says.
By the time it was over, the $275,000 had ballooned to $1.1 million with money for the Grand Strand and Sumter included.
Of course, bipartisan interest in Kimpson's proviso helped when Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed the money. Kimpson, as a Democrat, would have had a hard time getting the veto overridden. But suddenly the Republicans were all about his idea.
Kimpson's budget proviso is good for North Charleston which, like every other police force in the country, is seeing less and less in the way of federal grants.
That $275,000 will help a lot, but it sure seems modest next to $5 million. Some local neighborhoods deal with crime year-round. Myrtle Beach has a problem a couple of weeks out of the year.
Something is out of whack here.
A toast to Folly Beach
Today is, fittingly, the second anniversary of the Folly melee which led to the town banning alcohol on the beach.
So thanks again, lunkheads.
But Qualey says it is a perfect reminder of why the state shouldn't be throwing money at a local problem.
"When Folly had a problem, it dealt with it swiftly and deftly," he says. "And they fixed the problem, they didn't try to treat the symptoms."
That's true, even if the diagnosis cost us a lot of harmless fun in the process.
Fact is, the goofballs at Folly just got rowdy, scuffled with the cops, littered and made fools of themselves.
No one died. Well, other than some brain cells. But those were probably already doomed anyway.
Even though Folly fixed its problem without the state's help, there's nothing wrong with a little help on big problems. Kimpson has the right idea. And Qualey is correct - you treat the problem, not the symptoms.
Horry County is just going to throw $5 million away without addressing the root problem.
But, if it makes you feel better, the Legislature said that after the first quarter-million, Horry County has to dip into its considerable (and well-deserved) share of state accommodations taxes to pay for the security.
As you might imagine, Grand Strand Chamber of Commerce types are not real happy about that, since they likely had other plans for that money.
So, even if $5 million on security is stupid, don't let it ruin your holiday. Sounds like this is a local problem - for Myrtle Beach.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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