As Myrtle Beach, Horry County and the state continue to grow, issues of all kinds compete for our attention. Election integrity, development, transportation, energy policy, education, gambling, we could spend years and fill books on any of these subjects. But time and space is limited, so each year, as we on The Sun News editorial board finish celebrating the New Year with friends and family, and pack up the Christmas decorations, we ponder our priorities for the coming year. What are the most pressing needs of our region? What is not being talked about elsewhere? How should we budget our time for the coming year?
We certainly don’t always have the influence needed to effect change, but what we do have is a platform that allows us to reach the ears of those who do. Most of those people are ordinary citizens, who read something that stirs a desire to help or who become angry at a report of public wrongdoing. We often hear from readers who felt compelled to act to right a wrong or improve the Grand Strand because of something they discovered in The Sun News. It’s those stories that keep us digging and writing and lifting a candle in the dark places of our community.
The area certainly saw its fair share of problems last year. Atlantic Beach continues to vex its residents and the rest of the county with its never-ending squabbles and election issues. County residents watched as dozens of local candidates were tossed off ballots because of a trivial paperwork issue that we sincerely hope will soon be fixed. We dealt with an explosion of inane and immature laser strikes on airplanes, which threatened to end local Coast Guard rescue missions. Some local businesses met their demise in less than stellar fashion. Myrtle Beach’s Direct Air abruptly closed down in mid-March, stranding passengers and leaving $30 million still missing. Long-time business Lavin Cars also unexpectedly shut down, amid a check-kiting investigation. And some economic development projects have either struggled to get off the ground or invited controversy after being announced.
But the year just completed did offer hope for a better future. Jobless numbers declined, and Horry County saw a number of new businesses open. The summer tourism season was strong, with visitors filling our streets and hotel rooms. Real estate professionals are seeing signs that the long depression of our local housing market may be coming to an end, with rising prices and sales in 2013. Myrtle Beach’s downtown area continues to flourish, led by the success of the boardwalk and the strong leadership of the city and downtown merchants. And large transportation projects, such as the extension of Harrelson Boulevard, the new airport terminal and the back gate interchange, were either completed or made good progress.
We certainly hope such good news will continue, and we plan to do what we can through these editorial pages to ensure that it does. To that end, though many other issues will doubtless come up from time to time, the attention of The Sun News editorial board will be focused on five main areas in the year ahead:
Few, if any, of the problems we face have easy or simple solutions. They are multi-faceted, with complex problems that will require complex solutions. We need leaders who are willing to talk to each other and we need voters and constituents who are willing to support those having hard conversations. We do not live in a county, state or nation made up of single-minded individuals, and we cannot rely on one party or one viewpoint to address our many issues.
Compromise is a vital component of leadership, not a poison pill. In election after election, voters have expressed a fairly clear desire for leaders who work better together. It’s past time to stop talking past each other and time to talk with each other. S.C. Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter of Orangeburg put it well at a meeting on Thursday:
“What we’re missing and what I hope we’ll see is leadership that is dealing with reality and not rhetoric.”
The need for rational, adult conversations goes beyond politicians, however, and extends to all of us. We believe in the merits of a spirited public debate of ideas, which is why we continue to solicit and publish hundreds of letters to the editor each year, talk to folks all year long as we’re in the community and provide online forums for discussions. We will not always agree, and that’s fine. But we’re better for having the conversation.
In a media world often dominated by news of crime, violence, scandal and corruption, we feel it’s imperative to continue shining a spotlight on the good news all around us. To that end, we highlight each week the selfless work of local nonprofits and their leaders. The work these everyday heroes do – clothing the needy, feeding families, teaching a child to read, building a better community – is sensational in the best sense of the word. These organizations and the unsung champions that keep them running do life-changing work that deserves to be highlighted and celebrated. We’re both humbled by their dedication and delighted that we have the opportunity to share their stories with a larger audience.
As the economy improves and government tax revenue picks back up, it’s important to be smart about how that money is spent – and to ask sometimes whether it really needs to be spent at all. Though the fiscal cliff seems to have been avoided, the nation – and state – continue to face numerous hard decisions involving our tax money, from the national debt to Medicare expansion to infrastructure spending. Some money will no doubt be misspent, and we’ll do our best to highlight such failures. We’ll explain why some ideas – such as school bus privatization – may end up costing more money than they save and should be avoided.
Other areas will not see enough money, and we’ll similarly point those out. The state, like the nation, cannot and will not provide economic prosperity solely with tax cuts and spending reduction. On the state level, especially, the people of S.C. have needs – such as roads, improved public education and public health – that may require such unthinkable actions as increasing the motor fuel tax. The legislature and governor – and taxpayers – should not close that opportunity.
One of our favorite topics, we’ve been gratified in recent years to see the public and our readers join us in demanding more transparent government and leadership. We’ll continue to point out when the curtains are drawn in front of the public. We’ll support the strengthening of our state’s lax and toothless freedom of information laws, by adding real penalties for ignoring them. And we’ll push for legislative clarification on documents such as autopsy reports that are now often withheld because of gray areas in the law, always with the same simple mantra: If the public paid for it, it deserves to see it.
Accountability and honesty
Finally, we will continue to hold our leaders accountable for their actions and statements. If a leader bends the truth or ignores it, we’ll give it the attention it deserves. If our leaders put their own comfort and interests above the public that they serve, we’ll call them on it. And we’ll celebrate those leaders who take courageous stands for the truth, even in the face of pressure or opposition.
Our roots in this community stretch back to 1935, when C.L. Phillips and Clarence Macklen founded the Myrtle Beach News. Over the ensuing 77 years, we have taken seriously our position as an institution in this community and the responsibility to seek the best for its residents. We live here too, and we want things to go well. We encourage our readers to let us know when they think we’ve fallen short. Our contact information, as always, is located on the left of this page. We won’t always agree on controversial issues, but with your help we can all work toward a shared goal: improving and bettering this amazing stretch of land we call home.