The Sun News editorial on March 28, 1993, three days before the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base’s closure:
There will be a finality to the Wednesday afternoon ceremony that no one wanted or expected, or was prepared to encounter. It happened, however, and we must deal with the future, even as we remember with fondness the past.
There is, of course, hope for the future amid the bickering of the civilians left to struggle with what happens next. The three competing plans for redevelopment have left the community without the voice of unity it desperately needs.
Yet the challenge ahead has sparked a possibility that the city and county governments will yet negotiate themselves out of the corner into which the politicians have barricaded themselves.
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As bleak as the future occasionally looks without the crispness of the military presence, the community exudes a sense of what must be done. A frustration with the pettiness of the debate permeates more voters and other residents than the politicians may realize. Come Wednesday, the past ends and the future begins.
The closure and subsequent redevelopment of the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base holds a number of lessons, whether the power of persistence, the necessity of sticking to a plan or the simple good fortune we have in our tourist-friendly location. Perhaps most important, however, is the need for good communication between local governmental bodies.
As the editorial from 1993 above notes and foreshadows, the squabbling and bickering between city and county leaders not only prevented a unified plan, the disunity scuttled the aspirations of both sides, prompting the governor to eventually step in and broker his own deal with the Air Force.
The process wasn’t pretty.
“I don’t see how a bunch of people can be so damn stupid,” former AVX President Dick Rosen said at the time. “I think it’s absurd that the sides can’t sit down together.”
Thankfully, that situation has changed in the 20 years since.
Prompted by reporter David Wren’s recap this past week of the adversary relations between city and county surrounding the air base’s closure, Myrtle Beach City Councilman Phil Render quickly rattled off a number of successful recent joint initiatives and projects to show how that relationship has improved in recent years. Not surprisingly, many of those joint efforts still revolve around the same area of overlapping jursidictions, including the recently opened renovated airport, the Harrelson Boulevard extension and ITAP, the aerospace industry park on the former base.
Other equally important efforts have been focused on simply getting politicians – and their egos – to sit amicably together at a table to talk about shared concerns. And gratefully, we’ve seen progress in this area, from the joint city-county-state leader meetings that happen about once a year to the Coastal Alliance, which gathers the leaders of all the local governments. We haven’t seen any fistfights or shouting matches yet.
Some of this improvement could be due to the election of some more level-headed leaders. Some of it is likely because there’s no longer quite as large a prize to fight over. Render attributed the change to a concerted effort to improve relations that began around 2004 and took a few years to take root.
“Beginning in 2006 the majority of the Myrtle Beach City Council frowned upon sniping at County Council from our public forum and it stopped,” Render said.
Whatever the reason, the change is welcome and worth encouraging.
Are there still disagreements? Absolutely. The question of whether the county should be able to declare its own landfill the sole destination for the county’s trash has divided not only the city and county but the county and its Statehouse delegation. But fortunately, while the divide exists, the disagreements have been largely cordial and kept on a professional level.
Render echoed that sentiment on Thursday:
“Is it all sunshine and roses between the two councils? No, but there are certainly fewer gray political clouds over the skies of Horry County, thus providing a clearer view for all.”