Former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride kicked off his campaign to capture the office once again with a strong focus on public safety.
On Tuesday, McBride said in a press conference at city hall that Myrtle Beach needed 100 new police officers and raises for existing personnel, and suggested funding it with $11.5 million from an existing 1-percent sales tax.
The proceeds of that tax, also called the Tourism Development Fee, mostly go to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce for out-of-market advertising.
McBride suggested changing that proportion and adding public safety as an approved use of the funds.
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When asked why the city needed exactly 100 new officers, McBride said, “I’m not sure it shouldn’t be double that.”
Public safety has emerged as a key issue leading up to the Nov. 7 vote for mayor and three city council seats. Myrtle Beach has seen high-profile strings of shootings twice this year: in April around Easter weekend, and again in mid-June, where one event in the early morning of Father’s Day was broadcast live on Facebook, attracting millions of visitors.
“Our city has lost its good name, and it is past time to restore our pride and our family image,” McBride said.
McBride’s challengers have also focused on crime and growing the city’s police department.
Mayoral candidate Ed Carey, a Market Common resident and construction consultant, said he wanted to further study how many people should be added to the police department by consulting current and former law enforcement in the area.
He said new positions could be funded “with our existing revenue streams.”
Brenda Bethune, the majority owner of beer distributor Better Brands and another candidate for mayor, said that she would work with the city manager and police chief on a “detailed analysis of what is a reasonable number of officers.”
She also suggested a program to supplement officer numbers in high seasons by using retired law enforcement or military, and said paying the costs of 100 new officers full-time for the whole year was “irrational.”
“The time that we need boots on the ground is really a 100-day period,” she said.
Incumbent Mayor John Rhodes, who has already filed for re-election, suggested that the city add 50 new officers over time.
He also praised the work of Chief. Amy Prock, who has been the city’s top cop on an interim and then permanent basis since late May.
Recruiting and retaining police officers is a difficult process for many local agencies, who report that many of the applicants who apply don’t make it through the process. Additionally, backlogs at the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy, the only law enforcement academy in the state, can drag out the process of putting new officers on the street to up to a year.
McBride was a city councilman from 1994 to 1998 and then mayor from 1998 until 2006, when he was ousted by Rhodes, who has held the seat since. He ran unsuccessfully for a city council seat in 2015 and filed to run for mayor in 2013, but withdrew before the end of the filing period.
McBride currently works at a waiter at a calabash seafood restaurant.
During his tenure on council and as mayor, McBride often tussled with other members of city council on key issues, more than once landing on the losing side of a 6 to 1 vote.
Asked Tuesday how he would build consensus for his proposals, he said, “You bring out the idea and have people that are innovative and looking forward, and things will change.”