MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – News13 hosted a debate between three Myrtle Beach mayoral candidates.
Current Mayor Brenda Bethune, Gene Ho and Bill McClure all answered questions from News13’s Bob Juback. The issues ranged from growth, homelessness and crime.
In order to qualify for the debate, candidates must be legally qualified and registered on the ballot, must have accepted at least $ 5,000 in campaign contributions and at least $ 2,500 in Myrtle Beach.
Watch the full debate in the video player above.
McClure is a retired Washington, DC metro area businessman and Vietnam veteran. Its main problems are infrastructure, crime, homelessness and mental health.
Ho is a professional photographer who moved to Myrtle Beach at the age of 18 and started a business from scratch. Ho was a campaign photographer for former President Donald Trump in 2016 and is the author of “Trumpography”. He promises a policy of non-tolerance to crime and gives a voice to all residents.
Bethune is running for a second term after being elected in 2017 in a runoff against longtime mayor John Rhodes. She was born and raised in Myrtle Beach and is the owner of Better Brands, Inc. Her top priorities are crime and public safety.
Biggest problem Myrtle Beach faces
McClure said one issue he had on his mind was uncontrolled growth.
“I don’t believe the infrastructure is in place to support growth now,” McClure said. “It is certainly not designed to support growth in the future.”
McClure said his campaign was to put citizens, neighborhoods and small businesses first.
Ho said his goal is to make Myrtle Beach a family beach again.
Bethune said there are several issues that are snowballing each other.
“Let’s not bury our heads in the sand and pretend we don’t have a perception of crime,” Bethune said.
Bethune also spoke about homelessness and opioid addiction.
McClure said roaming is a big problem in Myrtle Beach, but said he was not sure of the exact solution.
“I think you need to look at what are the main reasons we have homelessness,” McClure said. “One is unintentional – people are just homeless. Others are linked to opioid addiction. Others have to do with a lack of education and a place to go.
McClure said he believes there are enough programs in the city that have been in place for a long time and can be improved.
Ho said his job as mayor will be to make sure the city is clean and safe.
“My job as mayor is to do one thing, to make these streets safe and clean,” Ho said. “In order to do that, we have to get rid of the problems of the homeless. We have to move them out of town.
Bethune agreed with McClure and said there needs to be an understanding of homelessness issues.
“We need to look at this holistically and humanize it, not criminalize it,” Bethune said.
Bethune cited several issues such as not having a family support system or a way to get ID to get a job.
“You have to look at what is the main reason for the crime and once you’ve done that you can start attacking it with the right programs,” McClure said.
McClure said he’s a fan of community-based policing so officers can work with communities to resolve issues.
Ho said you can tell Myrtle Beach has a crime problem based on people calling it “Dirty Myrtle” and “Murder Beach”.
Ho said he wanted to take successful programs from other places and implement them in Myrtle Beach. Ho said the crime must be controlled. He said North Myrtle Beach is doing very well in crime.
Bethune said every city is experiencing crime and gun violence and crime are at an all time high. She said comparing the Myrtle Beach crime to the North Myrtle Beach crime is not a fair comparison.
“We have over 180,000 hotel rooms in the city of Myrtle Beach, over 20 million visitors,” Bethune said. “North Myrtle Beach doesn’t have that.”
Bethune said some reports show Myrtle Beach is the third worst place for crime, but said that report is based on the permanent population of 30,000, not the average daily population of over 160,000.
“That doesn’t downplay the fact that yes we have crimes, and yes we are responding to it by adding more police officers,” Bethune said. “We have added over 30 police officers in the past four years, we have increased the police department’s budget by over $ 3 million in the past four years, and we will continue to do so.”
McClure said I-73 was a necessity. He said the big question is how well is he paid. He said that this issue also affects other municipalities.
“I-73 sets the catalyst in place to bring further industrial investment to the Grand Strand area,” McClure said.
He also stressed that it is necessary for the evacuation of hurricanes.
Ho said he was all for I-73 but the problem is how to pay for it.
“If we could find a way to pay for this without being at the expense of our local taxpayers, that would be wonderful,” Ho said.
Bethune also said I-73 is needed and the council has committed to paying for it.
“We need to expand our industrial base, and the only way to do that is to have an interstate connection,” Bethune said.
She also referred to hurricane evacuations and specifically highlighted Hurricane Florence evacuations. Bethune proposed to make I-73 a toll road so that people who use it pay for it.
McClure said one of his biggest concerns is that the region lacks the infrastructure to support growth over the next four to five years. He said more hospitals are needed in the area.
Bethune said growth must be smart and balanced and stressed that hospitals must be state approved.
McClure said he sees people in all parts of town and stands by their side. He specifically pointed out the Withers Swash area and the issues there.
Ho said it was all about crime and safety. He said he would secure Myrtle Beach in a short period of time by having residents work together to change the town’s reputation.
Bethune said she wanted to continue her role as mayor because Myrtle Beach is a great place and people wouldn’t want to move here if it wasn’t a good neighborhood. She said there was still a lot of work to be done and the city was moving in the right direction.
Election day is November 2. Polling stations will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The five Myrtle Beach mayoral candidates are Brenda Bethune, Gene Ho, Bill McClure, Tammie Durant and CD Rozsa.