Sunday, February 27, 2005

I'm not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America!

It's local news blogging night for me.

A little background: The Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment Corporation (RDC) is a corporation created by the Myrtle Beach City Council to redevelop and "revitalize" downtown Myrtle Beach.

Recently the RDC got a lot of unflattering local coverage. The RDC had a engaged a "master developer" from California to come up with a grand scheme for redeveloping the Pavilion, a beachfront amusement park. The dude presented his plan some months ago; it was a monstrosity involving high rise condos with a roller coaster snaking around them and - get this - upscale retail shops, like Saks. Yeah. Because who doesn't want to pick up several pairs of Jimmy Choos and some Calvin Klein and then go hop on a coaster? But I digress.

The unflattering coverage came after it became apparent that the master developer was, to put it nicely, a big phony. He submitted references purportedly from the likes of Goldman Sachs, references that came via Hotmail and Yahoo accounts. And the RDC bought it! This came to light only after one of the RDC members, who had entered into a side deal(undisclosed to the public) with the master developer to develop a time share project, started complaining that the md wasn't coming across with the money for the side deal. In a variation on the old "check's in the mail" line the md once sent a check for $125.00 - it was supposed to be for $125,000.00 - and then claimed his wife got the amount wrong. As I recollect the md also claimed variously that FedEx had lost his checks, that a local bank had refused a wire from his California bank, etc, etc. The RDC board member started telling people the md wasn't the big player he claimed to be.

None of this - the failure to adequately check the md's background, the dopey acceptance of letters of reference from Hotmail and Yahoo email accounts, the side deal with a board member (if I'm not mistaken, the very board member who had recommended the md) - reflected favorably on the RDC. Since all this came out, Myrtle Beach's gadfly mayor (and former GOP senatorial candidate) Mark McBride, who has been at odds with the City Council since long before the md entered the picture, has been gleefully hammering the RDC and the City Council.

Council member Chuck Martino struck back on Tuesday night in a particularly classy way. At the Tuesday night Council meeting, he launched into a personal attack on the mayor, causing McBride's young son to leave the Council meeting in tears. From the Myrtle Beach Sun News:

Martino also questioned McBride's character, citing seven lawsuits of tax liens related to McBride's failed restaurant, Crabman's Seafood.

Martino also attacked McBride on a personal level, saying that after the mayor's failed U.S. Senate bid and failed business ventures, McBride said that God abandoned him and that his family would be better off with him dead.

McBride's son Struthers left the meeting in tears as Martino described those incidents, and McBride left the meeting to comfort his son.

"I'm going to walk outside with my ninth [grader]," McBride said as he got up from his seat.

Martino had a good reason for his attack: It was to teach McBride a lesson:

Martino said he presented information about McBride's personal life to show how the accusations of fraud have affected the DRC board members and their families. He introduced each board member to the public Tuesday, "to put a face on the alleged criminals of fraud so you know exactly who it is that's being accused."

Yesterday, Martino defended himself in a superbly pious opinion piece published in The Sun News:

I do not fault the mayor or anyone for wanting information, but to bear false witness against others and refuse to explain, or show or resolve, before they have the facts or proof is disruptive, self-serving, mean and harmful, not truthful and not the teachings of the God he says gives him advice in how to run the city.

I also believe in the same God, and my teachings tell me he is a God of love and charity, not the God of fear and damnation.

I will apologize publicly to the mayor when he apologizes to the many for his manners and methods. I will defend his right to his beliefs and his right to free speech, but I will no longer sit idly by and watch him attack people and not issues, nor watch him attack families instead of policies. If there is wrong, and it can be determined, the mayor knows in his heart I will join him in correcting it, but I will not publicly flog individuals for it.

There is a right and a wrong way to do things, and the wrong way has gone on for too long. Now that the volley was returned, it has repulsed and offended some, and truly myself, as I took no joy, nor pleasure, nor comfort. It was a duty I felt compelled to do when I see social injustice, no matter the personal misfortune it lays at my feet.

I encourage all to request civility of all leaders and to first attempt to resolve [issues] before [making] attacks. It's no different in my eye than an aggressive attack against a nation by one with no reason and no attempt at diplomacy.

I further ask all media outlets not to print, record or distribute statements from elected officials without the facts and support. I believe a large, major network learned that lesson during a recent presidential campaign. Why should it go on in Myrtle Beach?

The bottom line: Many have fought to provide those freedoms that have been abused, and I know that price as a son of a retired colonel of the Air Force who fought in two foreign wars, and to his memory, I will not sit by and watch the freedoms afforded us all, not just the mayor, abused by someone in an election-year ploy to win sympathy and votes at the expense of destroying the image of the city and it residents.

By the time I reached the end of that masterpiece of sanctimony I wanted to stand up and salute the American flag, but I was laughing too hard. It reminded me of Otter's speech in Animal House:

Otter: Ladies and gentlemen, I'll be brief. The issue here is not whether we broke a few rules, or took a few liberties with our female party guests - we did.
[winks at Dean Wormer]
But you can't hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn't we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn't this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg - isn't this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. Gentlemen!

In all seriousness, I know all too well the price of freedom, for my late grandfather (moment of silence) fought valiantly in a foreign war so that politicians like Martino might invoke the memories of their retired-colonel fathers in self-righteous editorials attacking other politicians.


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