For some time now, VUI has pointed out the troubles in tiny Atlantic Beach, SC. The small beach town has historic significance because it once was the only place on the Grand Strand in which African Americans could enjoy the beach.
However that proud history is turning into a chaotic present and questionable future. There is a growing sentiment that the Atlantic Beach town charter should be revoked because the town seems so inept.
Atlantic Beach has financial problems. It went a period of time as the town with no Mayor. When it got a Mayor, trouble came with the new mayor. Mayor Retha Pierce has had several arrests, including one arrest for trespassing at the Town Hall. She was arrested by Atlantic Beach Police Chief Randy Rizzo that day for refusing to leave Town Hall when asked to.
Now, Rizzo has his own legal trouble. Chief Rizzo was arrested early Wednesday morning by the Horry County Police outside a bar for drunk and disorderly conduct. To his credit, Rizzo admitted he had too much to drink and did not fault the arresting officer according to a report in the Myrtle Beach Sun News.
The Mayor's troubles could be coming to a head, as rumors are she will be indicted by a Horry County Grand Jury today for a hit and run arrest made last year. If the indictment comes through, Governor Mark Sanford would be able to suspend the Mayor from office.
The Atlantic Beach troubles bring up valid and ugly arguments. It is valid to question the ineptness of the town government and its officials and their run ins with the law. But, some of the racially based remarks being made about the situation are ugly and troublesome. However, fear of being portrayed as racist should not chill legitimate criticism of Atlantic Beach and even jokes about it.
Frankly, African Americans and the town's residents should be outraged by the embarrassing antics of Atlantic Beach's leaders. Those antics are creating an atmosphere in which the town could lose its right to exist. If that happens, new zoning by the county or North Myrtle Beach could hamper property owners rights to keep their property as it is. Frankly antics like those in Atlantic Beach make it hard for those of us who support local government rights and property owners rights to defend them.
It is serious business when surrounding communities and the state tell people who live in a small town that they can not have that town anymore. Regardless of how comical or embarrassing the acts of a town's officials are, efforts to abolish that town should give anyone who believes in local control pause.
But, unless the Mayor and the Police Chief resign and go away quietly, and the town replaces them with leaders who grab less news headlines, Atlantic Beach is in real trouble. Financial interests, well intentioned folks looking for good government, and racially motivated folks will keep pushing for the town of Atlantic Beach to exist no more.
UPDATE: The Mayor was indicted on felony hit and run charges. Governor Mark Sanford suspended the Mayor, pending the outcome of her trial.