Change Address

VOTE411 Voter Guide

City of Isle of Palms Council

City of Isle of Palms Council
CHOOSE TWO CANDIDATES FROM BELOW TO COMPARE
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    Randy Bell (NP) Retired Technology Executive

  • Candidate picture

    Ryan Buckhannon (NP) Self-Employed (Currently a small business owner & Retired Chiropractor )

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    John Moye (NP) Strategic Partnerships Manager

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    Susan Hill Smith (NP) Journalism and corporate communications

Change Candidates

Biographical Information

Why do you want to represent the citizens of Isle of Palms on City Council?

What experiences qualify you to represent the citizens of Isle of Palms on City Council?

What will you do to support residential interests for the Isle of Palms?

What is your understanding of the use of tourism related taxes (accommodation and hospitality taxes)?

Please explain why you do or do not support a referendum to borrow $5.5 million to revitalize the Isle of Palms Marina.

What solutions do you propose to address the IOP Marina renovations?

What, if any, action will you support to improve the Recreation Center facilities?

What, if any, actions would you support to create a more vibrant commercial environment (i.e., retail businesses) on the island?

Campaign Phone (843) 242-8834
Age 62
Education B.A. Business Administration Rutgers College, Rutgers University
Experience 41 Years Information Technology Career: Vice President AT&T/NCR Vice President Dell Vice President Hewlett Packard CEO Venture funded firm
Candidate Email prb.bell@gmail.com
I strongly believe that government exists to serve its citizens, yet after spending significant personal time over the last two (2) years addressing IoP City Council, “resident priority” is missing from many of the decisions. It is my own experience with Council that while residents are heard, this Council has a listening problem. A general lack of business acumen throughout the budget and financial/operational administration processes is very disturbing. Continuing to build debt dependencies beyond Council’s control with 49% of our current bond debt and 33% of our total budget dependent on an uninterrupted flow of tourism dollars does not constitute responsible financial management. When a community loses sight of residential quality of life as a priority, we have lost a balanced perspective. I could continue to advocate for change as I have from outside the Council, or seek change as a Council member and make a difference by listening and treating residents as the City’s number one priority. I have chosen to cause change to happen and be a part of making a difference to our city.
I have served as a Board of Directors appointed SEC reporting officer in three (3) NASDAQ publicly traded companies, as well as CEO of a venture funded, successful high technology start-up. From 2006 to 2015, I served in multiple Vice Presidential roles at Hewlett-Packard. Previous roles include Vice President positions at AT&T/NCR Corporation and Dell Computer. Perhaps as important, I have invested my time over the last several years successfully advocating for our citizens on issues of traffic/speed control (41st Avenue and Waterway Blvd.) and Marina overflow into our neighborhoods; addressing concerns caused by several current Council members for "Boondocking" and successfully preventing this bad idea's implementation, creating a fact-based discussion on the Marina referendum by openly challenging Council to provide all relevant facts rather than the general advocacy offered. Educating the public with an OpEd in the Island Eye News detailing the facts of the Marina Referendum. I have had the blessing of a strong business career that enabled me to think, advocate, negotiate, and compromise to achieve needed and expected results. These skills are badly needed on this Council to end this frustrating cycle of 6-3 voting intransigence. Business skills and independent thought can make this happen and help create a Council that represents our citizen's best interests.
I will listen, respect, respond, and act in accordance with residential interest as the highest priority. We are not elected to place tourism and day tripping above residential interest. Over the longer term, managing our debt to acceptable levels and decreasing our dependency on S.C. Accommodations and Hospitality Taxes will have the effect of returning control of the island back to our residents. I will continue as I have over the last several years to be a voice of common sense and reason. With the exception of the two (2) Council incumbents, I am the only candidate who has publicly advocated at Council meetings on behalf of our citizens for the last two years. Proven energy, passion and the ability to articulate concerns will be carried over into an elected position.
In general, tourism taxes are for supporting tourism related activity. The use of these funds by definition is broad and subject to City interpretation. Whether it is Marina investments, additional public safety officers, drainage, or beach restoration, one can make the case for broadly applying tourism taxes to many areas of our city. What should be improved is the prioritization of fund usage as we balance the very real need for tourism with our residential quality of life. Continuing to increase existing “tourism tax dependent city debt” that is subject to weather and economic impacts, while legal, is not a responsible use of these funds.
To be clear, I do support investment in our city Marina; however, I do not support the referendum. The referendum represents a binding obligation to the city of an additional $ 5.5 million debt that is highly dependent on a steady diet of S.C Accommodations and Hospitality taxes. Hurricanes, economic downturns, or any disruption to these tax sources places the burden on citizen property taxes. An untenable thirty (30) year lease virtually ensures that the city will receive almost no additional lease funds from Marina operations and the retail store until expiration of the lease in 2045. Even with the referendum, control of the Marina was ceded to the Marina Operator in a way that serves the purpose of commercial interest and day trippers, over residents. Adding a public/city dock, re-configuring parking, and planting plants around a promenade does not affect residential priority. It is interesting to note that public safety improvements within the Marina complex are touted as a benefit of the proposed plan,while zero impact studies have been conducted regards traffic and congestion outside the limits of the 5.2 acre Marina parcel of land.
The city continues to be obligated to provide for the maintenance of the Marina. A first priority is to enforce the existing lease terms with the operator that places parking lot maintenance and the boat launch as a responsibility of the lessee, not the city. The city is already in the process of funding bulkhead replacement and underground fuel storage tanks. The primary focus of “renovation” should be the replacement of the docks, which with proper IoP fiscal management can be funded without taking on $ 5.5 million of additional debt. Current Marina bond debt ends February 2019, eliminating $ 300,000/year in annual debt obligations. This money can be utilized for Marina improvements in addition to the average of $ 500,000/year the city has transferred from tourism taxes to the Marina over the last ten years. The city can afford to make needed investments without this referendum. Residents should understand that even with current lease terms, the Marina comprises only 5.2 acres, and the Council has an ability to enforce all codes,ordinances and lease obligations within this defined area.
Having recently toured the facility, it would appear that there is sufficient space within the Rec Center to make requested and needed improvements to provide a Cardio Center without adding another $ 1 million plus in bond debt. The cardio center needs improvement, but as with any requested investment we should fully explore options that do not require adding significant debt, in particular, debt with more dependencies on tourism taxes. A Council member comment at a recent meeting was that we would sell “off island memberships” to fund the new cardio room. It is this lack of financial responsibility that will limit the city's’ ability over time to make many of the investments that citizens desire. I do support projects that are well thought out, operationally sound, and are fiscally responsible. Fiscal conservatism does not or should not mean the city cannot spend money, but it does imply a level of fiscal responsibility.
I have listened at multiple Council meetings as local business plead for improvements in the Front Beach parking plan, often leaving the meeting less than satisfied with the response. I believe the city can do a better job of engaging the community in more comprehensive discussions with the business owners on how best to create the desired environment via an engaged business/citizen partnership. We should keep in mind the tourist season is not a yearlong event, and many of our businesses have a degree of dependence on local residents to survive. Creating more quality events that engage both tourists and locals to visit these locations would go a long way to creating a more vibrant business district. It would be great to build a plan with business owners that rejuvenates and creates a more desirable area at the Front Beach location. For the record, I do not consider the Marina as a “business entity” in the same context as Front Beach.
Campaign Phone (843) 224-0667
Age 45
Education BS in Human Anatomy & Physiology, Doctor of Chiropractic from National University of Health Sciences
Experience Isle of Palms City Council 2000-2015 Chiropractor 1997-2006 (retired) Small Business Owner 1997 - present
Candidate Email ryan@buckhannonbrothers.com
I enjoy serving the residents of Isle of Palms, knowing that one can make a difference if given the chance. During my previous term on city council, I was able to change the way the city purchased vehicles and capital improvements without taking loans. I was able to improve the recreation center by creating the Fast Start programs, the dog park & improving the playground. I was able to change the city ordinance to allow golf cart parking along 23rd and 25th beach access paths. I was able to work on the improvements to the drainage infrastructure from 42nd to 57th Aves. But there is still much more that can be done to improve the quality of life of the residents of this community. I would like to continue to put monies into 'sinking' funds for capital project improvements instead of having to go out for bonds or loans. The bond for the improvement of the marina docks could have been avoided had the city put money aside for improvements. I was able to improve the recreation's baseball fields, soccer fields, and the lighting infrastructure without asking for a bond or loan. Just saving. We need to continue to put monies aside for drainage improvement infrastructure from 21st to 41st ave as we have from 41st to 57th.
My experience as a small business owner for the past 20 years gives me a unique perspective on how the city should run. My previous experience on city council gives me the ability to know how government functions and will be able to utilize those experiences to hit the ground running on day one to start getting the people work done.
I will continue to work on our parking and traffic issues that we have to deal with every season. I believe that the city needs to initiate a paid parking initiative along the public right of way is utilized by day visitors. These visitors utilize our Public Works, our Police, our Fire Dept, contracted beach cleaning services & the beaches that the city has to renourish when needed. I would like to continue to work on expanding the golf cart parking to include areas of Ocean Blvd and areas between 42nd Ave and Wild Dunes. We currently have golf cart parking at 23rd and 25th ave, and I would like to see that expand.
The city is fortunate that we have the ability to subsidize our tax base through these additional revenue sources. The city's Municipal Accommodations tax & State Accommodations tax, are those revenues that are created by visitors who stay overnight on the island. The city's Hospitality tax is a revenue source from prepared meals and drinks in commercial establishments. The city has most liberty with the Municipal A-Tax on where it can be spent. The Hospitality tax is a little more restrictive, but still, has a lot of areas of the city that can subsidize the residential tax base. The State A-Tax is the most restrictive. So much so that we have to appoint a group of citizens to direct council on where those monies should be spent.
I do support the improvement and maintenance of the marina, I don’t believe that the entire cost should be the burden of the city. Whether the referendum passes or not, the city will still have to move forward and replace the docks around the marina. Improvement of the parking areas belonging to the tenants should be at the expense of those tenants. Common areas within the marina lot should be a cost sharing between all the tenants and the city. That is why I am confused why this council chose to bundle up all the areas into one referendum when the leases explicitly detail who is responsible for what.
At the marina, the docks are nearly 30 years old and have met their useful life. They will need to be replaced whether the referendum passes or not. I would like to see more resident only boat slips. I would like to see the Marina tenant start to charge non-resident boat launches by the number of axels the trailer has because the bigger the boat launched obviously takes up more space at the marina. Perhaps a base rate than $5 per additional axel. I would like to have the marina send out a message to notify people who may be coming from off the island when the marina is full to eliminate traffic coming over trying to launch and not having a place to park.
I believe that the Recreation center is the heart of the island, not only a recreation center but a community center. I was honored to be chair of the recreation committee when the recreation center expanded in 2003. The new facility has become an integral resource for the residents of the island. During my previous term, I initiated the Fast Start sports programs for children 3-5 years old. Developed the Bark Park. Initiated the policy that island residents have a one-week priority for signing up for classes or teams. I was able to save funds to improve the soccer field, both baseball fields, and all the outdoor lighting infrastructure without borrowing money for the improvements. I would like to see council discuss the pros and cons of adding a community pool and the ways that it could be funded.
I have worked with the commercial district business owners along JC Long and Ocean Blvd. I was to help those businesses along JC Long by changing the city's ordinance on parking to mimic that of Ocean Blvd. I would like to support more events in the offseason to bring people over to help support those in the commercial area when they need it the most. During peak season, I would like to see the right two lanes at the bottom of the connector right-turn-only lanes so that all traffic needs to go through the commercial district along JC Long to Ocean or Pavilion Drive. Not only will this alleviate the backup on the connector for the residents trying to get back on the island, it will force visitors to utilize the city's parking lots first, then the county's lot will let those visiting realize what the commercial district has to offer, instead of just driving straight on into the county park then leaving when done for the day.
Campaign Phone (843) 566-2013
Age 35
Education B.S. International Business, CofC || B.A. Spanish, CofC || M.B.A., CofC
Experience International staff with YoungLife in Costa Rica || High School Spanish Teacher, Wando || Small Business Owner, The Farm Stand || HR Technology Marketing, Sales and Strategic Partnerships, Wonderlic
Candidate Email johnmoye82@gmail.com
I am deeply committed to preserving the aspects of this island that make it so special and unique. From the natural beauty of the beaches to the neighbors who feel like family to the recreational/marina facilities, I do not take for granted the privilege of living here. This is why it’s so important to me that the island is managed and governed in a way that best serves residents. As one of the many young families here on the island, I’d like to see our council more closely reflect the makeup of the resident population. I want to represent younger families and bring a fresh voice to our council.
I have a diverse professional background that has helped me acquire the problem-solving and team working skills necessary to succeed in council. I worked for several years leading multinational, multilingual teams abroad, where I had to overcome many cultural and language barriers in my teams to thrive. As a Spanish teacher, I navigated the challenges of serving the interests of parents, students and schools administrators to engage and excited students about foreign languages. As a small business founder, I honed my ability to craft a vision and then bring it to life. And now, as a leader of strategic partnerships, I inspire hundreds of individuals from various organizations to collaborate with my team.
As we look to projects that will enhance our way of life – from the marina to parking to recreation upgrades to infrastructure – it's critical to consider the long-term impact of our decisions. I’ll work with residents to prioritize the projects that are most important while providing easy access to the data we all need to understand the impact and opportunity costs of funding new projects. I’d like to ensure that potential natural disasters don’t leave us with debt burdens that could create increased tax burdens for the residents. Additionally, I’d like to help our residents get more engaged in the way our island is governed. Initiatives such as the farmer's market provide a great example of how community-led projects can enhance our quality of life. I'll work to encourage and empower our residents to be more involved in our city.
We are required to use tourism-related tax revenues to fund projects and expenses that are related to tourism. The city may allocate these funds to any project that falls under the umbrella of serving visitors – which effectively gives the city authorization to use the funds for many different projects. It’s important that we aren’t too reliant upon tourism funds (a variable source of revenue for the city) to fund our fixed costs. Since 2009, our reliance upon tourism funds to cover general fund expenses has increased from $0.2M to $1.2M. If a major natural disaster like Hugo were to hit us, our city would have a major drop in tourism revenue and struggle to cover the fixed expenses built into our budget. I’m for using these funds responsibly to cover the variable costs associated with serving our visitors while ensuring that residents’ quality of life is protected.
I will always support responsible, resident-first upgrades to our island’s assets and infrastructure. I would love to see improvements to the marina. Similarly, we absolutely must update the docks and tend to the assets our city is obliged to maintain. However, I do not support this referendum as it is currently written for several reasons: (1) The proposed funding would come from tourism taxes, which are, by definition, variable revenues. Should we see a major storm, recession or other cause of tourism revenue reductions, the burden of payment would come from the residents. (2) There are insufficient guarantees to the residents within the referendum. With a proposed plan that is subject to change, I’d like to see further guarantees of resident benefits before supporting this debt referendum. (3) The current tenant has an incredibly lopsided lease (in his favor). Recognizing the favorable lease terms and that the lease states that the tenant is responsible for maintaining the surface lots as well as the boat ramp, any major projects to the marina should require the tenant to contribute more meaningfully to those areas.
If the referendum passes, I will do my best to serve the residents and protect against my concerns listed above. If the referendum does not pass, I’ll work to ensure the safety and integrity of the assets under our responsibility. This primarily affects the bulkheads and docks. We’re already taking care of the bulkheads and we will need to update the docks soon. Fortunately, we do not need a referendum to provide to updates necessary to these docks. Additionally, I will to work with the tenant to find mutually beneficial alternatives that may include creative solutions, such as amending the terms of the lease.
The recreation center is a central asset on the city, both in geography and in spirit. I feel incredibly fortunate that my children will be able to have access to such high-quality facilities. As we consider future improvements, I’d like to see greater community engagement guide the prioritization of future projects. I will support any project that has widespread appeal to residents and has a well-crafted plan. I’ll ensure that any project I support is designed to serve the residents first and foremost. I will not, however, support investments that require irresponsible debt and/or significant funding from day-trippers.
I love the weekends when I don’t leave the island - it’s our local businesses that make it possible. I'd like to help improve the year-round patronage of our retail businesses. With that in mind, I’ve always been impressed with the commercial district on Sullivan’s Island. I will to work with our businesses and residents to help generate the same degree of local/resident engagement with the retail businesses on Isle of Palms. To that end, I'd like to create formal outlets and forums for our residents and businesses to collaborate. I believe that activities such as the farmer's market are a great start and will continue to support such initiatives.
Campaign Phone (843) 270-9947
Age 49
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/SHS.for.IOP/
Education University of Georgia journalism school graduate
Experience I began my career in Rock Hill at The Herald newspaper as a cops reporter - I have interviewed at least one murderer - and transitioned to covering Rock Hill's School Board and City Council. In 1994, I joined The Post and Courier, where I worked for more than a decade as a reporter and editor. I covered Charleston County School Board in the 1990s, and all sides seemed to appreciate my fair approach. I won several state press awards and led The P&C's nationally recognized Ink section for teens. My mainstay for the past decade has been corporate communications, and in recent years I have contributed to SiP magazine and Island Eye News, which has previously included covering Isle of Palms City Council. I also help my husband with Mic Smith Photography LLC. My volunteer experiences have included SIES PTA Board, Laing School Improvement Council and Wild Dunes Dolphins Swim Team Parent Board.
Candidate Email SHSforIOP@gmail.com
This has been my home and community for 23 years. I moved here in 1994 when I was 26, as my husband and I started our marriage. We have been raising our three children here, and we have built relationships with many neighbors through parenting, volunteering, church and other experiences. I want to protect and promote the residential community for all who live here and those who will join us. A key part of that is giving families a strong voice and connection to city government - which I can provide. None of the current council members have any children under the age of 18, and neither do any of the other council candidates, yet the Recreation Department is a focal part of city services. At the same time, many young families here are invested for the long haul, and we want decisions made accordingly. I also have a heart for environmental issues and want to build on the city's leadership in that regard. Overall, I have an excellent set of skills and qualities to offer in this role. I understand the commitment, but it's worth it to me, because I know I will have a positive impact.
I have written about everything from hurricanes to heart surgery. My career demands versatility, resourcefulness and the ability to analyze information on a wide variety of subjects. I'm trained to observe, question and listen. These qualities will help me respond to constituents, develop solutions and make sound decisions. Plus, I have gained a great deal of knowledge from reporting on Isle of Palms City Council. I have a strong belief in freedom of information, and I think effective communication with the public is essential. To that end, my expertise should be helpful to the city. Finally, I have experience watching the workings of government boards and councils up close. I know what I am getting into.
I will make financially sound decisions so we use our resources wisely, and take a proactive approach to maintenance and saving for projected expenses, like maintenance and beach renourishment. I will support drainage solutions, which should likely include compressed maintenance of ditches and development of a prioritized list of improvement projects with price tags attached. The struggle to get to the beach was real during much of the second half of the summer. We need to examine how we can improve more public beach access paths so we can get back and forth safely when we get saturated. Likewise, we need to address safety issues along Palm and Waterway Boulevards, working with SC Department of Transportation. We should rethink the current setup on Palm and explore a switch from free to paid beach parking spots, possibly by using a flexible online system like the Pay by Phone app. This should help steer traffic first to Front Beach spots and lots. I will also protect residents when it comes to quality-of-life issues like short-term rental policies and marina improvements.
Several streams of money flow to the city from tourism taxes, and the restrictions on how we can spend them vary. State and municipal overnight accommodations taxes (ATAX) come from "heads in beds" at hotels and rentals, and these collections generate several million dollars each year for Isle of Palms. SC adopted its ATAX in the 1980s and much of what the state collects here on the island returns to the city, which must spend it within two years on “tourism related” expenditures. The state also requires that a large chunk goes to advertising with an approved non-profit organization - our city’s goes to the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, which takes a regional approach to its efforts. We need to lobby state lawmakers for more freedom in how we spend that ad money so it more directly benefits Isle of Palms. There is no time restriction related to the municipal ATAX enacted by Isle of Palms, but the guiding principle that it be spent on tourism related expenditures is similar. In some cases the expenditures are obviously related to tourism, and in other cases, they help cover extra expenses in services like police and fire response that are caused by tourists. The city’s Beach Preservation Fee - passed in 2014 - is also collected from accommodations and comes with obvious spending restrictions. In addition, the city also receives money generated by a Hospitality Tax on prepared food and drink. Collectively, these tourism funds help cover a great deal of the city’s expenses, and in the case of the Isle of Palms Marina, tourism money also helps with debt payments. With that in mind, we need to have sufficient reserves to cover the loss of tourism money should we face a serious economic downturn or disaster.
Some marina improvements are sorely needed, and I like the idea of changes to allow residents to enjoy the waterscape more. However, on Nov. 7, I will vote "No" on the question of whether the city should borrow up to $5.5 million to pay for the overhaul. There are two main reasons: Marina businesses should cover more of the costs one way or another, and the city must gain greater control there to protect and promote residents’ interests amid increased commercialization and off-island traffic. I can't support the question if these issues aren't clearly resolved, and if we pass this bond referendum, we are in a weaker spot to renegotiate the city leases. At the same time I have concerns about the level of debt this involves and the projected expense of $1.9 million in interest, even though it will be spread over time.
How we proceed after Nov. 7 will be shaped by the direction voters give on the referendum. Some improvements must be done. The bulkhead and handling of the underground fuel tank issue are not included in the list of referendum projects because they are not optional - the city is covering these costs separately in any case. The docks are also a potential liability we cannot ignore. We must move forward with these components, and they need to be done right. Moreover, we must follow a long-range maintenance plan to protect our investments. We also need to work with Brian Berrigan, whose businesses handle marina operations and the store, and other tenants to put protections in place so residents have full access and full benefit of the site, regardless of the referendum passing. Seasonal launch passes - just for residents - should be reinstated. Launch fees for non-residents should be increased - finding the right balance to curb off-island traffic. Non-trailer parking should be free for residents for up to two hours whether they come in a golf cart or vehicle with a resident decal, while non-residents should be forced to pay through a kiosk or online system - an idea that I have introduced into the discussion. I recently met with Berrigan. He seems to be putting some of these ideas into motion already, and he seemed receptive to my idea on adapting parking at the site to benefit residents. However, these arrangements should be put down clearly in writing as part of renegotiated leases that also require greater financial contributions by the businesses. Finally, we should explore creating a Marina Committee that incorporates residents with related expertise and others who are the most directly impacted by marina development.
Our family is incredibly thankful for the Recreation Center. My husband has coached and sponsored many teams. The playground is amazing, and we have benefitted from preschool, summer camp, volleyball, dance, Doggie Day (our pups are past winners!), the Dog Park, basketball, tennis and so much more. We even forced our kids to take an etiquette class. Rec facilities and programs - including those geared toward seniors and other adults - have helped the island retain its residential character. They should be well-supported with thoughtful long-range planning for maintaining facilities, including the plan to replace the gym floor. If anything, I would like to see us add back Sunday afternoon hours to maximize our use of those facilities. I would also support senior discounts for fitness classes and other activities. The burning question is whether to replace the cramped cardio room by adding on a larger workout facility. I see value in offering residents easy access to this kind of shared facility and expanding the community space to promote healthy habits and further connect people. I'm encouraged by the city's initial survey that shows residents are open to buying memberships that help cover the costs. However, the building cost estimates seem to be rising, and I hear mixed responses from residents. I would like to have more info on potential usage and overall costs, including equipment leases, before supporting a move forward. Otherwise, I would like to renew long-range plans for adding a community pool, as the city had planned for years. A pool would provide great exercise and recreation opportunities for all ages, and would be very popular. Memberships and fees would help cover the costs, and we may be able to bring in extra money by hosting club swim meets during the school year, which would also help fill accommodations. I realize that the city has other important demands to contend with right now, but a pool is something we should be working toward.
We should explore ways to boost up our retail businesses more through creative marketing, public relations and social media that include low-cost uses of the city's digital platforms and possibly more sophisticated advertising. One goal would be to steer residents to naturally spend more of their dollars and time at island businesses, including shops, restaurants and services like our island pharmacy, vet and dentist. The council made a smart move in 2016 when it officially allowed vehicles with resident decals to park free in the city lots at Front Beach. We need promote that benefit to islanders more - many still don't know about it - so they get into the habit of going there. We should also amplify promotions for our street festivals and possibly add in other special events that are not as ambitious but that turn Front Beach into even more of a local gathering spot through the off-season.

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