Wednesday, April 8, 2015

History repeats itself…state transportation challenges

The General Assembly is debating a proposal to issue millions in state bonds for South Carolina roads. The plan is designed to solve the state's crumbling infrastructure problem. Municipal governments want a share of the money to meet their local road improvement needs.

Sounds familiar in 2015, right? 

No. This is taken from a 1930 report to the Municipal Association board about a legislative proposal to issue $65 million in bonds to pave more than 600 miles of crumbling roads in the state.

1930s Family Cars
To generate support, proponents took out full–page newspaper ads showing the pitiful condition of roads in the state. The paving program was designed to solve the state's infrastructure problem and provide needed Depression-era jobs.

Municipal governments wanted a share of the money to meet their local road improvement needs. Existing law allowed the state to pave roads only in towns with less than 2,500 population.

Details may have changed but our state’s crumbling infrastructure challenges haven’t.

This is one of the many interesting parallels of history revealed during the extensive research of the history of the Municipal Association. There’s lots more where this came from…especially related to annexation and taxation issues.

This summer, the Association is publishing a book that reflects on our history, impact and legacy since the early 1900s. It provides snapshots, milestones, stories and photographs that catalog the events, advancements, decisions, people and partnerships that shaped the evolution of both the Municipal Association of South Carolina and the state's cities and towns.

Stay tuned for more snapshots of history between now and mid-July when the book comes out. It’s really interesting to see how many times history repeats itself in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mayors learn from Lake City's successes

Lake City rolled out the red carpet last week for more than two dozen mayors who spent the day learning about the city’s economic development strategies and successes. 

Mayors from cities as diverse as Newberry to Marion and Santee to Sumter got an insider’s look at how Lake City approaching its strategy of moving the city from a rural agricultural economic base to a thriving arts hub for the region and the state.

Mayors meeting at the Bean Market
The mayors started the day with a briefing at the historic Bean Market that was once the site of the world’s largest truck auction of green beans. Today, it’s restored to serve as the home of the local farmer’s market along with dozens of events annually. Mayor Lovith Anderson told the group of mayors that rentals are close to capacity for the year at the Bean Market venue.

Ray McBride, executive director of the Community Museum Society, along with Mayor Anderson and Shawn Bell, city administrator, led the mayors on the walking tour.

Visiting the Ron McNair Center
Arts and culture are a real focus of the city’s economic development strategy, Mayor Anderson told his colleagues. From the Ron McNair Life History Center to the Jones-Carter Art Gallery, the city is focused on making arts and culture its hallmark of economic growth.
Artfields art in the Inn at
the Crossroad courtyard

Throughout the walking tour of downtown, the mayors got to see a number of the pieces of art that will be in residence during the upcoming Artfields Festival April 24 – May 7. The festival attracts thousands of visitors from around the state, nation and world over its nine-day run. This year, the festival will offer $100,000 in prizes to artists from across the Southeast.

Inn at the Crossroads lobby
A highlight of the mayors’ walking tour of Lake City’s downtown was a visit to the recently opened boutique hotel, Inn at the Crossroads. Santee Mayor Donnie Hilliard told his colleagues about a recent retreat of his city council that was held at the Inn. During their two-day stay in Lake City, the Santee council learned about Lake City’s successful parks and recreation department and its efforts to bring more tourism to the city. What a great way for the mayors to learn from each other!

A panel of local leaders briefed the mayors at lunch about the strong arts and business community support that is making this new economic development strategy work. Jim Fields, executive director of the Lake City Partnership Council, noted that while the city does have a strong financial benefactor in local resident Darla Moore, the Council’s goal is to create economic development strategies that can replicated in small towns all over the state.

The day wrapped up with a tour of Moore Farm’s Botanical Gardens on the outskirts of town. This horticultural gem spans 50 acres combining cutting edge horticultural practices and rural gardening traditions. The Garden hosts local events and tours by appointment.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cities Mean Business magazine spotlights economic development in SC cities and towns

The latest issue of the Association’s Cities Mean Business magazine is out and is in the hands of the 15,000+ subscribers of SC Biz magazine.

Winter 2015
Twice a year, the Association partners with SC Biz to publish Cities Mean Business as a way to showcase some of the many ways SC cities and towns contribute to the state’s economic success.

In this issue, read (p. 6) about how boutique hotels in Florence, Anderson and Beaufort are contributing to the increasingly lively activity in these downtowns. And the best part is…all three hotels are owned by local entrepreneurs.

Food may not be the first thing you think of when talking about community redevelopment, but in Spartanburg, Easley and Greenville, local leaders understand that easy access to healthy food is critical to underserved neighborhoods. Read about (p. 9) how these cities are supporting collaborations that include farmers markets, a vegetable truck that mirrors the concept of an ice cream truck and job training opportunities.

Local chamber executives talk in this issue (p. 10) about the importance of the partnerships between their city and local businesses. Chamber execs from Fountain Inn, Myrtle Beach and Clinton discuss the mutually beneficial relationships that help these cities solve problems collectively.

In many cities, blighted and environmentally contaminated property can sit vacant for many years causing public health concerns and eyesores. Learn about how Edisto Beach, Rock Hill and Greenwood have used brownfields loans from the EPA and DHEC to transform these derelict properties into vibrant redevelopments.

Finally, hear from (p. 13) the president of the SC Economic Developers Association, Jeff Ruble, who discusses the important benefits of a collaborative economic development strategy for the state to support a diverse business landscape.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

History lesson on the origins of the business license tax

As the discussion continues over H3490 at the State House, the Association has done some research into the beginnings of the business license tax. It’s pretty interesting.

Did you know the origin of the municipal business license tax dates back to 1872? According to former University of South Carolina Law Professor William Quirk’s Law Review article, “Nature of a Business License Tax,” the foundation for the business license tax was laid when the General Assembly passed an act in 1872 to provide for a general license law.

That law was repealed the same year, but it opened the door for one of the first court cases that affirmed the notion that all businesses “. . . receive protection from the government [and] should contribute to its support."

Quirk points out that South Carolina’s 1895 Constitution (the one we still use today) makes two specific references to a business license tax. In the section that gave municipalities taxing authority, a license/privilege tax was granted to cities and towns so long as the tax was “. . . graduated so as to secure a just imposition of such a tax upon the classes subject thereto.”

This important sentence established today’s continued use of rate classes and why it’s so important they be updated regularly.

The original business license tax language has been removed from the Constitution, but through state law changes and state court cases since 1895, the legitimacy of the municipal business license tax has been affirmed many times.

Additionally, the courts have recognized that the business license tax “. . . is simply an authorization to engage in a business, not a substitute for property and income taxes” and they have established that the business license tax is related to the services provided by a city.

Read the full article here and learn more about today's business license tax here.