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Horry County Council will debate without public comment and revote mask mandate

The Horry County Council will vote Tuesday on whether to suspend the public emergency prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic and eliminate the mask mandate for indoor businesses.

The council just approved a 60-day continuance of the mask ordinance at their previous meeting on Sept. 1.

However, Councilman Al Allen opposes the wearing of masks and objected to the procedural manner called consent by which the mask ordinance was passed calling it “tyranny.”

Council Chairman Johnny Gardner has the sole authority to set the entire agenda and placed the mask ordinance on the consent agenda, which is the list of items councils passes in one vote without council debate because it’s presumed everyone consents.

Gardner placed the new ordinance to end the mask mandate on Tuesday’s agenda at Allen’s behest.

Since Gardner took over as chairman nearly 20 months ago, council members say he has refused to consult with them on what items are allowed on the agenda for full council meetings.

Adding insult to injury, Gardner has refused to place new or old business on agendas for discussion at the end of meetings, completely stripping the entire council of any opportunity to raise issues of importance to their constituency.

Gardner was wrong to slip through the mask ordinance renewal without debate, and he was wrong to try and blame council after the meeting for his error in judgement.

Council should have the opportunity to discuss agenda items, just as they should have the right to discuss old or new business at the end of each meeting as they have for years.

The public should also have the right to weigh in on the mask ordinance Tuesday, but all general public comment at the beginning of every council meeting has been suspended since March 11 due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Hospital administrators won’t have the opportunity before Tuesday’s vote to comment on whether the mask ordinance has slowed the spread of the virus.

Businesses and employees can’t comment on whether masks are still needed in the workplace.

Many voters who claim the masks violate their civil liberties won’t be allowed to comment.

This ordinance only applies to unincorporated areas of Horry County. The mask mandate is still in effect in numerous coastal communities including Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Conway.