Today editorial notes that local bikers trying to save the May motorcycle rallies are off on the wrong track:
Local motorcycle enthusiasts strenuously object to the Myrtle Beach City Council initiative to reduce or eliminate the negative public effects of the May Bikefest and Harley-Davidson motorcycle rallies. Now, they're pushing back. As The Sun News reported this week, about 500 bikers met Wednesday in a local club to organize a response to the anti-rallies fervor that is sweeping our communities.
Good for them. It is never wrong for citizens to unite against perceived injustices wrought by government.
This push-back effort, however, seems destined to fail, for one key reason: If Wednesday's meeting is any indication, the motorcyclists are feeding the perceptions that have inspired so many local residents to demand that local governments get rid of the rallies: that bikers are selfish and insensitive.
That's not really true. But perception, as they say, is reality. Consider:
Few bikers show awareness that the rallies exert unbearable stress on many of our communities' permanent residents. The bikers' view seems to be that local folks should just gut it up and endure the noise, clogged traffic and unseemly behavior that accompanies both rallies.
The bikers also perpetuate the erroneous fiction that City Council's goal is to get rid of motorcycles when the real issues are: How many motorcycles can our communities tolerate at a given time, and for how long?
Critics of the rallies, including the newspaper's editorial board, understand that many, many local residents own and ride motorcycles. They are a colorful part of the local scene.
But it does not follow that our communities must tolerate the often stressful presence of hundreds or thousands of bikers for weeks at a time because some businesses prosper from them. When angry local bikers refuse to acknowledge that, they weaken chances that City Council will back away from its anti-rallies initiative.
Further weakening their case are the puerile tactics their putative leaders use to apprise local officials that they're really, really mad that some local folks don't like the rallies. At Wednesday's biker meet-up, for instance, one person announced the mobile phone number of Horry County Council Chairwoman Liz Gilland. Predictably, Gilland subsequently reported that her phone's in-box overflowed with text messages from angry bikers.
Talk about a bonehead move. County Council has been less aggressively anti-rallies than City Council - for good reason. The county, unlike the city, does sell vendors' permits, many of them for venues that border the city. If County Council were to go out of the vendors' permits business, it would need to find hundreds of thousands of dollars of replacement revenue to support public safety - not an easy move for elected officials to make.
The more astute move for biker leaders, therefore, would be respectfully to court Gilland and other council members, in hope they will decline to join the city in cracking down on the rallies. In what way does turning the council chairwoman from potential friend to potential enemy advance that goal?
This debate is only just beginning. If the newly organized bikers want to tip the scales of public opinion - and government action - in their favor, they need to stop feeding the biker stereotype and work with local leaders toward a reasonable compromise. If they stay on their current course, that can't happen.