Coastal Alliance meets to talk Bikefest

T.J. Sotomayor addressing the Coastal Alliance on Wednesday.

The Coastal Alliance met Wednesday to organize a task force to address the issue of Bikefest and crowds over Memorial Day weekend.

The group of area leaders met Wednesday morning and voted to have the city managers decide who will make up the task force. It will likely include public safety officials, as well as someone from the office of Governor Nikki Haley.

There will also be a group of city and county attorneys who will work with the task force.

Bikefest was the sole item on the group's agenda.

Atlantic Beach Bikefest, which happens during Memorial Day, has come under fire after multiple shootings in Myrtle Beach left three people dead and several injured.

Atlanta radio talk show host T.J. Sotomayor told the Coastal Alliance he knows what they're going through with Bikefest.

He said the city of Atlanta had to deal with the same issues with Freaknik in the 1990s.

Sotomayor said stopping that event took 6,000 police, so ending Bikefest will require a greater law enforcement commitment.

"You got to have boots on the ground, you have to have a law enforcement element here and it has to be a visible one, you need a visible presence," said Sotomayor.

Sotomayor said he knows Grand Strand leaders fear being labeled as racist if they crack down too much.

"You have to say my constituency and the rule of law comes first," he said.

Longtime bike group supporter Violet Lucas told the mayors the true, law-abiding motorcyclists don't like the criminals either.

She said the bikers are concerned about safety, too, and all sides need to start working together.

"We are looking at more of pointing fingers, passing blames as opposed to sitting and talking together to hear that essentially we are all saying the same thing," said Lucas.

Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes said what needs to be done is not necessarily passing new local laws, but enforcing the existing ones.

That will mean more police.

"We cannot do it with 200 officers a shift. We had 400 officers here and that gave us 200 per shift and I'm sorry, we're just outnumbered," Rhodes said.

The Coastal Alliance represents coastal cities and towns along the Grand Strand and Horry County as a whole.

The members of the Alliance include: John Rhodes, Mayor of Myrtle Beach and Coastal Alliance Chairman; Nancy Edelman, Councilwoman of Briarcliffe Acres; Marilyn Hatley, Mayor of North Myrtle Beach; Gary Pell, Mayor of Briarcliffe Acres; Jake Evans, Mayor of Atlantic Beach; Mark Lazarus, Horry County Council Chairman; Doug Samples, Mayor of Surfside Beach.

No one representing the town of Atlantic Beach was present at the meeting Wednesday. The Gary Pell, Mayor of Briarcliff Acres was also absent.