There are so many interesting things going on that impact on Branson area residents that it was too hard to pick just one so let’s do a “little bit of this and a little bit of that.”
SIGNS SHOULDN’T BE A GAMBLE – Interesting, a small city business recently had its private directional signs unceremoniously removed by the city of Branson because they had no permit. Not a few blocks away, and as recently as the morning of July 25, one of Branson Landing’s largest businesses has directional signs to its service department prominently displayed on Branson Landing Boulevard. One can only hope that the reason those signs weren’t removed is because the city did grant a permit for them.
COST OF TANEY COUNTY TAX ASSESSMENT DEBACLE CONTINUES TO GROW – Taney County Assessor James Strahan is still blaming it all on the state, Taney County has lost about $750,000 so far from state reimbursements, lost a law suit and spent who knows how much on legal cost and citizens are getting huge increases in real estate taxes. As Strahan apparently gets to do anything he wants to do any way he wants to, the Taney County Commissioners have voted to give his office more money to continue doing it. Dare we hope that a permanent solution is on the way? “What a County!”
THE COMMISH ISN”T THROUGH YET – The voters said, “No,” but the pressure and political clout from those wanting, what the Ole Seagull calls the “road to half way there,” the “East West Corridor” appears to be continuing to the extent that the Taney County Commission is considering spending about $400,000 for a study in connection with the possibility of getting a Federal Grant for the project. Interestingly the action is being considered without a report from the county’s Transportation Committee prioritizing the county’s transportation needs. If this kind of money is going to be spent on a study why not spend it on a study that analyzes the total needs of the whole County? “What a County!”
FALL CREEK EXTENSION GOOD NEWS AND BAD – The good news is that the Fall Creek Extension project is anticipated to be completed by September. The bad news is that the Fall Creek Extension project is anticipated to be completed by September. Further good news, when completed it will provide direct and convenient access north and south between Highway 248 and Highway 165. Further bad news, traffic will increase on Fall Creek Road and a substantial portion of Fall Creek Road, particularly its intersection with Highway 165, is not adequate to handle that traffic. How much of that road falls under the authority of Taney County? Are they allocating any money to study the situation and see if they can get Federal Grants to remedy its potential problems? What is its priority as compared to the East West Corridor? Oh, that’s right Taney County doesn’t have a list of Transportation priorities? “What a County!”
BRANSON COUNTY STATUS AND BORDERS – When originally presented, the idea to split Taney County into two counties was more hypothetical and fodder for thought than anything else. But in recent days it appears the idea might have some legs. The number one question the Ole Seagull is asked is, “What would the boarders of the new country be?” As a starting point he would suggest a line starting at Taney County’s northern border three miles east of U.S. Highway 65 and continuing south to the Arkansas State Line.
There is some doubt as to whether or not Marie Antoinette, wife of France’s King Louis XVI actually said the words, “Let them eat cake.” There is however, no doubt that they have been attributed to her.
She allegedly made the statement after she had been told that the French people had no bread to eat. What has endured to the popular culture of today is more the context in which the words themselves were said. Until this week, in an Ole Seagull’s mind, Marie Antoinette and the statement attributed to her have stood alone in symbolizing arrogance, lack of compassion, deficient public relational skills, and the disrespectfulness of those ruling, governing or managing for the people they serve.
However, this week, two statements, one national and the other local, might just challenge Antoinette and her statement for that roll. The first is a statement by Iowa Senator Charles Grassley quoted in the “Verbatim” section of the July 20 edition of Time Magazine when he responded to a question about health insurance from a person at a town hall meeting in Waukon, Iowa on July 6.
When asked, “How come I can’t have the same thing you have?” Grassley responded, “You can. Go to work for the Federal Government.” Grassley’s arrogance and apparent lack of compassion for the health insurance needs of non federal employees is exceeded only by his demonstrated lack of public relations skills and respect for those he is serving.
Who does Grassley think pays the bills for subsidizing the health insurance that he and all federal employees enjoy? Could not the argument be made that the non government workers paying the taxes used to pay those bills, in a very real sense, “work for the Federal government?”
Last weekend, according to published reports, residents to the gated community of Pointe Royale discovered that their community was that no longer secure because gate security personnel had been laid off and other amenities, including the closing of the indoor pool, had been eliminated. The actions were taken over the weekend immediately after the residents voted not to approve an additional assessment to make up for a shortfall in golfing revenues.
The results of the election were close and show that the Pointe Royale community is divided just about down the middle. In an Ole Seagull’s opinion, based on his knowledge of the situation, the vote was not so much against the assessment. It was more about the manner in which the issue was presented and the arrogance, apparent lack of concern for those who don’t golf, but do pay assessments, and the lack of respect shown to residents by some members of the current board and its General Manager, Terry Dody.
That attitude was illustrated by the actions that were taken over the weekend immediately after the vote and the reported reply by Dody when asked about that action. Dody said, “They should have voted ‘Yes,’” No discussion about what other things could have been done after the vote to help resolve the situation in a way that could unite the community. Instead, for whatever reason, in the opinion of an Ole Seagull, what the board and Dody did was take the arrogant, uncompassionate, and disrespectful actions they took to force a revote and get the result they want.
“Hey Seagull, do you think Dody will be able to do for Pointe Royale what he did for the city of Branson?” In an Ole Segull’s, opinion, he has already done it. To him, Dody’s response regarding the actions taken in response to the vote, “They should have voted ‘Yes’” says it all.
As one observes the antics of what is currently going on in Taney County government they have to pinch themselves to make sure they are not watching “Peter Pan” in Never Neverland or “Yakov’s Moscow Circus.” At least that would be entertaining and all it costs is the price of a ticket.
Whether it’s the current property tax assessment fiasco, or the 23 million dollar proposed east west corridor road that only goes “half way to somewhere,” the leaders of Taney County have handled it in a manner than reminds someone of what would happen if four wild elephants ran amok in historic downtown Branson’s “Dick’s 5 & 10 Store” for about 30 minutes. It wouldn’t be pretty, but then the real estate tax assessment situation and the handling of the proposed $23 million east west corridor road aren’t pretty either.
In the 23 years that the Ole Seagull has lived in Taney County he has heard, on more than one occasion, the alleged dissatisfaction of eastern Taney County with what Branson and western Taney County is allegedly getting. During the last two election tax proposals it was almost like Branson and western Taney County owed eastern Taney County and should pay up by approving the requested tax increases. At the very least there has been and is a feeling of east versus west, but wait, “Don’t worry, Be Happy,” divide Taney County into two counties and happiness will rein.
The sound of the name “Branson County” has a nice ring to it and is even reminiscent of the name that would generate just about 100 percent of the new county’s revenues and, today generates an estimated 75 percent of Taney County’s existing revenues. Now before you laugh and write the Ole Seagull off ask yourself two questions.
The first is, “What do eastern Taney County and western Taney County have in common in terms of major industry and revenue generation? The second and more telling question is, “On average, over the last 20 years, how many dollars per year has the Taney County government committed to the specific tourism marketing of ‘Branson,’ the acknowledged generator of an estimated 75 percent of all its revenues? The Ole Seagull would suggest that the answer to the first and second questions would both be the same, “Not much.”
The good news for eastern Taney County and Branson is that there is a solution that might work out to the benefit of everyone if we can just work together to get it done. That potential solution is Missouri Revised Statue 47.310.1 relating to the procedure for dividing counties. To get the ball rolling it only takes a petition of “not less than one hundred voters of such county, duly entered of record, and setting out fully the proposed change, the reason and object thereof, and the boundaries of such county if the change were made.”
Although the process starts relatively simply, the Taney County Commission would have to decide whether or not to put it on the ballot and if approved by the voters, it would then go to the state legislature for their action. To say the least it wouldn’t be a slam dunk and would take a lot of work and planning.
But with the eventual outcome being that both eastern Taney County and the new Branson County would be able to control their own finances and destiny why not try? Let’s all hold hands and go skipping down the “yellow brick road” toward creating the new Branson County singing our, unifying and at the same time dividing, theme song, “Don’t worry, Be Happy.”
On March 3, 1836, Colonel William Barret Travis, the Commander of the Alamo, wrote to Texas Governor Smith, “…victory will cost the enemy so dear, that it will be worse for him than defeat.” In the early predawn hours of Sunday, March 6, 1836, after 12 days of almost constant bombardment and siege, the soldiers of Mexican General Santa Anna, numbering in the thousands, made their final assault on the Alamo, overwhelming and killing everyone of its 189 defenders.
The prophetic words of Colonel Travis and the spirit of the Alamo manifested themselves, only 46 days after its fall, at the Battle of San Jacinto. The Mexican army, under Santa Anna, outnumbered the Texas army, under the command of General Sam Houston, by over a two to one margin. In spite of these odds, the Texas Army, inspired by the sacrifice of the Alamo defenders and shouting the battle cry, “Remember the Alamo,” defeated the Mexican army and captured Santa Anna.
What is it about the Alamo that so inspired the Texas army at the Battle of San Jacinto and has touched the hearts and souls of generations since? What are we to remember? Was it their courage or that they spent their lives for a noble cause? Was it the fact that so few stood against so many for so long, the fact that the defenders of the Alamo could have elected not to give their lives in a battle they knew they could not win, or a combination of these factors?
History records that on the first day of the Siege of the Alamo, Santa Anna had the scarlet flag of “no quarter” run up on San Fernando Church within the sight of the Alamo defenders. It meant surrender or die. Despite the odds against them, instead of surrender, it was answered with cannon fire from the defenders of the Alamo.
Days into the siege, after receiving messages that no further help would be coming, Colonel Travis, explained the hopelessness of their situation. He gave the Alamo’s defenders a choice of escaping, surrendering and perhaps living, or of fighting on and the certainty of death. The chances of escape were pretty good as people had been going through the Mexican lines all during the siege.
All, but one, chose to fight on. Unknown to them at the time however, was the special place in history where their choice would be forever enshrined. That place where the spirit of honor, dedication to purpose, valor, and willingness to sacrifice all, for a noble cause, is revered and preserved.
Why, as James Bowie said, would they “…rather die in these ditches than give them up to the enemy?” Their individual reasons probably varied the nobleness of the cause, loyalty to each other and their country, honor, duty, freedom from tyranny, and, for some, like Bowie, the defense of their homes. They were however, bound together by the common threads of their courage, their belief that it was right and necessary to fight the army of Santa Anna at that time, in that place, no matter what the price, and in their commitment to pay that price.
The spirit of “Remember the Alamo” represents that which is courageous, honorable, and worthy of commitment in the hearts of individuals and nations. It was in the hearts of the signers of the Declaration of Independence as, on July 4, 1776, they pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor on behalf of a new nation. From July 4, 1776 to July 4, 2006, from Valley Forge to Bagdad, and countless places in between, America’s greatness, and very existence has depended on that “spirit” and those willing to commit and sacrifice their all for it.
It is the “American Spirit,” the very lifeblood of our nation. May that Nation “Under God,” be eternally blessed with that spirit, for without it, She would not have been born and will not long endure. Happy Birthday America, Happy Birthday!
Authors Note: This piece is published each Fourth of July as a Birthday Greeting to America and a tribute to all those, and their families, that have sacrificed to keep the flame of the American Spirit burning.