The Ole Seagull

Reiher – Zap2It take gratuitous slam at Branson

Posted in General by The Ole Seagull on the June 25th, 2009

In an on online piece by Andrea Reiher entitled “America’s Got Talent’: Rockin’ Rory rocks’” published on in its June 23 “It Happened Last Night” section” the writer appeared to take a gratuitous slam at the quality of entertainment in Branson. Why the writter even had to mention Branson in the piece in the context they did is beyond an Ole Seagull’s comprehension. What good purpose was served?

The perceived slam was contained in the articles evaluation about the performance of Peter Peterkin. In total it said:

“A Barack Obama imitator named Pete Peterkin. He’s… meh. He’s got some of the Obama speech patterns down but it’s also kind of James Brown doing Barack Obama. No sooner have I typed that then Pete puts on a wig and goes into his James Brown imitation. Honestly, this guy isn’t good enough to play Branson, let alone Vegas. He says he does about 100 imitations and plays 15 instruments. The crowd chants Vegas, but the judges are on the fence. They end up putting him through, though.”

The good news for Branson, Reiher’s innuendo aside, is that the talent that does play Branson is good enough so that Branson will be celebrating 50 years of live music shows this year and entertain over six million visitors.

A bit Branson here and a bit of that there

Posted in General by The Ole Seagull on the June 22nd, 2009

An Ole Seagull’s musings on this and that in and around Branson and a wish for a happy Father’s Day:

No carousel or camel rides at Branson Landing: At the work session of the Branson Board of Alderman on May 18, it was announced that the businessmen wanting to bring a carousel into the Public Square at Branson Landing had withdrawn their request. That probably doesn’t bode well for the camel rides either.

Forsythe blemish still evident: The good news is that Branson has a wonderful new road and intersection between State Highway 76 and Roark Valley Road. The bad news is that the new Forsythe Road takes locals and tourists alike through what looks like “death valley east.” Adds new meaning to the term, “Beauty of the Ozarks.”

What is the real cost of the “free” Discovery Trolley? When the businesses were questioning the availability of parking in Historic Downtown Branson a couple of years ago, one of their representatives estimated the value of each downtown parking space at $65,000 per year. How many spaces are allocated for the “free” Discovery Trolley at a total of how many dollars? Add that to “x” number of dollars for a total cost of how much to operate the trolley?

Taney County Assessor not pleased with recent editorial: A recent news report in this newspaper contained a line that the Taney Country Assessor was not pleased with a recent editorial that some might construe to be critical of the way property taxes have been assessed. At the end of the day however, it probably works out because there are a lot of Taney County property owners that are not pleased with the way the Taney County Assessor has assessed their property.

Table Rock Dam contributes to Branson’s uniqueness: On June 14, the area celebrated the 50th anniversary of the dedication of Table Rock Dam. The flood control and electricity it provides are great benefits, but, in terms of Branson’s tourism it is its impoundment of Table Rock Lake that contributes substantially to Branson’s uniqueness. One can almost feel the hand of God blessing Branson as Table Rock Dam, Silver Dollar City, and Branson’s first show all blossomed forth within a relatively short time of each other.

Will Branson & Taney County taxpayers pay the cost of relocating Lake Shore Drive: Rumor has it that Kanakuk Kamps wants to relocate Lake Shore Drive around their property at a cost of about $3 million dollars. That may or may not be a good idea, it may or may not cost $3 million, but to an Ole Seagull, it shouldn’t cost Taney County tax payers one penny.

Despite voter’s rejection there is still pressure from some for East West Corridor: Especially in view of what the voters did relative to the county tax issue that was allegedly for the Lake Taneycomo Bridge not too long ago, forcing the vote on the East West Corridor Road and Exposition Center onto the February ballot this year was perhaps not the brightest political move of all time. They got their vote and their answer yet, there seems to be a constant pressure by some who did not get what they wanted to get things the way they want them. Anyone want to bet how it’s going to turn out?

Happy Father’s Day: William Wordsworth said, “Father! – to God himself we cannot give a holier name” and Red Buttons said, “Never raise your hand to your kids. It leaves your groin unprotected.” To Wordsworth an Ole Seagull would say, “Amen, to Buttons he would suggest that, hand aside, it is the heart that is most exposed when raising children and to all fathers he would share the words of Elizabeth Stone who said, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Happy Father’s Day.

What’s next, camel rides around Branson Landing’s Town Square?

Posted in Branson,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the June 14th, 2009

At a recent Branson Board of Aldermen Work Session, two local businessmen, Dan Ruda and Larry Schmidt, made a proposal to install a two level, fully restored antique carousel at the main entrance of Branson Landing (Landing) in the Town Square. Among others, two of the rationale given for the carousel is they think the Landing needs a family attraction and that it might increase the time families would spend at the Landing.

An Abraham Lincoln quote comes to mind, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.” The Ole Seagull’s initial reaction to the specific proposal is, “This is nuts!”

At the outset, well almost the outset, an Ole Seagull would point out that he has a sincere appreciation for the Landing, the way it is operated, and what it does for Branson. But, as he has said from the very beginning, the Landing is not Branson; it is here because of Branson. Were it not for the millions of visitors who were already coming to Branson there would have been no Branson Landing in the first place.

That’s the Branson that built Branson, without the direct investment of taxpayer money, the one that has to compete against developments like Branson Landing, built and partially maintained with tax payer money. Ironically, although the city has probably spent millions and is on the hook for a hundred million plus dollars or more, even in these tight times, it not only doesn’t receive city sales tax revenue from the Landing, but has to pay over $400,000 per year for the maintenance of the fountains and common areas.
It’s almost like the Landing is more important to the future of Branson than the very shows, attractions, and businesses that built Branson. Wasn’t one of the big initial selling points of the Landing the new demographic it would bring and the hundreds of thousands of new visitors?

As Branson Landing was being planned and built, the trite little saying, “A rising tide raises all ships” was bantered about. Unless things have changed over the last few months Branson Landings retail sales are doing just fine and were trending up. Are the rest of Branson’s “ships” rising on the tide? Regardless of that answer, is increasing of the time families spend at Branson Landing going to help raise those same ships from their current levels?

The city of Branson has precious little control over Branson Landing. When it leased it to HCW for the next nine or so decades it was left with very little control over what happens there except, if current news reports are right, what happens on the Town Square. Why would the city want to establish the precedent of letting private businesses encroach, even more than they have in the past, on the one area they might have any direct control over, the Town Square?

In an Ole Seagull’s opinion, the Town Square was specifically designed to be as it is for a reason. One of those reasons wasn’t so that a carousel or other revue producing entity could occupy large chunks of it. If the city grabs the carousel’s brass ring what’s next, camel rides around the square?

It’s taxing situation that could increase taxes “with a vengeance”

Posted in Branson,Government,Opinion,Taney County by The Ole Seagull on the June 7th, 2009

There has been an ongoing battle between the Missouri Tax Commission and Taney County that could increase taxes “with a vengeance” and has cost the tax payers of Taney County hundreds of thousands of dollars. It revolves around the way real property taxes have been assessed and will be assessed in Taney County.

Anyone watching the fiasco going on between the Taney County Assessor’s Office and the State Tax Commission has to cringe as they watch what has happened and look forward to what will happen. As the Ole Seagull sat in some early meetings it was like a comedic farce filled with smoke and mirrors and “he said she said.”

But, at the end of the day it was more “dark comedy” than funny because, from the outset, it was obvious that, regardless of the outcome, it was going to cost the taxpayers of Taney County money and in the end, for most, higher real estate taxes. In fact, for some it has already started.
If, a taxpayer lives in a condominium, as the Ole Seagull does, the chances are very good that the assessed value of the condo went up at least 20 percent on the most recent assessment notice received. In general that translates to the payment of a substantial increase in property tax on the property.

Does it take an “Assessing Solomon” to figure out that, in the vast majority of cases, if a piece of property, condo or otherwise, was properly assessed previously to the last assessment notice that the property could not possibly have increased in value 20 percent during the last two years. Why there is even a rumor that condos were singled out for this special treatment even though that couldn’t possibly be the case if the assessments were done in a professional, fair and equal manner, but were they?

For what it’s worth, an Ole Seagull would estimate that the issue has already cost the taxpayers of Taney County between $600,000 and $700,000. These are reimbursable funds that the State Tax Commission did not pay because of their allegation that the Taney County Assessor’s office is not properly doing its job properly. Anyone want to guess who is making up the difference? Can we say, “The tax payers of Taney County?”

In the opinion of an Ole Seagull, the sad thing is that when the issue is finally resolved, the majority of those residents living in older homes and businesses with older buildings could be paying much higher real estate taxes than they were when the situation started. What a travesty.

How different things might have been if Taney County had admitted the obvious, said to the Missouri Tax Commission our assessments are too low and asked how it could work with them to get the assessments up to where they should be with a minimum of impact on Taney County’s property owners, particularly those on low and fixed incomes. Instead, our assessor and County Commissioners chose to fight a battle very few, including an Ole Seagull really understood.

The potential results however are very clear. The headline in the June 3 edition of the “Taney County Times” proclaimed just how clear saying, “Taxpayers could see 30 percent increase in property taxes.” An Ole Seagull is just curious, “How could that possibly be happening if the assessments done in the past were done properly?” One can only wonder if the same type of professionalism, seeming arbitrary conduct, and process was used in the past as was used on the blanket assessment of Taney County’s condominiums.