The Ole Seagull

A little bit of $425k for Branson Landing “bauble” & $0.00 for Branson citizens, etc.

Posted in Branson,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the August 30th, 2009

We’ll be discussing a bit of this and that this week:

$425k for Branson Landing “bauble” & $0.00 for  Branson citizens water & sewer rates. – The citizens of Branson were promised that if they approved the city of Branson Tourism Tax it would keep their water and sewer rates low. The state law governing infrastructure expenditures that may be made from the taxes collected under that law authorize the expenditure of those tax funds for the operation of infrastructure such as sewer and water plants.

Instead what happens? A few years ago, the board of aldermen tells the citizens the deals off and that their sewer and water rates have to go up because the infrastructure account can’t afford it. Yet the board approves the expenditure of $425k being taken from that same fund each year to pay for a little “bauble” at Branson Landing that the budget calls the “Branson Landing Fountain & Grounds.”

Interesting, Branson’s citizens and businesses were told they had to have a 25 percent sewer and water rate increase because the infrastructure account couldn’t afford to subsidize the rates any more. Yet the aldermen vote to authorize $425k for the Branson Landing bauble from the same fund. There’s about as much chance that the sewer and water increases are going to stop at 25 percent as there is that the city of Branson will actually get to keep and use the sales taxes it collects from Branson Landing for the next 10-15 years.

Who Should be texting while driving? Commonsense says, “No one.” Although “nothing can be made fool proof because fools are so ingenious,” the Missouri Legislature could have passed a law prohibiting texting while driving by everyone. However, in their infinite wisdom,  they just passed a law prohibiting those under 21 from texting while driving. What’s the difference if there is a head on collision between a school bus and a car being driven at 65 miles per hour by an 18 year old who crossed the center line because they were distracted while texting and the same thing happening with an 85 year old driving the car and texting?

Why would Missouri’s governor endanger Missouri’s “tourism money tree?” The Ole Seagull has been told that the actual figures of the Missouri Department of Tourism indicate that for every dollar Missouri spends on tourism marketing the state gets $40 plus in revenue in return. Believing the source accurate, the Ole Seagull must then ask, “Why would Missouri’s Governor reduce the Tourism Budget from $23 million to $16 million?” His prayer is that the reduction is in areas other than marketing and, particularly, the co-op marketing program that helps market the Branson area.

When will Kimberling City pay its own way? The citizens of the Branson Lakes Area Tourism Community Enhancement District voted for and pay a one percent retail sales tax for tourism marketing on most of the retail items they buy. The citizens in Kimberling City and the vast majority of Stone County voted against a marketing tax and pay no marketing tax on most of the retail items they buy. Yet, ihundreds of thousands of dollars in money paid by Branson tax payers is channeled through to the Kimberling City Chamber of Commerce for their use via an agreement between the Branson CVB and the Table Rock Lake Chamber of Commerce. With Branson giving Kimberling City marketing money where is the incentive for them to take action to support themselves? Isn’t it time the Kimberling City area supports its own marketing?

A “Sign” that Branson Planning & Development “doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt?”

Posted in General by The Ole Seagull on the August 23rd, 2009

At the outset an Ole Seagull would point out that he is a personal friend of Steve Monroe, the owner of Gas Buster Tours. Too he would admit to being disappointed and angry. The question he must answer before writing this column however is, “Would he have written it even if the city had granted the sign permit and he believed the process was still flawed?” The answer is “Yes.” It is not about Monroe’s sign; it is about the process and what happens to the next business or person who finds themselves in a similar situation.

Monroe, initially erected a directional sign authorized under subsection 70-10(10) of the Branson Municipal Code (BMC) entitled, “Private traffic entrance and directional signs.” The BMC reads, “Signs directing traffic movement onto premises or within premises, not exceeding six square feet in area for each sign, shall be allowed. Advertising logos are allowed, but are limited to no more than 25 percent of the total sign area of each sign. One entrance sign and one exit sign shall be allowed for each public street entrance. Each sign shall be a maximum of three feet in height to the top of the sign, and each sign shall be a maximum of three feet in width. Horizontal signs on and flush with paved areas are exempt from these standards.”

If read exactly the way it is written, should it take a highly paid bureaucrat or legal Solomon to determine what the purpose of the sign is and what a person or business has to do to be in compliance with its provisions? To an Ole Seagull, if a law prescribes something a business or person has to do, that law should be straight forward enough so that most people with a fifth grade reading comprehension level could read it and know what they had to do.

Having misread the scope of the exception provided in 70-10(10), Monroe put a directional sign up directing traffic into the parking lot for his primary business operation “Casino Day Trips,” which he designed, had built and believed was in accordance with 70-10(10). There was an initial problem with the fact that the scope of the exception did not cover “permitting” and the city’s Planning & Development Department enforcement folks were on him in a flash and removed the sign because he had no permit.

This is where the Ole Seagull got involved because to him it appeared that the odds were being stacked against Monroe in terms of arbitrary and selective enforcement. An Ole Seagull wondered how much of a gamble it would be to bet that similar directional signs, prominently displayed on Branson Landing Boulevard, directing traffic into the parking lot of Bass Pro’s Tracker Boat “Service Department” didn’t have a permit. Sure enough, shortly after it was alluded to in his July 26 column, the signs came down, Bass Pro applied for a permit on July 30 and it was granted within about 24 hours.

An Ole Seagull would bet, that there is no better illustration of the arbitrariness, selectivity, and the “we write the law so it means what we say it does regardless of the way it reads mentality” used by the city of Branson’s Planning & Development Department than the way the “Tracker Boat” sign was handled. From beginning to end, it testifies as to what appears to be the double standard that department uses in enforcing its regulations. However, before entering into that discussion maybe the city would be kind enough to answer a few questions.

What is the specific name appearing on the application for the permit for the “Tracker Boats Service Department” sign?” Has a city business license been issued to “Tracker Boats?” Was the “Tracker Boats” logo on the sign “authorized” or required by 70-10(10)? Is there anything in 70-10(10) prohibiting the use of language on the sign describing the specific business operation the traffic is being directed into such as, was used in the “Tracker Boat” sign, “Service Department?” Is the definition of “Logo” as contained in the BMC different from the normally accepted definition of “Logo?” If a term is defined in an ordinance is the definition of that term incorporated by reference wherever that term is subsequently used in the ordinance?

Taney County eligible to play the Wheel of Grant game

Posted in Branson,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the August 16th, 2009

In last week’s column entitled, “A Tiger or the East West Corridor a gamble is still a gamble,” the Ole Seagull described a meeting of the Taney County Commission that was going to be held for the sole purpose of deciding on whether or not to apply for a federal stimulus grant for $25 million. The grant, if received, would be used solely to build the East West Corridor Road.

He described the meeting as “an attempt to move the project forward by its supporters without any study showing that the project is actually a priority transportation need for Taney County.” He went on to say “He also believes it is an attempt to minimize the effectual involvement from those who might be opposed to the project until such a priority is determined.”

Although he still believes that to be true, the fact of the matter is that not one person attended the meeting to speak in opposition to applying for the grant. Many voices spoke in favor of not only applying for the grant but for building the road, grant or not grant, but one voice that had a lot of weight for the Ole Seagull was that of Frank Preston, Taney County’s Administrator for Roads and Bridges. He said that the East West Corridor road is critical structure for the development of Taney County.

Although the Ole Seagull originally spoke against the action without completion of a county transportation study prioritizing its transportation needs, he had to admit that he was evidently the only one who felt that way because everyone else was not only in favor of applying for the grant but presented compelling logical and emotional reasons for doing so. When it became clear that all that was being discussed was whether or not to gamble $50,000 in the hopes of getting $25 million to get a road built that the County Road and Bridge Administrator, whose judgment, the Ole Seagull trusts, says is critical it became a no brainer.
And a gamble it is. It is certainly not a sure bet like the results of the revote on the assessment at Point Royale will be, but it qualifies Taney County to play the “Wheel of Grant Game” and continue on to see if it can win the prize of $25 million. In a practical sense the $50,000 is an “application fee” that must be paid by Sep. 15.

That keeps Taney County in the game and in a position where it can evaluate its competition for the available grant funds and its chances for eventually getting the grant. The reason that evaluation is so important is that to get from the application to an actual decision on whether or not Taney County will get the grant will cost another $400 to $450,000. Whereas the $50,000 “application fee” to keep Taney County in the game for the $25 million was a no brainer the next step, the decision to gamble up to another $450,000 is not!

To an Ole Seagull, the decision to continue playing the “Wheel of Grant” game past Sep. 15 doesn’t depend on what was done by County Commission back in 1995, personalities, what the voters allegedly voted for in Feb. of this year, rhetoric about how much it is needed or even how great the odds are in favor of Taney County getting the grant. To him it will depend solely on the determination of the County’s Transportation Committee as to the priority of the East West Corridor compared to the rest of Taney County’s transportation needs.

It is a travesty that no recommendations have been forthcoming from the committee in terms of Taney County’s Transportation needs and priorities. No it’s a joke, a sad pathetic joke. If the people that are on the committee don’t feel a sense of urgency or are incapable of making a recommendation, for whatever reason, then they should either be replaced or the committee disbanded. Either way, the citizens of Taney County should know what priority the East West Corridor plays in Taney County’s transportation picture before another penny is spent.

Continental Airlines flight from Houston to “Hell” traps 47 passengers

Posted in General,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the August 9th, 2009

Imagine being trapped on a small airplane for over 8 hours! That something like this can happen after all the publicity there has been about treating airline passengers this way is truly amazing. Even more amazing is Continental’s reaction or, more appropriately, lack of reactions.

Click here for full story.

A Tiger or the East West Corridor a gamble is still a gamble

Posted in Opinion,Taney County by The Ole Seagull on the August 9th, 2009

The East West Corridor or the road the Ole Seagull calls “The Road to Maybe Halfway Somewhere” is scheduled to be discussed. The discussion relates to a potential gamble of up to $400,000 of county tax payer funds to see if Taney County can get a stimulus grant for a portion of it and will be held on Monday, August 10 at 10:30 a.m. Oh, when you look at the weekly agenda sent out by the county, don’t expect to see a meeting on Monday about the East West Corridor.

The east west corridor will be discussed at the 10:30 meeting entitled “Administrative & Departmental Functions (Commission Hearing Room) Tiger Grant.” They may call it a Tiger, but in terms of public participation in the process, if it looks like the East West Corridor, smells like the East West Corridor, and specifically relates to the East West Corridor why not make it plain on the agenda that the meeting is about the East West Corridor.

Just like, it seems, everything else associated with this project, Monday’s meeting, in the opinion of an Ole Seagull is simply an attempt to move the project forward by its supporters without any study showing that the project is actually a priority transportation need for Taney County. He also believes it is an attempt to minimize the effectual involvement from those who might be opposed to the project until such a priority is determined.

Interestingly, Presiding Commissioner Chuck Pennel said it is his understanding that the costs to apply for the grant had been estimated to be as high as $400,000 and that the chances of getting the grant have gone from the initial estimate of very good to less than five percent. Western District Commissioner Jim Strafuss agrees that the chances for actually getting the funds have gone down since the optimistic early estimates, but doesn’t know exactly how much or how much it will actually cost to apply for the grant.

To an Ole Seagull’s way of thinking we are having a meeting with an engineering firm that is making a presentation trying to earn a fee for submitting a application for the grant and everything is being done to make sure that it is presented in an environment that is as favorable to the proponents of the East West Corridor as possible. Dare we at least hope, if the original statements were accurately attributed, that the engineering firm making the proposal isn’t the one who originally came up with the $400,000 estimate or that the chances of getting the grant were very good?

When it comes to the East West Corridor project however, that, like the other factors, will make no difference. “The Road to Maybe Halfway Somewhere” will be pushed by its supporters to get the county committed as quickly as possible regardless of Taney County’s transportation priorities, the expressed will of its voters or common sense. The only question is how much of the tax payers money will be gambled and how big a gamble it will be?

Enough of this racist dribble can’t we all just be Americans?

Posted in General by The Ole Seagull on the August 2nd, 2009

The simple truth is that, at least for our time on this earth, we all have but one life to live. It logically follows that whatever a person is going to do with that life, or whatever someone or something is going to do for or to that person, must be done during their lifetime if it is to have any meaningful impact on their lives.

The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights prescribes certain individual rights and freedoms that apply to individuals. If those rights are to have any meaning to an individual they must apply to that individual during their lifetime or they are meaningless.

It should be pointed out that the Ole Seagull was born in 1941, has never owned a slave and doesn’t know of anyone in his family that every did, abhors the very idea of slavery, and, personally, believes that permitting the institution of slavery in our constitution sowed the seeds that are leading to the very destruction of this country today. He believes, with every fiber of his body, that every American, whether classed as an “American Indian or Alaska Native,” “Asian,” “Black or African American,” “Native Hawaiian” or “Other Pacific Islander”, and “White,” should be treated equally during the one life that they will have to live. (Terms quoted above are the “racial categories” the U.S. Census Bureau designated as of 2003.)

He does not believe that his rights, or the rights of any other American to enjoy the full rights and opportunities of being an American, should be based on racial category or modified or abridged for the benefit of any other racial category. Yet, because he is “White,” for most of his adult life he has had to listen to the tripe that his rights and the rights of “White Americans” should be modified or abridged in favor of “Black or African Americans” who apparently feel that they are owed something because of slavery and the way their race was treated in the past.

For the majority of his lifetime, which is really the only practical knowledge and experience he can apply to the situation, “White Americans” have been discriminated against in everything from college admissions, government contracts, getting job positions and promotions to loans, government assistance programs and many other areas. But that’s not the worst part, the worst part is the decades of increasing dribble from “Black or African Americans” that they are entitled to extra advantages etc. and playing the infamous “race card” when they don’t get their way or its to their advantage to do so.

Two recent situations illustrate the point, the Gates situation with the Cambridge police and the CBS Big Brother show. In the Gates case, which has received national publicity, he did something stupid and played the race card trying to mitigate it. In the CBS Big Brother Show, a “Black or African American” woman played the race card during the first eviction vote implying that racism would be a factor if she were voted off the show.

In the interest of making the conversation a two way dialogue may the Ole Seagull ask, “Why is not the conversation about how over the last 40 years ‘White Americans’ have been discriminated against in favor of ‘Black or African Americans?’” The sad thing is that it’s not even socially acceptable to ask the question, but does that mean it should not be asked and discussed if there is to be a full and honest discussion on what “White Americans” owe “Black Americans” today? The truly said thing is that the question even has to be considered.