City of Branson sets example for TCED and others to follow

The recent allegations made against the city, regarding alleged flood plain mapping issues and Certificates of Occupancy for Building 1 through 6 at Branson Landing, by its acting Interim Director of Planning and Development at the Board of Alderman’s March 24 meeting, gave the current city administration a choice. They could have done what the Ole Seagull believes the very administration who created the problem would have done, handled it behind closed doors and out of public view as much as possible or they could handle the issue out in the open and in public view.

Almost within seconds of the allegations being made, Branson Mayor Raeanne Presley said they were very serious allegations, appreciated that they were brought forward, and pointed out that more information was needed. More importantly, however, she set the tenor for the type of public and open discussion that would follow. She suggested that the board and city administrator would “absolutely be completely transparent” regarding the issues and said, “At a future meeting, as soon as we have all the information, we will present it to you and the public.”

That public meeting was held less than a week later on March 30 and the issues were fully and completely discussed. Copies of the available documents were available for the public, each side gave a presentation after which the public had an opportunity to speak and ask questions as did the board.

It wasn’t either pretty or easy but, in terms of process, open government and public participation, it was a shining light and an example worthy of emulation. Rather than look for a way to close the meetings and hide the issues and their processes from the public they didn’t even blink as they kept the process open and as transparent as possible.

This week another government entity, the Branson/Lakes Area Tourism Community Enhancement District Board (TCED) will have an opportunity to decide what process they will use in deciding how millions of tax payer dollars will be spent in marketing Branson. Its current contract with the Branson/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), a division of the Branson Lakes/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, expires September 30.

The 2006 contract, which was fully negotiated behind closed doors with no participation from the general public, contains a provision stating “The District, in its sole discretion, may extend this contract, by notice to the Contractor sixty (60) days before contract termination, on a year to year basis for an additional (3) years as mutually agreed upon in writing with the Contractor.”

Leaving the perplexing problem of how a contract is extended “on a year to year basis” for “an additional (3) years” aside, if the contract is not automatically renewed a Request For Proposal (RFP) must be issued and a “new” contractor selected from those responding to the RFP. The CVB could submit a proposal and might very well be the one chosen, but that’s not the point.

It is not the decision on whether or not the TCED will give the marketing contract to the Branson CVB without putting out a new RFP or, if they do go out with an RFP, who is eventually chosen. It is simply the process of how they go about making the decision. Will they emulate the example the city of Branson set of open processes and public participation or will they look for ways to exclude the public from the process and operate behind closed doors as they did in 2006? An Ole Seagull’s prayer is that they will follow the city of Branson’s example.

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