The Ole Seagull

How does it profit Branson to gamble on millions by throwing the businesses that brought it to the dance under the bus?

Posted in Branson,General,Government,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the April 22nd, 2018

Recently, Mike Hynes, sent a Letter to the Editor, supporting the city of Branson’s use of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to enable, assist, and subsidize a new business, “Branson Adventures (BA).” The TIF will enable BA to directly compete, with the shows, attractions, and lodging establishments, that are the current economic base of Branson, for the business and time of Branson visitors, when it would not even be in business, “but for” such help.” (more…)

Proposed Branson Adventure TIF opinion based on unfair competition?

Posted in Branson,General,Government,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the March 25th, 2018

[Columnist Note: This and all related columns on the proposed Branson Adventure TIF can be found on line at]

David A. Cushman, Principal CP-Branson Adventures Redevelopment, sent a letter to the editor, published in the March 21, edition of this paper under the title, “The difference between truth and opinion.” The letter addressed the Ole Seagull’s March 21 column, entitled, ” Does a rising tide really raise all boats?” After first quoting Cushman, “DC, “The Ole Seagull, “TOSG,” will respond:

DC: …I believe it is important to realize the difference between truth and opinion. To do so the opinion piece published in the Branson Daily Independent on March 21-22 should be parsed to separate the two…”

TOSG: The column is an “opinion column” doing nothing more than expressing the opinion of one tired, overweight, balding, 76 year old man; not much to parse there. It’s designed for one purpose, to get folks to think about the issues he writes about and, using whatever information they deem appropriate, form their own opinions.

He would point out one important “Fact.” Just because it’s an “opinion” doesn’t mean it isn’t the “truth” or factual. All an Ole Seagull can say, is that to the best of his ability and limited resources, for over 25 years, he has tried to give the basis for his opinions and has never intentionally written anything that he did not believe to be true.

DC: First, on the general concept of the economic validity of public-private cooperation to create major attractions for regions. This is a proven and fiscally prudent strategy many communities take. Just a few examples include: a. U.S National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, b. Gateway Arch National Park and grounds renovation, c. Baltimore’s Port Charlotte redevelopment.

TOSG: The Ole Seagull is not bright enough to discuss ” the economic validity of public-private cooperation to create major attractions for regions,” hence there was no mention of such in the column. However he must ask, “Was there a White Water Center in Charlotte or Arch in St. Louis that the government assisted projects competed directly against? Did those projects have the potential to directly adversely impact on the very businesses that formed the economic foundation of those communities?

DC: Second, the notion that public monies are being used to fund the project is inaccurate.

TOSG: The column did not say “that public monies are being used to fund the project.” About as close as it came to that was the closing opinion stating, “A privately funded non-competing park is a great idea. A publicly subsidized lodging resort is unfair and a bad idea….” Although expressed by one of the businesses that the TIF funded project will be directly competing against, it is something that the Ole Seagull fully believes.

But for the subsidizing of the project with a TIF, it would not go forward. Too, the unnatural government interference with the normal competition of the market place, enables government subsidized competition against specific competing businesses, representing Branson’s very economic foundation, that would not otherwise be there.

How does the city justify that? Does anyone really believe that a substantial portion of the estimated revenues for the project will not be cannibalized from Branson’s already existing hotels, camp grounds, zip lines, water parks, mountain coasters, shows, and theme parks?

DC: Third, the data presented at the commission and on file with the city is very clear, Global leaders in tourism economics have developed our projections based on actual results in Branson and other markets.

TOSG: Someone please point out where an Ole Seagull is wrong here. No matter how sophisticated the people who developed them are, at the end of the day, those projections are but opinions of what may or may not happen; not “fact.” Does the City of Branson have any study or data indicating that a substantial number of potential visitors, about 600,000, are not coming to Branson because its existing indoor water parks, lodging, mountain slides, and zip lines do not meet their needs?

Why are we thinking of subsidizing a project for which there has been no demonstrated need at the potential expense of our existing businesses and economic base.

Does a rising tide really raise all boats?

Posted in Branson,General,Government,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the March 25th, 2018

In his 32 plus years in Branson, it has been the Ole Seagull’s experience that those espousing the “rising tide theory” regarding economic development, are generally those either feeding at the government trough or wanting government assistance for some glorious projects that, for one reason or another, they are incapable of doing on their own.

It has also been his experience that, by and large, those who have done the most, economically and otherwise, for our community have been those where the “developer,” invested their own money, time, sweat, blood, and effort without feeding at the government trough.

Some that come readily to mind are Silver Dollar City, Shepherd of the Hills, Presleys, Dick’s 5 & 10, Chateau on the Lake, Meyers Hotels, Combs Hotels, Dolly Parton’s Stampede, Sight and Sound Theatre, Clay Cooper, Duttons, Hughes Brothers, Shoji Tabuchi, Grand Country Complex, Big Foot, Welk Resorts, Castle Rock, Family Fun Parks, Runaway Mountain Coaster, Branson Coaster, Branson Zip Line Tours, Adventure Zip Lines, and dozens of others. An Ole Seagull just has to believe that they knew there would be competition, but believed that it would be the fair competition of the market place, unsubsidized by selective government interference and funding.

An Ole Seagull could go on and on, but would like to share one of the emails he got this week. It’s from David Faria, the owner of Musicland Kampground. It eloquently expresses the thoughts of many he received during the week about the “unfairness” of the proposed project:

“… I was at the meeting last week and one of their justifications for the funding was that their business would create a rising tide where their competitors would also benefit. I disagree with this ‘rising tide’ theory in this particular instance.

“It may be true when it comes to retail that all ships rise with the tide. If John Doe and family come to Branson for a few days, they may buy a coat at one store, a few pairs of shoes at other stores, shirts at another store… during their visit. All the retail stores benefit with the ‘rising tide’ or ‘mall’ concept. But when it comes to lodging, they are only going to stay at ONE place during their entire stay. There is only one benefactor. The ‘rising tide’ does not work when it comes to the lodging business!

“Sheila Wyatt expressed her concern of cannibalism and specifically brought up the zipline business. David Cushman stood up and said that they too would benefit from this ‘rising tide’. As if people would actually want to visit multiple zip line attractions on their trip, or multiple water parks. It’s really disingenuous of them to make these kinds of claims.

“Also, they contradicted their own estimation of 600,000 new visitors with their guest from the U.K., who said their estimation was 330,000 and optimistically 400,000. So where are their numbers coming from? And all this is based on the economy continuing this upward trajectory without consideration for any downturns in the next 20 years. With those numbers, they claim that their lodging capacity will only be 200,000 (in Phase 1), so their claim is they’re going to be bringing in 400,000 new lodging visitors that they can’t handle. I don’t believe that for one second. If they do end up bringing over 200k visitors solely on their own merits (which I think is extremely optimistic), what would stop them from expanding their own lodging to meet the demand? Again, they are being disingenuous with the public and only saying what they think needs to be said to placate those that have concerns.

“They say they can’t move forward with this project without TIF funding. If they really can get 330 million in private funding, why don’t they just build the non-competing White Rapids park and National Geographic portion? 330 Million dollars is a well-funded project. One of the reasons they are seeking TIF funding is to help them actually get this private funding as they approach private investors with a sales pitch that the project is already 25% funded.

“A privately funded non-competing park is a great idea. A publicly subsidized lodging resort is unfair and a bad idea….”

Thank you Mr. Faria, not only for your words of wisdom and the manner in which you expressed them, but most of all, for having the courage and guts to stand up and express them publicly.

Is the proposed $446 million Branson Adventures water park all wet?”

Posted in Branson,General,Government,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the March 25th, 2018

That depends on who you ask and what you believe. An Ole Seagull sure would like the answers to the following questions before he makes his final decision. Each question is followed by the reason it’s asked.

Q1: Does the city of Branson have any study indicating that its existing indoor water parks, lodging, mountain slides, and zip lines lack the capacity to meet the needs of its visitors?

REASON: Why give government financial incentives to create additional capacity in these areas unless its needed?

Q2: Does the City of Branson have any study indicating that a substantial number of potential visitors, about 600,000, are not coming to Branson because its existing indoor water parks, lodging, mountain slides, and zip lines do not meet their needs.

REASON: If not why are they even considering this proposal?

Q3. How does the city justify giving financial incentives, not available to its other existing business, to enable new business to compete against them, when such competition would, “but for” such financial incentives, not be there?

REASON: It has been said that the proposed TIF development would not be in competition against Branson’s existing businesses. The publicly stated elements of the Project consist of an indoor water park, a one acre outdoor water park, lodging, zip lines, mountain slides, and a white water kayaking component. Of those, only the white water kayaking component would not be in direct competition with existing Branson Businesses.

An Ole Seagull fully comprehends and understands that competition is an inherent part of doing business. It should be pointed out however, that no business or developer has a right to government financial incentives, such as a TIF, that the majority of businesses do not get. That is especially so when the incentives are being used to develop competition for existing businesses that would not be there but for that financial assistance.

Q4: Will the Branson School District get any financial benefit over the next 23 years from the Development or will they get stiffed like they did in past TIFs?

REASON: Both the Commissioners from the School District voted against the resolution and the Ole Seagull has not seen any public statement to the contrary.

Q5: Why would the city give financial incentives to build something that will create hundreds of jobs, with pay and positions, very similar to the types of jobs that can’t be filled now and do not pay enough to support a family?

REASON: It just seems crazy!

Q6: Has the project incorporated any “work place housing” to house the hundreds of workers it claims they will employ?

REASON: Worker housing is currently a problem Branson is dealing with. Why provide financial incentives to a project that will just exasperate the situation?

Q7: Do you believe that Branson Adventures outdoor water park, ziplines, mountain coasters, and white water kayaking will be operating anywhere near capacity any more months a year than Branson’s existing outdoor water parks, ziplines, mountain coasters, and kayaking operations?

REASON: Unless that’s so, the only thing that will be operating 12 months a year will be the indoor water park and lodging.

Q8: Are there any studies that have been made public showing what percentage of the tax revenues that Branson Adventures is claiming they will generate will be cannibalized from existing businesses?

REASON: In his heart of heart, an Ole Seagull just has to feel that’s going to be the case.

An Ole Seagull has always admired Glen Robinson for what he has done with Grand Country. A man with a vision who, like many others in Branson, invested his own money, sweat, passion, and blood to develop one of the finest resort and entertainment venues in Branson. It just doesn’t seem fair that he, and others, should have to compete against competition that wouldn’t be there but for the financial assistance of government; it just doesn’t seem fair.

Would Branson board be all wet to consider water park TIF prior to the election?

Posted in Branson,General,Government,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the March 25th, 2018

Could be.

Ask ten people at random why a government board would schedule a meeting for 6:30 pm on a Friday and an Ole Seagull would just have to guess that seven out of the ten would say, “Because they didn’t want anyone to attend.” In the case of the sparsely attended January 5th meeting of the Branson Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Commission (Commission), held at 6:00 PM on a Friday evening however, it was to make two announcements.


Why won’t Branson Aldermen state TIF intention in fire and police tax vote ordinance?

Posted in Branson,Government,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the August 20th, 2017

To absolutely no one’s surprise, the Branson board of aldermen voted to put a one half of one percent “public safety” (Fire and Police) retail sales tax on the ballot for the November 7, 2017 election. It was also no surprise that there wasn’t a provision in the ordinance stating that none of the tax would be used to pay off the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for “Branson Landing” and “Branson Hills.” (more…)

Will city of Branson publicly pledge 100% of new tax fire and police tax to them?

Posted in Branson,Government,Marketing by The Ole Seagull on the August 20th, 2017

Unless an Ole Seagull misses his guess, Branson voters will soon be asked to vote on a .5% “Fire and Police Tax,” for the benefit of our firs, police, and emergency medical providers. At first blush, it seems like a no brainer “Yes” vote. In almost any other city, but Branson, a “No” vote would be like voting against, “Mother hood and apple pie.” In Branson however, based on the city’s past actions, and its failure to protect the tax proceeds from TIF capture in its recently passed enabling legislation, that’s not the case. (more…)

Why isn’t the City of Branson’s management of “Spirit of 76 Project” being investigated?

Posted in Branson,Government,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the July 9th, 2017

When the Ole Seagull looks at the way the “Spirit of 76 Project” (76 Project) has been mismanaged by the city of Branson an adage comes to mind. “If it looks like a skunk, acts like a skunk and smells like a skunk then it’s probably a skunk.”

Over a year and a half and millions of dollars into the 76 Project, a news article, in January of 2017, reported that “Mayor Karen Best said, “Where are we and what are we doing?… the board wants to know what they can expect and when…don’t have a budget, don’t have a concept and don’t know what the expectations are.” Alderwoman Betsy Seay said that “she feels like they don’t know where they’re going, that they’re rushing forward…it’s like ‘putting the cart before the horse.’” Alderman Bob Simmons said that “he feels like he’s coming out of the gate for an eight-second bull ride and he doesn’t have a grip.” It just doesn’t smell right! (more…)

Are Branson’s elected and appointed leaders worthy of the tooth fairy’s help?

Posted in Branson,Government,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the May 21st, 2017

In an Ole Seagull’s opinion, “Absolutely not!” To use the dog food analogy one alderman used in responding to some of Branson’s shows when they asked for help, “He doesn’t like the ‘dog food’ they’re feeding to the citizens of Branson.” On second thought, considering the results of their actions, comparing them to “dogfood” is a disservice to the dog food industry. (more…)

Is the peace and tranquility of Lake Taneycomo about to be shattered by a 1500 HP Jet Boat?

Posted in Branson,Government,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the March 31st, 2017

The peaceful, quiet, and relaxing nature of Lake Taneycomo is unique. There’s nothing else like it in Branson for visitors to enjoy.  “Most come to Lake Taneycomo for fishing, kayaking, canoeing, leisurely boat rides, and to relax at one of its lakeside resorts. They do not come for ‘thrill rides” or the recreational sports that many go to Table Rock Lake for,” said Lamar Patton, the owner of Scotty’s Trout Dock. The quiet relaxing character of Lake Taneycomo could be about to change forever!

For at least the last two years, Branson Jet Boats [LLC] has been operating under the public’s radar, to bring a “shattering” new experience to the peace and tranquility of Lake Taneycomo. When it goes into operation, the Ole Seagull believes it will be with a 37 x 12 foot Jet Boat powered by three 400 HP Ford Predator Engines with an additional three 100 HP Hamilton Waterjets. The boats bench seating is expected to seat 60 or more, depending on size, and operate up to eight trips per day out of Branson Landing.

For what it matters, the Ole Seagull is not against the new attraction, per se. He doesn’t know enough about it, or its impact on the environment, the resort and property owners along Lake Taneycomo, safety, and many other factors, to either be for or against it. What he is against is the way something of this import could get this far without a public hearing or the opportunity for input from the businesses and property owners that will be impacted. (more…)

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