Memorial Day – Remember the “risk” that preserves our Nation

The purpose of the original Memorial Day was to honor those who died in the Civil War. Its purpose today has evolved into remembering and honoring all who have died in the service of our country. What better way is there to honor and remember them than to honor and remember their living comrades, those men and women who have and are currently honorably serving in America’s Armed Forces.

Someone a lot wiser than an Ole Seagull said, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Since the earliest days of our history, America’s Armed Forces and their families have assumed the risk paid the price for the freedoms and privileges that we, as a Nation, all enjoy and sometimes take for granted. Memorial Day gives us a unique opportunity to not only honor the dead but to pause, honor and say “Thank You,” to those who have and are currently serving and their comrades who are Missing In Action.

The very act of going into the Armed Forces puts one’s life at risk. Immediately upon being “sworn in,” members of the Armed Forces have given control of their lives to their military and governmental leaders. It is a control that is absolute and, from an honor point of view, irrevocable.

It could be exercised through an order “to take that hill,” in the face of withering machine gun or mortar fire, to patrol a neighborhood in Baghdad, or the assaulting of a terrorist stronghold in Afghanistan. Or, it could be an order to serve in a supply depot, training facility, or hospital thousands of miles away from the battle. Regardless of where or how one serves, the risk to their life is an inherent part of serving and is omnipresent.

History records that it is the politicians, and those in power, who start wars and that it is the men and women of their Armed Forces and their families who pay the price of those wars. It is a price paid in separation, stress, blood, suffering, anguish, and, sometimes, death.

Theirs is not the job of judging whether or not the politicians and those in power are risking their lives in a noble or just cause. Their job is to do their duty. Some have served in conflicts that were “popular” such as World Wars I and II and Dessert Storm. Others served in conflicts that were not as “popular,” such as Korea and Vietnam. Through it all however, the men and women of America’s Armed Forces and their families have done their duty, sacrificed, and given unstintingly of themselves.

The eloquent words of William James remind us that “No matter what a man’s frailties otherwise may be, if he be willing to risk death, in the service he has chosen, that fact consecrates him forever.” Since the beginning of our Republic the members of our country’s Armed Forces and their families have assumed that risk, done their duty, and ensured that a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

For that we owe those who have and are currently, serving in the Armed Forces our undying gratitude, honor, respect, and support, not only on Memorial Day but, every day we as a Nation enjoy the fruits of their efforts, sacrifices, and service.

A Baker’s Dozen on low cost air fares to Branson

The age of low air fares to Branson have arrived and it is thanks to the “Branson Airport (BKG) which is located approximately 10 miles south of Branson. That thanks is based on two aspects, the low cost air fares of the carriers actually serving BKG and the fact that low priced service has influenced and lowered the air fares fares currently available through the air carriers serving the “Springfield-Branson National Airport (SGF),” located about 45 miles northwest of Branson.

That said, the Ole Seagull has some questions that he’s wondering if he can get answers to. “Yes,” he knows he could probably pick up the phone and call people, but then some will return the calls others won’t and besides, whether they are good questions or not, at least they are on the public record and can serve as the start of a public discourse on the availability of low fares to Branson and how to let Branson’s prospective guests know about them.

1. Does the average theatre, attraction, or hotel care whether or not the person purchasing their tickets or renting their rooms flew in through BKG, SGF, STL or East Kishnif?

2. In fact, forget about flying, as long as they are alive, breathing and have paid for a ticket or room does the average theatre, attraction, or hotel care how the person purchasing those tickets or renting their rooms got there? Does it really make any difference whether they came by car, bus, motorcycle, moped, boat, train, canoe, etc. or any combination thereof?

3. Would the answers to 1 and 2 above be any different for restaurants, retail shops, convention centers, etc.?

4. How much has the Branson Lakes/Lakes Area CVB (CVB) and the Branson Lakes Area Tourism Community Enhancement District (TCED) spent in the last year promoting low cost air fares to Branson?

5. Was one of the primary action items of those ads the intent to get the person reading the ad to go to the city of Branson owned web site, currently under lease to the TCED, “Explorebranson.com” and, from its front page, take an action that would allegedly give them information on the low fares available to Branson?

6. Is the primary source of information on that site talking about low air fares located at http://www.explorebranson.com/static/index.cfm?contentID=256, Click here to see page.

7. Does that page read basically the same the morning of May 16 as it has for the last few weeks?

8. In view of the impact that the new airport was anticipated to have and is having on low cost air fares and the current economic environment, what research has either the CVB or TCED done on the availability of low cost airfares to Branson?

9. As of the morning of May 16, when a potential Branson guests who has viewed the CVB/TCED ads about low fares to Branson takes the action prescribed in the ads will they get information on all the low cost air fares available to Branson?

10. If the answer to 9 above is anything less than a definite “Yes,” especially since taxpayer money is currently being used to promote “low cost air fares to Branson,” shouldn’t it be done in a manner that potential Branson guests get enough information so that they can make an informed choice?

11. Was any of that money spent in the Indianapolis, IN market?

12.  If so why?

13.  As of the morning of May 16, for a trip between Indianapolis, IN and either SGF or BKG, departing on July 11 and returning on July 18, what airline actually has the lowest air fare?

America’s “nobleness” and hope – Her Teachers!

Dedication: As another school years end this opinion is republished and respectfully dedicated to our areas Teachers as a thank you, an encouragement, and a goal. May it remind us all of how valuable our Teachers are to our children, community and the future of our nation.

In terms of a “profession,” America’s future does not lie in the hands of Presidents, politicians, lawyers, doctors, accountants, and other leaders. Her future lies in the hands of the professionals who will be teaching those who will become the future Presidents, politicians, lawyers, doctors, accountants and other leaders, America’s Teachers.

A “Teacher” is “one who teaches,” a professional who has accepted the awesome challenge and responsibility of helping to prepare our children and grandchildren to fully realize their individual potential, create the desire to fulfill it, and equip them with the skills necessary to achieve it. It can truly be said that America’s destiny and future depends upon the realization and fulfillment of that potential.

Oh sure, there are those, professing to be teachers, who do the minimum and simply go through the motions. They could be characterized as those who perform the mechanical function of providing instruction from prepared lesson plans without a personal commitment to their students or accepting the responsibility and accountability for their results. They are teachers in title only.

The true “Teacher” has a personal commitment to their students. A commitment to not only teaching the necessary information and skills their students will need, but to make learning an experience they will want to continue for the rest of their lives. They fully realize and appreciate that “how” they do what they do is as important as “what” they do and dedicate their professional lives to equipping, helping, and motivating their students to recognize and reach their full potential.

To a large extent true “Teaching” is an art form. It requires the same type of dedication, commitment, and skill that a painter would use on a great canvas, a music composer on an opus, a lawyer on a jury, or an entertainer on an audience. What makes the successful musician, singer, comedian, painter, or author? Is it the mere application of “the mechanics” of what they are doing or their ability to communicate and relate what they are doing to their audience?

Even as the success of an artist is directly linked to their ability to relate what they are doing to their audience so too is the success of a Teacher, only more so. Although the professional entertainer wants and desires to reach every member of their audience, they can still be very successful if they reach a substantial majority of their audience.

A Teacher however, does not have that luxury. For them, success and failure is measured in the eyes, minds, and hearts of each individual student. The Master Teacher said it best. “If any man has a hundred sheep and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying?” He was not willing to lose even one.

The Teacher’s heart and spirit transcends mere “mechanics and basics” and goes to the concern and commitment of dedicating themselves to their students and their individual ability to effectively apply what is being taught. It is a task that, in a lot of cases, is made more difficult by influences outside of the Teacher’s direct control such as the physical or mental challenges of individual students, school funding issues, child abuse, and dysfunctional families to mention a few. Fortunately, for America and Her children, in spite of these additional challenges, there are those who feel a calling to become, in the truest sense of the word, “Teachers.”

Where then is the nobleness of Teaching? It is obvious that it is not based on factors such wealth, title, or power and yet, it is nobleness in the truest sense of the word. Nobleness based on the character, honor, generosity, dedication and commitment of those who are true Teachers and the quest they have chosen, preparing our children for the rest of their tomorrows. There’s not much that is more noble or important than that, not much at all.

Chrysler drives into the deal of lifetime

Wouldn’t every business person love a deal like this one! A CNNmoney.com story entitled, “Chrysler won’t repay bailout money” reports that “An administration official confirms that a $4 billion bridge loan and $3.2 billion in bankruptcy financing won’t be paid back by Chrysler following bankruptcy.”

Chrysler doesn’t pay the $4 Billion loan or the $300 million in fees on that loan, all made with taxpayer money prior to their recently declared bankruptcy. They declare bankruptcy and get another $3.5 Billion to fund their operations during bankruptcy. What does the tax payer get? An 8 percent equity in a company that would have been out of business without taxpayer assistance. What a deal.

For what it’s worth,an Ole Seagull believes it is ludicrous that bankruptcy plan does not include a payback of at least the $3.5 billion being used to fund its operations during bankruptcy.

Excerpts from article:

This revelation was buried within Chrysler’s bankruptcy filings last week and confirmed by the Obama administration Tuesday. The filings included a list of business assumptions from one of the company’s key financial advisors in the bankruptcy case.

Some of the main assumptions listed by Robert Manzo of Capstone Advisory Group were that the Treasury would forgive a $4 billion bridge loan given to Chrysler in the closing days of the Bush administration, a $300 million fee on that loan, and the $3.2 billion in financing approved last week by the Obama administration to fund Chrysler’s operations during bankruptcy.

Click here for entire article.

10 or 10 million Branson visitors, what’s the difference if they don’t do business with you?

Most can remember the old Fram Oil Filter ads that said, “You can pay me now or pay me later.” The gist of the ad was that, in terms of a motor vehicle’s efficient operation, one could pay for an oil filter now and eliminate the problems a dirty filter would cause later or not purchase the oil filter now and pay later for the problems caused by a dirty oil filter.

Marketing works for destination and individual businesses basically the same way. Just like the oil filter it costs money that can either be spent now to generate business or can be ignored to be paid for later by the business that is lost because of the lack of effective marketing.

An an Ole Seagull’s opinion the destination marketing of Branson is where it all begins. It is what creates the “Tourist Pie” of tourists coming to experience Branson. It is the size of that pie that directly affects the chances for the economic success of each tourist business in Branson, the bigger the pie the better the chances for success.

If an Ole Seagull were to guess he’d say that the majority of destination marketing is done using taxpayer funds, controlled either by the city of Branson or the Branson Lakes Area Tourism Community Enhancement District, via a contract with the Branson Lakes/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. He would further hazard a guess that the majority of the rest of the funds spent on destination marketing come from the time share industry and various other businesses that sell tickets, lodging etc.

The vast majority of businesses, shows, attractions etc., do not spend their individual marketing dollars on the destination marketing of Branson. They spend it in the hope of getting people already sold on the destination of Branson to do business with them. At the end of the day, to a particular business, it makes no difference if 10 million people come to Branson if it doesn’t get enough of those 10 million people to spend enough money in that business to provide for its financial success.

It is commonly called “intercept marketing” and is a concept that has been used in Branson for decades. The means of intercept marketing are virtually endless including but not limited to discount coupons, bill boards, ads in free tourist publications, TV, and radio, and giving different organizations a commission for marketing, selling and servicing your tourist related product. The purpose of most intercept marketing is to intercept the Branson visitor before they spend their time and money with someone else.

The bad news is that your business is competing with every other tourist business for each tourist’s money and time. Perhaps more important is the answer to the question, “Are the standard methods that have been used for intercept marketing in the past the best methods for the present?” An Ole Seagull would suggest, except for the better known shows and attractions, that if the method depends on the visitor being in Branson before being intercepted the answer, increasingly, just might be “No.”

Branson’s TCED Board must earn the benefit of the doubt

When Bob McDowell was running for the position of Branson Alderman in 2007 he said, the leadership of city government had to “earn back the benefit of the doubt position” from the community. For what it is worth, based on what he personally has witnessed and been involved with this week and what he believes has gone on behind closed doors for over the last three years, an Ole Seagull would suggest that the Branson/Lakes Area Tourism Community Enhancement District Board (TCED) has to earn back the benefit of the doubt position from the stakeholders, the Branson Lakes Area CVB (CVB), paid staff and volunteers of the CVB, and the tax payers who authorized the tax.

The CVB has been doing the marketing for the Branson area for the TCED for the last three years under a contract that expires on Sep. 30. The contract has a provision that provides the TCED with the flexibility to renew the contract for up to another three years without going out for other bids (RFP).

A major agenda item for the TCED’s April 20 meeting was to “Discuss marketing RFP options for Fiscal 2010.” As part of that process, the TCED was presented with letters from two major stakeholder groups, “The League of Branson Theatre Owners and Show Producers” and the “Branson Lakes Area Lodging Association,” expressing their great satisfaction with the marketing efforts of the CVB and encouraging the TCED to extend the contract.

In addition, Dan Lennon, Vice President Marketing & Public Relations, made a presentation summing up the results of the CVB marketing efforts for the years 2006 and 2008. In spite of the challenges, all the following areas were up from 2005, the year before the CVB marketing program went into effect, Rate of First Time Visitors, City of Branson Sales Tax, City of Branson Tourism Tax, TCED Tourism Tax, Spending Per Party, Average Length of Stay, Overall Visitations, Family Visitations, and Overall Visitations. Amazingly, this was done, according to the report, at a Marketing Cost Per Visitor of $.92 as opposed to $2.41 for Las Vegas and $2.20 for Wisconsin Dells.

What was the reaction of the TCED regarding the CVB contract extension? Among other things, a comments by a TCED member indicating the CVB had packed the audience, another comment by a TCED member, blurted out to the Chairman during Lennon’s presentation, that they had to leave by 4:00 p.m., comments that things needed to be coordinated with the city of Branson and the passage of a motion that had something to do with the TCED having its financial oversight committee attend a future meeting.

Having sat there and not clearly understood the motion the Ole Seagull wrote the TCED asking for the specific wording of the motion they had approved. He received a reply from the TCED’s Chairman stating the wording would not be forthcoming because “It is possible when the board reads the minutes that the motion Jan lists is different from what board members believe they voted on. That is why the minutes and motions are not final till the Board approves them. Please, do not try to quote us till we have approved. We want to be accurate and follow procedure.”

To an Ole Seagull the TCED’s actions at the meeting and Akers reply represent the attitude of the TCED toward the CVB, the stakeholders, and the general public. An attitude that it is their game and they will play it the way they want, how they want, and when they want. To him it seems that they are failing to realize the potential impact of their actions, or inactions, on the marketing of Branson and its stakeholders, the people who have invested their lives and money in their businesses and all the others who rely directly or indirectly on those businesses for their income.

An Ole Seagull would suggest that if the TCED wants the benefit of the doubt they are going to have to earn it back. In his opinion, their actions this week have done nothing in that regard.

But that’s not all there was, He has risen!

To Christians, Christmas is both a commemoration and celebration of the fact that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” If however, that first Christmas was all there was, there would be little reason for anyone to believe in Jesus and the promise of eternal life would be lost to all. But that’s not all there was.

Jesus, as he lived and walked among men did so as a man. He faced the same temptations that all mankind faces, the same needs and desires, the same choices between good and evil, and had to deal with personal relationships and the other problems of simply being human. In the end it was His supreme faith in God, prayer, willingness to submit Himself to God’s will, and His love for us that led Him to the agony and humiliation of the cross.

As He anguished in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” The “cup” was not the beatings, the crown of thorns, public humiliation and scorn, or His agonizing crucifixion on the cross. What was paining Jesus was the knowledge that He would be separated from His Father as He bore the burden of all mankind’s sins and sacrificed Himself for its redemption so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

If that was all there was, that Jesus died a horrible and painful death for that in which He professed belief, most of His followers would have considered Him a hero and, like thousands of heroes and martyrs before and after Him, He would have either been lost in the sands of time or, at best, become a memory in the pages of history. But, that’s not all there was.

At various times during His ministry Jesus had predicted His suffering and death and that He “would be raised up on the third day.” The same political and religious power and clout that lead to His suffering and death on the cross went through great lengths to make sure that Jesus stayed dead and would become a distant memory as soon as possible. They sealed His body in a tomb with a large rock and placed Roman soldiers to guard its entrance and, in the end, because they did, provided very proof that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

As Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early on the third day, she found the rock rolled away, the guards shaking in fear, an empty tomb, and an angel of God who said, “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said.” In the following days His disciples and many others saw the living Lord, Christ, Jesus, the Son of God alive and interacted with Him.

Praise God, we have a risen Lord who lives and loved each and every one of us enough to pay for our sins, those of yesterday, today and tomorrow, by shedding His own body and blood on our behalf. All we have to do is accept His gift, for “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Whistleblower or failure to do the job?

Recently the Branson area has been shocked by the accusations of the city of Branson being involved in fraud and cover-ups made by Ruth Denham, who was the city’s Interim Director of the city’s Planning and Development Department until a new Director was hired this week. What’s amazing to an Ole Seagull is Denham’s sudden epiphany and concern for the basements in Buildings 2 and 3.

After all, it’s not like they were new news or that she had just found out about them. In fact, according the very documentation Denham submitted on March 30, Sam Proffer, a former employee who worked in the Planning and Development Department while she was its assistant director, put her and all city officials on notice.

According to Denham’s information, on July 23, 2007 Proffer “ emailed Paul Link and Terry Dody stating in part, ‘It is my recommendation that the City not sign any CAF [Community Acknowledgement Form] for any reason until all of the buildings down at the Landing have met the requirements of our own floodplain ordinances and the NFIP regulation.’” “Proffer went on to say, “If FEMA does approve the application, and certain buildings are non-compliant are removed from the floodplain due to insufficient or inaccurate information, the City will have participated in misleading  other regulatory agencies, lenders, tenants, etc.”

Now almost three years later Denham, who had the information since July 2007, steps forward accusing the city of fraud. In her March 30 memo she describes the situation as “a classic story of money, greed, and cover-up, all of which I fear as a citizen may land on the lap of the taxpayers of the City of Branson, including myself.”

The Ole Seagull knows it will be very unpopular to point out that Denham knew or certainly should have known about the situation involving the CAF since at least July of 2007. Yet, until recent days there has been no record of her making the appropriate city officials or FEMA aware of the fraud she is now allegedly so concerned about. As a citizen, the Ole Seagull doesn’t look at Denham as a courageous whistle blower standing up for what she believes in. What he sees is simply a government employee, charged with a responsibility that did not fulfill that responsibility.

In his opinion, Denham was the assistant director of the department and, if she believed Proffer was right, should have taken action on Proffer’s email. Yet, in spite of her position as “assistant director” of the department what does the record show, based on the information presented so far, nothing, absolutely nothing at all. Until now that is.

Whether one agrees with Proffer or not at least he had the courage to put his conviction in writing and take a stand. That’s more than can be said for the number two person in the department, the very person now accusing others of fraud and cover up, etc.

When a person points their finger at someone, they have at least three fingers pointing back at themselves. An Ole Seagull can only wonder if the process of selecting a new director of the Planning and Development Department had more to do with Denham’s recent accusations than her concern about what “may land on the lap of the taxpayer of the City of Branson.”

Branson Tourism Board chooses to spend millions in secret

It’s amazing, the Ole Seagull never thought he would see a government entity that operated more in secret than the city of Branson administration that was in place prior to the 2007 elections, but he was wrong. The way the Branson Lakes Area Tourism Community Enhancement District Board (Board) decides to spend millions of dollars in public funds, comparatively speaking, makes that old administration appear like it was conducting its business publically on the “Wheel of Fortune.”

Missouri’s Sunshine Law is very specific stating “It is the public policy of this state that meetings, records, votes, actions, and deliberations of public governmental bodies be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law.” Even where the law authorizes exceptions to that policy it states, “Sections 610.010 to 610.200 shall be liberally construed and their exceptions strictly construed to promote this public policy.”
Oh, it gets even more specific. The Sunshine Law goes on to state, “Nothing in sections 610.010 to 610.028 shall be construed as to require a public governmental body to hold a closed meeting, record or vote to discuss or act upon any matter.”

A favorite move for the TCED Board is the standard alleged use of two exceptions to the Sunshine Law. The first is Subsection 610.021(1) relating to “Legal actions, causes of action or litigation involving a public governmental body and any confidential or privileged communications between a public governmental body or its representatives and its attorneys.” The second is Subsection 610.021(12) relating to “Sealed bids and related documents, until the bids are opened; and sealed proposals and related documents or any documents related to a negotiated contract until a contract is executed, or all proposals are rejected.”
When one considers the way the TCED Board awarded the initial contract to the “Branson/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, a division of the Branson Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce” in October of 2006, it makes a mockery out of the intent of the Sunshine Law. The TCED Board invoked the provisions of 610.021(12) to keep the public out of the process until they made their decision and announced it.
No member of the public knew who had made what type of presentation or when while competing for the millions of dollars to market Branson. Even under the old Branson administration the process was very public including public presentations by each entity interested in doing the marketing for the city. Why all the secrecy back in 2006? No one knows because it was all done behind closed doors with the public excluded, but were an Ole Seagull asked he’d opine, “They wanted to make sure the “right” organization got the contract.”

That contract expires Sep. 31 this year. Any bets on who is going to get the new contract or if the TCED Board will have enough respect for the tax-paying public to honor the intent of the Sunshine Law?

3.5 minute video Glen Beck simplifies the real financial chaos that is coming

The Ole Seagull has often said that he truly doesn’t know the exact cause for the financial situation the country is in. That being the case he would be more inclined to find the root cause than try to fix a problem that had not been defined. Part of his rationale would be not only can you not fix something that has not been identified, but you might make the problem worse.

This simple video by Glen Beck indicates that we are devaluing the value of our money at a rate that is greater than at any time in our history. In the opinion of an Ole Seagull, in the final analysis that could end up being a much bigger problem than whatever the current situation, all this money is being printed to solve, proves out to be.