It was a bad night last night and the Ole Seagull must have had one of his “dreams.” In the dream it’s a quiet night at the Branson Board of Alderman’s meeting as a middle aged professional woman, dressed in a business suit, approached the podium to address them during the “Public Comment” portion of the meeting. She introduces herself as Ima Robublind, an attorney from the law firm of “Dewey Cheatem and How,” representing the “Branson Dollars for Visitors Tour Bus Association (BDVTBA),” an association of about 500 tour bus companies who bring about 800,000 plus visitors to Branson each year.
Her initial statement was direct and simple as she said, “BDVTBA wants the same deal the Branson Airport has. That would be $8.24 for every passenger their buses bring to Branson except for those trips that originate in Branson or Springfield.” Although in a dream things can be surrealistic and blurry, the look of amazement on the board members faces was “priceless.”
In fact, one board member just blurted out, “We can’t do that. It could be viewed as a taxpayer subsidy of a private business.” Robublind simply responded, “And the Branson Airport deal is different how?” The board member quickly said, “But, we are trying to change all of that now to make it legal for us to make the payment that cannot legally be made under the current contract.”
“Now that’s the kind of flexibility and philosophy we love at Dewey Cheatem and How,” Robublind said. “Making what is illegal today legal tomorrow and paying for it with taxpayer funds.” She looked at the board and, in an excited voice, said, “Can it get any better than that?”
Another board member asked, “What are you going do for the $8.24 per passenger you are asking the city for?” She replied, “Bring people to Branson, all of whom will have purchased packages and lodging in Branson and will be spending money while in Branson?” She then asked, “With two limited exceptions, doesn’t the Branson Airport get $8.24 for every ‘inbound passenger arriving at the BA Airport on scheduled and charter flights’ to use unconditionally whatever way it wants whether or not those passengers actually every get into Branson?”
This time, she was quickly reminded that no questions may be asked from the board during the Public Comment portion of the meeting. With a twinkle in her eye she smiled and said, “I didn’t expect an answer, it was a rhetorical question.”
Another board member said, “Even if we wanted to we couldn’t afford it because there’s not enough money in the budget for the airport and your proposal.” Robublind said, “We handle this kind of stuff at Dewey Cheatem and How every day, but with the agreement the city has with the airport is a snap.”
“It’s the kind of one sided and unconscionable contract that our firm loves and even more so because it obligates no one to do anything and the city can get out of it anytime,” she said. “The agreement specifically says, ‘The city’s obligations under this agreement are expressly subject to annual appropriations’ and that ‘The City represents and warrants to BA that it intends to appropriate funds to meet its obligations under this Agreement on an annual basis.’”
Robublind then pointed out, “The parties entering the agreement either knew or should have known there was no consideration, the agreement was one sided and that if anyone really took a look at it from a legal perspective it would be shown up as the gift that it is. Even more important however, they knew they were dealing with an ever evolving political entity whose ‘intent’ could change from administration to administration and assumed that risk.”
With that she started dancing around to the tune of “Listen to the Music,” stripped off her suit jacket revealing a “We Love Branson” tee shirt and said, “Here’s the great part, the “Branson Dollars for Visitors Tour Bus Association” doesn’t want the money paid to it. Instead it wants the money paid to the “Tourism Community Enhancement District” to be used to market the entire Branson area. That will enable our members to fill their buses, which is good for them and for Branson. What more could anyone want?”
The Ole Seagull will never know the answer because he woke up, but he does wonder when the board is going to wake up to the reality of what the current Branson Airport Agreement is. When will it simply say, “Enough.” Hopefully before it costs the tax payers of the city of Branson millions of dollars.