Independent my foot- it’s “my way or the highway” and it’s my Highway!

Seagull Musings Column for August 22, 2004

The August 18 edition of the Taney County Times reported that “Taney County Commissioners voted Monday to ask the Tourism Community Enhancement District Board of Directors to dissolve itself.” The article went on to quote Western District Commissioner, Ron Herschend as saying, “We can’t force them but we can ask them to dissolve. This hasn’t been very productive and I believe we need a different vehicle to address the issue.” The “issue,” in the Ole Seagull’s opinion, is the generation of more marketing funds to competitively market Branson.

Unfortunately, the “vehicle,” the legislation establishing the authority for the Tourism Community Enhancement District (the District) and it’s up to one percent retail sales tax to be used for the marketing of Branson, has, from “day one,” been so flawed that it has become as much of an “issue” as the tax itself. So much so that the very Commissioner who cast one of the two votes setting up the District now asks them to dissolve themselves because he believes “we need a different vehicle to address the issue.” Why?

An email received from, Kent Turner, the current Chairman of the allegedly independent Tourism Community Enhancement District Board of Directors (the Board) on August 19 can help illustrate “why.” It starts out by stating “I [Turner]called Chip today to see if his group is in a position to attend a commission meeting with us on Aug. 30 and give a report on their activities over the last several months.”

Now the Ole Seagull just has to believe that the “Chip” being referred to is the same “Chip Mason,” who works with Peter F. Herschend at an office in Corporate Place just north of Branson. “Seagull, do you think that he is being paid by someone for his work?” “Sure.” “Is there just the slightest chance that Peter F. Herschend is involved with that payment?” “Surely that’s a rhetorical question, right?”

The Ole Seagull serves as a member of the Tourism Community Enhancement District Marketing Advisory Committee and has attended the vast majority of the Boards meetings. The Boards rhetoric and posturing of independence aside, its actions, or rather, failure to act, over the last three years speak volumes about its actual independence. Why is the Chairman of the Board going to “Chip” and “his group?” Has “Chip” and “his group” made any public presentations to the Board or otherwise been authorized or empowered by the Board or its chairman? If they have, the Ole Seagull hasn’t witnessed it.

In any event, Turner continues, “He [Chip] said they have [had] a meeting about this the previous week and he should have up-to-date info for us and the commission. I then called the commission to see if they have room for us on their agenda on Monday, August 30.” Now that boggles an Ole Seagulls mind.

How can the Chairman of the allegedly independent Tourism Community Enhancement District Board of Directors base the scheduling of a Board meeting with the County Commissioners on whether or not “Chip” and “his group” can “give a report on their activities over the last several months?” Shouldn’t such a meeting be based on the “public record” of what the Board has, or has not, done over the last few months rather than what “Chip” and “his group” did?

Should not such participation on the part of “Chip” and “his group,” or any other group, be based on information that they had presented to the full Board on the public record, so that the entire Board could have evaluated it and participated in the decision? Why the apparently unilateral decision on the part of the Boards chairman to contact “Chip” now?” Unfortunately, it appears to represent the type of “independence” that was built into the “vehicle” by those that participated in its dubious origin and why a “new vehicle” is needed.

Sadly, in the opinion of an Ole Seagull, it is telling that for over two and one half years after the “Chamber Tax was defeated at the polls, the power and political clout of this community was not used to get legislation through the legislature to specifically fix the obvious defects in the “Chamber Tax” vehicle. It’s sad because it appears that the “Secret Handshake Clique,” Branafia, “Chip and his group” or whatever one chooses to call them would, ironically, be willing to “gamble” the marketing funds that Branson needs on getting “their tax their way.”

“Seagull, are you saying that it’s either “My way or the highway?” “No, of course not, what the situation appears to represent is a situation where some one in the background is saying ‘It’s my way or the Highway, I own the Highway, and Chip and his group will take it from here!'” “But the Board is independent.” “Yeah sure, and Branson Landing is going to be a ‘world class attraction.'”

Gary Groman, a.k.a. “The Ole Seagull,” is an independent columnist and the editor of the Branson Courier. He may be reached by clicking here or by calling 417-339-4000.

About Gary Groman aka The Ole Seagull

Editor of The Branson Courier
This entry was posted in Editorials. Bookmark the permalink.