A slogan for the new Branson – “Millions, millions for the new Branson, nor a dollar for Branson”

In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” a sailor surrounded by salt water that he couldn’t drink said, “Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” Paraphrased that could become the slogan for the new Branson, “Millions, millions for the new Branson, nor a dollar for Branson.”

What is the difference between the “new Branson” and “Branson?” In a word it’s “character.” Economically, “Branson” was built by families who literally invested their lives and fortunes to build it. As they did so they enhanced Branson while preserving its character and essence.

Perhaps as important as what they built was the way they built it, with commitment, respect for each other, their neighbors, and by taking, upon themselves, the personal responsibility to pay for what they were building. Along with building Branson economically, they demonstrated the type of citizenship that provided the schools, infrastructure, and environment that made Branson the type of place that people would not only enjoy visiting but want live.

The “new Branson” is being built by developers and “Wally-World” big box stores who want to invest as little of their money as possible. Its very success appears to be not only built on the backs of those who built Branson and Branson’s current businesses, but in changing the character and essence of Branson. Didn’t a national magazine recently report that a major mover and shaker involved with the new Branson indicated that one of the goals for the “new Branson” is to physically shift “Branson’s center of gravity towards” the the new Branson?

It seems that the major commitment of the new Branson is to get the City of Branson to give them millions upon millions of dollars so that it can build stores, restaurants, lodging and entertainment facilities that will compete directly with Branson’s existing similar facilities. And, it seems, over the last few years, that the new Branson has found a money “honey hole” in the Branson Board of Aldermen and Branson’s current City Administrator.

Millions upon millions of dollars has been and is being spent to develop the new Branson while how many millions is being spent to help the Branson upon whose backs the new Branson is being built? For example, how many dollars has the city allocated over the past five years, or the next ten years, to solve the problem of getting pedestrians safely from one side of the Branson Strip to the other?

How much respect does the building of the new Branson show to Branson’s existing “stakeholders” and businesses while it uses taxpayer funds to finance and reimburse it for the cost of developing the new Branson that will compete against them? How respectful is it to obligate the future tax revenues of Taney County, the Branson School District, and the Branson/Lakes Area Tourism Community Enhancement District without not only their consent but against their expressed wishes?

Of course, the respect shown to Branson’s neighbors by the new Branson, as it spends millions of taxpayer dollars just to keep stores from going elsewhere, besides the new Branson, speaks for itself. It speaks not only in terms of greed but in the actual cost to all who live in Branson and Taney County. How many millions of dollars are the residents of Taney County, including those living within the city limits of Branson, going to pay so that stores like “Wally – World” will be located in the new Branson instead of elsewhere in the county?

Where would Branson be today if those who built it only took on the personal responsibility of paying for it only when taxpayer funds were used to reimburse them for 35 percent of the cost of what it was they were building? Exactly what is the percentage of the total cost of the Branson Hills redevelopment project that the developer is being reimbursed for with taxpayer funded TIF funds?

In the new Branson, the City of Branson conveys information to its school district indicating that it will be charging the district about $85,000 in building fees for current and near term building projects; something that Branson has not done before. What is the rationale for the change? According to published reports, Terry Dody, Branson City Administrator, indicated that it was because it would cost the city money that it could not spare. Ah yes, “Millions, millions for the new Branson, nor a dollar for Branson” or evidently, its schools. Welcome to the “new Branson.”

About Gary Groman aka The Ole Seagull

Editor of The Branson Courier
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