Just how much can Branson “fool” public sentiment?

An argument could be made that the ill fated attempt of Branson city officials to involuntarily annex 1024 acres of land north of Branson is a perfect illustration of what Abraham Lincoln meant when he said, “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.”

If voting is an indication of public sentiment, the results speak for themselves. There was 70 percent of the total vote against the annexation. This included about 66 percent from within the City of Branson itself against the annexation as well as 93 percent from within the area sought to be annexed.

If sentiment is defined as “an attitude, thought, or judgment prompted by feeling,” the question then becomes one of does the vote indicate a public “gut reaction” that goes beyond the annexation issue? Something that caused the public, both within and without Branson, enough concern to vote the way they did?

There are many reasons people locate outside of city limits and very few, if any, are because they want to get involved with the type of situation that the “new Branson” represents. One can only wonder how those whom the city sought to involuntarily annex felt when they first heard that the “new Branson Juggernaut” wanted to take them into the fold.

On second thought, maybe it doesn’t take too much wonderment. The 93 percent vote against the annexation by those the city wanted to annex really doesn’t leave too much to wonder about.

How are public attitudes and judgments influenced when Branson’s City Administrator, appears before the Branson school board and tells them that they will, for the first time, have to pay building fees because it would cost the city money that it could not spare? How much does that sentiment change and in what direction when, shortly thereafter, the city has an epiphany and substantially reverses its position? Is this the type of action that inspires feelings of either trust or confidence?

Is it even possible that public feelings toward Branson city officials could be influenced by the priority that they have given to the fountains in Branson Landing as compared to insuring that access to the areas only emergency room was not impeded by the city’s routing of Branson Landing traffic? Comparatively speaking, how much has the city spent on fountains? On maintaining ready access to the emergency room?

Is there any impact on public sentiment when the city administrator and board of aldermen vote to take millions of dollars from other taxing entities just to make sure that big box stores come to Branson rather than to a neighboring community in the county? What would be the attitude of the property owners within Taney County, including those living within the city limits of Branson, if the county had to start collecting real estate taxes to make up for the loss in revenues caused by Branson’s indiscriminate abuse of Tax Increment Financing?

At this point, one can only wonder about the sentiment of Branson’s existing stakeholders as they watch millions of taxpayer dollars being spent to develop the very competition that will compete against them for the visitors that their efforts and funding developed. What is the public sentiment of the city’s existing retail base as to its ability to withstand a 20 percent “hit” over the next two years?

Perhaps the lesson to be learned from the election is in a warning attributed to Abraham Lincoln. He said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”

About Gary Groman aka The Ole Seagull

Editor of The Branson Courier
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