(Note: The Ole Seagull has a “mind block” this week and would share a special column from the past. Come to think of it, in terms of overall good to our community, this column is of much more value than the one he has been “fighting with” for the past four hours.)
Character can be defined as “moral or ethical strength” or “the combination of qualities or features that distinguishes one person, group, or thing from another.” It is not a matter of whether or not a person, group or thing is going to have character, they are; it’s just a matter of what type of character they are going to have good, bad, or indifferent.
Very few, if any, people are born “good” or “bad.” From an individual perspective, character is acquired. It is learned and developed on a daily basis based on environmental factors and the choices that individuals make about how they live their lives and what they fill their minds with.
Proverbs said it first, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” In an Ole Seagulls life this basic truth has evolved into a simple irrefutable master guide line, “We will become what we think we are and that is controlled by what we have placed in our minds.”
That’s why the Ole Seagull took note as Sue Head from College of the Ozarks and Cindy Raines from White River Electric explained the First PLACE, “Partners, Linking Arms for Character Education,” program at the Jul. 11 meeting of the Branson Board of Aldermen. The simple program uses a combination of our areas schools, the community, and family to fill the minds of our children with positive character traits that can forever change their lives.
The program is elegant in its operational simplicity. Each month of the school year, the schools will emphasis and intentionally teach one character trait. That trait will be constantly reinforced during the month not only at school but throughout the community as “partners,” and family reinforce the trait by committing to demonstrate one visible action each month that ties into the trait.
Our areas schools and teachers have been preparing for this program and are committed to it. Our community and families must also do their part so that the traits being taught in school are reinforced throughout the month. The only thing those outside the school have to do is commit to demonstrating one visible action each month that ties into the character trait of the month.
As an example, the trait of the month for September is, “Respect – treating others with courtesy and honor.” What an impact it could have if that trait was specifically mentioned during Sunday school, in sermons, in newspaper stories or columns, on radio shows, or appeared on various marquees around town. How about banks and utility companies sending out a little card or message tying in the trait of the month that customers could share with their children or grandchildren? Just think of the impact that a simple hand painted sign or poster or 8 x 11 inch piece of paper with the trait of the month displayed in businesses and offices throughout our community could have!
The neat thing is that the possibilities are endless and require so little, just the commitment to demonstrate one visible action each month that ties into the character trait of the month. Aren’t our community’s children and grandchildren worth the effort?
From a family perspective it could be as simple as writing the character trait of the month on a piece of paper and putting it on the door of the refrigerator or simply asking the children in the family what the character trait of the month is and what it means to them. Again, simple is good and the possibilities are endless.
In terms of becoming a partner in the program, The Ole Seagull is committing to incorporate the trait of the month into each column he writes during the school year. Further, the first column of each month will be based on the trait of the month.
The character traits for each month are as follows: September – Respect – treating others with courtesy and honor; October – Responsibility – taking ownership of what you say and do; November – Citizenship – being loyal to your country; December - Compassion/Kindness – caring for others; January – Commitment – being true to your word; February – Honesty – being truthful in what you say and do; March – Cooperation – working together toward a common goal; April – Perseverance – demonstrating persistent determination; May – Self-discipline – training and control of yourself.
The Ole Seagulls favorite verse of scripture is, “Whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, of excellence, or worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” As a community and as individuals, the First Place program provides the opportunity to not only “dwell on these things” but make them a vital part of the lives of our children and grandchildren, ourselves, and the very community that we call home.
Simply put, if Branson is to continue to be successful, ideas like the “Miss USA Pageant,” a pie contest and Christmas lights will play an important part. Not by themselves necessarily, but certainly in terms of the promotion of Branson, general concepts and the thought process each represents.
It’s pretty simple in economic terms, based on Branson’s current economic foundation of tourism. Branson’s future success depends on the same thing that has brought it this far, getting people to come to Branson and spend money. The more people that come and spend money the more economically successful Branson is going to be.
Marketing, including advertising and promotion, is what brings a lot of people to Branson initially and helps to make them want to return. Marketing presents Branson to as many potential visitors as possible in a way that will interest them in either coming to Branson initially or wanting to return.
For years people have been saying we need something new etc. Yet, whenever someone proposes spending marketing dollars on something new such as the “Miss USA Pageant,” “As the World Turns,” “The Great American Pie Show,” “Christmas lights,” etc. there are those who spring up with their reasons on why marketing dollars should not be spent on them.
Let’s be very clear, there is no statutory restriction on spending the proceeds of either of the two different tourism taxes used to market Branson to any specified distance from Branson, using the funds to work with for profit businesses, or promoting local events. Specifically, the law governing the expenditure of such funds by the Branson Lakes Area Tourism Community Enhancement District (TCED) simply states that the tax proceeds “shall be used by the board for marketing, advertising, and promotion of tourism.” The city of Branson’s law governing the use of the tax proceeds states, “shall be used, upon appropriation by the municipality, for tourism marketing and promotional purposes.”
The terms “marketing” and “promotion” are very general terms and in application, particularly with the term “promotion,” are more an art than a science. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that if those having the responsibility for marketing and promoting Branson believe that an event, such as the “Miss USA Pageant,” “As the World Turns,” “The Great American Pie Show,” a trout tournament, a BBQ Festival or softball tournament etc. or putting up Christmas lights, will “promote tourism,” it is a legitimate expenditure of those funds.
It’s one thing to say an expense is legal and another to ask if it makes marketing or promotional sense. To an Ole Seagull it means not one iota whether or not the “The Great American Pie Show” made a million dollars or lost $100,000. What’s important to him is will it and its associated promotion bring more people to Branson over the long run? To him the expenditure for Christmas lights helps promote the very Christmas our area is spending millions to market and by helping to enhance the experience of the people coming in response to that marketing will promote more of them coming back to Branson in the future.
In that regard, everyone, including an Ole Seagull has an opinion and is certainly free to express it. However, as we express those opinions let us be reminded of the words of Abraham Lincoln, “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher” and the words of the world’s greatest philosopher, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”
The Ole Seagull has heard variations of the following quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln many times. This quote is verbatim from the “The National Park Service web site’s “Lincoln Home Historical Site’s Page” entitled: “Fourth Debate Charleston Illinois:”
“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]—that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”
To provide context for the above quote, the whole section of Lincoln’s speech covering the quote, as contained on the same site and page mentioned above is included:
“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: It will be very difficult for an audience so large as this to hear distinctly what a speaker says, and consequently it is important that as profound silence be preserved as possible.While I was at the hotel to-day, an elderly gentleman called upon me to know whether I was really in favor of producing a perfect equality between the negroes and white people. [Great Laughter.] While I had not proposed to myself on this occasion to say much on that subject, yet as the question was asked me I thought I would occupy perhaps five minutes in saying something in regard to it. I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]-that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied every thing. I do not understand that because I do not want a negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife. [Cheers and laughter.] My understanding is that I can just let her alone. I am now in my fiftieth year, and I certainly never have had a black woman for either a slave or a wife. So it seems to me quite possible for us to get along without making either slaves or wives of negroes. I will add to this that I have never seen, to my knowledge, a man, woman or child who was in favor of producing a perfect equality, social and political, between negroes and white men. I recollect of but one distinguished instance that I ever heard of so frequently as to be entirely satisfied of its correctness-and that is the case of Judge Douglas’s old friend Col. Richard M. Johnson. [Laughter.] I will also add to the remarks I have made (for I am not going to enter at large upon this subject,) that I have never had the least apprehension that I or my friends would marry negroes if there was no law to keep them from it, [laughter] but as Judge Douglas and his friends seem to be in great apprehension that they might, if there were no law to keep them from it, [roars of laughter] I give him the most solemn pledge that I will to the very last stand by the law of this State, which forbids the marrying of white people with negroes. [Continued laughter and applause.] I will add one further word, which is this: that I do not understand that there is any place where an alteration of the social and political relations of the negro and the white man can be made except in the State Legislature-not in the Congress of the United States-and as I do not really apprehend the approach of any such thing myself, and as Judge Douglas seems to be in constant horror that some such danger is rapidly approaching, I propose as the best means to prevent it that the Judge be kept at home and placed in the State Legislature to fight the measure. [Uproarious laughter and applause.] I do not propose dwelling longer at this time on this subject.”
Occasionally, someone asks, “Why don’t you run for office?” To that the Ole Seagull most often replies that he is unelectable. The next question is, “Why?” The answer to that is simple, call it a brain defect or whatever, but the Ole Seagull does not have the ability or self control to substitute being politically correct or saying what people want to hear from what he believes.
Now ask yourself could you honestly vote for a person who has these views:
1. Not one more penny of Taney county funds should be spent on the East West Corridor Road in Taney County, or any other major transportation project until there is at least a 10 year plan in place prioritizing Taney County’s transportation needs.
2. The period between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 each year should be declared “Merry Christmas” days at both the Taney county and city of Branson levels. Both should do everything in their power to make Branson the place to come for those wanting to celebrate a traditional Christmas. We market “Christmas” because we want the tourist dollars, but when it comes to standing up for “Christmas” our elected leaders tremble with political correctness and fear of a lawsuit from the ACLU.
3. Believes that Branson’s live shows should be declared as an “economic foundational industry” and, at a minimum, require that at least 33 percent of all publically funded marketing be used to promote Branson shows that operate at least two weeks a month for eight months out of the year.
4. Believes that 25 percent of the portion of the Branson Tourism Infrastructure Tax, which may be used the building, maintenance, and operation of the city’s infrastructure should be used to subsidize the water and sewer rates of all Branson residents and businesses except the Ole Seagull’s.
5. The representation on the Branson Lakes Area Tourism Community Enhancement District (TCED) should be changed to one representative from Stone County, and six from the Taney County Branson area, two appointed by Taney County and four by Branson. Currently, on the seven person board, there are two from Indian Point and another from Stone Country for a total of three which is ridiculously disproportional to the actual taxes Indian Point and the portion of Stone County in the TCED pay.
6. Believes the definition of “alien,” stated in “The Merriam Webster OnLine Dictionary” defined as “relating, belonging, or owing allegiance to another country or government” is accurate.
7. Would work to expand the opportunities for aliens complying with the documentation and other applicable requirements to come into the country and work for a specific employer for a period of eight months after which they would be required to leave the country for a period of at least 60 days before being eligible to reapply.
8. Believes that the tax dollars of U.S. Citizens should not be spent on the medical care or the giving of any other benefit that a U.S. Citizen is entitled to any illegal alien except as is required save their life in the event of a medical emergency.
9. Believes that English should be the National language and the only language used on ballots, government forms, etc.
10. See what he means, no need to go on, politically the Ole Seagull’s toast
The simple truth is that from a pure economic point of view, governments spend and redistribute revenue and do not produce it. It is the citizens of government who produce the revenues that support the very governments that spend and redistribute what its citizens have earned. It is no different in the city of Branson.
A recent newspaper headline in this very paper, “City may spend $4 million in reserve funds” should act as a wakeup call, albeit a little late, to the residents and businesses of Branson. Why is it a “little late?”
The article quoted City Administrator Dean Kruithof as saying, “Most expenditures are from previous agreements and revenues are flat.” The article reported that the city’s sales tax revenues are flat and that the Tourism Tax funds are down 4.6 percent.
In most cities, in this economic environment, flat revenues might be all right. In Branson however, the combination of flat revenues and expenditures from prior agreements do not bode well for Branson taxpayers and Branson’s immediate financial situation.
The thing that must be remembered is that, in terms of running and operating the city of Branson and furnishing services to its citizens and businesses, gross tax receipts don’t mean much. It is the net amount of the sales tax revenue collected available to operate the city that is important.
Oh, things look flat from a gross collection point of view, but when “expenditures from prior agreements,” particularly the Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) agreements used to finance “Branson Landing” and “Branson Hills” are factored in, the “flat” financial picture “wrinkles” pretty quick.
Let’s say that $1.00 in gross city sales taxes was collected from both Branson Hills and Branson Landing for a total of $2.00. Because of expenditures from previous agreements, in this case the TIF Agreements, the net the city actually gets to use for the operation of the city is $.50. Now some might say, “Come on Seagull, that’s ridiculous?” No, it is reality.
The city of Branson gets to keep only 50 percent of the sales tax revenues from Branson Hills and Zero percent of the sale tax revenues from Branson Landing for the next 15 to 20 years. The difference goes to pay off the investors who purchased the TIF Bonds used to pay the developers for the projects they built. The problem is exasperated if retail sales shift from non TIF areas into TIF areas.
“But Seagull doesn’t all those great jobs we were told were going to be generated from the millions of dollars in government subsidized TIF financing make up for it?” Why don’t you be the judge?
Take the actual TIF plan for the Branson Hills project that the administration in place prior to the 2007 elections approved. Find the actual number of jobs projected in that plan and divide it by the projected payroll in the plan. Is the average amount per job closer to the federal poverty level for a family of four or what most people would consider a “great job?”
And that’s just one of the previous agreements. Wouldn’t it be helpful to Branson’s citizens and businesses if the city of Branson could publish a simple list of the previous agreements that Administrator Kruithof is referring to, how much each is, when they started and when they expire?