As I've stated before its Groman's job to initiate conversation regarding issues in the community between our government and the citizens they govern. Mr. Purvis, this is you. You are an elected leader and as such are subject to scrutiny from the press. Private citizens are not subject to this type of as a premise of journalistic ethics. Part of a journalists job is to facilitate communication between the government and the governed body. We're not oblivious to the fact that much of what we publish isn't all that entertaining. Heavy, information rich articles about public affairs are rarely the focus of water cooler chats. This was never so clear to me as this weekend when I attempted to discuss an article I published in the Taney CountyTimes this weekend. The fact rich in-depth article about Representative Wallace on education wasn't even read by Wallace himself. I realize Wallace is very busy and by no means do I see this as a citicism. Having re-read the article I found it a bit tedious myself. It's information rich, vital to those interested but lacks the general appeal of our "entertain me" society. Thorough.
Groman hits on some tough issues in his opinion column. This week he calls himself a blog, online he refers to himself as a newspaper. I don't know if he really qualifies as either, but, this I do know - Groman's work gets people interested in politics. This week Groman accuses Purvis of characterizing him as a divisive force in the community. I wholeheartedly disagree. Democracy is a conversation and when a fiery editorial appears in the paper and city hall becomes packed - the democratic process wins. When citizens arrive to express opinions we become less polarized, it's an expression of empowerment and of faith. When residents line up to address their town fathers(you Mr. Purvis) its a demonstration of respect. It says, we believe enough in your desire to fulfill the will of the people that we're comfortable in opening ourselves up to public scrutiny and believe our words can make if difference - that is will be considered as you make decisions that affect all of us. We believe in you Mr. Purvis, that's why the citizens elected you. Rejoice, when they take their time to visit and ahare how they feel at Branson City Council meetings.
Since Groman uses his editorial as an advertisement for his personal economic ventures let's explore where Groman might have caused some irritation with the councilman...
Groman has repeatedly suggested that the Branson Landing isn't what makes Branson. That doesn't mean Groman doesn't believe the Landing is beneficial to Branson. Specific concerns expressed about the Branson Landing are 1. Porn 2. Gambling 3. Alcohol. All three of these issues involve the Branson Landing. As far as I know; the Hilton is the first establishment in Branson that offers Porn to customers in a pay per view format. Gambling - it's been suggested that HCW supports, is preparing and has economic interests in gambling. HCW has never come out and said this though much greater offenses to a "social conservative" base have been openly condoned. Huffman is a business leader as as such is looking at the bottom line which may or may not fall within the values of the community. This is the discussion that Groman initiates. He asks if the "New Branson" is losing its soul.
The wisest man that ever lived said, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?"
As the "New Branson," currently being built by the City of Branson and its developers with taxpayer dollars, emerges from "Branson," the Branson that private entrepreneurs built with their own money, it would behoove us to consider a paraphrase of that question, "For what does it profit a community to gain a few bucks, and forfeit its values?"
Here you have it. The Church and state. The suggestion that the Branson Landing as a Babylonian entity. In Hebrew the translation of Babylon is worldly wealth and confusion. It also represents the oppressive anti-religious force that keeps the Israelites down - In revelations the city of god (Zion) fights Babylon (the church of the evil one) ....Good stuff for an opening, huh? When I covered the opening of the Hilton and submitted copy to Ozark Mountain Newspapers I was edited for the first time. The phrase TIF funded was added before the submitted copy "...dowtown project"..
Why? The very family value based system of Branson that makes our community such a great place to live and is the bed rock upon which its economic success rests is being gambled on the New Branson. A Branson based on family values and community interest is being wagered on a New Branson where anything is all right as long as it raises revenues to salve the seemingly insatiable appetite of the City of Branson for revenues and puts dollars in the pockets of its developers.
Groman questions the revenue model and values something
The amazing thing is that the vast majority of the very families benefiting from Branson, both those who built it and those who live in the community because of it, their leaders, associations, churches, etc. are taking no action, are standing idlely by, and letting it happen. What if the Lord appeared this very night and asked the question, "What have you done with the Branson that I entrusted to you?" If the public record is any indication, there would be a lot of people, churches, organizations, and elected officials who would be mute while the City of Branson's unelected leaders and their developers just smirked.
This statement included the mark of a Groman article. It's an attack on Dody; who Groman reminds us each week is an appointed leader - unelected. Obviously, Groman isn't a fan of Terry Dody and questions his authority on a regular basis. Second is a call to action. Concerned citizens - you're empowered and if you like what's going on just keep sitting still - if you don't say something. His appeal is for the people to communicate with their elected officials.
A front page article, in the July 12-13 edition of this paper entitled, "Alderman urges Huffman to 'reconsider' alcohol sales" indicates how little control even the City of Branson's elected officials have over the changing value structure of the New Branson. The article reported that Branson Alderman Jack Purvis gave an enthusiastic report on a recent visit to Branson Landing, Branson's $400 million dollar New Branson icon, at the July 10 meeting of the Branson Board of Aldermen.
Rick Huffman's success in funneling public funds to finance his ventures have arguably made him the most powerful man in the city. His prowess is something I personally admire. It's a credit to him. He's also worthy of respect in the sense that he isn't hypocritical- consistently stating who he is and what he stands for which may vary from the ideals of a "socially conservative" base.
It also indicated that Purvis, based on his observations, was concerned about the mix of alcohol and children in the public square and asked the developer to please reconsider the way alcohol is served at Branson Landing. The article reports that although Rick Huffman, developer of Branson Landing, addressed the issue of open container sales during the regular Branson Board of Aldermen meeting on June 26 he made no comments in response to Alderman Purvis' request.
Here it is ....alcohol. Currently, open containers are allowed on Landing property. That is, no open container laws are being enforced.
As was the case with the question of potential pornography being brought into Branson Landing by the Hilton Hotels, which was brought up by City Administrator Terry Dody at their June 26 meeting, the City of Branson's elected leaders, for whatever reason, again sat mute. There are those who might ask, "Don't we need a new demographic in Branson and won't this help us to get it?"
Code... "New Demographic" = "New Branson"
To that an Ole Seagull would reply, "Not really." A recent branding study paid for by the City of Branson showed that the majority of the people who come to Branson love the experience, will come back repeatedly, and that one of the primary identifiers with the Branson experience is values.
Now let's see, the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars spent on the New Branson will bring how many new visitors to Branson over the next five years? One can only wonder how that number would compare to the number of new visitors that $10 million a year, spent on expanding the range and penetration of marketing what Branson currently has to offer, over each of the next three years, would bring in.
Attorney Gary Groman cites evidence on why people really come to Branson and votes for the traditional customer base.
Interestingly enough, the New Branson can not only survive, but can thrive, on Branson's existing value system; but Branson, both from a quality of life and economic perspective, will suffer tremendously without it. Does it make more sense for Branson to gamble its value system against the New Branson concept of anything for a buck or for Branson to fight to preserve the family value system that has worked so well for it up to this point? To an Ole Seagull the answer is pretty simple, for what does it profit a community to maybe gain a few bucks, and forfeit its values?
Reading Groman's editorial, you can probably see where Purvis, characterized as a powerless pawn of private corporate interests could become a little irritated. Still, Groman fulfills a vital community need. Creating a bridge between those who feel left out of the process, making people think about what's happening in the city and voicing opinion contrary to the powers that be - which are heard frequently.
Gary Groman writes editorial for the Branson Daily Independent and rehashes his articles on his website. The article quoted above can be read here...