Ten years ago a new newspaper began developing traction in Branson. The Branson Daily Independent blew the lid off the constitutionality of Branson's tourism tax. The wild discussion was credited with tearing the community apart.
Perhaps, the organization shed light which helped challenges the community was facing come to the surface. Branson's tourism tax has been restored in addition to a new tax allocating tourism promotion funding to record levels.
In between that time a movement emerged - the Branson Believers formed. Without discussing all the intricacies and benefits, the movement generated a series of programs with the intent of helping "us" - "we" - effectively develop the type of community we want to live in. The new deal - the formation of Branson Believers installed a "not so secret" relationship between the press, the Branson Chamber of Commerce and regional patriarchs.
The self-perpetuating cause identifies and defines the next series of leaders through these programs. As we seat our new set of Branson Alderman, the dialogue has shifted. The intermingling of religious principles in Branson's civic life has been a constant factor in creating regional legislation. Principal centered leadership represents a positive movement and the church plays an important role - a primary role in Southwest Missouri civic life but sometimes conflicts with the the primary goal of political institutions whose scope is limited.
During electioneering for Branson's Alderman positions, I noticed an unbelievable arrogance and a firm statement, "No you can't." This year I've heard it from the Branson Chamber of Commerce and I've listened to local media outlets whisper it.
In politics, a whisper is a shout. Debates and interviews give candidates an opportunity to sound off against their detractors. This is initiation to the game - bypassed during April's election and marked with low voter turnout.
In December, I rejected an invitation to watch football with Mitt Romney in order to meet candidates vying for Branson's new alderman position. A few decided I was undeserving of a return call. I heard a strong message, "You're unimportant, you don't count." With it, I lost a great deal of respect - not just from people - but the local media institution itself.
The worst tragedy is my personal lost of self-respect for holding esteem where none was due - leaders more interested in self-preservation than community values. In retrospect, I understand the regional media institutions have a major role in why a politico can treat a member of its constituency in such a manner and avoid the democratic process .It's the press that enables it - While some people.families/politicians are openly criticized, others have a free pass to rob the city coffers with special interests openly - and through this system new monarchs are installed.
Being a Branson Believer isn't an excuse for arrogance, neither should it be a shield for government leaders and candidates to avoid expressing their agendas or act disrespectfully - to bypass the American Political Process. It's not an excuse for media outlets to act irresponsibly.
The Branson Daily News will regress from Political Coverage for the season as is their usual cycle. The Branson Daily Independent has to find a new arch-enemy as they have successfully planted an establishment whose fiscal policies remain unexamined.
And if the Branson Chamber of Commerce has changed from a private organization established to help its members, to a regional marketing entity spending tax dollars to promote the community - scrutiny should be mandatory.
In my opinion, this organizational structure of the Branson Chamber and Convention Visitors Bureau needs to be examined and continues to be an organization which acts like a membership telling some members of the community - "no you can't and some, whatever you like."
As we follow the money, it's easy to see. As we watch the Branson Chamber committees it's easy to see. As we watch new appointments of high paying positions soaking off public funds - it's easy to see. As we read the campaign financing documents - it's easy to see.
It's easy to see we've allowed a few people to become so arrogant that they feel entitled to determine who eats and who doesn't. They feel entitled to utilize tax dollars to finance their personal business ventures. They feel entitled to say, "No you can't."
Branson's new Board of Alderman doesn't have a choice. As elected politicians they no longer have the right to remain silent, to avoid scrutiny to violate the basic principles that enable public discourse. They will make an oath with the people tonight.
A major campaign financier in Branson's last election attends a church in Branson. The church, known for it's great wealth holds this family with great pride. Another family, not so well known, decided they needed some "old fashion religion" to their lives.
A decade ago, on Sunday morning they went to church and found only one bench open. After the family sat they noticed the congregation was staring at them - scowling. Baffled and a little embarrassed they found themselves perplexed by the anger they were sensing - they didn't know what to do - or what faux pax they'd committed that the congregation was so focused on.
Finally, someone whispered, "You're in __________ family seat, they always sit there."
The visiting family immediately left the church where they felt unwelcomed and haven't returned to church a decade later.
Tonight, at Branson City Hall, we'll honor a passing group of leaders and honor new alderman.
In my opinion, the way it was won lacked class and style and I'm seeing Branson's political plot shifting to a legacy of lesson - rather than example where they've drastically fallen short.
Being "Politically Aware" for some time; I've watched politicians come and go, alliances change, allegiances altered - party affiliation change and money flow from the left to the right - back to the left again.
Just to put criticism into perspective - Our mayor is a good leader and the Chamber of Commerce has been a catalyst for Branson's unique and prosperous economy. Their contributions shouldn't be underestimated as they've demonstrated exceptional work. Still, this shouldn't exclude them from scrutiny. Still, they aren't the golden idol an irresponsible press is penning and deserve to be challenged for the sake of all of our futures.
A right of passage will happen tonight. Cris Bohinc and Rick Davis will swear allegiance to the Constitution of Missouri. As I record this event, as I have with politicians past, a new voice will emerge.
It screams, yes you have, yes you can, yes you will. It says, there is an unstoppable force which isn't the result of excessive political inbreeding. It says, "We the People...", meaning all of us.
Unlike the church which lobbyists formed, another shout will emerge. The voice screams, "Every last one of us."
Yes, It takes every last one of us - hear it - believe it.