Branson 2010 Budget (Part II)
Branson continues to bring in record sales tax revenue and the fact this years record income is under-reported. A dangerous trend in occurring in our local press. As the dead tree press continues to decline, the nature of news reporting and even the integrity of print is being challenged.
The Springfield News-Leader and the Branson Daily Independent have been running government-published releases under the guise of journalism. Two front page stories this week were reprints of press releases generated by government agencies. Press releases are a great way to obtain news, perhaps the primary source in an age where investigative reporting is deemed to expensive to conduct. Unfortunately, these storied aren't sourced. The press releases generated by politicians have no by-lines, no additional facts and no verification to "truthfullness". As a result, public perception is both skewed and perverted to the temporal objectives of sitting politicos. None is more apparent then the misinformation Branson residents are recieving about the fiscal state of the local economy.
To understand the perspective of Branson's current leadership we need to take a step back. In the view of history 50 years isn't such a long time, but there is a transition in Branson that occurred at this time paramount to the current fiscal environment.
The contribution of the Mabe's, the Herschend's and even the Presley's cannot be underestimated. Due to the vision of these families our tourist economy shifted from the natural entertainment that helped Jim Owen lure Californian stars and Branson with it into the spotlight, to a new form of entertainment. Before there were a 110 shows, there were two. Before there were scores of museums, world-class shopping destinations and gold courses there was a cave tour and home-grown music shows - there was just a couple.
The Presley's moved from Jim Owen's downtown Branson mecca to a spot on 76 Blvd which is now known as the strip. Now the center of Branson's entertainment district, the Presley's sat outside Branson city limits. When Branson attempted to annex the theater the Presley's sued the city of Branson and fought rigorously to stay outside the administrative district and regulations inclusion would bring. The battles have continued and in a sense continue to this day. Even as the family matriarch serves in Branson's top position, the city can't keep a city attorney. Perhaps advisement against illegal activities occurring at Branson city hall have encouraged Branson's Alderman to keep from obtaining legal counsel. As the city as a whole suffers from economic irresponsibility, a few profit.
The Branson Landing was fought vigorously by Raeanne Presley through the League of Theaters where she was open about her opposition to new development. Contrary to public statements the fight was never about TIF's. And contrary to public awareness the Branson Landing is generated several million dollars in revenue. The fight Presley was engaging was against the success of the Branson Landing. Presley believed the success of the Branson Landing would hurt Branson's theater industry. The argument was that as Branson lured new visitors, they'd be less enticed to pay top dollar for entertainment on the strip, afterall, "if they can be entertained in Branson for free, why should they pay?"
The same organization Presley used to generate propaganda against new development is now being funded by tax-payers. With $50,000 dollars spend to fund lobbyists to Jefferson City from Branson's tax base the agenda isn't clear. If the goal was to increase tourism funding the plan is a miserable failure. But the fight isn't over.
Regardless of your political perspective, if you live in Branson you understand how important tourism is to the economy - a primary source of income. The real debate lays in the recent diversification of income. Branson is now generating more income through retail sales and marketing theaters is becoming more expensive with less marketing dollar to sales conversion. This year a half-dozen shows have closed and every sector of the tourism market is down, except for some theaters. And as the fiscal strategy of Branson's current city counsel has hurt the majority of businesses the theater industry as a whole is prospering. When major venues shut down, the remaining tourists visit the existing establishments.
In the end, our current trend will yield higher taxes. We're seeing this for the first time as the Presley administration seeds drastic increases in utilities to ensure the city can afford plans to expand services on the strip.
Prepared by: Darin Codon