An air of uncertainty lingers as a new crop of leaders prepare to take the city reigns.
Whether real or perceived persistent theme was voiced was heard by candidates, “There’s a party at city hall and the citizens of Branson aren’t invited.”
Raeanne Presley promised a kinder gentler Branson – a Branson friendlier with geopolitical entities with overlapping jurisdictions – a Branson open to hearing citizen concerns and leadership of a city council that invited citizen participation. Though she didn’t acknowledging victory until results from the last precinct were counted, Presley said a mayor is only as good as her aldermen and supported the candidates most distant from the previous administration. Political playgrounds are something Presley knows well. In Jefferson City she was hedged out of a renewed appointment as Missouri’s Tourism Czar to a major financial contributor to Governor Matt Blunt.
Developer Rick Huffman must have seen the writing on the wall pushing three agenda items through at Branson’s last alderman meeting. Usually, agenda items are proposed then given a second reading two weeks later when the governmental body meets again. The three agenda items relating to Huffman projects were given a first and second reading at Lou Schaefer’s last public appearance as Branson’s top patriarch. One of the rushed items involved property Huffman was purchasing from Lou Schaeffer on the condition City Council rezoned the land from agriculture to residential.
On Wednesday, Huffman took Springfield city councilpeople on a tour of the Branson Hilton and Convention Center construction sites gathering support for a Springfield subsidized construction hotel project. In Tulsa, Huffman’s instructed officials to begin purchasing land in preparation for a project similar to his lakefront development on Lake Taneycomo. As the Branson Landing provides a launching ground for Huffman’s new projects it isn’t adding up to 25 stories in Branson. Huffman has put his controversial sky rise project on hold leaving the possibility of revival in two years.
Whispers of an anti growth policy are put to rest by Titanic Museum owner Mary Joslyn who credits the Raeanne Presley’s promotion of Branson as a reason she chose to establish her operation here. The Titanic Museum was the 8th largest tourism tax contributor last year coughing up $200,368 and 1.83% of the total collected by the city. Alderman Stephen Marshall is the general manager of Chateau on the Lake which was Branson’s most highly assessed property at $7,244,290 accounting for 1.91% of Branson’s booked value. “My Daddy” and “My Grandaddy” are expressions commonly used in Taney County politics. Marshall truly breaks this mold as his country of birth is Canada and his life as a United States citizen is only four years old. The Marshall Families contribution to Branson is better measured by his wife Daphne’s Branson Believers award than years as residents. Marshall said,”Toronto is where I was born but Branson is where my heart is.”
Differentiating from an opponent is a necessity in any political race but Branson is more of a family than those campaigning may have wanted people to believe. One of the most heated rhetoric came from the Sandra Williams – Ron Huff race. Williams claims she prayed all night before making the decision to run. Her greatest fear was losing the friendship of the Huff’s. During interviews while campaigning she shared her love and respect for the Huff family and fears the race may have damaged a valued relationship.
Getting off the growth track would financially derail Branson’s financial health as substantial debt has accrued to develop infrastructure. Financial documents prepared for the city on March 1 reveal $9,608,504 dollars in debt payment pledged this year, $8,408,504 is interest. Between 2012-2016 payment due will be $55,855,923.00. Failing to keep up with infrastructure could really raise a stink. One of Branson’s untold successes in keeping up with infrastructure is our ability to handle the 5 O’ Clock flush.
Tourists coming to Branson are likely to visit Silver Dollar City. After they leave the theme park and prepare for dinner they often visit the “toilet ride” - Branson can currently handle between 80,000 to 100,000 visitors many of which flush at the same time. As far as infrastructure is concerned a monorail is an amusement Branson tourists will not be riding. The consensus among our new leadership is that the project is too expensive though being ranked again as one of the most traffic congested tourist destinations in the country could be costly as well. Perhaps, entrepreneur and former Ride the Ducks owner Bob McDowell will provide innovative solutions to our transportation issues.
During her brief victory speech Presley said,”We’re going down there, we’re going to give the city government back to elected officials and we’re going to do it in short order.”
**Tonight is the first Alderperson Meeting. It doesn't flow well - the word Alderperson. It would be nice if the name was changed to City Council of something gender neutral.