We are better than this.
After a city meeting at which the Branson Board of Aldermen extended a face covering mandate indefinitely, Cox Medical Center Branson President William Mahoney – who had spoken at the meeting in support of the mandate – was confronted in the parking lot by some individuals who wanted to, at the very least, intimidate him for his stance.
This occurred following the third public meeting this year regarding whether to implement, or extend, the mandate. These meetings have been highlighted by some very heated, angry rhetoric. Much of it went beyond the typical passionate speeches one might expect during an important public debate. There have been some examples of flared tempers, and of ugly, personal insults against health professionals doing nothing more than providing up-to-date information requested by the board. There have also been an absurd number of people stating information that is either misinterpreted, out of date, or flat out false – and, although I’m always concerned about false information, that’s not the main issue I’m worried about right now.
I’m concerned about the tempers. Some people are getting dangerously angry, and they are directing their anger at people who are guilty of nothing more than serving the community in the best way they know how. That includes anger directed at our health care professionals, as well as our aldermen, all of whom are serving their community and trying to make decisions during a challenging time.
On Tuesday, it’s possible this anger could have turned into an ugly incident. I don’t know the intent of those who confronted Mahoney, but it doesn’t seem like they were interested in a friendly exchange of ideas. Fortunately, Branson police were on hand and nothing significant came of the exchange. A statement from the city confirmed that Mahoney was escorted by police, there was a brief verbal exchange with one of several men who were outside the door, and nobody was detained or arrested. (For more on the incident, see our story about the mandate extension on page 1A.)
We are better than this.
It is my belief that the vast majority of Branson residents are, definitely, better than this. But I’m afraid that, at this crucial and divisive moment in our town, this issue is not being defined by the better angels of our nature.
Disagreement is natural, of course. In fact, it is essential. No elected officials are infallible, and they need to know when they run afoul of their constituents or when they are taking careless or misinformed actions. Most elected official do want to hear from the public. In fact, in my 20 years of area journalism, I can say that Branson accommodates voices of dissent as well or better than any government entity in the area. They want to hear from us. But the display of insult, anger, and bullying does more harm than good. I was relieved that the city extended the mandate indefinitely, simply because I felt these meetings were going to lead to trouble.
And remember. If you want your aldermen and your mayor to know what you think, you don’t have to show up at a meeting to tell them. In fact, that’s not the best way. You can call or email the aldermen any time. The information is on the city’s website, but I’ll go ahead and list the contact information here.
Mayor Edd Akers
Ward I Alderman Bill Skains
Ward I Alderman Bob Simmons
Ward II Alderman Jeff Seay
Ward II Alderman Larry Milton
Ward III Alderman Jamie Whiteis
Ward III Adlerwoman Julia King
The more feedback they get (positive, as well as negative or neutral) the better they can be informed. Many of them, perhaps all of them, are also more than happy to hear from you in person, as long as you don’t ambush them in a parking lot at night. Any of these methods – phone call, email or person-to-person – are better ways to communicate with your aldermen. Speaking at a public meeting certainly has its place, but too much of what we’ve seen lately is not communication, it’s grandstanding.
We are better than that.