EMINENCE, Mo — During the Ozark Mountain Festival, Rep. Chris Kelly and Lt. Gov Peter Kinder held a Lincoln-Douglas style debate on the topic of the control of the Ozark National Scenic Riverway.
Rep. Kelly was there to support the position that the federal government should manage the park, while Lt. Gov Kinder argued that the waterway should be returned to the state of Missouri.
Kelly opened the debate.
“The river parks are one of America’s beloved institutions, some say the parks, which were a fundamentally American idea, was America’s best idea. The resolution before us today is should the federal government continue to manage this park, this resource, this waterway… There is a second issue that here that overlies, and that is the regulation how is it that we the people can reasonably regulate between preservation and enterprise.”
The bulk of Kelly’s argument was that the state would not manage the massive waterway, given the traffic it attracts, without the resources of the federal government.
“The real question before us is weather the Ozark National Scenic Riverway should be decommissioned and turned over to the state of Missouri in some form,” Kellty said. “For the sake of discussion let’s set aside reality and assume that’s possible, because in fact we all know that isn’t going to occur the state of Missouri won’t do it, the federal government won‘t do it, the people of Missouri (won’t do it). But it gives rise to extremely interesting questions that are worthy of serious discussion… 1.4 million people a year use this facility. It is bigger than the Gauley River, bigger than the River Gorge, bigger than Sequoia National Park, it’s bigger than Mount Rainier. More people come here than Mount Rainier, that’s a lot of people.. No state park can reasonably sustain the level of activity and interest that this park does. State parks are wonderful but they are almost never major destinations.”
Lt. Gov Kinder opened by quoting the founding member of both the Democratic Party and the Republican party. Kinder began with the Thomas Jefferson quote, “Where the people fear the government, there is tyranny. Where governments fear the people, there is liberty.”
The quote Kinder chose from Abraham Lincoln was next “I have no thought about politics or government that did not originate in the declaration of independence.”
Kinder then went on to quote a line from the declaration itself.
“He (the king) has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”
Kinder, in a flourish, continued.
“Why am I quoting the declaration of independence? Because these issues 238 years ago framed the issue before us right now today and that is should Shannon County control the Ozark Nation Scenic Riverways.”
Kinder then asked a man from the audience to stand as he explained that they spoke briefly before the debate started about how he grew up in Round Springs and when the state managed the park there was a great more deal of business that went through there as opposed to now.
“Now there is nothing after decades of federal management those private business owners have been driven out, swarms of officers to harass our people and eat our substance I think we’re back there, now in the 21st century.”
Following the rest of Kinder’s argument, which found its base in deregulatory fundamentals, it was time for Kelly’s rebuttal. Kelly pointed out that Kinder did not address any of the management issues that Kelly himself brought up and said that his debate tactics related heavily on “shooting fish in a barrel”.
Kelly addressed the fact that the audience was heavily a group of people who associated themselves as conservative Republicans and that Kinder was hitting talking points to elicit a positive response.
Kinder might have seized the day as the sheer crowd favorite for his zeal in opposing federal oversight in broad strokes, but Kelly enjoyed a zinger or two on rebuttal, in his typical wit. Kinder concluded the debate, as Kelly had opened it.
“Well I have manipulated you, how shameful, how awful. Look what I was doing and Chris is trained as a lawyer, he knows what lawyers mean when they discuss what they call threshold issues. I was discussing threshold issues, we can get down into the details about management, what I’m talking about is where that management should reside.” Kinder said during his rebuttal.
Kinder’s rebuttal marked the official end of the debate as the Lt. Gov thanked everyone for coming and on behalf of him and Rep. Kelly wished them the best with their celebration. The two men have crossed paths several times during their decades in public office, and the debate, which began as the result of a friendly but fiery Twitter exchange, will likely be declared a draw, favoring sportsmanship above all else.