All-America City Tupelo

Tupelo’s recent designation as a winner of one of the 10 All-America Cities awards for this year is a marketing and public relations bonanza.

The awards, given by the National League of Cities, carry quite a bit of national publicity and allow local officials to trumpet the award for everything from tourism to economic development.
Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr. likened winning the award to winning a national championship in sports and said the ripple effect of it will be felt for a long time.
What’s even more significant is that Tupelo has managed to win the award four times. The others were in 1967, 1989 and 1999.
Tupelo’s entry this year focused on the Fairpark area, which turned a blighted area of downtown into a park, a new city hall, restaurants, businesses and a hotel. It also focused on efforts of the mayor’s task forces on education and health and the Greenhouses at Traceway, a senior-living development.
Tupelo certainly gets kudos for the award and for being willing to spend thousands of dollars to create the presentation for judges and the surrounding hoopla necessary to get considered.
The city leadership thinks big, something that we sometimes quibble about here in New Albany.
But it seems to us that the award tends to mask very real problems facing Tupelo—especially real or perceived issues with the schools, middle-class white flight out of the city, and a stagnant population.
These are issues that could lead to the city’s decline and will take much more than a public relations extravaganza to turn around over the next decade.