Citizen-led committees to take on Tupelo plan

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Less than a week after the city announced it would turn over its sweeping revitalization plan to four citizen-led, ad-hoc committees for further study, the groups have been formed and one already met.
Each committee will investigate a different component of the multimillion-dollar proposal to stabilize Tupelo’s middle class.
One will study neighborhood rehabilitation, another will look at a city-backed home loan program, a third will consider a city-funded university tuition guarantee, and the fourth will investigate code enforcement and low-income housing.
Members of the groups include bankers, doctors, real-estate agents, business leaders, educators, nonprofit heads, city department heads, and attorneys. At least one City Council member and one Community Development Foundation employee were assigned to each group.
CDF assembled the committees and will provide professional research and guidance, said its president and CEO, David Rumbarger.
Not happy with the committee makeups, however, was Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell. He was not assigned to the tuition guarantee committee despite having twice requested the post.
“I think it’s political,” said Newell, who along with Ward 6 Councilman Mike Byran has been among the most vocal critics of the plan.
Neither Bryan nor council President Fred Pitts was assigned to a committee.
Pitts said each committee got only one council person assigned to it as a liaison. He said he didn’t ask why CDF selected some council members and not others, but he suggested Newell’s refusal to meet with Rumbarger last week had something to do with it.
Rumbarger had met individually with most council members last week about the plan.
Bryan wasn’t present at the council work session Tuesday where the committee assignments were announced.
Each group will meet at least once weekly until it has fully studied its aspect of the plan and can make recommendations on feasibility, logistics, cost and funding.
A target completion date is set for March 22.
One group – the tuition guarantee committee – held its first meeting Tuesday morning. Other groups are set to meet later this week.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@journalinc.com.