EDITORIAL: Action for the future

Four City Council-sanctioned and CDF-guided committees presented a sweeping, five-year, action-specific Tupelo Neighborhood Reinvestment Plan to the council Monday that laid out $15.7 million in city commitment without a tax increase – and with a strong private-sector partnership role.
The reports of four committees working intensely for a month answer critics who complained that nothing could be done until a plan was on the table.
Today the plan is on the table to revitalize single-family home ownership, upgrade existing housing, strengthen rental housing quality and begin a visionary four-year, Mississippi-public-university tuition guarantee for every high school graduate in Tupelo who meets residency and application requirements.
The five-year plan rises from Tupelo’s long history of crafting innovative and mutually beneficial public-private partnerships to overcome daunting challenges. Tupeloans can always look to the past for inspiration in funding community-based solutions to deal with contemporary problems.
In brief, the four committees propose a self-renewal program that doesn’t anticipate any handouts and relies on intellectual and financial assets within the community:
• A “Fast Start” loan program with a $10 million fund from existing assets or bond sales to leverage $50 million in loan investment for 300 new home purchases. It would close the gap for no-down-payment loan programs available to rural residents and make the same kinds of loans available inside the city, with specific minimum financial qualifications.
• Establish a $3 million competitive housing improvement program for existing homes, with grants for renovations and a component concentrating on removing blighted structures, including apartment complexes. National measures show such programs contribute to home sales and higher-valued neighborhoods.
• Raise municipal rental standards to protect renters and property owners and impose higher financial accountability and fees. One goal would lower the proportion of rental housing in Tupelo from 35 percent to the regional average of 25 percent. Fees would provide $850,000 per year to fund the plan.
• Fulfill the “Tupelo Promise” using $3.25 million from public and private matching funds for four-year public university scholarships for every qualifying high school graduate in the city – public, private and home-schooled – beginning in the spring of 2012. Minimum residency and other financial qualifications would apply.
The no-new-taxes plan answers the main objections cited by critics of proposed renewal ideas.
Another public meeting March 29 at 3 p.m. in the City Council chamber will feature discussions with the City Council and the committees.
It’s time to move forward.

NEMS Daily Journal