By NEMS Daily Journal
Jubilant participants in Tupelo’s 2011 delegation to the All-America City awards competition in Kansas City returned Saturday night with adrenaline still pumping – and with a better understanding that Tupelo cannot rest on its laurels and make progress.
The award was Tupelo’s fourth in the nationwide competition, sponsored by the National Civic League. The earlier awards were earned in 1967, 1989, and 1999.
Tupelo based its 2011 entry on the successful long-term development of the Fairpark District, establishment of the innovative Green Houses for senior citizens at Traceway (United Methodist Senior Services), and the citywide effort against childhood obesity in the Mayor’s Task Forces on Education, Youth and Health.
This year’s award reinforces Tupelo’s long-term record of tackling complex problems and assuming risk in creating public-private sector opportunities like Fairpark – formerly a derelict tract in the middle of downtown.
The 2011 award boosts the community’s morale, and it strengthens the rationale for taking similar risks and using bold innovations in resolving contemporary issues:
– Reversing middle-class flight
– Adding new rigor and vigor to the public schools
– Stimulating middle-class home ownership
City Council President Fred Pitts was right on when he said, ” … you can’t stand still. When things get tough, you need to get tougher. You’ve got to continue to find ways to improve your city.”
Tupelo was among 26 cities selected as award finalists and invited to Kansas City, where 10 were selected as winners by independent judges.
Zell Long, a noted civic activist, said of the city’s on-going challenges that the award comes at “the right time” and shows that “the good outweighs the bad.”
It is important to note that judges cited the diversity of Tupelo’s delegation as the strongest among the cities represented, the kind of unity in increasing diversity the city must have going forward.
While the award is a morale boost for Tupelo, outsiders will take notice, Pitts said. “Across the country, it means a lot.”
The league says All-America winners “receive national attention, a boost for recruitment of industry, jobs and investments. … More than 600 cities, towns, counties, neighborhoods and regions have won this prestigious award since 1949. It is given to the entire community! Some communities have won it five times! The application process itself presents a unique opportunity for communities to evaluate themselves and foster stronger community partnerships.”
Successfully meeting Tupelo’s current challenges would make the basis for seeking a fifth All-America City designation, and more importantly it would mean turning problems into additional opportunities.