EDITORIAL: Mutual respect

A year ago this spring, most Tupelo citizens had reached a point of frustration and disappointment with the way their city government was conducting business.
Communication between the mayor and City Council had broken down. Factionalism among council members had become the norm, conflicting with rational discussion and debate of the issues on their merits. Civility and mutual respect were absent in public deliberations.
During the city elections, voters sent a clear message: We want something better and more constructive for our city. We want a mayor and a council who will work together, not be constantly at odds with each other. We want council members who will put the good of the city above personal political agendas.
One year into the new four-year administration, the mayor and council elected in 2009 have shown that they get it.
The past year has not been without disagreements among council members or between the mayor and council. But when disagreements have arisen, they’ve been handled in an atmosphere of mutual respect and forbearance. When contentious issues have been decided – and there have been several – the city’s elected representatives have moved forward without letting those differences boil over into lingering antagonism.
This is all the voters can ask for, and all that they should. A mayor and council who agreed on everything wouldn’t be a healthy situation. Consensus is a good thing, but it takes hashing out differences to get there. And it’s not the public discussion of differences that the public finds troubling, it’s when the tenor of those discussions turns fractious.
The tone of this administration is clearly more positive, constructive and effective than the one it replaced, at least in the latter half of the past four-year administration.
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. has had a lot to do with that change. He’s worked hard at establishing a close working relationship with council members, communicating frequently with them on key issues. His daily upbeat approach to governing the city and the citizen engagement encouraged by the task forces he has appointed have given new energy and vision to City Hall.
The council deserves credit, too, for its commitment to good relations with the mayor and one another. Council President Fred Pitts has been a calm, measured and effective leader in his important role.
Of course, the administration is only a year old. Previous administrations have started off well and then seen a later deterioration of relations. Continued diligence will be required to maintain the new constructive tone at City Hall.
But this mayor and council, living up to the expectations of those who elected them, seem to have the will to sustain what they have begun.

NEMS Daily Journal