By NEMS Daily Journal
The quality of life in any city begins with neighborhoods. They are the building blocks for everything else.
People’s first and primary association with a community is the area in which they live. If a neighborhood is safe, well-maintained and full of friendly people with a sense of connection to one another, residents generally will feel good about their city.
That positive outlook transfers to broader community efforts and enhances the attractiveness of the city to outsiders.
Strong neighborhoods not only give their own residents a sense of pride and accomplishment, they provide both a model and a challenge to others to follow suit. When neighbors experience their collective power to improve their surroundings, increased engagement in the wider community generally follows.
Conversely, weak or neglected neighborhoods are contagious. Blight, crime or other kinds of deterioration usually don’t stay confined to one area of a city. If not reversed, they spread, accelerating a cycle of decline.
Tupelo in recent years has worked hard to strengthen its neighborhoods, including revitalizing areas that were deteriorating. A consensus has emerged that no neighborhood can or should be written off, that all neighborhoods – old or new, of whatever income level – can not only stabilize but improve in livability and economic value. But it won’t happen without a concerted, intentional effort.
Since Mayor Jack Reed Jr. took office last summer, he’s preached the all-neighborhoods-should-be-strong message. And on Saturday, a community-wide gathering brought the message home.
“A Celebration of Tupelo Neighborhoods,” sponsored by the Mayor’s Task Force on Neighborhoods, drew representatives from neighborhood associations across the city – those who have been involved in neighborhood improvement process for a while, and those that are just beginning.
The city has challenged residents with a Neighborhood Impact Awards Program designed to encourage and fund improvement projects. Fifteen neighborhood associations representing about 20,000 of Tupelo’s residents already exist; more are needed to cover the entire city.
Saturday’s gathering at the BancorpSouth Arena is the kind of event that can help galvanize community efforts by the sharing of knowledge gained through experience and networking among various groups. We hope it will be the kickoff for the best year yet in Tupelo for neighborhood improvement.
It’s clear that any city is only as strong as its weakest neighborhoods. Tupelo’s challenge is simultaneously to develop new, thriving neighborhoods and neighborhood models that may be different from the past, while restoring and revitalizing those that have been around a long time.
Nothing is any more important to the future vitality of the city.