By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Mayor Jack Reed Jr. pitched his multi-pronged proposal for middle-class revitalization to a group of senior citizens Thursday morning at Calvary Baptist Church.
The 50 or so audience members belong to the Shepherd Center, an organization that promotes independent senior living and meets monthly at different locations. Reed was the featured speaker at this month’s gathering.
“In the last decade, the city grew by less than 1 percent – 363 people in 10 years,” Reed said. “Lee County grew by almost 10 percent. It’s not that people weren’t moving to our area, it’s that they weren’t coming to our city.”
Much of Tupelo’s loss came in the middle-class demographic, based on housing and income data.
Reed called the population shift a pressing concern for Tupelo that, if not tackled now, will drag the city down a path similar to that of Jackson. He then read crime- and blight-related headlines from Jackson’s Clarion-Ledger. If Tupelo doesn’t reverse the trend, he said, those headlines could soon appear in the Daily Journal.
Included in Reed’s controversial proposal are a cap on the number of rental properties in the city, a city-backed low-interest home loan program, a crackdown on code violations, free college tuition to graduating high school seniors, and renovation of older neighborhoods through demolition and development incentives.
Those plans are under study by four separate committees steered by the Community Development Foundation. Each group will present its findings to the City Council at 3 p.m. Monday at City Hall.
Tupelo senior citizens Chuck and Bobbye Carsten, who listened to Reed’s talk, said they, too, have noticed the middle-class decline and support the mayor’s efforts to revitalize the city. They especially like the tuition guarantee proposal.
“The only way to succeed is with an education,” said Chuck Carsten, whose own children now range in age from 47-52.
But Lucille Travis said Reed’s proposals are things the city should do anyway, not as the means to an end.
“The purpose shouldn’t be to draw back the middle class,” Travis said. “Codes need to be enforced because they need to be enforced. Things need to be done because they need to be done. Do it for that.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.