By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – A grassroots effort to tackle the city’s middle-income decline will kick off tonight with a meeting at the Link Centre.
Tupelo resident Jim Newman organized the gathering, which begins at 7 p.m. in the reception hall, to offer a citizen-driven alternative to the city’s stalled Tupelo Neighborhood Reinvestment Plan.
That plan recommends four key strategies costing a total of about $14 million to encourage more family investment and reinvigorate home values. It came on the heels of recent census data showing Tupelo’s population and income levels tapered off while those of surrounding suburbs increased.
But the plan received a lukewarm community reception and its passage has been delayed by City Council inaction.
Newman said it’s time residents got involved, which is why he launched his effort – dubbed the Citizens Renewal Task Force.
“I don’t like protesting what governments do without offering alternatives,” said Newman. “And I thought, ‘What the hell, I’ll pay for the place and I’ll have a town hall meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to acknowledge that we have problems and hopefully some of the citizens will come forward with some kind of proposals.”
Newman said he has distributed fliers throughout the city inviting people from every neighborhood and socioeconomic background. He expects a crowd of 20 to 200, he said.
Among the participants will be Ophelene Moore of the Haven Acres Neighborhood Association.
“I’m interested in what’s going on,” said Moore, who had followed the progress of the city’s revitalization plan but didn’t agree with its recommendations.
“That’s why I’m going,” she said. “And I’m bringing about four other people.”
City Council President Fred Pitts said elected officials are aware of the meeting, and some of them plan to attend. They will listen to the comments but not interfere in the process.
It’s unclear whether the ad-hoc task force will succeed in crafting a viable plan and what that plan could mean for the existing proposal now on the table.
“We’re not going to stop talking about or working on the reinvestment plan from the council standpoint, and I can’t tell you what the council may or may not want to do,” Pitts said. “But I think it’s reasonable to wait on any action” until Newman’s efforts can be determined.