A month to go Tupelo campaigns heading toward party primary vote

The final month in Tupelo’s municipal primary election season starts today, and candidates for City Council and mayor can be expected to increase the energy levels of volunteers and their personal campaigning.
Campaigns at their best bring forward issues that inevitably develop in governance: what works and doesn’t, what’s needed but not provided, what’s too costly and what’s underfunded.
These basic questions, plus more topical concerns like the final disposition of and action stemming from the controversial ethics study that’s under review by the State Auditor’s Office, final action on a long-proposed but so far unfruitful annexation initiative, and kicking the city’s role in housing and development into high gear, require transparent discussion by those who would govern and lead.
As Emily Le Coz reported in the April 2 edition, the next mayor holds the responsibility for continuing and/or changing departmental leadership – an executive prerogative clearly defined in the mayor-council form of government. The mayor’s major appointments, including the Tupelo School Board and various commissions, authorities and committees, require council confirmation.
While personalities should not become the focus in campaigns, departmental performance, administration, and vision for service should be among the issues raised by voters and discussed by candidates.
Candidates who don’t listen and respond to citizen-raised issues during campaigns aren’t likely to respond as public officials.
The weeks leading to the primaries and the election offer prime opportunity to ask questions about a range contentious issues, all previously noted and widely discussed during the current four-year term:
n Factionalism within the City Council, extending to soured relations with the mayor’s office and obvious impact on moving forward to meet many important issues.
n The role of the City Council, which is legislative, and the mayor’s office, which is executive and managerial, modeled after the U.S. Constitution.
n The absence of notice before the fact of executive nominations. The prerogative to nominate is the mayor’s, but discussion of potential nominees would prevent taking council members wholly by surprise, which often leads to unnecessary argument.
n The need to reaffirm the desirable, essential and competent role of volunteer committees, like Major Thoroughfare, in accepting their recommendations, preceded by thorough study, rather than attempting to micro-manage projects and even entire departments, infringing on departmental and mayoral authority, and energizing factions within the rank-and-file of city employees.
n A review of the affirmative action policies of city government with the intention of making committees, commissions, and authorities more closely reflective of Tupelo’s diversity by race, ethnicity and gender. In other words, let official Tupelo reflect the city’s face.
n Follow through on actions taken to strengthen the city’s development and housing capacity. Tupelo has fallen behind some of its peer cities in the middle south region in zoning, design ordinances, code innovation, and strongly directing growth patterns and quality of life issues.
n Better communication and broad cooperation with the Lee County Board of Supervisors, whose districts include the whole city. If the City Council and the Board of Supervisors aren’t working together, Lee County suffers the consequences. We’re all Lee Countians.
The Daily Journal’s special pre-primary candidate coverage begins April 19.
The primary vote is May 5.
We welcome readers’ opinions about Tupelo city issues for publication as a letter to the editor. Guidelines are printed at the top of today’s page; e-mail letters to joe.rutherford@djournal.com. The letters deadline for the primary is Friday, May 1.

Joe Rutherford

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