EDITORIAL: Critical hearings

The Tupelo City Council’s decision to hold two public hearings next week on the proposed Tupelo Neighborhood Reinvestment Plan appropriately follows overwhelming approval of Phase 5 of the Major Thoroughfare Program by Tupelo’s voters.
Hearings, which will include break-out sessions with all four committees and direct question-answer and comment opportunities – have been set for 6 p.m. Monday at the BancorpSouth Arena conference rooms and 6 p.m. Thursday at the Link Centre.
Council President Fred Pitts of Ward 2 said both hearings offer an opportunity for feedback and to clear any remaining misunderstandings about what the proposals for new housing loans, stronger rental standards, a bold state university tuition plan for all high school graduates living in the city, and grants for improvements to existing residences would do – and how they would work without requiring a tax increase.
Jon Milstead, vice president for community planning with the Community Development Foundation, said CDF staff members who worked with the four citizen committees also will be at the hearings to provide information and answers.
Phase 5 of MTP won approval of 83 percent of those voting; it is funded by a 10-mill property tax first approved in 1991 and successfully extended in four referendums since. Results obviously build confidence. The first referendum, it is noteworthy, was the closest margin.
The neighborhood reinvestment plan would use the city’s bonding capacity and revenue from fees on rental property owners, whether individuals or corporations.
The reinvestment plan was conceived after new U.S. Census data revealed the extent of Tupelo’s middle class population loss and median income weakening, which combined with school system performance and leadership issues to create harmful community divisions.
Passage of full funding for MTP eases some of the concerns expressed about earlier plans for reinvestment and redevelopment.
The vexing problems remain, but the atmosphere for successfully addressing them is better.
A City Council vote on the reinvestment proposals is possible in June.
Major Thoroughfare Committee Chairman Greg Pirkle said Wednesday, in response to a Journal question about community-building beyond the MTP, “I believe that the thoroughfare program is critical for the success of the city, but I don’t believe that it is the only critical issue. We must address the loss of middle-class residents from Tupelo. I think that we need to be deliberate and thorough in selecting a plan that can work and then get the community behind it. I want to do my part to make that happen.”
Broader views like Pirkle’s are necessary in reclaiming Tupelo’s momentum.

NEMS Daily Journal