EDITORIAL: The Census

Encouraging U.S. Census estimates of city populations in Northeast Mississippi, released this week, stress the importance of growth by both immigration and by prudent annexation.
All of the major Northeast Mississippi urban centers showed some growth, led by Oxford, whose population is up 42 percent since the official 2000 Census. Oxford completed a successful annexation that was preceded by extension of city services into unincorporated areas.
Tupelo’s growth has not been spectacular since the last estimate in 2007, but the 0.6 percent increase brought the population to 36,233, seventh largest statewide and largest in the region. The estimate shows Tupelo has grown by 5.8 percent since 2000.
Tupelo’s total, however, could rise significantly – by about 2,800 people – if the city is able to complete a long-sought and long-delayed annexation.
Tupelo needs land for further growth, primarily residential, and the necessary legal moves have been made but have been opposed formally by Lee County’s Board of Supervisors and the city of Saltillo, which would like to annex area of its own.
The Board of Supervisors inexplicably has not opposed other Lee County municipalities’ plans for annexation.
Tupelo obviously should recheck all its facts, as needed, and continue seeking the land it has identified needing.
Elsewhere, the two largest cities in fast-growing DeSoto County, part of metropolitan Memphis, continue fast-paced growth. Southaven’s population is estimated at 44,076, fifth statewide, and Olive Branch at 31,830, ninth statewide. DeSoto has two of the 10 largest cities, as does Harrison County, with Gulfport, second, and Biloxi, forth.
Lee County’s municipalities besides Tupelo all are growing, with Saltillo and Shannon leading at 6.1 percent each since 2000. Lee County’s county-wide population has grown faster than its municipalities – more than 8 percent since 2000 to more than 81,000 residents. Lee is second in northern Mississippi to DeSoto County, which has an estimated 154,000, a whopping 44 percent increase since 2000.
West Point, which has endured severe employment losses, lost population since the 2007 estimate.
Statewide, Mississippi has grown at 3 percent since the 2000 Census, less than half the 8 percent nationwide growth.
An accurate count next year is paramount because, besides apportionment issues, the Census determines many formula-driven entitlements and other programs. Population count involves points of pride, but the stakes are more tangible for every governmental subdivision, especially counties and municipalities.
Preparations will intensify with the calendar, and every Northeast Mississippian should prepare to be counted in many different ways. The Census doesn’t determine our happiness, but it paints an important national portrait of our diversity with facts about how we live.

NEMS Daily Journal