EMILY LE COZ: Debate is a good thing

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

I’ve never felt prouder to call Tupelo home than during the recent months of political turmoil. As a reporter, of course, I enjoy turmoil because it makes for a good story. But there’s a difference between pointless controversy and one with purpose. And after having reported on broken government in other places – places which shall remain nameless in this column – I know too well the difference.
Tupelo, despite its occasional mishaps, consistently delivers good government. The most recent debate about the city’s future drives home that point.
Recent census data reveals Tupelo’s population grew just 1 percent in the past decade while some of its northern suburbs amassed an incredible amount of people and wealth. At the same time, the city school district has achieved lackluster academic rankings and has struggled to balance its minority-to-white ratios.
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. proposed a series of sweeping initiatives to reverse the trend, which were met with a good dose of skepticism and surprise by the City Council, many of whose members were caught off guard by the suggestions.
In the ensuing weeks, city leaders have fiercely debated the issue. They questioned its validity, its root causes, its potential solutions and the costs associated with solving it – and if it’s even solvable.
The discussions have been heated, and they’ve struck a chord with countless residents – many of whom have weighed in with phone calls, emails, letters and online forums. Sometimes it seems the entire city has gone mad with passion either for or against one part of the plan or another.
I find it all extremely invigorating and also quite hopeful because it means our citizens are engaged. We often hear stories about Americans who don’t care about government or don’t pay attention to what happens at City Hall. It’s the classic disengaged, couch-potato syndrome. And, thankfully, it isn’t true in Tupelo.
Say what you will about the proposal to revitalize Tupelo – love it or hate it – but don’t say it hasn’t been a healthy debate. It has energized this city like I’ve never seen before.
Sure, I’d like to see people tone down the nasty rhetoric and stop the senseless name-calling. But I’d rather take the sometimes-hostile passion of a good discussion than the silence of a thoughtless herd of cow-people.
Time will tell how Tupelo will emerge from the turmoil, but I personally feel we’re all better for going through it. It’s classic Tupelo.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@journalinc.com.