JIM NEWMAN: Tupelo Citizens’ Task Force expands discussions

By Jim Newman

The Tupelo Citizens’ Task Force held its second meeting Aug. 4 at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, discussing each segment of the Tupelo Neighborhood Reinvestment Proposal.
Highlights of the discussion follow:
• Strategy 1 – “Establish $10 million loan fund using Tupelo funds.”
“Tupelo funds” means Tupelo taxpayers’ money. The amount designated is estimated to assist 300 home purchases in Tupelo. Attendees felt the method of addressing the goal was not acceptable and that taxpayer money should not be used to subsidize home loans. If a subsidized loan program is established, it should have maximum income caps and be offered to Tupelo rental residents first.
• Strategy 2 –“ Improve the competitive housing product in Tupelo.”
Method: “Establish a $1 million home improvement matching contract fund. Establish a $7,500 maximum and a $2,500 minimum amount for each home.” Citizens believe the option should be offered to homeowners whose homes do not meet code to bring an existing structure up to code. The “no income limitations or no restrictions to access” is not an acceptable proposal.
• Method “target, acquire and remove blighted and substandard housing units in Tupelo. Establish a $2 million property maintenance fund. Concentrate on the removal of dwellings and apartments that would greatly improve the attraction, property values and public safety of surrounding neighborhoods.” The question is where will the people go – where will they live? If we oust a family through this plan and provide no alternative, we have failed to live up to our moral responsibility. Citizens were in favor of stringent code enforcement. The lack of code enforcement has damaged this city and those who have had to live in these properties. Both property owners and renters should be required to complete a course offered by the city on the Code before they receive a permit to offer for rent property or to rent that property. The city should maintain a list of all approved rental property.
• What does “sustain school performance” have to do with anything? “Statistics show that Southern communities with fewer than 30 percent rental dwellings typically have a crime rate that is less than the national average. Research also generally shows that Mississippi communities with low proportions of rental properties typically have a higher performing school district.” (Tupelo Neighborhood Renewal Program) If Tupelo were to remove poverty, unemployment and under-employment, it would have a higher income level, a higher level of scholastic achievement and be a great place to live. That is precisely what we should be striving for – for all of Tupelo citizens.
Other thoughts:
• A joint venture, either public/hospital or city/hospital should be considered to determine the feasibility of a retirement community development in south Tupelo, possibly at the intersection of Highway 6 and South Gloster.
• Survey homes presently for sale in Tupelo to determine why they are for sale and where owners are moving. Conduct a study by one of our universities to determine why people moved to surrounding cities and new arrivals located to surrounding communities. Such a survey should be accomplished prior to the first taxpayer dollar’s being spent on Strategy 1. The Citizen’s Task Force’s next meeting will be Aug. 30, 6:30 p.m., at the Link Centre.
Jim Newman is a civic activist and a retired entrepreneur. Contact him at www.tupelocitizens.com