Tupelo’s City Council, working outside the familiarity of its chambers in City Hall, agreed during the final stage of a working/planning retreat on key goals for the city during the four-year term that began in July.
Mayor Jason Shelton and six of the seven council members (Ward 6 Councilman Mike Bryan was absent) agreed that helping small businesses, revitalizing neighborhoods and keeping all residents better informed about city business top the priorities list in City Hall.
The agreement was arrived at despite strong disagreement about budget issues for 2014 – the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. The budget is scheduled for a vote at a special council meeting today.
The elected officials participating in Saturday’s wrap-up session of the retreat – which began in August over two days at Tombigbee State Park – said expressions of intense loyalty to Tupelo and doing what’s necessary to move Tupelo forward were exceptionally encouraging.
When elected leaders agree strongly on the basics of their service and the importance of creating progress the details of big goals often are more easily within grasp.
Sometimes, even with positions strongly set, a compromise position will become apparent during discussions and debate. Knowing that everyone at the table wants important core values and goals met might make productive compromises more attractive.
The positive statements during the goal-setting session suggest that the City Council and the mayor know Tupelo already has assets that help “sell” the city to prospects and that strengthening what’s in hand won’t require starting from scratch.
Those assets include a comprehensive, successful street construction plan, a comprehensive parks and recreation program, the largest retail concentration in north Mississippi, and plenty of room for both commercial and residential growth.
We believe the emphasis on communication with all residents is especially important. Governing the city should be an open process, and all major undertakings should be clearly communicated to residents well in advance of implementation. Transparency doesn’t guarantee unanimous agreement but it makes support and approval more probable.
The staff at Mississippi State University’s Stennis Institute, which is a consultant to the city, likely will revisit the group in a year to check on success toward reaching its goals.