OUR OPINION: Tupelo budget process affirms a civic strength

Through the years, Tupelo leaders and community development experts across the nation have touted and studied what’s been called “the Tupelo way.”

It’s shorthand for the consensus-building approach to improving the community that has set Tupelo apart from towns that are fragmented, factionalized and always fighting. It’s a solutions-oriented mind-set that puts the good of the community above personalities and personal agendas and that seeks in all things to find common ground.

Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton and members of the City Council have provided an example of what that can look like in their recent deliberations on the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, which will take effect Oct. 1, 2014.

Last year, in the new mayor and council’s first budgeting process together, things got a bit rocky with some early disagreements and power struggles. This year, the tone has been completely different, as reporter Robbie Ward recounted in Sunday’s Daily Journal.

Differing viewpoints have been aired, for sure, but a spirit of compromise has permeated the proceedings and there’s been genuine give and take. No one came in insisting that they get everything they wanted. Real concessions were made.

The result is impressive: A budget that will include the first surplus since before the economic downturn in 2008 and that likely will be approved unanimously.

Better communication is part of the reason. The mayor and council, through a first-time budget committee, began joint deliberations earlier than in the past. And the traumas that the mayor, council and the rest of Tupelo have endured together since December – the police shootings and the tornado – no doubt have solidified a desire for greater unity and teamwork.

But individuals have to act accordingly, and the good news is the people in Tupelo city government have acted responsibly and constructively in their most important single task: deciding how the taxpayers’ money is spent.

Imagine what would happen in Washington if the White House and members of both parties in Congress actually put the good of the country ahead of partisan posturing. Imagine if they actually pursued compromise and consensus instead of the rigidity of dysfunctional gridlock.

So the Tupelo mayor and council have given us a good example this budget session of how the politics of governance ought to work. And they have done so in the best tradition of “the Tupelo way.”