OUR OPINION: City Hall discussions move renewal forward

By NEMS Daily Journal

Tupelo’s elected leaders apparently have reached an unofficial agreement to allow neighborhood renewal on West Jackson Street to move forward with increased City Council oversight and managerial participation by the nonprofit Neighborhood Development Corporation.
Internal discussions in City Hall apparently shaped the tentative agreement, which would allow limited expenditures for the ongoing West Jackson Street revitalization, with the Community Development Foundation transferring city funds, previously approved, to the NDC, whose board is filled with financial and real estate professionals.
Everyone involved in hammering out the compromise is due commendation. It represents continuation of a long history of the way Tupelo approaches important issues involving the public and private sectors seeking the common good for the whole community.
The West Jackson Street project was initiated by Mayor Jack Reed Jr. and a council majority as part of a long-term effort to revitalize neighborhoods in decline and attract new residential development, especially to young adults and young families.
Under terms discussed Tuesday afternoon in a council work session, the NDC would be allowed to spend up to $500,000 during the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013, which ends Sept. 30, on the project in increments not to exceed $250,000 each. Each expenditure would include a report to the council before work could proceed to a new segment.
A council majority had objected to handing over full day-to-day authority to the NDC, whose leadership at first said it would not agree to anything less than full control and decision power. The tentative agreement apparently changes that and other positions previously held by the parties involved in discussing the project.
As Ward 7 Councilman Willie Jennings noted, the short leash better empowers the council to stop expenditures if the project doesn’t progress as the council intends.
Tupelo, of course, is not alone among cities of its size in struggling to renew, refresh and rebuild in the face of declining middle class residency, especially young adults, the demographic on which every community stakes the vitality of long-term growth and prosperity.
Neighborhood renewal has the connected effect of strengthening Tupelo’s public schools and economic vitality within the city.
The productive discussion shaping the agreement, which is expected to come to a vote Tuesday night, can serve as a model for similar issue resolutions moving forward into a new city administration.