City leaders last year began a thorough examination of policy options for reversing the trend of outmigration, and the central issue of declining older neighborhoods came to the fore in the discussion.
Strong neighborhoods are the lifeblood of any community. A variety of safe, stable, aesthetically pleasing and generally livable neighborhoods is vital to attracting and retaining city residents and ensuring a reliable tax base.
Neighborhood decline usually isn't confined. Once a neighborhood is infected with blight, it tends to spread to the next one and the one after that. It doesn't take long for an entire area of town to lose its appeal as a good place to live.
But the good news is that the same thing is true for neighborhood revitalization. Once a neighborhood's residents become determined to improve their surroundings, others catch the bug. Renewal, like blight, is contagious.
The mayor and City Council were unable to agree on a comprehensive plan to attack the problems that have put Tupelo in danger of losing much of its middle class, but they at least agreed on the beginnings of a neighborhood revitalization strategy. It's kicking off this summer with the demolition of blighted, crime-attracting apartments and construction of a neighborhood park in the Clayton Avenue area. That's a good start, and there should be more such projects.
But the bread and butter of neighborhood stability is strong codes and vigorous enforcement. On this, there seems to be general agreement even among officials who can't agree on other approaches.
Code enforcement has risen to a top city priority. City officials whose job it is to ensure ordinances are followed have made it clear they are serious, and this spring and summer they'll be in full enforcement mode.
To help spread the message, the Daily Journal begins today a 10-week series of articles to run each Monday detailing the main areas the enforcement crackdown will address. Some of the issues may seem small in the overall context of neighborhood revitalization, but small things, taken together, can eventually add up to big problems. And a culture of lax enforcement has allowed small problems to mushroom into big ones over the years.
Tupelo has ordinances in effect that if fully enforced could make a significant difference in the health of many of its neighborhoods. The city's renewed enforcement effort is a welcome step in the right direction.