Arrogrance

Yep, read this mornings DJ article about tonights meeting and am astounded with Fred Pitts’ attitude that he (the council) does not need the citizens input about anything. They are about to spend $35 milllion on a general operating budget plus additional millions on college tuition, road overlays, swimming pool, basketball court and, since we havent’t seen a proposed budget, who knows what else. This is the very reason for a peoples uprising. If, WE THE PEOPLE, no longer have a voice in local city government, how do you think we can ever accomplish anything as a nation.If the City Coouncil knows what is best or us, then we have lost our freedoms so why bother with electiions. Just let the chosen few appoint the Council members. See you tonight..

Tuition

This morning’s paper reports the Mayor is proposing, via the city annual budget, creating a fund to pay for the junior and senior years of college tuition. This was part of the Tupelo Neighborhood Reinvestment Plan that was tabled. I have reviewed the “comments” section and actually find very little discussed as approving or disapproving this concept. The funds will come out of the annual budget and not part of bond money. What are your thoughts. Next meeting Tuesday the 30th, 6:30 P.M. at the Link Center.

City of Hope Proposal Revised

                                                                                                                                                            PREFACE 

Tupelo should strive to develop an inclusive, cosmopolitan community that offers   Hope   to every resident and  potential resident. Offer this Hope, and people will always   desire   to live  here.  No one will want to move away—middle  class or otherwise. With  innovative thought by community leaders, Tupelo can  become a genuine City of Hope  for everyone   of its citizens for generations  to come.

 

Tupelo is at an historic crossroads in its development as a city. Our community is now composed of an extremely diversified population.  The city can continue with the old   ways of  development with a select few business leaders making all the decisions, or it can aspire to incorporate an entirely new, more transparent development process.  Tupelo can become a genuine poster image for  a true American Experiment.   The city  needs to embrace a developmental process where every citizen has the right and the power to know about and to question all that goes on in the public sphere.  Tupelo should become a far more transparent decision making city. 

The suggestions in this paper are not  designed to denigrate past development procedures.   On the contrary, these new ideas would  clearly be built on the successes of the past. However,   after generations of ignoring  its growing minority population, its growing  homosexual and  avant gard  population, its non-Christian population, and essentially  dismissing the poor  among us in favor of letting the federal government solve those  seemingly  intractable problems,  Tupelo is now being forced to deal with all of these issues at once in the most difficult way possible—face to face.  Ignoring these difficult  issues is no longer  an option.

 

SUGGESTIONS FOR REVITALIZING TUPELO WITH A NEW DEVELOPMENT PARADIGM, PARALLEL TO TUPELO’S EXISTING DEVELOPMENTAL PARADIGM 

As is  stated in Tupelo’s  current Neighborhood Revitalization Plan:  A Comprehensive Plan is a  “blueprint”   that provides guidance as to where  and how this community will grow.   Addressing three main questions:

(1)
What is the status of the city of Tupelo,  right now?

(2)
What is the vision for the city of Tupelo  in the future?

(3)
What needs to happen to achieve that vision?

There are many answers to these three questions.   Traditionally, Tupelo leaders  have offered economic related  answers to  these questions, i.e. creative housing  programs, spending more money on  education, luring businesses,  creating jobs,  and, currently, accenting these  efforts with stricter code enforcement and other  money related policies.    No question.   All these efforts for solving problems are  important endeavors to  consider.  However, here are additional answers to the  three questions above that could serve as points of discussion,  as well,  for how  Tupelo’s current effort  at revitalization might take place:

What is the status of the city of Tupelo, right now?

  • Tupelo’s middle class is moving to city’s  suburbs in large numbers.
  • Freeways make worker’s commute easy, so people move outside city.
  • Social realities place Tupelo public schools on “Academic Watch.”
  • Lowincome housing and rental units in Tupelo on the rise.
  • TheMall at Barnes Crossing dominates Tupelo’s retail market.
  • Business development outside Barnes Crossing is challenging.
  • No entrepreneurial industry replaced furniture industry to create jobs.
  • Suburban and private schools score better academically thanTupelo.
  • Elvis and Natchez Trace need more support to create more visitors.
  • Toyota is coming and needs to experience a more cosmopolitan city.
  • The black population in Tupelo will soon surpass the white population,                                                                                                                                                                                        just as it has recently done in Tupelo public schools.

This list poses difficult, complex issues for Tupelo.  Tupelo  is in monumental  transition and has been for more than 20 years.  Both the city government and the private
business/civic leaders are currently dealing with these issues as best they can.  However, Tupelo leaders are adhering to an outdated  problem solving paradigm.   The old paradigm isn’t as applicable to Tupelo’s current complex realities as it needs to be.

An additional Tupelo development paradigm is required to meet the challenges of the 21stCentury.  This paper suggests directions for a new paradigm and how to implement it.

The Taoist Chinese philosopher Laozi once wrote:   “The more (laws) there are, the poorer people become.”  More laws mean less freedom for  citizens.  Laozi’s dictum could be directed  at the legal laws of governance.   But, this dictum could also be true for age-old unwritten  societal laws.  Societal laws are part of what could be  called “common sense” laws in a given  society.  Unfortunately, some outdated common sense societal laws still infect the modern day South, and for our specific purposes, Tupelo.   It is difficult to amend societal  common sense laws because these laws  are not written on paper.  They are written in our hearts and minds.

When things begin to go wrong in a community, existing laws—whether written or  unwritten–need to be re-assessed.   Things are definitely going wrong in Tupelo,
today.  Our problems could relate to legal laws, but Tupelo’s  unwritten societal laws  pose some of our greatest problems.

In Tupelo, societal laws relate to old common sense “Southern white” laws.   These laws generally are directed against  citizens groups such as blacks and other racial minorities, against homosexuals,  against non-conformists (certain artists, musicians, writers, tc), and against the poor.   The groups just listed are sometimes called the “fringe” elements of society.  But, is  “fringe” really the correct adjective in modern Tupelo?

These “fringe” groups combined amount to more than 60% of  the Tupelo population.   This is not a “fringe” number.   This is a majority.

Traditionally, it has been hard for the status quo white Southern power structure in Tupelo to deal  with all  these “fringe” citizens face to face, as equals.  But, today, given the nature of Tupelo’s problems,  face to  face dealings have now become a necessity.  In a sense, the positive Hopeful  future of Tupelo is at stake.   Certainly we must always be mindful of public safety and be  mindful of public decency;  but if  Tupelo is to  continue to grow and prosper as a cosmopolitan, modern community, Tupelo’s current and  deeply ingrained Southern “common sense” societal laws  need adjusting.  Nothing related to this adjustment will be easy, but it is absolutely necessary—long term, short term, and certainly  because of Toyota’s impending “term” in our area.

Tupelo was a poor, small Mississippi farming community 85 years ago that aspired to be something better in the modern age.   Throughout most of the 20thCentury, Tupelo was  generally unified in the public actions it took in  order to develop into an  outstanding community.   The majority of the leaders, if not the people in general after initial reluctance, who lived  here were in widespread agreement that we needed jobs to get people off hard-scrabble farms and into a better life.   These unified community goals of  “jobs, jobs, jobs” and “businesses,businesses, businesses”  became an accepted “common sense” developmental  paradigm for Tupelo.  Tupelo developed and succeeded economically.

However, Tupelo failed to concentrate heavily on the more difficult societal issues, like true racial intergration,  dealing honestly and openly with homosexuality, nurturing the  extreme poor, and accepting the avant gard non-conformists in society.  No genuine effort was made to integrate these  “fringe” groups into Tupelo’s power structure  in any meaningful way. The dominant Tupelo common sense at the time was luring businesses  and creating jobs.  Leaders throughout this period felt “just like with ships and a tide, a rising economic tide  raises the lifestyle of all people.”  The leaders simply did not concentrate on the “fringe.”

We needed manufacturing companies and new entrepreneurial businesses to provide non-farm jobs; we needed high quality public schools; we needed better medical facilities; we needed a highly motivated work force; we needed professionals to service these new business efforts; we needed a musical, historical, and an artistic culture to keep pace  with a growing successful community and much, much more.  We needed the extraordinary Tupelo leaders, thinkers,
and entrepreneurs to be successful and to provide a degree of Hope for the rest of us. We got all of the above.  The Tupelo economic transformation was exceptionally successful.

Tupelo’s remarkable leaders during the last three generations of the 20th Century achieved these goals, not  really through written laws, but by exercising unwritten economic common  sense.  The leader’s developmental paradigm for Tupelo was  right on target for the vast majority of the population throughout most of  those generations.  But, over the last decade or so, this traditional paradigm appears to have lost some of its  effectiveness.

Those “fringe” citizens mentioned above whom generally did not gain power—to any  great extent—in Tupelo’s growth process grew at even faster pace than the rest  of the city’s population.  But, they did not reap substantial rewards for a variety of complicated reasons.  Today, the majority of people in Tupelo don’t even feel  like they are stakeholders in the city.

The “fringe” groups are not a part of the Tupelo public weal or commonwealth.  They just occupy the geography of Tupelo.  A citizen’s avenue to Hope in any given community should never be blocked.   If normal citizens are blocked from Hope in their life, eventually, that community will wither and not thrive.

With every passing year, it is becoming glaringly apparent that what worked at one  time in Tupelo’s past appears no longer to work as well as it did.  Our school system is starting to show  academic weakness and disciplinary problems;   our manufacturing base is  evaporating;  people are leaving our once Hopeful city for the suburbs; our  hospital is  vulnerable because were it not for government programs of varying  sorts and liberal government insurance payments,  the North Mississippi Medical  Center would be no where near the incredible facility it is today;  the professional base  that developed to service all these new businesses—doctors,  lawyers, engineers, accountants, teachers, consultants, etc– is  now at risk  because of the over-arching business and social decline;  and, our cultural and  artistic endeavors are essentially  at a standstill because they were created as  an adjunct to our traditional developmental paradigm, not as a standalone industry and social catalyst.  For all of these accumulating problems and vulnerabilities,  Tupelo needs to adjust its traditional developmental paradigm and its societal “common sense” laws.

Tupelo needs to put forth a different type of“common sense” to deal with its 21st Century challenges—not in place of the existing traditional business development paradigm but parallel to it.

This new growth paradigm suggested in this paper does not need to be accepted at face value, but it should be  considered, discussed, and improved.  The suggestions here place more emphasis on  citizens solving our current  problems and less on city government solving those problems.  City government did not create  the success of Tupelo.    Entrepreneurial minded citizens did,  working with city government.  There is no  validity in thinking city government policies can solve our problems.  City government is not set up to handle the  vast majority of Tupelo’s most pressing  current problems.  City government can certainly continue to help, but Tupelo citizens must carry the heaviest  public load.   This new  parallel development paradigm for Tupelo, working along side the old paradigm,  can begin with a discussion     and, perhaps, the eventual implementation of the  specific ideas delineated below.

What is the vision for the city of Tupelo in future? 

Tupelo should become a genuine City of Hope for all its citizens.  City of Hope would also be the name of a new civic non-governmental organization (CNGO) that should be formed, containing  board members.

This City of  Hope CNGO is a volunteer citizen discussion, problem solving group that pin-points,   evaluates,  and seeks consensus on answers affecting all of the difficult issues  confronting Tupelo,   not only from a business standpoint but from a cultural standpoint. These  issues might be known  or unknown to the general population.

City of Hope meetings would always be open to the public and, at appropriate times in the meetings, allow public input.  The group would meet twice per month on  Thursday nights. Appropriate rules of conduct in these meetings will always be strictly observed and enforced.

It is hoped that by appealing to a citizen’s altruism and the fact that this is  genuinely a historical effort to make  Tupelo a better place, City of Hope  would get qualified and concerned citizens to sit on its board and  participate  in ways these citizens have never done in public activities.

With the creation of City of Hope, the city administration or city council would no  longer be able to say—like they did with the Tupelo Neighborhood Reinvestment  Act—“we just don’t have any alternative plans.”  City of Hope will be dedicated to  providing alternatives for existing public policies, and in some instances,  even coming up with  new policy ideas and projects for the city and its citizens  to consider.  City of Hope is a grassroots citizens group purposefully operating outside city government but  also parallel to it with Tupelo’s best interests at heart.

There would be 15  to 19 members on the City of Hope board– presidents of  neighborhood associations, PTOs of each school, and 7 at large members.  It is  important for  Board members in City of Hope to see the fruits of their efforts  paying off in the public  weal.  Therefore, it is important to get local news media coverage for what City of Hope is doing on a regular  basis.  City of Hope will also make ample use of the new media—internet websites, handhelds,  Facebook,  Twitter, etc—to get its message of Hope out to the general Tupelo population.

City of Hope board members should rotate off the  board or as their terms of office in other associations end.  Appointed members would serve staggered four year terms to preserve continuity.

The over arching effort of City of Hope is to make people understand  that their individual lives in their  city matters.

What needs to happen to achieve that vision?

Specific Idea #1

In addition to being board members for City of Hope, these same  board members will be asked to join various traditional civic organizations and take an active part in those groups, like  Rotarians, Lions Club, Kiwanis, Civitan, Friends of Lee County Library, Lee  County NAACP, National Council of Negro Women, and other groups of their choosing that can contribute to the overall effort of community involvement by City  of Hope.

In essence, City of Hope needs to revive the positive power of these civic non-governmental  organizations (CNGOs)  that have lost membership in recent years for a variety  of social reasons and to begin to bridge the enormous racial, cultural, and  economic chasms in our community. Those CNGOs include:

(1)  Fraternal organizations—Rotarians, Civitans, Lions Clubs, etc

(2)  Volunteer organizations—Scouts, Meals on Wheels, etc

(3) Civic Commissions—History Society, Arts, Festivals, etc

(4)  Self–help Groups—Toastmasters, Salvation Army, et

These organizations provide avenues for whites and blacks and the “fringe” in our  society genuinely to interact face to face in community volunteer work.  The dollar amount to fund this CNGO effort  could only be described as “negligible.”

This effort would expose all “fringe” groups to the existing status quo power structure of Tupelo  on a regular basis.   All these groups can try to work together and eventually even learn from one another.  The vast majority of the Tupelo  black and “fringe” population has never been exposed to civic responsibility in a meaningful way.  None of these “fringe” groups likely believe  they would ever even have the chance to become a contributing part of the Tupelo community.  The white Tupelo power structure has likely never  thought the blacks, the poor, the gays, the avant gard or the less powerful of  any skin color could make meaningful contributions to “white” civic work.  Both  sides of this societal equation must be proved  wrong,  if Tupelo is to continue to be successful.  Success in this arena will take an enormous  amount of patience and tolerance  and reasoned thought by all participating  groups.  But, cooperation is vital to Tupelo’s success going forward.

By citizens becoming involved in civic non-governmental organizations, the groundwork is laid for important public  discussions and lays out participatory  principles for all the civic ideas in this plan to help change Tupelo for the better.

This inclusive City of Hope organization should offer a written set of core values and dedicate itself to the advancement of civic success, citizens’ self-reliance, civic training, business training, leadership skills, self-government, self-control, and  appropriate considerations to moral order.  This inclusive group should reflect a general consensus of thought for other citizens to emulate that cut across all the seemingly intractable social divisions, such as race, gender, sexual preference, intelligence, power, and income.

Specific Idea #2

In addition to CNGOs,  Tupelo churches—both black and white– should play a vital role in the work of City of Hope.   Churches represent the largest citizen groups in Tupelo.  It does not matter if someone is a Christian or not,  no one can minimize  the power of Churches in Tupelo.

Churches can be more helpful to our community working in powerful unison through the City of Hope, rather than working  through city government,  because there are no legal  restrictions against it, as there are with churches working through governments.

In order to discern moral choices compared to immoral choices in life, human  beings need to be exposed to both choices  genuinely to understand which avenue  to travel in life.  Churches provide a moral structure for a community to follow.  Immoral structures are all around us in the secular world.  We do not have to search for them.  They stampede over us everyday.

Is morality only available in churches?  For many people, the answer to that question is “no.”  For a great many others,  the answer is unequivocally “yes.”

Can decent moral choices be made outside the church?  Yes.  Can immoral choices be made inside the church?  Yes.

Can moral choices be made inside the church?  Yes.  Can immoral choices be made outside the church?  Yes.

All the answers are “yes” because all of us are part of the human condition.  Different factions in society define what is moral and immoral differently. The  point here is that most people generally try to do what is best for themselves.  Sometimes their actions are moral, sometimes immoral.  It depends on what element in society is  passing judgment.

We want citizens involved in City of Hope to view themselves deep  inside as generally “good.”  Seeing themselves as generally “good” is, perhaps, the major qualification for City  of Hope board members.  We are trying to get citizens to unite in a consensus for doing what is best for Tupelo.   In this consensus, it becomes necessary to respect the morality of  others and act accordingly.  Simply  because someone is not a Christian, it is not necessary to ostracize them from your life.  But, also, just because  someone is Christian, it is not necessary to ostracize them from your life.   Both believers and non-believers  believe differently.  So what?

The over-arching goal here is to make Tupelo better.  Both Christians and non-Christians must contribute to that effort.  Both live in this community. Both have an obligation to respect one another as human beings and work with one another for the betterment of Tupelo.  They also have an obligation not to flaunt their own morality on one another in any types of overt ways when working for  the common good of making Tupelo a better place.

Churches can contribute to making Tupelo better because by their creed it is the “right” thing to do.  Churches can help  people.  If in the process, some people absorb the teachings of the church and help Tupelo, so be it.  If some people reject  the church but still help Tupelo, so be it.

Church participation in City of Hope is to assist those churches to continue to grow and prosper in inner city Tupelo by keeping Tupelo economically and  culturally healthy, not to assist the churches in their proselytizing efforts.  The  non-religious believer’s participation in City of Hope is to make the entire city thrive, not to prove church goers wrong  in their deeply held beliefs.  In both described positions, any proselytizing on either side should never be done overtly but  is done purely by example.

What specifically can be done by churches that choose to be involved with the City of Hope?

1.)  First and foremost, it is important to recognize that churches would only be limited in their collective “good” efforts                                                                                                   by their own well-intentioned  imaginations.

2.)  Churches would always provide at least five (5) church leaders on the rotating City of Hope member board.

3.)  Churches would take an active verbal role in presenting their thoughts for how they think churches can help Tupelo                                                                                                    in Cityof Hope meetings.

4.)  Churches should become involved in mentoring specific “at risk” families in the community, showing that those  churches                                                                        genuinely care about helping those families make their way in life and contributing to Tupelo’s continued success as a community.

5.)  Churches should assist in educational and leadership programs through their own scholastic arms through Cityof Hope,                                                                                  much as they do today with daycare and early school educational programs.

In short, churches need to show—in virtually every way with which they are comfortable—that they truly care about Tupeloans,                                                                                not just in their congregations but all over the city in all walks of life.

Specific Idea #3

The Tupelo Public School District (TPSD) that has been a crown jewel for Tupelo for two generations is becoming less effective.  Leaders can continue to deny it and think that the school system is just having discipline problems, or money problems, or administrative problems, or teacher problems, or any of a myriad of other excuses.

There might be elements of truth in each of the problems listed above, but those  problems are skirting the real issues.  The specific things wrong with the Tupelo  schools are a cultural avoidance problem and a refusal to face facts problem—partly avoiding the poor people problem but mainly avoiding the  majority “black population problem” in a traditionally white majority school.

What is the answer to our education problem?   Whites must genuinely reach out to the black community to help blacks become a significant part of the continuing Tupelo story. It is one thing to reach out to  the black community because whites must do it because of “government  laws.”  It is an entirely different thought process, though, when whites reach out to blacks because whites  genuinely value black opinions in our society. Or, on the flip side, it is an entirely different thought  process when  blacks reach out to whites because they trust them, and they know the white majority genuinely values black  opinions.   We are in such bad shape with our societal common sense laws, to read that last sentence sounds ridiculously  comical.

If  black Tupelo citizens are civically ignored for generations and viewed by the  power structure as merely an underclass that the white community—by law!—must  tolerate, how in the world can blacks ever consider themselves to be a vibrant part of the Tupelo community?

True integration can never be accomplished by laws alone.  It takes involved people  adapting to a new societal  “common sense.”

Tupelo has allowed the Federal Government to usurp its civic obligation to the black members of society because Tupelo leaders have not wanted to deal with  the enormously complicated problems of race.    Tupelo—had it shown extraordinary  racial vision and leadership 55 years  ago—could have been a far better guide for blacks coming off the farm as uneducated, poor, and desperate people in need of assistance than the Federal  Government could ever have provided.

In reality, the Federal Government has been a leading force of black degradation  in major areas in our country, including  Mississippi,  made worse by the stunning indifference by the majority of whites.  The Federal Government might have had the best of intentions, but over the years, it helped destroy the black family,  generally squelched black initiative, and essentially  created a social  nightmare with trillions of dollars spent on social programs that simply didn’t  work.   Money doesn’t solve  problems.  People do.   All of us—white and black—have to live with the results of those  bankrupt national and statewide and local policies and laws, today—both written  and unwritten.  But, failures in the past  don’t mean we can’t solve our own local  problems in the future.

Obviously, because of the racist “common sense” laws 55 years ago,  few whites back then in  Tupelo would have ever even considered making blacks an integral part of this  city’s society.  But, in 2011, we don’t have to live like we did 55 years ago.  The social policies we’re practicing nationally and in Tupelo are obsolete.  Blacks and the poor need to be given the  opportunity for the same Hope we all– as human beings– long  to hear:  “Your life matters.”  

Whites will soon be in the minority in Tupelo.  Tupelo must accept that statistic as fact.  This is not to say, this  demographic change  should be encouraged, but it should be accepted as a fait accompli.  The psychological acceptance  of this fact  should absolutely change the direction of civic thought in black and white relations in Tupelo.  It forces the  current white leadership to  create different types of civic responses and develops the potential for a far  more harmonious  community, rather than simply trying to adhere to the  traditional status quo of the white overclass and the black underclass,  and  Tupelo’s traditional—albeit successful—single paradigm of social growth through  economic leadership only.

The future is a long, long, long time—fraught with peril.  Leaders must figure out ways to include  blacks and other  minorities in Tupelo’s on-going history.  It will save our city  from inevitable decline, as has been experienced by other cities  throughout the  state that did not address these racial and “fringe” issues in a timely manner—Clarksdale, Vicksburg,  Natchez, Meridian, Greenville, Jackson, and  throughout the country—Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Memphis, Atlanta, and many more.  The problems experienced by  these communities do not have to happen in Tupelo.  Tupelo could become  a national example for enlightened thought in the 21stCentury.  

Tupelo was a forward thinking survivor in the last century.  It needs to do what’s necessary to survive and thrive in this century.  The city can do it.   All of Tupelo’s problems are young enough, whereby we can still grapple with them before they get totally too large and out of control.

Are all these ideas expensive?  We don’t even have to spend much money at all to avoid this declining process.  Solutions mainly require organization skills  and personal time—what the sociologists often call spending “social capital.”  We  should no longer tolerate bigotry and racial isolation as  reasonable societal “common sense” laws in Tupelo.  If we do,   it will destroy us for generations, if not forever.

Where can this new common sense change begin?  The aforementioned Tupelo Public School  District should inject the idea of Hope in all its students by teaching  important new student curricula through the prism of   LOCAL applications.  The  study of LOCAL civics, LOCAL history, LOCAL economics, LOCAL arts and music
should be emphasized along with the rest of the school curricula.  Not in place of,  but parallel to the Tupelo school’s  generally  NATIONAL based curricula.

This LOCAL application should not be done with nostalgic cheerleading touting the way things used to be in Tupelo, but with a straight forward common sense approach to the necessities of modern  day  education in Tupelo.  By applying much of the educational curricula to LOCAL applications, the thought process creates LOCAL inclusiveness of students and LOCAL involvement in economics, and LOCAL Hope  for our future.

It is vitally important for all citizens to have a genuine stake in the LOCAL community early in their lives in order to become successful citizens later in life.  The Tupelo schools system can help with that Hopeful goal.

How can we start this LOCAL curricula process?  The same general TPSD relationship between current accelerated classes  offered to students outside the normal school curricula, as well as remedial  classes also offered to students  outside the normal school curricula, could be  used as examples for how these new LOCAL studies curricula could be  set up in  the school system.

Also, starting in late grade school, one hour per week could be devoted to LOCAL  civics instruction and how crucial it is that all children understand LOCAL  civic responsibility in order to develop a harmonious society in Tupelo.  There  are a host  of retired teachers who would likely volunteer their time to help Tupelo with this historic effort.

Since there are legal restrictions between the City and the school system, the structure to these ideas could be created through  the City of Hope, dealing directly with the  school system with the financial assistance and input of participating local  businesses and corporations.  In so many ways, we have a successful, exemplary  city.  Let’s take advantage of  it in  our school system by teaching how the city actually works to our school students  and how it can grow, and, perhaps, more  importantly, show how those struggling, estranged students now creating disciplinary problems in school can participate  in it.  Make all the students we possibly can proud to live in Tupelo and want to make their lives here.

As stated, we need to solicit money for these types of LOCAL scholastic programs,  by seeking corporate financial support through their public outreach budgets or  even concerned public donations.  The money would be spent to develop a teacher’s study guide for instructing students in all the LOCAL subjects listed above.   As stated earlier, there is likely a  dearth of retired teachers who have been shackled by the existing  educational system who would leap at the chance of  making this type of  educational contribution to the community.

The current school curricula dominated by outside power groups, including the Federal Government and union funded groups, will likely fight against this  process.  Tupelo needs to fight for it, though, by simply exercising a new found  societal common sense in doing what’s right for  all its citizens.

This LOCAL educative exercise is important for all students, but it is especially  important for our black students and other minorities.   The current local educational system and civic status quo does not expose so many  black children (and poor white children) and other minorities to the kinds of  thought processes that  are vitally important for them to grow in societal responsibilities for reasons  that we bicker about constantly in our society.  But, no matter what, young black students (as well as many white students) need to understand the value of participating in a Hopeful society.  They need to be taught what Hope is all about and how it can  transform a community and their lives for the better.

We need to identify young black, white, and minority leaders early in school and  concentrate on making them civically and intellectually  whole, so they can  become an adult community leader at the appropriate time in their lives.  This process is crucial to developing a  healthy City of Hope in Tupelo.

We must wean ourselves off of the status quo answers for solving Tupelo’s  educational problems in favor of providing stronger LOCAL educational programs  in innovative ways before it is too late for Tupelo to survive in a positive,  Hopeful way.

Second Meeting Discussions, your turn via the net

The second meeting was held this past Thursday at All Saints Episcopal Church. The results of the meeting are as follows. Each segment of the TNRP was discussed individually to determine acceptance or rejection and issues with each.

Strategy 1.”Establish $10,000,000 loan fund using Tupelo funds.” Tupelo funds means Tupelo taxpayer money. This amount is estimated to assist 300 home purchases in Tupelo. Of the group assembled there was not one single vote in favor of this plan. No one thought the reasons were not valid, but that the method of addressing those goals was not acceptable. Taxpayer money should not be used to subsidise home ownership. There were no alternatives offered. Tupelo tax money should not be used to fund home loans. What was pointed out is that Tupelo as a city offers many amenities not available in any other cities around. Symphony, Little Theater, largest regional medical facility with the best physicians in North Mississippi, the largest and best shopping center in northeast Miss, the best fire and police department, best emergency care, Ballard Park, Oren Dunn Museum, Gum Tree Festival, baseball and soccer fields second to none and the list goes on. In addition we do have the best scholastic offerings of any school system available. No other high school offers the number of Advanced Classes offered by Tupelo High School. Yes there have been problems, but they are being solved. If such a subsidized loan program is established it should have maximum income caps and be offered to Tupelo residents first. Possibly we have some citizens that would like to have a hand up to the middle class but need that down payment. It was pointed out that the max income for a family of four qualifying for that USDA Guaranteed Rural Housing Loan program so frequently offered as the reason for people moving is $73, 400. Make our max income 85,000. If Tupelo puts up the needed 20% down payment there is not a requirement for mortgage insurance. After the past several days watching the stock market and the downgrading of Freddie Mac and Freddie Mae, this plan makes even less sense. The banks would have first lien holder status and Tupelo would be holding an uninsured 2nd mortgage. No taxpayer money for this plan.

Strategy 2. Improve the competitive housing product in Tupelo.
“Establish a $1,000,000 home improvement matching contract fund. Establish a $7500 maximum and a $2500 minimum amount for each home.” Generally not a bad idea but should be offered to existing home owners whose homes do not meet code but could if funds were available  to bring an existing structure up to code. The “no income limitations or restrictions to access” was not acceptable. There should be limitations and should be available to those homes identified by the Planning department as potential improvement houses. This should include rental property as it has been pointed we have to much substandard rental property.

Part 2. “Target, aquire and remove blighted and substandard housing units in Tupelo. Establish a $2,000,000 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” Where do the people go. If we oust a single Mom and her child or children because of where she lives and provide no alternative we have not lived up to our moral responsibility. Nobody should be evicted with no place to go. That is the Tupelo spirit of George McClain. Everybody is important, we have no throw away citizens. If we do, it is a choice they make, not the All American City of Tupelo with a church on almost every corner.

Strategy 3. Establish municipal rental standards to protect renters and property owners in order to foster public safety, sustain school performance, and stablize neighborhoods.” Does this sound like removing the predominately black rental units and there by reduce the majority black population in Tupelo School System? Some think so. Once again we as a society have a moral obligation to insist on better rental property for all our citizens. Surely some of that money should be offered to Tupelo resident land owners to rehab their property and provide decent housing. We have a majority black student population and it isn’t going to change by removing blighted housing. If that is the goal then we need new leadership. Any Section 8 housing that is destroyed should be replaced and offered to the displaced residents. Non discriminatory Code Enforcement of both locally owned and absentee ownership is the answer to this problem. 100% present were in favor of stringent code enforcement. I can’t begin to say how strong the past lack of code enforcement has damaged this city and those that have had to live in these properties. A view shared by all present. The Mayor and the City Council are on track on this issue of code enforcement. Both property owners and renters should be required to complete a course put on 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 available for habitation so that a potential renter can locate property that fits his financial situation and know that is code approved. This would also allow landlords to determine what type of property is being most requested. Fees for inspection should be negotiated so as to be reasonable and in line with the necessary time spent to inspect the subject property. The question begs asking, what does “sustain school performance” have to do with anything. “Statistics show that Southern communities with less that 30% 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.” I’ll bet that if you remove poverty, unemployment and under employment Tupelo would have a higher income level, a higher level of scholastic achievement and be a great placed to live. And that is precisely what we should be striving for. The littlest boats must rise first.

Strateg,y 4 Establish Tupelo Promise

Essentially the plan would offer Tupelo High School graduates who have lived in Tupelo, for five years prior to graduation, two years of college tuition to any public Mississippi University . Although I don’t read where it would be restricted to the junior and senior years of college, I believe that is the case since the first two years can provided at ICC. No one present was in favor of this as it was felt that there are enough avenues for assistance or a part time job. It is hard to believe that an exceptional student would have any trouble gaining assistance but the average or below avg. student could find it hard to find funds if the federal government is successful in trimming funds allocated to college tuition.

While the school system is not subject to Council authority it is influenced by public opinion and therefor is a subject for discussion by the Citizens Task Force and suggestions will be presented to the School Board. We as citizens and tax payers are not out of line letting the board members know what we expect.

There is strong community support for creating a Charter School at the now vacant Church Street School. This is a real reason to move to Tupelo or stay in Tupelo.

The new Superintendent should have goals established by the board and a set number of years to accomplish those goals. Sports coaches are hired based on accomplishment and success and the Tupelo School Superintendent should be no different. Those goals should be established prior to hiring so he/she knows what is expected and how much time is allocated to accomplish that task.

A joint venture, either public/hospital or city/hospital should be investigated to determine the feasibility of a retirement community development in South Tupelo, possibly where Hwy 6 joins South Gloster. We are a certified Miss. Retirement Community and with a regional medical system and  4 lane highway access from all directions to the area.  Traceway as well as area nursing homes have waiting lists. This could be a duplex, condo, apartment complex with amenities like Mud Island offers its residents. Probably would sell out long before Fair Park.

A survey of all the homes presently for sale in Tupelo to determine why they are for sale and where the owners are moving to. Additionally a in depth survey by either University should be conducted to determine why people have already moved to surrounding cities and a survey of those that moved to surrounding communities from other areas. This should be done before the first taxpayer dollar is spent on Strategy 1.

Our next meeting will be Tuesday evening Aug 30th at 6:30 at the Link Center. Comments are welcomed as we are a group of individual citizens come together for the benefit of all Tupelo Citizens. In the mean time look up the Tupelo City 2025 Plan. jim newman

 

What’s next?

A good number of suggestions for considerations have been put forward. All of them have merit. some more than others. I asking a marketing Professor friend of mine to call me and I am going to ask about an research project to determine actually why people have moved as well as why people who have recently moved to the area did not locate in Tupelo. Guesses and I think won’t due if we really want answers. Secondly we can have a separate committee to deal with the schools. The city has no authority in this area and we are better off keeping the schools out of politics. If we have questions we need to address them to the 5 member Board of Trustees. For those that are interested the Board meets August 9th, at 12 PM at the Hancock Learning Center. I encourage to attend. But please no accusations unless you can back it up with facts.That is why a housing survey is so important. There are a number of suggestions on this site. Please review them and decide which three or four that you think are the most important and something we can do something about. I would like to have another meeting of those interested in continuing. I assume if you are reaading this you are interested in participating. Thursday I will be in Starkville at a program addressing the thinngs that can be done to reduce or eliminate poverty. I think God would like to know how to eliminate it, I know I would.I think this is part of the problems we now face. And yes some of it is racist. But poverty does reside in substandard housing and eliminating the housing only moves the poor to another part of town. Check back to see where the meeting will be held. I hope to use the meeting hall at All Saints Church, possibly Thursday evening. When we have the meeting we need to concentrate on the plan put fwd by the CDF, what we don’t like and what we propose in place of it or new ideas to replace spending our tax money. Our problems did not occure overnight or in the past year and they won’t be solved in a year or two by spending 15 mil. Put your thinking caps on. Thanks for all the support. Now the hard work begins and only you as individuals together can bring about the necessary changes to make Tupelo that shining city on the hill. jim

Dansette