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