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

 

5 Responses to “Second Meeting Discussions, your turn via the net”

  1. Lightning says:

    I applaud the efforts of Jim Newman and the group he has formed. This is a difficult issue that does not have have a unanimous outcome, only opinions that may or may not contain a successful conclusion.

    I find the comments disingenuous in that there appears to be no starting point or ground truth from which to base ones conclusions. Again, what is the problem? I still have not heard a common sense definition of the issue and a reasonable solution. Has anyone reached an acceptable understanding of middle class flight, the problem identified by Mayor Reed? None of the strategies are germane if the problems are not properly defined and focused strategies developed to target those problems.

    I must disagree with the assessment of the Tupelo Public School system. It has become average at best with a specious wrapping of self indulgence. Those special classes you talked about are open to any student whose parent requests it of his/her child. There is no RIGOR in that kind of scholastic offering. I have personal experience of the administrative pressures to arbitrarily change failing grades. This improves the numbers of passing students. It’s time that RIGOR be applied to the policies and programs of the administration. The Tupelo Public School system is the single most important element in retaining and attracting families….period. The rest is secondary. Quality of Tupelo’s educational processes and core values have plummeted and need a major rehabilitative effort.

    • jnewman says:

      From the Tupelo Neighborhood Reinvestment Plan as submitted to the City Council.
      :Within the past ten years, tupelo has not capitalized on its share of growth opportunities. Tupelo has experienced both an out-migration of families and a reduction in owner occupied homes in established neighborhoods. As a result, older neighborhoods with fewer amenities have experienced depreciation and an increase in rental homes. At the same time, out-migration of middle-income families has caused an unhealthy socioeconomic shift in our public school system…….. Compounding these challenges are the following: …less expensive, larger home lots with attractive public school system. …Tupelo must improve its competitive community advantage to maintain its success and promote neighborhood reinvestment and family recruitment. For this reason, the following four strategies have been developed by citizen led groups
      coordinated by the Community Development Foundation.” This is the why according to the CDF. I don’t believe the proposed four strategies will achieve the looked for results. I happen to believe the answers to these “problems” reside in Tupelo. Thiis is the reason for the group. We should put forward alternatives. Our next meeting will be Tues. Aug 30th, 6:30 PM at the Link Center. Bring your thoughts on solutions, or maybe the percieved problems are just that, percieved. There has been no scientific surveys that I am aware of. jim

    • davis1 says:

      @lightning

      i appreciate your willingness to post your thoughts.! i hope this open debate forum will help shake out some good ideas and rational thoughts on what are some of our city’s current problems and how can we as a city address them. my comments are meant as conversational and questions, they follow the order of your post.

      #1) this is a difficult issue, there will probably not be a unanimous agreement on what the main issues are or some of the proposed solutions to be undertaken, if any. so…you are saying that we do nothing because of a lack of 100% agreement? i fail to see the logic in that.?

      #2)i’m not sure which comments you are saying are disingenuous? but here is my thought on what this proposal is trying to address.
      ONE of the PROBLEMs: several “middle class” roughly(60k-150k)homes/neighborhoods in the city limits are going down hill/not being kept up to standard. that in turn is leading to lower quality of life in these neighborhoods and schools systems. that is contributing to people and families that are dedicated, committed, passionate about them self, their family and quality of life to look for a better home and quality of life outside of the city. yes, there are other factors that contribute to someone purchasing a home but, the neighborhood and schools are near the top of that list and is an area that we as a city can address.

      #3) i agree that the school system is a major factor in choosing a home, if not the major factor. i agree TPSD has lost a little something( control, discipline, direction,I don’t know exactly??)in the past few years. i don’t think that is something we are trying to address in this proposal. although it is definitely worth the conversation. i do think that the school system and neighborhoods go hand and hand.! it appears the school system is trying to get things turned around this year with new admin.? i’m not involved in that so i cant say much there.

      all i can say is: i know we, the city officials, at the very least need to address code enforcement issues of most all neighborhoods as soon as possible(it is not difficult to drive around the city and see what is happening in these neighborhoods) and if we as a city can offer some kind of assistance/grants to help these families regenerate the neighborhoods i would be so very proud and supportive.

      i hope to see a good group at the next meeting.!

      david

      • Lightning says:

        All comments, opinions and information are appreciated. If I gave the impression that any decision should be unanimous, I apologize. Au contraire! Many solutions today don’t even represent the sentiments of the majority. Instead, outcomes are the result of the power brokers and represent control by the elected official. The feeling of absolute power occurs around year 3 of an elected official’s term.

        My position is that core values and shared factual information will lead to an optimum result. But I strongly feel that the problem has been ill defined. It appears to me that solutions were devised (by the ruling power) and the problem (the Census) then manipulated to justify the strategy to remedy the decline. I have not heard a solid baseline issue from which to establish options. What is really driving citizens from Tupelo? If that is determined, I bet the solution, although difficult to implement, will be fairly simple.

        Having been a teacher with many relatives teachers, I do not share the notion that TPSD has turned the page. I would reserve judgement until a year has passed and results of revised policies can be assessed. However, discipline is not achieved by just distributing a new plan. Leadership is paramount. Substance comes from the execution of a good plan and if the teachers are not equipped with any power, the plan is shallow and without merit. A Blue Ribbon School district Tupelo is not. When administration places pressure on teachers to adjust grades at the end of the year and in some instances just changes the grades, dishonesty rules and the numbers are specious. When parents can put children in AP classes just by asking (demanding), then the curriculum is corrupt and dumbed down. When parents are allowed to “after-the-fact” write excuses for tardies at the end of the school year to allow their child to exempt tests, the system is fraudulent. We need honesty and integrity and the school system choice is the number 1 factor of newly arriving families in selecting residence. Always has been and always will be, I would hope. If the current truths or perceptions are not changed regarding the TPSD, then whatever is done in other areas will have minimal, if any, impact on the exodus.

        The one issue that has merit is the neighborhood development. Is the problem too many rentals (35% city wide is high)? Is the problem that too many people are living in homes and neighborhoods above their income level? Is the problem that unemployment, health care costs etc are reducing the disposable income so that improving their house and land is impossible? Is the problem that landlords are not maintaining their properties? Is it all of these? A lot of intense study and surveys are necessary to reach ground truth.

  2. Lisa says:

    Tupelo 2025 plan is not available on the city site.

    This is somewhat embarrassing, isn’t it?

    It seems we can’t find what you’re looking for. Perhaps searching, or one of the links below, can help.”

    The housing rentals are going to get worse with the federal government coming with a plan to entice investors to buy foreclosed homes.
    The school budget divided by the 7400 students leaves $ 13300 spent for each student when the official number is around $ 6000. The difference is the cost of the admin and other things such as paying back bonds. The citizens are being manipulated by the numbers. Not only is our system failing but it is very expensive.

    Growth efforts should be focused on citizen’s income we simply have the businesses that CDF recruits taking advantage of our citizens.

    People working for $30 an hour in CA for Toyota suppliers are only offered $9 an hour here. This seems to be the direction of the city plan.

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Dansette