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Love' the missing link in local affairs?

By By Buddy Bynum
Dec. 30, 2001
And this veteran of nearly 22 years in the state House, this successful Meridian businessman who holds the Bronze Star, this chairman of the House Universities and Colleges Committee may very well be right.
All too often, pulled in all too many directions by an attempt to achieve political advantage  often more perceived than real  all too many of us forget why we're here. Or, why we're supposed to be here.
Instead of holding personal or political grudges, criticizing others behind their backs or working at cross-purposes, east Mississippians should be engaged in a serious, sustained effort to make things better. For everyone. It starts with truthfulness and inclusion.
It's our turn. We've watched so many other areas of Mississippi grow and prosper Hinds County and environs; the Coast; Hattiesburg; DeSoto County; Tunica; northeast Mississippi.
Note I've deliberately used the words "northeast Mississippi"  instead of "Tupelo." I've been to Tupelo many times and have great respect for the positive approach enabled by major financial shots-in-the-arm and leadership from a non-profit media foundation. I have great respect for the area's manufacturing base and its tremendously positive self-image.
Proactive, involved
I'm delighted that people who live in Tupelo say great things about the community, its schools and workplaces. They are proactive and involved in too many community activities to count.
I prefer Meridian, Lauderdale County and east Mississippi because we have an advantage over most other areas of the state. Our advantage is that we still have the ability to make our own future, chart our own course, create our own identity. All because our true economic potential remains unfulfilled.
And I submit to you today, that's a good thing. It gives us something to aim for as the New Year begins, a purpose, a cause behind which we can unite.
In a session last week with The Meridian Star's editorial board, Young spoke quietly of how we all need to develop a deeper spirit of love. Asked to explain, he said, simply, "Love. Period."
He spoke of too much fighting, among ourselves and with others in Mississippi and a crying need to work together. The Southern Arts and Entertainment Center, for which Meridian won designation, remains a good example of how our east Mississippi legislative delegation made a deal with Jackson and thus won the project.
Yes, the idea needs further refinement … and money … and advocates to convince local people to support it, personally and financially. But once done, it could further the cause of economic development by attracting more tourists to a family-oriented venue.
Positive signs
It is but one example.
As Hope Village for Children opens its doors, a clear message is going out that Meridian cares about abused and neglected children.
As the Riley Center and related projects transform the Grand Opera House and Marks-Rothenberg buildings into viable economic entities, the message is going out that downtown Meridian craves re-birth.
As prospects visit our new industrial park, the word goes out to site selection consultants that the business climate is good.
As Cooper Land develops a new, gated community of as many as 3,000 homes on a 1,300 acre site along Long Creek Reservoir, the message is going out that Meridian cares about attracting more people.
As new retail stores WalMart SuperCenter, Lowe's, Office Depot come to mind open, sales tax collections may actually increase, as they did in Lauderdale County in November.
How many communities our size have a naval air station and such a major National Guard and Reserve presence. No place in Mississippi has an airport with a longer runway. Or such strategically-placed highway and rail transportation systems.
Look around. What's driving the multi-million-dollar construction projects at area hospitals and churches? Look around North Hills Street. Look at new residential spaces being carved out of pine forests along Highway 494.
Do we have troubles? Of course we do. Who doesn't? The question is, can all of our public officials, privately-powerful people and the general public channel their considerable energies into a single mission  substantially improving the quality of life?
Can officials lead and will the people follow? They can lead if they learn to use the word "we" more than the word "me."
My wish for the New Year is that a rising tide of economic development will lift all local ships and that all of us will be aboard, applauding each other, when the first wave rolls in.
Buddy Bynum is editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3213, or e-mail him at bbynum@themeridianstar.com.

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