September 5, 2018 10:24:25 AM
I won't pretend that I am not gung-ho for Starkville to annex surrounding areas.
My younger self never imagined the Starkville/Starkvegas that has become a nationally recognized significant small city so frequently on the lips of media celebrities.
In my years growing up in a rural area you came to believe that to achieve some dreams it takes more than a small town can provide. Even when you live in a university community with so much more to offer than the small town down the road it seemed less than what was possible.
Let's face it, we were 2 hours from anywhere that was exciting: 2 hours from Jackson, 2+ hours from Birmingham and 2+ hours from Memphis. And back then there wasn't much going on in Tuscaloosa either.
Fast forward to now and we have become somewhere to live not just somewhere to be until you could get to somewhere else.
The most recent successes of the university have resulted in the area's exponential growth and development. Our injection of awesomeness from our MSU athletic programs has raised expectations beyond those ever experienced here. It has caused us to see excitement and interest in a future of being here just to...well....be here.
For Bulldogs to bask in the glow of a nationally ranked number 1 team and later a high performing, high profile Cowboy quarterback is unprecedented. For us to command that attention and the support and enthusiasm that followed changed how we were viewed and most importantly how we viewed ourselves.
Follow that with a nationally ranked and Goliath killer women's basketball team, then a second College World Series baseball appearance and we had a monumental shift in our universe. All in all, it just doesn't get much better than we are today.
What that means is that everyone wants to be part of our extraordinary city and community. We are, after all, recognized as being the best place to live in Mississippi.
There have been so many small pieces that created a wave, but when they all came together with our athletic success they were a virtual tsunami of change. From the strong support and leadership that is part of this MSU Keenum administration to the changes generated from previous Mayors and Starkville Boards of Aldermen we are still reaping the benefits of those who dreamed a bigger vision for Starkville. The benefits of the work the LINK and Joe Max have done contribute in a way that make us greater than the sum of our parts.
The State of Mississippi has been losing population but the Starkville area and Oktibbeha County have been gaining. Since the last census there have been untold numbers of student housing units built in the County just outside our city limits. From The Retreat to Aspen Heights to Helix, they all are sitting on the edge of our community enjoying the benefits of our city without sharing fully in the cost of caring for its assets.
Certainly, there are sales tax dollars generated inside the city coming to us, but that isn't the whole story. The costs as they drive our streets and as we scale our police force to meet the population are not being fully shared by those who are being served.
It is a seminal time for us as we look toward our future. The question for us is: if not now, when? Waiting won't make it cheaper or easier. We have the momentum, let's be bold and big about our future.
Those who locate near the city limits are bound to understand that the time may come when the municipality will extend the limits and take them in. No principle of right or justice or fairness has the power to stop the progress and development of a city. It is notable that many have located near the city for the purpose of getting the benefit of transacting business or securing employment ... in the city.
Ultimately, it's only right that economic and population centers should be governed as whole instead of one portion being stuck with all the burdens and another raking in the benefits.
Annexation should not be a political analysis, the benefits and losses to the city and fringe areas over a given period of time can be fairly well determined. Our annexation study has done just that. I hope county residents base their views on the probable improvement of services and facilities and their ability to play a role in the community they share.
We have been very conservative in this annexation plan. We don't want to take in more than we can service as was done in 1998. By the same token we can't refuse to grow because we didn't do the best job 20 years ago. The time to accept our role as being the premiere place to be in Mississippi is now and the way to make sure we control that status and grow wisely is to annex those areas that help define us.
Annexation only for financial reasons is not sound, the intangible aspects may be the ones that tip the balance. A fringe area adjacent to a good city can create the first impression and we need to control that as well as maintain the character of the city itself.
What is believed to be urban on the outskirts of Starkville should become a part of the municipality. Annexation should fit the city line to the area that has become the city or is becoming the city and should be controlled to protect the city.
This action is as important a decision for our city as any we will make in the next 10-15 years. If we don't choose to grow then we will potentially be relegating ourselves to a limited future when I believe our future is limitless. I believe we can be the place where kids like I was don't look elsewhere for their brightest future.
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