There’s a good bit to consider over the coming weeks for our folks in Starkville.

On May 30, Starkville voters will not only cast ballots on a new alderman, but as a whole will decide on a proposed 1% increase to the city’s current 2% beverage, restaurant and hotel tax.

Cornerstone Rendering

Cornerstone Rendering Dalhoff Thomas design|studio

The revenue generated will then be used to fund city parks projects, primarily the construction and maintenance of the proposed Cornerstone Park.

A month’s time is obviously a quick turnaround for a special election, so we at the Starkville Daily News will host a Referendum Town Hall event in the Greensboro Center auditorium on Thursday, May 9 at 6 p.m.

We are currently in the process of finalizing a panel made up of local city officials and others involved in the project and will try to solely facilitate questions from the public.

Cornerstone Park aerial view

An aerial view of the proposed Cornerstone Park on Highway 25.

Once the lineup is finalized in the coming days, we will share more information, but wanted to go ahead and spread the word.

In past columns, I’ve made it no secret that I personally support the tax and the construction of the facility, but completely separate from my personal beliefs — we at the paper believe this event will be better served if it is primarily driven by inquires from the public.

Those of us in local media who have covered and followed this know the simple ends and outs of the deal, but there may be many with questions still. We see it as our civic duty to facilitate the conversation, not influence it, and provide a forum to bridge the gap separating the community and its decision-makers.

The famous writer Arthur Miller said a good newspaper is a nation, or in our case, a community, “talking to itself.”

And that’s the exact connection we hope to provide in the lead-up to the special election.

The measure needs 60 percent of voters to cast ballots in favor for it to pass, which underscores the importance of voters being as educated as possible before they make their decision.

So in the meantime, I encourage you to submit your questions to me at editor@starkvilledailynews.com or publisher Joe Robertson (joe@starkvilledailynews.com) or come with hand-written questions to the event. As for the email questions, they will only be vetted for profanity.

You may also mail questions to the SDN office before May 1, in order to give us time to read and organize the questions. You can mail them to Starkville Daily News at 304 E. Lampkin St., Starkville, MS, 39759.

Again, I can’t overstate the importance of being involved in your community’s development and educated on the issues. Neither I nor the newspaper are here to sway you. Our desire is for you to fully understand the issues before you check a box on a ballot.

Before we commit to anything as taxpayers, I think it’s of vital importance that we discuss the issue openly to where all sides can have a voice and all concerns addressed.

Regardless of what side you’re on, this issue impacts all of us in Starkville and it is crucial that we have the dialogue now and not in 20 years, only after we’ve been left to wonder “what if?”

Ryan Phillips is the executive editor of the Starkville Daily News, the Daily Times Leader and Town & Gown magazine.

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