Challenging the status quo and putting Middletown on the right track through transparency and accountability is what Joe Wittman hopes to accomplish if he is elected to serve as a member of Middletown City Council.
Wittman, 59, is one of six candidates seeking one of the two open seats in the Nov. 5 election.
“I am not running because I have political ambition or for personal gain,” he said. “Frankly it’s due to the direction I have seen our city going.”
The North Breiel Boulevard resident said there needs to be more transparency in the way council operates and more involvement by community members. He said that council enters an executive or closed session 85 percent of the time it meets. Executive sessions are permitted by state law for a limited number of sensitive topics that require confidentiality.
Transparency is the top issue he wants to work on if elected and said he will push to have more open discussion during council meetings and work sessions.
“It appears that the city is being run by a few people,” he said. “We need to step up the support of our public safety forces.”
Wittman said, “there is a perception that people don’t have a voice with city government. The culture has to change at the top. People want openess, collaboration and transparency.”
He said he opposes any closure of the Middletown City Jail and said council needs to lead the community infrastructure discussion with residents to improve city streets and roads.
Wittman said one idea to open up more access to the eastern portion of Middletown for future development would be developing a new Interstate 75 interchange at Manchester or Greentree roads.
He said the city should work with various mental health agencies and Access Counseling to address the homeless issue and that “we have to remember they’re people and many are at the worst stages of their lives.”
Wittman said the city should keep track of the number of times other communities or agencies drop off homeless people in Middletown. He suggested developing an ordinance prohibiting this practice and possibly a $50,000 fine to those jurisdictions or agencies. In addition, he also suggested council members attend those community’s council meetings and publicly call them out during public comments portion of their meetings.
Wittman said he’d like to take a closer look at how the city is managed. He said City Manager Doug Adkins started out doing a great job but in the past 2 1/2 years, he said there have been decisions that he did not agree with or understand.
“It’s hard to put any rhyme or reason on some of these things,” Wittman said.
For more than a year, Wittman was leading an effort to have the former First National Bank building transferred from Cincinnati State to the Art Central Foundation who wanted to develop the building and use revenues to fund the local nonprofit. When city officials became aware the deal, they insisted that the building ownership be reverted back to the city since the city sold the building to the college. Cincinnati State officials eventually deferred to the city’s wishes and backed out of a nonbinding agreement to sell the building to the Art Central Foundation.
Wittman said the recent issue that prompted the discipline of Adkins was not severe enough.
“There should have been a more substantial punishment, at least a week off,” Wittman said. “The disrespect he showed citizens and council was disappointing.”
Middletown City Council members receive $5,000 per year in compensation during their four-year term of office.
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