Middletown’s image: Here’s what 5 council candidates had to say

Five candidates, including incumbent Vice Mayor Dora Bronston, former councilman Joe Mulligan and newcomers Mark Anthony Barker, Roy Gordon and Amy Vitori, are running for the two open seats on Middletown City Council.

The Journal-News asked the five candidates about issues facing the city. For their full answers on the city's infrastructure, housing stock and more, check out our online Voters Guide by clicking here .

Here’s what each candidate had to say when asked about the opioid crisis, which has brought a lot of attention to the city and overshadows much of the positive work happening, and their ideas to improve Middletown’s image in the region.

Barker: The use of Narcan has brought Middletown into the spotlight with regards to the heroin epidemic being battled here, as it is in so many cities. While there seldom is an easy, simple answer in these matters, one thing we do know is that Narcan is not a solution to the problem. Ours is a tight knit community and those who find themselves in the grip of this addiction are not just 'addicts'. If we are to turn our image around then it has to be changed into the image of a city that is confronting this crisis head-on with all the resources at its disposal and making positive changes in the lives of those who need it most. This means lifting up those local organizations, both clinical and spiritual, that are on the front lines of this fight with any assistance we can give them.

We need to be actively seeking out programs and approaches that are working elsewhere and make every effort possible to bring those successful programs here to make a difference in our city. It won’t go away on its own but I refuse to concede that it is a lost cause … This is a Middletown problem and we, as a united city, need to come together and turn this defeat into victory.

Bronston: I have personally been involved in the many summits held in our county looking for solutions and resources to reduce the use of heroin and to place addicts in programs to help them overcome their addiction. I recently realized that I have a family member who has OD'd on heroin. I familiarized myself with the companies and organizations which offer help to those individuals. I have participated in heroin recovery programs and marches. We, the City of Middletown, are not in denial, we continue to address this crisis. We have held 11 Heroin Summits with many members of the community and organizations. With the community working together as a whole, along with our public safety team, we have seen a decline in overdoses. We have found that when certain drug dealers and users are arrested, the thefts and drug supply declines. Our children are being educated to never use drugs. We have to work as a community to gain progress in the fight against heroin.

Gordon: First let's stop the heroin problem in Middletown. Because no matter how much we promote the positive things about our community, it will always be overshadowed by the negative. Let's promote our rich history of steel making that help build this city. Let's celebrate our history of the underground railroad in Middletown. We need to promote our location and how we are in the Middle of it all. We need to promote how close we are to Arts, professional sports, armature sports, gambling, entertainment and recreation.

Mulligan: The City government has recently improved its efforts by hiring at communications director. Dayton and Cincinnati news outlets are quick to feature negative stories in Middletown, when at the same time, these media outlets overlook (and fail to report on) similar events that occur in the suburbs or metro areas of Dayton and Cincinnati. We have so much exciting news to share, and we do not need to rely on traditional media to get the word out. One tangible aspect that we need to work on is the entrances to our City. Each entrance has various issues. In addition, we must continue to remove blighted residential and commercial structures that detract from several areas. These improvements will instill pride in those of us who live here and will impress visitors.

Vitori: Middletown suffers from a huge image problem and has become a poster child for the ills of the middle America. While we do struggle with issues, like many other cities, our city's spirit for renewal and change and the progress we have achieved, does not make the headlines. As the recently elected President of the Middletown Visitor's Bureau, (I am) working with a newly appointed Board to craft an organization that can support, grow and authentically tell the Middletown story. Our ideas are collaborative, and exponential in nature as we are looking to work alongside organizations and businesses to improve the branding and marketing of all our city's assets across the city. As a business owner, I have worked tirelessly with the other downtown businesses to get the word out about all the new stores, restaurants, and other amenities that have literally taken over blocks of Central that were largely empty just a few years ago …. The solution will require people coming together from various aspects of the city to work together in making Middletown thrive and our redemption story be told.

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