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Housing - from last council meeting

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    Posted: May 18 2017 at 5:00am
Well, after reading everything on this forum in the last week or so - I am now caught up on everything that has changed in Middletown in the last 10 years.  Nothing.

I was however pretty appalled at the minutes and notes from the last 5/16/17 council meeting.  Especially the report on housing from Mr. Manager Adkins.

I'd like to comment....so I have quoted text from the minutes and attached my comments.  I don't know why I did this - but I couldn't sleep and decided to have some fun.  I hope that this spurs some insightful discussion and hopefully (but realistically I know better) action!  

Once the Council members returned to their seats, Mr. Adkins started his presentation. He stated there is a staggering amount of data available, as evidenced by the number of charts. As we move forward, he tried to come up with a comparison of where we were before to where we are now that makes sense. Census data was used to see where we were in 2000. We were pretty normal and compared about the same as the rest of Ohio and the US. We were in the ballpark in housing.  Along came the perfect storm over the past 15 years. We added new Section 8 vouchers, leaving us with the largest number of Section 8 vouchers in the State; AK experienced labor difficulties, leading to a lockout; the AK headquarters moved to West Chester. The Recession hit and wiped out jobs in every sector. Families moved their children out of the public school district and into private and charter schools. Eleven percent (11%) of our children do not attend the Middletown Public School System. The Heroin Epidemic struck.

Wow.  Ok.  There's a lot in that last paragraph - but let's be clear about a couple things.

1. AK Steel's continuing shrinkage has taken a toll on this community more than all other events combined.  This is what happens when a communnity's government rests on its laurels and sticks too long to the idea that one big employer is enough for a community.  Whoops.  Oh yeah, if you need further proof of this - pick any former GM town.  Yeah.

2. The recession didn't do as much damage to Middletown as the Middletown leaders did.  Continual reliance upon nearly bankrupt companies to fund this crazy town added to the destruction of dollars in the cesspool wasteland known as 'downtown' led to this.

3. Methinks the AK headquarters move had A LOT to do with the previous two points.  Think about it.

4. Middletown schools suck - yes - why?  Because the reality is that many of the kids come from low-income housing, section 8, etc.  I live in realville - and in realville - those kids don't have the same support system at home that, oh maybe east-end kids do.  It's just nature - but there's not enough kids on the east end to balance it out.  I really don't think that Middletown schools are all that bad - but seriously - what do you expect?

Everyone took a step back, but we took several steps backwards. Where are we now? Poverty is now up to 21%, which is significantly higher than both the County and the nation. The bright side is that we are now better educated than we were in 2000. Hopefully, Cincinnati State and MUM 7939 were part of that due to the fact that many people lost their jobs and went back to school. We lost many manufacturing jobs. We lost 4,580 people under the age of 54, and 3,159 working age adults. The average household income is $48,049; Butler Co. is $74,035; Ohio average is $66,409. 

Wow - yes - compared to 2000 - yep things are different.  West Chester was nothing in 2000.  Monroe was a shadow of its current self today.  All that great good wonderful cookie-cutter two-story 4/2 finsished basement and two car garage housing was built there.  

WHY?!??!?!  I'm glad you asked.  A lot of it has to do with geography and 'white flight' from Cincinnati.  Where did all the people come from that now inhabit West Chester/Liberty/Monroe?  Well, they sure weren't reproduced into the area.  Nope.  They got tired of life elsewhere and went somewhere where everything is NEW, BRIGHT, WELL-PURPOSED, LUSH, WEALTHY, UPSCALE, BOUTIQUE ad nausem.

And all that time - Middletown sat on its hands and fought companies and retailers who wanted to come here - in favor of 'revitalizing' downtown.  Yeah - what a VITAL part of our city that is.  And that right there is 50% of the problem......

The rest is JOBS, JOBS, JOBS, JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!

Housing drives many other issues in the City. Poor quality or low value housing tends to lock in lower income and lower educated residents, limiting our work force development and income tax base. 78.4% of our housing is less than $150K. Vacancy went up to 14%; Butler Co. is 9.6%. Ownership is lower - 47.3% of our housing stock is rentals. 50% of our housing is 2 bedrooms or less. We are no longer competitive in the SW Ohio real estate market. Our residential property lost over $58,000,000 in value in over 4 years. We as a government and as residents artificially created a significant portion of our existing problem. We added significant subsidized housing; residents went into foreclosure; older smaller housing was converted to rentals; infrastructure, public safety forces and quality of life amenities were not maintained; and some landlords have not screened tenants for drug and criminal activity.

OK - low income does not equal low education in all cases.  Just Middletown.  There's no jobs here.  Nothing for entry-level folks.  Yeah, there's some - but not enough for the population.  Lemme ask this - how can someone who can't afford decent housing supposed to afford to commute every day to entry level jobs?  Sure - we have some retail - but even it has shrank in the last 10 years....

All residential property has lost value just due to economic causes.  Now - Middletown is a bit unique here.  A buncha housing was built all over the town during the late 90's and early 2000's - all of which turned out to be cookie cutter homes that started falling apart in 10 years and as a result lost value just sitting there - let alone the economic downturn.

What the heck was the 'older smaller housing' supposed to do?  Magically become the aforementioned 'great good wonderful' housing without investment?  Of course they became rentals - that's the cycle of real-estate!  New housing in the XXX'000's, wonderful schools, great neighborhood, close to shopping, mature neighborhood, centrally located, lots of shade trees, quaint housing, fixer-upper, handyman special, high-end rental, mid-level rental managed by a corporation, purchased by mid-level landlord who doesn't even paint, purchased by slum-lord who takes section 8, then Middletown west-end HUD housing.  

Plus - if the landlords screened every one of their renters - they wouldn't have any!  Let's be honest - criminal pasts are not easy to overcome - and you gotta start somewhere.  There's room for everyone - but those folks need a place to start and they need JOBS!  Section 8, food stamps, etc are not the solution!

The question becomes, “Are we willing to artificially un-create the damage?” One critical component to our path back to prosperity is quality housing. Danter was retained to help identify issues. Our problem is that we have astonishing housing for first-time home buyers, but we have nothing beyond that. People must move out of Middletown to find step-up housing. 70% of our housing is at the first-time level, with 15% at the next level. People move out. The idea is that we need to balance our housing stock. If we keep the same number of residential structures and we redistributed them to look like the rest of Butler Co., what would we have to do? Where do we start?

There's only one solution.  Everything west of University/Verity/etc....KABOOM!  But that's not realistic!  Get enough jobs so that people have some disposable income - and the housing will automatically upgrade as a result.  You know what government housing people find when they get jobs and work?  That they don't have to live in government housing.  We all live according to our means - and we've just got to increase the means for the City of Middletown.

Danter said we need a balanced housing stock. We need to build newer homes of higher value. This would add significant income to Middletown. We should be doing demolition to remove blight. We have been doing some demolition, and need to try to rebalance the housing stock. Most of our serious crimes are in rental properties. The top 10 landlords had 700 evictions. Tenants are being evicted several times. This is not good for housing, schools, etc. We need to get older, smaller stock with low value out of the City. Posters around the room give a tremendous amount of information and tell what is going on in each census tract. Fix it or destroy it by tract?

OK - If all this is true (which I don't doubt) then outlaw rentals entirely in Middletown.  Just make it where you have to own where you live.  That'll fix EVERYTHING!  If I weren't a Christian I'd call this what it really is.....something about bovine excrement....pure foolishness.  Just by making low rent housing disappear - this guy thinks that our crime troubles will be solved!?

Oh wait....I missed the first solution.  Let's just haul off and build a bunch of half-million dollar homes in Middletown - why that will fix all our woes!  Housing value means EVERYTHING.

There are a large number of tools successfully utilized in other areas of Ohio and the nation that we could use. This is the beginning of a discussion. 

Start naming the 'tools' - I'm waiting.  Many other towns like Middletown have the same issues - yes - and they all have the same problem.  No jobs.
 
Vacancy is high. There are programs that we need to be participating in. Vacant lots need attention. There are many tools that can be used for vacant lots. Maybe the neighborhoods should be deciding what to do with the vacant lots, within a framework.

Vacancy is high - because there are no jobs.  No job = can't afford housing.  Screw the programs - get some jobs for everyone and Middletown will be positioning itself to be the next big thing in SW Ohio.

Code enforcement – 100% of all structures could be compliant within 5 years.

Laughable - even 'wonderful historic amazing downtown' isn't code compliant - and we've spent more money than any city around trying to get it that way.

Mr. Adkins wanted to make sure the Council understood the data, and wanted to know if staff could develop a long term housing strategy consistent with the data and recommendations. He would like to develop this, although it will be long and hard to do, but these are the problems that need to be developed. We may need to destroy several blocks,  rather than leave holes through the community. He hopes that people will understand why we have to do what we will do. Mr. Adkins wants to give this presentation out in the community over the next 3-6 months and concurrently develop a new City Housing Policy for the next 10 years to address these issues in a responsible manner. He wants to work with the community. There may be smarter way to do things, and the community and the City should now be able to have a better relationship. He asked if the Council was on board with him moving forward.

Yeah - people will understand it when the council declares eminent domain on entire city blocks and wipes them out with a tandem row of bulldozers.  Don't worry says Manager Adkins - they'll get it.  All we have to do is create 'policy' in secret - vote on it unanimously without public comment or discussion and all the insiders in this town get what they want while the working man gets shafted in the process - and, oh yeah, moves to Franklin or anywhere but here.  

I really think that council thinks that we who choose to live here have nowhere else we could go/live if it weren't for their amazing job of managing our city.

Mr. Bohannon said our City is too landlord heavy. We need to clean the pool up. He said he would like to see all landlords be involved in the landlord process. 

That might just be the dumbest statement I've ever seen in official government print.  Let's get all landlords involved in the landlord process.  Will you be allowed to be a loandlord if you don't subscribe to the 'process'?  In what world is it proper for anyone to tell someone else what they must/must not do with their own property?  Is the city going to require a test for all landlords - and if you don't pass it they get to seize all your homes and demolish them becuase you might be renting to someone who did drugs in their past?  If your home has grass over 8" tall will the management levy a takeover of your property?  If a water line breaks - will the city-owned utility come and demolish your house?  Where is this going?

Mayor Mulligan said we didn’t get here overnight, and it won’t go away overnight. We need to look for some low hanging fruit, prioritize areas to get it accomplished, and pinpoint key areas. 

Congrats Mr. Mayor.  Brilliant insight - but not the least bit helpful.  Keep looking for the low-hanging fruit.  In a way - that's always been the problem in Middletown.  The real problems NEVER get tackled.

Listen folks - I'm no Rhodes scholar.  But this I know - there's no jobs in Middletown.  Until you fix that problem - you can forget any attempt at 'fixing' the housing crisis in this city.
Buddhalite - about 50 pounds short of a full buddha, but was 30 over so the diet is working! Glad to be back in Middletown!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote VietVet Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 18 2017 at 6:34am
Nice overview. You have just summarized what we have been talking about for years on this forum. The topics you have mentioned from Section 8 to jobs to poor schools to downtown only focus have been well rehearsed on this site.

You will find you will be working against the wind as to the city leaders changing or doing the right thing to improve the city. We do not elect people who have any common sense nor do they want to change the mantra of the MMF who are controlling the direction of the city. They are in-effective in their decision making. You can't get a reaction that is satisfactory nor will indicate they really want to address and solve a problem. I am not convinced they know how to identify problems and solve them. They certainly don't know how to prioritize city issues as to importance. Expect business as usual with the same old failed results, no matter what the topic is. This is what happens when the voters keep sticking the same cookie-cutter thinking people behind the council desk. They must be there to massage their egos because they certainly aren't there to accomplish anything pertinent.   
I'm so proud of my hometown and what it has become. Recall 'em all. Let's start over.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Joshua Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 18 2017 at 1:40pm
Can we at least agree it's better that the city government is identifying the problems and possible solutions as opposed to doing nothing?

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote buddhalite Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 18 2017 at 1:46pm
Not from my perspective, Brother.

Identifying the problem is easy and painless - and that's all they'll ever do about it too.  That's the track record!
Buddhalite - about 50 pounds short of a full buddha, but was 30 over so the diet is working! Glad to be back in Middletown!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Joshua Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 18 2017 at 1:52pm
I guess we'll have to wait and see on that.
From my perspective, things are getting better in Middletown.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote buddhalite Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 18 2017 at 1:55pm
Hey now!  There's a great positive perspective!

I've been gone for the last 10 years living in other states - so I only know my perspective having been gone and come back.  I don't see it - but I'm willing to learn....

What specifically have you seen that makes you believe things are getting better in our fair city?  I'd like the different perspective.
Buddhalite - about 50 pounds short of a full buddha, but was 30 over so the diet is working! Glad to be back in Middletown!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Analytical Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 18 2017 at 2:02pm
Joshua -

Since March 2009, Mr. Adkins has been in total charge of the city's housing programs and neighborhood efforts (not to mention millions in HUD funding).  Are we to assume that you are satisfied with the performance during this time?  Just think of the positive outcomes that could and should have taken place over the last eight years if a real world citywide comprehensive housing market analysis and action plan was in place!  The days of big bucks from HUD are over thereby making these many unmet tasks even harder to accomplish!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Joshua Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 18 2017 at 2:09pm
The development downtown, which posters on this board love to rant about is an improvement.  There are more and more reasons to go downtown these days.  
The construction on MHS and the new MMS is a much needed improvement to our school system.  While Vale is neat and historical building it's definitely time for it to be retired.  
The mall development is an improvement to that area as well.
These are all things that I have noticed and give me a positive outlook on the city.
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Analytical

To be honest, in 2009 I was busy with raising two small kids and trying to manage a household than I was in paying attention to the happenings in Middletown.  Now that my kids are a little older I have more time and interest in following the happenings around town.  My opinions is based on the last two or three years that I have been paying attention.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote VietVet Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 18 2017 at 2:32pm
Originally posted by Joshua Joshua wrote:

Can we at least agree it's better that the city government is identifying the problems and possible solutions as opposed to doing nothing?



Doing things wrong for decades is no better than doing nothing at all IMO.

"Identifying problems and possible solutions" you say?

Everyone in this city, except the priority blind city leaders the last three decades, has identified the poor streets and deteriorating sewers and infrastructure as a serious problem, yet, even today, the city commits millions of dollars and countless hours dwelling on the importance of their priority one downtown, which 90% of the town is not interested in. You tell me which is more important in the grand scheme of things, the roads, which benefit all or the downtown, which benefit a few. Most people living here, again, with the exception of the mis-focused city leaders, have identified poor paying jobs or, worse yet, no decent employment opportunities at all as a major problem within the city since the collapse of Armco/AK as a major entity here and the paper mills shutting down, yet, for decades, there has been no effort to find a solution to the replacement of these higher paying jobs lost over the decades. City leaders have sat on their hands and watched it happen and no alarm button ever went off.

City leaders, past and present, can't identify and then prioritize the real needs of the city and the wishes of it's people. The decades old agenda has failed to recognize the fact that the basics of this city should have come first and the little pet projects like the downtown are wayyyyy down the list as to importance. Instead, effort and money is placed on the "icing projects" before the cake is even baked.


The city foundation needs to be poured and hardened before the actual structure is built. They have prioritized in reverse order and the basic needs of the city have suffered. The water system is antiquated, the sewers are collapsing and the roads have grass growing where pavement should be and potholes that are ruining car suspensions at times. Careless disregard for the basics.

Another analogy:

The Griswold Christmas Vacation overcooked turkey scene. Stick a fork into the city and watch it fizzle. Trying to make it look good on the outside touting the downtown culture nonsense but there is no substance below as to basics.
I'm so proud of my hometown and what it has become. Recall 'em all. Let's start over.
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Let's all be fair to Joshua, here - it might be construed that we are kinda disagreeing with him/shoving our opinions down his throat - which isn't really the purpose of our forum.

FWIW - I agree that there has been (albeit a small amount) of east end development in the last few years - It has been disappointing to me as all it did was recycle old space - yet we still have old vacant eyesores out there.

The school buildings are great - but what did it do for our schools other than put lipstick on a pig?  Sure - nice to look at - but the same results every year.

Joshua - I'm kinda like you - my kids are older - I'm paying more attention - but the one part I'm not sure about is downtown and the 'more and more reasons' to go downtown.  Maybe I'm missing things - maybe I'm not in the loop.  If there's a good reason to go - count me in, but other than the late night bar scene, I really don't see much.  Feel free to PM to me - I'd like to go to some of these things, but either I'm ignorant of their existence or the advertsing of the events is pretty poor.  Either way - inquiring minds want to know.
Buddhalite - about 50 pounds short of a full buddha, but was 30 over so the diet is working! Glad to be back in Middletown!
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"The mall development is an improvement to that area as well"

If you are referring to the old Towne Mall, that is all done with private money and development plans. The city did not screw up the development. It actually is yielding some positives although it took some time by the mall owner to accomplish. The city gets no credit for the mall development as they had no part in it.

The mall is a perfect example of the difference between how the public government sector attempts to develop property and how the private sector develops property. The Towne Mall has made more progress in the last three years than the downtown area has made in the last ten+ years and the businesses are much more significant in the mall location as to impact and attraction than the fru fru small business/on again/off again development in the downtown. Add to that the mall businesses offer more of what a typical resident of this city would want than the specialty/cultural/artsy/high priced/limited selection stores downtown.

"The construction on MHS and the new MMS is a much needed improvement to our school system"

Not necessarily IMO.

New buildings aren't going to improve the poor end result/final product this school system is putting out. The new elementary schools told all of us that new schools don't deliver any better results than the old school buildings. We have seen that for several years now in the test scores. New buildings are just a nicer place for the teachers and admin to go to work in. More modern buildings with the latest technology, yet, they still yield the same results. Something should seem wrong to all of us knowing that fact.
I'm so proud of my hometown and what it has become. Recall 'em all. Let's start over.
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I'm not sure if I was assigning credit for development to anybody.  All I have done here is talk about the positive developments that I have noticed around town.  
That includes downtown, the mall area, and I'll even throw out Fig Leaf because it is a classy place that my family and I like to visit.  There is no mistaking the fact that things are changing for the better.  There are more reasons for me (not all obviously) to go downtown as opposed to leaving Middletown for shopping and entertainment.  That sort of shopping and entertainment isn't for everybody but there is no denying it's a reason for Middletonians and other folks to come downtown instead of going elsewhere.  On the other hand the shopping and dining development near the mall isn't everyone's style but it's still a positive.  I believe it a positive that there is a wide range of shopping and dining options but I could be wrong as I am not a developer.

Ultimately I believe I joined this forum for completely different reasons than most which is pretty clear.  I certainly don't have the history here that many of the posters do so my outlook is a little different.  I joined this board because I was excited about what I was seeing in my city and I wanted to learn more. 
 
You said this regarding the schools, "New buildings are just a nicer place for the teachers and admin to go to work in".  Aren't the new buildings also a nicer place for students to learn in?  Are you aware that the classrooms without air conditioning in Vale (which are many) reach the mid 90's for a good portion of the day?  I know many of you were barefoot in the snow uphill both ways but that does make a difference in a child's ability to focus at school.  It also has an affect on the teacher (they are human too).  The learning environment does matter.
Now I will sit back and wait for the heat you all are going to bring me!  To be honest, I'm not sure why I keep checking this board out.  I guess I'm a glutton for punishment!

Joshua
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Housing - from last council meeting

Two imperatives deserve immediate attention:  1)  significantly expand outreach to residents, mortgage bankers, REALTORS, home builders, land developers, title companies, appraisers, etc., to enhance an understanding of the stagnant state of the city's housing market and neighborhoods (particularly older ones); 2)  the acute need for cost-effective, productive and appropriate city housing policies, plans and programs to be developed and adopted.

Sad to say, the past is the past.  Enactment of a fresh, market-driven high-priority housing initiative is imperative.  As was the case nearly 10 years ago, senior One Donham Plaza staff should reach out to the private sector and residents (especially former target areas) to establish; a meaningful Middletown Housing Partnership.  Continuance of a "government knows best" philosophy must become a thing of the past.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote VietVet Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 19 2017 at 9:05am
Joshua:

"Aren't the new buildings also a nicer place for students to learn in?"

Yes, but they are not learning as indicated by the data from the proficiency testing. Right or wrong, those scores are what the public sees and uses to gage the performance of the school district. They have historically been abysmal with no improvement in sight.

Joshua:

"Are you aware that the classrooms without air conditioning in Vale (which are many) reach the mid 90's for a good portion of the day? I know many of you were barefoot in the snow uphill both ways but that does make a difference in a child's ability to focus at school. It also has an affect on the teacher (they are human too). The learning environment does matter."

In reference to the "barefoot in the snow uphill" comment:

What is important in reference to that comment is that kids weren't coddled back then. They were expected to function in a hot classroom all day, everyday at school. Expectations were more stringent then. Today, kinder/gentler people in this world want to hold the young ones hand and spoil them rotten to the point where each generation since those times have become more soft and whiny and expect their behinds to be powdered for them. Today's authority figures, be it judges, cops, teachers or bosses, aren't doing any of the kids any favors doing kinder/gentler methods. We all know life after school is a hard road at times and when the kid is groomed to be spoiled, they don't know how to handle adversity, still expecting mommy and daddy to hold their hand to work through the problems. Old school thinking? You bet. Does old school methods still work.....you bet.....if we stop using new day methods to groom the next generation. There is nothing wrong with instilling a little discipline in a kid's life.

I know all about learning in the Vail non-air-conditioned environment. Went through three years of high school in that building. All schools in the 60's had no air-conditioning.......and now the rest of the story......the teaching of school subjects still went on as fans blew around hot air and windows to classrooms were full open. Tests were still given and students still passed sweating or not. Many students still went on the college, the military or to a trade school. The schools put out a good product back then. The school performance was light years better than what you have now and the kid's never had the bar lowered for them like the school people want to do now.

No heat Joshua, just facts.
I'm so proud of my hometown and what it has become. Recall 'em all. Let's start over.
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MUSA Resident
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Joined: Mar 11 2016
Status: Offline
Points: 99
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote whistlersmom Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 19 2017 at 9:16am
Joshua

I hope you joined this forum (board?) to be able to express a point of view (yours) which may be different or opposing or supporting, etc. In other words for a healthy exchange of ideas and opinions from a cross section of all of Middletown’s demographic. I think those who have preceded you on this forum and who continue to contribute have been at times discouraged when the city continues down a declining path. But they have not abandoned this forum or this city...they live here too...and want to see a prosperous city for ALL.

So, do not give up! We need everyone’s input, more conversation, more show of concern. We may even come to some agreement on how to make it out of the “swamp”.
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing" Edmond Burke
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buddhalite View Drop Down
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Joined: May 11 2017
Location: Middletown
Status: Offline
Points: 14
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote buddhalite Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 19 2017 at 2:24pm
We need to get the citizens of this town to be  roiling mad at our leadership before anything can happen.

How do we do this?  Anyone?  I'd give everything for 200 Joshua's, 200 VietVet, 200 Whistlers and 200 of everyone else out here to show up at a council meeting and make a stand against these policies that are ruining our very special, wonderful city.

Anyone got thoughts on how this happens?  Evidently this board doesn't have the reach alone to make it happen - so we need to draft others....
Buddhalite - about 50 pounds short of a full buddha, but was 30 over so the diet is working! Glad to be back in Middletown!
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