Madison mayoral candidate Julie Berry faces the 800-lb gorilla: “There is no greater challenge facing the City of Madison than that of substance abuse.”

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I know nothing about politics in Madison or the mayoral contest there. I’ve never met Democratic candidate Julie Berry, but the Madison Courier asked Berry:

“What do you think is the biggest challenge the City of Madison is facing? Why? What would you propose the City do to address the issue?”

She answered with a Substance Abuse Plan for Madison.

I’m not sure what else Berry has to offer, but leading with the issue of substance abuse is admirable, even if it isn’t what everyone wants to hear.

A: There is no greater challenge facing the City of Madison than that of Substance Abuse. This issue is negatively impacting families, schools, crime, local business, health and social service providers more than any other challenge in a generation. This challenge is not unique to Madison. Most of our nation’s communities are dealing with this as well.

I have spent hours listening to community stakeholders during the last year while preparing to lead our city. These have included:school officials, business leaders, police officers, hospital officials, members of our justice system, and a host of citizens that call Madison home. To a person they identify substance abuse as the most detrimental threat to our community.

I have prepared a Comprehensive Substance Abuse Plan with detailed Jefferson County statistics, local treatment options, and action steps to help stem this scourge locally. While the full 11 page plan can be viewed at www.julieberryformayor.com, the Plan includes assisting local not-for-profits with a Quarter House option to complement our existing Half Way Houses (Ruth Haven and Jefferson House); A strong Common Nuisance Ordinance to effectively deal with real estate used for the illegal drugs; and Raising local Police Salaries to be competitive with surrounding areas. Currently the Madison Police Dept. is down several officers, and salaries must be raised to attract and retain personnel. These salary increases will come from one of three sources (or a combination of the three):possible revenue from the public safety income tax being proposed by the County; budget cuts; or restructuring of existing budget line items. This is specific information – not rhetoric.

Myself, along with many others, have participated in the Healthy Initiatives Program Substance Abuse/Suicide and Mental Health committees. Over 325 people are participating in this effort. Dedicated volunteers have been working diligently to provide recovery options for those suffering from addiction. Over ¼ of the babies born locally are born to addicted mothers, and are therefore addicted themselves at birth. I call that a crisis. I pledge to be personally involved in reclaiming our community from the scourge of substance abuse.

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