Editor’s note: These are Mayor David McCauley’s comments made during the Sept. 19 city council meeting.
During our September 5 Council meeting, a few folks from North Buckhannon attended offering comments about the continuing drug related problems occurring in Buckhannon, & particularly in North Buckhannon. Our City Council always appreciates a positive dialogue with our engaged residents respecting matters that will improve our community, & I think we all might agree that we had some engaging & positive interaction on September 5. There was some expression that our City had previously failed to address drug related issues in our community, & sensitive to the nearly three & a half years’ effort to acquire a better handle on this very complex problem, I observed a few of the several things that had been undertaken by our City to improve the situation.
Most of you know that my family has a personal stake in addressing the horrible problem of addiction while recognizing the huge toll it takes on our society. My family is not the only one to be impacted by the current epidemic, & many others associated with our City family have battled the matter for their loved ones.
Our City’s position in dealing with all things drugs since 2016 has been a balanced one where we are sensitive both to our community-at-large that is impacted by the nuisance & threatening elements of people here using drugs including theft, vandalism, assaults, dui’s, & other mindless acts perpetrated by addicts, thus our programs purposed at supporting law enforcement & our criminal justice system; but also recognizing that as a society, the more support that may be rendered in helping addicts to find their way to recovery, regaining lost souls if you will- is a highly legitimate goal that we all should embrace, that is, returning citizens to being contributing members of our society.
Our City has implemented programs that have furthered both goals. After years of discussing participation in a multi-jurisdiction, drug task force, Buckhannon was a primary organizer of the Mountain Lakes Drug Task Force that has resulted in many investigations leading to arrests, convictions, incarceration, & in a number of cases, the epiphany of recovery for addicts. We have expanded our police patrols of suspicious areas. To take back neighborhoods, Buckhannon adopted its comprehensive Drug House Ordinance which has had positive impact. Permissive landlords are sometimes a contributor to our drug problem.
On the side of compassion & support for addicts seeking recovery, we have collaborated with St. Joseph’s Hospital/WVU Medicine, Community Care, & Opportunity House to support grants that have had positive impact. We have collaborated with Matt Kerner & Opportunity House to support the annual HAHA event, that is Hope And Help Assembly. Two years ago our City launched our HOPE Project, standing for health, Opportunity, Place, & Employment. Our City & our collaborating business partners have hired recovering addicts instilling that sense of hope. We have sponsored many public forums where we have viewed award winning documentaries about the drug epidemic followed by community discussion.
Those on social media who take pop shots at these efforts fail to recognize the complexities of the issues, & offer no solutions. The so-called “war on drugs” was launched by our federal government in 1971, & some sites claim that nearly two trillion dollars has been expended on the federal “war” & what has that gotten us as a society? We must evolve as a society beyond mere cliches such as “Just say No,” or “This is your brain on drugs.” We have to be more than a slick marketing campaign.
Tonight, our City announces the resumption of its Neighborhood Watch program. Lieutenant Loudin will provide some of the details in a few minutes. Since the September 5 meeting, Chief Gregory, Lt. Loudin, Mrs. Huddleston & I have met to discuss the issues of North Buckhannon, & we believe we have developed a strategy to improve the problems there.