How many clerks do we need?

We saw snow plows in South Park yesterday. First, a neighbor with a plow did a sweep through and later, the city came through. Someone mentioned on Facebook “The City plow went up Park 4 times! How does that save the city $$$?” to which I thought- it’s not about saving the city money- it’s about clearing streets- and most of the time- one pass of a plow isn’t enough.

But, when it comes to clerks of courts- how many do we need? And how many courts do we need? Doing a background check in Montgomery County- there isn’t just one site to look up for misdemeanor criminal offenses- there is a whole slew of them. Dayton, Kettering, Oakwood (not online), Miamisburg, etc. Each with different systems- and sites.

The real question is why?

A friend is considering running for municipal judge in Columbus- and it’s a countywide race. They have one municipal court for the entire county! Imagine that? Proof that it can be done.

For those of you who don’t know the difference between a municipal court and a county court- the difference is that municipal courts only deal with misdemeanor crimes, while the county courts get all felonies. Note- the county courts do handle misdemeanors in unincorporated areas- like townships, or they sub them out to the nearest municipality.

Of course, Franklin County probably doesn’t have near as many patronage jobs- the Dayton Clerk of Court has 59 employees- that feeds a lot of political cronies- who then sit on the party central committee.

Trying to find out the rules about Municipal Court Clerks is a bit difficult. It’s not mentioned in the city charter at all- but ruled by state law. See this webpage for all the exceptions to the rule: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/1901.31

The Dayton Clerk of Courts position is coming up for re-election, currently held by Montgomery County Democratic Party Chair Mark Owens. The pay is around $100,000 a year- although I can’t find it online.
I’m going to take guesses at the following- if anyone can correct me, I’d appreciate it:

  • 6 Year term
  • Partisan election.
  • Requires different form than City Commission, and only 50 signatures if you are a party candidate.
  • Must be 18.
  • Must be a resident.

Note- ideally, the Board of Elections website should have the duties, qualifications, responsibilities, compensation, filing instructions, etc. on its website for every position that is elected.

I did find this document: http://www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/Upload/publications/election/2015_CRG.pdf

Turns out the deadline passed if you are running as a major party candidate- but, in an odd case, to run as an independent, you may not need more signatures- and the deadline is later:

PETITION FILING DEADLINES
: By 4 p.m. on February 4, 2015 (90 days before the
primary election) for party candidates; or by 4 p.m. on May 4, 2015 (day before the
primary election) for independent candidates
SIGNATURE REQUIREMENTS:
Major party candidates: 50 valid signatures, unless otherwise provided in law
(R.C. 1901.31,3513.05)
Minor party candidates: 25 valid signatures, unless otherwise provided in law
(R.C. 1901.31,3513.05)
Independent or nonpartisan candidates: 50 valid signatures, unless otherwise
provided in law (R.C. 1901.31,3513.05,3513.257)

Ad for Harveysburg clerk of courtsOwens is an attorney- but, I’m sure you don’t have to be one, since Dan Foley and Greg Brush are not attorneys and both have served as Clerk of Courts.

Maybe we’d have more money for snow plowing, if we had one county-wide municipal court, with one clerk, and one website.

What brought this post on was a call a week ago from Mike Bock of DaytonOS- asking why no one was challenging Owens- and a reminder in today’s paper that all communities don’t elect a clerk of courts- some hire them, like in Harveysburg.

If Ohio really wanted to have a law about term limits- (which don’t apply to local offices currently) it should be if an elected position goes more than 2 elections cycles without a challenger, the incumbent is forced out, and the position is reevaluated as an elected position.

It’s time to reevaluate a lot of how Ohio is governed, but as long as patronage mills like Clerk of Courts offices sit unchallenged- we’re pretty much doomed to maintain this expensive, duplicative, government overhead.

 

Legalized racketeering- only in Ohio

When Ohio voters amended the Ohio Constitution to allow casinos, they mandated the actual real estate for the casinos. When it came time to build the four casinos- a minor obstacle in Columbus- when the location they authorized wouldn’t work for the criminals who got the golden ticket had to move it. No worries, the legislature bent the voters over and moved it.

Now, we’re facing the same with pot growing operations. Vote for pot- and give 10 sites a monopoly on legal pot growing:

if Ohio voters approve a constitutional amendment in November to legalize pot for recreational and medical uses, documents released Monday show.

ResponsibleOhio released a 24-page summary of the ballot language that identifies where each of 10 grow sites will be. Investors bought or arranged purchase options on the 10 sites.

via Moraine site would grow marijuana if issue passes in November | www.mydaytondailynews.com.

The identification of specific parcels isn’t law- it’s racketeering.

ResponsibleOhio is backed by deep-pocket investors that include financiers, current and former professional athletes, real estate developers and others. It is opposed by anti-drug organizations, five statewide officeholders including Kasich and DeWine, and grassroots marijuana groups that believe carving out just 10 growing sites will unfairly block others who want to cultivate cannabis for sale.

ibid

If you don’t know what racketeering is-

Racketeering refers to criminal activity that is performed to benefit an organization such as a crime syndicate. Examples of racketeering activity include extortion, money laundering, loan sharking, obstruction of justice and bribery.

Just because it’s voted into law, doesn’t make it legal.

It’s time for a constitutional amendment in Ohio to stop granting unfair advantages by government to any business- be it limiting the locations of pot farms or casinos to specific sites, or the awarding of individual tax breaks, incentives or grants to a single business without offering the same benefits to their competition.

Republican leader blows creative naming opportunities for $100, Alex

Remember the “Contract with America” where Newt Gingrich tied a ribbon on policy that was bad and made it look good? Or how the “Inheritance tax” which relatively few people were subject to- became the evil sounding “death tax”?

Well, the chance to do something right- got a bad name in a big way from the Republican Senate leader in Ohio:

Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, called for establishing a “drug prison” where inmates with drug-abuse issues would receive treatment services.

“I anticipate that there would be an increase in the cost up front but I think in the long run we’re going to save money,” Faber said.

via Charter schools in spotlight.

Why a “drug prison” Keith? Why not a rehabilitation center for drug abusers who’ve turned to crime to support their habits?

Many times people begin their path to drug abuse purely by accident- an injury at work, and next thing you know they are addicted to a painkiller.  Drug abuse is a mental health issue first and foremost. The crimes committed by drug abusers are often nothing other than survival skills to feed their habits. Our prisons are overflowing with people who are more dangerous to themselves than others- glad you just figured it out.

Now, figure out a better name as well as a better solution to deal with this sad epidemic. Prisons aren’t working, nor is our “criminal justice” system built to deal with people just looking for a quick fix to an addiction.

29 Years in South Park

29 years ago the space shuttle Challenger blew up. I also bought a house.

The house had been on the market for 2 years, starting out at $22,900. When I looked at it, it was down to $17,900. I didn’t have a Realtor, and offered $14,500. They took it.

Three months later I contracted Dayton Door Sales to replace the sliding siding doors on my garage with a pair of “modern” overhead garage doors. Next thing you know, I’d broken the law for fixing up my house. I went to the city commission, expecting representation, compassion, assistance- all I got was stonewalled, stone-faced stares. That was the reason I decided that Dayton needed a new mayor.

Apparently so did a lot of other people, and the primary was a 6-way affair- with Mike Turner coming in second to Clay Dixon and me, with my $1,000 campaign, coming in fourth.

So it was only fitting that today I went to the commission again. This time to ask why they can’t deal with a few inches of snow. I explained, when schools close, single parents have to stop work to take care of their kids, meaning small businesses suffer from lack of staff. Kids, who often only eat because they are in school- go hungry. The whole thing is the most anti “economic development” scam going.

I suggested they work on some alternatives:

  • Set alternate pickup points on snow days on heavy duty streets- avoiding driving into neighborhoods with narrow streets. Kids would have to walk a little, but, we could get routes to schools cleared.
  • Open a few strategic schools as day-care centers- staffed to feed kids, and keep them out of trouble so their parents can still work.
  • Or, plow the damn streets.

I suggested that maybe the answer is getting more CDL drivers in city hall to work when we have snow. You know- like the overpaid “economic development people” or the city commission’s staff.

As always- no response. I was the only speaker. The mayor moved on to closing comments, and voila- for the first time in 29 years, Commissioner Williams did the unthinkable- he agreed with me in public- and asked for answers.

Maybe this is just posing for the new city manager? Maybe it’s because I’m right- that this is unacceptable. They called up Fred Stoval, director of Public Works who gave a great song and dance about a lack of salt. Remember, I was asking about plowing- not salt. There are places where you can’t use salt- like Fargo ND, where the temperature stays well below the point where salt is effective- and they don’t close with 4″ of snow. However, my time was up- and no one on the commission is smart enough to question the lame answers.

Turns out, Mr. Stovall can muster about 60 drivers- and work them one 16-hour shift before he sends them home. That’s pulling everyone in public works except the trash guys. Of course, they are now on a 4-day work week- so pulling them for a day wouldn’t kill things unless it’s a week with a three day weekend, but again- no one on the commission engages in critical thinking 101.

He can also hit up the water department to help when clearing downtown. But, again, 16 hours with 60 trucks- no relief. Hello? Ever heard of temps? It’s also questionably legal for anyone to drive with a CDL for more than 10 hours in a 24-hour period, but, I’m not going to get into the legal part of all this. The reality is- 16 hours is mega OT.

The real solution is to have 180-200 qualified CDL drivers for snow duty. That way, you keep your 60 plows going 24-7 until everything is plowed- on 8-hour safe shifts. When the snow hits- there should be no other priority higher. Snow clogged streets hurt our kids, our single parents, make it hard for emergency responders to do their jobs- the only people who benefit are body shop owners- and hospitals that have to deal with the accidents that are results of our political malfeasance.

Face it- this isn’t Syracuse or Buffalo- both the first two snowfalls were under 4″ – there is no reason to close anything for less than a foot- if you have competent public works. We don’t.

This is what we pay our taxes for. It’s time to get our money’s worth.

I’ve been saying this for 29 years- and only today, did the commission catch on, but only barely.

Write a letter to your commissioners- write emails, call, demand better. This isn’t rocket science- it’s shoveling snow. Salt is not the problem- throwing it in our wounded city is.

Here is the contact info: http://www.daytonohio.gov/cco/Pages/default.aspx

and tell them, you too agree with David Esrati.

Thanks.

 

A remaking of Ohio?

While many people make New Year’s Resolutions to change themselves, and after 6 weeks are back to the same old self, what if our state decided to make some radical changes that would make it stand out among its forty-nine brethren?

Of course, our state is run by Republicans bought with corporate cash, so it’s highly unlikely anything will change other than to make sure the 1% skates, but that’s everywhere in America where capitalism has triumphed over democracy.

For starters, let’s go with pet peeves that need to go.

You know the practice of elected officials putting their name all over their office- like the auditor putting his name on the gas pump stickers or the sheriff putting his name on the badge on the squad cars- ban it. Same goes for photos of elected officials in airports, rest stops etc. The only way to do it is if you pay for it out of campaign funds or your salary.

Patronage jobs- the ones awarded to party faithful, supporters, donors- in every political office- banned. Being elected is a position of authority and oversight- not of unlimited power and leaving of the senses. We lose experience and institutional knowledge with these kinds of broad powers and it’s not in the best interest of the people.

The BMV system of patronage. Nope, the BMV isn’t a state-run operation- it’s a contract that goes to political friends- guaranteed money. Why this isn’t handled by the State Highway Patrol is beyond me. Why title bureaus aren’t managed by the same system. And, while they are at it- inspect the vehicle annually like they do in Mass.- because having a bumper, fender, front windshield, intact bodywork really shouldn’t be optional. Studies show that a majority of accidents occur with poorly maintained vehicles.

Moving on to bigger and more important things, it’s time to stop running the entire state based on the Northwest Ordinance of 1785. How we drew county lines, established the many forms of jurisdictions and responsibilities- all need to be re-evaluated. Getting rid of urban townships would be step one, but even more importantly- setting some kind of limits of politicians to people needs to happen. Moraine has an entire set of politicians, police, fire, etc.- when it only has 6,300 residents, while Miami Township and Washington Township have five times that. This whole idea of “Home Rule” allowing cities to create mickey mouse laws like Dayton regulating taxis and Uber- while the rest of the county doesn’t is total BS and needs to go.

88 local governments ought to be enough- although population balance issues between them may make even that number too high.  And, by the way- while we’re getting rid of extra government- the school districts- all 600 plus of them, could and should be reduced down to the number of counties.

Taxing districts. We live in Ohio. There it is. One taxing district with statewide income tax. Real Estate Taxing statewide. With less bureaucrats and their patrons sucking at the teat, we can reasonably distribute taxes based on a few factors: population, wealth, needs. Any questions?

This eliminates all local tax incentives, TIF, JEDD, incentives, etc. If Ohio wants to create more green energy- give a tax credit that’s available statewide to anyone who meets criteria- if the tax credit isn’t utilized broadly- it’s rescinded as bad policy and the benefactors must pay it back on a payment plan.

Revamp the state unemployment system. Right now it’s not “insurance” in the conventional sense, it’s a savings account that empties every three years. This is ridiculous and a serious problem for small businesses while some big businesses like GM used to use it as a savings account for planned shutdowns. Having it, and the workers comp system totally revamped to not be company specific except for type of work- with companies that employ workers in more dangerous fields having to pay more. Simple.

Accountable minimum wage systems. If your employees pay income taxes and also accept benefits for medicaid or food stamps, and you employ more than 50 people, you get charged back. No more subsidies for Wal-mart or fast food chains that have been milking this system forever.

The entire system of elections in Ohio and the way it is managed could use an overhaul as well- from the five different database vendors for voter registration systems to the odd patronage rule over local boards of elections. This isn’t a two-party state by law and it shouldn’t be run as one. Changing this is beyond what I can write about here- I’m working on a book about it.

Centralized purchasing programs. We’ve already seen how a combination of laws and contracts ended up in price fixing for road salt in Ohio- but, I’m totally miffed about why other things are so screwed up, like the purchase of cop cars and handguns for police. How hard is it to have a standardized police vehicle statewide- bringing huge economies of scale? Same goes for sidearms, radios, computer systems. Even police and firefighter training- it would seem that these be best done at a statewide level. You wouldn’t believe the costs involved in just marking local cops cars with their individual municipal paint jobs- one car, one paint scheme (cop cars get body work way more than your car does- and replacing all these different paints and vinyls is expensive). Police vehicles are just one example- this could go for so many things from school and government IT to snow plows.

While all the above are general housekeeping changes, that could be adopted by any well-run state, Ohio really needs to do some things that set it apart from other states.

We could adopt smart policies like Voteing by Mail as practiced in Oregon. We could ban fracking like they did in New York. Our changes in how we tax and how we fairly approach businesses with cost structures that are manageable and easily understandable would do a lot to attract business, but we still need more.

Starting with the cost of higher education. Sorry, but winning a college football championship does nothing for the people of Ohio other than providing bragging rights and selling t-shirts. It’s time to reel in the money spent on college sports programs and build a real network of youth sports programs across the state. From proper sports facilities like ice rinks, soccer complexes, velodromes and even bobsled runs- if Ohio approached public access to sports with the same veracity it did Ohio State football- we’d have the best-prepared athletes to begin with. Paying a college football coach five times what you pay the university president is an insult to our intelligence, and paying college presidents at state schools a million a year is also questionable- especially if we only pay the governor $150k a year. Yes- I know I’m jumping around- but State Schools need to be funded so that all Ohio high school grads can afford them. They pay back in the long run.

A technology infrastructure to be jealous of. Make Ohio the first all fiber state- and cover it in wi-fi. If Estonia can do it- why can’t we?

And in the most controversial move for a breadbasket state- make Ohio a little Europe- banning all pesticides, and GMO crops- moving to an organic, sustainable natural agro-economy. With our fertilizer-induced algae blooms only getting worse- and our bountiful clean water a future selling point- it’s time to realize we can’t turn ourselves into a bio-hazard. The changes would be painful for a short term- but in the long term, Ohio would stand apart from the other 49 and with a push for local food- be healthier and less energy dependent.

When it comes to energy we’d also focus on green energy like the biodigesters from Quasar Energy in Cleveland and solar and wind power that have proven their viability. By eliminating nuclear and fossil-fuel power generation we could be clean and green which would be a first.

And as one last socialist move- reclaim the utility infrastructure for the public. The idea of “deregulation” of electricity, gas, internet, phone, cable, etc. is a joke. Most municipal sewer and water systems escaped this insanity and are fine. There is no reason for every consumer to be expected to play commodities trader in picking power prices. Let’s simplify this mess and get over it.

And one last pie-in-the-sky dream- to benefit schoolchildren everywhere- let’s make Ohio the first state to go entirely metric and finally say goodbye to the Queen’s system. How hard can it be if even the Brits did it?

I’m sure there are other ideas out there- feel free to share them in comments. None of this will make any difference at all- just like your new year’s resolutions, but, we’re allowed to dream a bit with every new year.

 

Taxi stupidity in Dayton, Ohio. The Uber war is about to start

Uber logoToday is the last day of free Uber rides in Dayton. Tomorrow, the war will maybe begin. Maybe not.

For those of you who don’t know what Uber is- it’s a ride-sharing/part-time taxi service enabled by the mobile Internet. To be a driver you sign up- they run a background check, check insurance and then you become a driver. For the user- you order a ride- and drivers claim your request. You can split the fare between yourself and a friend easily- Uber handles all the financial transactions, and takes a cut. There is no phone number for Uber, you have to have a smart phone and download the app.

If the Uber car is traveling at a speed greater than 11 m.p.h.,  the price is calculated on the basis of distance. Otherwise, the price is calculated on time. At the end of a ride, the complete fare (which includes gratuity—Uber’s exact wording is “No Need to Tip” and no option to add a tip exists except to offer it by cash) is automatically billed to the customer’s credit card

via Uber (company) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Riders and drivers are rated in true social media fashion, as sort of a self regulating system. Although the company promises drivers to make $18 an hour- there are questions whether this is truly an independent contractor situation or an employee/employer relationship- at least that’s one of the ways municipalities are attacking the company.

In almost every city Uber enters that has a standing taxi commission, or some sort of regulation, there has been a war. New York City has been going through this for years now- with the licensed cabbies raising hell about the amateur cab drivers. In a city where a “medallion” has gone north of a million bucks (a medallion is a license to operate a cab in NYC)- the idea that anyone with a car and a smartphone can now be a cab is wreaking havoc on the status quo.

Unbeknownst to most, Dayton has a taxi commission, run by the Police Department. There are rules and regulations concerning the operating of cabs in Dayton- which only pertain to the pick up, not drop off of passengers in the city. There is zero regulation anywhere else in the county. A study by the generally right wing “Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions” said:

A review of taxi regulations in Dayton found that the regulations increase the cost of starting a cab company by at least $67,000. Dayton requires 24-hour, seven-days-a-week service from all cab companies. It also requires a 24-hour, seven-day dispatching office. This effectively prohibits an independent owner-operator from starting a cab business.This may explain why there are 100 cabs licensed in Dayton, but only four taxi companies.

via Taxicab Regulation in Ohio’s Largest Cities – taxistudy1.pdf.

A few years ago I started seeing badly lettered mini-vans “Anton’s Transportation” and was wondering what was going on. Turns out that one way you can get around the regulations is to be a “Medical Transportation Company” which bids to transport patients to doctors’ appointments. I’ve also seen others- that say “not for hire” and “designated driver service” – which is an end run around the taxi rules- where renegade cabs can pick up in the city if they are taking donations ($15 minimum suggested).

Anyone who has tried to hail a real cab in this city- especially at 2 a.m. in the Oregon District, knows they are in for a multi-hour wait. In short- cab service in Dayton is almost as big a joke as our parks and recreation department that can’t keep the basketball courts mowed.

Renegade cabbies risk being charged a $450 fine for being caught operating a taxi in the city. And note, the airport is considered city property- where only “approved cabs” can sit in a cab stand waiting for the odd ride. (Our airport also has funky rules about where off airport parking vans can pick up and drop off passengers- even though they pay a hefty 10% levy on all their customers for the right to drive onto airport property).

There is no proof that regulating cab companies improves the marketplace, the safety, or the availability of cabs in Dayton- in fact, the existence of the taxi commission is just another one of the obsolete rules left over from when Dayton was the driving engine of the region. Now, it just makes doing business in Dayton more difficult.

Considering the constant talk of creating jobs- you would think that an on-demand cab service would be a worthy addition to our local economy, but, just wait until Dayton tries to flex its flabby muscles and tickets the first Uber driver and see what starts to happen.

Water system safety and regulation

I have a half a dozen clients who run very different types of businesses over the Dayton well field. All have different rules and regulations about what they can and can’t have in their buildings. None of them have any desire to pollute the well field- or our drinking water- that wouldn’t benefit them, or our community, but the insanity of the actual laws should make everyone in this community stop and wonder what geniuses put this monstrosity into effect.

To bring people up to speed, who may not know what our “well field protection ordinances” are- or why we have them, let’s go back in time. About one hundred years ago- when Dayton was an industrial powerhouse. Back then, there were machine shops and manufacturing plants all over our city. There was even a small machine shop in the alley behind my house when I first moved to South Park. It went up in a crazy hot blaze of fire about 20 years ago- and the building was only recently demolished.

Back in those days, companies big and small had no clue what to do with waste oil, cleaning fluids and the like. Some burned it in open pits, others poured it in the ground, others put it in drums and stored it- only to have the drums leak. It wasn’t until the seventies with the charter of the EPA by the federal government,  that everyone got hip to the fact that trichloroethylene, a common industrial solvent was a serious carcinogenic toxin.

Our Dayton well field pumps water out of a giant underground limestone aquifer- said to be one of the largest in the world. And, for a long time, companies in town routinely fouled it. Times changed, with the federal and state EPA regulations. Users of hazardous chemicals were required to maintain extensive logs of their industrial inputs and outputs. Material Data Safety Sheets had to be kept on hand, as did emergency procedures for a spill. The days of wild and wooly hazardous waste disposal were long over by the time the Sherwin Williams paint warehouse burned to the ground on May 27, 1987.

That fire burned for days, with firefighters standing by, trying to contain runoff and not pouring water on the flames- so as not to contaminate the well field. Citizens were terrified that our water supply might get polluted- sales of bottled water skyrocketed and a young Dayton City Commissioner, Mark Henry, introduced his original “Well field protection” ordinance.

If that piece of legislation were still in place, there would be no outcry of the local business owners, but over time, changes in the rules have caused it to be onerously restrictive, very capricious in its enforcement. In other words- it’s silly and enforced randomly.

Photo of BP fuel farm on Brandt Pike in Dayton Ohio

On Brandt Pike there is this little chemical storage facility- right over the aquifer.

One only has to drive out Brandt Pike, just past Stanley Ave., to pass the BP fuel farm where a hundred gazillion gallons of fuel sit smack on top of our well field. A little spillage of the underground pipes would hardly be noticed- and would easily contaminate our water supply. They are allowed to be there- they just can’t add capacity under the current laws.

In the meantime- my baker friend, has a limit of 6 gallons of bleach in his facility. Bringing in the seventh bottle of Clorox would put him in violation. Another friend, who has a machine shop- has reached his limit of cutting oil with his current number of CNC machines, he can’t add a machine, without breaking the law. Never mind the fact that modern day CNC machines are practically hermetically sealed systems that totally prevent leaks- compared to the old school open lathes that were as common as street lights in our manufacturing heyday.

Regulations that are in place now set limits on chemicals based on a base line of when the laws were written. An analogy would be restricting the houses on your block based on the occupants of each home on a random day 20 years ago. If you had 3 kids and grandma and grandpa were visiting- you could have 3 kids and 4 adults in that house, while the house next door- would have been permanently banned from occupancy because your neighbors were on vacation.

The recent situation in Toledo with the algae bloom contamination of Lake Erie is no different than what’s been going on for years in Celina with Grand Lake/Lake St. Marys which is a cesspool of industrial agriculture runoff. This is an entirely different problem- much akin to the old school pouring of toxic chemicals down the drain or into the ground- because companies are too cheap or don’t care about the implications. Sustainable agriculture methods can eliminate almost all of this toxic runoff- but, big ag is more powerful than the people who have to live with their needless pursuit of cheaper crops- even if the side effects are heinous.

If Dayton was serious about protecting our wellfield- there would be no fuel farm sitting over our water supply. But, that would cost hundreds of millions to relocate.

Common sense needs to come to our regulations- with good working relationships between regulators and the regulated, to cooperatively protect our water and our community. For all the “experts” claiming that any changes to the ordinance would put us in greater danger- the reality is, every one of us who has ever cleaned out a paint brush has done more to pollute our well field than many of these regulated businesses. It’s time for some collaboration to come up with a modern, enforceable, realistic set of rules, processes and procedures, and not keep these convoluted rules on the books, because one day, the baker may want to have 7 gallons of bleach to clean and sanitize his bakery, and we wouldn’t want him to be raided by the water protection police.

The Dayton Charter review committee

Not that anyone cares, but the Dayton City Commission appointed a charter review committee to clean up the City Charter. which is an old and tired document.

I’ve been calling for changes to the recall and charter change requirements for years. Of course, I wasn’t invited to work on the committee.

Here is who the commission appointed:

  • Richard Clay Dixon – Chairperson
  • Jason Antonick
  • Jimmy Calhoun
  • Mike Galbreath
  • Gaye Jordan
  • Marcia Knox
  • John Lumpkin
  • Pat Rickman
  • Greg Scott
  • Manicka Thomas
  • Dave Williamson

They’ve already completed most of their meetings, and a Freedom of Information Act request got me the following minutes: 2014 Charter review committee minutes from which I culled the following:

Meetings are held in the City Manager’s Large Conference Room, Second Floor, City Hall on Thursdays:

  • June 12, 3:30-5:00
  • June 26, 3:30-5:00
  • July 10, 3:30-5:00
  • July 24, 3:30-5:00

and if needed- an additional one Thursday, July 31, 3:30-5:00

I’ll be attempting to visit the final scheduled meeting tomorrow to clarify the following:

4. Change special elections to require 50% of voting.
Members directed that no additional action be taken on this tiem (sic).

Mr. Gray explained that the commission did not expect to put each item up for a separate vote or to put all the items in one package for a single vote. He explained that the commission would welcome suggestions from the committee on how to organize the items into a few ballot issues.

While this is a great start to make changes to the former rules that were based on number of total registered voters, which could exceed the number of residents over the age of 18 due to rules of the Board of Elections- nothing is mentioned about the petitions, their language and the obsolete requirement of having a notary sign off on petitions. I hope to bring this up tomorrow.

They are still planning to discuss language for the following:

  • Ensuring that the City has the power to levy service charges, fees and taxes granted by the state to local governments
  • Permitting the City to levy special assessments using the standard provisions of state law that may change from time to time.
  • Permitting the City to enter into arrangements and contracts with other governments. The absence of this provision in our Charter could be used against us since it is in most city charters.

Considering they just popped the street light assessment on residents without a vote, I would think more people would be upset about additional ways to levy taxes without votes by the public.

Please consider joining me at the meeting on the 24th.

 

 

 

The demolition derby in Dayton needs to end

There was nothing wrong with Schwind building, nor the old Dayton Daily News building on Ludlow. Both were solid buildings in good locations, and prime candidates for adaptive reuse.

But, apparently the right local developers didn’t pay off the right people, because money that could have made their projects an easy go- was spent instead with long-time Dem Party supporter Steve Rauch.

What’s most interesting is that this was after he “mistakenly” tore down the historic addition to the original Cox building.

The city of Dayton will spend $215,000 more than it had originally planned to pay for the demolition and cleanup of the Schwind Building property, which officials said will help the roughly $18 million student housing project move forward.

A federal deed restriction on the Schwind property along Ludlow Street meant the Student Suites developer was unable to secure financing that would have covered the demolition and cleanup costs, said Aaron Sorrell, Dayton’s director of planning and community development.

The city is increasing its contribution to $1,215,000 from an original commitment of $1 million to fulfill its promise of fixing issues on the Schwind property, officials said.

“The reason we pushed this forward is because there was a shared sense of responsibility,” Sorrell said. “Our agreement with Student Suites is we’d deliver the Schwind property free of any liens and encumbrances: We have not been able to do that because of the deed restriction.”…
Sorrell admits that footing the bill for the remainder of the Schwind cleanup means the city will not be able to remove as many blighted and abandoned homes as it could have otherwise. But the additional expense will help a project progress that will provide a boost to the revitalization of downtown, he said.
via Dayton to pay for Schwind cleanup.

I’ve been watching a house at 828 Frizell, near DeSoto Bass to see how long the city would take to demolish it. Unlike the Schwind, it needed to come down, although it was making a damn good effort to self-destruct without any help.

The first picture was taken April 10 at 7:27 pm. The neighbors told me that they heard a massive boom- as the house slid off its foundation, and the chimney toppled onto the home next door. The city put some cones out.

photo of 828 Frizell, which slid off it's foundation

House at 828 Frizell on April 10, off the foundation

May 8, I went by again, expecting to see it demolished. Nope. 8:48 pm

Photo of 828 Frizell Ave

May 8, 2014, 828 Frizell is still leaning left.

Last night, after hanging nets, I drove by, it was after 9:30 and dark- the house was a pile of rubble. I didn’t see anyone out to ask when it came down, but was glad to see the city had finally addressed this serious public safety hazard.

The differences between 828 Frizell which needed to come down, and the Schwind which didn’t are night and day. But, the result is the same- public money being spent to tear our city down, instead of to make our city a great place to live.

I’ve already said that at the rate houses are being blighted and torn down, we will expend a hundred million and never keep up. We’ll always be the dog chasing the tail, instead of moving forward. Had we handed half the money we wasted on tearing down the Schwind to developer Bill Rain, he would have had student housing and low income housing in the Schwind to conform with the deed restrictions. Had they handed him the old DDN building- he would have had ground level retail and parking on floors 2 and 3. I’m pretty sure local developer Bob Schiffler would have done something similar.

But the housing stock demolition process is a whole other story.

Some houses like 828 Frizell were absolute demolition cases- many others are in the process of following in the footsteps. The process starts when a bank forecloses on a property that isn’t worth anywhere near what they lent on it- or, the tax bill is exceeding the value the home can be sold for.

Why the declining value? The wizards of Wall Street contributed a great deal to the demise of home values with their derivatives markets and loan bundling. But the City of Dayton has done much of the damage to its own property values over a long period of time. School busing to “solve” segregation was the first strike, where the city lost 100,000 people in a short time. Adjusting for those losses compounded the city’s problem- instead of adjusting to a smaller population, they asked for and got a higher income tax- to be charged to the people who couldn’t vote for the tax. Businesses began their exodus, first to the Kettering Research Park, and then to Austin Landing. Both tax-supported projects that made money for developers- and political donors- and hurt tax collection even more.

The one at Austin Landing is particularly odd- white collar workers don’t get taxed, while blue collar workers do. They just voted to make the district bigger last week;

Three south suburban communities now have more land from which to draw income tax revenue after they approved expanding a zone covered by an agreement.

About 11 acres will be added to the Austin Landing property from which Miamisburg, Miami Twp. and Springboro split income tax revenue.

Legislative leaders from those three jurisdictions Thursday night approved an amendment to increase the Austin Center Joint Economic Development District.

A JEDD is a partnership granted certain oversight authorities, including levying taxes, under the Ohio Revised Code….

The Austin Center JEDD levies a 2.25 percent income tax on all retail businesses and some offices (emphasis added) within its boundaries, according to Miami Twp. records. That percentage is consistent with Miamisburg’s income tax rate. Springboro’s
via 3 jurisdictions vote to expand Austin tax zone.

The city, already plagued with a remaining low income population, which results in lower test scores for students in the beleaguered school system, then began to cut services to families, closing rec centers, not taking care of parks, and cutting basic maintenance like street paving, grass cutting in public spaces, even housing inspection. The great “Model Cities” inspired “Priority Board” system was eviscerated, leaving  a skeleton on life support.

In a series of desperate for tax revenue moves, the city worked against existing businesses, picking favorites and subsidizing some businesses while ignoring others. Attempts to “improve” things like their efforts to be real estate developers for the Wayne Avenue Kroger- took millions of dollars- with the city actually “blighting” the neighborhood into failure with a series of options on the “doomed” properties. When Kroger pulled out, no one was fired, or even questioned, on how they could go this far without a contract.

Other cities tried to chase down blight and demolish, only to realize that it was like going down the rabbit hole. Philadelphia finally said enough- instead of allowing property owners the easy route of boarding up shit properties, went after owners demanding that they fix up or hand over.

From the LA Times:

McCall staples a poster to the plywood covering the door. The poster declares the building “a blighting influence,” in violation of a city code that requires all buildings to have working doors and windows. Plywood or other boards are prohibited, and the fine is $300 per opening — per day.

After decades of ignoring the blight that has spread through its neighborhoods, Philadelphia is trying to reclaim its vacant homes through aggressive initiatives designed to compel negligent owners to fix their properties or see them seized and torn down.

via City of Brotherly Love finally tackles neighborhood blight – Los Angeles Times.

McCall is a city employee- and the city realized that boarding up a house actually hurts the value of all the other homes on the block. So do the stickers saying a “house has been winterized” – meaning that water won’t freeze and break pipes- but is also a printed invitation to scrappers to come steal anything and everything inside.

Accountability for ones investments is long overdue in Dayton. From slumlords like Jan Singleton, who has managed not to pay taxes- or take care of his properties for years, confounding the city law department and inspectors- to the city itself, which has no problem charging you $250 to cut your lot- while they have foot high grass on our boulevards.

Before and after photo as city cuts grass in public boulevard

How high was the grass on Burns Ave. before the city cut it? Ticketable for sure.

How can a city have any legitimate authority to tell people to cut grass when they can’t do it themselves? Yet, they can pump a million and a quarter into the developers’ and demolition companies’ hands for the Student Suites project on Ludlow.

Back to the Philly Story:

Neighborhoods where the new strategies have been applied have seen home prices rise 31% over four years,compared with a 1% rise in comparable areas, according to a study by Ira Goldstein of the Reinvestment Fund. The initiatives increased home values by $74 million throughout Philadelphia, Goldstein said, and brought in $2.2 million more in transfer tax receipts.

Philadelphia had been spending millions of dollars a year to tear down vacant properties, and it didn’t seem to be making much headway, said Rebecca Swanson, who directs the city’s vacant building strategy. So in 2011, city officials decided to try a strategy they hoped would prevent properties from becoming run down in the first place.

The city utilized software used by the IRS to track down owners of the vacant buildings. Then the city took the owners to a newly created Blight Court. The door and window ordinance also allows the city to attach liens to property owners’ other personal property, including, in some cases, mansions in the suburbs.

“That was the whole point, to catch them early, cite them for doors and windows, and hopefully that incentivizes the owner to come out of the woodwork and do something,” Swanson said.

Where is the accountability for the money squandered on Tech Town- where tenants pay no rent, driving rents down on other buildings where landlords have to pay the same taxes they always have had to? Ask Dayton Hydraulic and Jerv Janney how he feels about city subsidies of the Water Street project- while his buildings already have to compete with Tech Town? He’s suing the city for a bunch of money- because he’s been backed into a corner.

This is a city that just bulldozed every public outdoor swimming pool. Has committed to spend a million dollars on fixing up basketball courts after a political opponent embarrassed them by hanging 300+ nets on courts that weren’t being serviced (btw- I’ve yet to see a new rim, new pavement, or backboard).

It’s time to stop thinking demolition is the answer. Blight will stop when there is a legitimate reason to live in this city. Saying we’re a leader in demolishing things ain’t it.

Dayton’s Issue 6 – Deceptive mailings

Mayor Nan Whaley tries to sell issue 6 as a renewal when it is in fact a permanent tax change at the same rate.

Let’s lie about what we’re really doing.

My parents and I received a postcard in the mail today asking us “On May 6, voter FOR ISSUE 6 and RENEW DAYTON.” My father, a senior, who is relatively astute, said that he read it- and has no clue what Issue 6 is.

Dayton is a Great City. Let’s Keep It That Way!

For 30 years, the people of Dayton have voted to RENEW DAYTON to maintain our city’s most vital services.

Voting FOR Issue 6 keeps thses services intact without raising taxes, which creates good jobs and strong neighborhoods for all Dayton families.

Ofiicials Agree: A Vote FOR Issue 6 Keeps Dayton Moving Forward

“The earnings tax is the largest source of money for the general fund, which pays for basic services – police, fire, street maintenance, snow removal, recreation centers and parks. If the earnings tax is not renewed, the impact would be nothing short of a disaster in the city of Dayton”

– Mayor Nan Whaley

To explain this honestly, Mayor Nan should tell you that for 30 years Daytonians have voted to raise an additional  .5% tax on people who work in the city via a TEMPORARY tax. This raised our total income tax from 1.75 to 2.25% which 30 years ago, was the highest in the region, with the exception of Oakwood which charged 2.5% on its residents- mostly because it has few people who actually work in Oakwood- and many who worked in Dayton and they needed to collect something.

The nature of these local municipal income taxes is sort of the same as what made the founding fathers revolt against the British- taxation without representation. Workers at law firms, corporate headquarters and major businesses downtown were to pay this tax- without having a say in what it was spent on, or if it was necessary. Our city fathers even sold it to the taxpayers this way- you vote for it- but most of it comes from commuter workers, and- the rest of the pitch was- it’s only temporary, until we get out of the hole we’ve dug ourselves into with our fat cat, nepotism system of government. The voters voted for it, time after time. The taxpayers- those commuter workers of Oakwood, Centerville, Vandalia, grumbled for a while, then, they started doing what commuter workers easily can do- commute elsewhere, where a move from Dayton to Kettering saved them .5% or to Austin Landing – the whole thing (if they are a white collar worker instead of a blue collar worker- yes, I know- I’m still scratching my head on that one.).

Dave Holmes, past CEO of Reynolds and Reynolds was the first to pull his Corporate HQ out of Dayton for greener pastures. No, he didn’t say it was because of the income tax, but, it was because of the income tax- and the arrogant treatment of the “monarchy of Montgomery County” that ran like a private club. Of course, he was also the first to find out that the taxpayers could be hoodwinked in the region, into paying to relocate his operations- with tax breaks offered to move to Kettering’s research park, then to build the Reynolds spin-off (back in Dayton) Relizon HQ at the corner of Monument and Patterson (now being taken over by CareSource, after Relizon’s step-child, WorkFlow One got bought by Standard Register- the last remaining old school big company in Dayton). They also got funding to build a call center- called a TAC- in the old Elder Beerman building- only to later abandon it, and sublease parts out to the Area Agency on Aging- and now also- CareSource. Every time he shuffled his walnuts on the table, he got tax breaks- much like a three-card monte shyster scores on his marks.

Again- the tax increase was temporary, it would have to be renewed, and each time, the same story was told – you don’t pay this tax, it’s other people paying this tax. People like Pam Morris at CareSource, who lives somewhere else but makes over $3 million a year administering federal tax dollars intended for the poor- and making her rich. Yeah, we can vote to stick it to her. But the flip side is, all her employees pay it too. And, we still build her buildings for her, and her parking garages, and give her incentives- because, we’re addicted to the teat of that income tax to keep the boat afloat. Every municipality is now, especially with the cuts in Ohio’s local government funds. Other communities are renewing and raising their “temporary” taxes too- with some, like Huber Heights that has been on a wild spending spree, talking about a 2.35% rate. Kettering is also boosting theirs, after years of managing on 1.75%

The patchwork of different tax rates in Montgomery County- and the state of Ohio is a major pain in the arse to businesses of all sizes. Different filing rates, filing times, filing forms, and filing websites. It makes Ohio a very business unfriendly state. Fines on missing deadlines can be in excess of the amount a business owes. Because of the complexity- companies like Intuit, maker of Quickbooks, can justify charging more for the tax tables for payroll than the software that runs it and get away with it. A secret hidden cost that could easily be done away with by a simplified statewide fair and balanced income tax.

Back to the reason Oakwood charges 2.5% is so it can collect .25% over and above the rate Dayton charged- and this gave them the ability to keep their amazing services at the highest levels. Things like backyard trash collection, sidewalk shoveling, and a combination police/fire/paramedic force that not only gave excellent service, but wrote traffic tickets and would make house calls when you got broken into. Dayton can barely manage to answer the phone. Even Oakwood is now struggling due to state cutbacks- and the end of the “death tax” killed off their last cash cow. They are making hard choices.

But, the real deception of the mailer is that Dayton voters have repeatedly voted to continue taxing without representation because they knew that without it- service cuts would happen. Guess what, service cuts have happened every year, even after they voted for it. Our temporary tax didn’t keep our kids’ swimming pools from being plowed under, they didn’t keep our police department staffed well, and cuts to fire and parks and everything else they promised wouldn’t happen- happened. There was no guarantee- but at least we had the option not to renew it to send a message.

This Issue 6 is an attempt not to renew the temporary tax- but to make it a permanent one. If we defeat it in May, we’ll see it again in November. Maybe as another temporary tax.  Because Nan Whaley is the Queen of Nan Whaley land- you only see her name, her picture on the mailing. And the treasurer of the mysterious “Neighborhoods for Dayton’s Future” is a Michael Voelkl, who lives in what I one called “Tony Capizzi’s Private Neighborhood” across from 10 Wilmington Place that was paid for with public dollars so City employees who at that time had to live inside the city limits, could live in a pseudo-gated community. Michael Voelkl, you see is a city employee, the “taxation and revenue manager” of the City of Dayton.

One wonders how much of the Hatch Act is being broken by having Mr. Voelkl head up the effort to make sure he still can be paid with taxes on those “commuter workers.”

Voelkl retired from Dayton in 2003 and later took the position of New Carlisle’s tax manager in 2010. Thanks reader “skeptic” for correcting me.

Let’s be honest- this vote isn’t about renewing Dayton at all- it’s about bolting in the cord on the life-support system. It should be a no-brainer to pass, if it were presented honestly- but that’s not Mayor Nan’s style- she has to turn everything into an epic political battle for her to win- at any cost. Which frankly makes me sick and repulsed. This could have been easily sold to voters honestly- saying that these temporary tax levy campaigns are a pain, are expensive and take time, please help us cut out the waste of time. We’re still going to raise your water and trash rates, and charge you fines for police to respond to your alarm calls, and raise prices on parks and recreation, and complain we ran out of salt- but, at least, we’re not going to lie to you anymore- we can’t live within our means, and 2.25% is the minimum it takes- thank you.