Confessions of a rink rat

This was published today in the Dayton Daily News, responding to an earlier article where Kettering Council is deciding the fate of the Kettering Ice Arena. They’ve hired a consultant, to help decide whether to invest more money in the rink- or possibly change it’s use and eliminate the ice.

After school and Friday nights, Sunday afternoons, I spent on skates going round and round the ice rink.

There were pretty girls in figure skates twirling around in the center, and the hockey jocks showing off their wheels before the guards cautioned them to slow down. We all disliked Frank, the rink manager, who insisted on playing waltzes during public sessions off the big reel-to-reel tapes, complete with announcements of reverse skate, couples skate, and ladies choice.

It was at the rink that I made many of the longest lasting friendships. Some of them surviving 40-plus years and hundreds of miles. I watch on Facebook as little Wendy Grace had her own sons playing hockey at the very same rink. Thurmond, who was a rink guard and the driver of the green AMC Hornet that we had so many adventures in, had his son live with me for a while as a UD sophomore.

And then there was hockey, the sport that I’m still playing at 52 in an over-30 league called “Huff-n-Puff” at the Kettering Rec Center. It’s no checking, but not without contact. We’ve got Charlie who flies all over the world for his work with UD, still playing at close to 70. His wife comes to watch every game in his raggedy Toyota with the NY Rangers bumper stickers. For a long time Bob P. was playing. He stopped at 73 to focus more on riding his bicycle. Some of the guys who were in their forties had called him coach when they were 15. There’s Bob M., who’s the skipper of the Dayton Dragons — we’ve let his kid play with us, despite Mike being way too fast for any of us to catch and being well under the age limit — starting at about 16 — so father and son could play together. This year a full-bird Colonel joined us — with her pony-tail, M.D., and a license to fly an A-10- but don’t call her ma’am on the ice.

If you realize that guys drive in to play at 10 p.m. on Thursday nights from as far away as Springfield, Troy, Springboro — and most of these guys have been playing in the league for years — you understand what a special place the Kettering Ice Arena is.

Now we hear that there is discussion about its future. The options: to repurpose the space for something else, to reinvest in the current rink, and even possibly double down by adding a second rink with seating enough to hold minor league hockey games.

A “consultant” has been hired to provide the options so the powers that be can decide the fate of this community amenity.

Arguments that less than 15 percent of Kettering’s residents use the rink ring hollow to me. The same could be said about libraries, public schools, swimming pools, skateboard parks, BMX tracks, soccer fields and the Fraze Pavilion, give or take a few percentage points. The fact that Kettering makes an effort to provide such a wide variety of things to bring people together is what makes it what I consider the best run, most forward thinking community in the county. I’ve often said if Kettering was in the center and the largest community in the county, regionalism would have happened long ago.

As to the rink losing money and being poorly run, what price do you put on keeping kids off the streets in a safe and healthy environment? And, even though I didn’t like the way old Frank ran my rink growing up — there was a lot to be said for reverse skate, and couples skates — he knew more than I gave him credit, even if his taste in music sucked.

That KRC is the only publicly owned rink in Montgomery County makes Kettering a place people want live in and to visit. Wonder what happens when a city loses that ability — look at Dayton where I live.

More than likely the consultant will come back with either shut it down, or double down. For Kettering’s sake, and for the sake of a bunch of old Huffing-and-Puffing hockey players, and for kids who may one day become Olympians — I hope that Kettering realizes what a gem they have.

David Esrati is a middle aged rink rat and mediocre hockey player.
Source: Confessions of a rink rat | www.mydaytondailynews.com

Note- there is another publicly owned rink in Montgomery County- the bastard Riverscape rink, that’s 3/4 size and useless for anything but curling, broomball and a very few public session skaters. That they didn’t build a full-size rink (after already upgrading from a half-size) was stupid. They don’t make 3/4 size Zamboni’s either.

I’ve gotten quite a few notes from people on this piece. The reality is, when the consultant comes back to advise Kettering, we’re going to have to look closely at the recommendations, and then mobilize forces if the answer isn’t to keep it.

There is only one person in the area that would benefit from closing it down- and that would be Randy Gunlock of Austin Landing fame. He has wanted to build a rink in the complex- and bring a minor league team to the region- but, he’s competing with KRC and South Metro Ice rink- right near his location. South Metro doesn’t hold a candle to KRC- and if KRC shut down, there would be a whole bunch of people looking for ice time somewhere in the area.

Hara Arena would also lose if KRC built a second sheet with 1000+ seats- as the Dayton Demonz would probably move. No one should think the Federal Hockey League is a very good investment, but, if the Demonz leave Hara, there wouldn’t be much left to justify keeping the ice going there. It’s really hard for private rinks to compete with publicly funded ones.

There had been plans to build an ice rink on the original Wright State master plan, but it never happened. The Bombers had to spend a ridiculous amount of money to get the ice into the Nutter Center- something that could have been taken care of for a lot less, had the original man behind the Nutter Center, Tom Oddy, listened to a freshman who visited his office on his second day on campus. I made a pitch to put ice in, or at least set it up for ice- for the future. Oddy said he’d just bring in portable ice- and that took the retrofit price from a few hundred thousand to a few million.

The best location for a new rink for Dayton would be at the Fairgrounds- or on UD land along Stewart. With a ton of college kids from the East Coast who already know how to skate- we could see more family friendly reasons to come eat on Brown St and then take in a game or go skating. Throw in a small Cineplex and Dayton might start to see a nexus of accessible family fun. Toss in an indoor skatepark and bike track, and lookout.

There is one other thing to consider- Dayton spent $23 million to build the stadium for the Dragons in the name of “Economic Development”- and very few Dayton kids have every played a game on that field of dreams. Ice rinks aren’t like that. When the pro’s aren’t playing, anyone else can go skate on the very same ice. If Kettering understood how many people came to Kettering- and got a positive feeling about their community just because of that facility- it’s all money well spent.

Time AS Money. The Dayton Time Bank

A long time ago, barter was replaced with currency, and a lunatic science called economics was invented- which later gave us “finance” which led to the insanity of Wall Street having the ability of turning our economy into a joke.

The idea of paper money being worth something is something you were just born understanding in America. You don’t question it, you just take it for granted- “In God We Trust” is all you need to think that greenback actually means something.

But, there are other economies- the black market, the barter economy, the secondary markets of used goods, and then, well, there’s now a TimeBank- right here in Dayton.

I went to an orientation tonight- the first step, and a required one, to become a member. It’ll take about 2 hours of your time- and then, you never have to go to it again. They hold them the first Thursday of every month at 6 p.m. at 624 Xenia Avenue in Dayton’s Twin Towers neighborhood- and the Third Sunday at 4 p.m.- with a potluck dinner at 5:30 p.m. on that Sunday- more on the food later.

The concept of TimeBanking is that everyone has value- and can do something for someone else- and in exchange for that hour, you get an hour in your Timebank- to spend with someone else. You get 2 hours’ credit just for attending orientation.  The system relies on software to match up offers and requests-  I offer an hour of marketing help, you offer an hour of weeding. Your hour is worth my hour. An hour is called a time dollar. One for one. If it sounds like socialism- it sort of is. Neurosurgeon or nanny- your hour is the same. It’s up to you on how many hours you want to earn- or spend and with whom. The site is sort of like a dating site- with reviews of your work, and keeping track of your hours.

The cool thing is- non-profits- who usually beg for volunteer hours, can now reward volunteers with hours for hours- and they are like the Fed- they can keep giving away hours as long as they want. So, my neighborhood can pay me for running my neighborhood soccer program, or for an alley cleanup, Habitat for Humanity or Rebuilding Together, could “pay” its volunteers with hours- and they can then collect from others. All of it- unreported to the IRS- sort of like Bitcoin in the beginning.

You can register as an individual, or a business, or a non-profit. Then, make requests for services if you can’t find someone already offering it.

It’s already happening in over 430 communities around the globe, with over a million hours swapped. And, your hours in Dayton can be spent in those other communities.

The driving force behind this has been Kate Ervin, who got interested in this 10 years ago- before the software was available. Then, the cost of administering the program would have been high- but, now- it’s easy. Some communities charge a cash membership fee- but, with the help of East End Community Services, where Kate now works, they are able to offer it with free memberships.

If your church is a non-profit- and you do community outreach, think about joining. If you are a member of a non-profit that does any kind of community volunteer work- join. If you like helping people- join.

The really interesting part comes from being a part of a community of volunteers who meet monthly for the pot-luck. It’s here, where you meet others who are offering their services- and you can find out who you want to spend your time dollars with.

This is a great way to fill in your professional schedule- and meet people you might not be able to work with using normal dollars. I plan on offering a limited numbers of seats to my www.websitetology.com seminar for time dollars. I’ve got a client who is a psychologist who isn’t set up to take all insurances- who may grow her practice this way.

I hate gardening- and weeding. I love helping people with marketing. Well worth a trade for a few hours a week. In some communities- dentists and doctors have joined.

Here’s a video- and a link to the homepage: https://hourworld.org

and a link to a PBS piece on it: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business-july-dec10-maine_11-17/

Deadline to contest tax valuations is Tue 31 March, 2015

If you think your tax bill is wonky- you have a few days left to file objection. So many people have problems with this year’s appraisals, the county decided to run ads and hold instructional sessions on how to file.
I have to file because my two identical cottages are listed as different sizes- and both as 2 bedrooms when in fact they are only 1 bedroom. I also have to file since my house jumped in value- while my quality of life has decreased substantially (something they will pretend to not understand).

However, the web-meisters at the County Auditor haven’t figured out how to update their site properly and make it easy to appeal:

How do I appeal the value of my property?

You can file an appeal with the Auditor’s office Board of Revision. You can request the application be mailed to you by calling 937-496-6856. The application must be filed between January 2 and March 31. All complaints filed with the Board of Revision are investigated and formal hearings may be held to solicit testimony. It is the responsibility of the property owner to justify the complaint. The Board of Revision has the authority to increase or decrease property valuation.

via Montgomery County, Ohio – Questions & Answers.

Go online to call? And to have the forms mailed to you? Really?

Of course not. Go here: http://www.mc-bor.org/ where you get choices- file online, or print and mail. Of course, they want you to pay a “professional appraiser” to argue your case- you know the ones like the sheriff’s sister, who don’t really have to have any real qualifications behind them? Or a real appraiser? You know the ones who did so well that the entire real’ estate market crashed almost destroying the economy?

With my two cottages- it should be easy- different values for each, despite identical size, and both listed as 2 bedroom when in fact they are one bedroom. The house which jumped in value, despite violations for paint etc. will be a little more difficult.

They have a presentation PDF to walk you through the process here: http://www.mc-bor.org/BOARD_OF_REVISION_OUTREACH_2.pdf

However, I don’t trust the county site- so I’ve got a copy on my server just in case: BOARD OF REVISION INSTRUCTIONS PDF

The requirements for finding “comps” as justification of real estate value should have gone out the window right after the market crashed. As should penalties for fixing up and improving property. Setting value by what someone else paid is as illogical as rating teachers by students grades, but that’s another argument.

A simple formula based on square footage, number of bedrooms and baths, type of construction, maintenance costs (wood frame being higher than brick for instance due to paint costs), garage, yard, and age of structure, with a discount figured for length of ownership (long-term tax paying customers get rewarded for committing to their community- and for not causing costs of deed transfer etc.) Taxes should rise for utilization of emergency services due to crime- too many police calls- and taxes go up. There is no reason for the fluctuations, or arguments over base value- nor is it any of the government’s business if I choose to have a $50K kitchen with designer appliances- vs. a  basic kitchen. We pay a sales tax when we buy a stove- not into perpetuity because it’s nicer than my neighbors.

None of the discussion on tax rates will help you with your appeal- but, maybe if we all got smart, we’d vote to change the way taxes are levied and appraised and get rid of this racket.

 

Fire ratings for renovation

In my last post about the City and inspectional services I mentioned the insane requirements forced on rehabs for fire rating separations and costs of sprinklers. It’s something I’ve had to hear about from people working in the city for years. My friend Bill Rain sent me something he’d written long ago, looking at ways to work some compromise into the system, so I’m sharing it here with you:

With any legislation, you need to predict what groups will be for or against. From our discussions, it sounds like your meetings with fire marshals’ have been positive. My experience has been that the fire unions and any groups representing fireman and inspectors tend to support any code changes that they view as “protective to firefighters”. The same for the AIA (American Institute of Architects) as they like complexity in the building code to support their members. Groups in favor will be builders, developers, ICMA (Mayors and Mangers), etc. As we discussed, I would structure legislation to effect buildings of a certain size (number of stories, height, square footage) as this will garner more support with small to large cities as they both have the same problem, what to do with small multi-story buildings.
Our discussion earlier was around the requirements for 2 hour fire rating. If you take a step back and look at what requires existing building owners to add 2 hour rated walls, this is usually triggered by a “change of use”. I have never liked the concept of change of use as it only looks at the last use. I have bought historic buildings that had residential on upper floors but was abandoned and when we wanted to bring residential back, was told by the chief building official that the building use is commercial and that mixed-use will be a change of use and triggers updated code compliance. As we discussed, 2 hour rating is not the issue if only drywall is required (less expensive). The bigger issue is 2 hour rating with full suppression (sprinklers). Current building code pushes sprinklers for everything. The problem is that most existing buildings don’t have the water infrastructure to support sprinklers. There is the economic feasibility from a cost prospective. These cost include new water service and tap fee (usually minimum 3 inch and a new, more expensive meter and billing rate), splitting the service for both fire and domestic, 2 new back flow preventers, the physical cost to install the sprinklers (anywhere from $1.5-$3 per sqft) and disruption to the existing ceiling and cost to repair.
My recommendation would be a new section to the building code that gives chief building officials flexibility to deal with these EXISTING buildings (new construction is different). The job of the chief building official is to protect human life. I have used the phrase “is someone going to die if we don’t do XXXX”. If the answer is no, then they should have flexibility. The biggest cause of fires in older building is faulty electric and fire started by vacancy. If you want to make a building safe, make them feasible that someone will use it. The new section of code should require 2 hour DRYWALL separated uses and primary egress, new electrical service or existing that has a UL rated panel and MC, romex or vinyl clad interior wire and 2 means of egress. Egress is a big issue. There are multiple issues here. Old stairs usually don’t meet modern rise and run requirements. If space allows, new WOOD stairs should be allowed to be built to meet the primary egress requirements. If space does not allow, the chief building official should have flexibility to look at the new upstairs use. If the use is owner occupied residential space then there should be a contractual way to shift liability to the owner/user. Primary Egress should be treated different if it is commercial and will have clients coming to the space. This does not get into ADA requirements but there should be relief if it is for owner occupied, non-commercial use. For second means of egress, stairs are not always feasible in many buildings. The code should allow for the use of fire escapes or fire ladders.
These changes should allow for many small buildings in downtown areas to be reused. I know your time line is tight so wanted to get some ideas into your hands.

The key thing to think about is are we protecting people or property with these regulations? And, if we’re talking about fire safety- an empty building is always a bigger risk of fire than an occupied one. Let’s focus on keeping and maintaining the stock and making it at least as safe as when it was built- instead of putting unreal expectations. By requiring modern electric service, up-to-code gas lines and mechanical systems, you are decreasing the risk of fire much more than by having empty buildings waiting for an arson. Never mind the fact that occupied buildings generate tax income, whereas vacant ones just create tax burdens overtime.

Practical solutions to protect our community are up to us. If there was one place where we should be evoking home rule- it’s to protect our downtown historic buildings before too many more succumb to the wrecking ball.

What Citi Bank learned from Citi bike

Bike share is coming to Dayton without a sponsor. Instead of being Premier Bike- or Kettering Bike- we’ll have Link.

Not from lack of trying. I made the rounds 5 years ago- trying to drum up interest in sponsorship- and selling the vision. Unfortunately- the number one potential sponsor pays their CEO too much- and has a glorified secretary running their marketing. They just don’t get it.

This little post- and the video- from Ad Age, shows what Citi has learned about the benefit of  “actions speaking louder than words” marketing which is why being a presenting sponsor of Bike share systems makes a ton of sense. Realize that the persistent outdoor branding  of branded bike share can’t be ignored like stupid newspaper ads or TV ads proclaiming that “we’re number 1.”

If you watch the video- listen to the part where she says that Citi sees itself as “enabling progress”- via the branding and support of Citi Bike- what brand wouldn’t want to do that- as opposed to spending millions each year on advertising via major media? Can I ride that ad about your helicopter? Or is my heart healthier because you told me about your cath lab? Hardly.

Citibank’s popular New York City bike-share program, Citi Bike, taught the firm to step out of its comfort zone, stay true to its brand and experiment to keep fresh. Nearly two years in, the company continues to lean on the initiative to strengthen its brand image.

In December, Citi brought its bike-share program to Miami and is seeing strong results in the market so far, said Elyssa Gray, director-brand and advertising at Citi, at American Banker’s Retail Banking conference yesterday. The company also plans to expand the program in New York, which is two years into a six-year sponsorship.
http://bcove.me/5l8j0r6g

via Citi Bike Taught Bank How to Step Out of Its Comfort Zone | CMO Strategy – Advertising Age.

Bike share branding is one of the few real true branded gifts a marketer can give to a community- in exchange for brand awareness. Really, I don’t need anymore travel mugs, pens, calenders, or t-shirts- bike share makes a huge impact on a community. Benefits include a healthier, greener city- c’mon health care providers, insurance companies- the like- invest in something that will really show that you care about our community.

Call Laura Estandia at Link- and write her a big check. Do it now. Here is her number: 937-496-3825

Bike Share in Dayton is called “Link Dayton”

A link bike in dayton ridden by Omar PetersIt’s official. Bikeshare in Dayton now is called “Link Dayton”

The site via Bcycle– the system vendor is live- and accepting memberships. First 100 get $10 off an annual. I’ve signed up and paid. Membership doesn’t start until you take your first ride.

The system is a training wheels one- with the bare minimum of stations and bikes. Hopefully, as the system gains riders, and fans, we’ll see additional investment and expansion.
From the site:

Link is Dayton’s bike share program. Link will provide users with a fun, safe, active mode of transportation in downtown Dayton. Link can be used for short trips and errands to get around downtown – station to station. Link will launch in May of 2015, providing downtown Dayton with 24 stations and 225 bicycles. Link is a transportation service proudly provided by Bike Miami Valley and Greater Dayton RTA.

via Link Dayton Ohio Bike Share.

I’m not sure if this bike is the same shade of green as the bikes that have been unveiled- but- let’s hope. I found the deep red Bcycles in DC often were hard to spot. The white Velib bikes in Paris were easy by comparison.

The system that was selected is from Trek- Bcycle, the system that I originally brought in to share at the first Miami Valley Bike Summit- back in 2009.

This blog has an entire long list of posts about why bike share is the right thing for Dayton- http://esrati.com/category/bike-share-in-dayton-ohio

Hurry and join me as one of the first 100 members!

Welcome Link.

Update- looking at the map of stations to come (and note, they are pretty easy to reposition) I’m already predicting:

  • UD will realize they need one at the Marriott- and at the Arena.
  • Premier- will realize not having one on the MVH grounds was a mistake. Same with Grandview.
  • One is desperately missing at the Transportation Center Garage- although the convention center one is close. With the shuttles running from the Transportation center to the PHP building on
  • 2nd at Main- this could be a huge route downtown.
  • There isn’t one at the Dragons stadium- although Riverscape seems close- it’s not the same. Some places need more stations and alternates- when I was in Paris the concentration of stops near the Louvre was insane. You could see them – from one to the next- always guaranteeing a dock or a bike.
  • The South side of Sinclair- near the garage is underserved. The number of Sinclair students that could escape campus is huge- the bike availability isn’t.
  • The one aspect of the system that seems to really be missed- is to join with our bike paths- for tourists. Not that the path through downtown is currently usable thanks to I-75 construction, but Carillon Park, Island Park, up to the Boonshoft is missing and over to Sunrise- a great opportunity to add a tourist attraction.

 

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.

 

A plan for the Dayton Public Schools

Saying that Dayton Public Schools are second worst in the state is similar to saying that all Muslims are terrorists. It’s great for headlines, it’s great for political speeches, and putting the district “under review” isn’t going to help. What will help is real change.

The first thing to realize is that Stivers doesn’t need help. It’s a Dayton Public School that’s working. Is it a model for the rest of the district- yes and no. Is there a single silver bullet like “mo money” or “better teachers” that will solve the problems- no. There is no Walmart of educational solutions where you can shop and buy 100 new reading specialists to improve your third grade reading scores- they just aren’t available.

And, a warning – this post is sure to piss off a lot of union teachers. Not because I don’t think you work hard, or aren’t paid enough, but that I think it’s time your profession owns up to the reality that your work schedule was designed around an agricultural economy that is so far back in the history books that if it had a copyright it would have been in the public domain before the Internet and project Gutenberg came along.

To briefly summarize why our schools aren’t competitive, we have to look at what began the great slide to the bottom. “Busing for integration” might have worked if it had a fixed ecosystem and the students didn’t have the option of opting out either by moving or going to private schools (now compounded by the option of just as mediocre publicly funded charter schools). Racial segregation was replaced by economic segregation- and in every study known to man, there is a direct, incontrovertible relationship between poverty and poor school performance. We’re not going to get more wealthy smart kids moving back into the district anytime soon- even if we stop letting outsiders buy their way into Stivers (which is a dirty little secret).

So the question becomes how to change the system to work better for poor kids than for better well off kids? How do you nurture children better on a part time basis? First step, you move to a full time basis. This is the heretical statement that is the key to making a real change. It’s the realization that you can’t half ass anything and expect different results.

Here are the three changes that must be made, and there isn’t anyone with the balls to say or do it, but anything less, will not change outcomes:

–End the 180-day school year.

For comparison: http://www.theatlantic.com/past/politics/educatio/barr2f.htm

Japan 243 New Zealand 190
West Germany 266-240 Nigeria 190
South Korea 220 British Columbia 185
Israel 216 France 185
Luxembourg 216 Ontario 185
Soviet Union 211 Ireland 184
Netherlands 200 New Brunswick 182
Scotland 200 Quebec 180
Thailand 200 Spain 180
Hong Kong 195 Sweden 180
England/Wales 192 United States 180
Hungary 192 French Belgium 175
Switzerland 191 Flemish Belgium 160
Finland 190

What have all these other countries done? Made school more like what a real job is like. Prepared kids for a world where you don’t get three months off in the summer. Note, most of these countries also afford their people more than the two weeks of paid vacation which is becoming a pipedream to many Americans.

More days in school isn’t the only part of the equation, it’s about what they do in school, how they approach the educational process. Common-core skills are more like real-life skills- being able to synthesize answers and solutions- through collaboration, research and analysis. These real-life skills often are best learned in what we’ve called extra-curricular or arts and sports programs. Unfortunately with transportation schedules currently ruling and limiting our time with students outside of the normal school day- many of these enrichment programs were cut. And let’s face it- teachers are the only ones who have a 6-hour designated work day with a 180-day year qualifying as a “full time job.”

It’s time to reexamine why our school day doesn’t equal the parents’ work day- not just for adding extra-curriculars- but for the fact that child care for impoverished homes isn’t a luxury- it’s a necessity. Along with the longer year- comes the longer day. It’s time for a 9-5 minimum school day.

The schedule is also critical- year-round schools show much less drop off, the dreaded summer slide goes away. Why a district in “academic emergency” isn’t on a full-year schedule as the first step is beyond comprehension. So, a longer school year (on a year-round schedule), with longer school days and and the reintroduction of the arts- sports, the extracurricular activities that made school worth going to, are key to making positive change happen.

All this costs money of course, but so do drop-outs who will be a burden to society for the rest of their lives by being unable to compete, to earn, to stay out of trouble. The costs of unprepared graduates also costs in the form of remedial courses at the college level, where costs are the responsibility of the student and their families- or, through more money in government grants and assistance.

We already know the effects of poverty on education, we pay for it by supplying meals to all Dayton Public School students “free of charge” (paid for by the taxpayers) because these are often the only meals these kids get. By extending the school day, and the school year- we may see better chances for poor parents to shift child care expenses to being able to cut food insecurity out even more.

We also have to look at how we’re educating kids. More and more, it’s become a matter of teaching to the tests requiring huge expenditures on new course materials driven by a mega business in educational materials that lobbies for “standards” that are ever changing. It’s time to get off this merry-go-round and realize that the world has changed, and that anything you want to learn about is available for free, on the internet. The text book is dead, and the fancy solutions that they are offering as rentals is another educational fad- driven by dollars that are there to be sucked out of government by the industiral-educational machine.

It’s absolutely critical that we learn to teach using the age-old Socratic method.

Socratic method (also known as method of elenchus, elenctic method, or Socratic debate), named after the classical Greek philosopher Socrates, is a form of inquiry and discussion between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to illuminate ideas.

This is what the “common core” is- a branded and packaged version of education.

Give the kids access to a digital reader- and there are tens of thousands of free books available via Project Gutenberg and others, that are perfectly capable of being used as reading texts. Books were written before 1923 that were worth reading. We read The Scarlet Letter in High School and it’s just as appropriate today as it was then- but we had to buy our copy. That’s no longer necessary if you have the technology in place.

Part of the common-core skill set should include researching and writing your own textbooks. The skills of adding to Wikipedia, building websites and online communities is critical for future knowledge workers- but we’ve not incorporated these skills into the curriculum- because we’re too busy working on jumping though hoops- instead of creating our own challenges. In the extended school day, school year- part of it should include writing your own books, creating your own math tests, devising your own chemistry experiments, writing your own music- because these are the real world skills you were supposed to gain under ANY educational framework- and have been sorely missed by all industrialized educational systems.

There is one other realization that must be made- and that is that all of our kids aren’t in homes that are fit for living in. Either because of extreme poverty, violence, addiction, special needs, Dayton has a population that is under incredible duress, where school is the only sane place in their young lives. It’s time to have a residential/boarding school as one of the options in the educational process. Either for short-term, or long-term students, to remove them from toxic influences. I’d recommend converting the former Marine Reserve Station on Gettysburg into a campus for kids who need more love and protection than most. An attempt was made to open one in Cincinnati- and failed. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea or impossible. It just means we’d be innovators like the Wright Brothers- because everyone knew they were crazy and man couldn’t fly.

Because we’re still stuck with a charter school system that requires Dayton Public to breast feed- one of the things that makes all these things difficult is that kids aren’t connected to neighborhoods anymore. One option that should be investigated is to bus kids back to the closest neighborhood school for the extended after-school programming- the arts, sports, coding and homework time after the “conventional” school day is done. This also allows parents and community to get involved in their children’s programming for tutoring and coaching. something the random distributed system we have now isn’t allowing for. Research has proven that parental involvement is a critical step in improving schools- but with current distribution of kids randomly throughout the district- it’s hard to form hard community and neighborhood bonds. Ideally, we’d move away from spending so much on diesel fuel attempting to “balance” an unequal system- but, for now, we’re sort of stuck with the system we have. Emerson Academy in South Park, a charter school, has a high percentage of neighborhood kids- and still doesn’t have the community as involved in the programs as possible. I’m hoping to bridge that gap in the coming months by beginning a literacy and reading program at the school on Saturdays for all ages.

There are no easy silver bullets to turning around school districts- no number of consultants, no new dollars, no supply of super teachers exist using our current structures. Throw those constraints out and try a different systemic solution and see what happens. Because from where I’m observing- there is only one way for the district to go from second from the bottom- and that is up.

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 new tool for successful “Community Based Policing”

South Park has been lucky. For at least the last 20 years, we’ve had a “Community Based Police Officer” or two- paid for by the good folks at Premier Health Partners/Miami Valley Hospital.

Since we’re a Historic District, and they can’t just bulldoze South Park- they figured they better make sure it’s safe, so their employees and patients aren’t scared away- or car jacked on the way to the hospital. At first, we even had a social worker working with the CBP’s as we like to refer to them- to work out issues where the police may not be the best solution. It was an attempt to do creative problem solving. It wasn’t the right answer.

Since the effort began, things have changed thanks to the Internet, Facebook and a strong neighborhood organization. A private group started on FB to discuss and report crime within the ‘hood. Now when your car got broken into- you’d know instantly if you were a single target- or if they had walked a few streets on the way to your car. People would then review their security cams. One of our neighbors who was adamantly against video surveillance- ended up finding out who totaled her boyfriend’s car thanks to a neighbor who caught it on video. We could share mugshots of the people who were police suspects- we now know who to be wary of, and what they are wanted for. But, even with increased information, we were still not getting the results we wanted.

There was one petty thief who kept returning to the neighborhood to live with his mom between stints in prison, and like clockwork, we knew when he was out as garage burglaries picked up. He solved our problem by finally OD’ing on heroin. One problem solved. Unfortunately now, he might be saved by a police officer with Narcan. I’m not so sure I’m a fan of Narcan unless the very next step is always a year-long treatment/rehabilitation program that’s inpatient and that works. Otherwise, we’re just recycling our problems.

This last crime spree was getting increasingly annoying. You’ve seen the post about our neighborhood cancer home, and there have been a few other stories in the news. Enter the most successful crime-fighting tool we’ve found: a former Dayton cop who knows the system inside and out.

He has served as an advocate for the community, collecting all the information about the crimes, the perps, their records, their probation status- and working with the police and the prosecutors to make the case as strong as possible. You know those cork boards of criminal families you see in cop shows- he’s building them and getting input from residents on who is related to who, and who their friends or “running buddies” are. This all takes time.

He’s given the neighborhood the information to write letters to judges just before the case comes to trial. He’s worked with police and the probation department to do spot bed checks on juveniles with court-imposed curfews. With prosecutors, police and probation officials all overworked, he’s served as their criminal concierge, serving up the bad guys for maximum effect when they get to court. The focus on outcomes being reported back in a timely fashion, makes it clear to all that this is now a neighborhood that won’t accept plea bargains, light sentences or too many chances for the low-lifers who are making our neighborhood suffer.

So far, we’ve got about 8 bad actors getting hit hard with the full book. We’re still looking at going into mediation with one crime house to see what it will take to just get them to leave the area. Others are being tossed by landlords who “didn’t know.” Never before have we had such a good flow of information about the courts, the police, the perps and the outcomes.

Here is the secret to successful community based policing in summary:

  • Have a well-defined neighborhood with good boundaries.
  • Have a strong neighborhood organization, with a great online communication structure.
  • Assign at least two police officers to the neighborhood, who come to meetings, share a private number and are highly visible and well known to the neighbors.
  • Provide information on criminal records, mug shots, good descriptions of the problem children to the community. Make it clear who the police think are suspects, and ask for help with license plates, hours of activity, what they are wearing etc.
  • Have a coordinator who knows the police, probation, judges, court system, prosecutors working to collect and organize everything from insurance claims, video surveillance footage, records, and serve as a communications hub between all parties.
  • Monitor judges’ and the prosecutors’ performance, always asking for maximum sentences, and minimal plea bargaining.

In the last month, we’ve seen probation revoked, landlords evicting, cases consolidated and coordinated and even new efforts with “surge patrolling” by the police department, “bait” programs to catch petty thieves stealing, and a heightened level of alert, resulting in more people calling to report even the smallest of criminal behavior, or when we hear gunshots. Things that used to be ignored, now go reported, and have led to arrests.

Ideally, it shouldn’t be this difficult to live in the City of Dayton. Oakwood residents never have to commit this amount of time and energy to providing for their public safety. It’s unfortunate that the focus of our leaders hasn’t been a clean, safe community for decades, but that’s the first level of building strong communities. The foundation. The one that can’t be ignored- ever.

In the next few weeks we’ll find out if more judges respond to these improved tactics and how it changes things in South Park. Will the criminal element that lives and steals here learn that crime won’t pay in South Park anymore? To be continued…