An outsider’s prescription for Dayton


The ignored secret behind successful organizations (and nations) is infrastructure. Not the content of what’s happening, but the things that allow that content to turn into something productive.

Here are some elements worth considering:

  • Transportation: Ideas and stuff have to move around. The more quickly, efficiently and safely, the better. This is not just roads, but wifi, community centers and even trade shows. Getting things, people and ideas from one place to another, safely and on time is essential to what we seek to build.
  • Expectation: When people wake up in the morning expecting good things to happen, believing that things are possible, open to new ideas–those beliefs become self-fulfilling. We expect that it’s possible to travel somewhere safely, and we expect that speaking up about a new idea won’t lead us to get fired. People in trauma can’t learn or leap or produce very much.
  • Education: When we are surrounded by people who are skilled, smart and confident, far more gets done. When we learn something new, our productivity goes up.
  • Civility: Not just table manners, but an environment without bullying, without bribery, without coercion. Clean air, not just to breathe, but to speak in.

Infrastructure and culture overlap in a thousand ways.

At the organizational level, then, it’s possible to invest in a workplace where things work, where the tools are at hand, where meetings don’t paralyze progress, where decisions get made when they need to get made (and where they don’t get undone).

It’s possible to build a workplace where people expect good things, from their leaders and their peers and the market. Where we expect to be heard when we have something to say, and expect that with hard work, we can make a difference.

It’s possible to invest in hiring people who are educated (not merely good grades, but good intent) and to keep those people trained and up to speed.

And it’s essential for that workplace to be one where the rule of law prevails, where people are treated with dignity and respect and where short term urgency is never used as a chance to declare martial law and abandon the principles that built the organization in the first place.

Yes, I believe the same is true for nation states. It’s not sexy to talk about building or maintaining an infrastructure, but just try to change the world without one.

Here’s something that’s unavoidably true: Investing in infrastructure always pays off. Always. Not just most of the time, but every single time. Sometimes the payoff takes longer than we’d like, sometimes there may be more efficient ways to get the same result, but every time we spend time and money on the four things, we’re surprised at how much of a difference it makes.It’s also worth noting that for organizations and countries, infrastructure investments are most effective when they are centralized and consistent. Bootstrapping is a great concept, but it works best when we’re in an environment that encourages it.

The biggest difference between 2015 and 1915 aren’t the ideas we have or the humans around us. It’s the technology, the civilization and the expectations in our infrastructure. Where you’re born has more to do with your future than just about anything else, and that’s because of infrastructure.

When we invest (and it’s expensive) in all four of these elements, things get better. It’s easy to take them for granted, which is why visiting an organization or nation that doesn’t have them is such a powerful wake up call.

Source: Seth’s Blog: Infrastructure

As I sat stuck in a traffic jam yesterday reaching from Downtown to Moraine, on I-75 N at 4:30 pm, I thought about who was the idiot who has I75, Main St, Warren Street- all covered with orange barrels at the same time? Who wasn’t working proactively, right then- to not just clear the blockage- but, trying to re-route as much traffic onto alternative roadways, and also- how did we allow the I-75 downtown reconstruction to shut down all the exits to downtown for so long…

But, then I realized the answer is nobody, because we don’t have leadership with the vision to see the implications of our pettiness, because it’s all we know. We have, and have had, leadership for so long that’s arrogant, unresponsive, and hell bent on their political future more than our regions. And then this piece comes out from Seth Godin this morning.

What started me on my political highway of failure at the hands of an uninformed and underinformed voter base, is summed up in Seth’s fourth point- Civility.

After crossing the gods of garage door appropriateness,  I went for help from my elected leaders with the asinine notion that they would listen and help.

Seth: “but an environment without bullying, without bribery, without coercion.”

When I went to the City Commission out of frustration about garbage collectors working 30 hours, getting paid for 56- and got shut down- and then the Commission had a secret, illegal meeting to discuss ways to block citizens from speaking at City Commission meetings- I expected a groundswell of support as I brought this issue to the forefront. Instead, I was arrested, mocked, and locked into a prolonged legal battle when all the resources were stacked in their corner.

Seth: “we expect that speaking up about a new idea won’t lead us to get fired.”

Our City (Dayton – the location on the map, not the one divvied by political fiefdoms that battle constantly) would do well to look at Seth’s list of four simple elements of “infrastructure” to learn how to put things back into order.

It’s not about highways and civil engineering – it’s about civility.

It’s not about big ideas- it’s about being free to express them, without fear.

It’s not about education- it’s about the values we place on it.

And lastly, it’s not really about infrastructure as much as it is about values we hold sacred.

For the benefit of all of us, not just the inner cabal of the  Monarchy of Montgomery County.

Thank you Seth Godin.



Bernie Sanders will change American politics

It’s July 29, 2015, in Ohio. Our primary isn’t until March 15, 2016 – and there were close to 100 people gathered in a union hall to hear Bernie Sanders give his “grassroots organizing kickoff” speech.

No slick camera work. His podium- a music stand. No teleprompter- just his notes on a yellow legal pad. The backdrop- a bunch of Bernie signs taped to a wall behind him. If I could find the link- I’d post it, but it’s not up yet.

As unpolished as it gets. And that, of course is the point.

His speech was about 10 minutes. Take out his repeating of the words “enough is enough” and you get it down to under 8 minutes. And not a word about himself. None of his personal experiences, or story telling- just straight facts.

  • Banks that are too big to fail are too big to be around.
  • He’ll name Supreme Court justices who will bring the end to “Citizens United.”
  • Sandra Bland shouldn’t have died for a traffic violation- (never mind the travesty of Samuel Dubose in Cincinnati) and we have to end institutionalized racism.
  • A path to citizenship.
  • No hiding of corporate profits by U.S. corporations.
  • Free public college for all.
  • End the state of incarceration.
  • Single payer healthcare for all.
  • Double the minimum wage so that a 40-hour workweek can actually keep you out of poverty.

There may have been a few more- but, this is the same message he’s been sharing for the last 30 plus years.

When did we mix up the idea of looking and sounding good is more important than good thinking in this country? When did we stop electing people based on their ideas instead of their fundraising or telepresence? Some say it goes back to the first big TV debate when JFK beat Nixon by wearing makeup and not looking like he needed a shave.

Bernie can’t win say all the pundits- mostly because he doesn’t give them the fodder or the money that other candidates do. Had this been Hilary’s kickoff- she would have dropped a few hundred thousand just on “production values” instead of on our values as Americans.

She lost Iowa 8 years ago to a black guy with a Muslim name. She won’t win in New Hampshire this year. The only people she’s fooling are the people who give her the money that she wastes on looking good instead of just being the voice of the people. Bernie has that job locked up.

Now all you have to do is listen- and spread the word. This is a fresh change of circumstances for American politics and the American people. Get ready for a change that you will actually be a part of, instead of just believing in.


How Bernie Sanders could contribute to changing political campaigns

When the Green Party wanted to take over Canada in 2005, they put a lot of money and work into an open source software project, CiviCRM, which was built for managing voter data and running a data based campaign.

CiviCRM manages donations, communications, building walk lists, organizing events, tracking voter preferences and more. It also can be used to do case management for non-profits, or even run a School District’s student information system.

The Canadian Greens were working with an early version of Civi, and developed some very useful tools like the canvassing/walklist generator. Unfortunately, after the Greens took office, they never updated or upgraded their system to match the development of Civi. 10 years in software is like the technology changes of 50 years in cars and airplanes.

The CiviCRM project is still going strong, doing all kinds of good things for non-profits and small money politics. If Bernie Sanders truly believes in leveling the playing field, and making running for office more affordable for all, he would take some of his $15 million war chest- and put it toward two critical upgrades that need to happen to Civi- or even fork it-

  • A responsive backend interface
  • A mobile device integration for canvassing/data collection.

The cost to do this would be less than half a million, and could even include some needed UI improvements.

If he really wanted to transform politics, he’d build the ultimate database of every registered voter, with their voter history- which is already in the public domain- and geo-code every household and allow voters to opt-in to political email to help cut the costs involved in reaching them. If the database was really slick, it would also contain a list of every office you vote for based on your location/ward/precinct/district- and who is in it- complete with your local polling location and process for absentee vote baked in. Right now- it’s almost impossible for most voters to find that stuff out- and it could be improved by also putting the job description, salary and instructions on how to file and run in one centralized place.

The Obama machine built a system capable of running campaigns, but, despite promises of “Hope” and “Change” they kept their data to themselves- and the tools that make it possible to elect other progressive candidates. Each new candidate has to either buy into expensive proprietary systems from private companies like NGPVan, VoterVault (now GOP DataCenter), NationBuilder etc- or start from scratch.

Here’s a video by NGP Van to explain what these systems do:

Democratizing the tools/weapons of politics would be a giant start in the right direction. The amount of money to bring these tools online- from data importing, geocoding, and phone/email matching is an insane waste of money, and it’s done every cycle for every contested office.

Watching locals trying to organize without a handbook, a tool box and the data management tools needed to run a modern campaign is sad. Not giving them the keys to get a campaign running ahead of your own campaign is a tactical mistake, because enthusiasm can’t be put on hold, until you are ready- it’s gotta be there for when the voters are ready.

It’s time someone put their money where their mouth is in reforming our election process. Improving CiviCRM would help every small candidate be able to compete.

Just say no to naloxone

Naloxone, or Narcan® is the antidote for heroin overdose. It puts first responders in a position to “save” junkies from their stupidity. The same junkies who, in many cases, have been taking up inordinate amounts of their resources- causing crimes to feed to their habit.

Some first responders don’t feel comfortable intervening in Darwin’s work. Others, worry about liability, as practicing medicine isn’t what they signed up for. And, in many cases, it’s really a moot point, because many junkies just come back and do it again.

The reality is, our country is schizophrenic about addiction and drug use. While there is a growing base of support for legalized marijuana which was often labeled a “gateway drug”, cigarettes which are said to be more addictive than heroin- are getting carte blanche access to a new nicotine delivery system via vapor/e-cigs. Stats are showing a decline in smoking among teens but a huge uptick in e-cig use.

What’s even funnier- is that persons vaping in the bar, may not even have nicotine fluid in their vape- it may be hash oil- and you’d be none the wiser. Chalk one up for the druggies.

Fentanyl is the “new problem” for junkies. Dealers apparently don’t see the value in return clientele and are cutting their H with Fentanyl- with deadly results. It’s a synthetic opiate- that’s much more powerful and fast acting. It’s a sad day when you need 100% organic labeling on the drug you’re buying to ruin your life- but, that seems to be the case.

Governments can pass laws all they want against drug use, but they won’t stop it anymore than laws against prostitution have worked, or prohibition with alcohol. Drug use is here to stay. What we have to decide is what our real goal is in society? Is it to eliminate people’s escape mechanisms- or to create a huge incarceration industry- or to improve everyone’s quality of life?

Think about it. You may never ingest a single illegal substance. You may not know anyone who does, but you pay for it in so many different ways.

  • The cost of crime to feed the addicts’ habits.
  • The lost hours of productivity as people deal with their loved ones’ addictions.
  • The cost of emergency services to respond to overdoses.
  • The costs of locking people up.
  • The cost of insurance against the actions of addicts- who are more likely to be uninsured motorists involved in accidents, thieves, etc.
  • The cost of health care provided “for free” to these physically debilitated junkies.
  • Costs of maintenance programs that substitute one drug for another at public expense.

Face it- we all pay the costs of a few peoples’ illness.

This isn’t unique to the United States- just our huge emphasis on incarcerating people for being involved with drugs are. We spend billions on a system that doesn’t solve anything. Just like Naloxone- it’s not a cure, just a quick fix- a return back to square one, to start the merry go round again.

Should we just let junkies die? While that sounds harsh- we seem to be in favor of the death penalty too, seeing as we allow it. It’s amazing- the State can’t find the drug combo it wants to use to kill people- with drug companies “refusing to supply it” – while Fentanyl seems to work just fine on the streets.

We need to totally rethink how we want to deal with drug addiction in this country. Suppose we supplied clean kits and provided no questions drug purity testing? Would heroin deaths and the need for Naloxone drop?

Or, if we just legalized the drugs and tried to make sure that the people who want to go through life stoned- can do so without impacting the rest of us? Sometimes I think we’d do better to just wall off a Vegas like compound- where people can go in and do whatever they want- signing waivers to enter- with the only condition is much like the old Vegas ad tagline- “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” You want to gamble, prostitute, do drugs- go to the compound, let the rest of us get on with our own lives free of your “sins.”

While I believe my body to be a temple- and that ingesting drugs and  alcohol are a defilement, most of the population has no problem with drinking- despite the huge numbers of deaths from drunk driving- and costs associated with lost productivity due to hangovers. Taking drugs is really a crime against yourself in my eyes- and having the government get involved in your personal decisions doesn’t work out most of the time, be it pregnancy, marriage or assisted suicide.

You can make a historical argument for such a place- didn’t the founding fathers declare: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” – and if you think heroin is going to make you happy- who are we to stop you?

Would Dayton pass the Ferguson test?

This is a hypothetical post. I don’t know the answers. But I think a lot of people in Dayton would tell you unequivocally that Dayton would fail a fairness test if the Feds came in and did an audit of arrests, prosecutions, stops, tickets, fines and enforcement patterns.

Considering that the writing is all over the walls, a mostly white safety force; despite Federal intervention long ago, proven redlining of loans, a completely failed “racial integration” of schools. Throw in the recent outing of members of the Sheriff’s department for racially unacceptable texts and it would be easy to guess what a federal investigation of Dayton would find.

Arguments have been made that the traffic cameras were mostly placed in poor communities, and even then, more in areas predominately African American. If you look at the county jail, most of the time, its racial composition doesn’t come close to reflecting the local racial makeup.

But this is America- where we stubbornly believe in ideals that weren’t ideal when they were written (“all men are created equal- yet slavery wasn’t abolished for another century and civil rights came another 100 years later). Somehow, despite incredible evidence to the contrary- we still believe we’re a first world country, a leader, while our own people suffer from unconscionable oppressions.

Our costs of health care are the highest in the world, our cost of an advanced education are skyrocketing, and while we have access to cheap food, much of it isn’t really fit for consumption. Our elections are rigged with “corporations are people too” money, and less than half the people vote- meaning our vaunted “democracy” is really only a majority of the minority’s beliefs.

I read about freedoms that are constitutionally guaranteed that are being questioned or abused almost daily. We arm ourselves against an illogical threat, and kill more of our own with our own guns- and yet think we’re safer with them than without them. We incarcerate more people, with an astoundingly disproportionate number of the inmates a “minority” and yet, still claim ourselves a “free country” and have the audacity to think our “model” is best for others.

We spend more than half the planet on “defense” which is mostly used as offense, in places that we don’t understand, but feel the need to meddle.

And while the justice department tries to clean house in Ferguson, in reality, it’s nothing but a sideshow- a distraction, a sleight of hand, because in the grand scheme of things, we’ve not been a land of opportunity for a long time.

We could have the Feds come here and apply their tests, and we could fail, but in the end, it won’t change anything until we fundamentally reexamine the kind of country we have and the kind of country we deserve. I don’t fault the racists in Ferguson, or the grandstanding of the Feds, I fault Americans for assuming that things can’t change, that this is acceptable, and holding on to a ridiculous pride in a country that deserves an F grade in equality and justice.

Making an example out of Ferguson, won’t fix anything.

We’ve got systemic issues, from top to bottom that need to be addressed.

If we want to be truly great, we need to take a step back and rethink everything.


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:

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.

Shoot first, answer questions later?

There used to be cops who spent their entire life on the streets and never drew their service weapon. Those days are gone.

The very idea of unholstering a firearm- and pointing it at someone only means one thing- you are prepared to shoot someone. That person, has to be an immediate threat to someone’s life- an imminent danger- and then, and only then, would you be OK to shoot. At least that used to be the equation.

Guns on the streets weren’t an everyday occurrence- unless of course, you were a criminal. And despite all these people going out and getting CCW licenses- those guns aren’t out on display- they’re concealed. And since Ohio is an “Open Carry” state- it’s actually legal to walk around with your hand cannon strapped to your side- even if it does make people uncomfortable.

But lately- toy guns in black men’s hands are an instant death sentence- whether in Walmart in Beavercreek or in Cleveland on a playground.

In Dayton on Christmas eve, a 20-year-old black male was arrested for “waving a toy gun around.”

Bennie Coleman, 20, was arrested on Tuesday morning and booked in Montgomery County Jail. Police observed him in a firing stance, pointing the gun at passing motorists and waving the gun back and forth from left to right, according to a Dayton police report.

via Man arrested for pointing fake gun at drivers| Dayton, OH Crime |

He was in jail on Christmas day- for “inducing panic” with a $2,500 bail and awaiting arraignment on a parole violation. Now on the 27th- it’s up to $5K. Apparently- toy guns are now weapons, because, well, any criminal could just paint the tip of a real gun orange to “fool police.”

Fooling police? Really?

The riot cops in Ferguson were shown in photos acquiring targets with military grade weaponry. This began a debate on military “technology” transfer to local police departments, not the fact that they were lining up their sights on targets- without an imminent threat.

Let’s talk about the imminent threat to a civil society- the breakdown of law and order. When the rules become so fluid, and get applied haphazardly- they begin to have no meaning. How does Bennie Coleman end up in jail for more than 48 hours for a toy gun- while my neighbor, Brandon, Demolition Derby, Crouch- is out in 48 hours when caught with a real gun? Is that one is black and the other white? Is it that our laws aren’t really laws anymore? We already assume the wealthy don’t get the same treatment from the courts that the poor do- hence people like Mike Peppel who stole millions- got 7 days in jail while a poor grocery clerk- threatened with 40 years.

Since the “war on drugs” began, we’ve taken a draconian puritanical approach- criminalizing mind-altering substances as if they are a threat to the health and welfare of every person in this country. Our heavy-handed approach to this “problem” has put record numbers of people in a very expensive prison system- at an alarmingly racially disparate rate. Yet after forty plus years, no one has stopped to ask if this program is working? Is it making us safer? Is it solving the problem? The answer to both is no.

Stand back and think about what it means to live in a country that puts incarceration over education, incarceration over health care, and ask if the fundamental problems we face aren’t our own doing?

We’re creating a permanent underclass of perpetually under-employable people with our system of mass incarceration. We’re taking away all hopes and dreams of an equitable and just future for an alarmingly large percentage of our population. If the number 1 in 32 doesn’t make you wonder- that’s the number of people who are either incarcerated, on parole or probation.

We’ve created more police apparatus to “keep us safe” since 9/11- with the entire department of Homeland Security- a multibillion-dollar operation that ostensibly is here to protect us from outside threats. Our local threats- well, we don’t really want to talk about those.

We’ve been shooting first for a long time- at a self-defined target, chosen by a politician to create mass hysteria and a revision of our social engineering. While every other civilized country treats drug addiction as a mental illness- we treat is as a crime. While every other industrialized nation believes that health care is a universal right- we create a system that criminalizes not-buying insurance from a private company that’s allowed to make billions. While the costs of our “justice system” and “health care systems” exceed every other country in the world- we still continue on the same path.

We’ve been shooting first for a long time- and no one is asking if it’s the right thing to do.

Suppose we emptied our prisons, except for those who are a physically dangerous threat to others, and spent all that money we’ve spent warehousing poor people- and instead spent it on education, health care and jobs. Suppose we eliminated the health insurance companies and went to a single payer system that paid for universal care. Suppose we treated drug addiction as a mental health problem instead of a criminal one?

Would we still need so many guns pointed at people?

Isn’t the point of a civilized society to be one where you don’t have to live in the Wild West- with a six gun on your hip? Isn’t a civilized society one where we can settle our differences without killing each other? Are we really still civilized in America today? Or have we just stopped asking questions?

I think you know the answer.


Thanks to a man named Shirley

Photo of Shirley Gossett

From the left: Shirley R. Gosset, Staff Sgt. Joshua L. Brady, and retired Lt. Col. James L. Pritchett, all 82nd Airborne Division veterans, join to place a wreath honoring fallen paratroopers in front of the 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial May 26. Photo by Pfc. Mike Pryor, USA

For the life of me, I don’t remember how I got invited, but at age 22, freshly out of the Army on Temporary Disabled Retirement Leave, I found myself in a basement in Vandalia with a bunch of superheroes.

Most of them, gray haired, and close to, or recently retired, they all shared a common bond- jumping out of a perfectly good airplane for Uncle Sam.

I have never met a bunch of strangers that I was so instantly embraced by. Within a meeting or two, I was “elected” their Sgt. at Arms. They were the 82nd Airborne Division Association, General Matthew B. Ridgway chapter. And although it was the 82nd- and I’d only served with 7th Group down the street- the bond was the ownership of a pair of jump wings.

The basement, belonged to a man who always had a smile on his face- and gleam in his eye, a man named Shirley Gossett.

His obituary appeared in today’s paper- with a perfunctory summation of his military and post military pride in being a paratrooper:

Shirley graduated from Parker Vocational High School in 1941 and was on the Reunion Committee for 40 years. He served in the U.S. Army 325 Glider Infantry of the 82nd Airborne Division in Holland, Belgium, and Germany as a Scout & Runner in WWII. Shirley earned many ribbons including the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He retired as a sheet metal worker from Local #224 after 40 years. He formed their Retirement Club in 1985-6 and served as their President for four terms.

In 1970, Shirley formed the Dayton Chapter of the 82nd Airborne Division Association, which was later renamed after General Matthew B. Ridgway. He served on the Board of Directors of the 82nd Airborne Association as Secretary, Assistant Executive Director, Executive Director and was elected as National President in 1981 and 1986. In 1990, Shirley received their highest award, “All-American of the Year.” He was certainly the most active veteran in this association, holding raffles, selling VCR tapes and books will all profits going to their Educational Fund.

In 2000, 82nd Airborne Commander, MG Dan McNeil presented Shirley with the “Commander’s Award,” an award given to a civilian for his dedication to the Division.

via Shirley GOSSETT Obituary: View Shirley GOSSETT’s Obituary by Dayton Daily News.

He died November 13, 2014, in an odd twist in obituaries, it didn’t have his age or birthday. Doing some math- based on graduating from high school at 18- he was born in 1923, and was probably 91.

Tom Brokaw dubbed men like Shirley our greatest generation, and to have known him, you’d understand why.

Those meetings of men, from all walks of life, all social strata, that were held in Shirley’s basement, told a story of the resiliency that they brought to battle, on foreign soil, for a cause that was as clearly just as any in history.

I remember hearing stories from these fine gentlemen of having more combat jumps than training jumps (5). Of going off to war, with no guarantee of coming home after a “tour”- unless you were severely injured or in a casket. Some of them had served in the 101st at Bastogne in the “Battle of the Bulge” – facing incalculable odds and horrendous weather. Many had put behind the horrors of war, and come home to raise kids, have careers and live a life that was considered “normal”- without the respect and appreciation they deserved for their sacrifices by a country that seemed to turn its back on those who served.

All of them, were welcome in Shirley’s basement, its walls covered with memorabilia- a shrine to the “All American” division. All of them brothers from different mothers.

I drifted away from attending after my term was up. Taking on battles with the city over garage doors, running for office and later starting my own band of brothers- VOB 108, a group for Veteran Business Owners. But, every so often, I’d stop by an 82nd event, and get the same big smile from Shirley and a welcome hand from the brotherhood of paratroopers, and some ribbing for not winning election battles.  If there is a reason why my license plate has the army jump wings on it- it’s because of Shirley, who put a higher value on the fraternity than I ever would have imagined. It’s not about my accomplishments, but about that of those who came before me and after me

As I ran around the track at Ft. Benning, during “tower week,” past the c47 painted in Normandy invasion stripes, we would chant a cadence about the perils of parachuting…

Stand up, hook up, shuffle to the door.
Jump on out and count to 4,
and if my main don’t open wide,
I’ve got another, by my side.
And if that one should fail me too,
lookout ground, I’m comin’ through
Tell my girl, I’ve done my best-
Pin my medals upon my chest
bury me in the front leaning rest…

Thank you for your service Shirley Gossett. And for being a prince among men. Those who have had the honor to shake your hand, and share in the Airborne brotherhood will miss you. There isn’t anything more you could have done for us, your family, our country.

Airborne, all the way.


Funeral services will be held at 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, November 19 at the Morton & Whetstone Funeral Home, 139 S. Dixie Dr., Vandalia with Pastor Dennis Phillips officiating. Interment with military honors will follow at Forest Hills Memorial Gardens. The family will receive friends at the funeral home on Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. until time of service.




Shamed them into action

As I just got my 5th box of basketball nets from Tuffy Brooks (thanks to Chad Snoke and Geo Pro Consultants) and went out to do some net maintenance on our parks, I finally have a success story to tell.

Arlington Hills Park, July 27 2014. Rotting backboard. Dayton Ohio

Arlington Hills Park, July 27 2014. Rotting backboard.

Last month I stopped by the “Arlington Hills” park – a double court on a field where the old “Gangster Courts” projects were, and I reported a crappy backboard and graffiti on the court with the “Dayton Delivers” mobile application. Here is the photo of the rotting backboard and lame rim:

There was graffiti on the court, someone has been driving donuts on the court, there are no benches for players. In all- a poor excuse for a park and a court.
I’ve never actually seen any kids on this court, in all my visits- and the nets don’t need replacing as often as other courts.

Today, I stopped by after hanging nets at Dunbar HS, DeSoto Bass, Wogamen Elementary School and fixing nets at a few other places as well as hanging a few on rollout rims for the kids playing street ball.

City of Dayton puts up new poles, backboards, rims at Arlington Hills park

Same spot- new pole, backboard rim and net! Times 4!

I almost couldn’t believe my eyes- four brand new backboards, on new poles, with new rims now grace the court at Arlington Hills Park.

It looks like a place where you actually would want to play a game . It made my day. I’ve also witnessed the demolition of the courts at Burkham Park, Princeton Rec Center and have been told Residence park is being rebuilt right now.

They still aren’t using my “preferred rim” – the First Team FT172D which I think is the best rim out there, but, these are the second best style out there.

Ideally- every court would also have benches for guys to rest, while the game is going on, and a working drinking fountain, since most courts are in full sun.

I’ve heard that Mallory Park is up for repair as well, and a few others this year, with more next year, although no one has told me the complete list.

I only hope the three rims we put up at Princeton are going to be recycled and not thrown out.

This is the kind of city I envision- one where our parks are clean and safe. Our schools are great, our neighborhoods strong and our businesses successful. Even though I’ve never won an election (except as precinct captain or neighborhood president) I feel that my efforts to hang the green nets were the catalyst for the city to finally take action and fix our courts.

I’m still sad that we’ve closed our neighborhood pools and replaced them with spray parks, and that we have no youth sports programs to speak of, but, I hope to keep the focus on keeping our kids on the courts instead of in the courts through sports and recreational programming.

Thank you to all the barber shops and beauty salons, and all of you who donated- and extra thanks to those who bought me nets, rims, zip ties and ladders.

All that grassroots effort- has finally begun to pay off. Or, as some would say- shame is a powerful motivator.

Thank you.


The crime scene instant replay hypocrisy

The first thing the rabble rousing reverends call for in the recent police shooting of a young black man in a lily white communities Walmart is to see the store video- all of it.

Yet, the exact same people rail against traffic cams installed to monitor speed and stop lights.

Don’t forget the ones who screamed bloody murder over the high resolution drone surveillance either.

Our society has been spoiled by instant replay from every angle to figure out if a penalty in football was called correctly or if the players foot stepped on the line, that we seem to expect the same from some Chinese DVR taking low rez photos at 10 frames per second in a store.

Some police departments are experimenting with personal video recorders attached to the shirts of their officers, to provide “evidence” of what “really happened” in a police interaction. This is after “dash cams” became the norm- letting the public voyeurs see some things as horrible as when a few local white supremacists decided to do a Bonnie and Clyde move- shooting an unsuspecting State Trooper on a routine traffic stop. Hyped by media that still lives by the adage “if it bleeds it leads” we’ve turned into junkies for “Reality TV” of real life tragedies which often happen when idiots and guns mix. Even pellet guns- as was the case in the Beavercreek Walmart.

One person wrote into the Dayton Daily news wondering what would have happened in the Walmart had a private citizen packing now legal heat at decided to take out the bb gun waving, cell phone talking black man, instead of the police? Or what would have the police done had they seen one of those Concealed Carry people waiting with gun drawn- in case the pellet gun genius came their way? It’s sad that just the hysteria caused by this incident also took the life of a young woman who died as she tried to flea the scene by yet undetermined causes.

What does store security video do to change all of this? We’re yet to find out. Most of it comes without sound- so unless the Feds have lip readers, ways to enhance video like on crime scene shows (I work in video and can tell you that most of that “resolution enhancement” you see on CSI is total BS) we may just end up with more questions than answers. This isn’t an NFL game with 13 cameras following the ball at all times from all angles.

At least ten years ago- I sat in a Greene County Court room where a young black man was about to be sent away for three years in prison. The evidence then? A dash cam recording – which coupled with mandatory sentencing laws, decided the case for the judge. The crime? A drunk black man, in cuffs in the back of the cruiser, says on camera to the officer “you won’t live to see your next birthday.” A mandatory 3 year felony stint for threatening the life of a law enforcement officer. Had the black man just hit the cop- 6 months and a minor misdemeanor.

The judge said in the sentencing- “In all my years on the bench, we usually have two parties telling different stories about the same event, and somewhere in the middle is the truth. Here, all we had to do was press play” and a life was changed for saying something stupid.

Video replay of crimes can’t always be the gold standard for deciding guilt or innocence, at some point common sense has to enter into the equation.

I don’t envy the cops who had to make a split second decision about if a gun is real or not real, and if the person acting irrationally (yes, walking through a store with anything like a firearm un-holstered or pointed anywhere other than the floor or ceiling is irrational) could prevent that officer from going home to his family that night. It’s in those split seconds where photographic evidence isn’t the end all and be all. If it shows a gun being pointed anywhere other than floor or ceiling- what the commands were, if they were followed, timing- don’t really matter anymore in my book. The possibility of a tragedy brought on a real tragedy and second guessing it isn’t solving the problem.

The real questions should be is what other shoppers saw- what they thought? Does one persons account via a 911 call make this a situation calling for SWAT? Should the 911 caller be questioned for inciting panic? These are some of the questions that need to be answered.

As to our constant monitoring by video and its effect on our civil liberties, that cat is so long out of the bag it’s time to stop arguing about it, and consider what our real expectations are for a civil and moral society that doesn’t break down into dysfunction at the drop of a dime.