Incompetence of Dayton City Hall on their Street light tax

Screenshot of Dayton Streetlight assessment

I don’t even own my own home according to the city of Dayton

$6.69 was how much the Certified mail cost.

Time to prepare the letter- stuff the envelope with the 4 checks totaling $577.92 to return, had to cost another $20 in labor, paper, envelope etc.

Instead of getting their money now, they’ve turned it over to the Montgomery County Treasurer- adding additional costs- of data entry, and adding to bills- in an installment plan over the next 6 years.

Instead of cash in hand, they now get it in six payments.

All because they claim it wasn’t received by their deadline- despite being mailed in the same city 2 days before.

This, is what we call in business, STUPID.

Obviously, Finance Director C. LaShea Smith doesn’t understand net present value, or labor costs.

This is a horrendous waste of taxpayers’ money.

Just opening letters and posting the accounts would take them days.

Having a hard deadline, while they may think makes things “fair”- without an unofficial grace period, is cutting off your nose to spite your face.

And note, since none of my four assessments was over $250, they never mailed me anything.

The only reason I knew where to go to find out the amount that was due- was because they had sent my father an email with a link to the site with the amounts.

There I was amazed to find out that someone in Beavercreek owned my house.

Still incorrect: Go to http://maps.cityofdayton.org/public/SLSAPrePay/Default.aspx type in my last name and see this (screen shot above):

Voucher Link Account Number Parcel ID Parcel Location Owner Name Owner Name Cont. Owner Address Street Light District Annual Amount (Advanced Payment) Total Amount (Advanced Payment)
View Voucher 15645 R72 02702 0021 113 BONNER ST DAVID ESRATI 2130 HEDGE GATE BLVD B $37.60 $225.60
View Voucher 15652 R72 02702 0028 122 BONNER ST DAVE ESRATI 113 BONNER ST B $16.94 $101.64
View Voucher 15656 R72 02702 0033 100 BONNER ST DAVID ESRATI 113 BONNER ST B $25.07 $150.42
View Voucher 15668 R72 02702 0046 120 BONNER ST DAVE ESRATI 113 BONNER ST B $16.71 $100.26

Apparently, the city IT people are incompetent as well- after talks with someone in the treasurer’s office, they determined that the city was pulling from the wrong data field- and that on my house record, someone had transposed numbers back in 2010 and fixed all the main screens- but just not this one.

Calls to the city weren’t returned in a timely manner- and the issue is obviously still not fixed.

Ms. Smith ends her expensive letter with “We appreciate your support and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.”

How about, “I’m sorry, we like to waste your tax dollars, and cost the city money, because we really don’t know what we’re doing.”

If I was a city commissioner, I’d be asking City Manager Tim Riordan about the competence of his staff. Maybe if they weren’t so busy giving money away to businesses and developers to keep them in Dayton, they wouldn’t be turning their noses up at cash being sent to them.

[update] Soon after posting this, Kerry Gray, assistant to the City Commission, called about this. He took notes to pass to the commission. He told me that only 1.7% of the properties attempted to pay in advance. Can you say #FAIL [/update]

 

The dilemma of the friends and family plan comes to light

Karen Wick Gagnet and Jim Gagnet are like family to me. I’ve known them for over 20 years. I’ve watched in amazement as Jim has set his sights on redevelopment and done things that others wouldn’t even dream of. The list of his successes is formidable. At one point, he was teamed up with Tom Tornatore and they tried to rehab almost all of the Oregon business district single handedly. They ended up in bankruptcy when local lenders didn’t have the balls or vision to see what these two were up to. The buildings that house the 5th St. Wine and Deli, Roost Modern Italian, Luckys, the Samu (which has Press, Sew Dayton and  Pulse) and Johnston (with Clash Consignments) were all part of their “empire” as was the Diner- now Vex.

Jim shook off that fall, and started back. The derelict building in South Park without a roof- at 412 Hickory was his next major project. He paid $30K for a building that had negative value. He rebuilt the roof, the floors, the windows- all from cash since no bank would lend. He also took on building Coco’s number 2 on Wayne Avenue- most of which was built with his own sweat equity.

They hired my firm- The Next Wave to develop the identity, the ads, the menu design. We built their website, I was even involved with the architectural plans. They’ve been good clients for a long time.

Now, they are being drawn and quartered on the front page of the Dayton Daily news for getting preferential treatment by the city. Lots they’ve bought had been dumped on, and may have even contained some of the materials from their rehab of adjoining homes. From the DDn:

City Public Works Director Fred Stovall said the Coco’s owners called city Street Maintenance Supervisor Jim Brinegar directly and asked for the cleanup; he stressed it was for their residential property, not their business. Brinegar OK’d it, and the city hauled off roughly eight truckloads of trash.

Last Wednesday, the crew came back for another pile. At least five city workers were at the site, along with two city dump trucks and a city front-loader, which was scooping up blocks of concrete.

Stovall said city workers hauled away another eight truckloads that day, but he put a stop to it when contacted by the Daily News. He estimates the roughly 16 truckloads at two cleanups cost the city about $2,600.

via City cleans up private property for Coco’s Bistro owner | www.mydaytondailynews.com.

To many in Dayton, this is an insult. Repeated calls about dumping are often ignored. Alleys and empty lots in other areas of the city are ignored. But, this is Dayton, where we have no problem shooting anyone in the back who dares to do anything other than what the herd mentality rewards.

The reality is, if our city were working properly, we wouldn’t be a dumping ground. The other reality is, Nan Whaley has fundraisers at Coco’s. We do take care of those who take care of our politicians. But, even if the bill was $5,000 or $10,000 this is a bogus chump change argument- a public lynching of good people for the benefit of selling papers (notice I don’t call it a newspaper).

The City Commission gave UPS a buyout of a lease that was to run through 2019- with annual revenue to the city of almost $2 million a year, as well as the requirement to maintain the old Emery Air Freight hub in pristine, operational condition. The city took the net present value, or about $7 million as a buyout. The commission then gave away half of it- to IRG- carpetbaggers from California- and a three-year lease on the property which is due to expire in the spring of next year. IRG then proceeds to scrap  everything of value in the building to put more money in their pockets, lets the facility go to hell, and has next to nothing to show for it.

That didn’t make the front page of the paper. Let’s see- $3,000 is iTeam worthy- but $3 million+ isn’t?

I don’t think that the city should have cleared the private lots based on published city policy. When my neighbor Rodney bought the dump  of a house next to my cottages for tax value, he’s had to pay for all the debris hauling- and he’s still being charged taxes at the same rate as I am for my cottages- despite the fact his has no utilities and is falling apart. We need to provide fair and honest service to our citizens, regardless of who you know, and how much money you have. It’s the American way.

Had it not been for the Gagnets, the city would still have a bunch of under-utilized empty buildings- not just on Warren street, but in the Oregon District as well. They are the real champions of economic development- and they deserve not to be prosecuted in the court of public opinion because our city is run by petty criminals who take care of themselves and those they like- with the  infamous friends and family plan.

I often get told that my lack of tact makes me unacceptable as a candidate for commission. I believe in open, honest discussion of issues, and stick to the facts, the truth and look at things from an objective point of view. This is an incredibly hard post to publish. It’s also risking a client. There are no other candidates who will touch this with a 10-foot pole, or open their sites up to comments and discussion- I do, I always have, and I always will. You don’t have to like me, or my positions, but I promise one thing, you will respect me for not playing favorites or ducking the hard subjects. Thank you for reading.

The honey-do in Dayton List

All on my own, I managed to kill my mower (can’t blame the little brother this time). I tried to fix what I could- cleaned the carb, got a new governor spring, changed the filter, plug and oil. Nada.

But, I had forgotten about my post- about lawn mower repair (luckily my girlfriend reminded me):

Enter ad on Craigs list:

I am looking for running or non running lawn mowers, riding mowers, snow blowers, etc……. also looking for running or non running cars and trucks that people are giving away or selling for very very cheap, if you have any of these items or know some one that does, please keep my number and let me know.

My name is Mark 937-269-3649 Greatly appreciated, thanks for your time.

We also do minor repairs on lawn mowers, snow blowers, etc…….. Thanks.

I called. Mark and his brother came out to look at my 4 mowers. I told them I just wanted one to work- preferably the big wheel one I bought a few years back. It was raining- we were discussing price- and they started talking about a receipt- or me taking down their license number. I said if I can’t trust you to do this on a handshake, life isn’t really worth it.

2 hours later- they brought back the big wheel mower working. Swapped engines with one of the others- sharpened the blade. Still needs a new plug and filter- but- it’s running.

via Small business needs help and customers: Mower repair.

Called Mark and his brother again- and they came, picked up the mower, replaced the coil and I’ve got a working mower again. All within a few hours- and inexpensively at that.

They even said that a few of my readers had called them after the last post. Thank you. The brothers are also doing light mechanical work on cars- and staying afloat, but could always use more mower work, so if your mower isn’t working- give them a call.

Next up- tree trimming. The front of our house is a mini forest- with 4 trees. One is overpowering another and we need to get it trimmed back- and the branches hauled away. Once again- my girlfriend checked my blog- and called Dan Fugate for an estimate- also from my blog- as my mother thanked the neighborhood for recommending a tree service:

David – please thank Bob for posting all the recommendations for help with the tree. You were right – it was amazing. Shows how much we care about our trees in South Park. We called several people and decided on Dan Fugate who owns D&F Tree Service, tel: 937-256-5178. Michael Di Flora recommended him.

In addition to being a top-notch pro, Mr. Fugate gets points for personality and price. He says that word of mouth is always helpful so anyone who would like to hear more about him should feel free to call us: (You can e-mail me- david at elect esrati dot com if you want to chat about this)

By the way, he spotted the empty cottage next door and expressed an interest. Said he would like to come back and live in South Park. We’d love to have him as a neighbor.

via How a connected neighborhood works.

And, while I’m at it- if you think you have a bedbug problem in Dayton, call Reene Gonzalez of Militerriers- 937-969-0898 who will bring out their bedbug-sniffing dog and locate the infestation so you can deal with it most efficiently. They bought three buildings in South Park and are working on them diligently, he’s active duty Army with 7 deployments to the sandbox- and the dog is amazing. (Full disclosure- they are a client of my firm as well). A neighbor came home from a NYC shopping trip- and thought she got bit in the hotel. She called Reene- and had been smart- leaving her luggage in her car- the dog came out- checked the house and the car and luggage for bedbugs- and found them in the luggage- saving a major infestation.

I also am going to mention my two favorite, reliable handymen. Bob Thade of Thade Construction- 937-256-5290, for doing any kind of remodeling, repair, fine carpentry (crown moldings, stairs etc). He’s worked with me on 5 properties and always done an amazing job at a reasonable price. This is a twenty-year-plus experience- and I can’t recommend him highly enough.

Lastly- when it comes to heating and air, Matt York of United Heating and Air is one of the smartest mechanical guys I’ve met. He’s licensed as a plumber, electrician, boilers, heating and air and probably as three other things. He works really hard, is reliable and will save you money. He’s also forward thinking- and has been doing geo-thermal installations, solar and even wind. Call him-937-239-5011. [Update Oct 2011- Matt seems to have fallen off the face of the earth]

If you’d like to recommend anyone else as if your life depended on it- as the best people to solve your honey-do problems, feel free to add them in comments- however, I ask that only those of you willing to put your full real name and real e-mail on the form- do so. I will not let this become a place for self-promotion or spam links.

With all that said- I’m going to go cut grass before the rain comes.

It’s all about “protection”

The thing I love about insurance companies is that they are like the mob now. Ever since we allowed them to stop being mutuals and they became faceless corporations- they’ve been allowed to run a racket where they get rich no mater what- and you pay through the nose if you don’t purchase their services.

Ever notice how every time there is a “disaster” – the fed jumps in and covers for them? Did AIG go bellyup? Nope.

Well, we seem to have the same mobster mentality in Dayton City Hall- that government is going to protect us from “irresponsible owners” of liquor licenses. If you don’t play our game- you won’t have a license- never mind that there are already rules in place at the State complete with a department of enforcement.

Mayor Gary Leitzell seems to miss the point that being business friendly (that thing they spend our tax dollars on in the name of “economic development”) means not adding extra hoops to jump through at every step- but, his approach to the long-running liquor permit issue in the Oregon District is more hoops:

The residents of Oregon have no protection if a license is sold to an irresponsible owner which is why they cling to the saturation ruling. If all additional liquor licenses were “Agreed Orders” (also called cooperative agreements) and written in such a way that would prevent the license from transferring if the business were sold and the nature of the business were changed it would give the residents some protection.

via Three-minute thinking.

What right of oversight should the residents have? And how is it going to be enforced? Will the question be put on the ballot- or run in a kangaroo court like the Priority Boards? Who gets to vote? The Oregon District belongs to all of us- not just the people who live within 3 blocks of E. Fifth Street. Would it be a precinct vote- or a citywide vote? What happens when the BOE redraws the precincts?

How does an “agreed order” or a “conditional use” or any of these other zoning type of restrictive covenants really protect people? Or does it just diminish the rights of owners by the government writing itself into the operation without compensation?

My business is in a residential neighborhood. The building was originally built as a commercial grocery store. However, the city has restricted the type and nature of business that may occupy the building- to include making it illegal to actually put a corner grocery back in it. Do I receive a tax break for the diminished opportunity value of my business? Of course not. Does it limit the resale value of my business? Absolutely. This “Agreed Order” rule is just another example of a government run extortion scam.

What we really need protection from is the pedantic potentates we elect. Can I buy insurance for that?

Support these restaurants that deliver democracy

So far, my little grassroots effort to get restaurants to deliver a little bit of democracy- a non-partisan postcard with the candidates names, pictures and websites, along with voting info Delivering democracy small pdf has been supported by these restaurants:

  • Dayton’s Original Pizza Factory: 224-4477
  • Dragon China 293-3888
  • Pie Pizzeria 228-4PIE
  • Submarine House Brown Street 222-7939
  • West Carrollton Marathon drive thru by CarMax
  • Sushi cafe
  • Marcos Pizza West Carrolton
  • Papa Johns West Carrollton
  • Donatos West Carrollton
  • Orchid Garden West Carrollton 866-2254
  • Halal International Grocers – both locations
  • Gyro Palace Centerville
  • 3 Dips Ice Cream Shop Miamisburg 247-5914
  • Milano’s Brown Street 222-7072
  • Ron’s Pizza House Miamisburg 866-4321
  • Pappa’s Pizza Palace Miamisburg 866-3392
  1. FoodCity is delivering democracy to the Bass http://twitpic.com/24h7wh 37 minutes ago via TweetDeck
  2. Carryout has democracy inside http://twitpic.com/24h4fs about 1 hour ago via TweetDeck
  3. Bingo Drive Thru is delivering democracy! http://twitpic.com/24h28d about 1 hour ago via TweetDeck
  4. JJ’s fish & Chicken has democracy available for pickup http://twitpic.com/24h12d about 1 hour ago via TweetDeck
  5. Superior Drive Thru is delivering democracy! http://twitpic.com/24gyxn about 1 hour ago via TweetDeck
  6. The Quick Stop is delivering democracy! about 1 hour ago via TweetDeck
  7. Casano’sin Drexel is making democracy available for pickup http://twitpic.com/24gt5o about 1 hour ago via TweetDeck
  8. Drexel Gas Mart is delivering democracy! http://twitpic.com/24gqf7 about 2 hours ago via TweetDeck
  9. Drexel drive thru is delivering democracy! http://twitpic.com/24gotn about 2 hours ago via TweetDeck
  10. Domino’s is making democracy available for pickup! http://twitpic.com/24gl7d about 2 hours ago via TweetDeck
  11. Fortune Drive Thru is delivering democracy! http://twitpic.com/24gjg8 about 2 hours ago via TweetDeck
  12. Delphos carryout is delivering democracy http://twitpic.com/24ggly about 2 hours ago via TweetDeck
  13. Christy’s drive thruis delivering democracy! http://twitpic.com/24gepz about 2 hours ago via TweetDeck
  14. Rut’s is delivering democracy! http://twitpic.com/24gdjj about 2 hours ago via TweetDeck
  1. Ray’s drive thru is delivering democracy! http://twitpic.com/24j807 30 minutes ago via TweetDeck
  2. Red House is delivering democracy! http://twitpic.com/24j5pg 32 minutes ago via TweetDeck
  3. Main drive thru is delivering democracy! http://twitpic.com/24j4ia 42 minutes ago via TweetDeck
  4. Northtoen drive thru is delivering democracy! http://twitpic.com/24j3a9 about 1 hour ago via TweetDeck
  5. China Cottage is serving up democracy! about 1 hour ago via TweetDeck
  6. Cork n brew is delivering democracy! http://twitpic.com/24iiei about 2 hours ago via TweetDeck
  7. Szechuan Taste is delivering democracy! http://twitpic.com/24iftn about 2 hours ago via TweetDeck
  8. Ray’s drive thru is delivering democracy! http://twitpic.com/24i8cv about 3 hours ago via TweetDeck
  9. UDF at Brown St is helping delive democracy http://twitpic.com/24i5jt about 3 hours ago via TweetDeck
  10. Germantown plaza is delivering democracy! http://twitpic.com/24h97y about 5 hours ago via TweetDeck

Please support these restaurants this weekend- and if you know a restaurant who would want to participate- leave a comment and we’ll deliver Democracy flyers to you.

This may be an unorthodox way to spread the word- but this is an unorthodox election- and I’m not your typical candidate.

Thanks- and remember- only 4 polling locations in Montgomery County this Tuesday!

If you do patronize these businesses- tell them Esrati sent you- and thanks for delivering Democracy.

Dayton’s missing metric: delivery of customer service

After a writing a blog for long enough, some things just start to write themselves for you. This post is based on comments on the site and a discussion I had with a senior city staff person- and both come back to a recurring theme of my trials and tribulations with Dayton City Hall going back to Inspector Gotcha and vinyl clad garage doors in a historic district.

First from comments on the site:

Bruce Kettelle May 15, 2010 at 9:18 am

There are customized performance based measurement plans in effect in many cities across the country. For example in Pittsburgh they have developed a model that allows the Mayor (and public) to monitor the city by department by setting specific goals (such as the number of graffiti abatements) which are reported monthly. What I find lacking in most of these systems are ways to monitor longer range broad ROI monitoring. Let’s say for instance Austin Road costs x to build, add y for additional studies, marketing, and incentives then compare that total to the amount of new property, payroll and sales taxes (et al) generated by the businesses attracted. Is it beneficial for the project? Is it beneficial for the County? Is it beneficial for the region or state? Those would be great questions to answer.

Pittsburgh’s Pitt Maps reports are here

http://www.city.pittsburgh.pa.us/mayor/html/pittmaps.html

Dayton has also done budget goal setting, here is one recent online report.

www.cityofdayton.org/cco/Documents/Focus2010book.pdf

What I do not see on line is any regular reporting on how they are doing, or how they are measuring their success. Does anyone else know where to find those reports?

via Before raising taxes, Dayton needs a plan.

What Bruce is talking about is the metrics of managing a city. What are our goals. When you asked Rhine McLin or Nan Whaley or Civil Servants are People Too- you hear about our bond rating (as if the bond rating agencies got it right on Main Street any better than they got it on Wall Street)- our “balanced budget” (which is required by law), and maybe even “satisfaction scores” from surveys on the Fire Department (as if we have any comparison- you don’t typically have your house burn down twice- and compare departments). What has been missing is metrics on vision.

For all the smoke and mirrors Mike Turner used- the one thing he did better than the other mayors since Paul Leonard- is talk about accomplishments. It used to make me sick listening to him on the campaign trail talking about his “300 hours of community service”- as if he were using a lawyer’s time sheet to tally his value- but, the reality is- he had a metric and Dixon didn’t. He was a master at taking credit for things like Riverscape- or the Dragons’ stadium- which gave him an air of confidence that’s been sorely missing since. But the reality is that the only metrics that are measured in Dayton are those that we seemingly have no control over: DPS test scores, foreclosures, job losses, population losses, crime.

Whoa. Did I just say we don’t have control over crime? Yep. And here’s why- because we don’t measure anything internally at all. We have no metrics of our own- except a balanced budget and what we spent our money on- like Nan yapping about the 7 bridges- without any metric on how they add value to our population. This is something that reader Jesse has mentioned as well- what’s the value of what we’re buying with our taxes? To whom? Austin Road has been grand for some developers- but, to say it’s “adding value” for a majority of Montgomery County taxpayers would be a stretch- as it just has added more infrastructure for us to support- and more unneeded office space to make the existing space even more worthless.

Which brings me to the City Staffer- with whom I began the conversation by asking if they were in the running to replace Tim Riordan once he’s ready to go. Unfortunately, our current commission is so obsessed with its current predicament little has been done to plan for the future. They hadn’t been asked it- and that’s sending a message to start sending out resumes. This is the last thing an organization needs in a time of crisis. They did weigh in on our lack of a department of customer/citizen service – and pointed out that City Hall still exists as if they have no competition- and no need to “out-perform” and razzle-dazzle the citizenry. It’s been my major complaint since the first time I stepped into city hall- and received blank stares from an elected commission when asking help on my garage doors.

I don’t agree with a “department of customer service” – or a director of it- I believe in TQM- total quality management- where everyone in an organization is committed to delivering maximum value with EVERY transaction. That said, I’d say a majority of government employees don’t have a clue what their job really is- and they just go about it without a single thought about delivering quality.

If you search this site on just the word “Metric” you’ll find I’ve used the term a few times- for various posts. The most important is in the “Esrati plan”- which is there every time you look at the site (unless you are reading it all through RSS). In it is a short part about customer service metrics:

Customer service- Metrics

I’ve advocated this for a long time- before it was an ombudsman who would take complaints, and track resolutions- and report to the Commission. Now, I’d like to install a “Help Desk” to track cases through city hall. The City Manager would be evaluated based on the resolution ratio and qualitative scores generated by the software. We’ll also adopt technology to do some of the reporting, see the post: Data, Dayton and developing our City 2.0

It’s time to put checks and balances on our bureaucrats who are perceived as inflexible and unresponsive. Every city employee must feel as if they are responsible for the perception of our city.

The City Manager would have targets for increased income tax revenues, increased population, higher average home sales, lower commercial property vacancy rates- etc. By placing real metrics in place we can track performance. Currently, we do not seem to have goals and objectives in place.

via Esrati Plan.

In talking with Mayor Leitzell last night as we walked from 3rd and Main to Wright Dunbar (more frequent shuttle trolleys next time DDP) he told me there was talk of a five-year plan- but, that the current commission was worried about getting over the current crisis- before setting goals and objectives. I said I was entirely in favor of a plan- and doing it now- because what we have now is lacking all indications of doing anything except balancing a budget. We don’t know what our objectives are- and we have no way of telling if what we are doing is moving us in the right direction.

I often use the example of American football- the game is so complex- with so many rules- that unless you’ve played or watched the game for years- you’d have no idea what’s going on. In order to win- to score points- there are very important rules to follow- and understanding the objectives- even down to what player is supposed to do what- on EVERY single play- is key to winning. It’s the same with government- although we have no idea in Dayton what the rules are, or what we’re supposed to be doing every day- nor, do we know how we’ll be able to tell if we’re winning or losing.

And, that my friends- is why we’ve been floundering about for the last 20 years as the world has seemingly dealt us bad cards. We don’t know if we’re playing poker or blackjack- and we keep yelling 21 at the roulette wheel thinking that wins.

It’s time to define our metrics and start measuring the things we can control, and learn to live with those we don’t- and have the wisdom to know the difference.

Oh yeah- it’s time to start figuring out who the next City Manager will be- just in case something happens to Mr. Riordan- because that’s the way good leadership ensures continuous delivery of quality service.

The frustration of a Dayton small business owner

Jason Liff is someone I’ve known for a long time. He’s been in real estate as long as I’ve known him, and has done some decent sized deals. He was the one who introduced me to the owner of the Salem Mall- which I tried to save. He also was one of the investors on the Sears deal downtown that netted the investors quite a bit (one of the investors was County Administrator Deborah Feldman’s father-in-law who is her husband’s partner). [update] Jason also put together the Walgreens deal at Wayne and Wyoming- the one that went in ahead of Rite Aid- even though it got the later start (thanks to historic overlay- the forced move of a worthless house and other delays).

I suggested that Jason open a scooter store over 4 years ago. Last year he did. My firm did his identity and some initial ads. He posted this on the free bus ride editorial on the DDN site- I’m not changing spelling or punctuation.

I voted with my money and opened a scooter store on Wayne Avenue. It took over a year to get through the zoning and permitting process . From experience I can report that, but for a few people, the entire system is riddled with a mentality of no , no, no . -“You cannot do this or that & One cannot change the use of a derelict building on Brown Street . No you cannot put your scooter store in The Oregon “, even though a 5000 sf space exists that no one wants to buy or rent. Why do people avoid Dayton ? Demographics of course. In the main there is a systemic business unfriendly all pervasive atmosphere coupled with a perception of potential violence . We need to encourage small business by discouraging and truncating governments strangle hold on new business ! The city government has rooms full of employees who read chapter and verse from the , THE BOOK OF NO . As an early visitor to the NYC SOHO & Tribeca districts in 1970 ,I can tell you these now model districts did not get started by a pervasive and draconian implementing of every minute policy practice and procedure . Like all such areas in the world they start by a few young , artistic, counterculture oriented people looking for cheaper spaces to work and play with some character. Why don’t we finish up tenanting the Oregon district and loosening the regs that stand in the way ? A few community activist in Oregon that were urban pioneers now block changes to completing 5th Street . How about enforcing the speed limit on Wayne avenue ? How about enforcing anti-littering laws . My sidewalk and lot are littered by 100’s of cigarette butts and candy pop cans . How about an ombudsman process that guarantees answers to all zoning and permitting issues in seven days ? National retail tenants are not coming back so go after the small entrepreneurs, the new Americans that are not afraid of hard work and tough clientele and the arts and crafts communities . The RTA has wasted a lot of money on their edifice complex, even so we do not need free busing of more thugs and scary types. What Dayton does have is cheap rent , cheap buildings ,a vibrant artistic community and historic housing stock that people would cry for in most cities. Artists , and musicians especially can find cheap rent at Front Street —We need more ! Finish something already- Try to fill every building on Wayne and Fifth and Brown and Warren. Oh yes bicycle lanes would be great for scooters mopeds and bicycles and any separation from SUV speeders that crowd others while talking on their phones. Untangle the choke holds of the 3 or 4 structures that throttle all but what they want ! Government is the problem—the entrenched versus the new —Until resolved the buildings will stay boarded up and the retail community will stay away . Call me ! Jason Liff Moto Scooto 1400 Wayne

via Editorial: Free bus rides not the city’s best strategy | A Matter of Opinion.

Jason looked hard and long for a location in the city. Almost everything he found – there was a reason he couldn’t go in. The building he’s in on Wayne Avenue- was on “death row.” There were options from the city to buy it that ended in December- so they could tear it down for a Kroger that wasn’t coming. He had to invest in the building, since the owner wouldn’t- to repair the roof which was leaking. Even his paint job- which some may love and some may hate- is technically in violation of the zoning code. The colors aren’t “historic.” Since the building was condemned the city seemed to look the other way.

The location he really wanted- on 5th Street in the Oregon district- a former pawn shop, between a porn shop and Goodwill- is still sitting empty. It was bigger, had the walking traffic he was interested in reaching- and even has a garage door in back. No deal. Wrong use, too intensive, not enough parking- etc. etc. So it still sits empty.

This isn’t the only business person I’ve heard horror stories from, and it’s not hard to hear them. Another businessman who has successfully rehabbed many downtown buildings over the last 20 years and knows his way around city hall at first ran into a roadblock trying to get a demolition permit on a nasty concrete block garage next to his new project. Apparently it had a $7,000 water bill still attached to it. How anyone can buy a building and NOT find out about a water bill for more than the property sold for is another big FAIL at business friendly.

We also have a bed and breakfast fighting for a permit to sell wine in the Oregon District. It took the 5th Street Wine and Deli almost a year to get their permit. This isn’t new, Pacchia and What You Eat both had to fight to get their permits, too. Some “entertainment” district.

I still believe in Dayton- even though I just had my office broken into. But, I remember back to the hassles I went through over 20 years ago to reclaim a derelict building, including a nine-month delay in an occupancy permit and the realization that my zoning is still considered a “conditional use” even though the building was built as a commercial retail structure. To add insult to injury, the building inspector required that my front door (which has a huge window in it) had to have a single key deadbolt with a thumb key- which gave the thieves the ability to break in and get out easier.

Yep, the city of Dayton needs a new attitude, and quick. Mr. Liff spells it out pretty clearly. The question is can an old dog learn new tricks? Mayor Leitzell is only one vote.

Why I love Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum

In my congressional run, I made a video featuring Woodland Cemetery, one of my favorite places in Dayton. That it’s just four blocks away helps too.

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Besides being the tallest point in Dayton, it’s absolutely breathtaking at the crack of dawn when I like to either run or walk through the final resting places of every major name in Dayton- from Dunbar and Deeds to Bombeck, Patterson and Wright.

Founded in 1841, Woodland Cemetery is one of the nation’s five oldest rural/garden cemeteries and a unique cultural, botanical and educational resource in the heart of Dayton, Ohio.

via Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum.

However, a few weeks ago, my secret entrance, a hole in the fence off an alley off Wyoming was repaired. That hole had been there for more than 23 years- and was the South Parkians secret short cut since the big gates by the pump house on Wyoming have been locked at least that long.

I called Dave FitzSimmons, the CEO of Woodland to ask if there might be a way to open the gates to the regular walkers, half expecting a big no. Instead, a week later, he sent me a note saying they’ve put a new lock on the gate and have keys for neighborhood walkers.

Note to most business owners, this is the kind of customer service (and I’m not dead yet) that makes people believe that your brand is better than others. So, if you’re a South Park walker- who misses our old hole in the fence, get in touch with me- I have a key to the pearly wrought iron gates for you. [UPDATE 10 DEC 2010 I now have keys to the Waldo Street Gate as well]

If you’re going to die anytime soon, and are looking for a cemetery that is more than a cemetery to the community- I can’t recommend any better cemetery than Woodland. However, let’s hope a casket isn’t on your holiday wish list- although he has creches for sale in the new lookout point construction.

It’s time to fire Inspector Gotcha

I’m going to leave out names, because they really don’t matter. This is an issue of culture in City Hall, and it’s one that needed to be shown the door long ago.

Talking to another local small businessman, I heard yet another story of a small business opening being delayed by Inspector Gotcha. After turning in plans, building to plan, following inspections, when it was time for the final inspection and time to open, Inspector Gotcha jumped out and said “you can’t open, you didn’t enclose xxx.”

One week later, small businessman can open because he has now paid homage to the supreme power of Inspector Gotcha who smugly thinks this type of harassment is what he’s paid to do. And the stupid thing is, 99.9% of the time, if an existing business was doing the exact same thing- not only would Inspector Gotcha not be able to do a damn thing, but the business would be just fine.

Don’t think Inspector Gotcha is only in the Building inspection or permits, he also works for the health department, the fire department (sprinkler inspections), the auditor’s office, the list goes on. He’s more like a disease instead of a doctor- causing illness instead of curing it- no matter what he thinks his perfunctory role in society is.

If we want to see 1,000 new small businesses thrive and flourish in Dayton, we need to take the Inspector Gotchas out into a field and hold a ceremonial bonfire- burning up all their “stop work orders” and “temporary occupancy permits” and “conditional use” rulings. True professionals work to make sure that businesses open on time, to code, and provide safe places to do business. Hacks play Inspector Gotcha.

In fact, we should start fining inspectors for finding things after they’ve signed off on plans, or for delaying the opening of new businesses. It’s time to hold people accountable for adding the PITA (pain in the @$$) factor that they bring to doing business in Dayton.

If you have a PITA story from dealing with “Inspector Gotcha”- feel free to share it in comments- maybe if we have a central repository of stories- we can bring an end to the harassment and additional cost of doing business in Dayton.

311 in Dayton anyone?

At the South East Priority Board candidates’ forum on Thursday night I got asked about my position on changing the priority board system. Simply stated, I believe we need to draw our own boundaries- by neighborhood, instead of letting State lawmakers gerrymander voting precincts so that Mike Turner could win OH-3 and John Boehner could win OH-8, in an area that used to vote Democrat for years (Tony Hall). Makes sense if you think about it, even a little bit.

There is also the issue of having seven priority boards- that are unequal, since 40% of the population is now in South East. Commissioner Whaley and Commissioner Williams and the Mayor have had years in office to address this fundamental flaw in our “citizen participation” system, but have done nothing- except cut staff and funding. My proposal is to make the neighborhood organization leader the representative to the city- and to have them meet directly with the City Manager at least four times a year.

Compare this with the current Priority Boards situation- where not only did the Priority Boards set the number one priority last year as “enforce the laws on the books” especially housing and safety laws, they briefed the City Commission and none of the three incumbents could tell the people at the meeting what that “number 1 priority” was. FAIL. Yes Gary Leitzell, a Priority Board chairperson, knew the answer, and I did not.

When you also consider that many priority board seats are unfilled, that some neighborhoods end up with more reps than others (South Park has 3 by voting precinct plus one neighborhood rep) the whole system seems flawed. In addition, when the system was well funded they not only had at least 3 full-time staff per Board and a pool of money to use on the priorities- and now that’s practically all gone.

We could have spent a few hundred thousand and instead implemented a 311 system to handle and track citizen complaints- and actually have a reporting system that provides data on how many cases opened and closed. San Antonio implemented their 311 system for $200,000 which is less than what we spend on salaries of Priority Board staff in a year.

The ability to identify and track citizen complaints and rate the solutions and close rates gives us real data to evaluate the City Manager’s performance- and a citizen can evaluate the way our Commission holds the City Manager accountable. Not only do we get a near real time system- we also put City employees in charge of customer service (what they are paid for) instead of asking citizens to do it on a volunteer basis. It shouldn’t be so much work to have the city we pay taxes for.

A lot of Priority Board people have stated they won’t vote for me because I’m going to kill their already dead system, but the reality is, the other commissioners have now gone on record saying there need to be changes, they just refuse to specify what they would do. Judging from their inability to introduce new ideas, new systems, or even have a discussion in public about them- you should be able to reach a logical conclusion: it’s time for a change on the Commission.