Desperation drives merger in East Cleveland

On Wednesday, a different kind of “regionalization” plan was kicked off in Cleveland:

East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton took the first step Wednesday toward a possible merger with the city of Cleveland – submitting petitions in support of the initiative with about 1,600 signatures to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.

Source: East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton submits petitions seeking merger with Cleveland | cleveland.com

For those of you who don’t know Cleveland well, it’s a lot like Dayton- a sprawling center city- with a first ring of suburbs- and then exurbs that stretch a long way.

One of my earliest memories, living in East Cleveland, is looking out our 8th floor apartment windows- at a burning skyline. It was the riots, and it wasn’t pretty. We had armed National Guardsmrn outside our front doors in the aftermath. East Cleveland overlooked Hough, Glenville and Collinwood – all of which burned at one time or another between 1966 and 1970.

East Cleveland, by the time I was in high school at neighboring Cleveland Heights, was predominantly black. Cleveland Heights was probably 25% black when I graduated in 1980, and by 2000 was close to 90% black.

Yet, each suburb had to support its own infrastructure. Schools with School Boards, City Halls with Mayors, Managers and Police Chiefs. Finally, someone realized, we’ve got way too many chiefs for the Indians to keep supporting:

“We know that the costs of running the city infrastructure continue to go up, while revenues continue to diminish,” Norton said. “In these elected offices … we must understand that the analysis will sometimes show us that the best way to provide an acceptable quality of service is to have someone else do it.”

Damn. Gary Norton, you get it. Because electing people without any possible way to do the job isn’t really public service- it’s public debt load.

This kind of regionalization would make a lot more sense in Dayton, if we only had some competent leadership. Why Moraine hasn’t merged with Kettering? West Carrollton with Miamisburg? Or Trotwood with Dayton is beyond me. Just cutting the duplication of services and consolidating offices would probably add a decade or two before the inevitable bankruptcies occur.

To watch in today’s paper as Moraine, which can’t afford to give away any taxes:

“Moraine has offered the direct mail company that started in the mid-1980s a five-year forgivable loan to move to the Dryden site”…

In return, the company would be “incurring payroll subject to income taxation by the city in the aggregate amount of $2 million per annum, continuing during each of the next five years,” according to the contract.

“What they would be doing is bringing over their existing jobs,” Moraine Economic Development Director Michael Davis said.

And voila- shrinking taxes for Dayton, and Moraine gives away an undisclosed amount- because Dayton Mailing Services “might add jobs.”

This isn’t sustainable. It isn’t in the best interests of the region. And, it gives Dayton Mailing Services an unfair advantage over other mailing houses (the few that are left) who aren’t getting handouts.

We have too many jurisdictions, too many different rules, too complex a system that costs way more than it should. Unfortunately, with term limits on Statehouse offices, we’ll never be able to give someone enough time to re-work the patchwork mess we have now into a logical quilt of right sized jurisdictions.

It will be interesting to watch what happens in East Cleveland. It won’t be interesting to watch the doomed proposition for merging Dayton with the county.

The “regionalization” plan that wasn’t

When Joey Williams actually posts something political on Facebook, you know people are talking. And that Joey is distancing himself from the new plan is an instant giveaway that this plan is DOA. Not that he has any clout- but, I digress.

I’ve always said that if Kettering were the largest community in the County – and there was talk of regionalization, it would have happened already. Kettering, for the most part, is the model of effective government.

Can’t say that for either the vounty or the City of Dayton, where nepotism, favoritism and as I like to refer to them- “the monarchy of Montgomery County” rule.

This idea of merging the county and the city governments is a joke, if you aren’t including the townships- it’s just a backward move at consolidation- trading in 5 grossly overpaid members of the Dayton City Commission for 3 even more overly paid members of the Montgomery County Commission, who have even less to do.

The regionalization expert cited in today’s Dayton Daily news says:

“(David) Rusk, founding president of the research group Building One America. The former Albuquerque, N.M., mayor wrote “Cities without Suburbs,” a study often described as the bible of government regionalism….

“In effect Dayton city hasn’t received any dowry from the marriage. It hasn’t received a square foot of additional territory. It hasn’t picked up population. It hasn’t picked up any tax base,” Rusk said. “In effect it has simply swapped a governing body that’s elected solely by the residents of the city of Dayton for a governing body that’s elected by everybody in Montgomery County.”

Source: Merger plan has long way to go

Let’s review: Both the city commission and the county commission have basically one job- to hire a professional administrator to see over their large budgets, union contracts, and running the organization. In the business world, we call these the board of directors- unfortunately- in the political world- we elect people- not based on their expertise, or knowledge of running effective organizations- but, based on a popularity contest closely controlled by two local political parties- that operate more like “good ole boys (and girls) clubs” than effective political operators. Their most important role is to get people elected who can then hire the party faithful (again- under-qualified) to work in patronage jobs.

Each elected office gets a budget for these friends and families- the worst offenders are the Board of Elections- where convicted rapists get hired without a job application, Dayton Waste Collection- where generations of a certain union family continue to keep their jobs even when they can’t drive, and oh, lets see- almost every other department in the city.

Remember when the young City Manager, Rashad Young, had his grandpappy working in IT- the one with the kiddie porn on his work computer? Or going back- way back, when our Mayor Richard Clay Dixon was working for Dayton Public Schools- and taking sick days from his DPS job to travel on government business? Or, back to the county- how County Administrator Deb Feldman- signed off on a convicted felon, Raleigh Trammell, to run a welfare program? (And yes, he was convicted of welfare fraud BEFORE she gave him the position).

Realistically- both governments are cesspools. It’s almost laughable when the Dayton Daily quotes this:

“This is a conversation not precipitated by scandal, as it was in Cleveland, and certainly not by the fact that our local public officials are in any way lacking in integrity, dedication to the public and ability,” said U.S. District Court Judge Walter Rice, an officer of the nonprofit Dayton Together group, which currently has about 20 members.

That’s because we can’t add two plus two together for the most part, your honor. The reason for the huge shift to Warren County- for the loss of population in Dayton- and the death spiral of property values in our city core- is from ineptitude and a lack of understanding of how the pieces fit together. Readers of this site are constantly reminded of how this mess is failing us.

This plan has it backwards- the way it should work- is the largest municipality in the county should run the county. This would immediately force the other communities to put away their pet squabbles and join together quickly to over power the stupidity that runs Dayton. Merge Centerville, Kettering and Washington Township into one- and let them run the show. Then Dayton would add Trotwood and Jefferson Township and maybe even Harrison Township- to one up the other. Then Huber Heights and Riverside would join forces with CKW and maybe throw in Moraine too. Next you know, Miamisburg, West Carrolton are looking for partners- and voila- regionalization has happened- much the way a parliamentary system works- where you have to form alliances to gain power.

However, the State could step in and fix all of this mess, putting limits on number of elected office per capita within a region defined by population density. No more 6 man police departments, or kangaroo municipal courts. No more “economic development” officials at lower than the county level. And most importantly- a lot less political overhead- the true reason that it sucks to do business in Ohio- where there are so many different tax rates, rules and authorities it makes your head spin.

This hair brained idea of merger should be the last hurrah for Dan Foley- who is only in politics because he’s the son of a judge, and he thinks he was some kind of wizard for implementing computerization when he was the clerk of courts. The reality is, if we graded any of our leaders based on performance; ie- growth of jobs, wealth, population, or efficiency – none of them would have kept their jobs longer than a single term.

One quote gets it right in the paper, Mark Owens:

“We have 86 counties in Ohio that have our kind of government. If there’s something wrong with that kind of government, it ought to be done on a statewide basis, not making Dayton and Montgomery County some type of a test tube or laboratory to figure out what’s going on.”

And the answer is yes- our state is a mess.

Faux regionalism plan finds foes pre-launch: must be good

The headline is a joke. “Plan divides Democratic leaders” says today’s Dayton Daily news. Calling them “leaders” is the first miscue, and the second is referring to them as “Democratic” since the party has worked to make sure no one gets elected, or even on the ballot, before first passing muster in front of a select group of a “screening committee” of which Dayton Clerk of Courts Mark Owens and County Commissioner Dan Foley both are a part of. They endorse pre-primary filing, to strongly advise people NOT TO RUN- unless they gain the endorsement. This is how it is in the “Democratic” monarchy of Montgomery County.

The paper says there is a rift between Owens and Foley:

One county commissioner’s plan to unify the governments of Dayton and Montgomery County has apparently caused a rift between the Democrat and his party chairman before a coming announcement this week detailing the consolidation effort.

Commissioner Dan Foley, a longtime advocate for a more regional government, said he will announce the proposal, called Dayton Together, downtown on Thursday. On Monday, Montgomery County Democratic Party Chairman Mark Owens tersely questioned Foley’s merger plan push.

In the letter, Owens writes to Foley: “First, a number of questions have been raised about the transparency of your actions to date, the process you are planning, who is involved and how your plans are being funded.” Foley said this effort shouldn’t come as a surprise to the community as he became active in the discussion as early as 2008 after he was first elected commissioner in 2006. Paul Leonard, former Dayton mayor and lieutenant governor, is co-chair of a 16-member committee working on the charter. Foley said committee members working on the plan would be revealed Thursday at the 1 p.m. news conference at the Engineers Club of Dayton.

“Our first job that we are going to be announcing Thursday is really building this charter so people can then form an opinion about whether they support it or not,” Foley said.

This is just the first step in a months-long process, the county commissioner said. Any charter would have to go to voters and be approved.“We’re asking people to keep an open mind until we finish the charter,” Foley said. “The community has the ability to say yes, they support it, or no, they don’t think it’s a good idea. But we’ve never really respected the community by asking them yet. So what we’re trying to do is build the process,” Foley said.

The result of that process, Owens said, could lead to the disenfranchisement of Dayton’s 140,000 residents when pushed into a larger voting block.

“They won’t have a say in local government like the people in Kettering would, Vandalia would and Huber Heights would.” Owens said in the letter it would diminish Dayton’s ability to help determine police and fire staffing, when streets are paved and when trash is collected.

Regional economic competitiveness and cost savings would outweigh some early growing pains, Foley said. “The question about a more efficient structure of local government is one that’s rooting in how can we compete better for jobs and how do we become more unified,” he said.

Source: Plan divides Democratic leaders

This  “Dayton Together” effort has been going on for a while, only it was called “One Dayton” a few years back. The group screwed a local consultant who was hired to manage the process, and seems to have scaled back the grand plans.

But, let’s be honest about what’s really bugging Mark Owens. Dan Foley used to be clerk of courts. He full well knows that there is only one need in the county for a clerk of courts, one single website for all legal filings, and one database and system- at the county level. That’s the way it’s done in Columbus. Municipal judges, who are limited to hearing misdemeanor cases, run countywide. If we really were doing this right, Kettering, Centerville, Vandalia, Huber Heights, Oakwood, Miamisburg and who knows who else- would all lose their municipal courts- and the patronage jobs that go with them (Owens has a staff of 90 I think). And, the races for Municipal Court judge- plums to hand out to the party faithful in the law profession (just because politicians make laws, we somehow think lawyers are somehow qualified to be leaders, nothing can be farther from the truth) would be harder to control. (We rarely ever have someone challenge a sitting judge in Montgomery County- thanks to an “unwritten agreement” between the parties– another way voters are disenfranchised- by Mark Owens, who DOES NOT BELIEVE IN LETTING VOTERS CHOOSE CANDIDATES).

Let’s be really honest. The idiots in Columbus who keep talking about Ohio taxes being too high are missing the problem. Ohio’s problems stem back to the Northwest Ordinance of 1785 which divided Ohio into 88 counties and gave us this insane structure of villages, townships, cities, counties and a whole other grid of school boards, that has no rhyme or reason, but results in way too much governmental overhead.

80% of Ohio’s population is packed into large urban areas. The rest of it- is rural farm land with sparse population. By electing so many Tom, Dick and Janes, we really end up with quantity over quality and a big whopping bill to pay.

Don’t count Foley as a saint either- his goal is to get a job at the quasi-public slush fund he helped start- the Dayton Development Coalition which will pay him 2 to 3 times what he makes as a County Commissioner- for doing next to nothing (County Commissioners also do next to nothing- since we have a County Administrator who actually runs the county).

The biggest problem in all this is that we have to say “look at this” to legitimize doing the right thing. That regionalism worked in Indianapolis or Louisville or even partially in Columbus isn’t how you make something better- look at the entire State of North Carolina that runs via County Governments and wake up.

Also- stop picking party puppets to get elected by the party instead of the people. That would be a real start to regionalism.

Kettering resorting to corporate welfare

End Corporate WelfareIf I didn’t have an important neighborhood meeting on Tuesday, May 26, I’d be at the Kettering Council meeting asking them to vote no on this corporate welfare scheme:

The city of Kettering will contribute a record $3.6 million incentive to Kettering Health Network for its new $49 million cancer facility.

The cancer center will add 80 new jobs to the existing 3,600 Kettering Health Network jobs now in the area, said Kettering Economic Development Manager Gregg Gorsuch.

“The reasoning behind the incentive is to ensure Kettering Medical Center continues to grow and thrive in the community. They are the largest employer and revenue producer, and we want to make sure they stay in the city of Kettering and this continues to be their flagship operation,” Gorsuch said.

Source: City giving to cancer center

I’d also be calling for Gorsuch to go.

Take his salary, hire a better ice rink manager. Spend some money on advertising the ice rink properly. Invest in something that makes Kettering a better place to be- don’t buy future tax revenue.

On paper this sounds great- spend a little to make a lot- except it’s inherently unfair. The same opportunity isn’t given to every business in Kettering- and the ones who don’t pay their CEO over a million a year are probably in greater need than KHN.

The fear factor of KHN taking this building elsewhere is exactly what will happen eventually if the city keeps doing these kinds of deals. Once you open the floodgates- soon you’ll be like Dayton and have forgotten how to plow the streets, or pay your cops and teachers.

This is the redistribution of wealth- pure and simple. Those tax dollars that you are fronting to KHN were earned by people working minimum wage jobs and they deserve to get the best possible government back with them- not to help rich corporations get a break.

Kettering shouldn’t go down this rabbit hole. Just say no to corporate extortion and focus on what makes Kettering a great community.

This isn’t economic development- it’s criminal.

Why, besides the obvious reasons, is BradyWare moving to Austin Landing

The exodus of professional firms from Downtown Dayton to Austin Landing continues.

From the Dayton Business Journal:

The company currently has 55 employees in its 15,000-square-foot office. The move will be felt downtown — losing income tax and some of its daytime population — and at the Fifth Third building at 1 S. Main St. where BradyWare is among its longtime tenants.

Yet its relocation further solidifies Austin Landing as the new financial hub of the Dayton region, with other top local firms such as Merrill Lynch, Clark Schaefer Hackett and Wells Fargo. The location is said to be advantageous for firms looking to draw clients and employees from the Dayton area, as well as the Cincinnati region.

The city of Dayton will take a big hit in the lost income tax from all of the employees who live outside the city, many of whom stand to get a de facto 2.25 percent raise if they live in a township or city without an income tax. Unless the new office is on the first floor of a building in Austin Landing, employees are not subject to the income tax of the Joint Economic Development District at Austin Landing.

Source: BradyWare confirms plans to move from downtown Dayton to Austin Landing – Dayton Business Journal

However, the inside scoop is that apparently, BradyWare had set a meeting with Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley to discuss staying another five years, but she didn’t show up for the meeting. Of course, part of the problem is that we have a City Manager form of government, and this should have been something the City Manager was doing. Of course, it would have just resulted in one of those tax rebate deals- where in exchange for keeping X jobs in Dayton for X years paying at least X dollars- we’ll throw you back some money. A finger in the proverbial broken dam.

Throw in the cramped parking that costs in the basement of the old Cit Fed/5/3rd tower Arcade garage, and the lack of food options, why pay that Dayton payroll tax?

Note- the 1 Dayton Center/5/3rd building at the corner of 3rd and Main- was built with tax dollars, despite not being pre-leased at the level required, and the building has been a financial flop since day one.

The giant sucking sound of the illegal JEDD at Austin Landing continues as a tax haven for the white-collar “2nd floor” types. Only the “little people” on the ground floors of Austin Landing pay taxes, and it’s costing the City of Dayton dearly.

Unfortunately, the idiots the people of Dayton elected to the City Commission like to accept big donations from developers and their friends – and in the end, all the voters got was the best politicians money could buy, while the developers are laughing all the way to the bank.

Dayton’s Inspectional Services called out by the DBJ

The Dayton Business Journal has a cover story about Dayton’s woefully inept Building Inspection department- something that’s been inept for a long time. Olivia Barrow talks to several small independent start-ups that ran face first into the wall of BS that Dayton likes to throw at every project that doesn’t come with political payola.

From the DBJ article-

Michael Cromartie, chief building inspector, wants to see Dayton thrive as much as anyone. But working with his 1999 computer system and a skeleton crew bound to enforce state building codes to the letter, he has a natural tendency to prefer businesses with money.

“If they’re undercapitalized, that’s always a challenge,” he said. “We have walked some people through every step of the process. But can I do that with everybody? No.”

Cromartie said while he can’t design a project for a business, he still wants to meet with prospective business owners as early as possible — before they even sign a lease or buy a building….

Somewhere inside the mammoth tome of regulations that is the Ohio Building Code, there’s a chapter created for existing buildings that violate today’s safety and accessibility standards — Article 34. It’s often cited as a way for entrepreneurs to save money building out a space in one of downtown’s charming, but code-delinquent historic buildings.

But Juhl never even had the chance to get his building evaluated through Article 34.

“The city won’t even look at that chapter unless you build a case around it,” he said. “It would have been a pain in the butt. So instead we brought a 130-year-old building up to 2011 code.”

Article 34 has been used successfully on several projects in Dayton — including Square One Salon & Spa, Warped Wing Brewing Co. and The Barrel House — but those projects were well-funded or advised by experienced architects or business owners.

“It’s virtually impossible for a business owner to use Chapter 34 (without an architect),” said Brock Taylor, development specialist for the city.

The regulation allows a building to be evaluated on a point system that includes trade-offs and substitutions between some of the most expensive elements of bringing a building up to code.

That includes leaving out a sprinkler system in favor of a cheaper alarm system, or reducing the intended occupancy in order to avoid other costly regulations.

But ultimately, even an Article 34 review process can end up being a waste of time, Cromartie said.

“Sometimes you do the investigation and realize it’s not even going to save you any money,” he said.

That chapter of the code becomes another factor that slants the playing field toward well-capitalized, investor-backed ventures….

A technological upgrade is also in order, but it won’t come online until January of 2016.

“The city is investing over $1 million in replacing its obsolete permitting software,” Cromartie said.

And the city is also creating a new staff position that could provide some of the relief business owners are looking for.

via COVER STORY: ?Business friendly? A skeleton crew at the city struggles to help first-time business owners – Dayton Business Journal.

Michael Cromartie has picked up some knowledge from his years on the job- or should I say his reign of terror. His claim as one of the Monarchy of Montgomery County is being married to former Mayor James H. McGee’s daughter, former judge Francis McGee.

I ran into the same BS over 27 years ago when I bought a building ready for the wrecking ball. Not only were there issues with the historic district code, there were zoning issues and then the building inspection issues. When you have a building that someone is willing to invest 30x the purchase price- it would have been nice for a little common sense, but that wasn’t the case. Despite having 4 exit doors with windows in them- and huge storefront windows- the geniuses insisted that we needed the lighted “Exit” signs over a door. You know the ones required by code for hallways in multistory buildings- that have a bunch of solid- similar doors- where there is no way of telling which one leads out.
I came to believe that the building code as enforced by Dayton was the antidote to Darwin (i.e.- protecting morons from extinction).

I’m pretty sure a firefighter is going to argue with me on another point- the one requiring sprinklers. I’m placing a bet that sprinklers malfunction and do more damage than actually work and put out fires- but, Dayton seems hell bent on keeping the sprinkler installers in business. I find it amazing that most of Europe where buildings are over 600 years old- survived without sprinklers.

I know many contractors that refuse to work in Dayton due to the incredible amount of BS that this department manages to spew. I was told that my existing roof- in the back of my house with true 2×6, 14′ rafters on a slight pitch were undersized- and needed to go- despite being original- and decked with 5/4″ planks. I told the inspector to pound salt. That wasn’t what he was there to inspect. On my cottages they tried to claim that faced insulation, that was stapled and seams taped wasn’t a proper vapor barrier- and that we had to remove the facing- and use plastic instead. Except that you couldn’t buy unfaced insulation anywhere. Yet another fail.

If you wonder why houses get torn down instead of rehabbed in Dayton- it’s because to do them legally is too much hassle, and to do them illegally isn’t worth the headaches- plus, the demolition companies pay to get our commission elected.

The reality is that the Ohio building code isn’t written for rehab. It’s written by the construction lobby with one goal in mind- build new instead of rehab. When enforced by megalomaniacs like Cromartie, the public isn’t any safer, and our old buildings fall victim to unreasonable requirements. Is a two-hour fire rating between floors of a 100-year-old building that’s built with old growth timber really going to make a difference compared to having working alarms? Are sprinklers in every unit of a residential conversion really more important than fire extinguishers? When it comes to ADA- does every unit in a residential rental building have to meet ADA requirements or just a majority?

Instead of  “investing” a million in new permitting software, why don’t we just shut down the entire department and let the county do it? In the name of regionalism and setting an example of cooperation like we did with 911?

I’m sure it would do more to hasten renovation and investment back in the city than letting King Cromartie continue his reign of terror on “under-capitalized”  entrepreneurs (i.e.- no money to pay them off).

Tax dollars chasing tax dollars for no tax dollars

If the headline sounds stupid, think about this:

The Dayton-Montgomery County Port Authority owes $1.1 million in back taxes on the parking garage on Patterson Boulevard next to the CareSource building at 220 E. Monument Ave. The 220 E. Monument Ave. building is current on its taxes, but the garage is behind.

via Delinquent Downtown Properties – Dayton Business Journal.

Your tax dollars built the Relizon/WorkFlow One/CareSource building and now CareSource- totally funded with your tax dollars- isn’t paying taxes on the building their people are undoubtedly parking in.

But, it just gets more entertaining.

Despite, being literally right across the street from the garage that’s technically owned by the taxpayers- the taxpayers are being stuck with the bill for another parking garage:

The city of Dayton is moving forward with the financing to pay for the new downtown garage for Water Street.

Commission approved Wednesday a bond purchase agreement to borrow $6 million from the Ohio State Transportation Infrastructure GRF Bond Fund Program. Of that, $2.5 million comes through state loan proceeds and $3.5 million from state infrastructure bank bond proceeds. The funding will help pay for the acquisition and construction that supports the three-story 429-space garage that will serve the Water Street development.

via Dayton to borrow $6M to pay for Water Street garage – Dayton Business Journal.

The first article pointed out that almost one in four properties downtown aren’t current on their taxes- but, there have been no cuts to the “Downtown Dayton Partnership” which is supposedly funded with property taxes in the “Special Improvement District” or SID. Never mind the fact that buildings are dropping in value like rocks- as businesses move to Austin Landing where your tax dollars built a brand new mega intersection and funded development in an unincorporated township- where mysteriously, only the little people pay income taxes (people working at Kohl’s and Kroger and Five Guys pay taxes- people working at Teradata or Thompson Hine- do not).

One must also wonder if the closing of all the downtown Dayton exits on I-75 just after Austin Road was built wasn’t an attempt to squeeze the last life out of downtown- so it can turn into more wrecking bills for Steve Rauch and company? Because one way to cut vacancy rate is to just tear down buildings.

In the meantime, getting a police officer to solve a crime in Dayton becomes even more of a pipedream, as the force continues to dwindle because of budget cuts, retirements and a lack of money to pay cops – because, well, parking garages are more important.

I’m just wondering when the city is going to start building garages for people who are still stupid enough to buy houses in our city? Oops- they tried doing that in Wright Dunbar and it hasn’t exactly taken off.

At some point voters need to wake up. There is no silver bullet to save downtown or your neighborhood. If we focus on the basics first- like snow removal, police response times, solving petty crime, cleaning streets- and making the city building department business friendly- we’d see a lot more progress than these Hail Mary moves to “create economic development.”

We also need to take a hard look at what has occurred at Austin Landing- and stop this idea that we can have these tax dodge havens. Those were all Dayton jobs- maybe the answer is to expand the south airport and annex the whole area into Dayton and turning it into an “enterprise zone” (like at the airport- because, well, that’s been so successful).

Heading into the new year end tax time, I’m looking at our whole screwed up multi-jurisdictional taxing mess and thinking of it as a design problem. How would we simplify the collection of taxes in the region and cut the amount of time wasted on fining and forgiving small businesses who can’t keep up with this rats’ nest of jurisdictions?

It’s really pretty simple- one single income tax rate. A single property tax levy. And an absolute limit on numbers of elected officials per people per square mile. And put a complete stop to investing public tax dollars into private developments- that’s not what we pay our taxes for.

But then again- it’s becoming really clear that only little people are expected to pay taxes anymore.

Miller Lane compared to The Greene: Development by chance or choice

Miller Lane didn’t kill the Salem Mall, but it sure cost the taxpayers a ton of money. The Greene didn’t kill the Fairfield Commons Mall, or the Dayton Mall- but it also has cost the taxpayers a ton of money. The question is, which one gave us something worthy of the expense? And, why are the two developments in former farm land so different?

It comes down to jurisdictional differences for the most part- Miller Lane was built in an urban township and the Greene was built in a city which requires different zoning and regulations. We have different playing fields in the same competitive landscape, which create grossly different outcomes. Comparing the two a few years out, we find both have added costs to government in terms of police and fire response. At Miller Lane, they’ve talked about taxing workers to pay for police protection, and at the Greene, neighboring Kettering, which gets no revenue from the jobs or even the sales tax- has had to increase police responses to a small city built on its front doorstep.

Miller Lane started out as an outpost for WalMart with a new Sam’s Club. If you notice, it’s WalMart’s preference to move into unincorporated areas where zoning rules are much different than in cities. It’s been proven that the company is not above paying bribes to governments (in Mexico clearly, here- not as clear) to have their way in terms of transforming the landscape. We’ve also seen that these locations can just be temporary stops along the way- look at the empty former WalMart in Trotwood, or in Xenia, where communities are promised the world, but are only best friends until after the doors open. No master plan, no sidewalks, nothing resembling anything other than dropping buildings from the sky on streets not built for the kind of traffic that would come, so of course, to subsidize all this, the taxpayers had to fund the new highway interchange. Now, we’re looking at diverting more tax revenue to build the things that should have been required to begin:

And starting this summer, visitors will start to see other improvements to the area, including new sidewalks and lights to encourage more pedestrian traffic.

The sidewalks and lights are part of a 75-page report and recommendation from Jacobs Engineering of Cincinnati that creates a vision for the area that includes improved branding, bike paths, a community park and better-positioned RTA bus stops. Butler Twp. trustees commissioned the long-range plan last year that includes information and suggestions to develop, redevelop and connect the 552-acre area near the intersections of Interstates 70 and 75.

The report was shared with business people in the area this week, and though it has not been formally presented at a council meeting, all the trustees have seen it. It will be presented to the zoning board in March and the trustees in April. The report cost the township $50,000, which came out of TIF funds.

“Having a master plan is always a good thing,” Kolodesh said. His company has developed several areas along Miller Lane and is working on more. “We’re still working on plans with the township, and we purchased the bonds for York Commons Boulevard. We want to maintain our commitment to the area.” York Commons Boulevard is an east-west artery in the area.

All parties involved — from township officials to Jacobs Engineering to developers such as Singer — said no cost estimate or future job availability has been determined related to the plan. But they agree that as the area is made more attractive with sidewalks, improved lighting, foliage and street furniture, more businesses will sign on.

“I think it’s important for us to have an idea — and the township to guide — what we want that to look like,” said township trustee Mike Lang. “It could change along the way. This gives us a sort of cohesive vision about how to tie all that together.”

The area’s first development was Sam’s Club, in 1994, by Singer Properties, on the west side of Miller Lane. WalMart followed, then smaller businesses, restaurants and hotels.

Other than a township zoning board, no one guided the process, and parcels of land are owned by several different entities. There are very few sidewalks and plenty of parking lots. It’s mostly vehicle-driven. Even people who stay overnight in hotels might have to use their cars just to cross the street to a restaurant. Trustees want to make it a more pedestrian-friendly area.

“The most immediate concern is for the people who come and stay (in hotels) have an ability to get around,” Lang said.

The sidewalks will cost about $200,000 and be paid for by the area’s TIF fund. Future development will be paid out of the township’s general fund, state funds, grants and possible levies.

Outlined in the report are several items to enhance the area, including:

  • Sidewalks will be laid this summer on Commerce Center Drive from Benchwood to the Sam’s parking lot.
  • Signage will be erected at the northern and southern ends of the development.
  • RTA bus stops will be repositioned for better access, and cutouts will enable buses to pull over and not block traffic.

Trustees also are considering creating a park or gathering place for events that would be surrounded by businesses and condominium-type housing, which would require some rezoning.

Paul Cutler, director of community planning for Jacobs, said there has been no plan for the area until now.

“That all happened through chance,” Cutler said. The township wants to play off the positives and carry through in subsequent developments.”

via Miller Lane seeing more growth.

And while The Greene also has a TIF and a JEDD and a bunch of diverted tax improvements for the benefits of the owners, the entire process did a few things very different with a very different value outcome. The Greene provided for pedestrians from the start, and also included housing. Its mixed use has attracted a live-work-play ecosystem that efficiently utilizes a much smaller footprint and an existing highway exit (yes, roads had to be widened). And while there was some shuffling of business into The Greene from other locations, it also brought genuinely new businesses to the area.

At the root of this comparison is the question of the value of zoning laws- do they have value to the community or not? While some argue that Houston Texas style no zoning is a driver of growth, we can look at these two developments and analyze which approach gave us more for our bucks. I’m pretty sure that in the long run, The Greene will show a much more effective investment for the taxpayers due to it’s holistic approach and focus on the human experience over Miller Lane’s focus on business bottom lines.

It’s time Ohio addresses the lameness of the urban township existence in a modern world. By leveling the playing field, simplifying jurisdictions and reducing the number of different jurisdictions we will see our tax dollars invested in better designed and thought out developments that return real value for our increasingly limited tax dollars.

It’s time to not play favorites with tax dollars anymore

Our country was founded on the principle that “all men are created equal.” Yet our local elected leaders seem to think it’s good government to redistribute our tax dollars from the poor to the wealthy while rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

To summarize, Heidelberg Distributing is moving its HQ and at least 270 good jobs from Dayton to Moraine. The County ED/GE fund is contributing a pittance to this project, $235,000 of your tax dollars to help this happen. That money could have been used to put 3 more police on the street for a year to protect all of us, or as part of turning Dayton (the region) into a gigabit internet community- a project that would make everyone more competitive- not just Heidelberg.

What makes this deal suck even worse is that Heidelberg is already in a business that’s created and protected by  state laws requiring all alcoholic beverages to be sold by middlemen. This isn’t freewheeling capitalism at work, you or I couldn’t become an alcohol distributor if we tried. How would you feel if you were Bonbright distributing company- which is still in Dayton, knowing that part of your taxes are being given away to your arch enemy?

Heidelberg Distributing Co. is breathing new life into the long-shuttered former Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. warehouse at 3601 Dryden Road, investing $21.2 million in renovations and planning to move its north Dayton operations to the mammoth former industrial building in about six months….

Heidelberg officials said the company will borrow a projected $16.8 million, provide $4.2 million in private equity and use a $235,000 ED/GE grant approved by Moraine and Montgomery County officials to pay for the renovations and improvements.

“It is humbling to be working on a $20 million project that will outlive us and which will be here for generations,” said Heidelberg CEO Vail Miller Jr.

via Long-vacant warehouse receives $21M revamp.

I haven’t had the pleasure of knowing Vail Miller Jr., and I appreciate his company’s long commitment to Dayton (the region and the city). The jobs that he provides are crucial to my imbibing friends (I’m a teetotaler). The excuses that were used in luring GE, or for arranging a sweetheart deal to keep NCR here aren’t applicable to retaining Heidelberg here- his is a distribution business, centered in our area to serve our area. There is no way this business could locate in Sidney and still be profitable due to fuel costs alone.

It’s time to stop redistributing tax dollars and only invest our tax dollars in infrastructure and services that are accessible to all and don’t play favorites. It’s time to invest our tax dollars in things that make our area more competitive and attractive to people outside our area, to lure them here, not to pay ransoms to keep them dancing with the ugly girl at the prom.

Dayton (city and region) should have some pride. Mr. Miller should graciously decline the ED/GE money and direct that it be used for something that would help all businesses- like Gigabit Internet which would give the region a competitive advantage, not just save him rounding error on his amazing new facility.

It’s not “your money” to build Huber Heights Music Center, Councilman Campbell

What happened to Memorial Hall once the Victoria reopened, and then what happened to the Victoria once the Schuster opened? Or what has happened to Hara Arena since UD Arena, the Dayton Convention Center and then the Nutter Center opened? What is the utilization rates of all these venues? Hint: our population hasn’t grown at near the rate of the seats and spaces for events.

Now Huber Heights is being run by? Concert Promoters? Really? I’ve known Mick Montgomery (Canal Street Tavern) and Jerry Gilloti (Gillys) for years and I doubt there is anyone who knows the vagaries of booking music acts better than these two men, and I’ll place a bet neither of them would say Dayton can support a “Fraze 2″ in Huber Heights without cannibalizing the track record of the Fraze.

(Huber Heights Councilman Mark) Campbell said Huber Heights hasn’t identified how the music center would be funded, but didn’t rule out potential sources such as federal grant money, sponsors and selling the venue’s naming rights. That could generate about $6 million to help offset the cost, Campbell said. TIF money also could be used to build it and once the music center is fully operational, Campbell projects it would generate about $500,000 in profit per year.

City officials said the music center would not compete with the Fraze Pavilion in Kettering, a popular 4,300-seat venue that opened in 1991. The $2.6 million venue was funded 100 percent by community donations, according to Amy Berlean, Kettering’s community information manager.

Campbell hopes the city can work with Kettering to “enhance the region.”

“The Fraze doesn’t have the same type of location we do,” Campbell said. “They have longevity. The buzz in government is cooperation and working together. It’s a really good opportunity to put our money where our mouth is. What’s good for us is what’s good for the region, and vice versa.”

via Huber music center creates high hopes.

There used to be a lot more ice rinks in town before Kettering built one with tax dollars. Dayton had a Moore’s Nautilus downtown until they sunk millions of tax dollars into Joe Moores competition- the downtown YMCA and Joe closed his gym and said goodbye to Dayton. There is a reason you don’t see private libraries- who could charge for entry and renting books when there is a tax supported library that doesn’t charge? Private swimming pools also have struggled as have private golf courses that are priced for the “common man.” The list goes on.

The sad truth is that The Fraze didn’t make money for a good number of years. Finding and retaining the right mix of a successful promoter/booking agent, advertising, good weather and the right acts on the right days is almost a black magic art. Big names won’t even stop at a venue in a small market on prime weekend nights, and only if they are on the way between other gigs. This isn’t as easy as build it and they will come. Some idiot has even thought that Dayton could support two professional hockey teams at once which was a joke. UD and WSU won’t even play each other in basketball- and WSU has never been able to come close to filling the Nutter the way UD does for hoops. There are many factors at play and no guarantees.

If we had regional government, this wouldn’t even be on the horizon, but we don’t. Last I checked, Huber Heights citizens wouldn’t vote to increase their taxes for a needed school levy, yet the city council seems to think that they should speculate $18 million on a concert hall? Mr. Campbell talks about “putting our money where our mouth is” and misses the point- it’s the people’s money and they would prefer to use it to put food in their mouths, than support a concert venue that may or may not make money, but will most definitely cost them premium dollar to go to.

Kettering has evolved over the years into a model for a balanced and effective community that seems to put the needs of its citizens first. Good schools, good neighborhoods, good parks and recreation. If Huber Heights thinks it’s ready to be Kettering 2, that’s fine, but the problem is, very few followers ever manage to move to number one by doing the same thing. And, people willing and able to plop down $50 or more per ticket to concerts are a shrinking market as those in the know will tell you.

All this “development” is just sprawl being mislabeled, just like “our money” is. Huber Heights doesn’t exactly have a track record of developmental success with “The Heights” a multimillion dollar housing boondoggle in the same area as this mythical music venue. This concert venue is unneeded and unnecessary and unrealistic. Find other ways to spend tax dollars to improve the city, without killing one of our region’s true gems- The Fraze.