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.

Merry Christmas, and here’s the tax bill

Fiscal cliff or no fiscal cliff, reeling in federal spending isn’t going to make a difference, you’re still getting stuck with the bill. No matter what the feds do to tax the rich, or keep the Bush tax cuts in place, local governments have been squeezed at both ends.

Federal dollars from “the stimulus” are drying up, state dollars were cut, then cut again and property tax collections are still lagging thanks to the drops in property values due to the “too big to fail” failures of the wizards of Wall Street. Even sales tax revenues have dropped most places thanks to on-line retailers not charging sales tax in states where they don’t have a physical presence (Amazon doesn’t charge sales tax in Ohio for instance). And, despite cuts to your public safety forces, services and trying to squeeze every last dollar of savings, the local governments are still hurting. Schools can’t pass levies and now parents are having to pay for extra-curricular activities and maybe are even driving their kids to school.

Now, we’re seeing communities like Riverside discounting the tax credit on income taxes collected earned outside Riverside. Without a public vote, the Riverside Council just made the effective income tax rate on their residents who work in Dayton 3% and if they work in Oakwood, 3.25%. Watch as other communities follow suit. Beavercreek is considering its first income tax– which will supposedly be countered by some discounts in property taxes, and even Oakwood is considering some changes, because they are going to lose millions they’ve counted on in the past, disappearing due to the repeal of the estate tax.

Since none of these taxing districts consider themselves as additional overhead- every single one of them believes that their little government is worthy of existence despite the fact that most citizens couldn’t name more than half the names of their council if they were asked.

Already a group is working to place the issue on the ballot in Riverside. Of course, since Riverside is run with a modern charter, their residents, unlike Dayton, can actually petition their government:

According to the Montgomery County Board of Elections, 638 signatures are required, which is 10 percent of the votes cast for the last governor’s race in 2010.

via Tax credit reduction challenged.

In Dayton, it would take almost 14,000 signatures to put it on the ballot- which is about half of the turnout in the last governors’ race. It takes almost that many signatures just to run for Commission in Dayton.

So, no matter what you think of Congress, maybe, we should start looking locally at redundancy and waste in local government. Waste like paying Commissioner Lovelace until he has his 20 years in for retirement, despite his missing almost a year of work. Waste like paying to tear down houses that we don’t own, because we’re too scared to hand the bill back to the owners. Waste like having so many councils, commissions and school boards in a county that’s been staying the same population for the last 30 years but has allowed sprawl that’s costing us a fortune. Or, waste like buying buildings that have no public purpose, or funding private businesses with tax dollars based on how much money they donated to the politicians’ campaigns.

A government by the people, for the people wouldn’t keep growing beyond our ability to pay for it. It’s time to rightsize the patchwork of local governments, school boards, public safety and tax districts into a much simpler, more efficient system. Call it regionalization or reinventing government, but it’s an idea that we can’t ignore anymore.

Not unless you want to keep getting stuck with the bill. Merry Christmas.

Dayton’s culture of fear

If you’ve been in Dayton for any length of time, you’ve come to realize that we don’t have 6 degrees of separation, we have about 1.2. You’ll see it in your connections on LinkedIn and Facebook. Hardly any of my 1,500 friends on FB in Dayton only have 1 friend in common- and people who connect with me usually have a posse of shared friends. Same on LinkedIn where almost all my connections share a connection- very few are 3 people away meaning that neither of us know one person who knows us both- but that we both know people who know each other.

So why the focus on this seemingly positive, small community in a post about the “Culture of fear”- because we worry too much about what our friends might think if we take an actual stand on an issue.

I spoke to a friend whom I’d helped recently- and asked for a recommendation and got this answer “Oh, but I can’t say that publicly, I don’t want to raise any waves.” Another friend, lamented to me that despite his long-term work for a politician and strong support- he was unable to get an endorsement. Of course, if he wins his upcoming race- everyone will be his new best friends. Ask the Mayor of Dayton, Gary Leitzell, who ran against an incumbent who raised 6x as much as he did- if people talk to him now who wouldn’t give him the time of day before. Or, the supporter who isn’t willing to give $200 to your Congressional campaign because it reports to the FEC, but has no problem writing a check for $199. I’ve heard people use the excuse that they can’t support a challenger to an incumbent because they are on the board of a non-profit and wouldn’t want to risk support to their charity should the challenger not win.

Have a great idea? First question out of possible supporters- “has this been done somewhere else before” – this is from people in a city that takes great pride in being the birthplace of aviation. Were people asking the Wright brothers that question- and then ignoring the idea just because no one had ever flown in a heavier than air machine before?

Our community is paralyzed by this culture of fear. We’re immobilized forever as if caught in concrete and cast in bronze. Why can’t we do regionalization right and do it now? There are plenty of examples that government can be done in a more unified way across this country- but we still won’t act. The English had rules about the taxation of tea, did the founding fathers just sit around and accept the stupidity of laws and taxation from afar? Our rules about jurisdictions in Ohio come from the Northwest Ordinance of 1785- do you think it’s time to update them?

When will the real leaders step forward and start making changes? When will we stop worrying about not upsetting the status quo? When will we set our sights on accomplishing things that have never been done before instead of sheepishly crawling in long after the process or program has been thoroughly tested and proven.

It’s hard to be a visionary looking forward in Dayton, Ohio, when the whole culture is focused on watching your own back.

The next Montgomery County Administrator? Clay Mathile?

Clayton Mathile portrait

Clay Mathile

If New York City can have the services of Michael Bloomberg for a dozen years, why can’t Dayton benefit from having local business legend Clay Mathile take the helm as the new Montgomery County Administrator now that Deb Feldman has found her soft landing which so many of our local political has beens seem to find.

Instead, our county commission is announcing the de rigueur “national search” to find Feldman’s replacement:

Deputy County Administrator Joe Tuss will be named interim county administrator. County Commission President Judy Dodge anticipates a national search for Feldman’s replacement.

via Feldman named new CEO of Children’s Medical Center.

Feldman’s leaving this year came as no surprise to anyone, it has been known for over a year by insiders. The real question is why, if Feldman was such a capable leader, do we need to do a search at all? Why hadn’t she groomed a stable of capable replacements. As I’ve said before, true leaders build organizations that can continue smoothly after they leave. Despite various pundits claiming Apple without Steve Jobs was doomed, its stock price has almost doubled since Jobs’s death and the profits keep soaring. Granted, the real question comes after 2-3 years to see if the product innovation pipeline continues to deliver smash products, but for now, look at how smoothly the company transitioned leadership.

Why Mathile?

Besides being well known in the region, he’s also someone who chose to build a business here and did it successfully. His focus on high-performance organizations has been backed up with his kind donation of Aileron to the community- a business institute committed to improving businesses for the health of our community. He knows our community well, as well as all the major players and could be the one leader who is capable of moving regional cooperation and consolidation forward without having any of our mini-fiefdom leaders toe the line and get in step.

And of course, while we’d be more than happy to pay him what Feldman makes or more, I’m pretty sure he’d work for a $1 a year, and attract a whole bunch of new talent to the ranks of county government of young bright talent who know the value of the experience of working with a business tycoon. Gone would be the legions of sycophants and patronage peons who grace every floor of the county building, putting in their time for their almighty pension payoff.

Sure the argument can be made that at 71, why would Mathile do this? Bloomberg seems to have found new energy as mayor of NYC and would have been more than happy to serve another term. If Bloomberg can, why can’t Mathile?

Our region needs a transformational leader more than ever, and the short list of possible candidates is small. My second choice would be to recruit David Hopkins from Wright State or possibly Dan Curran from UD. Former hospital network CEO’s could also be on the shortlist.

If we’re going to rebuild this community, we should begin by realizing that we have local talent, we only need to look around and think of what could be, instead of what we’ve done in the past. The past is what got us here, time to move on.

I welcome your suggestions, comments or candidate submissions on this post.