Warren Price we hardly knew you

I interrupt my cross-country motorcycle trip to bring you this update: Dayton can’t have two strong personalities in charge.

The exiting of Warren Price barely 9 months into his job as Nan’s bitch boy is reminiscent of the short stay of the last “change agent” city manager we hired- Bill Estabrook.

Estabrook came to town with great fanfare as Mike Turner’s man for the job, but when he actually tried to lead the city as a City Manager, stealing the limelight from Turner, he had to go.

Rule number one for any incoming city manager from outside the market, when in public, make extra sure the puppet strings are clearly showing. Start every sentence about anything positive with “Thanks to the Mayor and Commission, Dayton is…”

Last time this hit the fan, an internal candidate who had been passed over was put in charge as an interim, until they found Valerie Lemmie. The Lemmie/Turner team managed to dance the dance better than any we’ve ever seen.

Look for recently returned airport director Terrence Slaybaugh to step in. If it weren’t for the fact that he’s done such a good job at the airport, the only stumbling block is if he refuses to accept the term “interim.”

Shelley Dickstein would take the “interim” title in a heartbeat, but, it’s doubtful that she’ll be anointed. Stan Earley has been interim before, and could also be the interim, but, he’s been passed over more times than Manziel throws interceptions.

The reality is, the mayor wants the job. The only thing stopping her is that the party or the commission doesn’t get to name a replacement- the voters do. It’s too late to add a candidate to the upcoming election, meaning a “special election” would be needed. One thing’s for sure, if they choose Nan to step in, Gary Leitzel wouldn’t run for mayor- despite being the best qualified- because the idea of working with Nan would be his worst nightmare.

I don’t know what’s more entertaining in politics these days- the clown posse Republican presidential field- or the “leadership” of Dayton.

I’m getting back on my motorcycle and trying to forget about this latest three-ring circus.

Expect a free for all for Dayton City Commission this year

After getting coddled through his term, Dean Lovelace will finish his two plus decades of doing next to nothing on the Dayton City Commission. A purported idealist, with a good heart and some good ideas that were way beyond his pay grade, Lovelace didn’t do much to change Dayton – but did build his retirement fund.

Misguided efforts included the predatory lending issue (bought out by the banks at the state level) and the living wage bill (only applied to city employees and contracts- so minimal). For 22 years on the Commission, that’s not a lot to hang your hat on.

The City Charter clearly says that if you miss more than 5 meetings in a row- it’s time to go. His time to go was after his first stroke. He’s contributed next to nothing since- at times, saying things that would make you wonder if he was all there.

The Dem’s have their golden boy already picked. He’s been sending letters to members of the central committee asking for support and his endorsement- on letterhead he had printed for the last commission election- the one where he withdrew so last golden boy, Jeff Mims could take his anointed seat. If anyone can point out what legislation Mims has introduced, or positions he’s taken other than saying “yes, mam” to the Queen of our city, her royal highness, her nannyness, Mayor Whaley, please feel free to share.

Expect to hear lots about what Matt Joseph has introduced in the coming months- all of it, fed to him by others including the future Clerk of Courts- his brother, the political braintrust of the Democratic party, Russ Joseph who works for Mark Owens, our current Dayton clerk of courts.

The already picked but not voted on by the “selection committee of the Montgomery County Democratic Party” that doesn’t believe in the democratic process of primaries- is the Rev. Darryl Fairchild. Part of the reason the commission had no problem spending money making the dais wheelchair accessible for Dean after his stroke- was because Darryl would need it.

Tommy Owens for Dayton City Commission

From Facebook

Other candidates in the mix, are social media man of the hour on the West Side, Tommy Owens, who is surveying his friends on FB. David K. Greer who ran last time, and a host of others. The Montgomery County Board of Elections has the following list of candidates

Matt Joseph, sitting commissioner.


Marcus Rech–  contacted me and will not be filing for personal reasons

Hazel Rountree who is on the School Board. Recently elected, she’d have to resign from the school board to be on city commission as far as I know. She’s a PhD who works at Wright State.

Chris Shaw- no idea.

Scott Sliver whom I’ve known for 25 years plus. He’s a touchy-feely progressive minister at the Vineyard church who loves to feed poor people. He gave up his career in advertising to serve the lord- and just recently moved from a big house in Beavercreek to downtown. This sets up a battle of the men of the cloth.

The signatures aren’t due until 60 days before the election which is May 5th 2015, making the turn in around Mar. 5th.

The un-Democratic party is going to have its endorsement meeting next week. The question is, who was invited? I’m on the Executive Committee of the party- and I wasn’t aware of invites.

I’m debating running right now. Getting signatures isn’t a lot of fun- which is why Greer has been getting them since the fall. I’ve just been given a few more years with my father- thanks to the VA doing an amazing surgery, and he’d prefer it if I didn’t run. I’ve got enough to do, making sure our kids have basketball nets- a job, at least some people appreciate, and I have a business to run and a wonderful girlfriend to spend my evenings with.

If I saw $2,500 come into my campaign fund- in the next 30 days, it would sway me to run, but if it doesn’t make it to that- at least I’ll have plenty of money for nets, rims, paint, and some t-shirts and balls to give the kids. Donation is on the right of this page.

Gary Leitzell has told me he won’t run for city commission, mostly because working with Nan is next to impossible. Finding someone to question her, and others on our commission in their continued march to mediocrity should be on the minds of all Dayton voters. How many dollars can we spend on failed or misguided “economic development” while ignoring basic services. I can literally ice skate on Bonner Street right now.

Warren Price named new Dayton city manager

If Warren Price was so informed through interviews, undoubtedly, he read some of Esrati.com

It’s probably impossible to read all of it at this point- 2,323 Posts, 20,354 Comments. It’s been informing Dayton since 2005, which makes this the granddaddy of all Dayton political blogs and alternative news sources. I look at this as your site- even though it has my name on it- since you’ve written 10 times the number of posts that I have.

If you are searching for information on why Dayton- the city and the region is the way it is- or how it got that way, there is no other accessible, searchable source that covers so much. UrbanOhio.com has some forums that are pretty interesting- but, it’s statewide with a focus toward Cleveland. Trying to find anything via the Dayton Daily News search tools is a lesson in frustration- and if you are looking for conversation via comments, you can forget it (apparently right now their commenting system is busted- not removed permanently).

Here’s the “relevant” info on Price from today’s DDn story- it’s pretty apparent they haven’t had time to do any real digging on him or get an extended interview:

Dayton City Commission selected Warren Price as the next city manager, making him the first person since 1996 to be hired for the top job without having previously worked for the city.

Price, 42, serves as the general counsel to the Stark County Sheriff, as well as the human resources director for a staff of 220 full-time public safety employees….

City leaders said Price has considerable and relevant experience in public service and has demonstrated that he strongly shares their top priorities, including improving customer service at all levels of government.

They said Price has an impressive knowledge of the city and region, and it is clear he knows how to supervise employees and collaborate with multiple stakeholders….

Price is the first hire for the position with no prior experience working for the city since Valerie Lemme 18 years ago. Lemme at the time was the city manager in Petersburg, Va….

Price beat two internal candidates for the job, including Dayton Assistant City Manager Shelley Dickstein and Aviation Director Terrence Slaybaugh. He was one of six people who were interviewed in person by city commissioners…

He said growing the city will be his focus, which is possible through providing exemplary services and keeping the community safe, clean and well maintained….

Price has 12 years of local government management experience.

He worked for the city of Canton from 2009 to 2013. Before that, Price was the legal counsel for Springfield Twp. in Summit County, which has about 15,000 residents. For three years in the mid-2000s, he served on the Alliance City Council.

He also worked for two law firms and was a zoning administrator in Lake Twp. and a zoning inspector and code enforcement official in Alliance. He served in the U.S. Navy and graduated from the University of Akron School of Law.

Price will be paid $160,000 annually, and he will receive standard executive benefits, such as paid holidays, annual leave, health insurance and dental insurance. He expects to start on Jan. 12….

via Dayton names new city manager | www.mydaytondailynews.com.

The first indication of what kind of City Manager we’ll have will be where he chooses to live. Former City Manager Riordan skirted this issue by renting an apartment during his tenure. Of course, the fact that we passed him over in the past and he moved to Cincy following Valerie Lemmie is all water under the bridge at this point from our financial savior. Of course, I’m thinking he’ll end up in South Park- since he has kids who will probably attend Holy Angels and CJ. I can think of a few houses that are for sale right now that would be good choices and one that’s not on the market.

If you do a quick search on Warren Price, you’ll surely stumble on the Stark County Political Report– a blog that’s somewhat similar to esrati.com. A quick read of it says we’re in all new territory when it comes to Price as City Manager- which is awesome, until he actually tries to be a city manager and runs into Her Highness’ power trip.

Price isn’t afraid of speaking in public- even to a blogger. He’s a bit of a showman- drinking nasty looking brown tap water on camera (and joking that the sample came out of the toilet) to prove it may look bad- but is safe to drink (hopefully, he’ll never have to do that here).

From what I see, Price, a lawyer and a Navy veteran, seems to be cut from a totally different fabric than anyone we’ve had around since Bill Estabrook or Rick Helwig (Estabrook was fired within a year, because he did shake things up in City Hall and was viewed as then Mayor Mike Turner’s boy).

He has also run for office– which is something that we’ve never had in the modern era- a politically out City Manager. With the possibility of Turner’s seat being open in two years, could we see Whaley vs her new hire? That thought is mind-boggling, and probably not something she thought of when bringing a guy who actually can talk on camera to town. He was introduced to local politics in high school working as a radio reporter, his views on politics are almost comical- especially coming to Dayton: “Politics are an unfortunate means to an end in most cases.”

I’m not seeing him on Social Media- he has a namesake who is a game designer at UbiSoft who drowns out cursory searches- but all indications show he isn’t afraid of engaging social media, which may actually allow for me to do a first- an open interview with someone in appointed office who is willing to go on the record as having talked directly with me (you should be laughing now, if not rolling on the floor). The only one in the past, was former Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell, although there are many who have no problems talking to me.

The big question is who will he be allowed to push out and what kind of talent will he hire? In the past, City Managers have pretty much been limited in their ability to fire anyone- hence Shelly Dickstein and Stan Early still perennial runners up. And there is the question of if Terry Slaybaugh will stick around, now that he’s been passed over. His loss to the airport would be big.

If you are wondering how Price managed his way past Whaley’s power monger filter- it’s probably that while in the Navy he studied full time at UD’s sister school- Chaminade University in Honolulu. We know that the Marianist roots run deep in her blood.

Looking over everything that I found, I see this as a radical step in the right direction for Dayton. Unlike Lemmie, Price looks to be a much more affable guy- something desperately needed after the dour/sour Riordan who was white-knuckling his way through the financial minefield caused by years of failed leadership. With an outsider, he’s free to blame all the previous woes on past parties and start with a new approach to our primary problem- which was at the end of the DDn article and right on the money:

“Like customers, if (residents) are not happy and not satisfied with the product the city puts out, they’ll leave, and I don’t want them to leave, I want them to stay here,” he said.

Warren Price, I’m looking forward to helping you. You’ve got your work cut out.


The 3-point challenge

Whenever I’m out hanging nets, and there are ballers on the court, I offer up my three-point challenge. Shoot three treys in a row- and get a t-shirt. I let the little dunkers shoot from the foul line. Usually, the result is near pandemonium, with very little order, and someone inevitably trying to go twice, or wanting to change the rules to it doesn’t start counting till you make one.

When I was out with Rob D. hanging rims, he wanted to make it easy- and give away as many shirts as possible. I believe that skills and hard work should be rewarded, and on some courts- I end up giving away multiple shirts- as 9 points go in like clockwork. I believe that rewards need to be earned, that there shouldn’t be shortcuts along the way. I stick to my rules- and tell the kids that they should work on their long shot, and show me their skills next time. And, sometimes the first thing I hear after “The net man is here”- is “let me show you my three pointer.”

Going door-to-door, I get one of two reactions when I talk about giving every Dayton Public Schools student an iPad or netbook. The first is complete understanding and a realization that without 1-1 computer to student, we can’t possibly be preparing our students for the workforce- and the other, which is much rarer- is “what do you mean give them an iPad? To take home? They’ll sell (or steal) it?” It’s that second reaction that always takes me aback.

Forget about the fact that textbooks cost as much as an iPad and do a lot less for our students, and no one would argue against textbooks, it’s the idea that our kids either don’t deserve the best, haven’t earned the right, or can’t be trusted. This is our future- and we don’t seem to place a very high level of trust in our kids today. That’s too bad, because I think if kids were voting, we’d be having a better political conversation than we have now. They see what’s going on around them- and for the most part, they’ve given up on Dayton too.

When you come to a park that has a dead raccoon sitting in the parking lot, broken glass on the court that’s bisected by weed fault lines- and look up at a raggedy backboard with a rusted rim and the only thing that’s clean and glowing is a basketball net, with a florescent green bottom, that’s the beacon of hope. A $2 weave of string. It sends a message. I enjoy talking to our kids more than voters. When they ask what I am going to do for our city, they haven’t become jaded yet by the lies of those who’ve come before me. They believe. All I hope is that I can get two other people on the commission to agree with a vision of Dayton that doesn’t include tax breaks for General Electric, while we’re charging admission to our rec center to families that can barely afford to keep shoes on their kids’ feet.

That’s why one of the first things I hope to do is reward the kids who work hard at becoming our future leaders. As soon as I take my oath of office, I plan to make our rec centers free for any kid with a B average or better.

The iPads, will go home with our graduating seniors who have at least a B average and a 20 or better on the ACT. We will reward our kids for doing the work.

And, if you don’t have the grades, but want to get into the rec center, we’ll have opportunities for kids to go to tutoring centers after school- and be rewarded with passes for completing additional work.

And while I’ve also been told that by putting nets up, I’m encouraging NBA dreams instead of school work, I want to make it clear to our kids, that shooting threes can change a game, but, in the end, it’s all about making smart decisions- on the court and in life. I want to work to make our kids realize that “Smart is the new cool”- and that everything we focus on is to make smart decisions in our community to help us rise above it.

I started with the basketball nets because I believe that our parks and how we treat our citizens are indicative of what we think of them. I plan on taking this small change and building into a whole cultural shift, that Daytonians are proud, smart and ready to take on any challenge, from getting elected for under $10,000 (something some say can’t be done) to eliminating tax breaks for companies as bait to come here, because we need our taxes to create a community worth moving your business to, and that paying taxes is an investment in a great city.

November 5th, we’ll find out if enough people believe that actions speak louder than words, and if hard work pays off. If every person I talk to, tells just a part of my story to their friends, we’re on the verge of changing the game in Dayton. Thank you.

Just remember, it takes three votes on the commission to win a change. Others have had three votes and squandered their opportunities. Three new faces, three new votes, that’s the three point challenge for Dayton.

David Esrati speaks to the Dayton Baptist Pastors and Ministers Union of Greater Dayton

I arrived when I was supposed to. Commissioner Joey Williams was in the middle of his presentation, I turned on the iPhone and recorded. After him came Joe Lutz, who is now talking about city wide WiFi- as if it’s his idea. He’s going to use the money he wants to collect from it to pay for house demolition. Seriously, he’s way out there. My idea of citywide WiFi is to make it free for all, with limits, and unlimited for those who pay, or for Dayton Public School students, who would be able to sign into the same filtered system they use at school.

Then Jeffery J Mims, Jr., talked a lot about himself.  David Greer spoke briefly. Nan left after Mims spoke. The mayor was already done and gone before I arrived, and I don’t know if A.J. Wagner spoke to them today, but I suspect not.

I’ve taken the time to put my speech into an MP-3 you can stream or download. I cover as much as I can before the tap on the back from Rev. William Schooler, whom I first met when I was running for mayor 20 years ago. I won’t quit running until I win and build the Dayton of the future.

You can listen and see what you think.

If I have more than 3 requests in comments- I’ll post the whole thing tonight.

How to build the Dayton of the future: David Esrati’s plan in 20 minutes

Logo for How to build the Dayton of the Future the David Esrati planIf we wanted to really learn about what a candidate’s plans are, we wouldn’t expect them to answer in 2 minutes or less. I understand people have a short attention span, but, when it comes to something important, 2 minutes isn’t enough. When I learned that the McCook Field neighborhood association was going to give us 20 minutes, in a facility with a projector and a screen, I pulled an all-nighter and put together a presentation. I’d like to give it again- and have a bit more time to rehearse, and tweak it, if any organization is listening. Twenty minutes is the same as a TED talk. They bill them as “Ideas worth spreading”- so, please spread.

I may also put up the deck via slideshare, when I have more time. Look for David K Greer and Joseph Lutz video tomorrow. This is the first video from the meeting in this post: Another candidates’ night: Lutz unveils his grand plan.

After this presentation, no one complained about my “command voice” – they heard me 10×10. I hope you do as well. Please share, like, spread and support (donate).

Go to Vandalia to eat around the world: World Café

I’m pretty sure a bunch of you will tell me I’m about 2 years late sharing this gastronomical find, but it’s worth talking about. Located in the butt fugly strip mall off the Northwoods exit on 75 by the airport, 2 doors down from Kroger is a former Quizno’s gone eclectic.

The World Café’s sandwich menu is split between Americas, Europe and Asia and each can be had as a toasted sandwich on white, multi-grain flatbread or as a wrap. I tried the Chicken BLT and the Brazilian Steak sandwiches as well as a sampler of three kinds of hummus, tzatziki and olive tapanade. The tapanade was so awesome I kicked myself for not getting the “New Orleans Muffuetta” which about 5 people recommended online. What makes the chicken BLT special is the avacado mayo, the Brazilian steak had a chimichurri sauce and cilantro mayo. It’s the little things that make a sandwich special.

There are 16 different sandwiches and all of them sound good to me, which is rare. The only thing I’d hope to see changed is an improvement in the bread- what I’d give for it to come from either Bakehouse Bread in Troy or Rahn’s Artisan Breads (you might know them from the 2nd St. Market- full disclaimer, I’ve done work for both)- which turned me into a bread snob. Next visit I’m curious about the Thai Steak Wrap  or the Mandarin Orange Wrap as well as the Muffuletta.

The sandwiches are $6.50 or available as a half for $4.00 and there are combos with soups, or salads too. I tried a soup too- don’t ask me what it was- but it was hearty and flavorful with a tomato base. Everything is made from scratch, and the portions are definitely American sized, despite the place being owned by a Pole.

Robert Krzak ended up in Dayton after working cruise ships and traveling around the world. Don’t get him talking because he doesn’t stop. Those of you who enjoy dialects/accents will be laughing all the way as he goes between an Aussie with a g’d day, and some slang, to a heavily accented Eastern European English, all with a big smile. He came to Dayton after meeting a fair lass from Beavercreek on the cruise ship and has been here since 2005. He’s working two jobs to keep his dream of a chain of World Café’s growing, you can find him some nights at Therapy Café on E. Third in the Cannery tending bar. He was recently featured in the Dayton Daily news in a piece about immigration.

For those of you who think immigrants steal your job, I’d like to point out that this guy is hiring Americans and building his American dream for his family. If you need a reminder of immigrants’ impact on Dayton, just drive around old North Dayton and see the Polish Club, the Lithuanian Club etc. This town was built by European craftsmen.

The restaurant is at 786 Northwoods Blvd., Vandalia, OH 45377, the phone is 937-264-0100. hours are Monday- Friday 11-8, Sat. and Sun. 11-2:22. They do catering as well and deliver within a 20-mile radius.

If you’ve eaten here and had a good experience, share it in the comments, and if you haven’t- go try it and tell them Esrati sent you.

State of the City of Dayton

Mayor Leitzell made his state of the city address yesterday- and wisely posted it on his blog so that he didn’t have to count on the media to get it right.

Using the web to skirt the media is a step forward.

However- speaking in platitudes isn’t an answer, a plan or even remotely what we need. What we need is a vision of leadership- a direction, a plan.

This doesn’t cut it:

  1. Dayton is on its own
  2. Dayton must reinvent itself to survive and thrive
  3. If we’re going to get anything done, we need to work together
  4. Dayton is evolving
  5. Dayton will prosper

In the meantime, we’ve not answered how we are going to staff our safety forces- our core mission for our government, we don’t have a plan to clearly “reinvent” ourselves- name one piece of legislation he’s introduced, never mind an agenda for transformation- like true charter changes? We could start with eliminating the policy of making lateral hires go back through our safety academies- and instead do OJT. We could also eliminate the charter requirements based on numbers of registered voters- and change it to percentages of last general election.

And while we continue to pour money into “economic development” projects that are nothing but corporate welfare- we could instead invest our money in programs to rebuild the fabric of our neighborhoods- working together with Dayton Public Schools and the Charters to create citywide youth sports programs- so our kids have something to do other than join gangs or move away when they reach school age. Strong neighborhoods build strong cities.

Instead- we got none of that. We got this:

we have world class citizens with world class ideas. Now is the time for us to put those ideas into action. This is our moment. Let’s work together and seize it.

via Dayton Mayor: State of the City Address.

I won’t even touch his endorsement of William Pace– but, it is his first attempt to actually stand for something- so- I guess we do have progress.

What’s the plan, Mayor?

(and- btw, I would have been in attendance, but instead I was helping coach my kids’ soccer game in Sidney).

What happens when the people leave Dayton?

Dayton made another list- number 5 at losing population. It’s another one of those stupid how-do-you-define-“Dayton” questions that really needs answering soon if we don’t want to keep being made fun of- and continue to lose respect for all that we have:

5. Dayton, Ohio

Population: 153,843

Population Change 2000-2009: -11,961

Population Percent Change 2000-2009: -7.21%

Home Vacancy: 18.9%

For its size, Dayton, Ohio, was once one of the most productive and creative cities in the U.S. It produced more patents per capita at the turn of the century than any other. The city was home to several former great Fortune 500 companies, including National Cash Register, Mead Paper and Phillips Manufacturing. Through the first half of the 20th century, Dayton had one of the healthiest manufacturing industries. It had more GM autoworkers than any city outside of Michigan during World War II. In the past 50 years, Mead has merged with West Virginia Paper and moved to Richmond, and GM has closed one plant after another in the city.

via us-cities-running-out-of-people: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance.

If you look at the Dayton Metro Area- the losses are much smaller- not worth a story- but, since we continue to believe that the health of a core isn’t that important- we keep missing opportunities.

The other day I was reading a trade journal- sponsored by local company NewPage. You know the paper merchant formerly known as Mead. They proudly stated that they were headquartered in Miami Township- or Miamisburg (can’t remember- and I’m not in my office right now). Try finding that on a map?

It’s that kind of lameness that perfectly defines our problem. While we continue to think that because we know the differences between Beavercreek and Trotwood- the rest of the world cares. Never mind that we’ve let sprawl and over-building dilute our community- the reality is, we’ve been talking about how we’re going to fix our problems a lot more than we’ve actually fixed any of them.

With cuts coming in state and federal funding- we’re going to see Dayton proper face even bigger challenges- and the first ring communities suffer even more as more people file out- but- not too far out, because believe it or not- even poor people want safe neighborhoods and good schools.

In the meantime- the current city commission isn’t talking about serious regionalism- or about concentrating what limited resources we have on making sure we get our fundamental services right- they are thinking about spending money demolishing excess inventory- with no plan on how to regrow our community.

Last I checked- we don’t pay taxes to do property maintenance on other people’s buildings- nor do empty homes require government services.

Let’s make use an analogy: Dayton as a restaurant.

At one time- we made a lot of different dishes (manufacturing) and we were very good at it. We had good servers (public services) and a great clientele (population). The population came here because we were a good value: low cost of living, reliable work force, strong business leaders. Translated- the dishes we made were reasonably priced, the servers showed up and the people in the kitchen made sure the dishes came on time.

First problem was when tastes started changing- and we weren’t willing to change the menu. NCR missed the rise of the electronic cash register, GM missed small cars and Frigidaire – well- I’m not sure why we stopped making refrigerators- other than they could probably be made more cheaply elsewhere. Our unions had gotten a bit fat and lazy over the years- and seemed to forget that there were other people on the planet who could do what they did. The days of never changing the menu were over- people wanted different, they wanted just in time, they wanted higher quality at a lower price.

Second problem- when we started telling our customers whom they were going to sit with to eat. The devastating impact of school busing for “integration” was one of the major engines to build the suburbs. The customers who didn’t like sitting with strangers- picked up and left. The restaurant lost 25% of its business almost overnight. What’s worse- it lost most of the customers who bought steak- and tipped well- yet management didn’t change anything for years. Even 30 years later- the realization that this policy was a failure never really hit home. We tried turning the restaurant into a food court- with a little something for everyone- (magnet schools) and never really understood that people still wanted the high end steak dishes- while we were trying to sell them fast food. We still had the same number of seats and employees in the restaurant – although our customers had stopped coming.

Then we tried to go into the manufacturing business ourselves. We’re restaurateurs- we’re supposed to be a service industry- but- we thought we’d try our hand at building offices for new customers- hoping they’d come to our restaurant- the one that can’t make or deliver the meal the customers want. We failed miserably. Building buildings and huge “silver bullet” projects like the Arcade, the Arcade tower, Riverscape, Tool Town etc. weren’t what we were supposed to be doing- but we did, because handing our customers’ money over to our rich builder friends kept getting the management re-elected. Look at the growth of the campaign donations and who paid the tab. These people weren’t eating at our restaurant- they were just talking about it like they still did.

What we needed to do was to learn to refine our menu, keep the best servers, shrink the dining room, concentrate on the finest ingredients we could afford- yet we were still thinking we could run our place like we always had- ignoring the competition.

If we’d concentrated on basic services- good schools, safe neighborhoods, clean streets- and not gone off in a million directions- we’d still have a restaurant. Now, we’re thinking that by destroying tables (taking houses out of the inventory) somehow we’ll be able to bring people back to our restaurant. Again- we’re not concentrating on delivering the best service- or using our limited resources to create a restaurant people want to eat in- we’re just getting rid of tables and chairs.

But, if we’d wake up and look around- we have all the things people could want- we have safe neighborhoods, we have good servers, we have great intimate booths- and stages for performance, and good schools- the works- it’s in a place the world knows as Dayton- but we know as Oakwood, Centerville, Kettering, Beavercreek- etc. If we could only stop drawing lines on a map that slice and dice this into fiefdoms- we’d start looking a lot better.

Why can’t we have a regional school system? Why is it OK to have Sinclair Community College- for the whole of the area- but not a Dayton Public Schools for the whole? Why is it OK to have county commissioners who do almost nothing- and get paid the most of locally elected officials- for full-time work- while the cities have part-timers? Why do we still have townships – in an urban area? Why do we insist on so many elected people- for an area that hasn’t grown all that much in the last 40 years- when we’ve cut back on so many other things that we actually need- like police officers?

We need new management of this restaurant- from top to bottom. We need a new focus on delivering fine food- with the best possible servers- in the restaurant we have- with one management team, one top chef- and hold them accountable. We need to market our place to the world- as one that you want to come to eat, to stick around for a show- and decide this is a great place to hang out.

It’s time for a vision- and leadership of one city, ready to compete on a global scale, with real leaders, paid real money- held accountable by the public to take us where we want to be. The truth is we don’t have a choice. Without rebuilding our customer base- we can’t keep serving the same dreck with new menus forever.

What would we have if we paid our mayor $250K, and, had one sheriff, one fire chief, one inspector gotcha, one prosecutor, one auditor, one chief ethics officer- and all of them made $200K a year? We’d actually have huge cost savings- and a team of people that could be held accountable.

Maybe we’d even have a place people would recognize as a real city- instead of the clusterduck we have now.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be recognized as a leader again? Then maybe, people would actually want to come buy some of those houses cheap and fix them up- and eat at our restaurant again.

For 2011- living better in Dayton

A few things I’d like to see everyone try in 2011.

Eat out at independent restaurants more. Why go to Friday’s or Applebee’s when you can go get the exact same thing anywhere in the country? Need some suggestions? And- don’t just stick to food you know- experiment a bit- for starters:

Linh’s on Airway. They have Vietnamese and Chinese- ignore the Chinese and try anything on the menu- it’s all good. Dinner for two is around $24- they don’t serve alcohol- but, will let you bring in some Vietnamese beer if you must. The soft spring rolls are like nothing else I’ve ever had.

Chicago Gyros on Wilmington- nothing fancy- just the fattest Gyro you’ve ever had- for $4.50. The fries are good too- a large will feed two. Why wait for the Greek Festival- you can get your gyro fix anytime- but they close at 8.

Twenty years ago if you told me I’d be eating raw fish, I’d have told you that you’re crazy. Now I can’t get enough of it. Favorites are Sushi Cafe 725 and Byers Road- and Sushi Hana by Yankee and Lyons. C.J. Chan’s on Wilmington also has a few nice rolls- esp. the Las Vegas. Sushi doesn’t come cheap- but, then again- do you really want to eat cheap raw anything?

Our pubs- The Dublin Pub, Tank’s, Slyder’s Tavern, Jimmy’s Cornerstone, Blind Bob’s and The South Park Tavern are just a few- we’ve got some great bar food- and it’s reasonable. Why give your hard-earned money for some food that was prepared 8 states away and came to a boil in a bag pouch?

Fancy schmancy- you’ve got Coco’s and Sidebar, The Pine Club, Meadowlark, Rue Dumaine and that’s just for starters. You can eat at Flemming’s in 10 States- you can only eat at the others here in Dayton. Ohio. You’ll also get more for your money.

That’s food- then comes things to do:

See a movie at the Neon. Without this small independent movie house- we wouldn’t have a place for local film makers to strut their stuff. It’s cheaper than the big megaplexes- and the popcorn is 10x better. Plus- Jonathan picks the best of the movies you might not see otherwise- and, you can even drink a beer.

The Human Race Theater Company– The honchos still hate me for waging a war on smoking on stage just before the statewide vote on banning smoking- but, it’s amazing locally produced theater. I’ve seen so many amazing shows there. The Loft is a great little black box theater- and there isn’t a bad seat in the house. The secret- the final dress rehearsal before opening night is “pay what you can” or bring canned food donations. You can see it first – and help a good cause.

DCDC- the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company– sells out anywhere else in the world- plays to half full theaters here. You’re missing out. Warning- the company is schizophrenic- with two distinct personalities in every show. I generally love half of one- and am bored by the other. Hint: I like the let loose, rhythmic funky dance- If I wanted to see ballet like modern dance- I’d go to the ballet.

Gilly’s: Uh, if you like jazz- you’ve already been- if not- go there. Jerry has been putting on big name acts for – well, ever.

Canal Street Tavern: If you like indy, next big thing acts- Mick Montgomery has been putting on big name acts for- well ever too.

The bikeway– if you have a bike- ride it. If you don’t- get one. There isn’t a better way to get exercise and have fun in this city. Hopefully 2011 will be the year BCycle gets its start in Dayton- until then- go get a bike and ride.

The Art Institute– I’ve been to art museums all over the world- this is still one of my favorites. It’s like having an awesome house- with awesome art. It’s been free- but that may not last. Go now.

Yellow Springs/Clifton Gorge, John Bryant State Park– it’s 20 minutes away- but it’s like, well- another country – another time- an alternate universe. You can even ride your bike out there- or rent one there. If you’re lucky- you can run into Dave Chappelle outside a certain coffee shop- if you’re unlucky- you can do the same. And- yes- the Little Art is also a great little indy movie theater- and- The Winds is an independent restaurant worth trying.

Get a library card- and use the Dayton Public Library. You don’t need netflix or movie rentals- you don’t need to buy books- you ask- they get. My parents swear by the online reservation system. The librarians are cool.

Go ice skating at Riverscape in the winter- play in the kids’ fountain in the summer. If you can’t ice skate- and you see me there- I’ll help teach you.

Go to the Air Force Museum at least once a year. People come from all over the world to see it. It’s in your back yard and free. You’ll learn something with every visit- and face it- planes are cool.

And- on making Dayton a better place….

Volunteer to do something for a non-profit, organize a community garden, set up after-school activities for your neighborhood kids- be it pick up hoops- or even a board game night at a local church. We need to spend more face time and less screen time.

Make sure you know your neighbors– every one on your block. Organize a block party- close the street- cookout- dance a bit- do the hokey pokey. If you don’t know your neighbors- you really don’t live here- you’re fooling yourself. Trust me- and Kathy and Rodney and Christa, and Susan and Bryan and Francis and Bridgett and John and Kathy and Marilyn and Doyle and Steve and Nina and Aaron and Maureen and Isabelle and Phyllis and Tim and Tom and Kathleen….

Listen to WYSO, WDPS, WDPR, WDAO on the radio- read the Dayton City Paper and the Oakwood Register and support their advertisers- and if you are a local business- consider advertising in the non-corporate, local media. They may not be exactly what we want- but, the others are definitely not what we want.

And last but not least- go out and get “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill (.89 as an ebook) and do an attitude adjustment about ourselves, our city and our future. Start visualizing what kind of community we want. Believe it and it will happen- even if we don’t quite get there – it’s time to have a vision of something other than a fire sale, rear guard, desperate community- that the Dayton Daily does such a good job of feeding us…. well, daily. Better yet- stop your subscription- and tell your friends to stop as well. Until they start thinking of themselves as a real newspaper instead of a coupon delivery service- it’s not worth your time or money.

And- feel free to add to this list- in the comments- share what you love about Dayton- and let’s keep this party going.

Best wishes for 2011. It’s going to be the year we take our city back.

note: sorry I didn’t build links to everything mentioned- it’s late. And- if you’ve done all of these things- say so in comments- or, share how long it will take you this year to complete all of these….