Candidates nights: the inside scoop before the last 3 events

I try to keep all the events posted for people at www.electesrati.com/events, as far as I know, I’m the only one who does this, and certainly the only one who videotapes every event and posts them to youtube.

Tomorrow night we have the UpDayton forum at Wiley’s Comedy Club. Trust me, being able to drink while listening to most candidates talks makes it more bearable. Unfortunately, I don’t drink.

Let me explain the devolution of politics for you. We don’t have debates.

Here’s the definition- it seems to be forgotten: a formal discussion on a particular topic in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward.

The way most candidates present: My name is ______________, I was born in Dayton, went to school at _____________, work doing _______________.

The audience should immediately start braying like a donkey. As if the candidate had anything to do with where they were born- and as if an education counts as qualifications for election (one only needs to look at Congress to see that anyone is equally capable of being a moron and elected at the same time).

Then they launch into their “platform”- which is either a history of committees or posts they’ve served on or their previous elected experience. At no point do they actually talk about anything they plan on doing- unless they are referring to some vaguely worded “plan” “roadmap” or “blueprint”- none of which means anything (especially if they’ve already been holding office and haven’t already implemented at least part of it….). Then they remind you of their name and to vote for them. Wow.

When it comes to questions- no, voters don’t ask about multi-million dollar investments in real estate by the city, or tax breaks for General Electric, or police hiring, or voting records, no, they ask about red light cameras and speed cameras. At least of the incumbents.

Never are candidates given the chance to ask each other questions, never are discussions focused on a subject for anything other tan a cursory 2 minute answer- without any give and take. The closest we’ve had to real questions was at the AIA lunch event, where a moderator asked questions we were supposedly given in advance. And, still, the answers didn’t require much research or thought.

That’s why this Thursday, Preservation Dayton may provide one of the most interesting events of this season. I am posting the entire communication they sent in prep last night for you to see what real, substantive questions look like. I hope to see you at the RTA center on Thursday night:

Candidates’ Forum – Vision for Protecting & Improving Dayton’s Housing and Commercial Buildings
Thurs. Oct. 24, 2013 7 – 9 p.m.
Dayton RTA Cultural and Community Center 40 S. Edwin C. Moses Boulevard, Dayton, OH, 45402 (937) 333-2489

Questions for candidates:

1) Building code compliance has been a major challenge for the City of Dayton for over 50 years. Deterioration of many Dayton neighborhoods has been drastically accelerated by predatory lending, unemployment, the financial crisis and more.

Given that many of these forces are largely uncontrollable, how would you go about protecting our existing, viable housing and building inventory if elected in November? And where does housing and building code compliance fall on your list of priorities for the City?

2) Compared to other Ohio cities, Dayton seems to lag in innovative policies, ordinances and operational solutions to proactively keep housing and commercial buildings up to code and to address many of the root causes of code violations. Here are some examples:

  • Point of sale exterior inspections e.g. Huber Heights
  • An annual fee for all vacant, undeveloped properties, not just bank-owned properties as recently passed by the Commission e.g. Cincinnati and Sandusky
  • The requirement for all absentee landlords to have a legally registered agent in the City who is held accountable on behalf of the property owner to comply with building codes e.g. Oxford
  • Giving police officers and other appropriate city employees authority to issue building and zoning code violation notices
  • A revolving fund, zero interest loans or other financial solutions to assist low income property owners bring their properties up to code

If elected in November, would you be willing to take a leadership position to implement any of these best practices or any other creative solutions proven to work in cities similar to Dayton? Why or why not?

3) As budgets and staff decrease, how would you go about getting your fellow commissioners and the city staff to fund the necessary budget, technology and staff to implement your vision for improving building code compliance?

Closing remarks: 2 – 3 minute summary of your priorities for improving proactive and efficient code compliance.

Format: Each candidate will be asked to speak on 2 – 3 questions for 3 minutes each. The questions will focus on legislative, policy and operational solutions for addressing deteriorating properties and ensuring the ongoing viability of stable properties in our city.

Audience members will write their questions on 3 X 5 cards and panel moderators will read the questions for your responses.
At approximately 8:40, each candidate will be given 2 – 3 minutes to summarize your top priorities for improving and protecting Dayton’s housing and commercial buildings.

Although these questions are tightly focused on the area of building codes and legal remedies, there are real questions and suggested positions to defend. One could almost learn something concrete from this forum.

Also note, if you are putting together a forum- don’t invite too many candidates because it makes it impossible to get enough substance out of the candidates. Do have a strict timekeeper, and make sure if accepting questions from the audience that they must be a question, they must be brief and focused and directed to all candidates- or all are given equal time to speak. Give at least several weeks notice- and try to make sure that there aren’t other events (like a commission meeting at the same time). Provide a PA- and preferably have the candidates speak from a podium- so that a camera only has to be focused one place.

If you’d like to be extra useful- collect names, emails and phone numbers of all in attendance and deliver to the candidates so they can continue the discussion. Also be aware of candidates bringing entourages to ask questions- instead, give the candidates at least one chance to ask each other questions.

Last but not least, don’t be jerks and try to limit public dissemination of your event. Banning cameras and recording devices- esp at events open to the public is embarrassing (Wayman Chapel on Sunday- this means you). Running for public office is, well, public. Let the first amendment do its job.

[update] Here’s the video[/update]

Neighborhood plans from lifetime politicians don’t amount to much

One of my cottages needs painting. The city has written me up. It’s scraped to the bare wood- and needs a final sanding, washing and then priming with a good oil based primer and then a premium latex top coat. Most people wouldn’t scrape it to bare wood, but, that’s the only way to do a proper paint job on a 100 year old house with 104 siding.

When I bought it from the slumlord, it had asbestos shingles on it. I could have left them on and kept painting away, but I didn’t. It also was being used as an illegal drugstore- that bothered me more than what it looked like. That’s because neighborhoods aren’t made up of houses, they are made up of people. That’s why I bought that cottage and the one next to it- right across the street from my house. Since 1996 I’ve had good people living in both of them. They work, they pay rent, they don’t have 22 police calls a year like another house on my block.

A.J. Wagner, thinks the answer to fixing our neighborhoods is strong enforcement of housing codes:

The very survival of our neighborhoods and our entire City requires an expanded level of accountability and focus. Many of our neighborhoods are in a dismal state of decline. Dayton spent $10 million last year on housing demolition only to fall further behind on the number of houses that cannot be saved. This trend can only be reversed through a strong enforcement of housing codes.

via A.J. Wagner’s Neighborhood Plan | A.J. Wagner for Mayor 2013.

Nan Whaley thinks the solution is tearing down the houses that have fallen into disrepair (of course when you get big donations from demolition contractors and landfill operators it may sway your policy too). Considering she’s been on the commission for 8 years, for her to have any new plan or idea on how to solve this problem is farcical. She weighs in on Wagner’s plan (correctly for once) in the Dayton Daily news:

Whaley said of Wagner’s plan, “This isn’t a neighborhood plan, it’s a housing plan and a bad one at that.” She asked where the money will come from for Wagner’s extra inspectors, and said Wagner wrongly downplays the city’s demolition efforts. Wagner’s plan claims Dayton spent $10 million on demolition last year, when the total was actually $2.36 million in 2012, according to city officials, and roughly $10 million from 2009-12.

“We need to create incentives for buying and restoring blighted property, but Wagner’s plan punishes homeowners and creates more bureaucratic red tape,” Whaley said….

Wagner said he is uniquely qualified to deal with neighborhood housing problems, because he’s dealt with code violations as an attorney, property tax enforcement as a county auditor, foreclosure cases as a judge, and probate cases as a referee and counselor.via Mayoral candidate targets neighborhood quality.

The paper also quotes Leitzell, who isn’t a career politician and has actually restored a home or two, and led a neighborhood (as have I):

Leitzell said the solution is “much simpler” than Wagner’s plan.

“Marketing Dayton at a national level and attracting talented people and immigrants to fill the hundreds of unfilled high-tech jobs here would go a long way toward solving some of these neighborhood problems,” Leitzell said.

Notice, Leitzell talks about people- and filling homes? He gets it. People make neighborhoods- not the buildings. That was the sales pitch I made to the neighborhood when I made our marketing video, “South Park Soliloquy” back in 1996. It wasn’t about the historic homes, it was about the people and the neighborhood. It’s 30 minutes long- but still worth watching.

The idea of legislating our housing stock into desirability is embarrassing. It shows how out of touch Wagner is with the plights of our neighborhoods. We have laws against drug houses too, and we can’t enforce those. And, as I’ve said before, my office building was ready for demolition when I bought it, and the number one thing holding people back from rehabbing it was that the number of hoops I had to jump through to do it didn’t equal the potential value after completion for most. I looked at it differently- knowing that it helped the value of my home, and that by making it possible for me to walk to work for 23 years I’d be saving a lot of money on gas and time in travel.

There are lots of things we can do that don’t cost a ton of money to bring our neighborhoods back, but they are only going to come back if the people in the neighborhoods now believe in their own neighborhoods’ future, the people around them, and that they will live in a safe place. We don’t do that by making sure a house is painted or it has gutters or we’ll fine you. In fact, Wagner’s requirement of having a home that’s rundown fixed before it can be sold will probably cause even more abandoned real estate and deeds turned over to a city that has a lousy history of rehab and a 29-year backlog on demolition.

There are no short answers, political slogan worthy solutions to fixing our neighborhoods (or housing stock). For me to explain my ideas fully would take nearly a book, but it comes down to empowering neighborhoods to ramp up their density, or circle the wagons and weather the storm. What we have to be most focused on is quality of life, and empowering people to make their own futures, because government can’t solve all the problems- it can just strive to do government as efficiently and effectively as possible. Instead of worrying about the paint, let’s worry about police response times. Instead of worrying about the gutters on your eaves, lets get the people who require the multiple police calls a month to leave and that they aren’t welcome here. Instead of tearing down houses, let’s try to make neighborhood programs that bring people (young and old) together so that when they want to sell their friends on moving into their neighborhood- it’s the people you live next door to that sell the neighborhood more than the buildings.

Dayton loses talent: the Buckmans have left the building

It was probably around 1995 or so. Bill Rain and David Williams had just finished the Lofts of St. Clair, a conversion of the butt-ugly Pinsky Produce building on St. Clair. The aluminum siding had been torn off to expose a beautiful brick building. It had color- and a roof garden. They’d shoved probably one too many “lofts” per floor into it- making them more like apartments than lofts (lofts then were still supposed to be lofts- with open floor plans- and the only real private room being the “privvy.”

The ground floor had office space – a “mixed use” development. OMG. In Downtown Dayton? The city had given them grief about the amazing old HUGE freight elevator (big enough to put your car on it) being used by mere mortals- the project was a condo- so the building owners would be allowed to use it – but not visitors… or some such nonsense. The basement had become a parking garage- a very tight one- but, it worked.

Photo stolen from Barry Buckman's facebook profile

Barry Buckman. Architect. Visionary.

The architects on the project were to be the commercial tenants in the “front” office space- Mary Rogero and Barry Buckman- who had decided to leave Woolpert to begin doing what they thought was missing in Dayton- urban modernist architecture. At first, they lived off  projects for Citywide and social-service type grant projects and a few small commissions, but as time moved forward so did the ambition meter. It was here that I first met these urban visionaries who would go on to transform Dayton almost by themselves.

Barry’s wife opened a hip little gift shop, “GO Home” next door to the first upscale restaurant on Fifth Street in the Oregon District- Pacchia. She sold home accessories from companies like Umbra and Alessi, as well as cards, and gift items. She was an architect too- but saw an opening in the market and went for it. The store was different- in that almost all the store fixtures were made by the owner and her husband. A lot of MDF that looked raw yet finished. The racks were on industrial wheels. People waiting to get into Pacchia would browse and buy, there was a reason to go down to the Oregon District to actually buy something other than entertainment or jewelery. Things were looking up.

As Rogero Buckman grew- and evolved to become just RBA- Dayton saw the fruits of their creativity. I’m not going to list everything- just the ones that seemed to really change things:

They turned the vacant and condemnable church at the corner of Cass and Clay into a rock climbing temple- the Urban Krag. It was a stunning re-purposing of a building that had lost its ability to function in a world that requires huge parking lots to serve the purpose it was intended for. I could take a little credit on this one, as I helped Karl and Melissa find this building after their plans for the still vacant DP&L steam building on the corner of 4th and St. Clair never worked out.

They inspired the church’s owner, Tim Patterson, to also try converting the church that backed up to it at Van Buren and Clay- into luxury condos- and the Buckmans moved into the front one. Here was an architect who lived in his project (something that a surprising number of architects don’t do).

RBA moved into the 2nd floor of what became the Cannery at Wayne and E. Third- and guided that complex project of marrying 6 different buildings into one huge rental block with retail on the base floor. Unfortunately, due to some HUD requirements- their original concept of having other businesses join them on the second floor got nixed, and they had to move yet again. The stupidity of this change added to the number of parking spaces required at night- compared to keeping spaces revolving between daytime and nighttime uses- the city was of no help. It took the city at least ten years to authorize the “radical” concept of end-in parking in front of this building- something RBA suggested along with many others right from the start. Go Home moved over to the corner- and grew to sell modern furniture- making it an upstairs-downstairs work situation for the Buckman family.

The CooperLofts were another groundbreaking work- starting with an old warehouse building downtown- and building a totally modern addition- with funky siding and odd angle protrusions. The building at the corner of Second and St. Clair is just two blocks away from the little office where RBA began- and also about the same distance from the Cannery. The circle of influence of this small firm is probably more compact than any other architecture firm in town. It’s as if Barry and Mary were on a mission to transform the city- by working in a spiral from their original base camp.

The sculptures and the two service buildings for Riverscape as well as the Fountain towers are their design, as is the uber hip black house on Emmet Street across the river, the Firefly building on Webster at First (where their third and final office is). The Real Art building on First St. across from the ballpark, the inside of Therapy Cafe in the Cannery, the Fairgrounds neighborhood- project “genesis” was theirs- along with one custom house tucked away by Denny’s that is really cool… the list goes on. The mark RBA made will last a long time in Dayton.

One of their most interesting projects is the LiteHouses along Patterson. These “manufactured” homes- as in built in a factory and trucked to the site to be snapped together like Lego blocks, were an innovative game changer in Dayton. LEED certified, you could buy a home that the annual utility bill was lower than your monthly house payment. The plan was to build a lot of these- but, with the financial collapse and appraisers not able to get out of their “comp” mindset- financing became difficult for the kind of people that these were built for. In a particularly shitty move- the city of Dayton decided to hand over one of the future sites to Charles Simms development (along with $300K) to build something generic across the street.

Along the way I got to do the RBA website (which sadly never really ever got updated) and was seemingly always in their circle of influence. We were kindred souls in having a vision for Dayton that didn’t include cookie cutter solutions. The annual invite to watch the fireworks from the roof of the Firefly building was always appreciated- especially since I could rub elbows with many of the people whom I use as content for this blog :-)

But, despite all our efforts to attract and keep the “Creative Class” in Dayton- we’ve failed.

About a month ago, Barry took a job in North Carolina for a large architecture firm, and Audry closed up her final and fourth location of Go Home- which got a paragraph in the Dayton Daily.

Was it the frustration of dealing with a chief building inspector who could find a new way to say no on every single project they did? Or the city handing off lots that could have had a really cool LiteHouse style block on it? Was it the difficulty of challenging the big firms with political clout and connections- who seemed to use RBA as their minor league farm club? Or was it just the desire to move back to NC and be closer to aging parents? Or all of the above?

Either way- they slipped out of town, without a celebration of their accomplishments and contribution to this community- one that probably won’t be understood by very many people- until maybe twenty years from now. We were lucky to have a 16-year run of exceptional talent doing fantastic things in Dayton. To me, they set the bar higher for every architecture firm in the region. One day, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are architecture tours in Dayton of their projects- as models of how a small firm can make a high impact mark on a community.

In my opinion the difference between RBA and Frank Lloyd Wright was the lack of a benefactor to propel them to their well-deserved glory. Maybe not from an architectural design standard- but to one for transforming a community via good design. When local kingmaker Clay Mathile went outside the area to hire architects to do the Aileron building- he overlooked an opportunity to give the home team a chance to really strut their stuff. Just like local restaurants- if we don’t support them, we may only have the choice of chain restaurant food through our choices.

The office is still open- being run by South Park resident Matt Sauer, finishing up projects and even taking on a few new ones. Mary has been only peripherally involved over the last 4 or so years- as she accepted a professorship at Miami University in Oxford.

While most of Dayton probably never knew who was behind all these buildings and projects, I did.

This is my tribute to Barry and his vision. I hereby proclaim today Barry Buckman and RBA day. Giving you a key to the city is inappropriate- since you were the living embodiment to being the key to our city through the last 16 years.

Dayton, you won’t fully realize what you lost until long from now. Just remember, you read it here first.

Woodland Cemetery Wayne Avenue entrance gate

I’ve been the keeper of the keys to the gates to Woodland Cemetery Wyoming Street for about a year.  Now, I have keys to the Waldo Street off Wayne Avenue entrance gate.

If you live along Wayne and would like access to one of Dayton’s best walking tracks, please stop by my office, The Next Wave, 100 Bonner Street, Dayton OH 45410 between 9am and 6pm.

Let’s discuss “Green” housing and renovation

I’m driving up and down Brown Street- trying to imagine it without the Frank Z building. The thought depresses me. Just like I miss the old churches in the Oregon District that are gone, like I miss the terra cotta tiles on the gas station/tire store that was there before the Cooper Lofts- I miss the old Todd Burlesque theater- and even the Art Theater on Wayne. And while the new Litehouses on Patterson certainly look better than the parking lot- I worry about the fate of other buildings- like Canal Street- and the old Etman’s Photo across the street.

Old timers miss Steele High School, and the old library downtown. I remember the massive Rikes- which got replaced by the Schuster- which still makes me feel like I’m inside an ant farm in the “Winter garden.”

We’re on a demolition binge in the city- in a race to tear down houses faster than the arsonist torch them. Of course, City Commissioner Nan Whaley leads the charge (thanks to big donations from a demolition contractor) and being elected as a mere renter. Leave no old house standing, yet, the neighborhoods that are doing the best- are the ones where we’ve made it near impossible to tear things down- the Historic Districts.

Turns out, they may have been on to something- it’s actually possible to do the math that recycling housing can be a lot “greener” than the new ones with all their fancy LEED certifications:

Historic preservationists say renovating an old building is almost always better for the environment than framing up a new one. You don’t add to sprawl by taking up more land. And, you don’t waste all the energy and resources, like wood and metal, already in existing buildings. But people don’t often equate old buildings with “going green.”

via This old house may be the greener one | Marketplace From American Public Media.

Considering the population isn’t growing, it seems the main reason for demolition is to artificially prop up values by decreasing inventory (and to funnel money into donors’ pockets). Yet, the way the market works best is when the values are allowed to drop- and opportunity arises. I bought my 1,800 sq ft Victorian for $14,500 in 1986- as a young lad, because I could afford it- and the upgrades it needed to become a home. This home, my office, and my cottages all could have been demolished had they not had historic zoning protection- and those nutcase people who don’t believe that tearing everything down is the solution.

I look at the “University Place” building at Stewart and Brown- built by Miller Valentine- and dread what they will build to replace the regal Frank Z. I look at the Sonic on Wilmington (and everywhere else around town) and think- we had one at Stewart and Brown- it was called Frish’s and it was the real deal. There will never be another Dominic’s- which was hacked together using three houses and who knows what else- and we use excuses like ADA requirements, and modern building codes to stifle redevelopment- but what are we really doing? Filling landfills with perfectly usable resources. That’s why the deconstruction business is booming- yet, the market for re-use of these materials still hasn’t quite developed.

Is it time to start encouraging reuse of at least the materials for new construction- like we do with paper: “The building contains 30% post construction materials”- or requiring removing x numbers of vacant square footage in order to add y square footage to our community inventory? The Frank Z building’s facade couldn’t be rebuilt for a million dollars- and will just end up in a landfill- why don’t we have incentives to  at least keep it- and for re-using materials from the sprawling back of the building?

Green isn’t always new. Green is what we do with what we have too.

The return to neighborhood schools

When I first ran for Mayor, at the same time Mike Turner ran for Mayor- I talked about the return to neighborhood schools. Turner mocked me- saying it was an issue for the School Board. I talked about the effect it had on our community- exchanging racial segregation for economic segregation. I was told it couldn’t be undone- we were under “court order.”

Years later, Turner, as Mayor- talked about how he’d solved the problem. Even took credit for it. Sorry, the damage is already long done, and the suburbs grew- and then the x-urbs, until we have the sprawled out mess we have. We now have the same number of people, in a much greater area, with a lot higher overhead, and a lot less good paying jobs.

But, now we are going back to neighborhood schools.

The reason people believe the change is happening? Because we can’t afford the gas bill to bus them. There is some truth to it too- but, the other reason is that students do better when connected and integrated into a neighborhood. Good neighborhoods, good communities, good compact units- do better than sprawled out ones.

And guess what? The same holds true for all those jobs we commute to. We just haven’t realized it yet. Being able to walk to work is as important as being able to walk to school. Same goes for walking to the store, the restaurant, the bar, the barber, the park. But, we won’t figure all that out until gas hits $4 or $5 or $9 a gallon.

On July 1, 2010, her first day as Superintendent, Lori Ward, made a presentation to the Southeast Priority Board about the change to neighborhood schools and the new attendance zones. I thought it was important enough to go out and tape it- and make it available to the community via YouTube. I could have been out campaigning, grabbing hands, kissing babies or asking rich people for money for my campaign- but, instead, I chose to deliver a little more democracy and open discussion to the community.

Here it is- about an hour.

I applaud Ms. Ward for going out and talking with the community about this major change. I also agree with her that making Dayton Public Schools a school system of choice- is critical. We have some amazing success stories going on in DPS- other than just Stivers School of the Arts. You need to know what’s going on at Thurgood Marshall- Dayton’s own STEM high school under Principal David Lawrence, and what’s happening over at Ruskin- a true community school, in partnership with East End Community Services under Principal Devon Berry. These happen to be two of my friends- but, I can tell you that the system can educate kids- and is doing it, but the message has been getting lost.

Ms. Ward has a message worth hearing. I’m glad I can help.

Dayton neighborhood schools: Finally!

Twenty years after I ran for Mayor saying we needed a return to neighborhood schools, the school board has caught on. However, if anyone thinks this process is now going to go over easy- they are sadly mistaken.

After working so hard to “theme” and “brand” schools- and promote “choice” trying to go back is going to tick off all of the very parents whom the school was wooing so hard to believe in their new product. It’s as if after years of saying “buy American” all of a sudden GM was bought by a Chinese car company- and Chevrolet was still advertising “The heartbeat of America.”

Residents who’ve chosen their neighborhoods based on other factors- such as type of home- knowing they could pick their schools- all of a sudden may want to move (and it may not be within the city- esp. now that the residency rule is history), or, we may find principals who’ve ignored their local neighborhoods finally having to build relationships with people who are vested in their community. I know South Park has tried over the years to establish relationships with Patterson Kennedy- with limited results (often thanks to leadership shuffling by the Superintendent). Ruskin is a model of building a community relationship- but, it’s also a merged school between East End’s former Charter and a Dayton Public School. Not many other school principals in Dayton have played in this sandbox ever.

Here is an excerpt of what the Dayton Daily reported:

The Dayton Board of Education on Tuesday, May 18, voiced unanimous support for a proposed policy that would require most pre-K through eighth grade students to attend a school in their neighborhood rather than choosing where to go, as they do now.

Incoming Superintendent Lori Ward and Chief Academic Officer Jane McGee-Rafal outlined the proposed 17 “attendance areas” that would go into effect during the 2011-12 school year if approved by the school board. The board heard a first reading on the policy recommendation Tuesday night and a second could come in December after the public has had plenty of time to comment.

“We are creating a process to redesign the district and nothing will be done in an overnight manner,” McGee-Rafal said.

High school students would not be affected at this time, said Ward, the district’s deputy superintendent who will replace Superintendent Kurt Stanic on July 1.

Ward said the plan would include “an element of grandfathering” but added those details haven’t been worked out yet.

via Dayton kids may have to attend neighborhood schools.

The big question is if this will be a big boost to charters or not? Will DPS be able to draw the same attendance zones for the charters- and not have to bus those kids door-to-door? Will charters soon become the only option for “schools of choice” in Dayton? The DDN article mentioned the following schools as remaining choice schools:

“We would encourage parents to enroll their child in their designated attendance area unless they select what we classify as a districtwide school,” she said.

Those seven designated schools include Charity Adams Earley Girls Academy, Dayton Boys Prep Academy, the River’s Edge Montessori and the Preschool Academy at Jackson. They also include three others where students are assigned by other schools — Gardendale Academy and Gorman School for children with special needs, and Longfellow Learning Academy for students with behavioral issues.

As it stands now- Patterson Kennedy is an English as a Second Language (ESL) school- and looks like a veritable United Nations in the morning. Would that stop as well?

The amazing thing is- she’s not even Superintendent yet (officially she takes the job July 1)  Ward is the first Superintendent to state what’s been obvious since busing was first implemented- “Running kids all over the city isn’t producing the academic results.”  Which is a real gutsy move.

The reality is probably sadder- the cost of gas, buses and drivers- as well as the damage that’s been done to our community fabric over the last 40 years by this failed social experiment- is only finally meeting it’s death thanks to the end of cheap oil and a failing economy- not because it’s really been the right thing to do since day one.

The school choice system will be missed by some (including the smart principals who worked the system to cherry pick student populations to improve their building scores for “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB)- which was more evident at the High School level). However, the added layer of bureaucracy and complexity made choosing Dayton Public Schools even more difficult for exactly the kind of families DPS needed. My former neighbors had 3 kids they wanted to enroll at Horace Mann- but, since they weren’t able to be given any assurances of all three kids going to the same school- they chose to send them to Holy Angels- before they ended up moving to Seattle. I remember the year after this happened- Horace Mann was something like 1 kid short of getting out of academic emergency- so there were ramifications.

I’d planned to write a post about the crazy draconian rules that DPS follows that have hurt them- since I’m experiencing them first hand right now: my girlfriend is planning on moving in with me July 1- Summer is when most people with kids move after all. Yet DPS won’t allow her to register the kids until she has a bill in her name. Which led me to investigate if this holds true for the “audition” school, St. Ivers, I mean Stivers- only to find out that the principal there will “hold spots” for students moving in from out of town, once they’ve aced the audition. These are the dirty little secrets of the “school choice” program- and why going back to making choices based on where you purchase a home make sense.

The real question is how this will affect neighborhoods with the least expensive housing stock- especially on the West Side- where the foreclosure debacle has played out in grand fashion? Will the area around the new rec center become more popular- thanks to this policy (although the school will still be one of the “district wide” schools)? How will test scores change- and will the turnarounds as required by NCLB be more frequent in the poorer neighborhoods?

A lot will depend on the size of the 17 new “districts”- will parents still have some choice in schools- i.e. South Park parents being able to choose between Ruskin, Patterson Kennedy, or will the boundaries be really rigid.

What other carrots can the Superintendent throw in with this new plan? After school care? Neighborhood sports programs? It will be a PR effort of major proportion to properly frame this and implement it without seeing yet another exodus from the Dayton Public School system that cannot take yet another hit.

Your thoughts?

The secret to economic development for Dayton

Reader Terry Murray sent me this beautiful link. But the final line is everything I’ve been trying to say for the last 4 years on Esrati.com

“What community ever screwed up by providing too much quality of life?” That ought to become the guiding principle of every city.

via CEOs for Cities :: What Makes a City Entrepreneurial?.

Sure, we could add the “cost of doing business” as a factor- for those who complain about tax overhead, but, let’s compare costs in NYC or LA?

Give me a break. People and business go where they want to live.

That’s defined by things that can’t be bought by individuals- but by communities. Pools, parks, rinks, public transit, arts, music, nightlife, safety…

not by handouts to corporations.

The little neighborhood that could: South Park and its home tour

The kids’ book about “the little engine that could” is a parable for the South Park neighborhood in Dayton Ohio. The largest historic district in the city, South Park is a neighborhood defined not by its vast mix of homes, from manses to miniature (there is one house, the “Gingerbread cottage” that is smaller than most garages) but by a spirit of the people that takes on all challenges and then some.

From a neighborhood production of Shakespeare in the park (2 years running) to starting a for-profit development corporation to reclaim a troublesome bar, the people of South Park are willing to try almost anything to create a place where people know each other- and care about each other.

Today’s Dayton Daily News has a front page story as an introduction to our home tour this weekend about my neighbors Bill and Amy Kennedy and their house that love rebuilt- it starts like this:

Amy Kennedy put the word out on Facebook: She needed help decorating for the Historic South Park Holiday Home Tour.Within minutes, it seemed, neighbors were knocking on her door with ornaments, decorations, and helping hands.Within hours, the house had been transformed into a glittering Victorian Christmas showplace.“That’s just the kind of neighborhood it is,” said Amy, a Stebbins High School biology teacher.

via Renovation project became a life lesson.

I was there the night the house burned, It was a bad fire. My friend and neighbor Loni Podiak, was there performing mouth to mouth resuscitation on some of the cats that the firemen had rescued, The house was written off by its owner as totaled. That anyone was interested in buying it was amazing to the last owner (a client of mine, who had it as a duplex or triplex rental).

If you think some of the “demolition structures” that Commissioner Nan Whaley seems so anxious to tear down- this one had them beat hands down. Which brings me to the real story in Dayton- is that no amount of building new homes, or fixing old ones will fix our problems. What fixes problems is motivated people. If we spent more time working on building neighborhood organizations and supporting the communities, people like Bill and Amy will solve your housing problems- because they want to, not because they have to.

It’s a lesson the whole city could learn, from the little neighborhood that can.

Please come to our home tour and get a better idea of what this neighborhood represents- but instead of paying attention to the homes, pay attention to the owners and the neighbors who are volunteering. They are what makes South Park a great neighborhood, not the bricks and mortar, or in the Kennedys’ case, lumber and shake shingles.

Historic South Park Holiday Home Tour
Saturday, December 5, 2009 12N-7P
Tickets $15 day of tour, $10 in advance

The day of the tour, pick up your tickets at Hope Lutheran Church, 500 Hickory St., across from the Emerson Academy. (Turn west off Wayne Avenue onto Hickory. Enter through the church parking lot.)

Hey NYC, LA, want to see why Dayton is great!

If I were living in New York City, and looking to rent for $500 a month, I’d be in less than 200 square feet of squalor.

Even if I were a neurosurgeon, making a half-million a year, I’d be lucky to be able to afford a house like this in NYC:

DESCRIPTION: STATELY BRICK MANOR displays old world charm & craftsmanship! Unbelievable woodwork & details throughout! Huge windows allow lots of natural light to this home.

via Coldwell Banker Heritage Realtors – 1743 Philadelphia Dr – Property Profile.

I’ve driven past this beautiful house more than a few times, but didn’t have time to stop and pick up the listing sheet. GF swore it’d be close to $200K, I was thinking $150K- the price you ask? $112,500. It’s just shy of 3,000 square feet and absolutely beautiful.

It’s just a few blocks from Good Samaritan Hospital, in a the beautiful College Hill neighborhood.

The price, means with a down-payment and a 30-year loan- about the price of that closet in NYC: $500 a month.

Dayton is a land of opportunity, where all things are possible, including living like royalty at a pauper’s price.

I love my house, I love South Park and being centrally located, but-  how can anyone not see the beauty of living in Dayton as compared to elsewhere? In Oakwood, this home would be $300K plus.

Maybe after tonight, I can help all of us, sell this house to someone who sees the beauty of living here instead of NYC or LA- because they can only dream of it- we can live it.