The Esrati Plan
“Government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Abraham Lincoln said it more than 140 years ago and his adage is still essential today in creating a new system to encourage and manage community development.
No Neighborhood Left Behind
Neighborhoods are the building blocks of our city, yet for thirty years; Dayton has used the Priority Board System to insulate City Hall from the neighborhoods with an additional layer of bureaucracy. The system is fundamentally flawed because it is based on the geography of voting precincts drawn for political gain instead of neighborhood boundaries drawn here.
The goal is to empower people to work together to create the kind of community that creates engaged citizens, not just residents; with a new system that provides direct contact between the neighborhood organizations and the City Manager.
Neighborhoods would be evaluated and provided assistance by the way they organize and innovate to improve life for all residents.
Neighborhood Organizations would be responsible for establishing programs and a scoring system for participation and achievement, which would be used to measure progress in each neighborhood. The group of presidents, with supervision of the City Manager, would allocate funds to programs to benefit each neighborhood based on maximum return to each community and the city overall.
For instance, in the area of housing, each neighborhood would be responsible for a inventory of all buildings, owners, and state of repair. This would alleviate the need for housing inspectors, except as enforcers of last resort.
Neighborhood organizations would organize neighborhood watch, safety patrols and establish relationships with a neighborhood police liaison. Neighborhoods would be graded on their own emergency preparedness plans, including neighborhood first responders, and assets for various emergencies for the challenges of severe weather and other disasters.
As part of community building, neighborhood organizations would support the development of literacy programs, community college enrollment for non-traditional students and adult education programs, as well as physical activities and sports teams for all ages. Initiatives for children and youth might include scout troops, after-school clubs, arts activities, playgroups and baby-sitting cooperatives. Every organization would establish a close relationship with each of the schools in their neighborhood, and would work hand in hand with local schools to address issues of chronic truancy and high school drop-outs. Job banks for teens, community service credits for school, would be coordinated at the neighborhood level.
Each neighborhood would identify and utilize all community centers/ neighborhood churches/ schools to provide areas for local food co-ops, neighborhood gardens, informal libraries, job training, meeting space for neighborhood clubs and activities, and a central gathering place for social events like cookouts and block parties.
Neighborhood businesses would be supported and aided by their local neighborhood organization, and vacant commercial properties could be identified for development in concert with the property owners. In addition, common public areas of neighborhoods would be the responsibility of the organizations that would organize clean-up days, weed control, vacant lot management and park development and maintenance.
In support of the Neighborhood Organization program, city employees would each be assigned to specific neighborhoods, and the amount of progress achieved by “their” neighborhoods would be reflected in employee performance reviews. All of the Neighborhood Organization programs would be tracked and monitored using a variety of data. City employees would be eligible for bonuses based on performance of their neighborhoods, with significant prizes for the city employee who makes the biggest impact each year.
A Simple Business Plan
Dayton needs to make it easier to establish and maintain a business in the city. Currently, business owners are faced with a maze of regulation that is often vague, redundant and irrelevant. The most complex, is our current hodge-podge system of city income tax collection and rates. It’s time to turn this over to either the County or the State- with a one-stop website driven by the employer identification number.
Businesses will see an automatically generated list of dates, forms and payments due- based on information provided to the site. The portal would also include access to all laws, possible fines, and regulatory requirements based on SIC codes, size of business and geographic location. They will also be solicited for government contracting opportunities through the same portal.
Tax incentives will be applied more fairly across the broad spectrum of businesses, not just those that contribute to election campaigns. A walk to work tax credit would be an example of an environmentally correct highly beneficial program.
Tax abatements will be offered only for covering costs of creative re-use of existing infrastructure- to aid historic preservation, to cut down demolition waste and to incentivize a “no-sprawl” policy. We will actively lobby to end the type of poaching tax incentives used to lure NCR from Dayton at the National level.
City employees will not engage in recruiting companies to move from one community to another with incentive packages, and companies that are “poached” (moved with government assistance) from the city would continue to be liable for taxes at their Dayton location for a period of time determined by the economic impact created by the loss of the business. “Economic development” will be done through making Dayton an attractive, cost effective, safe and profitable place to do business and a great place to live. Not, based on a price war, funded with tax dollars that were to provide essential services.
It is also essential that we review and check compliance on all previous tax incentives that have been given, to make sure that employment/investment promises were met.
If we want to save the last bits of our old infrastructure, we need to take into account the conditions that existed when the buildings were built.
To help turn around vacant retail and commercial space, in buildings that are 50 years old or older, special variances to strict building code compliance would be made available. All parking requirements will be waived in the central business district and for buildings over 50 years old.
Current mixed-use regulation that gives more latitude to owner/occupants- would be extended to all buildings in the central business district and to buildings older than 50 years old.
Modern signage restrictions would only be applicable to modern buildings. It’s time to let businesses with old buildings advertise in the same way that they did when the buildings were built with huge signs painted directly on the buildings.
Growing Better Leaders
As a community, we need to work to develop new leadership from within, and every effort should be made to recognize community leaders who positively impact our city.
Allowing candidates who have filed for election to office access to voter information insures a more equitable election cycle, with information available to everyone, not just those already enmeshed in the political machine. In a combined effort of fostering communication with the community and offering fair access to all candidates, the city would launch a community web portal (such as a “Drupal” site) encompassing discussion sites, resource directories, e-commerce sites, and social networking. Revamping the local election process to streamline the process of electing Mayor and City Commissioners would contribute continuity to city government and reduce waste. Specifically, eliminating the requirement for Notary Public signatures, the number of signatures, and the process of a separate election for the Mayors seat should be considered. The Mayor’s position should be held by the top vote getter in each municipal election and possibly rotate every 2 years.
City Hall will maintain an open door policy, welcoming citizenry to their offices and public meetings, and encouraging input and ideas from their public.
Dayton was a leader in adopting the City Manager form of government, and in citizen participation. It is time to once again move forward with new ways to elect our leaders and involve our citizens. The City Manager must be the given the lead. If need be, the salaries of the Commission should be cut, if the Commission can’t learn to let the manager take the lead.
Dayton Sports and Rec
Dayton has been home to a number of Olympic and Professional athletes. We’ve also grown our share of musical talent. It’s time to build regional sports competitions, elite leagues and state of the art facilities for the things we don’t do when we’re working.
From practice spaces to performance spaces, it’s our duty as a community to give our hometown talents the opportunity to rise to the top.
While Five Rivers Metroparks has been a champion of the natural parks, it’s time to increase the scope of their responsibility to also include sports and music. Five Rivers Recreation would work with school districts at also taking care of sports facilities throughout the County. Think of Dayton as becoming a mini-Olympic city, with sports programs utilizing every possible venue, at maximum capacity. Read more about my idea for “Sportsplex”
If we want a healthy community, we need to have healthy opportunities for all.
Bicycle friendliness should be a key part of all new development, as well as all public works. I am working to bring www.bcycle.com online for Summer 2010 to match the launch in Denver. Dayton could easily share headlines with a major “winning city” on a program that costs considerably less and benefits a lot more people than a parking garage at Austin Road.
It’s time to begin changing the laws in the State of Ohio to allow regional government. We may be able to ease into regionalism by first merging services like 911, water, sewer, roads, police and fire- through as many communities that are willing to participate. Dayton should offer the Airport to the region, in exchange for support in other areas like a simplified and regional income tax program.
Customer service- Metrics
I’ve advocated this for a long time- before it was an ombudsman who would take complaints, and track resolutions- and report to the Commission. Now, I’d like to install a “Help Desk” to track cases through city hall. The City Manager would be evaluated based on the resolution ratio and qualitative scores generated by the software. We’ll also adopt technology to do some of the reporting, see the post: Data, Dayton and developing our City 2.0
It’s time to put checks and balances on our bureaucrats who are perceived as inflexible and unresponsive. Every city employee must feel as if they are responsible for the perception of our city.
The City Manager would have targets for increased income tax revenues, increased population, higher average home sales, lower commercial property vacancy rates- etc. By placing real metrics in place we can track performance. Currently, we do not seem to have goals and objectives in place.
We have excess capacity for housing. We have a large part of Dayton that qualifies as a HUBzone. I would try to push for a test program that allows companies to have unlimited H1B visas if they locate their business and their employees live within the HUBzone. This would take lobbying on the Federal Level. While many communities don’t seem to want an influx of foreigners, I know first hand as a first generation American what an impact immigrants had on this country. I’d rather have the best and brightest come and work here- than compete against them in the global economy.
Taking four years of discussing issues and ideas from www.esrati.com and putting them in a 4 page document, isn’t easy. This is to give new readers a place to get acquainted with the types of change I want to implement in our city- if I’m elected to be your voice.