And, it figures, yet another Nan Whaley mailer today. She’s going to spend more than Rhine McLin’s entire campaign spent 4 years ago- just in the primary. If you think money needs to come out of politics, vote independent on May 7 please.
When the Montgomery County Democratic Party chose to endorse Nan Whaley in the May 7 “primary/run-off” election, instead of endorsing both her and longtime Dem A.J. Wagner, they made a major mistake. Two candidates will advance after May 7- so, they could have endorsed two, but since they aren’t really there to elect Dems- just their inner circle, they alienated a lot of people, including some of the unions. A few of the union leaders said that they’d endorse her, but vote for him. He’s been around a lot longer.
But, never mind their rank and file’s preference, three unions contributed $10K each, and a bunch more tossed at least $1,000 her way. She’s been spending it like crazy, mailings, robo-calls, TV, radio, yard signs etc. She’s already probably spent as much in the last 8 weeks as Rhine McLin spent 4 years ago to get beat by Gary Leitzell, over the whole campaign- and we’ve still got 6 months to go.
This kind of money and foot soldiers scares Republicans- who can usually count on a few rich people to donate large sums, but can’t get 10 volunteers to go out and canvass, while the unions supply cash and shoe leather.
So once again, Republican Ohio lawmakers are trying to level the playing field:
Republican state Reps. Ron Maag, of Lebanon, and Kristina Roegner, of Hudson, plan to introduce two bills — one for the public sector and one for the private sector — that would end mandatory membership and dues payments to unions. In letters seeking support from House members, the representatives wrote that their respective bills would eliminate any requirements that public employees join or pay dues to unions and prohibit private employers from requiring union membership.
The sad thing is, this is nothing new. My father supported Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota for the Democratic nomination for president in 1968. The union decided to back and give money to LBJ. He went to the American Civil Liberties Union and complained when the Cleveland Newspaper Guild gave a dime per capita to COPE (The AFL-CIO’s Committee for Political Education, which backed the re-election of LBJ). Nothing became of it.
If unions stayed out of politics, and stuck to improving the conditions for their workers, maybe, we wouldn’t see union dues being turned into a political football.
It’s going to be especially sad when the voters tell Nan that she’s not ready to be mayor of Dayton no matter how much of other people’s money she squanders on her inane campaign. It’s time to send a message to politicians and unions alike- stop trying to buy your way into office and screw up our democratic system. Big money isn’t the answer. Better answers are.
Donations to Whaley from Labor (this campaign only):
AFSCME Ohio Council 8 LA1273 6800 North High Street Worthigton OH 43085 3/13/13 check $10,000.00
Ohio State Association Plumbers & Pipefitters PCE 947 Goodale Blvd., Suite 209 Columbus OH 43212 2/23/13 Check $2,500.00
Communications Workers of America Ohio Legislative Action Committee LA166 20525 Center Ridge Rd., No. 700 Rocky River OH 1/24/13 Check $1,000.00
Communications Workers of America Ohio Legislative Action Committee LA166 20525 Center Ridge Rd., No. 700 Rocky River OH 3/15/13 Check $10,000.00
Laborers Dis. Council of Ohio·LPL 152 Dorchester Sq., Westerville OH 43081 3/1/13 Check $1,000.00
Dayton Area Sheet Metal Workers PEC OHlOSS 4949 Northcutt Place, Dayton OH 45414 3/22/13 Check $100.00
Plumbers & Pipefitters U62 SSFPCE local, 1200 E. second Street, Dayton OH 45403 3/22/13 Check $1,000.00
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.
“Too many politicians make empty promises on the campaign trail, but at the end of the day, are just like the rest- only out for themselves. But in the election for Dayton’s Mayor, we don’t have to settle for the same old politicians.”
~Nan Whaley’s latest campaign mailer that has photos of A.J. Wagner and Gary Leitzell on it- calling them “as typical as they come.”
Nan’s claim is that she is different- that she voluntarily cut her own pay. Total garbage, every city employee has agreed to pay freezes and has accepted furlough days, to help the city make it through the economic downturn, caused by people just like Nan- the politicians who sell out to the highest bidder. Nan is different than any other local candidate, in that she has fund-raisers in Columbus, and pulls money from Washington, D.C., types to fund her non-stop blather about how she’s a “Mayor for Dayton’s future.”
Let’s be clear. The upcoming election on May 7 doesn’t pick Dayton’s Mayor- it just cuts the field by one. Polls have shown that Nan comes in third, which is why she’s blowing through her ill-gotten campaign treasure chest like a drunken sailor. This was the sixth mailing I’ve gotten, and I got wind of a mailer that was targeted to West Side voters last night. I’ve also gotten two robocalls, including one from her buddy, Senator Sherrod Brown, who couldn’t find his way from Brown Street to Warren Street without GPS.
Nan Whaley doesn’t have a plan for Dayton, she has a plan to smear anyone else in her way. Click to download full PDF.
Nan’s own best pal, is backing Wagner? In terms of “same old politicians” – A.J. has been in office for 20 years, with the former backing of the Democratic Party inner circle, Nan has been in office for 8 years, with at least 4 years previous sucking at the teat of Democratic party patronage with jobs in the county building, on the board of elections and being an employee of the Montgomery County Democratic party. Her husband also works for the county making this “power couple” make over $1,00K a year. A.J. may be “double dipping” according to Nan, but the fact is, he paid into his retirement for over 20 years and is drawing it legally. Notice, she doesn’t mention that her running buddy, Jeffery Mims would be doing the EXACT SAME THING.
Our poor mayor, Gary Leitzell, whom she accuses of taking “a month off on the taxpayers’ dime” to “renovate his home”- has been a politician for only 3.5 years, making him the “least of the same old politicians” in the bunch. Let’s also be clear that the Mayor’s “Job” is to attend one meeting a week. That means he missed 4 meetings? No, he missed one on vacation and was there the other 3- as compared to Dayton City Commissioner Dean Lovelace who has missed over a year of meetings, but is constantly given an excused absence by Nan, Joey Williams, Matt Joseph, and for a while, the Mayor, so that he can get to his 20-year mark and resign mid-term. He’s been on the taxpayers’ dime- and the bets are, that if Nan loses in the May 7 runoff election, Dean will resign in time for her to run in a special election to fill his seat, giving her a backup.
Also note, that Gary Leitzell has never had the benefit of having two other commission members to vote with him for his entire term, since the Democratic Party holds sway over the campaign money machine that Nan has a direct line to. Williams and Joseph both know where their bread is buttered, and Lovelace has to count on the others so he can retire. Nope, not a single free thinker on the commission other than Leitzell.
Nan Whaley is the most political animal in local Dayton politics. Her obscene campaign contributions, push poll and now, this negative campaign piece should tell Dayton voters all they need to know about Ms. Whaley- she’s only out for herself.
The “primary” election on May 7th for the Dayton Mayor and City Commission positions isn’t a primary- it’s a run-off election, to narrow the field to two candidates for Mayor and four candidates for two city commission seats. This means one candidate from each race will be left out.
Typically, primaries are held for political parties to select their representative- and this is where you declare your party affiliation in the State of Ohio, by asking for a particular party ballot. There is no “independent” status- but you can ask for an “issues only” ballot at elections where there are levies and primaries going on. Dayton hasn’t had a “run-off election” in so long, since the Board of Elections manages to stop most candidates from getting on the ballot- thanks to the Dayton City Charter requirements for 500 signatures and a form that only the IRS could love.
The Dayton Charter calls for “non-partisan elections”- no party affiliation shows up with the candidates’ names. The charter also calls for the city to run the election, but they sub-contract it to the Board of Elections- which is a very partisan organization. Things get confusing to most voters when they hear about the Board of Elections, because most of them never come into contact with them other than when getting mailings telling you your polling place has changed (again).
There are 4 people on the Board of Elections- two Democrats and two Republicans. They are paid $20,000 each a year to attend 2 meetings a month, to oversee the actions of the “Board of Elections” staff- which consists of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans- where there are one of each for every position so as to have a “check and balance.” However, all of these jobs are reserved for “friends of the party”- they are patronage jobs, pure and simple, where relatives of our elected representatives get well paying jobs just for who they know. We’ve even hired convicted rapists without a job application.
These are the people we trust to run “fair and impartial and honest” elections.
Yes, former Mayor of Dayton, Rhine McLin, who lost to Gary Leitzell by less than 1,000 votes, despite outspending him 6 to 1. She also was part of the team that conspired to keep William Pace off the ballot, despite having 650+ valid signatures, by holding the validation meeting after hours, on the day of the deadline, for him to sign a single form to accept his candidacy. Steve Harsman, who is the Dem director for the BOE- who is paid in excess of $110,000 a year, also sits on the Montgomery County Democratic Party Screening Committee- where one of the questions of all candidates is always “If we don’t endorse you, will you run against our endorsed candidate?” Remember, the purpose of a “primary” is for the party to pick a candidate, not just the party elite.
So when William Pace pointed something very obvious to me out today, I, like you, should wonder what kind of fair and honest election can we count on in this primary? The reason:
Screen grab from AJ Wagner for Mayor tv spot with him and BOE Director Rhine McLin
How can Rhine McLin be expected to provide nonpartisan, unbiased, supervision of an election in which she appears in ads to support a candidate? Is this a “nonpartisan” election anymore?
Also appearing in A.J.’s ad are County Commissioners Debbie Lieberman (wife of former Dem Party Chair and BOE board member Dennis Lieberman) and County Commissioner Judy Dodge (who has relatives working in the Board of Elections).
I’ve called for an elected “Chief Ethics Officer” in the county, if we have to elect a coroner and a county engineer, why not? If we had one, this would be a case worthy of investigation. If I was Gary Leitzell, I’d be asking for oversight on this election from outside this county, with the huge amounts of money A.J. and Nan have raised and spent, what’s stopping them from buying off some election officials?
You won’t see me, David Greer or Mayor Leitzell on a tv commercial between now and May 7. In fact, you won’t ever see us on a broadcast tv spot. It’s a stupid waste of campaign money. Why? TV stations cover the entire region- from Celina to Middletown, Eaton to Springfield. We only need to reach a very small subset of that audience- Dayton voters, and even a smaller subset of those, the ones who vote in primaries.
Seth Godin asked this question on Thursday:
How big is critical mass?
There’s a certain mass and size of plutonium that you need to create in order to start a nuclear reaction… a reaction that tips, that spreads, that cycles out of control.
In the idea business, critical mass is the minimum size of the excited audience that leads to a wildfire. People start embracing your idea because, “everyone else is…”
The difference between our low-budget, unconventional, shared campaign and Nan Whaley and AJ Wagner’s hyper-powered political slugfest, is that we have a central idea for ours- that politics is local, personal, and about an idea- more than about us. The idea is that business as usual in Dayton politics has to end, and campaigns have to be about ideas, not dollars. Our idea- that three independent candidates who don’t owe anyone any political favors, can transform Dayton.
Nan and AJ just want to get elected. Then, they promise, their self-professed visionary leadership will lead us to the promised land of jobs, better education and no more blighted homes. The problem is, we, and you, have all heard that same promise every time, there is an election. How’s it worked in the past?
The big idea in the Independent Dayton campaign is that if enough Dayton voters hear our message, that elections shouldn’t be run like auctions, and that you really can’t do anything new, if your support comes from people who aren’t the ones who elect you (seriously, there aren’t many actual Dayton residents writing checks for over $250 to any of the candidates, that kind of money- even when donated to my campaign is from outside the city). That’s a big idea and a major change right off the bat.
You won’t hear any of us promise that government is going to create jobs, or be able to catch up with the blight. Only someone who takes money from a gambling PAC that wants to build a racino will tell you that. We will tell you that if we deliver great services, and make our city sound like a forward thinking city that put a stop to auctioning off our city commission seats, the rest of the world may take notice and believe that our community has turned a corner that the rest of the country wishes it could- take the big money out of politics.
After the short cycle of the primary, we will produce our own video about the campaign. To tell you a story of our vision for Dayton, it will be one that is worthy of the whole world watching. It will let you know that Dayton is back. We’ve got water, workers and the wisdom to end the silliness of big money politics. Our solutions don’t fit in a :30 spot, it will be at least a few minutes long, and it will inspire you. Note: we’ve already put up many hours of straight video on Independent Dayton- of all the candidates nights, and our “Ghostlight Sessions” where we answered questions, none of the big money candidates did anything like this. Instead, they are going to hit you over the head with these :30 ads about why they are great.
I hope on May 7, Dayton voters say no to one of these (I always say to vote for the people with the lowest average donation) candidates and we move forward with a real discussion of Dayton’s future.
The question is, in the next 10 days, can the Independent Dayton team hand deliver enough of our campaign materials and reach enough Dayton primary voters with our limited budget? Some of it is up to you- will you share this with every Dayton voter you know? Remember, no one gets elected on May 7- we just narrow the choices. One of these big money candidates will still be on the ballot, and possibly both. Is that what you want? Or do you want to send a message about running elections without selling out?
Sunday morning the Dayton Daily News will have a piece about the five city commission candidates. I already know that the piece about me is going to mention some IRS tax liens. This is part of owning a small business. If you’ve been in business for yourself, you won’t bat an eye. If you’ve had a career working for the man, or for the government, you’ll sit and say he’s irresponsible and unworthy of my vote. So be it.
The amount is relatively minor- less than $5,000. About $2,000 of that is from some sort of audit, where the IRS claims my 2005 and 2006 returns were filed late, and somehow this warrants $1,000 fines for each. $1,500 is a payroll tax deposit that I didn’t make last November. I’ve got so many letters, and so many documents flying at me, it’s hard to tell what’s what. I trust everything will be resolved well before the November election. My bookkeeper is working on it. These things take time to resolve.
Originally, this post had a long description of what happened last year. After some prodding from some friends and family, I agree with them- you don’t need to know the details other than this: running a small business is tough, sometimes you gamble on people and give them a chance- and they bite you in the butt.
In the advertising business- the number one way agencies start-up is when some employees walk out and take a major client or two with them. It’s common. I didn’t do that when I started my business. Last year, thanks to my giving someone a chance, it happened to me.
I also found out that credit card companies don’t have to listen to court judgments- and can raid your bank account if they “find for their card holder” something I’m pretty sure shouldn’t be legal. A two-thousand dollar job turned into a zero dollar job months after you’d finished the work and the $1,100 deposit you took- gets hauled back out of your account. Read the small claims court judgment against Jessica Hartman and Totally Polished: Totally Polished judgment, I won in court, for $1,100, the amount that had been in my account. I’ve learned that collecting on small claims court wins is near impossible. Gotta love the credit card companies. If anyone wants to teach me how to collect, I’ll gladly give you 25%.
My bookkeeper has been communicating with IRS about the fines and some credits we missed. Everything is being worked out, but, if you’ve been in a situation like this with the IRS you know it takes months to just get the straight answers out of them on anything you contest. By midsummer, everything should be straightened out, and the paper will have to find something else to smear me with.
Small business is tough. Besides Gary Leitzell, I’m the only serious small business owning candidate.
And for comparison:
Nan Whaley has never held a job that hasn’t been provided to her by the Montgomery County Democratic Party. Between her and Mr. Whaley, who works for Karl Keith, they pull in over $100,000 a year of your tax dollars.
Dean Lovelace has been on the City Commission for 20 years with health care, a car allowance and on the side, was hired by the same university that can’t afford to pay its professors enough to live on or pay for health insurance.
Joey Williams has been a banker the entire time he’s held an elected position. Until recently he was a regional president at Chase, and made well over $200,000 a year in addition to his commission pay. His wife worked for Cox media for years as a news anchor, making pretty good money on her own. The paper gave her the kid glove treatment when she was involved in an auto accident that caused a fatality.
Matt Joseph works for a defense contractor. He was put onto the city commission by the party with the help of his brother Russ, who sees himself as the next Dayton Clerk of Courts.
The only small businessman on the city commission is Mayor Leitzell, who was mocked by the newspaper relentlessly at first for being a painter of toy soldiers. Luckily, we’ve now seen that he knows how to solve problems and can get elected despite being outspent 6 to 1 by an incumbent.
Jeff Mims has worked in the schools forever and has a pension. He’s also currently elected to the State School board, a job he’d have to quit with a year remaining to take a seat on the city commission. He also has a bankruptcy from ages ago, which the paper may or may not publish.
David Greer has a government retirement and works for the Senior Resource Center now.
A.J. Wagner has a government pension from his time as auditor and judge. He’s also a small businessman as a lawyer, but part of a bigger firm. It’s not quite the same as 23 years of hanging your own shingle.
Joe Lutz could be considered a small businessman, except, it’s hard to tell if his business is any more serious than his campaign. When I looked over his business website it looked more like something a kid would do back in the late nineties.
And, for the record, last year, I paid over six figures to people in wages and taxes and gave them a place to work. It might not equal what Nan has raised to run for office, but, it was creating jobs. I also ran for Congress, which took too much time away from the business as well.
I wish I could have dealt with the tax issues before campaigning began. If you’d like to work with my ad agency, The Next Wave, we’d be happy to do our magic for you. We have seats open for Tuesdays Websitetology seminar, where you can learn how to build a great website and maintain it for a lot less than what Nan or A.J. spent (Nan actually took the seminar years ago). And if you need printing, highest quality at the lowest prices, you can call us too. I’ll be happy to save you money and make enough to pay off the tax bills quickly.
On May 7, 2013 a small percentage of Dayton voters will go to the polls to narrow the field of candidates for Dayton Mayor and City Commission. It’s a rare election in that we even have this choice, since most times, the Board of (S)Elections manages to keep most of the potential candidates off the ballot. The Commission seats are staggered as well, so that this is the odd chance to elect a majority- three people, to the commission which is the number you need to actually do anything. If you are a student of Dayton election history- this never happens (at least in modern times). Incumbents win, party supported candidates win, there have only been a few upset wins- Turner over Dixon, McLin over Turner, Leitzell over McLin- and all by less than 1000 votes.
The Commissioner seats rarely change hands unless the party wants it to happen. Dean Lovelace was the last non-party person to win, and that was in a rare special election. Most likely, his seat will transfer in yet another special election, sometime after this primary.
In each race this year, we’re eliminating one candidate. Hardly a big choice. The mayors race is getting all of the attention, with more Mayor only candidates nights. I filmed 2 this week- they are posted at www.independentdayton.com There was little new knowledge to be gained. But, I did ask a question at the League of Women Voters event Tuesday, of Nan Whaley and AJ Wagner that bears watching- it was if it comes down to the two of them, both career politicians and Democratic party insiders (AJ owes at least 4 elections to their backing), would they agree to campaign spending caps.
AJ put it to Nan, and she didn’t answer directly, but instead talked about a “first class campaign.”
With yesterdays pre-campaign filings, it’s become clear that Nan has zero intention of holding back a dime, having out raised AJ by a ridiculous number, who has in-turn, out-raised and out-spent the Mayor by a ridiculous number.
The question for voters, since one of these free-spending, cost-no-object candidates will still be on the ballot no matter what, is how obscene do you want this race to be?
To me, there is only one choice- to vote for Leitzell by a ridiculous margin and send a clear message to these two political machines that it’s got to be about the power of ideas and your actions that you demonstrate your leadership quality- not by the amounts of money you throw at the campaign. To knock the biggest spender out in the primary would be epic. It would also be the most sensible thing to do, since Whaley has had 8 years with the support of at least 2 other votes the entire time she’s been in office. She’s had plenty of time to change the course of this city- even though change in government runs at only one speed in this town- slow (that’s a Leitzell quote).
The fact that she raised over $30,000 from three unions can only be construed as them wanting to protect their bargaining with the City Manager (current or the next one) and think that Nan can exert that kind of pull. The other money, like a $5,000 donations from Washington (William Robinson, 1730 Rhode Island Ave. Washington DC 20036 4/17/13 Online $5,000.00), or a fundraiser in Columbus Ohio which $5,595 should upset me as a Dayton voter, but it doesn’t. It’s to be expected by someone who lives politics 24/7 and has no idea or ideas, about what it takes to let ideas own the discussion.
The donation from Penn National Gaming PAC of $1000 (they of the “Racino”) or the donations by other politicians who are giving money that taxpayers gave to them, to her, don’t phase me either- although I find them reprehensible. (full disclosure, William Pace’s campaign gave my campaign $100). She also got $1000 from the Washington PAC Emily’s list- as if Nan is a powerhouse on national agenda issues. There are other donors from all over. I’d almost like to do a breakdown of how many of her donors actually live in Dayton proper, but she’s not worth my time.
What bothered me most, was a single donation of $200 from a gentleman in Cleveland Heights, Art Brooks. I’ve known his daughters Caryn and Kristin since grade school. He served on a committee with my mother to start an Artists co-op in the seventies. He has no vested interest in Dayton, I doubt he’s ever been here. He probably gave because Nan had our Senator, Sherrod Brown working his donors over for her. It disappoints me that the favors of one candidate buy another. Why do we even allow the voters into the equation?
Look them over. Ask, at what price do you think is reasonable to run for Mayor? And, do you really want these two in a no-holds barred race? It’s Dayton’s turn to say no to big money in politics and bring national attention to the problem. It’s time to tell rich people that they can’t continue to buy our elected offices. It’s time to tell Nan, you had your free ride- this is the last ride.
The only thing I really feel sorry for is everyone who is going to have to see her $27,000 tv media spend. The commercial is painfully bad.
Tuesday morning on my run, a guy pulls up in his car, rolls down his window and gives me a big grin. I didn’t recognize him right away (during campaign season- more people recognize you and expect you to remember the 2 minute meeting you had with them at a candidates night), but then I realized it was a former employee, from half-a-dozen years ago.
Last I saw him, was through the plate glass at the Montgomery County Jail. I’d hired him about 9 months previous, as a part-time web-designer. He wasn’t really qualified, but he had the right attitude. I introduced him to WordPress, the open source content manager that we use for about 90% of our clients websites. He was a quick learner.
I remember having to drive him home, since he didn’t have reliable transportation. I did some trade with a client who was a dentist to fix his teeth – his ghetto solution to missing front teeth was to wear a gold “grill”- which really wasn’t a good substitute for proper crowns. I don’t remember the details of how we parted ways, except that somewhere along the way, I loaned him $300 to get his cell phone back on- and found out later that it was spent on crack.
He’s clean now, after his family sent him up to Lima for a while with grandma, to keep him away from his running partners around here, guys who all had doper street names.
Now he’s married to his baby momma, a sweet girl he’s known since childhood. She has a masters degree. He’s got street smarts, and somehow, despite protests from her family, they are making it work.
He acknowledged that he still owed me the $300. He also told me, that if it wasn’t for me giving him a chance, introducing him to WordPress and giving him a bit of confidence in his abilities, he might not still be alive today.
He’s not the only ex-con in my life. The kid I’ve been a “big brother” to for the last 26 years, has spent two stints in the joint, both for being drunk, stupid and the wrong color in Greene County, where the “legal system” seems to have a much higher conviction rate for petty crap if you’re black. He’s said the same words to me- if not for me, he probably wouldn’t still be alive. He’s in year two of running his own business now. He’s doing it himself, and while I mentor him, there’s a big difference between working for me- and running his own business. He’s had a few setbacks, including having his brand new (to him) second truck stolen which unfortunately, he only had state minimum insurance. He’s learning the hard way that hiring is hard, clients are difficult, and selling the value of quality isn’t easy.
After two nights of listening to the Mayoral candidates talking about “job creation” I’m thinking about the jobs I’ve created over the years and the people I’ve given their first job in their chosen career. None were hired because government did anything, all were hired because I believed that they could make me more money than I paid them. That’s the fundamental equation in business. Ex-offenders don’t usually work in my field- advertising. Hell, minorities are as scarce in advertising as they are on the Dayton Police Department. The sad part is, ex-offenders are an untapped resource in our community. We have an abundance of them, and it’s something that AJ Wagner uses as a prop for his campaign stump speech. AJ says that as a judge, he saw a lot of young people in front of him when he was a judge, and they were all missing god, a job, or an education. No duh.
Since government is supposed to stay out of the god part, and we provided the education that failed, the only thing left to solve the problem is to either hire ex-offenders, or admit, you’re lying about having any way of solving this problem. Most politicians do the latter.
Gary Leitzell takes a different approach, he talks about teaching entrepreneurship starting at age 12. It’s what they do in the UK- where you take a test to see if you are college material or trade school material around the same age. But to me, it’s still a cop out. Kids want to excel and be recognized for success. The problem is that we’ve written off these kids en masse in Dayton. We’ve killed our neighborhood cohesiveness with the end of neighborhood schools We killed off our parks and rec programs. We’ve done everything we can to make sure these kids stand alone.
The first part of the solution is to not let kids grow up to be cons in the first place. While nothing beats parents with good jobs and a steady income, the focus of the community has to be on growing up on the right side of the law. Most social science experiments show that when you group poor people together, economic discrimination if you will, you get more poor people. Integrating poor people into better neighborhoods, better outcomes. The Disney Company experimented with this in their “Celebration” community where everything was planned down to the picket fences to create the Disney vision of utopia- giving us the backdrop for the movie “The Truman Show” where people lived “under the dome” of happiness.
By re-focusing our neighborhoods on creating positive places for kids to grow up, by rewarding neighborhoods that start scout troops, soccer and basketball teams, chess clubs, book clubs, after school tutoring, movie nights, we may be able to start to change the world view of our kids who are living in poverty. It also wouldn’t hurt if we made the Internet available to them via school issued digital devices over a city-wide wifi system. The old saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is our best defense against future life in crime.
If these steps would have stopped either of my two ex-offenders, I can’t say. My “little brother” was surrounded with books, and an avid reader. But, I do know that he had way too much unstructured time in the 10-14 age spread, and this is when the trouble started (it didn’t help that his mother spent 2 of those years dying of cancer that a real health care system might have caught and cured).
The second part of the solution is to provide real opportunity and training to ex-offenders and work on ways to clear offenses from haunting them like a scarlet letter. When my “little brother” went to prison the first time, he was warehoused and treated like a farm hand. The second time at a different institution, he was treated for alcohol dependency and educated- rehabilitated instead of treated like inventory. He came out with goals and a good start on an associates degree (which Sinclair has systematically killed off). The key to re-entry isn’t a parole officer, it’s a career coach and opportunities.
James Kent is doing something about re-entry and employment. He runs Dayton’s Architectural Reuse Company and Dayton Works Plus. He’s training ex-offenders to hold down a job, basic life skills, and how to deconstruct and salvage building materials to make them ready for reuse. He calls his business model a “social enterprise” that creates value on many different levels other than on the balance sheet. If karma was a line item in a profit and loss, James would be a very wealthy man. He’s working to use two of Dayton’s major perceived problems- an abundance of both ex-offenders and blighted homes, and turning them into something useful. Unfortunately, the City has stood in the way of his efforts by bundling contracts to be bigger than he can bond for, and by denying his firm the right to glean before bulldozers from Nan’s political donors do the job the land-fill filling way. Gary Leitzell was the only commission member to respond to Kent when he asked for help.
But, manual labor isn’t enough to turn the tide. One of the beauties of online access is that there are somethings online that you can do that hide the fact that you are an ex-offender, one is study via MOOCS, massive open online courses, where leading educators provide courses of all levels for free. If the prison system can start these inmates off with an introduction to self- improvement, and we provide affordable online access, it’s possible that the code behind your website, or the tedious activities that can be distributed broadly (via a mechanical turk) , is handled by ex-offenders (my former employee builds websites, you can’t tell he’s an ex-con from the code).
It’s also easier to build communities online- of neighbors, neighborhoods and of networks of people to get things done. If we create Ohio’s first digital city, we may create the platform out of poverty that is hurting the perception of Dayton, the city proper, as a place where as AJ says- god, education and jobs are lacking. Note, there are plenty of preachers online for you to choose from AJ.
The state already has programs in place that offer employers incentives to hire ex-offenders, although my small business didn’t have the resources to dedicate to the complexities of the compliance. The real question is how do we provide ex-offenders the tools to help themselves? It’s not something we can solve overnight, or even in a four year term, but I do know that the challenges of coming out of prison and setting up a home is daunting. Success depends on support networks of families, friends and acceptance into a community because the cost of entry is high. Having to carry a high risk bond for car insurance because you haven’t driven in years, deposits for utilities because your credit was wrecked thanks to not being able to properly shut-off your cell or cable bill when you went into jail on your way to prison.
This is why my plan for micro-housing built with reused building supplies, that’s energy efficient, thanks to Mr. Kent’s program, coupled with bike share, which provides an alternative to a car, and city wide wi-fi makes a smart phone like those from Republic Wireless work everywhere, coupled with online communities and support groups and educational abilities can all be integrated into an ex-offender program worthy of global attention.