138 Million ways to not blow it: Dayton Commission 2021 candidates plans

Full disclosure- at one time or another, I’ve done work for Scott Sliver, Darryl Fairchild and Shenise Turner Sloss.

Pop quiz: Dayton has a great track record of spending money on things that?

A) Make demolition contractors millionaires.
B) Make developers who donate to candidates wealthy.
C) Let Meds, Eds, and Feds all escape any kind of civic responsibility.
D) All of the above.

And now we have $138M coming our way for the people you elect to do something smart with it. So I’m going to go to all 6 candidates’ sites to look for their plans- you’d think they have one, right? Also, note that Reconstructing Dayton sent out questionnaires for the primary to all the candidates; however, the only one who is still running who filled one out is Shenise Turner Sloss. They’ve also been compiling the Campaign Finance reports in ADA-compliant format for you to review.

For Mayor we have sitting city commissioner and Dem party good old boy Jeff Mims running against former fire chief and baseball chaplain Rennes Bowers.

Mims can and should accept some of the blame for Dayton’s long track record of failure at investing in things that are good for the general populace instead of the preferred method of those on the “friends and family plan” of helping the rich get richer. Jeff’s site is at Mims for Mayor. It has the typical platitudes about “economic development” and hogwash about his accomplishments.

Rennes Bowers’ site: Bowers for Mayor has his 5 point plan of…. platitudes. Nothing else. Nothing concrete.

Winner: Neither have a plan for you. Mims has 2 votes on the commission already with Chris Shaw and Matt Joseph, meaning if he’s elected, it’s business as usual no matter who else wins. So far, the only reason to vote for Bowers is that he isn’t Mims.

For Dayton City Commission we have four candidates for 2 seats. Darryl Fairchild is the only incumbent (which almost always guarantees re-election in Dayton). He only won the last time because it was a special election and the party tried to run Rev Daryll Ward against him. This happened because Joey Williams who was all buddy-buddy with Mims, Joseph, Shaw and Whaley had to step down because he was a criminal who had turned confidential informant for the Feds. Of course, since the Feds only indicted black folks and it takes 3 votes for anything to pass the Dayton City Commission, Williams was as useless as a snitch as he was as a commissioner; no further indictments ever surfaced.

Going to the candidates’ sites to find out what they’d do with the 138M that’s coming, we find:

Darryl Fairchild: Fairchild for Dayton. Darryl doesn’t mention the $138M infusion directly on his site that seems a bit out of date with a letter to Trump, asking him not to come to Dayton, on the front page. He does have his Blueprint for Dayton which has specific policy ideas, but no actual implementation strategy. He’s supposedly going to have a listening tour in the month of July to gather input on what to spend it on.

Scott Sliver: Elect Scott Sliver. A lot about him and endorsements. Really short on policy. Scott ran against the incumbent Dems 6 years ago who now are on his nominating committee.

Shenise Turner Sloss: Shenise For Dayton. While not mentioning the $138M directly, this is a campaign platform for the other candidates to respond to. There is a reason she came in first in the primary. Read her platform Issues. If you are her opponent, weep, you’ve been outclassed, even if Shenise doesn’t specifically spend the bucks- at least she has ideas for the future.

Stacy Benson Taylor: Stacy Benson Taylor has an extensive set of plans on her site in the FAQ. She does mention the money (more than once) :

I am extremely optimistic that the money received from the American Rescue Plan Act will replace loss revenue, which will allow the City to fully fund appropriate staffing models for all city departments, including the HRC.

While the $147 Million in Recovery Act funding replaces revenue lost from COVID-19, Dayton’s most pressing issue is a direct result of the pandemic. The proposed commuter income tax reduction would result in $20+ million in lost revenue, creating numerous financial/operational challenges.

Hiring freezes, abolished positions, separation plans and budget reductions have significantly affected our city’s workforce and ability to provide vital services. The loss of the commuter tax will further exacerbate an already strained budget.

Effectively cutting cost to mitigate these losses without compromising essential services coupled with strategic funding allocations are key in moving towards fiscal recovery

However, if you read the whole thing, you come down to this: she’s pro labor, anti-management and wants to keep government union jobs alive. Other than that, she seemingly thinks that the Gem City Market and the 5th Street Brew Pub models are about as good as it gets, or that throwing money at the Feldman family (Economy linen and Dayton Children’s CEO’s family) is the way of the future. She even has the gall to defend the huge expenditures by the city to protect the Klan’s right to speak on Courthouse Square, but fails to find fault in the city’s management of the George Floyd protests. She may be better at writing a campaign platform than Sliver or Fairchild, but, realize that most of what she points to as accomplishments was in her paid job as a labor rep. Still short of actual implementation rubrics.

The summary

The sad truth is $138M isn’t a whole lot of money when it comes to government spending. The new intersection at Austin Landing went north of $180M and all it achieved was to drive a nail in the coffin for the Dayton Mall. $100M is the number thrown around for the Arcade redevelopment. And while it may be enough money to run the city for about 9 months, there are other factors at work that could put a big hurt on city revenue.

Work from home is the biggest threat to the City of Dayton. We already have the highest personal income tax in the region (tied with Oakwood at 2.5%) and with folks not having to come in to work in big office towers this may be a boon for the suburbs and the nail in the coffin for Dayton. If all those suburban incomes stay in the ‘burbs, you may as well shut the doors and close the city down. The only high-wage jobs that require attendance on premise that I can think of are medical staff in the hospitals, and we just let one get torn down.

This issue is why our region is doomed, more than any other reason. Suburbs have been fighting for jobs to claim income taxes and sucking the lifeblood out of the center city. The only correct answer is to have a single income tax county-wide (at a much lower rate) and distribute it according to a formula. This would eliminate tax havens like urban townships and royalty tax breaks like at Austin Landing where only the working poor are charged a tax (if you work in 1-story buildings you are taxed at 2%, if you are white collar in an office tower, no tax). However this issue is way above the pay grade of city commission candidates. A single tax rate is one of the main goals of Reconstructing Dayton, along with uni-gov to shut down all the banana republics with their wasteful government overhead duplication.

So, what strategic play should Dayton make with its $138M windfall? Let’s look at what our primary problems are first:

Poverty, racial segregation, loss of population, lack of desirable services in all neighborhoods, public safety, obsolete/upside down housing stock, poor schools, odd boundaries, provincial politics. Did I miss any? (as if this list isn’t way too long already).

Typically, politically driven “economic development” focuses on creating jobs as the panacea to all problems, yet that system of carrots to lure businesses in has been broken and corrupt for decades. Same goes for place maker investments: Riverscape, Wright Dunbar, Town Centers, etc. Unfortunately, the only investment the city has made to attract a business with any kind of impact has been the baseball stadium: without it, many of the new businesses that sprang up around it would never have made it. But, other than the Delco Lofts- and now Mendelson’s – most of it has been “urban renewal” instead of urban restoration. The first replaces, the second rebuilds. We need a Restoration plan for the city, and so far, the only candidate talking about any of it is Turner Sloss. I don’t see concrete plans or a rubric, but the beginning of a glimmer is in her plans.

The biggest thing on the ballot may not even be who you elect this time, but how you elect next time. Reconstructing Dayton is going to circulate a petition to bring ranked choice voting to Dayton– which would eliminate the separate race for Mayor- and the expensive, mostly ignored primary that left us with this small field. To understand what may have happened had we had this in place for this cycle- read this post.

Look for my next post July 22, 2021 post, to see some provocative ideas to spend the $138M to leverage equality and equity in Dayton, instead of just fattening the pigs at the trough as we’ve done in the past. The question is- how do we invest/change to undo our decades of dumb decisions?

If you’ve got any brilliant ideas on how to make $138M work like a billion, feel free to comment. Just don’t ask any of our candidates too much- it might break their little brains.

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