311 in Dayton anyone?

At the South East Priority Board candidates’ forum on Thursday night I got asked about my position on changing the priority board system. Simply stated, I believe we need to draw our own boundaries- by neighborhood, instead of letting State lawmakers gerrymander voting precincts so that Mike Turner could win OH-3 and John Boehner could win OH-8, in an area that used to vote Democrat for years (Tony Hall). Makes sense if you think about it, even a little bit.

There is also the issue of having seven priority boards- that are unequal, since 40% of the population is now in South East. Commissioner Whaley and Commissioner Williams and the Mayor have had years in office to address this fundamental flaw in our “citizen participation” system, but have done nothing- except cut staff and funding. My proposal is to make the neighborhood organization leader the representative to the city- and to have them meet directly with the City Manager at least four times a year.

Compare this with the current Priority Boards situation- where not only did the Priority Boards set the number one priority last year as “enforce the laws on the books” especially housing and safety laws, they briefed the City Commission and none of the three incumbents could tell the people at the meeting what that “number 1 priority” was. FAIL. Yes Gary Leitzell, a Priority Board chairperson, knew the answer, and I did not.

When you also consider that many priority board seats are unfilled, that some neighborhoods end up with more reps than others (South Park has 3 by voting precinct plus one neighborhood rep) the whole system seems flawed. In addition, when the system was well funded they not only had at least 3 full-time staff per Board and a pool of money to use on the priorities- and now that’s practically all gone.

We could have spent a few hundred thousand and instead implemented a 311 system to handle and track citizen complaints- and actually have a reporting system that provides data on how many cases opened and closed. San Antonio implemented their 311 system for $200,000 which is less than what we spend on salaries of Priority Board staff in a year.

The ability to identify and track citizen complaints and rate the solutions and close rates gives us real data to evaluate the City Manager’s performance- and a citizen can evaluate the way our Commission holds the City Manager accountable. Not only do we get a near real time system- we also put City employees in charge of customer service (what they are paid for) instead of asking citizens to do it on a volunteer basis. It shouldn’t be so much work to have the city we pay taxes for.

A lot of Priority Board people have stated they won’t vote for me because I’m going to kill their already dead system, but the reality is, the other commissioners have now gone on record saying there need to be changes, they just refuse to specify what they would do. Judging from their inability to introduce new ideas, new systems, or even have a discussion in public about them- you should be able to reach a logical conclusion: it’s time for a change on the Commission.

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7 Responses

  1. Gary Leitzell October 17, 2009 / 9:39 am
    Don’t fret David. I have even stated that the PB system needs to be re-invigorated. The problem with the system is that it is only as good as the political arm that uses it. When city staff are prevented from exhibiting “covert” leadership by policy, the system becomes flawed because the community looks towards the city to lead and the city wants leadership to rise from the community so that it can squash them like a bug. Serious disconnect here. I looked at 311 systems back in March because they work in other cities. Did you know that we already have a 211 system in place? It is a social services hotline between Montgomery County and United Way. It has been around for 7 years or so but I learned about it around June. The city AND the county could rework this system that is already in place and make it work for both entities as well as the non-profits around Dayton but it is going to take people with vision to convince the administration that such a thing would work. We don’t need to re-invent the wheel here. The system is already in place but is under utilized.
  2. David Esrati October 17, 2009 / 9:57 am

    @Gary- the 211 system is news to me- and I consider myself pretty informed.

    I too, have seen good civil servants have their hands tied. We don’t seem to be able to do anything without a committee or panel making a recommendation. Everything requires groupthink, It’s the basis of the Priority Board system too- we need to have a panel approve and order- as opposed to letting a leader lead.

    It’s time to have a city manager that leads from the front, and has a commission behind them.

    Unfortunately, you and I will be outspent by at least 10 to 1 in this race. It’s really up to the citizens at this point, do they want more of the same- or are they finally ready for change>

  3. Jenastrea Olt October 17, 2009 / 10:13 am
    All the work and time I put into the PB really wasn’t worth it.  They had employees with absolutely no idea about how to use the PB let alone lead the volunteers who are giving up enormous amounts of time to accomplish so very little.  Talk about a snail crawl, oooh one crack house got demolished in 1 year (really like 5 years) worth of meetings and filling out paperwork.  The training was okay but really could have been even better.  They couldn’t even make the law’s of conduct work to run a meeting very effeciently back when I tried to participate.   9 years ago it was communicated to the city that N. Main was losing integrity and now it so much worse.   The messages were ignored.  Of course money for this program was small to begin with 9 years ago.  I would be shocked if there was more going that way since 2001.   If there is, with  the debt problem ….?  I always thought those who volunteered, that is were elected and worked hard, should at least be compensated with a tax break or something.  If you have a family it is like taking on second job.   Just heard about the 211  system in April and from my utility company, not any neighborhood information letter.   How do neighbors in a neighborhood demand and find better representation of their neighborhood through the neighborhood association other than go door to door?  Couldn’t the city’s time and money be better spent in creating a web blog for neighborhoods, or website?  Then communication is open and not intrusive.   Of course I feel those who would want to join couldn’t be those who would use it to prey on their neighbors , but it is an interesting thought right?  By the way I am a very glad Gary that someone is giviing the Mayor a run because I feel she has just felt so comfortable that the apathy and blind eyes to our problem and just been let to run out of reign.   Thank you.  My email is having some problems but I will look for you on facebook to see if there is anything I can do to help your campaign.  Thank you for having the vision to utilize PBS!
  4. Jenastrea Olt October 17, 2009 / 10:19 am
    Lots of typos, sorry.  Typing is dyslexic challenge. -Thanks again, Jenn
  5. David Esrati October 17, 2009 / 10:21 am

    @Jenastrea,

    Thanks for your validation of what I’ve seen of the priority board system. It’s true, it is like a second job- because you are doing what the city is supposed to be doing. Why should people have to call another citizen to get something done? Isn’t that what we pay city employees for?

    And, please, remember- it’s not just Gary- I’m running too- and we still won’t have 3 votes to make anything happen until either Dean Lovelace or Matt Joseph are out- or we can make the other three see the validity to our ideas.

    Both Gary and I already have blogs- and post actively. Nan has a lame one. Nothing from the others.

    There is so much room for improvement, yet, most people assume the incumbents will continue to win.

    Please- register at http://www.electesrati.com for a sign, or to help- and make sure you tell all your neighbors who you are voting for and why.

    Thanks for your service to our community.

  6. Hall October 18, 2009 / 3:06 pm
    Speaking of the priority boards, a few days ago we rec’d a letter from there regarding some zoning variances that have been requested in our area (St Anthony Church wants to expand the daycare and two changes to the Cousin Vinny’s on Wayne Ave). Is this the first set of zoning variances in almost 10 years ? One might think that ’cause it’s the first time we’ve gotten a notice like this. Should I also mention that it was addressed to the previous homeowner and not us ? I thought the city or PB might have my name since I worked with them years ago about getting a speed bump put in the street.

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