Since the new year, it feels like Dayton is having a shooting a day. And, if it’s not a shooting, it’s a fight at a Dayton Public School. Friends of mine made a documentary a long time ago about the sensationalism of the local news “If it bleeds, it leads” that talked about the easy way to get eyeballs- and this was long before the internet, social media or click bait.
Typically, these stories grab attention for a very short period of time and we, collectively as a community, move on. These events can be written off as a one off, things that don’t affect me, until, they do affect you.
The RTA bus driver that was shot. Already RTA was having trouble finding people willing to drive a bus with their CDL- risking Covid from all the unvaccinated fools who enter their buses (mask or no mask). They could be driving a big rig- where the only air they breathe is their own and the pay can be higher. Now, are people going to be afraid to ride the bus? The shooting was at the transit hub downtown, where security is tight and highly visible. Does it matter that the kids were caught almost instantly? No- what matters is it happened. The misdeeds of a few miscreants can ruin it for all of us.
Then we have the kids who decided to start robbing and killing Lyft drivers on the West Side. What is a 16 year old doing with a gun? And, now, will Lyft stop sending drivers into the ‘hood? Doesn’t matter if they are caught too- guilt by association, proximity, reputation- and now houses in the area of the killing just dropped in value some more.
The fights at Meadowdale made the news. A School Resource Officer who was pregnant- was kicked in her belly by a kid. She went to the hospital. Kids were arrested. Parents are wondering why they are sending their kids to a school that had 5 large simultaneous fights break out in minutes. Was part of the problem that Dr. Lolli had moved all her SRO’s that day over to Ponitz- to give it’s namesake a tour? The reality hasn’t dawned on the school board that Dr. Lolli’s shuffling of deck chairs on the Titanic has consequences- no organization can reshuffle so many leaders so often– and build the relationships, trust and respect it takes to effectively run under-performing public schools. No one seems to question how or why she parted ways with Dr. Donetrus Hill who had been her one principal capable of managing a building that was out of control. He still is licensed in the State of Ohio- so other than threatening her monarchy- what other reason could there be that he’s not there?
Somewhere our community forgot what’s important. We went from being “America’s Cleanest Safest City” under Mayor Paul Leonard, with double the people and 3x the kids in school to something I don’t even what to try to describe for fear the words may stick.
When I moved into South Park, in 1986, friends told me I was crazy. They saw South Park the way people now are seeing Dayton- dangerous, dirty, run-down and a bad investment. The worst part of the problem is perception drives reality- and it festers.
Our leaders don’t know what to say. Haven’t heard Jeff Mims, our City Manager or our new Chief of Police issue any kind of dictum or a plan for the future. The outrage is there, but the leadership is out to lunch.
Tomorrow, Jan 28, 2022 I will have been a homeowner in South Park for 36 years. The neighborhood has changed a lot since then. It was 42 years ago that it became a historic district which laid the foundation for the renaissance. I could have bought any house on this block for less than $15K then- and one, 2 doors down, even sold for $14K in 2008- unfortunately, it’s been our problem child on the block. Now, homes are snapped up in almost any condition, and many are sold above the asking price. A destitute nursing home that had been made by connecting 2 homes- and was shut down and sat empty for a few years- was split back into two homes- both going for over a quarter million ea. Other homes are highly desirable AirBnB’s – bringing in way more than they ever would with rent- and people from out of town rave about the neighborhood. How did South Park do the exact opposite of the city that it’s a part of in the same amount of time?
Community. Social capital. Community Based Policing. Benevolent big business nearby. People investing in a dream of something bigger than their own backyard. We had a shared vision of a place where “neighbors become friends” and we realized we would go up or down together. That whole “a rising tide raises all ships” mentality served us well. We experimented – with a for profit neighborhood development corporation, a subscription model for a community watchman, a non-profit neighborhood development corporation, collaborations with other neighborhoods, an architects charrette project. We had home tours, Halloween parades complete with a marching band, porch patio and deck parties, hot toddy parties, chili cook offs, Sunday soccer, book clubs, euchre nights. It didn’t take a dictator telling us what was good for our community- it took our community working together to help each other.
And that’s what’s missing in Dayton today. We closed down all the public swimming pools. We shut down so many of our recreation centers. We never managed to sweep our streets effectively (I dare you to find a street in Kettering that has as much detritus in the gutters as we have in Dayton). Businesses closed for all kinds of reasons. Sadly, some were when the crimes were too heinous to ignore, Hooks Bar B Que anyone?
We’re not done in South Park, there are still lots of challenges to overcome, but the kinds of things we’re discussing in our neighborhood meetings are more about progress than problems, and the hardest thing is getting the new folks to care about each other the way those of us who’ve been here through the harder times do.
There is no easy way to get us to start caring about each other, watching out for our kids, making our city clean and safe again all at once. It’s a thing you do one-day-at-a-time and it starts out as easy as this: Love your neighbor and Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
Because, right now, our neighbors aren’t worried about the big picture, and what it looks like. It’s just a few bad apples who don’t understand they are ruining a whole lot of peoples lives with their own selfish actions.