A new direction for Dayton: invest in our own social capital

NCR is leaving the building.

If you’re poor and living in Dayton, you probably don’t care. Sure, there will be a few less people wanting to hire you to clean their house, detail their car, or pay taxes to support your local government that is doing little to help you out of the poverty cycle. And your life will continue, as it has, for the last several generations.

The cycle of poverty that holds a larger proportion of our population out of the go-go economy, is also holding the rest of us down. Don’t get me wrong, Atlanta has its share of poor folks too, more than we do, but as a proportion of the population of the bigger city of Atlanta, it’s easier to ignore the problem.

Like it or not, we only have so much social capital in Dayton. When 25-35% of it, in the city proper, is having a hard time making ends meet, it’s like an anchor weighing the rest of us down- but, we have chosen to minimalize it. As long as our Philharmonic plays, our Opera bellows and our Ballet prances, we can claim to be high culture- while in fact, those organizations are all starting to struggle too. It’s easy when the rising tide raises all boats to ignore the guys scraping the barnacles- but, when the tide falls the other way- all of a sudden, our boats don’t float anymore.

We’ve been chasing “jobs” for the last 15 years or so, and like the proverbial dog chasing a car- we’ve never known what would happen if we caught one, or got run over- which is now the case. All our attention to “economic development” – or “corporate welfare” as I prefer to call it hasn’t done much for us. The City claims to have spent $50 million pursuing “jobs” when in fact, what they’ve been chasing is new taxpayers- ignoring the ones who are here and have been paying the bill.

Had we spent that $50 million providing services to the taxpayers instead, what could we have done?

For instance, had we embarked on something I proposed when I was young, naive and green and running for Mayor- which was subsidizing child care for City residents who were employed within the city limits- we might have helped 2 generations out of poverty.

First, we would have created jobs for child care workers, a field that is a necessity for growing communities. To have organic population growth, you need people to be able to afford to work and have children. At the bottom rung of our economic ladder, this child care the biggest obstacle that stops people from joining the workforce- work and pay it all in child care, or don’t work to take care of your kids and receive assistance.

Secondly, it would also give us an opportunity to engage kids and their parents in early Head Start enrichment programming. If we want to see our school system improve without throwing more money at it, the key is having better prepared kids. Geoffrey Canada has been proving this works with his Harlem Children’s Zone where he is breaking the cycle of poverty. Because both the child care workers would be employed, plus the parents would be employed, we’d have double the taxpayers we have compared to the current welfare state.

Of course, companies already in the child care business would scream about having to compete with government (and rightly so) however, luckily- other than Charter Schools, none of them are very well backed or organized (at least in Dayton proper). We could include subsidizing their tuition as well, as long as they meet standards for Head Start-type programming.

In terms of attracting jobs to Dayton, this approach would make it easier for employers to have reliable low-wage employees, something anyone who has run a fast food establishment will tell you is a major issue. It would also make it easier for young parents to attend Sinclair Community College and improve their skill sets.

While the idea of attracting low wage paying jobs doesn’t sound as sexy as attracting those vaulted “white collar” NCR type jobs with their bigger salaries and tax base, the reality is, it’s easier to work with the social capital we have instead of chasing others in a very competitive market (thanks to the no-win handouts by government to major employers at the expense of the minor ones).

Had we taken this path over the last 15 years, with $50 million dollars, how many more jobs would we have? Would we have fewer problems with gangs, crime and homelessness? If a rising tide does truly raise all ships, shouldn’t that be the goal of government with our tax dollars? Help the greatest number, for the greater good? Corporate welfare, chasing the elusive “new jobs” while ignoring those that are already here has failed us massively.

That’s why I’m running for Dayton City Commission. I know times are tough, and I promise to run an efficient campaign, so if you can, please consider donating a few bucks to help me bring a voice of the people and of reason to our Commission. If you agree with this kind of thinking- please forward this article to ten friends, and ask them to contribute as well.

It doesn’t have to be much, $5, $10 or $25 goes a long way in social media. Also, I’ll need legions of people to knock on doors and talk about this message, so please, sign up to volunteer as well. Thank you.

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18 Responses

  1. Larkin June 7, 2009 / 11:52 pm
    Good piece, David. Well done. 
  2. Stan Hirtle June 8, 2009 / 12:29 am
    These are good articles, but they have to be aimed nationally. Local communities can’t stop the race to the bottom when they can be made to compete with each other. I find it interesting that the Dayton Daily News has this personal anger that the head of NCR, who had no connection with Dayton and no reason to want to stay here. But he operates in a capitalist economy where businesses have no ongoing obligation to the communities that surround them. A local paper would never say anything bad about a local executive or owner until he abuses us, By then it’s too late. The rules must change.
  3. David Esrati June 8, 2009 / 1:06 am

    @Stan- aren’t the people we elect supposed to “represent” our issues and carry them up the chain. I saw a picture of Nan Whaley with Barack Obama- do you suppose she was talking about ending corporate welfare or asking for his autograph?
    We do have a choice on how to invest our tax dollars on how to make our region more desirable to business. We can spend it on our social capital, or we can feed the capitalists.
    I opt for the former.

  4. Drexel Dave Sparks June 8, 2009 / 5:56 am
    Dayton Police this morning apprehended a woman named Rhine McLin after receiving numerous calls from neighborhood residents complaining about an intoxicated woman roaming the streets screaming at the top of her lungs to all who would listen, “Esrati was right! Esrati was right!.

    “I thought that Charleton Heston had fallen from the skies smack dab onto Sweetman and Second Street and was yelling Soylent Green is People!” But after I got up, I realized it was our mayor roaming around screaming “Esrati was right! Esrati was right.”

    The mayor’s office declined comment when contacted by this publication, The Gem Titty.

  5. David Esrati June 8, 2009 / 7:25 am

    fyi- the above comment by Drexel Dave is satire.
    Besides, we all know the Mayor and the Commission doesn’t care what I think, or what anyone else thinks- hence the 3 minute time limit, the lack of response or discussion when most citizens go to a meeting to speak.

  6. John Ise June 8, 2009 / 11:49 am
    Such a good post, made a $20 donation.  Have you considered creating a booklet of say “100 ideas for a Better Dayton” that captures some of the best posts as part of your campaign lit?
  7. David Esrati June 8, 2009 / 11:57 am

    Hi John- 2 brilliant ideas! the donation- and the best posts. I’ll accept help from any reader in identifying the best- of the nearly 1000 posts on this site.
    Thanks again.

  8. tommy June 8, 2009 / 3:28 pm
    Are you saying that if you had 30 seconds with the president, that you wouldn’t accept the photo opp? That’s just silly to put her down because age did. You don’t know what was said between them before or after the picture was taken, of if there was even a time period for them to talk.
  9. David Esrati June 8, 2009 / 3:38 pm

    @Tommy- no, it means I’d deliver a message. I don’t know what she would say- but, after 3 years of having her on the Commission- please kindly point out what brilliant legislation or initiatives she has introduced.

  10. David Lauri June 8, 2009 / 6:45 pm
    So David, we know you endorse Gary Leitzell for mayor against McLin.  Have you chosen which candidate to endorse for commission, given that if you persuade a voter to use one of his two votes for you, he’d still have one left to cast and just the two incumbents from whom to choose?  In other words, do you think Joey Williams has made a better commissioner than Nan Whaley?

    (And I can understand if you choose not to answer this, especially since your answer won’t have any impact on me.  I already know which two commission candidates I’m voting for, barring any surprises between now and November.)

  11. David Esrati June 8, 2009 / 8:58 pm

    @David Lauri I’d suggest that people only vote for me, if they really want to see me win. A vote cast for either of the others would cut the effectiveness of their vote. I won’t have the party behind me- with their slate cards, poll workers, Get Out the Vote etc. Between Nan and Joey, I would find it easier to work with Joey, I’ve known him for years and consider him a friend. We’re able to have spirited conversations- and even disagree, and still get along.

  12. Sammy76 June 8, 2009 / 11:03 pm
    Since NCR didn’t take the $30M, does that mean we can have it for growing new, small businesses in Dayton?  Can we use it to fund even a few of David’s crazy ideas?

    Unfortunately, I think I know the answer.  But we should be asking the state.  I bet the risk/reward is better than it would have been with NCR.

  13. Gene June 9, 2009 / 8:54 am
    it was $30 mil in tax breaks….. not cash. That is why the argument that it is our money is stupid.
  14. Sammy76 June 9, 2009 / 10:34 pm
    Sure, it was tax breaks.  Retarget them to grow new opportunities.  Why do they have to disappear now?  Use the tax breaks to try and grow lots of smaller company instead of one larger company.
  15. Gene June 9, 2009 / 11:03 pm
    I completely agree. Tax breaks for all business, large and small, are positive. BTW, most businesses do not really pay taxes, they just charge more for their business, therefore screwing any and all buyers. The same people who have businesses. That is why shit cost so much, among other reasons.

    That 12 pack of beer should cost around $6-$7, with taxes and this and that, hey it is $9.49. Put the difference into the people’s pocket, they will create more jobs, spend more, hence creating more jobs. It is easy.

    Taxes are bad, and taxes are HORRIBLE for all business. Income tax, property tax, enough. But the liberals want all the money for BS programs for the people who least appreciate it.

  16. David Esrati June 9, 2009 / 11:14 pm

    Before we go on the bandwagon about tax breaks- how about making it simpler and easier to pay them. Even paid tax preparers have about a 90% rate of making mistakes with the current system. The hodge podge system of city, county, state and Federal taxes makes small business more difficult than it has to be.
    Then- lets talk about rates- once we get higher compliance and collections.

  17. Gene June 9, 2009 / 11:18 pm
    Agreed.

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