A radical, simple plan to revive Dayton

No one will disagree that the beginning of the downfall of Dayton began with busing in the Seventies. It was called “white flight”- but in reality- it was the beginning of the economic divide in Dayton. The ‘burbs grew, the city shrank, and the seeds were sewn for the mess we’re in now. The health of the region depends on the health of the core- and the core has been rotting as pointed out in today’s Dayton Daily News:

‘A quiet disaster’ menaces Dayton
Thirteen-year-old Brittany Jones walks one short block to the school bus stop, but her dad won’t let her make the trip alone.

Every building Brittany passes on the 1600 block of Home Avenue, except one, is boarded, vacant. Eight of the buildings have earned the dubious city designation of nuisance. The eerie rattling of decaying wood and the muffled footsteps of vagrants inside the buildings provide a backdrop for the neighborhood that on the very next block rings with the laughter of children.

“To me, as a parent, it’s scary,” said Marvin Jones, Brittany’s father. “I don’t even like walking past them in the daytime.”

The buildings are part of a tide of blight creeping across many Dayton neighborhoods, an analysis of the city’s nuisance data shows. Driven by poverty, aging housing, an overbuilt market, migration out of the city and a still rising wave of foreclosures, the affected neighborhoods are losing occupants, value and market viability.

The number of properties on the city’s nuisance list has nearly tripled in the last three years, the data show, reaching 636 in October. The city has moved away from its past policy of trying to preserve vacant properties rather than tear them down.

However, tearing down buildings isn’t a solution. There are very few bad buildings, there are bad economics to the buildings- but that’s a matter of the area. At one time, NYC could have torn down SoHo, but then, it wouldn’t have the character it has now- same goes for my neighborhood, South Park. The problem is in the value of the area- and this is where Dayton needs to fix it’s problems- and here are the answers:

It started with the schools, so that’s where we have to start too.

It doesn’t matter if Stivers and Horace Mann and DECA (no longer a DPS school) are doing a great job, the perception is that the Dayton Public Schools are a school of last resort. I’ve proposed a whole set of ideas in the Dayton Public Schools category, but here is the latest:

Turn the Dayton Public Schools over to Sinclair Community College and fund both with a Countywide property tax. First rationale is the brand- Sinclair has the perceived quality and competence to undo the tarnish faster. Second part is that the rest of the County benefited from the economic divide when they siphoned off the higher income families from Dayton, so for a period of 12 years (one complete cycle of students) they will bear the costs of righting the wrongs of the last 30 years. Of course, if the kids in the core district aren’t becoming the future hoods and crooks that the suburbs fear- we’ll all save money in lower costs of jails, retraining, and a dying center city.

An economics lesson

The reason buildings fall into disrepair isn’t because of the type of building- the problem is that the reasons to invest in the area have disapeared.

A while back, I posted an idea of creating a new kind of investment incentive for Dayton- which has large areas designated by the SBA as HUBzone. My plan wasn’t a shy one- the idea wasn’t to boost investment in HUBzones- it was to eliminate them. Read about it here: Crazy Economic Development Idea? In brief, allow unlimited H1-B visas for companies willing to locate offices in a HUBzone- and have the visa holders live within the HUBzone for 10 years.

Incentives for Green Development

Looking forward, there is no doubt that commuting costs will skyrocket. There is another article in todays Dayton Daily News that points out that the highway repair fund is going to dry up. A sustainable future is a return to walkable communities- what Dayton was pre-1950s- when the Eisenhower administration pushed our network of autobahns for “National Security.” Instead of rewarding companies for jobs created with tax breaks, TIF plans, SID taxes (don’t worry- they’re all evil in the long run)- let’s reward companies for only one index in the entire State of Ohio- the walk to work tax credit. I wrote about it here: Go see “An Inconvenient Truth”and I still think it’s a good way to refocus Ohio as a forward thinking green state, to go hand in hand with Governor Stricklands green energy program.

And then- our strengths can shine

I wrote this post long ago-When our “leaders” and “economists” don’t understand what drives jobs and Dan Foley said he had printed it out and carried it in his pocket on the campaign trail (at his swearing in- in front of every powerful person in town). It’s why we shouldn’t have to beg for business to come here. And once Global Warming™ puts the coasts underwater, Dayton is going to look like nirvana.

But until Mother Nature spanks the glow off places like San Francisco, Las Vegas and Miami- we have to do some radical things to insure our future.

What do you think of the above ideas?

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