Atlanta has leadership- we have Leitzell.

In Dayton, our solution to the big hole in our population is to decrease the number of homes. It’s a rear guard, defensive effort that puts money into the hands of the demolition contractors (who are big campaign donors) and the landfill operators. And although the analogy that starts this excerpt from Thomas Friedman is about digging holes- filling a landfill isn’t the way you dig yourself out of a hole:

Everyone knows the first rule of holes: When you’re in one, stop digging. But people often forget the second rule of holes: You can only grow your way out. You can’t borrow your way out.

One of the best of this new breed of leaders is Atlanta’s inspiring mayor, 41-year-old Kasim Reed. A former Georgia state senator, Reed won Atlanta’s mayoral race in December 2009 by 714 votes. The day he took office, Atlanta had $7.4 million in reserves, an out-of-control budget and was laying off so many firefighters there were only three personnel on a truck, below national standards. A year later, it has $58 million in reserves, and Reed has a 70 percent approval rating — which he earned the hard way.

Reed started his reforms by enlisting two professionals, not cronies, to help run the city: Peter Aman, a partner at Bain & Company, a consultancy, to be his chief operating officer; and John Mellott, a former publisher of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, to lead a pension review panel. Atlanta has 7,000 city employees, but today, says Reed, “you can’t hire a receptionist” without it “personally being approved by Aman.”

Then Reed tackled the city’s biggest problem: runaway pensions, which were eating up 20 percent of tax revenues and are rising. In the early 2000s, the police, fire and municipal workers’ unions persuaded the city to raise all their pensions — and make it retroactive. So, between 2001 and 2009, Atlanta’s unfunded pension obligations grew from $321 million to $1.484 billion. Yikes.

Reed couldn’t cut existing pensions without lawsuits, but he cut back pensions for all new employees to pre-2000 levels and raised the vesting period to 15 years from 10. When union picketers swarmed city hall to protest, Reed invited them all into his office — in shifts — where he patiently explained, with charts, that without pension reform everyone’s pensions would go bust.

By getting the city’s budget under control, Reed then had some money to invest in more police officers and, what he wanted most, to reopen the 16 recreation centers and swimming pools in the city’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods, which had been shuttered for lack of money. “People were shooting dice in the empty pools,” he said. Local businesses have now offered to finance after-school job-skills programs in the reopened centers. Cut here. Invest there.

Reed combines a soft touch with a hard head. I like how he talks about both Atlanta and America: “We are not going to be what we have been for the last 50 years if we don’t change, and everybody in a position to have more than two people listening to them needs to be saying that, because the time we have to make the adjustments is running out. We need to get on with it. Whether it’s the deficit, education or investing in young people or immigration — we are not tackling [them] in the fundamental ways required. We’re just doing it piecemeal. We’re just playing and surviving. And we need to be very clear where just surviving takes you: it takes you to a lifestyle of just survival.”

via Cut Here. Invest There. – NYTimes.com.

Note- economic development in Atlanta is hiring more police officers and reopening recreation centers- and then letting business take care of business.

Atlanta is considered a boom town when compared to Dayton. If they are solving problems by improving quality of life- why aren’t we focused on that- instead of the mysterious “economic development” by government?

Tearing down houses doesn’t bring us more social capital. Where is the plan to bring more people to Dayton?

When are we going to tell the world we’ve got a great place to operate inexpensively- then do everything we can to make it true? It’s time to give up control on areas we’ve given up on- and let market forces go wild.

It’s time to guarantee that if you invest in Dayton- you won’t be broken into. That your building won’t be tagged with graffiti.  It’s time to cut the bureaucracy – and the overhead of so many watchdogs- who aren’t doing anything except getting in the way.

It’s time to present a vision- and head toward it at full force.

And, I’m not picking on Mayor Leitzell- it’s just using the alliteration of leadership and Leitzell- there are a whole bunch of “leaders” in this town that need to get focused and fast.

Note- I added bold and italics to “inspiring mayor” above. It’s time to inspire Mayor Leitzell.

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9 Responses

  1. Mike Hunt December 29, 2010 / 6:28 pm
    Having too many employee’s and golden parachute pensions. Sounds like Feldman and the rest of the over-paid county offices. Worked there for 25 years and the abuse of power and money is sad.

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  2. Civil Servants Are People, Too December 30, 2010 / 2:42 am
    Actually, Atlanta has almost the same incentive programs as Dayton.   The State of Georgia has something literally called the MEGA tax credit program.   How’s that for obvious marketing?  MEGA bucks!  (It is similar to Ohio’s jobs tax credit)
     
    Comparing the two cities is quite a stretch.   Why not Chicago, NYC or London then?   Saying Dayton should be like Atlanta is like saying every mom-and-pop store should be more like Target.   Let’s be real.
     
    Perhaps someplace more comparable would be a better choice. Our region simply does not have the assets of a megacity in terms of leadership –  be it corporate, political, or otherwise.   Let’s look to Youngstown, Buffalo, Peoria, maybe even Indianapolis or Louisville for more realistic models.   The Rust Belt and the Sun Belt are very different places.  In fact, I’ve read from several sources that the big winner in the last year was North Dakota!  Why?
     
    On the other hand, I agree there is a void in regional leadership.   Not to beat a dead horse but in my opinion, the biggest loss from losing NCR to Atlanta is not jobs, corporate donations, or taxes – but the generations of community leaders and entrepreneurs they trained in Dayton.  We need more strong voices to carry the tune.
     
    PS.  If I’m not mistaken, isn’t Dayton hiring a huge batch of police officers right now??
     

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  3. David Esrati December 30, 2010 / 6:38 am

    @CSAPT- why do you always set your sights so low? The point was- a mayor can tackle huge problems- by identifying issues and then solving them. We’ve not seen anything except the trash bill not go up out of Leitzell in a year.

    And- we are in the process of hiring police officers- like we’ve been for the last 4 years- and now we’ve reached critical fail on it. We even sued ourselves. Our processes are borked- and our leadership isn’t acting.

    You aim way too low- you make excuses about following rules. If we always did as we did- we still wouldn’t fly.

     

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  4. Civil Servants Are People, Too December 30, 2010 / 2:42 pm
    I hear your point but respectfully disagree.   There is a difference between setting a high standard and having pie-in-the-sky expectations that will never happen.   There are real lessons to be learned in our backyard, not just a mega metropolis hundreds of miles away.
     
    Personally, I am too much of a pragmatist to be a true dreamer, John Lennon style.   I would rather be successful on 95% of the little things than wasting 95% of my time chasing the big things.   There is NO single game changer that will dramatically alter the landscape.  It takes time and persistence.
     
    Let’s be specific now.  How exactly would you suggest that your Mayor accomplish your proposal:

    It’s time to guarantee that if you invest in Dayton- you won’t be broken into. That your building won’t be tagged with graffiti.

     
    I would like to know your strategy, because that would be truly remarkable!   I think if you spent every last city dollar on law enforcement, you would still fail that test.
     
    Even in fair Kettering, playgrounds are literally being burned to the ground.
     

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  5. David Esrati December 30, 2010 / 8:01 pm

    @CSAPT- you mean to say- even though ATL is much bigger- and one man can make a huge difference- we can’t do the same because we’re somehow unable to have “game changers”

    As to stopping tagging- video surveillance, putting bounties on taggers, and as to break ins- there are security systems that can broadcast realtime HD video directly into police cruisers now. Offer tax breaks to businesses that install these systems.

    We can also decriminalize small amounts of dope- increase our resources on curing junkies- and put convicts back to work- instead of stigmatizing them further with all kinds of hurdles we put in place.

    But- the main way we go about stopping crime- is by creating a sense of a future-

    something you apparently don’t believe in.

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  6. djw December 30, 2010 / 11:18 pm
    I would rather be successful on 95% of the little things than wasting 95% of my time chasing the big things.

    I suspect if that were the city of Dayton’s batting average, our host would complain a fair bit less.

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  7. Gary January 2, 2011 / 6:30 pm
    We’ve not seen anything except the trash bill not go up out of Leitzell in a year.
    David, Pretty sure I heard the City Manager today report at their City Commision Meeting that it’s going to go up!

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  8. John Ise January 3, 2011 / 11:42 am
    I wonder if Dayton would embrace Philly’s model of “economic development”.

    Philadelphia’s Open-Door Immigrant Policy
    Immigrant populations remain a key source of economic development for inner cities.
    Tod Newcombe | January 2011
     
    Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration has taken an unabashed pro-immigrant stance, welcoming all with no questions asked. It may sound a bit extreme, but the move by the City of Brotherly Love reflects an open-arms approach to immigrants in urban areas — and there’s a reason for this open-door policy. Immigrants have been good for cities throughout history, and that symbiotic relationship continues today.
    In Philadelphia, the immigrant story has become a prominent feature of life: Foreign-born residents make up 9 percent of the population in the metro region, which has the fastest-growing immigrant base among its peers, according to a 2008 Brookings Institution report.
    Despite the fact that four in 10 immigrants now move directly to the suburbs when they arrive in America, they remain a key source of economic development for inner cities. In 2005, Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter wrote a report showing that 5.5 million immigrants had been a catalyst for development and investment in inner cities, spurring job growth in 10 inner cities that outpaced job growth in their broader metropolitan areas. Other studies have come to the same conclusion: Cities with thriving immigrant populations tend to prosper the most.
    In Dearborn, Mich., Arab immigrants have become a lifeboat for the local economy. Overall, the Arab-American community is now 200,000 strong in southeastern Michigan and produces $7.7 billion annually in salaries and earnings, according to a 2007 Wayne State University study. As the influx of Arab-Americans expands and their impact on the region’s economy continues to grow, downtrodden Detroit is looking to entice them into its inner core, the one area where Arabs haven’t set down roots.
    One way Detroit hopes to make that happen is by setting up an economic development center that specializes in recruiting immigrant investors. Known in government circles as an EB-5 investment visa regional center, it allows immigrants who are willing to invest at least $500,000 in cities with high unemployment, permanent resident status in return. Detroit will join 80 other cities in setting up such a program.
    In November, the National League of Cities released a report on how 20 cities have integrated immigrants into city life. Recognizing the policy vacuum at the national level, the report, Municipal Innovations in Immigrant Integration, provides examples of ways municipalities have figured out how to move immigrants into the mainstream. Some examples come from the nation’s largest cities, but others — such as Littleton, Colo. — have used a simple but effective grass-roots approach that involves volunteers who help steer immigrants onto a path of self-reliance and citizenship.
    Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, local leaders are doing what they can to make the city an immigrant hub. Some of their ideas have been controversial, such as pushing city services and jobs into immigrant neighborhoods. But as Israel Colon, the city’s director of multicultural affairs, explained to Governing in a July 2010 interview, immigrants aren’t going away. So rather than try to drive them out, as some cities have, Nutter’s administration wants to rely on them, no matter their resident status, to help the city grow and prosper.

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  9. Donald Phillips January 10, 2011 / 12:14 pm
    I’m astonished at your criticism of Mr. Leitzell! How may Midwestern burgs have mayors who speak pukka and paint toy soldiers?

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