“What is Esrati’s end game”

Graphic accompanying Esrati's Endgame postA friend was asked this week, “you know Esrati, what’s his end game?” and my friend had no answer.

Really, it hasn’t changed since I bought my crap house in South Park on Jan 28, 1986- the day the Challenger space shuttle blew up. Buy low, sell high.

Sure, my $14,500 house could sell for 10x that now. And my neighborhood is one of the few in Dayton that has rising property values. But, that’s not enough.

Dayton Ohio, as a city, hasn’t seen the same prosperity, and other neighborhoods are suffering. It’s why I set out to run for Mayor back in 1993, after experiencing the incompetence of the leaders who jack slapped me for installing the “wrong garage doors” on a “historic home” way back when.

All these years later, the same kind of fools think they know how to fix Dayton, and instead, keep dragging it down.

When I talked to Paul Leonard, the “Rock-n-Roll Mayor” of Dayton- who was leaving just as I came to town, he asked a simple question: “What happened to “be the cleanest, safest city in America”? And there you have it. We went from a simple guiding principal, to one of let’s pretend government knows how to do “economic development.”

We blew a ton of money on the Arcade back in the early 80’s- and are about to do it again. We built the tower next to the arcade with tax dollars- and then lost it. We built new schools, only to see them shrink and die. We’ve torn down old buildings, and made it impossible to re-purpose them, so that they become rotting reminders of what was once a boom town. We’ve raised taxes to support a patchwork of fiefdoms, that add no value at all to the community- with more police chiefs, fire chiefs, mayors, city managers and school superintendents for  half a million odd people- while the city of NYC with 8.5 Million people can manage with one each.

I could go on, with the quasi-governmental organizations, non-profits and end-runs around a system so convoluted no one knows who does what and why- many with tax dollar support, and zero oversight;  like the morons running the Metro Library system with $187M of your tax dollars- and no respect for your rights, or Sinclair Community College which is doing everything with Montgomery County money that it gets- to expand services outside the county.

Which brings me to my end game. It’s really simple. Uni-government, that’s run by people who are elected, not anointed in the bowels of political party HQs. A government that believes in good schools, safe streets, excellent services, equal opportunities and fair and equitable taxation and incentives.

It’s really not that complicated. It’s not utopia. It’s just not possible in this lifetime says my friend, who posed this question to me.

But, that’s the problem with Esrati. He’s wired differently and thinks “Yes we can.”

I’ve spelled out the framework for Reconstructing Dayton. And, hopefully, as soon as I get past these two lawsuits, and the primary this spring has enough people named to the Montgomery County Democratic Party Central Committee to stop being the party of patronage, we can get moving on undoing the stupidity of people who believe that you have to color within the lines drawn in 1785 when Ohio was formed by the “Northwest Ordinance.”

Who in their right mind wouldn’t like to see Greene County and Montgomery County join together and create a single government that has one set of courts, one police force, one safe jail, one zoning law, one tax collecting authority, etc etc. (other than all the micro-minded people “working” in micro-fiefdoms like Moraine, Clayton, or Oakwood- don’t get me started on the urban township tax dodges).

Go look at the growth in Columbus, Cincinnati and even Cleveland- and ask why isn’t it happening here? This city has so much going for it- yet, we can’t get past all of our personal prejudices. We’re still as racially and economically separated as ever, we have people living in poverty for no good reason, and jobs and industry are passing us by. We used to build things like trucks, refrigerators, cash registers in Dayton- now, the world turns to places like Spartanburg SC and Marysville Ohio. There is a reason for that, and it is us.

It’s time to have a serious discussion of these issues. To analyze how we’ve become a place that has to pay people to come invest. A place where we have all the pieces to build a great economy, but lack the instructions on how to put them together effectively.

That’s my end game. Are you in?

Health Department shuts down Rahn’s Artisan Breads after 15 years at 2nd Street Market


this post was published at 10:51 a.m. It set off a bunch of wheels in motion, and now, compromises and options are being discussed. I’ve changed some of the more inflammatory words- and removed some parts, in the hope that Rahn can be open again tomorrow- and that a sink solution can be in place soon- and we can more on. Typically, once I post, things don’t change. at 3:36 today – they did. This is a first.

Rahn's Artisan Breads closed by the health department

The scene at the 2nd Street Market on Saturday March 3rd at 10:30 am. Usually there is a bread line

The 2nd Street market has had a staple since it started- fresh, hot bread, from Rahn’s Artisan Breads. Until today.

full disclosure- I’ve been friends with Rahn since College at Wright State, and my firm, The Next Wave does work for him.

The Montgomery County Combined Health District decided to throw their weight around and closed Rahn down today because they believe they have jurisdiction. Rahn, as a manufacturer, falls under the Ag department which has a different standard than a food service provider. This has been the way it’s been for 15 years- and there has never been a single outbreak of food borne illness or issue.

What is causing the hang up? The health department wants a hand sink in his stall. Purell on a pump isn’t good enough. Gloves when handling bread isn’t an acceptable option. No, instead, we’ll close him down.

Note, the bathrooms for the market are almost directly across the hall from Rahn’s booth- no different than having a door on a bathroom in a restaurant where the hand sink might be.

The problem Rahn faces is if he brings the bread to the market hot, he has to slice it for customers on site, since it can’t be sliced hot- and bagged at his bakery.

Apparently, one person complained to the health department after 15 years, and the health department inspector feels that this is somehow their territory now. Options included a very expensive plumbing from the bathroom across the hall, a portable sink, or well, by the same standard food carts and trucks use- Purell or even a non-functioning sink.

This is a case of government shooting itself in the foot.

The person to call to protest this action is ___ ___________ at the Public Health Department- XXX-XXX-XXXX
If you’ve enjoyed the bread from Rahn’s- please pray.

Hopefully, he can be open on Saturday- so I can buy my mom her Chocolate Croissant, and I can get a loaf of sliced Abruzzi, and maybe even some Irish Soda Bread.


Dems still endorsing in primaries

Usually, I stand up and make a speech telling the party that endorsing in primary elections is wrong. But, last night I was at the Fairgrounds to Future meeting during the party executive committee meeting.

I’ll have more on that song and dance in a later post.

Then, as I raced over to make the central committee meeting (why we have 2 meetings is beyond me) all I could think about was talking to Dennis Kucinich about my Dad. They were friends going back to when Dennis was a copy boy (yes- that was the job title) at the Plain Dealer in the sixties where my Dad was a copy editor. I had a copy of the obituary I wrote for my father printed out.

Dennis Kucinich with David Esrati

Dennis Kucinich, man of the people and a friend of my father. David Esrati (center) JFK (framed in the background right)

As I stood outside Mark Owen’s office- while Dennis was being interviewed about the closing of Good Sam, I remember my dad telling me about how Dennis had stood up for the people of Cleveland when he reversed the deal to sell the public utility, Muny Light to the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company (CEI)  a private company. I was around 16. I had heard about Dennis through the media- where he was called the “Boy Mayor” because of both his youth- and his resemblance  to Alfred E. Newman- from Mad Magazine. The city was being punished by being forced into bankruptcy. Dad said Dennis had done the right thing, fighting the establishment that wanted to steal from the people and privatize a public service. He explained how all this worked, and said Dennis was the man for the people.

Something that’s incredibly clear now. Dennis is still fighting the good fight- for Single Payer health care, taking a stand against fracking, fighting Monsanto and their designer seeds to work with toxic weed killers.

Unlike our local party elite- I’m glad Dennis is battling Richard Cordray in a primary- although I think Rich is a really good guy too- and we don’t lose if either of them become governor, I’m going with Dennis because he’s been fighting these fights- and putting his own life on the line (there were death threats against him in Cleveland through all that turmoil) and started fighting for the people when Cordray was still in diapers.

When Dennis was done with the cameras, I said, “this might be really short, my name is David Esrati” to Dennis- he said, “Last name?” and was looking at me intently, “Esrati”- he said immediately “Steve’s son? Is he still with us” and I told him know- and handed him the obit. He started gushing about how smart my dad was, and how he had such an interesting history. It meant the world to me.

After Dennis spoke, I went back and asked to take a photo with him, mostly to show Mom and see if it would trigger any memories. She didn’t recognize Dennis, but once I started telling her who it was- it seemed to come back. She remembered her husband, and what a special man he was, just as Dennis had said.

And, shame on the Montgomery County Democratic Party for continuing to endorse in primaries.

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The Republican lie about purging voter rolls in Ohio

The entire system of voter registration in the state of Ohio is a joke, as are the processes to get on the ballot, start a voter driven initiative and to change the State Constitution. We have local “Board of (S)Elections” that are run by the two political parties for their own edification. We have multiple voter registration databases instead of one, we have different tabulation systems and even different voting machines. Nothing talks to anything smoothly, and there is no standard system.

sample canadian ballot

Paper ballots, with standardized design, marked clearly.

As if the fiasco in 2000 in Florida with the “Butterfly ballots” wasn’t enough to tell us that we may have some fundamental problems with the way we manage our elections.

Compare the last ballot you filled out- to what the standard is for all of Canada. There is no question of who, or what you are voting for. The registration system is also national, not local. The real question is why is removing people from voter rolls so critical? Is it because of voter fraud? We’ve not seen any evidence of that (except Dr. Adil Baguirov and his business partner who were allowed to vote from a place they didn’t live- without consequence or investigation) I once identified something that looked like we had a problem with our voter database in Montgomery county- but no one seemed to care.

So now, our method of purging voters has made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which is absolutely fascinating, because, I have proof (I’m saving it for the end) that the purge of voters isn’t about anything but keeping voters away from the polls, limiting elections to the party faithful (the Monarchy of Montgomery County etc.) and nothing else.

In a spirited argument on Wednesday (Jan. 10, 2018), the Supreme Court appeared deeply divided over whether Ohio may kick people off the voting rolls if they skip a few elections and fail to respond to a notice from state officials.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Ohio’s approach effectively disenfranchised minority and homeless voters in the state’s major cities and was part of a broader effort to suppress voting.

“All of these impediments result in large numbers of people not voting in certain parts of the state,” she said.

But Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Stephen G. Breyer expressed concern about maintaining the integrity of the state’s list of eligible voters.

“The reason they’re purging them,” Justice Kennedy said, “is they want to protect the voter rolls from people that have moved.”…

Ohio is more aggressive than any other state in purging its voter rolls. After skipping a single federal election cycle, voters are sent a notice. If they fail to respond and do not vote in the next four years, their names are purged from the rolls.

A few other states use similar approaches, but not one of them moves as fast. “Ohio is the only state that commences such a process based on the failure to vote in a single federal election cycle,” said a brief from the League of Women Voters and the Brennan Center for Justice. “Literally every other state uses a different, and more voter-protective, practice.”

Source: Supreme Court Weighs Purge of Ohio Voting Rolls – The New York Times

At the exact time this was going on, I received an automated piece of mail from the Montgomery County Clerk of Courts (the office Russ Joseph was just anointed to) addressed to my dead father (Aug 18,2016) asking him to report for Jury Duty.

One would think that when a death certificate is filed with county, that record would clearly be used to purge the voter rolls and the DMV registrations. Looking up my dad at both the state and local level, he’s not in the voter database, so how is he being called for Jury duty?

Must be his drivers license, which should have been terminated as well. Of course, when going to vote, a state issued ID is mandated, so wouldn’t it be appropriate to remove that record as well?

Being the dutiful son, I went to the website and filled out the questionnaire to request he be excused. He qualified because of his age, but- I made sure to fill in a reason he couldn’t serve “Because I am dead, Aug 18, 2016).

Imagine my surprise a week later when I got the form letter to the dead guy- that he was excused from Jury duty. Why thank you Russ Joseph.

Maybe it’s time Ohio stopped entrusting the voter rolls and DMV records to incompetents.

That may go a long way to stopping the argument about purging voter registrations without involving the Supreme Court.

It’s still a party instead of an organization for all local dems

Somewhere I read the invite wrong- I thought the Montgomery County Democratic Party was actually going to admit that their way of working wasn’t, and it was time for a real change.

I went to the meeting last Thursday night in the stunning new quarters (the old building was a shithole) and saw a huge crowd, including many fresh faces. The time to do a mea culpa was ripe- after Montgomery County voted for Trump, and Gary Leitzell came withing spitting distance of dethroning Debbie Lieberman on the county commission, despite spending almost no money, creating no organization, and having zero support from the local Republican party which may be only slightly more incompetent than the local dems.

The fact that the opposing party chair, Sheriff Phil Plummer was unopposed, despite news story after news story of incompetence, criminal behavior and racist tendencies in his department should be the first clue that the Dems are impotent.

But, we got a short speech from Party Chairman Mark Owens, a short speech from Mayor Nan Whaley- who still think that electing a woman president is more important than electing democrats, and the introduction of Sarah Greathouse as the new executive director. Willis Blackshear stepped up to speak for Fred Strahorn, as if only a black elected man can stand in for another black elected man ( of which there are only a handful in this county), and then off to socialize.

Greathouse and her husband have been political campaign consultants in the area for at least the last ten years. They’re part of the party inner circle. It will be interesting to see if she is able to bring some sophistication to the mechanics of the organization- starting with a website that isn’t a joke.

Nothing was said about a plan to regain seats, although they did have a monster list of all the seats that will be available in 2017 for people to volunteer to run for.

That list should be available, along with every open seat, requirements for running, job responsibility, etc on the local board of elections site- but that would require competency there too- which isn’t possible since the people running the BOE are appointed by the incompetent parties, neither of which actually has wanted people who aren’t on the friends and family plan to run.

What the party needed to do?

Stop all endorsing of candidates in primaries and pre-selection process. The object is to elect dems, not to narrow the field before an election. A party with a strong and active base, should be able to inform their members of who their choices are- and by members, I mean all Dems in the County- not just the card carrying cabal that has been running things for time eternal.

Bring  back the candidates school, but take a lot of the trouble of running a campaign out of the hands of novices. It’s hard enough for people to decide to step up to run, while having jobs, families, and other responsibilities- but also having to learn how to do a website, manage the voter walking lists, craft campaign materials, order signs, distribute said signs and materials, go to candidates nights, knock on doors and of course raise money.

This is the parties job. It would be easier to build one network of websites for all Dem candidates, including donation tools, manage all the door-to-door data and targeting for candidates (who generally have no idea how data-driven modern campaigns are- or would have any way of managing it)- building one master list of Dem voters and letting all the candidates update and use it. Never again should a presidential campaign come to town- building the data from scratch as well as finding the people to do the work, that should be in place. That’s the difference between a political organization- and a “Party” that’s more like a social club for those who know the handshake.

And most importantly, someone needs to build a data wall- of all the available offices- and start planning who will run for every seat, in the not only the next election, but also the one after that and the one after that. I like Rob Klepinger, but, running him against Mike Turner twice was a joke, as have been every other challenger for the last 14 years.

The real key will be to take over the statehouse despite gerrymandered districts for the 2020 session- when redistricting is up next- or, figure out a legal strategy to force districts that make both geographic and rational sense. While Turner’s district is actually now manageable in one media market, a look at the seat vacated by John Boehner and now owned by Warren Davidson- that stretches from Cincinnati up to Mercer County- is not.

An inclusive organization, that puts democratic principals ahead of personal relationships is the only way we’ll see change.

Willis Blackshear and I will have a sit down after the turn of the year to discuss these issues. I already know we don’t agree on the endorsement in primaries, but, we’ll see who is more persuasive.

Telling people “it’s not your time” or asking them “if we don’t endorse you, will you drop out” are the two least democratic sayings of the local party.

And if you need proof of why parties aren’t the best people to pick candidates, twice the local party and the state and national party chose a woman to run for president, only to be beat by a novice black man with an Arabic middle name the first time, and by a reality show host the second.

Unfortunately, for this current crew- their next best choice for running a governor is probably a reality show host who was arrested for picking up a prostitute- Jerry Springer. Need I say more?