When the newspaper of public record- isn’t

Screen shot of public records notices in Dayton Daily News

These are expensive ads.

Years back, A.J. Wagner looked at the amount of money the County was spending on required publication of public documents- court dockets, bid notices, sheriffs sales etc. and wondered if he couldn’t save money by buying ads in the freely distributed Dayton City Paper.

The local “newspaper” run by the billionaire Cox sisters cried foul. Apparently, the newsprint they print on is somehow more informative, more legal, regal and deserving of that public money.

They went to court. They won. The ads and the taxpayer money, went back to subsidizing our poor excuse for a paper.

This is something that could easily be replaced by a simple county wide website for public notices, that would cost less to run than what they spend in a day of the small print classified ads in the Dayton Daily.

Why am I railing about this today?

It’s been 4 weeks since my father, Stephen G. Esrati passed from this planet, and so far, not a mention of his demise in the death notices. He lived in Montgomery County, he died in Montgomery County at the Dayton VA hospice, and his body was sent to Greene County- to the Wright State School of Medicine. Not a word in the death notices, unless I really missed something. I picked up the death certificate over 3 weeks ago from the Reibold building. It’s on record.

Just not in our newspaper of record.

It’s time to save some money and stop pretending that the Dayton Daily news is doing us some kind of public service by publishing the page after page of legal notices. I’ve seen some days where the Sheriff’s sale pages take up more space than the Sunday Real Estate section. Why again are we paying for this?

For around $1500 a week, I could have a website that is searchable- with all the listings of public records, and print a 1000 booklets with the same info for those who want a printed copy. The Dayton Daily is probably taking in over $2500 a day on this.

Newspaper of record? Not in my book.

It’s your tax money they are speculating with…

Tonight, the Dayton City Commission bought the hole in the ground where the Schwind and the Dayton Daily news used to sit. They spent $450K of your money. That hole still has to be filled in. The old Cox historic building- nope, they didn’t buy that. They left that with the demolition contractor, who no doubt will be the one they pay to fill the hole he left.

They also handed over the “Paru Tower” to the land bank- so they wouldn’t have to pay taxes to the schools. And Mayor Nan has the nerve to call herself the education mayor. Not only did they pay $500K for it- keeping it out of the hands of private developers who were willing to pay $350K for it- and pay taxes, they gave a commitment to the Landbank for $250K for “maintenance.”

Oh, and, they also decided to commit to a three way contract to build a multi-million dollar bandshell  on Dave Hall Plaza to give free concerts, and contribute another $500k.

All in one evening. And remember, they want to raise taxes in November.

Because this was such an epic night of mis-directing tax dollars to private ambitions, instead of the public good, I decided to go down and speak. I had plenty better to do, which is why I’m writing this at 11:15 at night, at work.

Here’s what I said- give or take, before the three minute timer went off:

It’s nice to be here in a real, legal, political meeting, where I know I won’t be rudely interrupted or have the mic shut off.

You weren’t hired to be real estate speculators. You were hired to run a city and provide services to our citizens.

You’re failing.

Former Mayor Paul Leonard said that he counts on me to try to keep you straight and honest. I take that as an honor. He asked me, “Whatever happened to being the safest cleanest city?”

And I wonder that too.

Because, frankly, I think the problem in this city is sitting in front of me.

How else do we have a police force that’s half the size, and can’t solve the murder of one of their own, over 16 years later?

Or find the murderer of SGT Major North Woodall?

Or find the cretin who stabbed a young girl on a school playground, in broad daylight?

Maybe it’s because you have money to buy buildings for which there is no public use.

Not just one, two, or three… but on a shopping spree.

There’s 601 E. Third. $450K

There’s the old Supply One on Wayne. $450K and you gave it away for $10

There’s the old Key bank. $500 K. And now- another $250K to hold it? Really?

And then there’s the Schwind and the Dayton Daily building which are now an expensive hole in the ground.

10 years ago, a local developer had a plan to turn the Schwind into student housing and still comply with the HUD deal. His plan cost $1.7 million then. You’ve spent twice that to tear it down and grow a money pit.

But, lets not stop there. We have a band shell. It’s in Island Park. Apparently, that’s not good enough for you. You want to spend half a million more to build a new bandstand… while people aren’t feeling safe in their homes.

You now have the nerve to be asking for a tax increase?

You’ve spent 5 million on empty buildings and a hole in the ground.

And I’m not even bringing up the $5 million plus you spent without a contract to secure property for the Wayne Avenue Kroger that never came.

The sad thing is it’s really hard to un-elect you thanks to our rigged charter.

But, it isn’t as hard to do a charter amendment anymore.

If you insist on spending millions more on real estate speculation and a band shell, it’s time that we start a charter amendment process to strip you of the ability to spend tax dollars for real estate for which there is no immediate public use.

Another charter amendment to stop you from giving tax breaks to companies that pay their CEO more than 10x what they pay their lowest paid employee.

To end tax breaks and incentives that aren’t equal opportunity open to every business, from the corner store-owner, to the corner office type.

And lastly, it’s time to stop the charade of allowing rich white men to control their own private police forces in the city of Dayton to protect their royal white rear ends.

If you want a cop that has police power, you get them from the City of Dayton, not the UD police, or the Miami Valley Hospital police or the Grandview police or even the Metroparks police.

They’ve all grown while our department has shrunk.

If you want to hire your own, you should have to pay a $50K a year license fee- so we can hire the cops we need so there isn’t blood in the streets-

Which I place fully in your hands.

So, go ahead, be real estate tycoons… because, I’m tired of paying for it, I’m tired of you supporting your supporters, like a certain demolition contractor, and I’m sick of seeing all of the development efforts focused downtown.

I would have continued with this:

There is often talk of West Dayton as a food desert. I don’t see you going into the grocery business…. Why is that?

Get back to basics.

For Kevin Brame. For Sgt Major Woodall, for the 7 year old who’s afraid to go on the playground now.

We, the people of Dayton don’t need any more real estate. We need you to protect our investment in our real estate.

It’s not about the empty buildings, it’s about the ones that still have people living in them.

Because we are supposed to have a government of the people, for the people.

But, I always have to stop at 3 minutes exactly- and they never respond. Because they don’t really work for us, or care what we say.

I’m going to be working with Neighborhoods over Politics [edit and addition- 20 aug 2016] with like minded people who give a shit, [end addition] to write the charter changes and to collect the signatures needed. We’ll be on the primary ballot next Spring, when Joey Williams and Jeff Mims and Nan Whaley will all be trying to get on the ballot for the fall.

If the voters have any common sense, and some good people chose to run, maybe, we can get rid of all three in the primary, change the charter to stop giving away the store to the rich, and actually get some things done.

If you are interested in helping, we’ll have a sign-up soon, but it might help if you either comment on this post, or at least follow it for notifications in the future.


Hara should be the new fairgrounds, run by MetroParks and the Convention and Visitors bureau

Hara ArenaIt’s time to stop playing around with the fairgrounds relocation. The first clue should have been when Hamvention moved to Greene County.

The second should have been when a local pro-sports franchise decided to sit out a season. Dayton built a really nice stadium for the Dragons and gave it away for 20 years. The Nutter Center stole hockey from Hara- very expensively, and then killed it because the building is a disaster to begin with.

Face it. Private enterprise can’t compete with public dollars- and we’ve done everything we can to put the Wamplers out of business, starting with the ridiculous tax burden which takes no heed of the economic development bonus they provided.

Yes, it’s now a shithole. But, dump $20 million into it, make it public, and voila- back comes Hamvention, back comes hockey, and who knows what else. Put the fairgrounds there too. Why not? It’s closer to agricultural parts of the county than downtown is.

And, Jackie Powell has it right:

Hara is a unique venue because it has an arena component as well as a number of different buildings,” (Jacquie) Powell  (president and CEO of the Dayton Convention & Visitor’s Bureau) said. “When you look at the Convention Center, it’s a different setup. The arenas are different too. For the summer months it makes it difficult for us to position groups there.”Furthermore, Hara’s 7,000-seat capacity was the fifth largest in the area — only 13,400-seat UD Arena, 11,000-seat Welcome Stadium, 10,000-seat Nutter Center and 9,000-seat Fifth Third Field are larger.

Source: Hara Arena’s closure highlights needs for updates at other Dayton-area venues – Dayton Business Journal

Turn it into a public venue, invest a little, and give it better management, and we’re all better off. Build a nice soccer/football stadium up there too- and hold regional games. Might be a great place for a regional olympic swimming pool too.

Book sales, Hamvention, and a hockey team are ready to come back, if the County and the fairgrounds board would just stop futzing around.

Make it a joint project between Metroparks and the Dayton Convention and Visitors Bureau for funding and ownership.

Problem solved.



Grandstanding in Dayton, and Travel Bans

There’s never a missed opportunity for our half-a-million dollar Mayor, Nan Whaley, to grandstand. Be it accepting refugees that aren’t coming, or banning travel to North Carolina and Mississippi over stupid legislation against the LGBT community. If there’s a front page story to be made out of making a proclamation or an informal resolution- she’s on top of it.

But, let’s talk about a local travel ban that the city created and now can’t find the “$35,000” it will cost to fix- and the costs the city’s lack of foresight cost a small local independent business.

For decades, 865 N. Main Street was the place to get fried chicken in Downtown Dayton. Chicken Louie’s was an institution. When Lou fell into poor health, the restaurant closed. Because the city of Dayton can’t keep a building safe from scrappers, the building quickly became a very expensive prospect to reopen. Plus, the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on I-75 through Downtown, were also taking their toll on businesses near the construction.

In November of 2014, a business that had begun on W. Third Street, rose to the challenge to bring fried chicken back to N. Main. Plans, permits, inspections, and almost 18 months later, they soft-opened this week. No big grants from the city, no tax abatements, no tax credits- a legitimate, small business opened back up in the old Chicken Louie’s- welcome back to Quincy’s. (Full disclosure- I do the advertising for them- and, they didn’t ask me to write this article).

Only one slight problem, when the city bulldozed a whole bunch of apartment buildings and built a brand new Great Miami Boulevard- they cut off the second entrance to the parking lot. Yep- made a little stub of a driveway- but, no access from the boulevard, only from N. Main, right at the light- making left turns into the lot a mess.

The city, which bought a building on Wayne Avenue for $450,000 and then sold it to a developer from out of town, and gifted them Garden Station as a bonus- can’t find $35,000 to replace the apron and access that they “improved” off the map. Here’s an aerial view courtesy of Google Maps- the yellow area is where a driveway should be- but now has curbs, grass and trees planted.

Aerial view of Quincy's Parking lot

Can Dayton put a driveway back in please?

This is similar to what they did to the old Wympee on E. Third street- when Olive Dive went to turn on their gas main- it turns out that the city had cut the gas line when replacing sidewalks- and was going to try to stick the tenant with the bill.

How 25 feet of concrete or asphalt becomes a $35,000 expense is beyond me. Why the curbs and access hadn’t been worked out and replaced well before the opening is also beyond me. But, I guess real “Economic Development” and a commitment to local small, independent business doesn’t make either the headlines- or, Miss Nan would have taken care of fixing this mistake already.

When people talk about being “business friendly” – it’s about a government that takes care of things like this and thanks the small business for bringing a building back to life. If I were mayor- this kind of bullshit would never fly, and I’d have rented a Bobcat and cleared the path myself, before they opened if I couldn’t get the city to act. A load or two of gravel over what I cleared would be a better start than leaving it as is.

Considering the only thing Nan has proven herself good at is making holes like the one on Ludlow where the perfectly usable Schwind and Dayton Daily News building were- she should be able to get a bulldozer over to Quincy’s on Monday and get this problem taken care of, $35,000 or not.

It’s a tiny investment compared to the value that having this building back in use pays back to the city.

In the meantime- go get yourself some chicken and fish, and be super careful entering and exiting the parking lot.

New plans for the Dayton Arcade leaked

poker-tournamentsThe sudden abandonment of the Fairgrounds project by Miller Valentine left many scratching their heads, especially when their new project, the Dayton Arcade is a project that’s been floundering for almost 30 years.

An anonymous source says Miller Valentine and the city are busy lobbying to grant a limited gambling license to the Arcade for, ready, a poker palace.

Dayton has been identified as poker heaven, with leagues, private games, and bootleg poker operations running rampant and around the clock, especially since the elimination of online poker.

The difference between poker and other table games- if there is actual skill involved, and the house only takes a small rake on every hand. This is why normal casino operations devote a small amount of space to poker, as compared to other actual gambling where the house has much better returns.

The idea is to use poker to draw other businesses, and provide the critical mass of people to sustain round-the-clock food, massages, and other services, as well as liquor- which MV will hold on to to generate revenue.

The Arcade’s poker rotunda also will make a stunning backdrop for televised tournaments.

MV sees this as an opportunity to also lure a boutique hotel operator to the site- and offer “Poker getaway weekends” for the serious poker player.

Plans to have the initiative on the ballot for the fall are being finalized with a hopedfor opening date of April 1, 2017.

Understanding “Dayton Together” rationally

Dan Foley, Valerie Lemmie, Paul Leonard, Mike Kelly and who knows else, may have some ideas about how to reform government, but they have zero ability to sell their plan.

Today’s Dayton Daily news includes this ludicrous statement:

Dayton Together also plans to conduct a cost study to determine if merging the governments will save money.

Foley said the initiative likely will not move forward if it does not benefit taxpayers through cost savings.

“If the answer comes back we can’t save very much, then this probably isn’t going to go very far,” Foley said.

Source: Plan would radically change city, county

How can you present a plan with a straight face, without doing the cost benefit study?

The reality is, there will be major pushback from the status quo; the current elected officials and their little kingdoms of patronage jobs. The local party system in place in Montgomery county is full of elected officials and people they get to hire to cushy, non-accountable jobs in the bowels of government.

These are called the “Party Central Committees” and most people couldn’t tell you who their precinct captain or ward leader is to save their lives. I know, I am one, although I missed the part about the cushy job with nice benefits.

Need an example? There is no reason to have two clerk of courts, with two websites, two court systems, two buildings (even though they are adjoined). Between Mark Owens and Greg Brush, and all the jobs they control (including of course jobs for friends and family) you have massive duplication of resources- plus two extra elected races that people could care less about. Owens is running unopposed if you need proof.

From Foley and Leonard’s editorial:

Many community leaders and elected officials have voiced opposition to our work. Some expressed concern that metro government would disenfranchise minority communities. This is far from our intent, so we hired Dr. Mark Salling, a Cleveland State University demographer, to determine if county council districts could be designed to actually increased minority representation.

Through Dr. Salling’s work, three council districts in the metro structure are majority minority districts — meaning, new opportunities for countywide minority policy makers. In a county that has never in its history elected a minority citizen to the Montgomery County Commission, we see this as a big step for greater inclusion.

Source: Challenges in region call for a metro government

What they’ve proposed is going to be the major sticking point: 10 districts with a representative each, 1 at large and a separate mayor’s race. By eliminating all other elected county positions like engineer, coroner and clerk of courts, leaving only the prosecutor (because nobody screws with Mat Heck in this area) as the only existing elected position that stays- we lose probably a dozen stupid choices on the ballot. Ask most people the difference between the County Auditor and the County Treasurer- and they can’t tell you the difference.

Of course, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley is going to scream the loudest- she ran the most expensive campaign in a long time so she could crown herself queen of the city- an entity that’s a fraction of its former self- thanks to mismanagement, misguided “leadership” and an ingrained system of petty politics that has done no citizen any favors.

She’s got the black ministers on her side and the NAACP as well. Two groups who get way more play in the current system than they ever should command. And in this battle, they’ve already come out strongly against this baby step toward regionalization without a clue of what the current system has effectively done: totally diminished their true power.

More elections and more elected officials, don’t mean more power, they mean less.

This is where civics 101 would come in handy. Take 100 people, give them 10 offices to fill. You now have 90 people, with 10 “elected leaders.” Take a bell curve- which is the way most things distribute- including IQ. Did those 90 people pick the cream- the top 10 smartest people on that curve to lead them?
Probably not. Need proof? Look at the latest Republican primary field for President.

You now have 1 “leader” for every 10 people. This is the current system.

Take a simplified version of the proposed new system. You have 100 people, they vote for 3 people. Their odds of really picking 3 good people have increased.

You now have 1 “leader” for every 32.33 people.

Power hasn’t been diluted near as much, with less leaders, people actually have more power in who they elect.

When you factor in that the new system only has 4 countywide candidates: the prosecutor, the “mayor,” your local zone rep and the one at-large rep, spread out over a much larger population, you’ve actually increased your voting power, giving more control to fewer people to make bigger decisions.

With great power, comes great responsibility.

My initial take is that this plan is asking us to still elect too many people. 10 districts with one regional rep, across seemingly random regions is sort of what we have with the Ohio house and Senate (only with more seats). Trying to figure out who your State Rep is and what population he or she serves is pointless- most Ohioans couldn’t tell you their names either. Ohio would do just fine with a unicameral system (one house instead of two), because again, the more seats actually decrease accountability.

I’m not comfortable with the “mayor” of Dayton/Montgomery County being picked by the population at large either. It will be a very expensive race (especially if Nan decides she wants it) for another titular seat. Instead, I’d rather have a system where the elected body has to pick the person among the 11 that can unite and lead- as in a parliamentary system.

I’m also questioning 10 districts instead of 6 and 1 plus a mayor. Again, the more seats, the more you’ve diluted power.

It’s pretty obvious to those who know what’s going on that this change would turn the party power upside down for a period of time while they figured out how to corrupt it back into the current form- and that may be all that Dan Foley and partners want to do. Who would Karl Keith be if not for being able to hire Mr. Whaley? Or Mark Owens for hiring Matt Josephs brother? (It’s actually the other way around- Matt’s brother and Mark got Matt into office so they could own a piece of their budgetary bosses).

As to the major flaw of this whole mess- allowing the urban townships to keep on operating providing income tax free havens within the county limits- no one is touching that part with a ten-foot pole. Couldn’t possibly want to stop the biggest flaw in our current system- that would take real leadership.


The $20,000 house problem solution

Yes, you can buy a house for under $20,000 in Dayton. I bought three of them.

The problem is that our system isn’t set up for buying $20,000 homes. In fact, banks don’t want to give loans on them, insurance companies don’t want to insure them, and for the most part, people don’t want to live near them- for fear their “comps” will be brought down- devaluing their home.

And I’m talking about the homes that are habitable- not shells, waiting for demolition.

The city is backed up with a demolition list that will never get cleared. We’re spending an average of $11,000 to tear each one down- with no real return on that investment. It’s money down the drain.

In the meantime, we’re giving incentives to build new units to people like Sims Development, and Crawford Hoying, to build more housing. Desirable, “market rate” housing. The problem is- our population is stagnant and declining- not just Dayton proper, not just Montgomery County- but the entire state of Ohio. We’ve lost congressional seats because of it.

What happens when you add housing inventory when you have declining population? Simple rules of supply and demand apply- housing inventory loses value, market gets flooded. The other problem is that the inventory isn’t exactly lining up with the demand. Poverty isn’t decreasing- but the supply of low-income housing is decreasing as subsidies have been cut. Numbers of jobs that can afford to support a normal mortgage have decreased, young college-educated home buyers are already carrying significant college debt. If this sounds like the setup for another economic collapse based on a screwed up housing market, you’re paying attention.

A simple solution

Currently, one of the economic measurement tools that economists love to bandy about is “new home starts.” A strong construction market is considered a jobs stimulator, since the construction industry is still considered a low-tech, blue-collar employment engine- i.e., you don’t need a college degree or even a high school education in their minds to build homes. The reality is you don’t even have to be an American anymore to build homes- with immigrant labor owning the roofing, sheet rocking and masonry work forces for most building developments. That’s both illegal and legal immigrants by the way

What is missed is the effect on supply.

What Ohio should do is put a moratorium on new unit construction unless the state has an increase in population exceeding 2% annually. The only way to build new units, is to buy up and demolish old units with a ratio of one structure for every 2,500 square feet of new construction. The “structure” definition could be variable based on location- more on this later. While this would add approximately $10,000 to the cost of each normal sized new building, it decreases inventory and in the end helps drive up property values.

The worst homes would be demolished first, and the values of marginal homes would rise as new construction credits rise. This would help low-income people recapture some of the value sucked out of their neighborhoods by the foreclosure crisis. It would also stop government from diverting money for services to making empty lots.

Along with the demolition credits, the state could issue credits to rehabbers- for taking old buildings and renovating them- effectively incentivizing rehab. The credits for rehab- would be at double the rate of demolition- i.e., rehab 2,500 square feet, get to sell the equivalent credits of 5,000 square feet of new construction. Why this incentive? Because rehabbing old infrastructure and bringing it back online, doesn’t require government to run new water and sewer lines, nor does it require adding police patrol areas- or, even in the case of infill new construction that wouldn’t require these either- it doesn’t fill up a landfill with demolition debris. It also makes it more affordable for rehab which often has higher costs due to compliance with new construction code .

Incentives can be placed by changing the credit awards structure- with some neighborhoods getting double credits for demolition, and others, fractional credits. Same can go for rehab projects.

Even as population begins to grow- the credit system can be kept in place based on where you are building. Any place where new utilities or infrastructure is required- would continue to require trade credits- infill to existing developments, no. If your county isn’t growing in population, swaps will still be required.

This system is sort of in-place with Historic Tax Credits- but generally is only used on large-scale development. The idea of this new system is to force value back into the worst communities where developers haven’t gone because of the policies of banks and insurance companies.

Do you have a better idea?

Government of the people, for the people reexamined

It was 2012. I ran for Congress. I made a video about the foreclosure crisis and called on the banks to admit responsibility for the properties they seize and let rot.

I didn’t go to the hardest hit parts of the city- I just went a few blocks from my house and office.

Occupied. Home owner. In progress.

Occupied. Home owner. In progress.

The house where I’m sitting on the porch, with the siding falling out on the side- has had occupants for about a year now. It’s still not painted, but, it’s back to habitable.

The guy who lives in it, is young, a contractor, he specializes in floor sanding and refinishing. He’s doing work around the neighborhood- and he, and his lovely girlfriend have been at a few neighborhood functions.

They like it in South Park.

The house had sold at one time for well over $150K- and been totally rehabbed. He bought it for a fraction of that.

What was red, and unsightly is now an Air B&B and architects office

What was red, and unsightly is now an Air B&B and architects office

The house where the sink, furnace, and wiring is cut- is now an architect’s office and Air B&B. People pay $90 a night to stay there. The owner, lives next door. It’s a total rehab- and completely finished. Cute. Friendly. A neighborhood asset.

Why am I pointing these two out?

Because, the city of Dayton did nothing for this to happen. The neighborhood is what made it happen.

People are still investing in South Park, wanting to live here, wanting to fix things up, because of the community we have created. Our public schools suck just as bad as they do for Westwood, or Residence Park or Dayton View- which has way nicer housing stock.

We all have the same crappy street cleaning, same crappy trash collection, same overburdened police, same poor parks and rec department- but houses that would have been doomed for demolition come back from death’s doorstep here. True, the historic zoning makes it harder to tear things down, but, in South Park things are happening.

We have a church- that houses an arts center. We may have another one on the way- right next door. The neighbors produce free Shakespeare in the park, we have progressive parties in the summer, an active neighborhood association. One idiot organizes social soccer on Sundays. We have a book club, hot toddy parties, the list goes on.

Since I moved here in 1986, we’ve been lucky to add places like Custom Frame Services, Halal International Grocery, Pizza Factory, South Park Tavern, Remember When Antiques, Coco’s, Jimmie’s Ladder 11, Spin City, Ghostlight Coffee and The Next Wave as locally owned, independent businesses. Unfortunately, we lost Graeff Hardware, Poppelmeirs, a shoe repair, a car parts store, a small bakery and a few others.

There are still opportunities here- and interest. Someone is thinking about a wine bar, another about a conference center/reception hall.

And all of it happens, without the help of an “Economic Development director” or the “West Dayton Fund” or ED/GE grants, or tax abatements or any of the other government “tools” that you constantly hear about as the reason for a “renaissance.”

On Monday the City Commission will swear in another pawn in the game, and re-seat a seat warmer. The Mayor will talk about all the things that she has accomplished- and yet, things are still grossly wrong in Dayton.

Property values are still moribund. Population is stagnant. Schools are the worst in the state. Our expectations from government are low. Taxes and fees are increasing. Service is lackluster.

The city has cut funds to neighborhoods considerably. Our police force is at record low staffing. Problems we had 25 years ago are still being dealt with- or pushed to the back burner, while we’ve added the heroin epidemic on top of it all. White-collar jobs are still fleeing downtown for Austin Landing, the Greene, and if it wasn’t for Obamacare driving the growth of CareSource, Dayton would be broke.

The focus always seems to be on buildings. We were told if we fixed the Arcade and built new “class A” office space downtown jobs would return, then we were told if we built new schools, performance would improve, now we’re looking at the Arcade again, we’re buying buildings with no public use for a premium over market value, we’re making holes in the ground on Ludlow street- all in the name of “economic development.”

For 2016, my advice to Dayton: go back to Lincoln and the Gettysburg address. Invest in community, in the power of people. Look at communities and figure out if the density is there to have them come back- or look to consolidate to other neighborhoods. Find ways to improve the quality of life. Stress pride in our community. Talk about what we have that’s working- and celebrate those that make living in the city awesome. Find ways to empower people who homestead. Look at empty houses as opportunities. And most of all, stop accepting mediocrity.

We need to dig in and find our collective integrity, a new respect for our citizens, innovate our way around the hand we’ve been dealt, inspire all to expect more, and bootstrap our way into being a city that is once again known as the cleanest, safest city in America. Invest in people, not in the buildings- and the return will surprise you.

South Park isn’t perfect, but, we’ve managed to buck all trends. It happened because we decided that we wanted something better, and came together to make it happen.

Of the people, for the people.

An outsider’s prescription for Dayton


The ignored secret behind successful organizations (and nations) is infrastructure. Not the content of what’s happening, but the things that allow that content to turn into something productive.

Here are some elements worth considering:

  • Transportation: Ideas and stuff have to move around. The more quickly, efficiently and safely, the better. This is not just roads, but wifi, community centers and even trade shows. Getting things, people and ideas from one place to another, safely and on time is essential to what we seek to build.
  • Expectation: When people wake up in the morning expecting good things to happen, believing that things are possible, open to new ideas–those beliefs become self-fulfilling. We expect that it’s possible to travel somewhere safely, and we expect that speaking up about a new idea won’t lead us to get fired. People in trauma can’t learn or leap or produce very much.
  • Education: When we are surrounded by people who are skilled, smart and confident, far more gets done. When we learn something new, our productivity goes up.
  • Civility: Not just table manners, but an environment without bullying, without bribery, without coercion. Clean air, not just to breathe, but to speak in.

Infrastructure and culture overlap in a thousand ways.

At the organizational level, then, it’s possible to invest in a workplace where things work, where the tools are at hand, where meetings don’t paralyze progress, where decisions get made when they need to get made (and where they don’t get undone).

It’s possible to build a workplace where people expect good things, from their leaders and their peers and the market. Where we expect to be heard when we have something to say, and expect that with hard work, we can make a difference.

It’s possible to invest in hiring people who are educated (not merely good grades, but good intent) and to keep those people trained and up to speed.

And it’s essential for that workplace to be one where the rule of law prevails, where people are treated with dignity and respect and where short term urgency is never used as a chance to declare martial law and abandon the principles that built the organization in the first place.

Yes, I believe the same is true for nation states. It’s not sexy to talk about building or maintaining an infrastructure, but just try to change the world without one.

Here’s something that’s unavoidably true: Investing in infrastructure always pays off. Always. Not just most of the time, but every single time. Sometimes the payoff takes longer than we’d like, sometimes there may be more efficient ways to get the same result, but every time we spend time and money on the four things, we’re surprised at how much of a difference it makes.It’s also worth noting that for organizations and countries, infrastructure investments are most effective when they are centralized and consistent. Bootstrapping is a great concept, but it works best when we’re in an environment that encourages it.

The biggest difference between 2015 and 1915 aren’t the ideas we have or the humans around us. It’s the technology, the civilization and the expectations in our infrastructure. Where you’re born has more to do with your future than just about anything else, and that’s because of infrastructure.

When we invest (and it’s expensive) in all four of these elements, things get better. It’s easy to take them for granted, which is why visiting an organization or nation that doesn’t have them is such a powerful wake up call.

Source: Seth’s Blog: Infrastructure

As I sat stuck in a traffic jam yesterday reaching from Downtown to Moraine, on I-75 N at 4:30 pm, I thought about who was the idiot who has I75, Main St, Warren Street- all covered with orange barrels at the same time? Who wasn’t working proactively, right then- to not just clear the blockage- but, trying to re-route as much traffic onto alternative roadways, and also- how did we allow the I-75 downtown reconstruction to shut down all the exits to downtown for so long…

But, then I realized the answer is nobody, because we don’t have leadership with the vision to see the implications of our pettiness, because it’s all we know. We have, and have had, leadership for so long that’s arrogant, unresponsive, and hell bent on their political future more than our regions. And then this piece comes out from Seth Godin this morning.

What started me on my political highway of failure at the hands of an uninformed and underinformed voter base, is summed up in Seth’s fourth point- Civility.

After crossing the gods of garage door appropriateness,  I went for help from my elected leaders with the asinine notion that they would listen and help.

Seth: “but an environment without bullying, without bribery, without coercion.”

When I went to the City Commission out of frustration about garbage collectors working 30 hours, getting paid for 56- and got shut down- and then the Commission had a secret, illegal meeting to discuss ways to block citizens from speaking at City Commission meetings- I expected a groundswell of support as I brought this issue to the forefront. Instead, I was arrested, mocked, and locked into a prolonged legal battle when all the resources were stacked in their corner.

Seth: “we expect that speaking up about a new idea won’t lead us to get fired.”

Our City (Dayton – the location on the map, not the one divvied by political fiefdoms that battle constantly) would do well to look at Seth’s list of four simple elements of “infrastructure” to learn how to put things back into order.

It’s not about highways and civil engineering – it’s about civility.

It’s not about big ideas- it’s about being free to express them, without fear.

It’s not about education- it’s about the values we place on it.

And lastly, it’s not really about infrastructure as much as it is about values we hold sacred.

For the benefit of all of us, not just the inner cabal of the  Monarchy of Montgomery County.

Thank you Seth Godin.



Faux regionalism plan finds foes pre-launch: must be good

The headline is a joke. “Plan divides Democratic leaders” says today’s Dayton Daily news. Calling them “leaders” is the first miscue, and the second is referring to them as “Democratic” since the party has worked to make sure no one gets elected, or even on the ballot, before first passing muster in front of a select group of a “screening committee” of which Dayton Clerk of Courts Mark Owens and County Commissioner Dan Foley both are a part of. They endorse pre-primary filing, to strongly advise people NOT TO RUN- unless they gain the endorsement. This is how it is in the “Democratic” monarchy of Montgomery County.

The paper says there is a rift between Owens and Foley:

One county commissioner’s plan to unify the governments of Dayton and Montgomery County has apparently caused a rift between the Democrat and his party chairman before a coming announcement this week detailing the consolidation effort.

Commissioner Dan Foley, a longtime advocate for a more regional government, said he will announce the proposal, called Dayton Together, downtown on Thursday. On Monday, Montgomery County Democratic Party Chairman Mark Owens tersely questioned Foley’s merger plan push.

In the letter, Owens writes to Foley: “First, a number of questions have been raised about the transparency of your actions to date, the process you are planning, who is involved and how your plans are being funded.” Foley said this effort shouldn’t come as a surprise to the community as he became active in the discussion as early as 2008 after he was first elected commissioner in 2006. Paul Leonard, former Dayton mayor and lieutenant governor, is co-chair of a 16-member committee working on the charter. Foley said committee members working on the plan would be revealed Thursday at the 1 p.m. news conference at the Engineers Club of Dayton.

“Our first job that we are going to be announcing Thursday is really building this charter so people can then form an opinion about whether they support it or not,” Foley said.

This is just the first step in a months-long process, the county commissioner said. Any charter would have to go to voters and be approved.“We’re asking people to keep an open mind until we finish the charter,” Foley said. “The community has the ability to say yes, they support it, or no, they don’t think it’s a good idea. But we’ve never really respected the community by asking them yet. So what we’re trying to do is build the process,” Foley said.

The result of that process, Owens said, could lead to the disenfranchisement of Dayton’s 140,000 residents when pushed into a larger voting block.

“They won’t have a say in local government like the people in Kettering would, Vandalia would and Huber Heights would.” Owens said in the letter it would diminish Dayton’s ability to help determine police and fire staffing, when streets are paved and when trash is collected.

Regional economic competitiveness and cost savings would outweigh some early growing pains, Foley said. “The question about a more efficient structure of local government is one that’s rooting in how can we compete better for jobs and how do we become more unified,” he said.

Source: Plan divides Democratic leaders

This  “Dayton Together” effort has been going on for a while, only it was called “One Dayton” a few years back. The group screwed a local consultant who was hired to manage the process, and seems to have scaled back the grand plans.

But, let’s be honest about what’s really bugging Mark Owens. Dan Foley used to be clerk of courts. He full well knows that there is only one need in the county for a clerk of courts, one single website for all legal filings, and one database and system- at the county level. That’s the way it’s done in Columbus. Municipal judges, who are limited to hearing misdemeanor cases, run countywide. If we really were doing this right, Kettering, Centerville, Vandalia, Huber Heights, Oakwood, Miamisburg and who knows who else- would all lose their municipal courts- and the patronage jobs that go with them (Owens has a staff of 90 I think). And, the races for Municipal Court judge- plums to hand out to the party faithful in the law profession (just because politicians make laws, we somehow think lawyers are somehow qualified to be leaders, nothing can be farther from the truth) would be harder to control. (We rarely ever have someone challenge a sitting judge in Montgomery County- thanks to an “unwritten agreement” between the parties– another way voters are disenfranchised- by Mark Owens, who DOES NOT BELIEVE IN LETTING VOTERS CHOOSE CANDIDATES).

Let’s be really honest. The idiots in Columbus who keep talking about Ohio taxes being too high are missing the problem. Ohio’s problems stem back to the Northwest Ordinance of 1785 which divided Ohio into 88 counties and gave us this insane structure of villages, townships, cities, counties and a whole other grid of school boards, that has no rhyme or reason, but results in way too much governmental overhead.

80% of Ohio’s population is packed into large urban areas. The rest of it- is rural farm land with sparse population. By electing so many Tom, Dick and Janes, we really end up with quantity over quality and a big whopping bill to pay.

Don’t count Foley as a saint either- his goal is to get a job at the quasi-public slush fund he helped start- the Dayton Development Coalition which will pay him 2 to 3 times what he makes as a County Commissioner- for doing next to nothing (County Commissioners also do next to nothing- since we have a County Administrator who actually runs the county).

The biggest problem in all this is that we have to say “look at this” to legitimize doing the right thing. That regionalism worked in Indianapolis or Louisville or even partially in Columbus isn’t how you make something better- look at the entire State of North Carolina that runs via County Governments and wake up.

Also- stop picking party puppets to get elected by the party instead of the people. That would be a real start to regionalism.