Commissioner Whaley needs lessons in PR

It’s bad enough the Dayton Daily News chooses to sensationalize the region’s population shifts as if there were a mass exodus going on and the last person leaving Dayton should turn out the lights- but, when our youngest commissioner opens her mouth and says “we have to accept it”- we may as well just start putting things in mothballs.

We don’t have to accept this, Commissioner Whaley- we have to have a vision to turn things around. That is your primary job- and if you aren’t capable of doing it, step down.

Residents leaving Dayton in droves
Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Flint, Mich., lost more population than Dayton.

Dayton City Commissioner Nan Whaley said the continued decline has forced some tough choices on the city, including the elimination of 500 positions since 2001.

“The first thing is you have to accept it,” Whaley said of the city’s shrinkage. “I think the city is trying to adjust and provide the best services for its citizens. And making sure its citizens feel comfortable in the city.

“Eventually I think it will turn and level out,” she said.

The proper response is that unless we start working to stop turning cornfields into housing plats, center cities will continue to have problems with population drops until the region starts to grow. When builders are building homes faster than our population is growing- there will be shifts- and, btw, did you notice that Oakwood lost more population than Dayton?

Too bad we elect people to the Commission who are too busy working on their Master’s degree and wedding plans to put the energy into turning around out city. Maybe it’s time for Ms. Whaley to go back to her patronage job in the County, where she can’t say stupid things like “we have to accept it.”

Sorry, Nan- we need better representation than that.

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16 Comments on "Commissioner Whaley needs lessons in PR"

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Nan is being realistic and pragmatic, and I appreciate that.

Youngstown’s political leadership was like that too…they bit the bullet realizing Y-Town wasn’t going to be the city it once was..instead Youngstown became a national example of shrinking city being realistic about its fate, via its innovative landbanking/open space zoning program for derlict industrial lands .

Dayton is actually going to be the next “Youngstown”, too, as we haven’t bottomed out yet in industrial decline. Right now, in some indicators published by the Cleveland Fed, we are worse than Youngstown as we are still on the downward spiral.

Dayton made it into one of the exhibits at the Shrinking Cities shown I saw in Detroit back in March. We could learn a lot from other places’ examples:

David Esrati
David Esrati

Being realistic and pragmatic isn’t the way to motivate people to do great things.
We can do better.

Teri Lussier

Contrast Whaley’s reaction to the reaction from Philadelphia’s deputy executive director of the city planning commission, “Philadelphia is not going to disappear. We have a good quality of life here.”

Same data, different attitude.


Yeah, and Detroits mayor is going to challenge the numbers.

This is all political grandstanding.

That’s why I liked Nan’s comments. Reality based, no spin.

David Esrati
David Esrati

Jeff- it’s not grandstanding- it’s called leadership.
If I had a nickel for every time I heard Cleveland was dead.
In 1950 Dayton had more people than Atlanta.
We’ve had much greater population drops- it’s just with a smaller population- the percentage looks bigger.
Nan hasn’t done a damn thing since she’s been elected. Name some initiative’s, some legislation that she has introduced?
C’mon. We got a placeholder for a commissioner.
And I like her.
I just expect more- as we all should.

What should be considered is that Nan isn’t necessarily talking about CONTINUED decline when she says that we have to accept our reality. Accepting the reality of our CURRENT situation is necessary to begin a rebuilding process. She is saying that we have to deal with the decline that is already happened. We can’t continue to have the budget of a city with 300,000 people when Dayton’s pop is less than 200,000 and therefore need to contract the services provided. What she went on to say was that this contraction will level off and begin to turn around. Secondly, why is a large population the indicator you keep going back to David? So what if Dayton had a greater pop than Atlanta in 1950, at that time NCR had more than 20,000 employees. With continued improvements in manufacturing efficiency less workers were needed and we started to lose our population numbers. (do we really want the traffic headaches that Atlanta has, how livable is that?) We should look to factors other than size for our measurement of success: livability as defined as services received for the tax dollar, cost of living, cost of housing for the amenities available, educational attainment, number of post secondary educational options, value of the education received… We are not currently successful in these areas but these are much better indicators of the success of policy and should be considered. Most of these types of indicators are where Dayton’s potential lies and where we should be spending our time, not on whether or not we lost 1 – 3% of our population in the past few years, why was the population declining anyway, perhaps because we can’t support 500,000 people and remain a good place to live? Being practical requires our leaders to look at the reasons behind changes, (job availability, changes in the economic landscape) then define measurements that give a true indicator of success, determine if they are good or not, then decide how to make them better. What you’ve said David seems to be that we should be going after every new shiny… Read more »
David Esrati
David Esrati

I have no problem with Dayton being smaller- but I do have a problem with Dayton having lousy self-esteem. This is a great city- we just need people to realize that- and that includes Nan. If people move out- that means we have more places for cool people to buy. The problem is- we aren’t doing a good job of working together to make it either easier or more desirable to live here.
We need to take care of what we have- and build on strengths- not continue to “chase shiny things” (like Ballpark Village and the Greene) and start looking at how to work better with what we have.
I don’t see Nan at the forefront of anything.
It’s time for her to pick up her game- or pick up and leave.

Greg Hunter
Greg Hunter
The reason that Detroit and Dayton are in the same boat should be evident, but are always discounted by local people even though the slow erosion continues. Due to the abundance of jobs in the auto industry the black middle class was on the rise and due to endemic racism, solutions had to be found. Dayton and Detroit practiced apartheid, separate but equal, while other cities learned from the past and worked out solid solutions to the race issue which is the reason they are thriving today. Atlanta learned its lesson from the 1906 Race Riots and determined (or luckily) handled race relations in a more equitable manner. The actions that Dayton and Detroit took 30 and 40 years ago have resulted in our problems today. “The sins of the Father are visited upon the sons.” David I think Nan is earnest in her approach, but the leadership of Dayton, both black and white refuse to accept the reality of the situation. The whites continue to build all white fiefdoms in the suburbs which is a waste of the infrastructure that Dayton built and will not be able to maintain. The result of this homogenization based on class and race has lead to the sterilization of life in the Miami Valley, which is the reason why young people flee this area for Atlanta or any other Cosmopolitan City. The elected leadership in Dayton and surrounding areas is too backward and short sighted, which combined with the endemic racism of the white elite has put us on the road to decline. Pete Forester fleeced the Dayton area with the help of Paula Mac and Dick Church. Raj Soin, Ernie Green and the white backers Sam Morgan, Mills and Wine along with the new young turks in the Dayton Development Coalition are fleecing all of the Miami Valley and the federal government. The trend continues with Clay Mathile. All I can say is having money does not mean that you know how to do the right thing you just have the ability to fleece other people. We need people who understand science… Read more »

Some good discussion here, but I wish Greg would explain who these people are that he names. I recognize Soin and Mathile, but that’s about it.


Though I defend Nan, David is on to something. Something that I’ve noticed that sets Dayton apart from other citys that I’ve lived in.

None of the politicians here really are in it because they love their city. There is an absence of real affection or civic pride, or at least it doesn’t show much.

I can thnk of politicians in other citys I lived in who where really identified with their city, who were real city people. Some that come to mind are Alioto of San Francisco, maybe Ritchie Daley, Anne Rudin and Joe Serna in Sacramento, certainly Louisiville’s Harvey Sloan and Jerry Abramson.

Speaking of Louisville, an alderman, later metro councilman, Tom Owen (once a mayorial candidate) actually leads walking tours of the city, and puts them on film:

Can you see any local politican here pumped enough about Dayton to lead walking tours through the neighborhoods of the city (and even the suburbs?)

I didn’t think so.

David Esrati
David Esrati

There are populist politicians who change perspectives- Baltimore had a mayor who had a pothole contest- and then started putting up banners everywhere “Believe”
It’s a state of mind- it’s a brand- it’s a culture- it’s what separates the winners from the losers- and lately- all the politicians with the exception of Dan Foley, are sounding like losers, weighing in with the sad-sack stories.
It’s time to celebrate – to lead- to propagandize the populace.

Greg Hunter
Greg Hunter

David while I love your unbending glass is half full, this town and the suburbs are enough to make me a pessimist. Maybe it is the requirement of your chosen profession, but this community has not made two good decisions since I was born – 44 years of idiocy is having an impact that requires way too much effort to wipe out. Too much momentum in the idiot direction – Caresource building and Austin Road. 85 million wasted dollars on top of Iraq and the Dayton management team is enough to make one crazy. But hell no one but us prophets howling in the wind here.

Baltimore could not miss – Washington’s growth and a beautiful harbor = growth. Dayton is losing jobs and sprawling out at the same time. STUPID, but cheap money in developers hands has done its job.


Dave, I really like your comment on number 7 about Dayton having low self esteem. I thought her comment was idiotic myself when she is a Dayton resident. Its basically a good example of a sell out. She is talking like someone from the surburbs rather than someone living in Dayton that likes her job. I guess she doenst want to be reelected. Is it possible that she is kissing asses for a future public office spot in the suburbs. You know we appreciate you writing every day on your blog Dave about the city and she obviously does not. Why was she elected again?

John Ise
Pessimism is easy, optimism coupled with creativity is what’s needed. As grandma said, “when you have lemons, make lemonade!” Check out the following article with some excerpts that go to how you turn depopulation into an asset. Small really is beautiful. Article Excerpt: Some people are also talking about models that don’t aim to empty depopulated areas, but rather try to increase the value and quality of life without draining precious investment resources from other areas of the city. Schwarz, for example, suggests an aggressive side-lot program. Many cities will give a vacant lot to a neighboring property owner for a side yard, on condition that the owner maintains it. But many of these programs have a restriction of one lot per property owner. What if, says Schwarz, you gave one owner several lots? Even in a distressed area, a half-acre or an acre of property can be a meaningful asset, increasing property values and the financial position of remaining owners. Larger lots might even attract new residents who are interested in the unusual idea of semi-rural living right next to a city downtown. “If we grab [the interest of] 2 percent, or heck one-half percent [of buyers], suddenly we’ve created market demand in an area that doesn’t have any,” says Schwarz. Schwarz also recommends taking a lighter hand with zoning and regulation in areas that have become very low density, to allow a more “organic” mix of uses. Residential zoning usually prohibits most commercial uses, especially those likely to be noxious to their neighbors. But in a mostly empty neighborhood, if a property owner opens a car repair shop that is a block away from its nearest residential neighbor, who is it hurting, asks Schwarz. Why not replace strict zoning with a policy of “show us how you would use this land without creating a nuisance, and we’ll take it back if it becomes a nuisance,” she suggests. This means people could become more entrepreneurial about what they do with their land, which would also increase its value. Schilling presents another possible scenario, in which small village-like clusters… Read more »

Jeff, I’m not one to defend McLin much, but she does lead walking tours of neighborhoods, more than a dozen per year actually. As for Whaley, I think she was just saying we just have to accept where we are, deal with it as it is. That’s all. If the DDN would bother to print more than mini-quotes, we might have gotten more substance. Having said that, as far as the commission is concerned, we are definitely lacking leadership there. It starts at the top.


its interesting how that doesn’t get reported about McLin.