Cutting costs doesn’t bring in new revenue. Dayton’s dilemma

Income tax revenues are down. Population is dwindling. Services are being cut. Size remains the same.

Convert the above to a business: sales down, customer base shrinking, support staff is cut and we haven’t reduced our expectations for sales. Not exactly a turnaround strategy, and bankruptcy isn’t an option for the City.

In the boardroom (the Commission chambers) there is zero discussion of what can we do to attract customers. The CEO (the City Manager) isn’t asked to present options except when the board asks (a total under-utilization of the position). While this is going on, a bunch of fan clubs (other “economic development” authorities- Citywide, Downtown Dayton Partnership, Dayton Business Committee, Dayton Development Coalition, UpDayton, and to a lesser extent- Montgomery County and Five Rivers Metro Parks) are running in circles like loose electrons, causing secondary explosions (Austin Road plans, BRAC) that distract the core (City of Dayton) from focusing on steps to regroup.

If anything, we need a strong hand on the rudder right now- with a direction that is clear- a turnaround specialist, a czar, a benevolent dictator. Someone who understands the strengths and weaknesses of the City and can focus on building on the strengths. It’s not an overnight plan, a silver bullet or a wave of a magic wand. It’s also not going to be achieved by committee.

Over the years, I have pointed out Dayton’s strengths and weaknesses (everything else on this site :-)- and may ideas on how to capitalize on the inherent good of our community. Right now, we need to take bold steps to change our course, and the first one has to be to believe that we are changing.

Much has been said about our negative attitudes and internal Dayton bashing. I used to give the local media a pass, but no longer. It’s time we held them accountable. We’re more than the crime and failed business report.

The local political party infrastructure has also disenfranchised change agents. New voices not welcome, don’t even think about running for office until you’ve kissed the ring. This may explain why the level of rhetoric rarely raises beyond a whisper. The Dayton Tea Party that’s happening this Wednesday won’t even let candidates speak- for fear of breaking the rules (more on that in a future post). So much for revolutionary thought from revolutionaries. It would seem we’re having a tea party of the English manor sort.

Can we turn Dayton around on a twenty year plan? That was the group-think 20/20 vision process almost ten years ago- and yet, not much has changed.

What would a plan look like? It’d have to be really short and succinct to really be effective. Ask any winning coach, simple game plans work. Complex ones have too many opportunities for failure.

  1. Dayton Public School perception must be fixed before we can expect to keep families of higher wage earners in town. Starting a city wide subsidized day care for City residents and employees would give people an opportunity to get familiar with DPS and help give kids a true headstart. We have new buildings- and we’ve always had teachers that want to teach. What’s been missing is the connection to the community – thanks to court imposed busing.
  2. We have inexpensive housing and assets to train any workforce (Sinclair). It should be a no-brainer to get companies to consider relocating here based on cost of doing business. If we sounded like we had our act together- instead of so much partisan bickering between our many municipalities, we might do a lot better at recruiting.
  3. Regional government is inevitable- we need to work toward it and “Best practices.” It’s hard to do business when there is no consistency between jurisdictions. The latest news that their are businesses that can’t figure out which county to pay sales tax in should be a clear indication. Regional government isn’t just about government either- it’s also about regional parks systems (like 5 Rivers Metro Parks) and libraries (Dayton Public Library is a good example) and other “public infrastructure” (to include ice rinks and even arts organizations – Culture Works is another great example). Regional thinking has to be on all our minds.

Looking back at the post of strengths– it seems we really should be one of the coolest mid-size success stories in the country. The only thing holding us back is us.

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7 Responses

  1. Ryan April 13, 2009 / 12:02 pm
    The idea of a regional government is one that should be taken under serious consideration. There is no real reason for so many suburban governments. How would such a system be enacted when each city would vehemently fight the idea? The City of Dayton would of course be the centralized government. With the current state of their political affairs, considerable changes would have to take place (basically a clearinghouse) before such an idea would even be considered by the masses.
  2. Gary April 13, 2009 / 1:16 pm
    The City of Dayton and Montgomery County need to take the lead on this but co-operation between the two needs to take place at all levels. Past rivalry needs to go away. The way I see it, if you leave all the other towns/cities alone to do their own thing and just merge the City of Dayton and Montgomery County governments you make the first step to consolidating services. You don’t need all the local governments to merge in unison. Just these two. This merger would certainly resolve city residency issues because the city becomes the county and the county becomes the city. You could possibly even lower city income taxes to make Dayton more attractive and the county would be obligated to preserve the regions core. In order to please the employees of each entity and to assure their job security it may be that we have to pick a date eight or ten years into the future that would be the deadline for all transitions to have taken place. People shouldn’t have to be laid off in order to complete the merger. Attrition should take care of eliminating positions. People in government jobs have enough time to move on or position themselves to get promoted or elected into office. If this worked effectively the cities of Kettering, Riverside, Harrison Twp. etc. could decide for themselves if they would wish to merge at a time when they felt ready. Same would apply to other counties in the region.
  3. David Esrati April 13, 2009 / 2:01 pm

    I’m in agreement with Gary- it doesn’t have to be all the municipalities- just the city and county would be a start. The issue becomes how the merged/County supplies services to the independent municipalities where the back last kicks in. But, we have to start somewhere.
    Apparently, there are also State laws that would need to change. We need to start working on those now, if we want to see the change in the next 20 years.

  4. Ryan April 14, 2009 / 11:21 am
    Has a “public” initiative into consolidation ever been investigated by county or local governments?  I emphasize public.  It would be interesting to get a survey of political leaders at each level as a feeler as to who feels what, and where.  It is forward thinking ideas like government consolidation that is needed to drastically change the future of Dayton and surrounding areas.    
  5. David Esrati April 14, 2009 / 11:28 am

    @Ryan- no public initiative to date- just a lot of talk. There has been a bit of prodding lately- by Mike Irvin’s group, but, they won’t push hard.

  6. Teri Lussier April 16, 2009 / 8:37 am
    >In the boardroom (the Commission chambers) there is zero discussion of what can we do to attract customers. The CEO (the City Manager) isn’t asked to present options except when the board asks (a total under-utilization of the position). While this is going on, a bunch of fan clubs (other “economic development” authorities- Citywide, Downtown Dayton Partnership, Dayton Business Committee, Dayton Development Coalition, UpDayton, and to a lesser extent- Montgomery County and Five Rivers Metro Parks) are running in circles like loose electrons, causing secondary explosions (Austin Road plans, BRAC) that distract the core (City of Dayton) from focusing on steps to regroup.

    Amen and amen. Where is the plan? A plan? Any plan? The sound of crickets from our elected officials is deafening.

  7. David Lauri April 16, 2009 / 10:13 am
    | Where is the plan? A plan? Any plan? The sound of crickets from our elected officials is deafening.

    That’s the problem.  With all these individual little fiefdoms, elected officials have no incentive to work together.

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