Pave more roads or free bikes? Stimulus for the future

While everyone seems excited about getting Federal Stimulus dollars, spending them on existing infrastructure doesn’t really stimulate much for very long. Real change means changing the infrastructure to make Dayton a more desirable place to live.

The idea of the free bike isn’t new, and it’s not out of reach. It’s working in Paris, and it’s being rolled out in small communities across the country and a few big ones. To appease the old school thinkers in Dayton- remember, the Wright Brothers were bicycle builders first.

Watch this video about the B Cycle, a big idea from Crispin Porter + Bogusky (an ad agency- with visionary leadership)

The video doesn’t get into the specifics – so I found this description from Time Magazine that explains it a bit better:

To borrow a SmartBike, users have to be over 18 and have a credit card. An annual fee of $40 lets riders tool around on a three-speed bike as often as they like for up to three hours at a time. Better be punctual: your second tardy return gets you booted from the system. The program keeps track of the bikes via tiny rfid chips, the same tamper-proof radio-frequency devices used to monitor everything from clothing inventories to office ID badges. Riders use a swipe card to unlock the bikes, and if they fail to return them–or if the bikes are stolen on their watch–they’ll be out $200. SmartBikes will soon be outfitted with independent wire locks so that cyclists can make pit stops wherever they want. No need to worry, though, about wheels getting pilfered. They’re not quick release and are too small for regular bike frames.

via Bike-Sharing Gets Smart – TIME.

The B Cycle site where the video came from, provides a really great way of seeing the impact of the B Cycle program- but, unfortunately, you can’t copy and paste the benefits elsewhere. If all of my readers would go to the site- and plug in their zip code, pick Dayton, I’m sure we’d be at the top of the list really quickly:

Sure, we could pave a few roads–or buy 2,000 bikes and 200 stations. Years from now, the roads will be in worse shape–but with the bikes–you’ll be in better shape. With our system of bike ways–and talk of complete streets, I think this is a better stimulus to our economy by far.

Help out- click on that last link.

The final detonation of the Dayton Bombers

It was going to happen, in fact, just like the implosion of AIG, the only thing that would have saved the Dayton Bombers was a government stimulus check in the way of a new arena- and that would have had to have happened a few years ago.

Today, the Dayton Daily News reports that the Bombers won’t skate next season:

The Dayton Bombers will not play the 2009-10 ECHL season, the league confirmed today, March 30.

The Bombers, who had the second longest tenure in the ECHL with 18 seasons, played their final home game Saturday, March 28, at the Nutter Center, where they have played since the 1996-97 season.

Dayton will wrap up the regular season on the road at Reading on April 4.

The Bombers organization must inform the ECHL Board of Governors of its future plans at the annual meeting on June 24.

“From the board’s point of view it’s a done deal, there won’t be hockey in Dayton next season,” ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna said. “There have been discussions about and rumors of possible owners, but nothing has come to fruition.”

via Bombers won’t play next season; cite declining support.

It hasn’t quite sunk in yet- but I’m already missing the idea of pro-hockey in Dayton. What makes my stomach turn is the comments on the Dayton Daily News site. Negativity to the nTH degree.

One can point fingers all over the place for the failure of the team (for at least the second time in 5 years) but, when it comes down to it- it’s a small business, just like any other small business right now, it’s tough.

The distractions caused by the Mandalay proposal for an AHL team, the talk of a new arena, and the way minor league hockey works (without real support from the NHL like the way the MLB funds minor league Baseball) all make hockey a tough business.

The reality of the matter is that Dayton (the region) just lost one more “cultural” attraction that helps contribute to the “livability” index of the area. This hurts all of us just a little bit, even if you never went to a game- and for that reason- all the naysayers on the DDN board should learn to STFU.

Dayton Bombers- it was nice having you around. You will be missed.

disclaimer: My agency, The Next Wave did project work for the Bombers under the last 2 owners.

The slow train may as well be no train.

The Eurostar trainI’m a huge fan of high-speed rail. I’m a huge fan of trains in general. When I travel for business from Tampa to Jacksonville, I take the train—$29 one way—and it’s a wonderful way to travel. However, it doesn’t go much faster than a car either—and still takes 5 hours for the trip (when everything goes right). It’s a bare-bones service, as if we Americans don’t know how to provide the “real rail” experience—which is what I got when I took the Eurostar through the Chunnel from London to Paris.

The glamor of the Eurostar train, which hits 200 m.p.h. in France (but not in the UK at the time) was amazing, from the sleek boarding area to the inside of the train. Everything was made to give the impression of a first-class plane ride- plus. It’s this experience that makes rail travel superior to airplanes- from the ability to walk around comfortably, and enjoy fine dining- to even having a restroom that isn’t smaller than a porta-potty (which is what most airliners provide). Plus, as you buzz by the countryside at 180 mph, you feel as if you have transcended the car, the road and the hassles that come with it.

But, on the Amtrak slow train, you get none of that. In fact, other than having leg room, a place to plug in your laptop, and a larger restroom- all you have done is give up the driving (and the mobility you’d have when you arrive) and broken even on expense. That’s why Amtrak is struggling.

With the longest ride in the State of Ohio being about 4.5 hours- by car or a slow train, it won’t make much of a dent in the number of cars on the road. People won’t give up their mobility at the ends of their journey without either a gain in speed, a substantial saving of money or a much improved experience (free wi-fi for starters). Although the proposed 89 m.p.h. train is a start in the right direction- it’s not going to make it financially, or practically- unless the speed can be at least doubled within a few years.

Why spend stimulus money to build a slow train? Ohio needs to look at the big picture and the message it wants to project to the world. Building last century’s rail system now is a cruel joke and a waste of money. If this is the best we can do, we should seriously reconsider new-rail in Ohio.

From Vacant to Vibrant- only if you squint real hard.

I spent the morning at another community group-think fest. 200 people there- including a boat load of city staff.

I tweeted the whole she-bang to keep others informed (reverse chronological order- read from bottom up):

  1. Closing with mayor McLin brief speech. Future events thru September. They want to use electronic comms.(bout time)

  2. Yes we have land to build housing, yes we have vacant homes. What we need is reasons for people to invest and return 2 city

  3. RT @SlideMagnet: “Public speaking is the art of diluting a two-minute idea with a two-hour vocabulary.” – Evan Esar

  4. Just told 2 shutup for suggesting that we stop vacant homes frm becoming vacant lots. Seems like we want to b a hospice instead of hospital

  5. Now in “current neighborhood opportunities” again, are we focusing on wrong issue? Mowing lots or fixing neighborhoods?

  6. Why does the REAP progam take 12-18 months? It shouldn’t take that long anymore.

  7. Focusing on empty lots is like a dentist trying to practice on where the tooth was, instead of taking care of the teeth that are left.

  8. Now starting session on “current neighborhood opportunities” hopefully not just an adopt a lot session

  9. Can we simplify the process of splitting lots and guarantee no increase in taxes if space is maintained green?

  10. In session on transformed landscape, continuum of opportunities for vacant lots

  11. “Dayton beautiful” regional or core? Is there a litmus test of what is good, right & just? Vision requires focus.

  12. Shouldn’t be doing speculative urban renewal, only targeted. Wants to fuse old school linear organizing conversation to social media chaos

  13. Getting history of dayton’s rise and fall from head city planner, john Gower. Now using jetsons to look at vision of future

  14. At Dayton convention center for “vacant to vibrant” good turnout-about 200 people. How do we refill the urban city?

Real creativity, comes from thinking big

Then give me some big ideas. What to do with vacant lots? The best thing- don’t let them happen.

It’s all in how the Dayton Daily writes a headline

Have to hand it to the pessimists at the Dayton Daily News, all news is bad news— if it can be.

The headline for this story is a prime example:

Downtown Dayton restaurant closes, will relocate on Salem Ave. | Taste: Dayton food and restaurants

Mary Ann’s Southern Kitchen and Catering has closed its downtown Dayton restaurant and will relocate in a few weeks to the former CJ’s Country Morning Pancake House at 3651 Salem Ave. in Harrison Twp., Mary Ann’s co-owner Ann Person said this morning, March 27.

via Downtown Dayton restaurant closes, will relocate on Salem Ave. | Taste: Dayton food and restaurants.

Not only can the negative disappear, the headline can be shorter and more accurate with a simple re-write:

Downtown Dayton restaurant to relocate on Salem Ave.

How hard was that?

The only thing that’s closed in this town are the minds of the people at the Dayton Daily Pessimist.

DDN discovers the South Park Tavern!

Kudo’s to Bill Daniels and Shaine Sullivan for an amazing write up for the South Park Pizza Tavern, my favorite local watering hole.

Located at the corners of Wayne and Oak streets in the South Park Historic District, South Park Pizza Tavern’s combination of savory, steaming pizza pies and cool craft beers makes it a destination worth checking out.

via Beer, patio, wings sauce, pizza add up to success.

The parking lot was packed tonight, which means a few people ventured over in addition to the regular neighborhood walk-in crowd.

If you’re looking for amazing beers, original pizzas and some hip indie pop, head on over to the South Park Tavern.

1301 Wayne Ave, Dayton OH 45410

(937) 586-9526

Thurgood Marshall transforming before your eyes

Back in July of 2008, I wrote a post about my friend David Lawrence, the new principal at Thurgood Marshall HS.

I predict that within 3 years, Dayton’s Thurgood Marshall High School will be a school of first choice, much like the vaunted St. Ivers (I mean Stivers). And, I’ll be surprised if the parents of the students attending don’t know it as soon as this school year begins. The question will be: How long will it take for perceptions to change- and the word to get out.

via A man with a plan: David Lawrence, Principal Thurgood Marshall HS | Esrati.

I was chastised by an Alan Scott in the comments.

Today’s news from Thurgood Marshall:

Marshall advances to state final

Juwan Staten scored 22 points and Marshall overcame a 12-point second-half deficit to stun Circleville Logan Elm 62-53 in overtime in Friday’s boys high school Division II basketball state semifinals.

The Cougars (22-4) return to OSU’s Schottenstein Center at Columbus for Saturday’s D-II state final against the Akron St. Vincent-St. Marys/Columbus St. Francis DeSales winner at 5:15 p.m.

and, because basketball isn’t everything:

Chess moves used to teach ‘game of life’

DAYTON – Thurgood Marshall High School freshman Ashley Thornton made some decent moves on the chessboard, but in the end she was no match for Orrin “Checkmate” Hudson, 45.

“You blocked your own self in,” he gently chided the 15-year-old girl after the game in the school library Friday, March 27.

The former state trooper who started the Atlanta-based nonprofit, Be Someone, nine years ago is now traveling the country using the game of chess to teach youth how to make better decisions in life.

The author of One Move at a Time: How to Play and Win at Chess …and Life! also was the keynote speaker Friday during the ninth Black Man’s Think Tank conference at Sinclair Community College.

As Hudson taught the basics of the game to about 25 students at the high school, he slipped in his message.

In the game of life, KASH should be king: Knowledge, Attitude, Skills, Habits.

These things don’t happen by accident. There is a transformation underway at Thurgood Marshall High School- and there is a reason for it. Leadership can make a difference.

Dayton’s declining revenue and rising costs: one solution: tax hospitals

The City of Dayton, like every other business in the United States has been getting hit with increasing health insurance premiums to cover their employees. In fact, the major sticking point in most negotiations with the unions involves the costs of health insurance.

Facing declining revenues, the City Manager has been working at decreasing the workforce, with the latest round including taking people from full-time to part-time and cutting health insurance benefits:

Overall, city revenue in 2008 fell 2.9 percent from 2007, more than a $5 million drop in a year.

• Income tax revenues declined 2.1 percent or $2.3 million, reflecting a decline in the local job base.

• Property tax revenues fell 2.9 percent or $331,761.

• Investment earning declined by 31.2 percent or $1.8 million in 2008, compared to 2007.

• Local government funds from the state dropped $806,600 for 2009….

His solution: Maintenance employees won’t lose their jobs. They will work fewer hours, have their pay drastically cut and they will pay more for health insurance.

via City Manager: Some Dayton workers face pay cuts.

A possible partial solution is  to turn the tables on the health care industry. No more tax abatement for Premier Health Partners or Kettering Health Network. You can’t keep doing business the same way it’s always been done in times like these, and if these “not-for-profit” organizations can pay their exec’s millions of dollars a year and continue to build and grow at astonishing rates, it’s time that they started paying their way.

The moment they try to make the argument that they provide a vital public service, remind them that police, firefighters, sewer workers, water department workers do too. How about in exchange for tax abatements, they provide free health care to their fellow “vital public service” providers (police, firefighters, sewer workers, water department workers, etc.) and remove a major point of cost and contention in contracts between the city and its workers? Also remind them that 3 stitches for a taxpayer shouldn’t cost $1,400.

Who really benefits from expensive primary elections?

The petition process is flawed, as is the system of electing our City Commission. We’re supposed to have a “non-partisan” election- which means without political party interference, but the body that oversees the process (the Montgomery County Board of Elections) is controlled by the two political parties.

For a good look at the primary system process, check out

We don’t follow the State election guidelines, instead relying on a charter that was created for a different era. The process favors the political machine and the incumbents, even though the writers of the charter seemed to be trying to at least eliminate party interference. 500 signatures of registered voters doesn’t sound that difficult, until you try to do it in February.

The cost of a primary is $150,000 to open the polls, staff them and count ballots- all to winnow a field that is only declared 60 days before the election. Considering it takes this country almost 2 years to pick a presidential candidate, 60 days is a very short time for anyone to mount any kind of campaign or allow voters to vet the candidates. Now we have candidates who didn’t make the grade, filing lawsuits to force a primary.

Upon the completion of the primary, we’re left with just 2 choices for each seat- and most of the time, one will be the incumbent. Why even bother with this process in the first place? Do the voters get more choices? No. Do the voters get time to investigate the issues? No. Voters just get stuck with a big bill and less choice.

Ultimately, the two major parties get the taxpayers to pay for something that limits the taxpayer’s choice.  If we really want to improve choice, the first thing that should go is the primary system.  If you collect enough verified signatures to get on the ballot, you’re on the ballot.  Then let the voters choose.

We need a better solution, either with a run-off system, or eliminating the separate race for the office of Mayor. Just because the system sounded good almost 100 years ago, doesn’t mean we have to keep it.

Can anyone run for office?

We learn from our mistakes, we learn from trying new things, but most of all we learn from exceptional teachers. Tierney Cahill could teach us all something about running for office.

My father sent me this post,  and I’m just giving you the beginning in the hope that you’ll follow the link and read the rest.

The book is Ms. Cahill for Congress: One Fearless Teacher, Her Sixth-Grade Class, and the Election That Changed Their Lives Forever
written with Linden Gross; Ballantine; 246 pages; $14, and here’s how it starts:

In 1999, a gifted teacher named Tierney Cahill was introducing the concept of democracy to her sixth-grade class in Reno, Nevada, when she pointed out that in America, anybody can run for office.

Nobody believed her. “You can’t run for office in this country unless you’re a millionaire or you know a lot of millionaires,” one girl said.

Cahill tried again. “All citizens in our country have the right to run for office,” she said. “Would having a million dollars make things easier? I’m sure it would. But not having the money isn’t going to prevent someone from being able to run.”

And the class shot back. “Well, then, why don’t you prove it?” they asked. “Why don’t you run for office?”

To make a long and delicious story short, that did it. In this often funny, always instructive and occasionally scalding memoir, Cahill describes how she not only ran for Congress using her sixth-grade class to manage her campaign, she turned the race into a terrific civics lesson for students and general readers included.

via Holt Uncensored » Blog Archive » “I Managed Not to Hurl”.

Her mention of how the Democratic Party stood in the way of her candidacy shows that the arrogance of major political parties isn’t just a local thing.

People around here don’t understand why I run. I think Ms. Cahill might be able to explain it to them.

The time and place for independent thinking driven by a desire to do the public good, and not to simply do the will of a political machine, is here and now. Our system isn’t working, but I’m  working to figure out how to win public office without having to sell my soul to the man.

I can’t wait to read this book.