Lust for a big wheel

The original tricycle

A tricycle

When I was little- we had tricycles with a big wheel in the front with a direct drive pedal system (no chain)- and we sat up above it, with two little wheels in the back. The frame was metal, the wheels were rubber.

Mattel Big Wheel

The "Big Wheel"

About fourth grade- a new kind of tricycle came out. It was low slung, loud, and looked like a lot of fun- but it had a new name- “Big Wheel.” It looked a lot cooler than the tricycle of old. It was made of plastic- everything. The hollow wheel made a racket no matter what it went over. Mattel had a huge hit on its hands- and the old fashioned tricycle was toast.

When it came to style- the one on the right- even though it wouldn’t last as long, won hands down.

We don’t always make rational decisions when making purchases, but that’s nothing new.

As many of you know- I ride a scooter- a 1985 Yamaha Riva 125cc. It’s great dependable transportation that also happens to be a lot of fun to ride. It has a modern body style- with slab angles instead of the graceful curved streamlined classic Vespa look- and that’s ok with me. I don’t see me on the scooter- I just see the world go by. I also own a 1996 BMW R1100RS sport touring motorcycle- it’s an amazing machine, with its boxer engine and ABS brakes. But- when it comes to getting around in the city- I’ll ride a scooter any day.

When it comes to where to buy a scooter in Dayton- the pickings were pretty slim until my friend Jason Liff opened up Motoscooto at 1400 Wayne Ave. He took an old service station- that was under option as part of the fateful Wayne Avenue Kroger deal- and made it into an eye catcher with a black and green color scheme that can’t be ignored. My firm designed the logo- the banner- the peripherals- for full disclosure.

Of course, the Dayton Daily News and the Dayton Business Journal both ignored this scrappy start-up business.

When Jason first started looking into selling scooters- gas was pushing $4 a gallon and killing our economy. Scooter sales peaked in 2008- and now, with gas hovering close to $3 a gallon and credit being tight- scooter sales are down nationally. He’s having a rough time- and it’s not for lack of deals- he’s got a great selection of scoots at bargain basement prices.

Comparing wheel sizes

Comparing Wheel Sizes

Now- what does this have to do with big wheels? Up until last week- I’d never ridden a scooter with anything bigger than a 10″ wheel- and I thought that the ultimate scooter- was a Genuine Buddy 150 cc. For the price- it was built well and it looked great- and was from a well known brand name.

Last week- everything changed. I got to ride a CF Moto 150 cc big wheel scooter. It’s as if I got the “Big Wheel” I always wished Mattel had made- one with real rubber wheels- and a chain drive (I guess I saw recumbent bikes coming at an early age). Riding through the washboard cobble stones of the Oregon District wasn’t a 5 mph bone shaker anymore. And- real counter-steering cornering was possible. CFMoto makes the scooter in two varieties- the Jewel- which usually retails for around $2,500– which Jason is selling for $1,300 right now- and a fuel-injected version, the CF Glory that’s supposed to cost around $2,700 and you can steal for $1,700. Either way- you still get 90 mpg and a scoot that hauls you around in comfort.

The upgrade to the CF Glory gets you an electronic dashboard too- big whoop, but the fuel injection makes this scooter a speed demon. Taking it out today for a spin, I got the usual “Can it do a wheelie?” question- and I almost thought that I could on the Glory.

CF Moto Jewel Scooter

CF Moto Jewel Scooter, $1,300

I realize scooters aren’t for everyone- but, to be able to pick up one of these for $1,300, and consider the savings in gas, parking, and maintenance compared to a car- I think it’s the right thing to share with my readers. If you’ve never ridden a scooter before- it’s really easy- they are all automatics, with no clutch or shifting. It’s why when you go to the islands- there are scooters for rent all over the place. In many parts of the world, scooters far outnumber cars. The State of Ohio has an amazing Motorcycle Safety Foundation course for $25 that will teach you how to be a safer rider- your final assignment is the actual driving test.

These prices won’t last long- and, even though people think that you can only ride scooters for 6 months of the year in Dayton- I’ve been riding year round for the last 5 years. As long as there isn’t ice on the roads- scoot away.

If you do decide to go down and see Jason- please tell him you read it here on esrati.com and happy scootering. These big wheeled scooters may change your life.

Desperation and Morality: where to draw the line?

When people are desperate, some turn to crime. When governments are desperate they just redefine crime- now, online gambling is getting looked at as a tax source. Why not just go all the way- legalize prostitution and marijuana too? It’s ok to fleece billions on Wall Street- and get paid millions for failing- but, sell crack and get sent to the slammer.

So when the New York Times reports that online poker may be ready for prime time- look out- the Treasury is broke and they’re becoming flexible:

With pressure mounting on the federal government to find new revenues, Congress is considering legalizing, and taxing, an activity it banned just four years ago: Internet gambling.

Congress banned Internet gambling in 2006, but is rethinking its stand. Supporters say the shift could yield billions in taxes.

On Wednesday, the House Financial Services Committee approved a bill that would effectively legalize online poker and other nonsports betting, overturning a 2006 federal ban that critics say merely drove Web-based casinos offshore.

The bill would direct the Treasury Department to license and regulate Internet gambling operations, while a companion measure, pending before another committee, would allow the Internal Revenue Service to tax such businesses. Winnings by individuals would also be taxed, as regular gambling winnings are now. The taxes could yield as much as $42 billion for the government over 10 years, supporters said.

The two measures — which are backed by banks and credit unions but have divided casinos and American Indian tribes — are far from becoming law.

via Congress Is Rethinking Its Ban on Internet Gambling – NYTimes.com.

Of course, the whole “gambling” is something to protect the public from thing went away long ago. Lotteries were allowed- “to pay for schools”- and Casino’s “would bring jobs to Ohio” are the way those in power rationalize changing their tune.

Never mind they refuse to protect American workers from being either exploited or tossed aside- pretty soon, the United States will be a giant Gomorrah- because we’ve forgotten that the huge middle class was really what made this the country of opportunity- not our Military Industrial Complex or Wall Street.

I’ve never been much of a gambler in life. It’s only recently that I’ve learned how to play poker. I have zero interest in a cash game- but don’t mind playing in a tournament with a fixed buy in. The strategy of the game, especially when playing with good players- can be a fascinating way to spend an evening. Too bad the government still thinks this is a part of life they believe they need to control. Their efforts to ban it were as successful as Prohibition with alcohol, the “War on Drugs” with addiction and the non-smoking ordinances without enforcement in Ohio.

Go ahead- deal me in. Let’s start working on things that really matter in this country. This is only poker.

Is Esrati.com the Wikileaks of Dayton Ohio?

It’s been interesting to watch how Wikileaks made the last big leak available, to traditional media first and the rest of us later.

Wasn’t that the point of the web- access to everybody?

But, in this information overloaded society- we still look to established sources and tools to evaluate and analyze data for us. The New York Times and The Guardian are “trusted sources”- Wikileaks may have the data- but- even they have learned, they don’t have the clout.

I’ve read quite a few essays about how this latest release gained value by limiting access first- and it comes down to the following from The New Republic:

Wikileaks’s highest value is transparency, but the leak suggests that transparency is moot without authority.

via Why Wikileaks Still Needs ‘The New York Times’ | The New Republic.

I’ve broken stories on this site almost since I started publishing- but, even when I’ve beat the Dayton Daily News by days, weeks and even years in on case, that my information still isn’t as valid without the authority of a printing press, or a paid circulation or a hundred plus year tradition.

Same goes for the ideas I present- without being elected- my proposals aren’t accepted, even if they do make it into the “master plan”- like bike share into the Downtown Dayton Plan.

It’s hard to get exact numbers of readers on this site- thanks to RSS, Facebook, e-mail subscribers. I know about 1000 unique visitors come per day on average. I know what they search for, and what gets the most comments- but in terms of the validity of what I do here- it would seem that I’m the answer for about 20% of the voters- and the other 80% still think I’m a loose cannon.

Part of that can come from the digital divide. There are still a lot of people who don’t fully understand this technology- or value it the way the digerati do. I do know that I have a pretty good network of sources built up thanks to my ability to cut through the BS and call things honestly. But- for many, reading this site is something you do in private- and don’t admit to, because of the politics of the powerful in town.

When the Dayton Daily News finally covered the Qbase fiasco, they never mentioned where the original dirt came from. Other news outlets didn’t want to cover it either. The reality is- because of budget cuts, most journalists are overworked and too lazy to do the digging to uncover the real dirt. It’s almost pointless without a whistle blower who can point you to the dirt and then diagram it for you.

I often count on my readers to do the extra digging. I value their contributions as much as my own- because I still believe that their is an absolute need for a strong fourth estate- whether it’s the traditional media, or the new media.

Unfortunately, with the overload of data we all face, we’re getting more and more selective of what sources we trust. I thank all of you for continuing to read and contribute- but, until this site gets some recognition for the real work it does, it may never have the reach or impact it needs to do the work that needs done to uncover the dirty under-belly of Dayton.

If you believe in what we’re doing here- please, send a link to the story you’ve felt connected the most with you to your friends. And consider writing a comment about it on this post- with a link. Somewhere here, we should have a testimonial- and why not right here- today.

Thank you.

A free movie after dinner tonight? “Dinner for Schmucks” passes

Yep- it’s at the Greene- at 7:30, but- I’m helping a PR person from my old haunts in Cleveland Heights:

For your chance to win passes log onto www.gofobo.com/rsvp And enter the code: FAAFJR20

“The comedy, “Dinner for Schmucks,” tells the story of Tim (Paul Rudd), an up-and-coming executive who has just received his first invitation to the “dinner for idiots” – a monthly event hosted by his boss, which promises bragging rights (and maybe more) to the exec who shows up with the biggest buffoon. Tim’s girlfriend, Julie (Stephanie Szostak), finds it distasteful and Tim agrees to skip the dinner, until he bumps into Barry (Steve Carell) an IRS employee who devotes his spare time to building elaborate taxidermy mouse dioramas – and quickly realizes he’s struck idiot gold. Tim can’t resist, and invites Barry, whose blundering good intentions soon send Tim’s life into a frenzied downward spiral and a series of comic misadventures, threatening a major business deal, bringing a crazy stalker ex-girlfriend, Darla (Lucy Punch), back into Tim’s life and driving Julie (or so Tim thinks) into the arms of another man.”

Filmmaker Credits: Executive Producers Francis Veber, Amy Sayres, Sacha Baron Cohen, Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber

Produced by Walter F. Parkes Laurie MacDonald Jay Roach

Based upon the film “Le Diner de Cons” Written and Directed by Francis Veber

Screenplay by David Guion & Michael Handelman

Directed by Jay Roach

Rated PG-13 opens July 30th.

This is your chance to see a movie early and tell us all if it’s worth it. Another thing to do in Dayton Ohio- compliments of esrati.com

Dayton gets national press for wrong thing (again)

Over 20 years ago I was sitting on a dive boat with some people from NYC. I was telling them about my house I bought for $14,500-

“$14,500? That’s what I pay a year for my parking spot” said one.

“Did it come on a trailer” asked another.

I went on to describe my 2-story, 1,700 sq ft, frame Victorian half-cross, with a 2-car garage and a parking pad- and a fenced yard.”

You could almost see the steam rising out of their ears as the gears computed what they were getting in NYC- for a hell of a lot more.

But, it’s Dayton Ohio- was their final verdict- not knowing anything about Dayton- other than maybe they’d done business with NCR, Reynolds and Reynolds, GM, Mead or fed their dog Iams. They might know about WPAFB- but have no clue about our bountiful water supply, our amazing 5 Rivers Metroparks, top notch schools like Oakwood HS or Stivers. Or our orchestra, ballet or DCDC (that sells out in NYC all the time).

So, when they read about Dayton in today’s New York Times- they’ll still think we’re a broken down shanty town, falling apart as we try to save ourselves a $2 million lawn care bill- clearing the empty lots as the last few souls leave town.

Around the nation, cities and towns facing grim budget circumstances are grasping at unlikely — some would say desperate — means to bolster their shrunken tax bases. Like Beatrice, places like Dayton, Ohio, and Grafton, Ill., are giving away land for nominal fees or for nothing in the hope that it will boost the tax rolls and cut the lawn-mowing bills.

via Homesteads and Other Sources of Tax Income – NYTimes.com.

Of course, we’re also still on a tear down kick- taking down homes as fast as possible, to make sure that suburban home builders and demolition companies that back our local politicians keep busy.

Instead- we could be offering homes to homesteaders- with a $5K signing bonus. Move into these homes that we’re seeing as nuisances, start rehabbing them- live in them for 2 years- and they are yours. We’ll even give you a $5k credit at the Deconstruction Depot for building materials.

We have things people want- we’re just doing a horrible job letting people know that Dayton is a place of opportunity- a great place to raise a family- and an affordable place to live.

Thanks to our short-sighted local leadership the wrong message gets into the New York Times. Time to fix it.

And, all of you people in New York- for what you pay for a parking space- you can still buy a home in Dayton- and have money left over for a car to park in it.

Stories of good deeds in Dayton

Yesterday at the market, my good friend Rahn Keucher of Rahn’s Artisan Breads told me a good Samaritan story and asked for my help in finding out who gave him the fire extinguisher. (And note- if you haven’t had his bread- you are missing out on one of the great things we have in Dayton that you can’t get elsewhere).

He was driving his Econoline- with 350K miles on 675 N when smoke starting coming out of the hood- he pulled off on N. Fairfield and coasted to the BP Station. Just as he opened the hood- ready to prop it open- flames shot out- and someone started spraying it with an extinguisher from over his shoulder. The fire out- they said “Rahn, I was following you on I 675 and thought you would need this- I followed you off- keep the extinguisher” and drove off. Still marveling at his melted engine block- Rahn seems to have suffered temporary amnesia and has no clue who knew him- and saved him from becoming a baked baker. If anyone has a clue- please drop me a line.

This morning I got the following e-mail from “Glad Girl” or Shelly- as we know her:

Hey Mr. E.
I have a friend at work (place removed) whose husband is a disabled vet.
He is not only disabled but dying with end stage COPD. He is also a patient in the (medical facility name removed) program. He and his wife live in West Carrolton and their AC went out. He is on O2 and they have no other family to go stay with.
One of our social workers was able to get one window unit for them but that’s not doing a very good job. Their van just broke down too.
I am writing you to see if you know of anyone in the vet community, maybe a vet who has an HVAC biz, that might be able to help the vet and his wife with this situation they are dealing with in this horrific heat?
They are both in their early 60’s. She is a nurse’s aide, which does not pay well.
They have adult children that are not equipped to help them either.
If you know of anyone please let me know.
Thanks much-

I happen to know a few people in the HVAC business- but, there is only one who I look forward to breaking bread with: Matt York of United Heating/Plumbing of Dayton. I’ve watched Matt go from running a huge HVAC company with his own sheet metal shop, through a divorce, to running calls solo. He works hard- and is as honest as they come. I forwarded him the note. He went out today to help the Veteran- and this is what he wrote back:

I went by (the Veteran’s) house today. The A/C worked when I turned it on (your car never acts up when your mechanic drives it), so I had to rely on (the Veteran’s) observations to make the diagnosis. (the Veteran’s) observations were quite clear, however. He reports that occasionally the outdoor unit will not come on at all. Since it is somewhat uncommon for both the fan and compressor (the 2 main components) to fail on an intermittent basis; and rare for both of them to fail like that on the same unit, and exceptionally rare for both of them to fail in unison, I surmise that it is/was a component that is common to both units and controls both the fan and compressor. In other words, I surmise the fan and compressor are good, but the component[s] that control them are not.

So, as a preventive measure I changed the 2 components that are common to both the fan and compressor. I also stripped away the wires and reconnected them. (sometimes a loose wire will cause this) At any rate, the A/C is working. (keep in mind it was working when I turned it on at the outset…..) (the Veteran’s wife) offered to pay, and I told them that their friends asked me to help and there was no charge.  Is it fixed? I think so. Time will tell, and over the next day or so we’ll know. If it’s not ok, I don’t know what else I can do. Which brings me to me second point…….

The average A/C unit lasts 15-20 years. This one is 31. Even if my repair works today, it’s way past time to plan for a new unit. Assuming the unit is now ok, I recommend changing this unit this fall, or early spring. (Sept/Oct or Mar/Apr) To help them we are willing to install a new A/C unit at cost. (assuming it’s done in those periods) What that means is that we will provide the equipment at cost (and we’ll show the invoices) or they can buy the equipment anywhere they can. (and we’ll tell what is needed). We’ll provide all the labor at cost as well; the employee’s wages and taxes. In short, we’ll install a system with *zero* markup of any kind. (even for overhead) They would simply pay the direct costs to install the system.

I know that’s probably not affordable at the moment, but it’s a place to start planning, and if there are friends/family/co-workers who can start a fund drive, we’ll do our part to help them.

I’ve asked Matt for a ballpark estimate of the equipment costs- and I’ll post a follow up. Then we’ll work on some kind of fundraiser to make this happen. In the meantime- if you have heating or cooling issues in Dayton- or need some plumbing work done, I highly recommend Matt at United Heating and Plumbing. Give them a try- and if you find them to be as top-notch as I believe them to be- write a nice review on their Google Places page.

For every story of how Dayton is losing population, losing jobs, and how we’ve lost our self-respect with our mindless self-loathing- we still seem to have kept some of the finest people around.

These are just two stories of why you should love Dayton.

Ross Perot was right.

The last major third party candidate to make it on the ballot (Ross Perot) had it right- there was a giant sucking sound coming, and we didn’t listen.

But, it’s more than just the sound of “free trade” sucking jobs from our highly regulated- centrally directed economy (and don’t say it isn’t after the bailout of Wall Street  – while Main Street took a sucker punch) it’s the sound of money flowing from the masses to the minority. We’re taking from the needy to give to the greedy at an alarming rate:

  • 83 percent of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1 percent of the people.
  • 61 percent of Americans “always or usually” live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007.
  • 66 percent of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.
  • 36 percent of Americans say that they don’t contribute anything to retirement savings.
  • A staggering 43 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement.
  • 24 percent of American workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year.
  • Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009, which represented a 32 percent increase over 2008.
  • Only the top 5 percent of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.
  • For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.
  • In 1950, the ratio of the average executive’s paycheck to the average worker’s paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one.
  • As of 2007, the bottom 80 percent of American households held about 7% of the liquid financial assets.
  • The bottom 50 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.
  • Average Wall Street bonuses for 2009 were up 17 percent when compared with 2008.
  • In the United States, the average federal worker now earns 60% MORE than the average worker in the private sector.
  • The top 1 percent of U.S. households own nearly twice as much of America’s corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago.
  • In America today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks.
  • More than 40 percent of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying.
  • For the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011.
  • This is what American workers now must compete against: in China a garment worker makes approximately 86 cents an hour and in Cambodia a garment worker makes approximately 22 cents an hour.
  • Approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010 – the highest rate in 20 years.
  • Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009.
  • The top 10 percent of Americans now earn around 50 percent of our national income.
  • via the u.s. middle class is being wiped out here’s the stats to prove it: Tech Ticker, Yahoo! Finance.

    We are a Third World nation in every single respect, other than we’ve got more bombs and guns than anyone else. Just as a reminder- our founding fathers were rebelling against an imperialist nation, and now- we’ve become one.

    The two-party system has failed us. While a sideshow called Washington continues, the people of this once great country fall deeper into despair and poverty. We’ve got our soma of cable TV with its 500 channels of mind-numbing dreck, we’ve got the internet where everything is free- until you can’t afford the equipment or bandwidth to share in its bounty. The divide is growing greater- and we were warned, not only by Perot, but by Orwell and Huxley, by Malcolm and Martin and even the evilest of all- the economist Marx- the list goes on.

    If you stop thinking about the typical uses of the word discrimination- by race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, and look at the big picture, we’ve been divided into haves and have nots- and the class war has already been won, the masses just haven’t figured it out. In the meantime- politics as usual has continued at all levels- from Federal to local, we’ve put capitalism on a pedestal that believes commerce is king. We do everything in the name of creating jobs and wealth- instead of putting people first.

    Our government began with words of equality: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    We have witnessed the end, where “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others and we are now animals, being manipulated like Pavlov’s dogs.

    Continuing from the fore quoted article:

    What do most Americans have to offer in the marketplace other than their labor? Not much. The truth is that most Americans are absolutely dependent on someone else giving them a job. But today, U.S. workers are “less attractive” than ever. Compared to the rest of the world, American workers are extremely expensive, and the government keeps passing more rules and regulations seemingly on a monthly basis that makes it even more difficult to conduct business in the United States.
    So corporations are moving operations out of the U.S. at breathtaking speed. Since the U.S. government does not penalize them for doing so, there really is no incentive for them to stay.

    What has developed is a situation where the people at the top are doing quite well, while most Americans are finding it increasingly difficult to make it. There are now about six unemployed Americans for every new job opening in the United States, and the number of “chronically unemployed” is absolutely soaring. There simply are not nearly enough jobs for everyone.

    It is time for the government to step in on the side of the people- and use the Commerce Clause of the Constitution to restore  balance- and make this once again a land of opportunity.

    It’s time to stop the giant sucking sound- and to stop listening to the banter of the two-party system. It’s what got us into this mess- and it’s not going to get us out.

    If there was ever a time for a third party, or proposing changes to the way we hold and run elections, now is the time. If we continue what we’re doing and expect different results- well, there is a word for that.

    The two party system has given us only one thing- a two-class economy. Are you ready to do something about it?

    The man with no plan

    Tim Riordan is a man without a future. He’s already receiving his pension- and drawing a nice salary for his City Manager position. He’s holding down the fort, in a defensive position praying for an economic turnaround that’s going to save his, or his successor’s behind.

    As a good faith measure, he’s taking a tiny pay cut:

    Dayton City Manager Tim Riordan is volunteering to take a pay cut worth three days of his salary — $1,700 — in addition to the three-day unpaid furlough he and other management employees took earlier this year.The Dayton City Commission approved the pay cut at its meeting Wednesday, July 21.“We are asking people to make sacrifices,” Riordan said. “Before I do that, I want to use myself as an example.”

    via Dayton City Manager volunteers to take pay cut.

    Of course, he’s preparing to ask the city staff who got their “step increase” last yearwithout approval from the commission– to give it back.

    Fighting a rear-guard war is never how you win a war.

    The problem is, Dayton hasn’t identified and capitalized on what can make it a winner. We’ve been doing the Hail Mary “economic development” incentive initiative for over 15 years and seen a huge FAIL as employment has shrunk and companies have left town. We never seemed to have enough chips in our stack to play with the big boys. NCR went to Georgia for over $100 m, and the executive suite went to NYC because the Schuster Center isn’t Broadway, and the Dragons aren’t the Yankees.

    Suppose we announced to the world that our days of diverting tax dollars to corporate welfare are over. We guarantee not to tax you anymore than we need to pay our infrastructure and public safety bills. We’d also set some goals for public lifestyle improvements- a plan of what we hope to achieve in the next 5 years in terms of parks, recreation, schools, neighborhoods. We’d have set goals, with set price tags and set completion points. We’d get out of the development by reaction to private whim ( a local company wants a handout to build wind turbines) and get into the proactive planned strategy mode.

    Plus, it’s time to use our loss leader.

    Dayton actually hiked its water costs a few years back, not listening to its biggest customers that the new prices were out of reach. The first reaction by Cargill- “we’ll just drill our own wells” which they did. Delphi ended up leaving town. We’re now running at less than 50% capacity- we also pushed everyone’s water bill up (mine tripled over the last 10 years- did yours?). This was how we gave the people “no new taxes” as politician-speak loves to go- but, unfortunately, it also took away taxes as businesses left due to the killing off of our one really competitive weapon: cheap, great water.

    Suppose we started giving away our water so cheaply that the county couldn’t compete? We’d gain more water customers of course, but in exchange for it- we ask for some things like an end to incentives there as well. No more financing Teradata moving a half-mile on the taxpayers, or more money into building new subdivisions when we already have a glut of homes. Would we start to have a fighting chance? How about a single regional income tax rate- a uniform 1.5% that’s shared based on a formula calculated on population density. All of a sudden, we’re sounding like a fighter, instead of a punching bag.

    Tim Riordan is probably the best person for his job- only because he knows how to play the game here and knows the players. The problem is the game we’ve been playing has been Russian Roulette with more than one bullet.

    It’s time to change the game. But, we need a man with a plan.

    The quasi governmental slush fund

    It used to be illegal to pass tax dollars off to private enterprise and to compete with private enterprise, so a whole breed of new quasi-governmental slush funds were contrived. These were kept off the public books- even though they were using public money.

    Citywide Development was one of the first organizations of this type, but then came the Downtown Dayton Partnership and the Dayton Development Coalition. Each with progressively higher salaries for their “executives” – higher than the people who were supposed to be running the city.

    Both Ed Armentrout and Maureen Pero who ran the Downtown Dayton Partnership collected more cash and benny’s than the City Manager- who had a much larger budget, staff and responsibility. No worries though, they were going to “save downtown” jobs. The only ones they saved were their own.

    Armentrout later got his commensurate when his snake oil routine ran into real journalists in Memphis. Pero moved on to bigger and better paydays at CareSource- home of the $3 million dollar a year CEO (running the new form of quasi-government, the sole source contractor for distributing Federal money).

    Better late than never, the Dayton Daily News finally realized that CityWide, with it’s purse filled annually by the citizens of Dayton via their tax dollars, actually should report back on what they do with our money:

    The top executive for a development organization launched by the city of Dayton and that does business on the city’s behalf has disclosed his salary after having declined to do so in March.

    Steve Budd, president of CityWide Development, said in a July 9 interview his base salary is $138,424, roughly 10 percent of the $1.4 million budgeted in 2009 for CityWide salaries. Dayton City Manager Tim Riordan’s base salary is $145,537.

    CityWide, a nonprofit that describes itself as the city’s development arm,

    via CityWide president’s salary similar to city manager’s.

    And if they are the “economic development arm” – could someone please tell us what Shelly Dickstein does? Do we really need two economic development departments? Especially when you read the following and follow both the money- and the logic:

    The nonprofit has been around since the early 1970s. As president, Budd has participated in the city’s most significant development projects in the last decade: RecPlex, Tech Town, the Genesis Project, and the Phoenix Project. Many businesses in the Oregon District have received small business loans from CityWide.

    CityWide has received more than $20 million in city contracts

    “They develop their own projects, and the city gets behind those it’s interested in,” said Paul Woodie, a retired city administrator who helped create CityWide in the early 1970s to function as an economic development engine within the city’s limits. “The city doesn’t have the people anymore, the resources or mental capacity to do it on their own, (to) get that major third-party partner.”

    Apparently- we do have the money- $20 million would have gone a long way to paying for police and fire contracts- but, apparently we don’t have leaders with brains enough – I’ll repeat Paul Woodie for emphasis “The city doesn’t have the people anymore, the resources or mental capacity to do it on their own, (to) get that major third-party partner.”

    Could that be sour grapes, since Woodie left city hall without sitting in the captains chair, or just the analysis of the last smart man who left the city while the going was good. Woodie is a smooth political operator- who almost always gives to all viable candidates running- covering both sides just in case.

    When you read the list of projects that CityWide has backed- it’s no wonder that CityWide has a great relationship with Premier Health Partners and UD- since the Phoenix and Genesis projects both helped raise property values in their areas. We also need answers if CityWide has to follow the same bid process and requirements that the city has to follow in awarding contracts.

    Since CityWide seems to think that they can operate off book, one also wonders if there is any penalty for failure- or is that just another excuse to reach into the public till?

    When I first moved into the city in 1986, CityWide had a reputation for doing hatchet jobs on homes in the neighborhood.There was no worse epitaph than saying “it’s a CityWide house.” They were also involved in the projects in Wright Dunbar- where we spent over a million dollars on four homes that were sold for about half that.

    If government spent as much time working on delivering top quality government services as they did playing shell games in the name of “economic development” maybe we’d have built a sustainable economic ecosystem instead of a dysfunctional one that depends on corporate welfare and a whole load of bureaucratic overhead that’s main goal is to divert tax dollars into the hands of the friends of the politicians we elect.

    Don’t believe it? Start looking at who the major donors to our elected officials have been- the picture should be very clear. That is if the electorate has the “mental capacity” to connect the dots.

    Permission to party is granted

    There are two people in Dayton who have my respect right now. Brian Higgins over at the Sidebar in the Oregon District and John Drake of Drake’s Gym. Both have decided to color outside the lines and create their dreams in Dayton- without asking permission first.

    John Drake MC of Fight Night

    John Drake making a white tux look good

    Tonight- John Drake closed off the worthless section of Fourth Street between Patterson and St. Clair and threw a boxing match up in the middle of the street- and said “come one, come all, we’re having a party and you’re invited.” I’d say close to 2,000 people showed up and watched the bouts under the lights- and had a good time. No alcohol, no slutty strippers in bikinis- he had ring kids walking the cards, and the people came downtown and joined in his party.Fight Night was a huge success.

    The city did provide some police, a firetruck- and a few barricades- but, what we had going on was economic development by a party of one. For one night, people were downtown- buying food from the food cart, t-shirts from the Gym, and later- heading over to the Oregon District. There isn’t any reason this kind of thing can’t be happening all over the city- making it a fun place to live, instead of the “economically developed creative class high tech” mecca they keep aiming for.

    Over on Fifth Street you have another former paratrooper, Brian Higgins mixing up exotic drinks along with small plate meals at the Sidebar and attracting the most diverse audience in Dayton- night after night. We sat last on the sidewalk patio last night and I watched the master at work. Calling people by name as they walked by, inviting them in, buying drinks and food for his regulars and sharing his idea of what a nightclub in a big city is supposed to feel like. It’s making the Pacchia grand opening–way back 12 or so years ago–look like a junior high dance, compared to Studio 54 in its prime- and Pacchia was considered the most successful independent restaurant launch in town.

    What makes this stuff work? What’s the magic mojo that’s creeping into downtown slowly? I think it’s that both men have a passion about what they are doing- and an attitude of gratitude. They want to share their passion with the people- and they don’t loathe Dayton. Where others are always seeing what we need to fix- they see what we need to do- and are doing it.

    Empty houses aren’t a liability- they are an opportunity. Empty produce company turns into low budget boxing gym. Restaurant that’s hit the skids- gets an instant makeover and is now pulling in the stacks of cash. Dayton isn’t dead in either of these men’s eyes- or hearts, and that’s what makes them stand out.

    It doesn’t take a master plan, with community input. It doesn’t take a ton of money. It just takes passion and coloring outside the lines that the man keeps telling us are there for our own good.

    So, if you want to get in shape, or you want to have a good time- go see John or Brian- and thank them and support them for doing what they’re doing. I will be.