Montgomery County Board of Elections director Betty Smith to step down

Sources have informed esrati.com that Director Betty Smith (R) will be stepping down at the Montgomery County Board of Elections for health reasons. Smith just recently switched positions with Steve Harsman (D) for the director. Both are paid the same and the seat rotates from D to R on a regular schedule.

It will be up to the new Republican Party chief, Rob Scott, to lead the decision on who will replace Ms. Smith at the board of elections.

On a personal note, I wish Betty the best- I’ve always found her to be incredibly helpful and nice in all my dealings with her. She also seemed to always follow the letter of the law on the patronage hires- making sure to have job applications etc. More than I can say about  the other side of the house.

The first step in education reform is to test the politicians

ExamWe now do a lot of teaching to the test. Making sure that kids can pass tests created by private companies to gauge achievement. It’s a huge racket. We spend billions on tests, test prep and the time wasted in our already short school year. The same people who make the tests, make the textbooks,  the test prep materials, and even run charter schools take a huge share of taxpayer money to provide “services” to “public education.”

There are proven lower cost alternatives, but I’ll get to that later. First you need to be schooled about what’s on our tests.

For a brilliant perspective on this folly, you really must read about the “hare and the pineapple“- a short story adapted from the fable of the hare and the turtle. This was on a test in the state of New York and was called out by students as being dumb, and amazingly, the people administering the test agreed and threw the questions out. Unfortunately, we didn’t look at throwing the publisher of this tripe, Pearson, out of the public education support business and start investing in meaningful education reform.

Gail Collins, editorial columnist for the New York Times has a nice short piece about this “A very pricey pineapple”

The first group of people we need to test on education is the people we elect. Sarah Palin had the potential of being our vice president, yet couldn’t tell you who fought on which side in World War II. Maybe we should make candidates try to pass the basic citizenship test that we make foreigners take to gain citizenship? It’s not an easy test. Right now, Ohio Governor Copycat Kasich is in love with an idea he got from the State of Florida- that no third grader should advance to fourth grade until they are reading at level. All research says that for kids to read on level by third grade a few things are needed:

  • Parents who can read and do in the home
  • Books in the home
  • Pre-K programs like Head Start and full-day kindergarten

However the governor has done little to assist schools in having funding for the actual parts the state provides.

Politicians talk about supporting education all the time. In fact, in his leaked website, our “Future Mayor of Dayton” talked about making sure education will be a priority, even though as mayor of Dayton, he has absolutely zero authority to do anything about education in his job description, unless he gets the state to intervene and declare Dayton Public Schools a failure and turns the headaches of urban school district reform over to the mayor as they have in Cleveland- in essence putting an amateur in charge of the education system. Maybe to run for office we should first require a test to see if the candidates actually know the responsibilities of the position and the structure of government before they are allowed to take out petitions?

It’s pretty obvious that this country has zero interest in electing our best and brightest people to positions of leadership in this country, with a few notable exceptions, we’re holding a popularity contest or an auction more than an election to select the people with the best ideas. Voters are given as little real information as possible to make selections, and the process is tainted by a lot of money spent on disinformation.

What are educational solutions that our best and brightest would advocate for? Here are two efforts that are being undertaken to help third-world nations educate their people- paid for by Americans, who don’t see it as a problem that we’re not doing the same for our kids:

Worldreader gives kids in the developing world access to digital books. Using e-readers loaded with thousands of local and international e-books, we provide children the books they want and need, so they can improve their lives.

via Worldreader: Kindles and E-books in Schools.

Wow, instead of constantly having to buy new textbooks that become obsolete or that consume a ton of physical resources, we’re giving away devices loaded with knowledge that can be updated and distributed effortlessly. Giving a kid a whole library of his own to explore and engage with doesn’t somehow seem obvious to Americans for our own kids.

My own kids aren’t even allowed to bring home many of their textbooks- instead being given “worksheets” which are stupid, wasteful, fill-in-the-blank, multiple-guess and matching crapola that mimic what “the tests” look like- and of course, have to be purchased from the crack purveyors of testing materials- Pearson (et. al.).

We also talk about the jobs of tomorrow belonging to “knowledge workers” which would require absolute familiarity and expertise in working with computers. It would seem that we’d be racing to make sure that every kid had a personal computing device of their own- ideally with open source software so they could learn and tinker with the inner workings of these devices so critical to their future. Nope, we don’t have a One Laptop Per Child program universally in the United States- but, thanks to a really smart guy who isn’t elected, Nicholas Negroponte of the MIT Media Lab, they’ve developed the OLPC XO laptop, or “hundred dollar laptop” to send to poor kids in Third World Countries to solve the same problems we have here.

OLPC’s mission is to empower the world’s poorest children through education.

We aim to provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop. To this end, we have designed hardware, content and software for collaborative, joyful, and self-empowered learning. With access to this type of tool, children are engaged in their own education, and learn, share, and create together. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future.

via Mission | One Laptop per Child.

They are on version 2 of their device, and our kids here in America, still don’t have computers. At least not universally, provided by the “public education system” – because companies like Pearson fear for the day when they are no longer needed in the classroom, as kids learn from the huge body of information that’s freely accessible to anyone with access to the internet.

As to the question of who might be responsible for making sure that information is correct- well, let me introduce you to Kahn’s academy. It started out with a very smart guy in college, Salman Kahn, (working on his 4th degree) tutoring his cousin online. He soon started using YouTube and sharing his lessons globally. It took off. Guess what, although I previously chided amateurs running education systems it turns out some of them can. Unfortunately, see above about testing our politicians before allowing them to run.

If we elected people like Salman Kahn or Nicholas Negroponte, our education system would look a lot different. Of course, for that to happen, we’d have to have smarter voters, with better access to information… but that’s another theme that we talk about on esrati.com for another time.

For now, let’s start testing the politicians to see if they know what the leaders in educating for the future know to be true and that works at a much lower cost than what we’re doing now.

Photo Credit: Alberto G. via Compfight

 

Questions for A.J. Wagner- our future mayor

The twitter account for WagnerForMayor has been claimed by "The Fake AJ Wagner"

If you want people to follow your account, you should own it first

Last night I let the community know about A.J. Wagner’s new Wagner for Mayor website. One of my readers has already claimed the twitter account that the Washington. D,C,. developers failed to claim, despite telling the world to follow @WagnerforMayor

His fundraising button to ActBlue doesn’t work yet either. And, the brilliant D.C. developer also failed to remove the “Hello World” post as well. The site does look real “purdy” though.

AJ Wagner for Mayor site designed by DC firm Code and Politics

I believe in Dayton, but I go to DC for my site

Considering Wagner claims all over his site that he “believes in Dayton” he chose not to use any number of local firms that can develop a site and a brand and headed to Washington, D.C., to hire “Code and Politics” So far he has no content under “The Issues” and in his grand introduction which is written in that wonderful third-person voice (especially odd for a blog post) the most telling part is that you can’t comment. Does A.J. want to have a conversation with the people of Dayton or not? Since you can’t do anything but friend him on Facebook and sign up for a newsletter, I thought I’d open the discussion about A.J.’s campaign here on Esrati.com where the people who choose to be well informed about Dayton politics and graft come daily.

I’ve used the ordered list with numbers for discussion only, not as a rank of importance.

  1. You’ve been writing a column in the Dayton City Paper (DCP), now that you are a political candidate, will you give that up, or will you get the DCP to give your opposition equal space?
  2. Do you plan on writing your own posts on your blog, or continue to have some strange ghostwriter do it in a third person like our Republican congressman and former Mayor, Mike Turner? And if you are interested in learning how to use this technology, may I recommend the excellent seminar on using WordPress, www.websitetology.com
  3. Will you at some point allow comments? Will they post immediately like on esrati.com or will you hold them for moderation?
  4. As a judge, you recused yourself from all death penalty cases, claiming your Catholic faith and personal moral constructs put you at odds with the law (citation needed, but take my word for it- or A.J. can respond in comments). Are there any issues in the city that your faith and constructs might put you at odds with the law- for example, the Catholic church isn’t a fan of abortion, birth control, gay marriage, domestic partner registries, etc.?
  5. The current city charter requires 500 signatures of registered voters to get on the ballot and to have the petitions notarized. This is a bit odd, since you only need 50 signatures to run for Congress. It has stopped many candidates from getting on the ballot due to technicalities or the validity of signatures (which have to be gathered in very cold weather). The state standard is also 50 signatures. Will you change this?
  6. Also, the charter requirements for citizens to put a charter change on the ballot and the recall process both are measured by percentages of registered voters- not by a percentage of actual voters in an election (the standard that’s used throughout the state). According to the census, Dayton has 109,000 people of voting age. If you believe the 100,000  count of registered voters at the Board of Elections we have 93% of adults are qualified to sign petitions. Yet petitions routinely have at least 30% of the signatures invalidated. Will you fix this?
  7. What is A,J, Wagner’s plan for the priority board system that was implemented in the ’70’s and decimated in the last ten years?
  8. On your site you talk about improving educational opportunities. To quote Mike Turner in his first mayoral race when I was running against him and talked about the schools, “if you want to talk about the schools you should be running for school board.” Where is the money coming from to better fund pre-K education and full-day kindergartens? And where is the money coming from to fund a program “for all those who qualify and apply themselves, through a college diploma paid for by private and public benefactors” ala the “Kalamazoo promise” We can be promised the world by any politician, we want to know specifics on how you will achieve it.
  9. You backed Rhine McLin in the past and Richard Clay Dixon. Considering that neither of them was a  stellar, ground breaking mayor- what will make you different? Can you point out any paradigm shifts you implemented as auditor or as a judge that supports your ability to do any “outside the box” thinking?
  10. We’ve seen the City Commission get mired up in national politics by addressing things that are outside the purview of city government – an assault weapons ban, a handgun registry, anti-predatory lending laws, living wage rules which while all good and fine for posturing, drained city resources and took the eye off the ball of doing the basic jobs that our city has been failing to do (indicated by the mass exodus of residents over the last 25 years). Are you for or against these kinds of grandstands- and how do you feel about each of them in retrospect (every one of them has cost the taxpayers plenty).
  11. Despite my protest and arrest over the subject of illegal “work sessions” of the City Commission back in 1996, the charter clearly specifies only one official meeting of the commission to conduct business at a set time and place, these have continued to be held. Will you stop this practice or continue it?
  12. The rules on public speaking at City Commission have become pretty draconian over the last 20 years, will you change the tenor of how citizens are received at the legal meeting?
  13. Over the last 20 years, we’ve seen the growth of the “Department of Economic Development” in the city, the county and the state. The main function of this department seems to be to hand out tax breaks or our tax dollars to private companies. What is your position on this?
  14. The Downtown Dayton Partnership has been funded for a number of years with an additional tax on downtown property owners. Considering the huge loss of downtown jobs, is it time to end the “Special Improvement District”?
  15. The city has given money for years to the Dayton Development Coalition which is supposed to serve as a regional Economic development department, but instead seems to have become a federal lobbying group. The city has also paid a lobbyist at times with tax dollars. Will you stop this practice and instead be our voice to lobby to our other elected officials?
  16. What are your specific criticisms of our current mayor? How has Gary Leitzell failed the citizens of Dayton in your opinion. I know this question is difficult for a nice guy like you, but, some would  point out he’s only one vote of five, and you’ve been a supporter of the other four commissioners who have probably gotten in his way. Comment?
  17. As a follow up question to #16, the inside joke about the mayor’s job is that your only qualification is that you have to be able to count to three. Which two commissioners will you engage and count on to make your mark?
  18. If I crawled though your campaign finance reports- who would I find as your major donors? You’ve run for other offices including Ohio Supreme Court. Are there any donors who might embarrass you? Do you have any opinion on campaign finance reform? Gary Leitzell ran his campaign with a sixth of what Rhine McLin spent- are you willing to agree to limits if your opposition does?
  19. You retired as judge before your term was up. Why should we elect a quitter? If you do it again, it will cost the taxpayers money for a special election- will you promise to personally guarantee the costs of a special election if elected? Also, if you are already receiving a state pension, will you forgo it while serving as mayor if you win? And, how will a four-year term as mayor affect your pension- is this part of why you are running – to add years? If the anti-spiking law goes into effect being mayor may actually lower your average pay and could decrease your pension- are you OK with that?
  20. I admit, I was impressed when you planted a flag in your yard for every dead US soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan as a reminder to us of the real cost of war. I understand that removing thousands of flags and replanting them every time you had to mow became an issue. While symbolism is wonderful- what else did you actively do to protest?
  21. I’ve previously posted an attack on your practice of housing young UD co-eds in your home– at one point the voter rolls had as many as 5 women, not related to you, residing in your home. What changes to zoning and building codes will you push as mayor? Do you support Single Room Occupancy, dropping the requirements for parking with development in built locations, or are there other ideas you have in this area?
  22. Last question- call it catch 22. Our city has a weak-mayor system. We’re supposed to have a professional city manager lead us, yet politicians with big egos and small brains have minimized our manager’s voice over the years. While Tim Riordan has done an amazing job at keeping the city out of financial folly, he’s not been a particularly visible or engaged leader. Who will you replace him with? Or will you try to move us away from the city manager form of government?

To be fair to Judge Wagner, and to other candidates, this is more than enough to keep him busy writing his blog for the next month. We’re still waiting to see who else throws their hat in the ring for leader of the pack.

In the meantime- make sure you follow @Wagnerformayor for the latest updates. I’m sure you’ll get more answers from the Fake AJ Wagner than you will from the real one.

If any of my readers want to pose questions for “The Future Mayor of Dayton” comments are open and welcome by me- the future…. of Dayton.

A.J. Wagner is running for mayor of Dayton

Screen Shot of AJ Wagner for mayor site

AJ wants to be Mayor.

I missed the announcement- but the website is up: http://ajwagnerformayor.com/home/ telling us how much AJ Wagner believes in Dayton and he will…

He’s been a career politician for at least two decades and a Montgomery County Democratic party insider. However, he quit his last elected position in an attempt to maneuver someone into his judgeship so they could run as an incumbent. When things weren’t going as planned for one of his patronage employees, he tried to “un-retire” and tell the governor who’s boss. See the posts:
A.J. Wagner shows the Governor who’s boss
How the Monarchy of Montgomery County Works: The AJ Wagner Affair

Insiders who’ve shared the story say the person he was protecting wasn’t worth it.

Although A.J. doesn’t have any use for me, I like him. He’s a nice guy, everybody’s buddy. The fact that he wouldn’t sign my petitions to help get me on the ballot, shows his true colors- he believes that the democratic process is only for insiders anointed by him and his pals.

I’m glad he’s running, just because it will make things interesting in the next election cycle. Mayor Leitzell is waiting until August to decide on his plans. Commissioner Nan Whaley thinks it’s “her turn” to be mayor. Commissioner Williams may be ready to be done with the commission. Rhine McLin is planning her comeback as well, either to fill Nan’s seat, or in a special election which will be called soon after Commissioner Lovelace gets his 20 years in and resigns.

There are some other candidates hiding in the wings, including a few who could give AJ a real run. No matter what, this will be a big money race.

Thanks to reader Melissa for giving me the tip.

Note- And AJ doesn’t believe in buying local- he went to Washington, D.C., to have his website done by Code and Politics

The tools of economic development were stolen last night

Just last week, I wrote about the costs of giving tax breaks to big businesses for promised jobs- while small business start-ups have huge obstacles. I spoke of the costs we all pay when we have to make up for the tax revenues that aren’t coming in.

From my post:

I’m watching a small start-up try to get out of the blocks. A house painting company that specializes in making new paint stick to old houses- by doing maniacal surface preparation and using high quality paint. He could hire an employee tomorrow to start work, but, he has to pay for licenses, bonding, insurance and purchase capital goods like a scaffold, all out of cash.

Also the minute he hires someone, he has to start paying worker’s comp (which is high for a painting company out of the blocks) payroll taxes- all the things we’re willing to subsidize for the going concern. And, the person he’s likely to hire- is someone who is also under-employed, needing every dollar earned just to survive.

He has no credit, no tax breaks and zero support. I helped by creating his new identity, printing business cards, door hangers and signs. I set him up with a website and suggested marketing strategies, he’s finishing his first project and about to start his second tomorrow. I also hired him to do some interior painting as he was getting started. He’s having to bid low to prove the value of his product, despite having a few “freelance projects” to show from last year.

When we know that the major engine for job creation is small businesses, why are our tax dollars subsidizing large ones?

When we know that the small business can have an immediate impact- why are the deals being done for jobs that are a year away?

Why do we subsidize any business with our tax dollars? With every subsidy we tilt the playing field to give an unfair advantage to one company over another- not the role for government or a fair use of our tax dollars. Plus, if the big business paid the same taxes as our smaller ones- maybe the burden of starting up wouldn’t be so insurmountable?

Would you like to help a small business get started? Hire one. The Brush and Bucket. (update in 2015- I can no longer vouch for this small business)

You want your tax dollars to help a big company by costing you more for security systems, slower emergency crew response, new school tax levies to make up for the giveaway- continue to sit on your thumbs while politicians sell you the BS that tax supported “job creation” is a good investment of your tax dollars.

via Your tax dollars at work as venture capital vs. small businesses at work.

Well, last night, The Brush and Bucket had his tools stolen. His brand new pressure washer, all of his sanders, grinders and scrapers. The aluminum downspouts from his current project- which were all locked in a building across the street from his house- gone. He was working on getting a security system installed- but, alas, it’s too late.

He also didn’t have his equipment insured yet. Gone are about $1,000 worth of equipment that helped employ 4 people.

Here are pictures of the kind of prep work he did with those tools- making old wood look new- and shots of the door lock that was busted open.

  • The busted door jamb after the break in.
    The jamb that broke
  • door lock missing bolt
    The bolt was busted out
  • After proper prep this is what the side of the house looked like
    Best paint prep job you’ve ever seen
  • The Brush and Bucket- sign with a house getting a proper prep job
    The Brush and Bucket, 937-824-0674
  • Stolen Troy Built Pressure Washer with Honda engine
    Stolen pressure washer
  • Stolen Pressure washer Serial number 1019876149
    Serial number 1019876149
  • Stolen DeWalt 5" Random Orbit Palm Sander Kit- model D26451K SN 882560
    Stolen DeWalt 5″ Random Orbit Palm Sander Kit- model D26451K SN 882560
  • Stolen DeWalt Palm sander s:n

True economic development means that people can spend their money on building a business, without having to fear that their tools will be stolen and all that they’ve worked for has disappeared overnight.

Had we spent $45,000 on our police department instead of a website from a Denver ad agency, maybe the Brush and Bucket would have the tools so 4 people could have worked today- and tomorrow.

Maybe the Mayor and the Commission would like to invest in a small local business with money out of their pockets- and buy him a new pressure washer, sanders, grinders and scrapers- so he can keep his company that he started in Dayton, hiring Daytonians, in business?

UPDATE

I’ve added pictures of the products- and the S/N of two of the stolen items:

Troy Built Pressure washer with Honda engine: Style 8100CP Model 020489 S/N 1019876149

DeWalt 5″ Random Orbit Palm Sander Kit- model D26451K  SN 882560

 

The real parking problem in Dayton

Parking meter shot

It's time to rethink parking downtown

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Bruno Furnari via Compfight

Imagine what would happen if NYC enacted rules requiring one parking space per every 1000 square feet of living space?

NYC wouldn’t be NYC.

That’s because the whole value of a dense urban downtown is that by cramming people together, you create critical concentrated buying power that supports retail. People in NYC don’t have cars- they walk, they use public transit, they use taxis. It works.

So why does Dayton stifle development with requirements of x parking spaces for business, residential, commercial? Because we’re stupid.

Cincinnati on the other hand is thinking of abolishing parking requirements to spur growth and to shift the cost of owning a car back to the car owner instead of to the real estate developer:

Cincinnati’s vice mayor has proposed a zoning change to allow developers to avoid minimum parking space requirements in downtown and Over-The-Rhine.

Roxanne Qualls introduced the motion Tuesday with support from City Council members Laure Quinlivan, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas and Wendell Young.

The city currently requires one parking space per residential unit in the central business district and Over-The-Rhine, where developers are building new projects and rehabilitating older spaces as apartments, condominiums and commercial properties.

Depending on the location, developers typically build either structured parking lots or buy more land for surface lots, which sometimes requires building demolition.

Nashville, Tenn., Portland, Ore. San Francisco, Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., are among the U.S. cities that have already eliminated parking minimums to reduce the cost of housing and free up space for commercial and residential development.

Downtown Cincinnati Inc.’s most recent quarterly study found that there are 36,473 monthly contract parking spaces downtown, with 4,375 spaces available.

“Cities are recognizing that allowing the market to function will produce a better result,” Qualls said. “If a developer wants to build an 800-room hotel without providing any parking, that’s probably not going to meet the demands of the market. But if a developer can sell or rent his units without meeting minimum parking requirements, then there is no need for them.”

Chad Munitz, of developer 3CDC, said the average cost to a developer is $5,000 for one surface parking space and $25,000 for a structured parking space. That cost is then passed on to the consumer, he said, raising the price of a residential unit by as much as $25,000.

Muntz said many residents of downtown and Over-The-Rhine use their cars infrequently, if they have one at all.

“The convenience sought by downtown residents is not instant access to a car; it’s the ability to live without a car,” Muntz said.

If approved, the parking requirements would be lifted within 30 days.

via Plan Would Allow Development Without Parking – Cincinnati News Story – WLWT Cincinnati.

Dayton’s Oregon District has buildings that have been rendered worthless because of these stupid requirements. Because it’s a historic district you can’t tear down anything to build a lot- and there are only so many spaces available. No developer is going to build a garage in the Oregon District (partially because the city transportation center garage is so close- and vacant most nights) because there isn’t enough demand for parking and the rates they could charge wouldn’t pay back the structure.

It’s time to change the zoning laws to release real estate from coming with parking- and to look at other options to allow more people to come downtown without having to park right at the door. Some solutions: free parking for 2-wheeled vehicles on sidewalks if not impeding walkers, a bike-share system to help facilitate moving from fringe parking lots to core buildings, changing more on-street parking to end in, like they’ve done in front of the Cannery on E. Third Street- which almost doubles the parking density, and lastly- turning the Oregon District into a pedestrian mall every weekend to attract more walkers, to increase opportunities for more retail, which will help getting occupancy up to 100% in all buildings on all levels and give us the kind of population density that can support more retail.

Randy Gunlock just discovers Esrati’s Sportsplex proposal

The headline is me being sarcastic. I’ve pushed the idea of a central massive sports/rec plex on the former public housing site between 1-75, the river, Helena and Keowee for years. I suggested instead of 6 new Dayton rec centers- we just build one amazing centralized one- instead, we ended with 2 semi-lame ones.

The plan got a small boost when the Kroc Center went in just due East of the location- taking care of the basketball component- but, my original concept also called for a true Olympic pool, ice rink, even speed skating track and velodromes- things not necessarily the norm. A put-Dayton-on-the-map sort of facility. It was to be integrated with a Dayton Public Schools central tutoring lab, media center to give kids places to go after school other than Third and Main- but, instead, we have an empty field.

Now, we hear Mr. Gunlock has a plan for a “$35 million regional youth sports complex” partially funded with tax dollars- and probably on his property. Nothing like propping up your property values with tax-supported amenities, huh Mr. G?

From the Dayton Daily news today:

Developer Randy Gunlock called for a regional campaign to raise as much as $35 million in private funds for a year-round regional youth sports complex.

Gunlock said he would be a major funder of the proposed youth sports complex, but that others would be needed to pull it off. “I’m continuously talking about this. I think it’s important. Whether there’s going to be enough support in the community, I don’t know,” he said in a phone interview Thursday night.

Gunlock’s family company, RG Properties, is the developer of Austin Landing, the $150-million, 142-acre development near the Montgomery-Warren County line. RG Properties has developed more than 10 million square feet of commercial real estate in four states.

Gunlock said development of such a facility is essential to keeping families in the Miami Valley and drawing families to regional or national events in the Dayton-Cincinnati area.

He declined to comment on how much he would donate to the project or where it should be located, other than to say the complex should be built somewhere along the corridor between Cincinnati and Dayton. “The reality is … these communities are growing together. Have been 50 years. Will continue to,” he said.

Already, youth and amateur sports tourism are credited with bringing more than $100 million a year to the area — just a fraction of $5 billion to $7 billion in national revenues traced to yearly business activities springing from youth and amateur sports tourism.

Although a youth hockey supporter, Gunlock said the facility should offer facilities for soccer and lacrosse. He noted plans in West Carrollton and Miami Twp. involving youth sports facilities.

Plans for youth sports complexes, so far focused on outdoor facilities, already are unfolding 11 miles apart in Warren and Butler counties, both so far to be funded by taxpayer dollars.

via $35M campaign for youth sports complex launched.

The magic tonic of “sport tourism” which starts the economic development types salivating is yet another distraction from solving real problems in our community- like the ones Gunlock has already caused by constructing new office space in a community that’s already overbuilt. Adding in his special income tax free zone for the rich only, he’s sucked the last bits of life out of downtown while draining the county coffers of development dollars building his private interchange at Austin Road.

We’ve already seen one attempt to illegally jack up the hotel tax to build an ice arena for Sir Gunlock that nobody had discussed or justified. Now, we’re seeing a second attempt.

We’re also hearing rumblings out of West Carrollton to build a soccer complex and arena for the Dayton Dutch Lions. Why is is impossible to have a true regional plan? Could it be that our County Commission is totally ineffective in coordinating the many fiefdoms of the region we call Dayton?

Our one true regional success has been Metroparks- wouldn’t it make sense to look at having them coordinate regional sports related recreation facilities? If they need experts on how to build effective recreational facilities and run programs- they should talk to the City of Kettering which by far is the leader in creating parks and programming for all residents from their BMX track and Skateboard park to soccer fields, and Rec Center complete with ice rink. No other community comes close in the region at providing real community amenities- and I left out the Rosewood arts center, Trent Arena and the Fraze Pavillion.

Mr. Gunlock may be able to pledge some money to a project- but, let’s make sure it’s our project not his- we’ve already gone broke building his fields into dreams, and they’ve cost us dearly.

A great menu doesn’t mean the food will taste good: City of Dayton goes to Denver for an expensive website

When I first came to Dayton there were a lot more people living in the city. Downtown didn’t have two new class A skyscrapers, a new performing arts center, Riverscape, but it still had people working there. The Arcade was open and we didn’t have the Downtown Dayton Partnership or the Dayton Development Coalition or give-away tax dollars to every single business that promised to employ people.

We did invest in having 6+ recreation centers, a police force close to 500 sworn officers and the streets were smooth, clean and not full of potholes.

Now, downtown is a ghost town, we have about half the police force, just a few recreation centers and the streets are like an obstacle course. Oh yeah, and our population has dropped by something close to 40%

So, tomorrow night, the Dayton City Commission is going to spend $45,000 on a website with Atlas Advertising of Denver, Colorado, on a GIS-enabled website for the Department of Economic Development.
Here is how Atlas describes its product:

Does your community know how to leverage its unique strengths to drive inquiry and investment from prospects? Economic development marketing is where Atlas started and it’s what we do every day. Our CEO is a former economic developer. Our Creative Director has designed the best economic development website in the country—four times. And we all work hard to create feature-rich, integrated software products and dynamic creative services for our economic development clients every day. Smart, Feature Rich Economic Development Websites; Atlas offers the most feature rich, easy to use economic development websites on the market. These include Atlas Smart City Economic Development Website, developed specifically for cities and counties under 100,000 in population, and Atlas Smart Region Economic Development Website, developed specifically for regions and utility service areas made up of multiple cities and counties and totaling over 100,000 in population.

via Economic Development Marketing Services & Products.

There are also monthly fees of:

  • Annual maintenance, demographic data, software and hosting: $495
  • Company data (D&B) $125

So instead of working on recreating the unique strengths we once had- parks, recreation, safe neighborhoods- we’re going to send large sums of money to a web development firm in Colorado (not that there are any in the entire state of Ohio that can do this) but, we’re going to spend our hard-earned tax dollars on yet more “economic development” Hail Mary solutions instead of investing in making sure the streets are smooth, safe and clean.

I don’t care what you tell people about what you offer- if they do their due diligence on this community (greater Dayton) and get one whiff of the kind of three-ring circus we call “government” – with umpteen hoops to jump through, the prospective employers will head elsewhere.

We’ve “invested” about $150 million in moving the deck chairs of local companies to Austin Landing over the last 3 years- just imagine how many more police, parks and street sweepers that could have bought. Never mind the savings by consolidating our I don’t want to even know how many jurisdictions into one competent one.

And- as per usual, the 126-page agenda was posted as a scanned PDF- unreadable by people with disabilities and not in compliance with the ADA. So, I’ve done a little OCR work and uploaded it here for you to review. The internal links unfortunately break with the OCR process.

Dayton City Commission 04-18-12 Agenda

I also find this item interesting:

DHDC, Inc.- Contract- for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP3) Nuisance Abatement Program Residential Asbestos Surveys and Post Abatement Verification Inspections- 2012 (Open Market Contract) (Federal NSP3 Funds)- Dept. of Building Services/Housing Inspection. $77,357.00

DHDC is Design Homes- owned by Sherry Oakes, who was recently investigated by the Dayton Daily News and the Feds for issues about minority and set aside ratings. The city says “This Project was bid with a 0% participation goal; however, DHDC, Inc. is a minority and woman owned company.” If this is a 0% participation goal- why are these relevant? They also checked “No” with an * on disclosure of litigation and have a handwritten explanation of their issues with RAPCA.

Note- Design Homes website doesn’t talk at all about doing asbestos abatement. However, TesTech- one of their other companies does: http://www.testechinc.com/enviro.html

If you don’t find this odd, you must work for the city.

 

 

Only the people who don’t pay off politicians pay income taxes at Austin Road

Bruce Langos sells 24,751 shares of TDC on 02/10/2012 at an average price of $62.09 a share.

via Feb. 14, 2012 – TERADATA CORP (TDC) COO Bruce Langos sells 24,751 Shares.

that’s $1,536,789 in income- or $34,578 in taxes at 2.25%  In 2008 (last date I could quickly find for his compensation) he earned:

Total Compensation $1,242,916.00

via Bruce Langos Profile – Forbes.com.

that’s another $27,966 in income tax that he’d have to pay if he was subject to the same income tax that the people who work at Kohl’s next door are subject to under the connived rules created by the JEDD- or “Joint Economic Development District”- in the name of “economic development.”

Put the two together and there goes $62,554 in taxes that could be funding police officers, water treatment plants, regional dispatch centers. The income taxes being skipped by excluding just one person in Teradata are greater than the average total wages of all those “jobs” we created at Kohl’s, Menards, Walmart and other major corporations who have been subsidized by this boondoggle of massive proportions at Austin Landing.

boundaries recently set in the Austin Landing district exclude workers like RG Properties President Randy Gunlock who works from one of the office buildings excluded from the district and lives in nearby Clearcreek Twp. The district also excludes office workers living in the development’s residential village, but construction workers are to be taxed.

(James Durham, a law professor at University of Dayton) Durham acknowledged excluding RG itself and other tenants, such as Teradata, failed to capitalize on taxation of the higher wages earned and larger staffs working in the office buildings.

“On the whole, they are going to be paid more. It’s certainly imperfect,” he said.

via Townships use economic development district funds to spur growth.

Teradata was part of NCR- and those jobs were in Dayton, with employees paying the 2.25% income tax. The company was spun off- and despite having revenues in the billions, the residents of Montgomery County have subsidized this company’s moves not just once, but twice in the last 5 years. Moving them first to a custom built HQ (Oberer Companies)  in Miami Township and then moving them half a mile down the road to a new one, constructed by RG Properties.

I’m not picking on Bruce only, his whole company is benefiting, but Bruce was also the Chair of the Dayton Development Coalition which advocates for corporate welfare instead of the health of the community. It’s also easier to find his compensation.

Another tenant of the 1% tax free while the 99% pay tax zone, is the law firm of Thompson Hine. They too used to be in downtown Dayton and paid the 2.25% income tax. They left for the shiny new oasis of Austin Road- leaving their offices in the former Mead Tower and helping force that building into financial straights. This triggered Key Bank to move across the street, abandoning their building which sold for $500K to a mysterious guru who calls himself “Commander.”

Thompson Hine’s lawyers won’t have to pay income tax either, thanks to the “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” rule that somehow snuck on the books. Of course, the lawyers of Thompson Hine pay a different tax- the “campaign tax” as I call it- handing out huge donations to federal candidates.

Top Contributor to Member (5 results)

  • Thompson Hine LLP to Jean Schmidt (R) in 2012
  • Thompson Hine LLP to Rob Portman (R) in 2012
  • Thompson Hine LLP to Sherrod Brown (D) in 2012
  • Thompson Hine LLP to Albert R. Wynn (D) in 2004
  • Thompson Hine LLP to Steve Chabot (R) in 2004

Top Contributor to Candidate (4 results)

  • Thompson Hine LLP to Ohio District 10 candidates in 2012
  • Thompson Hine LLP to Ohio Senate candidates in 2012
  • Thompson Hine LLP to Ohio Senate candidates in 2010
  • Thompson Hine LLP to Ohio District 7 candidates in 2008

via OpenSecrets.org Search.

So if you have money to donate to political candidates you get a hall pass on income taxes? Note, OH-10 democratic candidate Sharen Neuhardt is one of the Thompson Hine lawyers who won’t be paying a Montgomery County income tax- and she’s also a prime recipient of donations from her firm.

Of course, Austin Landing is the pet project of local developer Randy Gunlock who is also not going to have to pay income taxes in his new development. His company, RG Properties is also excluded. Randy does OK for himself and is a top donor as well to political campaigns giving tens of thousands of dollars between him, his wife, his kids- to candidates like Congressman Mike Turner and the Republican National Committee. When you’ve got an indoor full size hockey rink in your backyard, complete with a Zamboni, the idea of having to pay income taxes like a checkout person at Kohl’s must be really repulsive.

His home, a 5 bedroom, 15,879 sq feet, is appraised at just under $2 million.His annual property tax bill is $30,000 of about what someone working at Kohl’s makes. He pays no income tax, they pay 2.25%

The taxpayers have poured over $150 million into the interchange and improvements at Austin Road, the residents of Miami Township have gotten stuck for the airfare on Randy’s private jet when he flew two trustees up to Michigan to look at a hockey arena. The Township residents have already been hit up for $24 million to help finance Mr. Gunlock’s private tax haven for the wealthy by being asked to float bonds, apply for development grants and transportation tax dollars. All so that the wealthy can work in brand new office buildings and pay Mr. Gunlock rent- while getting to evade income taxes that were supporting existing infrastructure in Dayton. Recently another million dollar cost overrun was paid without investigation.

This is the giant sucking sound of the lifeblood of Dayton’s core. The saddest thing is it’s being financed by the very people who can least afford it, and have the least influence in changing political outcomes, the working poor.

Of course, the county officials are talking out of both sides of their mouths- the original reason for all this investment according to another article claiming the development is worth $400 million was to generate income taxes:

“We’ve got our flag in the ground,” said Steve Stanley, executive director of the Montgomery County Transportation Improvement District, the entity which helped fund the interchange, roads and other infrastructure underlying the development.

Income taxes from employees working in the area will go to the county, Miamisburg, Miami Twp. and Springboro. Sales tax will go the county.

“Sales tax is one piece. Income tax is another piece. The idea is to bring income tax from outside the region into this area,” said Todd Duplain, director of development for Mills Development.

via Austin development part of over $400M in projects off interchange.

We just didn’t know at the time that the richest incomes wouldn’t be contributing.

 

 

 

Premier Health Partners to kill Carmen’s Deli

July 29, 2009, while the economy was in the Dumpster and 5th/3rd was in the process of leaving the old Cit Fed building, my friend Haitham Iman made the gutsy move and took over a space that had failed repeatedly as a deli and put his life savings on the line- here is what I wrote:

I’ve known Haitham Iman for years. I’m sure many of you who have attended events at the David Ponitz center, Building 12, of Sinclair know him too.

He’s the always smiling, nice guy, who makes sure your experience is exceptional when it comes to the food at events.

Now, he’s the guy on the grill- only it’s his grill, in his and his lovely wife Carmen’s new restaurant on the first floor of the 5th/3rd Tower, in the old Swisher’s Too location….

via Carmen’s Deli now open- go see Haitham.

He started with 3 employees; now, he has 6. He’s worked hard to build his business and a following, despite being in a building that had its tenants abandon ship, the building go into foreclosure and then be sold for dimes on the dollar to one of the richest, largest companies left in Dayton: Premier Health Partners, owners of Miami Valley Hospital, etc.

Premier is now about to fill the tower with 900 employees, news that made Haitham leap for joy when he first heard the news. His lease ran through 2014 and he looked forward to 900 new customers right on top of his little dining spot. First assurances were that no one would lose out, but, then the powers that be changed the plan, serving Carmen’s Deli with an eviction notice. It seems Premier wants to feed its own people by building a cafeteria – right on the first floor. They offered Haitham a management position, which was what he had before he took charge of his future and started his version of the American Dream. He turned them down- politely I’m sure.

Premier also offered him a chance to take over the old Kitty’s/Thomato’s/Mediterra/piano bar, etc. space- but it requires about a $300K build-out which is beyond Haitham’s reach. My sources say they shopped the same space to other restaurateurs in town but offered the build-out- and still didn’t get takers.

Most of us would think, how can they boot him if he has a lease? If he tried to walk on them, they’d go after him like rabid dogs. Premier’s lawyers claim that his lease didn’t transfer after the foreclosure and they have the right to boot him now. His customers are outraged, some have even offered their legal services pro-bono to help him out. He’s a David without a slingshot getting his lunch eaten by a Goliath who could take care of this within the rounding error on their books. But, he’s at their mercy.

Precedent

Jimmy Brandell was a thorn in Miami Valley’s side for years. He bought the bar at the corner of Brown and Wyoming streets before the hospital had visions of a grand campus. First it was the second home of the Walnut Hills (first home is now Tank’s) and then when he split with his partner he renamed it Jimmie’s Cornerstone Tavern. He built his business with Dayton’s first CD jukebox and a bar menu that started early for hospital employees getting off third shift. He knew he had it good- and the hospital had decided they wanted his building bad. For years they went back and forth until finally, the hospital made Jimmy an offer he couldn’t refuse: to move him across the street to the old Ladder 11 firehouse, complete with a large attached parking lot. If you hadn’t been to the Cornerstone- you missed a good dive- but, if you haven’t headed over to Jimmie’s Ladder 11 since he opened on 11/11/11, you’re missing out on the Taj Mahal of firehouse bar food and drink.

Jimmy had leverage in bricks and mortar- Haitham, unfortunately only held a lease.

But what about all our “Development” organizations?

Haitham has talked to the Downtown Dayton Partnership, Citywide, the powers that be at the City of Dayton Office of Economic Development- and while they all liked talking about his start-up 3 years ago, now, they like talking about the jobs that Premier is bringing (well not really bringing, they’re just shuffling- but we call that development). Citywide has space in the first floor of “Courthouse Crossing” or did (they might not own it anymore) including the former Roly Poly location that rolled out of downtown under the cover of darkness. There is also the former Chick-filet location in the Key Bank tower (formerly Mead tower) which is too small, but so far, no one has come up with some options to save 6 jobs and a business that committed to downtown when others wouldn’t. Sure- our tax dollars have gone to help Uno around the corner, and Citilites across the way in the Schuster has been butted up with public money, but so far- nothing for Haitham.

Unfortunately, when the “undeveloper” Paul Hutchins sent Boston’s Bistro packing for a plan that never happened- way back in 2006, he also stripped the space of what it needed to become a bar again. That space has been empty ever since- and is spitting distance from Carmen’s. If only…

The reality is, it’s one thing to wheel and deal in real estate, but it’s another to destroy jobs. Yes, Premier will be able to brag about having the only building downtown with 100% occupancy (except for Kitty’s space), but they’ll also be driving a business out.

You can call this progress all you want, but what we’d give to have back Seattle East, Boston’s, the Dugout Deli, Wendy’s, Frisch’s, The Diner on St. Clair, etc. To have a vital downtown, we need diversity and choices in food. Premier isn’t doing itself a favor by tossing Carmen’s out like trash- even its employees may miss options.

I’m not suggesting this should be the taxpayers’ responsibility, but since we subsidize Premier Health through Medicare/Medicaid and not taxing the hospitals- maybe Premier can find it in its heart not to kill this small business. It’s healthy for our community to keep it.