Explaining irrational behavior in Dayton, Ohio

prolog:

A word that people bandy about when they bring my name up is “crazy.” That is until they actually know me. Unfortunately, I’m cursed with something that isn’t valued much in Dayton- a very high IQ. It’s one of those things that I don’t care about, but what I do care about is my city, as do most people who read this site. Most of you are gutless wonders performing your role as part of “the machine”- and as of this election, I’m here to tell you- the machine is on its last legs. Here is why,

Note, you can skip this next section entirely, and jump straight to the topic of the day- the great food truck debate, but, since it’s Thanksgiving, I thought I’d give thanks to the crooks who got us to where we are today.

The first hints of trouble started back in the mid-1980s

Despite the pride that we have in our “city manager” system which was supposed to keep politics out of running our city, it’s never really been anything but a front for business to control the local markets. The Dayton Business Committee — and before them, the All Dayton Committee, met in back rooms and schemed out their plans for where and what was supposed to be done in Dayton. One powerful family in the mix were the Danises who liked to build things- from buildings to landfills and water treatment plants. Another were the Beermans- who besides owning a department store downtown, also owned a lot of real estate. What was good for the scions of Dayton – was good for Dayton. Unfortunately, none of them had a clue about city planning- or sprawl, other than “building is good” for the economy- so build we did and sprawl some more.  Dayton did well with Fortune 500 HQ’s for a city our size- with Mead, Reynolds, & Reynolds,  Standard Register, and NCR in the mix. The workers had jobs that paid well, thanks especially to Generous Motors- where Dayton was the lone bastion of the IUE in the auto biz- and caused Detroit no end of headaches with the odd-guy-out issues.

The political parties played along- as long as they could keep their patronage jobs working, and they never elected anyone who would stand up to the boys in the back room who really were calling the shots. And make no mistake- the people who were calling the shots weren’t afraid to show their muscle- when I first ran for mayor- the windows at my office were shot out twice to send a message, but that’s already after the major shift that was the first hint of where we are today.

One Dayton Center- or the Arcade Tower- photo

An early big bad idea by government

The city was celebrating the reopening of the Arcade- things were good, but we needed to keep the Danis family happy. A study came out saying there was a shortage of Class A office space downtown, and if we didn’t build it- businesses would flee. The Dayco tower by the Dayton Mall was a very scary symbol to those downtown. Danis started with a plan to build the CitFed tower at 2nd and Main and got caught up with preservation problems. In the meantime, the city, still flush with cash from payroll income taxes on all those NCR jobs, thought that they had done so well with the redevelopment of the arcade- that they should build a tower too. Remember, this is because a “study” said we needed it. They entered into an agreement with Webb Henne developers to build a tower at Third and Main – in competition with the Danis tower. A squabble broke out and people were taking sides and fighting for one tower or the other. A lot of money was used to grease wheels- and despite the city contract with Webb Henne stating they must have at least 35% pre-leased to move ahead- they built it with only 20% leased. The Danis tower, although it was first to be announced, opened later, and a fight for rearranging deck chairs broke out. Danis paid the Police Chief, Tyree Broomfield $100,000 to go away, he got the contract to build the landfill on the West Side (which was the reason party favorite Clay Dixon lost to Republican wonderboy Mike Turner). At some point, the city decided to shut down the city steam system- probably as payoff by DP&L which often hired political types into very nice “government affair jobs.” Without city steam- the arcade could no longer be heated, older buildings had to retrofit (a very expensive process) and Danis got the arcade, closed it down- in an attempt to force the eventual foreclosure on the Arcade tower and on and on the spinning wheel goes.

The idea that the city should and could be a player in the public sector as an investor, financier, owner was officially hatched. Never mind that every project was practically stillborn- or required tradeoffs, subsidies, etc. The investment in the Landing and the downtown YMCA drove Joe Moore to close his downtown gym- swearing never to return. Other real estate investors sat and watched as tax breaks drove their rents down- until almost every major building downtown has been sold under duress/foreclosure (the only one not suffering this fate as far as I know is the Talbott tower). Like pizza chains offering cheap pizza, the race to the bottom was on- and there are no winners. Downtown was eating up more time, resources and tax dollars- and the focus on quality of life for the residents was put on the back burner. It didn’t help that NAFTA was signed in the early 1990s and that giant sucking sound started to slowly siphon off the good jobs and the income tax receipts that came with them.

Dayton has a whole layer of quasi-government that has been built over the years to help keep the paper trail confusing to the general observer. Citywide Development Corporation and the Downtown Dayton Partnership and more recently, the Dayton Development Coalition have taken the driver’s seats over from the former Dayton Business Committee- or at least, they think they have. And while the DBC still exists, now they include the publisher of the Dayton Daily News in their group- because, well, they have to control the story and keep the voters in the dark and clueless.

Really insidious things have been allowed to happen, without so much as a peep from the masses. The giant sucking sound out of Downtown to Austin Landing has been supported with more tax dollars than is in Dayton’s annual budget. As to collecting income taxes- now, despite the law that says “townships” can’t levy income taxes- they’ve somehow engineered the taxation of blue-collar workers there- while the white-collar workers- who all used to work in Dayton (Teradata, Thompson Hine, etc.) don’t pay income taxes. The same is happening to blue-collar workers at Miller Lane in Butler Township.

We’ve been sidetracked with dreams of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles as our savior (drones) and before that, composites and for a minute fuel cells and before that distribution hub, which is now being dusted off again as a rally cry of the people who get paid to pronounce instead of actually do. The siphoning of money from the poor to the rich isn’t just a Wall Street thing- it’s done daily here in Dayton – which is how we come to food trucks. The lowest rung of the ladder.

The Great Thanksgiving Day Food Truck Massacre

It started on Tuesday, when Tonia Fish told me that her temporary lease on the old Chin’s/Elbo’s/Sa-Bai space at 200 S. Jefferson St. may not be renewed. A meeting of some sort had been held in City Hall and the decision was coming. Mayor Leitzell had told me that in the executive session last week, where this matter was being discussed, Nan Whaley wasn’t prepared to vote on it and it was tabled. Had they had another illegal meeting of the commission to discuss this lease? There wasn’t an announced session- and since Executive sessions have to be done either as an emergency and announced- or gone into from a regularly scheduled meeting- what had happened?

Full disclosure- Tonia and her husband Joe Fish have been my friends for a long time. They own the Chef Case in the 2nd Street market – and I’ve done a few projects for them. I’ve been left out of all of the Synergy Incubators marketing- because I’m too controversial.

Mrs. Fish is a force to be reckoned with. Having worked with high-powered people in big cities, she’s meticulous in her planning and in the execution of her plans. Her business plan was to turn the space in the Transportation Center Garage into a communal kitchen/teaching/banquet place for independent food operators. This actually dovetails with businesses like Thai 9 that routinely have to turn down large events that they can’t cater or book because it would disrupt their regular business- as opposed to the last tenant the city put in this space, Sa-Bai, that was direct, subsidized competition for Thai 9.

She’d already begun offering business education at the former Dayton Public Schools Central Kitchen which was in mothballs until she opened Dayton’s first mobile food business commissary. The kitchen is currently licensed as a prep kitchen which food trucks and carts use as home base. But, it’s a manufacturing plant- not a restaurant training ground. The city claims to be in favor of this part of her plan- and supports it. The sticking point that killed this local food incubator wasn’t the low rent- but the plan to help support this facility by having one day a month food truck rallies on this location. Hard to believe that drawing a few thousand people downtown once a month is a threat to any restaurant business- and no business owner would come out and say this, but, because this is Dayton. Ohio- where irrational behavior gets rewarded, the one-year lease/experiment got axed officially yesterday.

Food trucks don’t kill business- idiots kill businesses

Two people railed behind the scenes to put the kibosh on the food truck rallies. One was Realtor and Oregon District Business Association head Mike Martin. While the city has no other potential tenants for either the space in question or the former Greyhound station- the idea of a tenant that pays rent and keeps the place operating apparently isn’t good enough for Mike. He has trotted out a “club promoter” who has said they aren’t interested in the space as a potential tenant just to sew a fine thread of hope in the commission’s micro-sized minds. He says, even though no vote has been taken, that the ODBA is against food truck rallies- even though Mrs. Fish had letters of support from Lily’s, Blind Bob’s, Thai 9 and the 5th Street Deli in hand. Of course, the ODBA isn’t all restaurants and bars- businesses like Sew Dayton,  and the Urban Krag support the food trucks- as do Gilly’s and the Neon Movies, and would love to see the district not closed off to customers for the annual drunk fest at Halloween which negatively impact their businesses.

The other is the Downtown Dayton Partnership head, Sandy Gudorf, who went around claiming that she was doing an official survey sponsored by the city on whether the businesses support food truck rallies. With the recent inclusion of the Oregon District in the area managed by the DDP (the “ambassadors” program- privately contracted sanitation workers doing work the city or property owners should do) the claim that the food trucks don’t pay for her services is her main complaint. 200 S, Jefferson has always been in the SID that funds the DDP- and is current on payments. Never mind the fact that without the failings of the city to do the right things (see the first part of this post) her organization wouldn’t have a reason to exist. Her un-scientific, un-professional poll was used as the basis for the rejecting the lease according to sources in city hall.

Irrational reasoning

David Esrati's facebook ad comparing money spent on business parks vs. spent on real parks

A Facebook campaign ad for Esrati about Tech Town investment

No one asked other real estate owners downtown if they wanted to compete with tax financed and subsidized projects like the arcade tower or tech town. Over $40 million has been spent on incubators for startup businesses at Tech Town- many of whom have never even paid rent. An entire empty building has been standing for over two years- and only after it became a campaign issue have they found a tenant by giving another sweetheart deal to Children’s Medical Center (rearranging deck chairs instead of creating new ships).

No one questions a new restaurant opening at the Dayton Mall, the Greene or the Fairfield Commons mall area- yet, the idea of a pop-up food truck pod one day a month is somehow dangerous to the fragile economic ecosystem downtown?

The city commission didn’t make a ruling on this in a legal meeting. Therefore, this decision has been made by city staff with their tacit approval. When are we going to hold anyone accountable for the complete clusterduck that happened with Sa-Bai? From the ridiculous lease, to the late opening, to the missed rent, to the destruction of city owned fixtures and theft, to the leaving of food to rot for months in the space (which was all cleaned up by Mrs. Fish’s people). It’s become pretty obvious that city involvement in the private real estate market has more of a destabilizing effect than a positive one. Maybe if our government tried sticking to governing we’d be in better shape?

Signs of disaster since the election

The dust up over Garden Station should have been a wake-up call to the people of Dayton of what could be expected by the Party of Nan, where organic (in every sense of the way) projects would be getting shut down. And just before the election the implosion of the Schwind building, before a clear deed and signed contract were in hand should have been the second.

But in the weeks since the election with the lowest turnout in history coupled with the biggest campaign budget- we’ve seen the rear of the Dayton Daily News building demolished by accident, the emergency pay raise and now the food truck massacre. The Water Street project is also standing in line for a handout from taxpayers- along with another tax abatement to screw our schools. What’s almost funny is that the only rumored tenant so far is PNC Bank which would move from another landmark building- the I.M. Pei-designed building at Third and Main- more deck chair rearranging, which will most likely screw the other David Greer (the banjo playing lawyer) who’s offices are in that building-  which will have a hard time affording their tax bills and utilities without that space being full. Greer was a big supporter of Whaley not only donating money- but playing at her fundraiser at Jimmie’s Ladder 11.

What to do to save the food trucks and Dayton?

If this is to be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back- it’s time to do a real survey of businesses in the area to see if they do or don’t support the one-day-a-month rallies- and then if the majority really does oppose the trucks and the people they bring to the failed corner- maybe we should organize a boycott of their establishments? Free market capitalism deserves support- and those who don’t agree- shouldn’t get your money. Note, if the space in question was owned by a private company, there would be NOTHING the city could do to stop the rallies.

The harder part, is to change the city charter. First step would be to gather 12,000+ signatures of registered voters to put the change in the charter to match Ohio Revised Code on numbers of signatures required for changing the charter and recall to be based on actual voters and not voters on the books. This means more people than voted for the future Mayor would have to sign. I used to think that it should be based on the number of votes in the gubernatorial elections- but, after Ms. Whaley’s pathetic performance and the low turnout- I think it should be based on the number of voters who voted to put people in office. So instead of needing 25% of the 35,000 or so people who voted in Dayton to sign a petition to recall the mayor- it would be 25% of the number of votes in that election – or in this case- 25% of about 16,000 or 4,000- an approachable number in Dayton.

And lastly, since the city is turning down a lease, maybe the income to the taxpayers, as well as the utilities, taxes, insurance etc. that would have been taken care of by a private organization, should be taken out of the commission’s newly increased salaries?

It was just last week that the Dayton Daily News told us that Downtown Dayton was leading the nation in vacancy and that it was at death’s door. Here is an opportunity to bring some vitality and hope back. The food truck rallies are an easy way to bring something to a downtown starving for vibrancy.

Your thoughts are welcome in comments below. The real question is whether we can get two hundred volunteers to collect signatures to change our charter and give us the ability to end this kind of irrational behavior?

The death of historic preservation in Dayton

Photo by David Esrati of the demolition of the Dayton Daily News building 1923 addition

The day after demolition was allowed to continue

Apparently the cost of a hall pass to tear down a historic structure is $500. You can probably even skip paying that, if you can get the blame shifted to city staffers who never run the risk of getting fired (unless you either get caught with child porn on your computer or you blow the whistle on someone hired because of whom they are related to).

There is zero accountability in city hall. The demolition of the rear section of the Dayton Daily News building, despite it clearly being slated for saving by Landmarks, clears the way for the demolition of every other historic building in Dayton.

City staff failed to notice that facade preservation was not written on demolition permits obtained by Rauch, said Aaron Sorrell, director of planning and community development for the city. He said Students Suites officials knew it was to be preserved, but had asked for the city to consider allowing it to be cut down with only the bottom third remaining as a decorative wall. That proposal had not yet gone before the Landmarks Commission.

Sorrell said the city has the ability to seek minor misdemeanor charges against the developer in Dayton Municipal Court — with a penalty of $500 — for the violation. The city can also order the developer to pay a “mitigation fee” that could be “up to 75 percent of the estimated demolition and disposal cost for the violation,” Sorrell said.

via Preservationists question demolition of old Daily News… | www.mydaytondailynews.com.

And while there was a small whimper from the community about the loss of this building, no one misses the Schwind- except maybe former patrons of the Embassy lounge. The terracotta detailing on it wasn’t quite as ornate as others in the area, but it was a building with zero structural defects and prime for a rehab. Two previous local developers were both denied tax re-appraisals and any funding for their plans to turn it into housing. When the Dayton Daily building had two reductions in tax valuation since the DDN abandoned it:

In 2006, the DDN building was appraised at approximately $2.4 million. Since then, the appraised value listed on the auditor’s website was reduced in 2007 to $450,000, to less than $165,000 by 2011. The recently demolished Schwind building, in comparison, had been appraised at $338,000, more than twice the price of the Cox building and land.

via Time to fire the “community development” manager.

Were tax values decreased for Cox in exchange for the lump sum donation of half a million dollars to “River Run” the paddle boat course on the river, and a pledge for money to go toward this demolition (typically, government money can’t be used to tear down property that’s protected by preservation laws).

Why demolition even began before the deed on the Schwind building had been cleared is also worthy of investigation. Should the deed restrictions hold, this project may never come to fruition, leaving us with an empty hole on a streetscape and half of the historically significant part of the Dayton Daily News building. Was the rush to complete a deal that funneled money into the most expensive political race on record? Demolition contractor Steve Rauch has been a large donor in the past to the Democratic machine.

Considering that the laws that have protected historic districts have been part of the formula that has given Dayton its only successful neighborhoods based on property and tax value increases over the last 30 years (that are in areas served by Dayton Public Schools) does this mark the end of preservation in Dayton? For a city that had no problem hauling me into court in 1986 for putting up the “wrong kind of garage doors” on a non-historic structure- facing an alley, who is going to take responsibility for the demolition of a landmark?

Dayton City Commission to vote on pay raise- as an emergency ordinance

On the Wednesday morning, before Thanksgiving when most of Dayton is talking turkey and getting ready for the holiday, the Dayton City Commission is going to be porking out on a pay raise as an emergency ordinance.

An emergency ordinance is one that is brought to the table, and voted on twice on the same day, so it can go into effect right away, instead of the normal process where it takes two meetings of the commission, two readings and a 30-day waiting period.
before
Why is a pay raise an emergency? Who knows. After Nan campaigned so long and hard about “Cutting her own pay”- I guess it’s time to make up for it.

The compensation committee meets to evaluate the pay and make suggestions. A sitting commission can’t give itself a raise, so after an election and before they take office for the new term, is when the vote happens. Of course, doing this BEFORE the election and before the results are known would make more sense- but, then it may be an election issue if they give themselves a raise. The committee is:

The City of Dayton Compensation Board meeting was called to order on October 18, 2013, at 12:0S p.m. with the following members present:, Chairman Kevin Jones, Judge Daniel G. Gehres, Mr. Jerome Dix, Ms. Mary Ellington and Mr. Jeffrey Gonya.

Note- they met over a month ago-before the election. Here is their complete recommendation: Dayton Commission Pay Raise

  1. The recommendation is as follows:
    Increase the annual compensation for the Mayor and Commissioners by two percent.
  2. An allowance for the official use of personal vehicles, including maintenance, insurance and gasoline, shall increase from $320.00 per month to $350.00 per month.
  3. Current benefits such as health/dental, life insurance, retirement contributions, and other miscellaneous benefits currently in place shall continue

The amount of the raise isn’t that much, but after years of belt tightening, and the coming renewal of the income tax levy, this is probably not a good time for a raise. Of course, this could be a political stunt engineered just so they can vote it down and say “look at me.”

But, things like this should never qualify as an emergency ordinance. There should be time for public discussion. Mayor Leitzell has already said he’s voting no.

Other news organizations, please note, this was first reported on Esrati.com

In Dayton, it’s impossible to recall the mayor or commission

Mayor Gary Leitzell brought this up to the commission after I pointed out the problem with the commission. They did nothing. I also suggested changing the petition forms- since we seem to have so many failed applications. They did nothing. Finally- today (after the election fiasco- where nobody voted) they point it out:

Dayton would require 23,403 signatures. That’s because Dayton’s charter language requires approval by 25 percent of registered voters. For context, only 16,137 people voted in Dayton’s race for mayor this month.

via ‘Ford-like’ mayor could be removed in Ohio | www.mydaytondailynews.com.

Of course, there is more to the story (that they don’t tell) in that the Board of Elections will routinely throw out between 12% and 40% of petition signatures turned in because their “graphologists” (handwriting experts, who are generally not accepted in courts of law in the United States) will find fault with the signature, date, address or any of a multitude of reasons.

So, to remove Nan Whaley for acting like Toronto Mayor Rob Ford- who is behaving like a moron, is impossible in Dayton.

It’s part of the reason the commission can hold the public in contempt and do as they please and never have to worry about their jobs.

The solution is to adopt Ohio Revised Code- which bases the number on the actual voters in an election- not the number on the voter rolls. Which if it was based on the election the person was voted in on- means we’d only need about 3,200 signatures to meet the 25% threshold ( to remove Ms. Whaley if we wanted- as compared to about 6,000 to remove sitting Mayor Gary Leitzell who had about 17,000 votes four years ago.

Even the 25% threshold is rather high. ORC makes it 15%

Recall. Certain municipal office holders can be recalled under state law but not state officeholders. A recall under state law requires petition signatures of at least 15 percent of registered voters who cast ballots in the most recent municipal election. The law details the removal and replacement process once sufficient petition signatures are submitted. -ibid

To begin to change the charter only takes 3 commission votes- but if a citizen wants to do it, it takes 10% of the registered voters, which currently means about 12,000+ signatures. This also needs to be addressed.

 

How hot is the South Park rental market?

A neighbor asked me to help find a tenant for her half double last week. She’s not that computer literate and very busy.

I posted on Facebook, Nov 20 around 1:30pm:

To all my friends who want to live in South Park- my neighbor ___________ has a half a double on Adams Street. 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath- nice, $525 a month.
Pets possible. No smoking.
Contact her at _____________ for a showing or details, and if you can’t get her- call me, ______________
It’s available now.
Spread the word.

Within an hour- my phone rang. By 6pm the house was rented- cash paid for deposit and first months rent.

I never had to list on Craigs List- I didn’t have to put a post on this site- just Facebook and friends.

Does this happen anywhere else in the City of Dayton? I don’t think so.

Do any of our city commissioners have a clue on what builds a neighborhood back up? I can tell you that this doesn’t happen in Edgemont (Dean Lovelace) or Five Oaks (Nan Whaley) or FROC (Joey Williams sort of) or even Belmont (Matt Joseph), and it’s not happening in Walnut Hills either (sorry Mayor Leitzell). There is a vibe in South Park that all started here:

I’m not trying to take all the credit- but, the idea that it’s the people, not the houses that make the difference was a big departure from the previous attempts at marketing the neighborhood. Previously everything was “Victorian” – after it was fun- and friends.
Building community is what saves the houses folks- not the other way around.

Welcome to Nicole- our soon to be newest neighbor.

Time to fire the “community development” manager

Despite being bombed into the ground during WWII, Berlin today looks much like prewar Berlin.
In London, despite being bombed, landmarks all don’t show the marks of war.

In Dayton, someone makes a permitting mistake, a demolition contractor begins to demolish a building that wasn’t supposed to be torn down- and they let the work continue. HORSESHIT. It’s not up to Steve Rauch, a developer, or Aaron Sorrell the “community development” director- who stopped the demolition of the landmark Cox HQ/ Dayton Daily News building on Monday- to continue. The whole concept of landmarks and the public trust- is that they belong to us- the community- not to private parties or even government officials.

We have to value what we had. Here is what the Dayton Business Journal is reporting about the botched demolition:

The project will continue as scheduled, with the 1922 portion of the building coming down Monday, and developer Steve Papa, an owner with Student Suites, reaffirmed to me in an interview Friday his commitment to the project and to cooperation with the city.

“We’ve never left a city without paying everyone, and we’ve never started a project that we didn’t open, and we’re not going to leave Dayton,” Papa said. “The community cooperation has been really refreshing.”

Steve R. Rauch Inc. is the demolition contractor for the project. The company began tearing down the 1922 portion of the historic building on Monday, and was ordered to stop work because the city believed the 1922 portion was to be saved. But Scott Wells, a project manager with Rauch, said the only portion of the building that was ever supposed to be saved was the 1908 portion.

“It’s all been mostly political,” Wells said. “It was supposed to come down from the beginning,” Papa said even though there was a misunderstanding between the city and the developer, the city has been an excellent partner in the project.

Sorrell said the demolition process uncovered a flaw in the city’s permitting process, which sent mixed messages to the contractors. The city’s Landmarks Commission had intended the 1922 facade to be kept in the redevelopment, but that message was never included in the demolition permit, so the developer moved forward with demolition.“We now see where we missed that in our systems,” Sorrell said. “Unfortunately it was this building that uncovered it. We will fix that and move forward.”

via Downtown demolition to continue Monday to make way for student housing – Dayton Business Journal.

When I put up the wrong kind of garage doors in an unmarked historic district, I was forced to change them. And do community service.

Sorrell was the one who negotiated the contract, he’s the one who stopped the criminal activity as it happened, and now, he’s claiming- oh, well, it’s a learning experience. No, double no, and HELL NO. We don’t need clowns like this, who shirk their responsibility- and allow criminal damaging to our landmarks.

It’s bad enough that they allowed the implosion of the Schwind Building before the deed was cleared and the contract signed. That should be grounds for firing as well. There was nothing wrong with the Schwind that the million dollars paid to blow it up – couldn’t have fixed and made the building usable. Of course, the former owners were both local people who didn’t pay off politicians or work to do the work of Sinclair- the community college Montgomery subsidizes to expand into Warren and Greene counties.

If Berlin could be rebuilt, the back of the Cox building can be. If it wasn’t supposed to come down, demolition shouldn’t continue. End of story.

It’s time that we had real accountability in this town- instead of doing whatever the big political donors want.

I’m hoping Preservation Dayton steps in, or Cox Ohio, to file an injunction and stop further demolition until we can firmly assess the costs of restoring the landmark that was Governor Cox’s legacy- all of it.

TedX Dayton- bravo!

TED talks started out as an invite-only exclusive party for the Illuminati. Technology, Entertainment, Design. But thanks to the web- everyone can go- forever into eternity. TEDx is allowing other places in on the fun. Think of it as the minor leagues- but, the reality is, everyone has a shot to become the next big viral thing- if you nail your subject.

Despite being a tech conference, I was a little relieved when the orders came to put away the digital devices – no tweeting, posting, etc. It allowed me to concentrate on what was being said- I took notes- the old fashioned way- with a pen and notebook.

So on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, a little over two dozen people took the stage and threw up their best, from Dayton, Ohio. Overall, everyone in the audience thought that today it was an awesome day to be from Dayton, Ohio- from the music and dance performances that broke up the talks to the neuroscientist trying to stimulate brains with electricity to help people identify the enemy in pictures taken by drones- nobody left thinking they’d not gotten their $50 worth and then some.

I knew or was connected to about a third of the people who took the stage- which is as it should be in a small town. The event ran like clockwork. I saw lots of people I knew in the audience- and quite a few I didn’t. I’m sure people who were there will continue to talk about a lot of what they saw and heard today- for quite a while. The interesting part is, once the videos go up- will any of them go “viral”- which ones will connect with people and become a minor legend? The beauty of TED is that even though it’s highly produced – there is always an element of surprise. To me, that’s the beauty of the day.

South Parker Elizabeth Rasmussen and her sisters in Good English kick off TedX Dayton 2013

South Parker Elizabeth Rasmussen and her sisters in Good English kick off TedX Dayton 2013

The first one was listening to my neighbor and her sisters play a short set to open up the show. Elizabeth Rasmussen and her sisters, Celia and Leslie have a band called “Good English” and while I doubt they’ve played too many gigs at 9 a.m., it was cool to say, hey, that’s my neighbor, as the curtain rose.

I’m not going to run down every speaker- but, as someone who prides himself on trying to make others think, these were the things I really liked. Chris Wire talked about thinking without depending on a smart phone and Google. I’ve always been of the mindset that memorization of facts isn’t always as important as understanding concepts and being able to apply them. I always figured I could look something up- I just never expected it to be as easy as my iPhone plus Google- Chris did an awesome job of encouraging people to search for new answers- to show the value of creativity in answers- even when you have to punt. I thought this was particularly pertinent today- as I had to read in the Dayton Daily news how once again, some “leader” in Dayton is touting us as a distribution/logistics hub. Yawn.

There were some inspirational stories that were built to play on heartstrings- I was born poor, but look at me now, wasn’t worthy of a TED talk, although it was a perfectly nice story. However, there was one thing that I did agree with- “champions work together”- something Dayton needs to learn. We do a great job of finding faults with people in this town- “you’re not black, you’re too smart, you’re Jewish, you’re suburban, you’re urban” some sort of way to divide us- instead of bringing us together. This topic came up more than once. Dayton needs to be able to be proud- and if all the 1,000 or so people there today could take the pride they felt today out into the community- we might have a good start on things.

But, I wanted to stick to surprises- things that made me think. Marta Wojcik from Poland asked  “is a place worthy of being the vessel of your memories”- and was talking about nostalgia for comfortable touch-points to your past. She surprised me by talking about creative place-making- vs. our treating our buildings and heritage as disposable. She celebrated the arts- and artists and designers for the ability to create unique things in our community as compared to our penchant for sprawl. I thought of all the people I met in my last campaign- and the memories they shared with me of growing up at Mallory park pool- or at the Roosevelt center- or before that the school- and to think we’ve undone those vessels for what? Finding out later that she was the director of the Westcott House in Springfield took a bit of the wonderment of her presentation out.

Hearing a guy named Roosevelt (and yes, he’s related to the president by the same name) get up and talk about Abe Lincoln as the answer to our modern dilemmas of the divergence of wealth and poverty and the earth and ecology was a reminder that there have been seemingly daunting challenges in the past- that visionary leadership was able to steer a course to a solution, even if it did entail the deaths of more Americans than in all our other battles put together. Learning from history so we don’t repeat it is always thought provoking.

Instead of hearing the same old STEM nonsense- listening to Dr. Nathan Klingbeil explain that by eliminating conventional math prerequisites to get into engineering they have created more engineers, just by approaching the process with an integrated approach. Calculus is only one part of being an engineer- solving problems creatively is another, and Dr. K demonstrated that by taking a different approach, they could have dramatic changes in graduation rates for engineers at Wright State.

When Judith Ezekiel took the stage, I was totally unprepared for her discussion “Changing race”- talking about cultural racism in a way that forced the audience to self-examine. Jewish, black, rich, poor, educated- all the issues wrapped up into one. If there is one talk I’d want to listen to again, and be able to pause, rewind, replay- it would probably be this one. We have race issues in Dayton and if there were someone who could lead the discussion in a meaningful way- I’d put Judith in charge in a heartbeat.

Another surprise came from Justin Howard, proprietor of the Black Box Improv Theater on E. Third St in the Cannery. Although I despise the idea of TedX being used as a commercial for a business- which several people did, Justin demonstrated his passion for improv by winging the whole thing- including pulling an audience member out (we wondered if she was a ringer) and launching into an improv skit with a word shouted out from the audience (me- with blasphemy). Why Justin is doing his thing in Dayton was because he thinks Dayton is a city that’s “blank and ready to go.” He also cautioned us that “no one in Dayton is important”- which I thought was the perfect thing to be said during this day of celebration of Dayton- that we have to start bonding together and championing our city- together.

When asking my friends about what they liked and didn’t like- Dr. David Shuster came up more than once. He took the stage wearing one blue latex glove- and I kept thinking why the Michael Jackson impersonation. Toward the end of his talk he rolled up his black t-shirt and started sticking himself with the acupuncture type needle as a demonstration to make his point. That apparently grossed them out a bit. Oddly, I ran into him on Saturday at the 2nd St. Market- I was wearing my TedX t-shirt, and he stopped me and asked me what I thought. The needle wasn’t what bothered me, it’s that he started out saying that his field- Electrodiagnostic medicine, wasn’t well respected or liked by some. I told him there was no need to start with a negative (a lesson learned on the campaign trail the hard way) and that he hurt his credibility more than helped it with that lead.

I was totally unprepared for SSGT Deondra Parks who shared her story of sitting in a bookstore when a neo-Nazi came in and started shooting black people before shooting himself as his way of “celebrating Hitler’s birthday.” Her strength projected into the audience, her story of forgiveness and triumph was powerful- yet, for some reason, she didn’t get a standing ovation- while the “white woman who was born poor” did. Odd. This is a woman who could teach us all how to roll with the punches and come up on top.

I enjoyed the talk and piano performance of Steffin Johnson, a Stivers grad and now adjunct piano instructor- but, again, he started with the dismissal of a stereotype- that just because he’s a black piano player people expect him to play Fats Waller or boogie woogie. He asked can you tell a person’s color by listening to the music? I once walked out of a Dayton Daily news editorial board session when I asked them to retract a line in a review of a “G Love and Special Sauce” album that started out with “listening to this album, one could hardly believe that they are white” or some such nonsense. I didn’t want to be “endorsed” by a paper that thought you could tell what color someone was by the kind of music they made- they endorsed Bootsie Neal and Dean Lovelace and dismissed me as a crackpot. So much for taking a stand in Dayton, Ohio. Thank you Steffin for bringing this subject up and for the marvelous performance.

I was mesmerized by my friend David Stoneburner’s son- Dillon “Stoney D” with his dance moves as we returned from the “cookie break.” His performance won’t change my life or make me want to learn how to “Pop and lock”- but, it was amazing to watch.

I understand that everyone has different trigger points- and that some ideas connect better with others and that this is just my opinion- but, the last speaker, London Coe of “Peace on Fifth” was the one who gave me a new way to approach what I’ve been trying to do on this site and in my campaigns for office- she said we need to “Date your City.” Go out and explore the wonderful things, meet the people and share and celebrate the talent that we have here. It was the perfect ending to a day full of inspired presentations from the best that stepped up and it was the rallying cry for a city sadly short of pride. We have a lot to love in Dayton, we just have to stop dwelling on the negatives which are so easy to point out as I watched A.J. Wagner do as he self-destructed his campaign talking about Dayton as a dying city.

Dayton is awesome. And, next year at TedX I hope to be on stage. This was Dayton at its best.

 

What to do this Friday night for basketball fans in Dayton

There are basketball fans who like to watch a great team play a great game. There are other fans, who go to  a game to be seen and socialize.
If you are the former- the best hoops to be seen in Dayton is the Lady Flyers. Coached by my friend Jim Jabir, the Lady Flyers only lost 3 seniors from last year’s squad that was virtually unstoppable.

The best part is, unlike the UD men’s team- you don’t need to sell a kidney for a good seat. $5 for adults, $3 for students and kids, general admission seating- and the parking is FREE.

The women were ranked 14th before the season began, and dropped a bit after a sloppy loss to Iowa on Sunday in overtime.
Come out and support the hottest team in town.

Game starts at 7 p.m. at UD Arena vs. Akron.

See you there!

 

Veterans day shouldn’t be one day only.

A friend in advertising posted this video on Facebook, it had over four million views yesterday and close to 8 million today.

He said “We look, but do we see?”

He’s an award-winning copywriter and his perspectives are often insightful, thought provoking and almost always pithy. He says more with less than most I know. I watched the video, mostly because he was recommending it- and it had a before and after pic- and the before had “US ARMY VETERAN” superimposed. I’m in that group, I should watch.

The video, which I assume you’ve now watched, shows a guy getting a haircut and a suit. This somehow is supposed to say we’ve transformed a homeless drunk vet into a productive, acceptable part of society. When the call for donations came at the end- it just felt shameless to me. Ripping off the Dove “Evolution of Beauty” award-winning spot is one thing- turning it into a donation machine is another.  For those of you who don’t know about the Dove spot- it’s an award-winning ad that isn’t an ad for Dove:

When I see this “Homeless Veteran Timelapse Transformation” I see propagation of a stereotype of our veterans. That somehow, we all become drunk, homeless, unemployed. Yes, I full well know that the unemployed figures tell us that something like 26% of our vets are unemployed- about the same rate as minority high school dropouts or maybe a little higher. But, there are a lot of veterans who aren’t unemployed- or drunks or drug users. In fact, there are a whole bunch of them who own businesses and hire other veterans. Check out the National Veteran Owned Business Association NaVOBA, an organization that’s run by vets to help grow awareness for supporting the notion of “Buying Veteran.”

Many states have adopted preferences for buying from vet-owned businesses. Unfortunately, Ohio isn’t one of them. When you consider that Raj Soin, an Asian Indian built MTC into a global powerhouse based on being an 8a firm (one the government gives preference to based on being minority owned) and that government contracts go to 8a’s ahead of those owned by Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses SDVOBs, you have to wonder if our country really values its veterans.  I don’t know the exact stat- but, I do know that veteran-owned businesses are way more likely to hire vets than non-veteran owned businesses- and that vets better understand other vets. It’s time this country stopped paying lip-service to military service and put SDVOBs at the top of the pecking order for government contracts.

The other change that needs to happen in government contracting to put real teeth into a buy veteran preference program is that size standards for “small businesses” not include companies that gross $150M a year. Really? That’s a small business? Changing the requirements for a GSA schedule (an overly complicated contract with the government to provide goods and services at an “appropriate” rate) from being a 200-page plus monstrosity to something more like a 1040ez for small businesses under $10M a year. This is a proposal I wrote back in 2005 that got about a minute’s worth of attention on the Hill. GSA EZ Schedule Proposal

There is an old proverb- give a man a fish and eats for a day, teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime. If our country wants to help our vets, who now make up around only a single percent of our population, yet give us the freedom and protect our democracy, from enemies foreign and domestic as the saying goes- it’s time to build a more friendly vet support network. A haircut and a suit are just window dressing.

Jobs and opportunities are what will make the difference.

Thank you for your service to all my veteran brethren. May your sacrifices never be forgotten or in vain.

 

“We don’t need no stinkin basketball nets” or change in Dayton

“We don’t need no stinkin basketball nets” Those were the words of a paid Whaley literature distributor, on Lakeview Ave at a church so aptly named “Greater Love.”

I should have learned long ago- Daytonians don’t seem to understand symbolism. Be it donning a black balaclava to conceal your face after an illegal secret meeting of the Dayton City Commission discussed ways to eliminate citizen participation- or by running a low budget honest campaign where you put up basketball nets instead of signs.

The sad thing is, looking at the election results, AJ is partially right- Dayton is a dying city with less votes cast in this election than the last one- by almost half- despite the extravagant dollars being spent. Total votes in the McLin/Leitzell election were 29,750. This election: 16,120. Last election, Gary Leitzell by himself had 15,316 and only won by 2%.

In the Mayors race:

  • A. J. Wagner 7029 43.60%
  • Nan Whaley 9091 56.40%

In the Commission race:

  • David Esrati  4345 15.64%
  • David K. Greer 4626 16.65%
  • Jeffrey J. Mims Jr. 8591 30.93%
  • Joey D. Williams 10215 36.78%

Looking at the Williams number- it should tell you something- considering he spent a fraction of what either Whaley or Wagner did- yet beat Whaley by 1200 votes- that if we did away with the stupid and expensive Mayors race- and just gave the position to the person with the highest popular vote- our elections would be considerably cheaper.

A few thoughts- considering both big spending candidates paid volunteers to stand outside for 13 hours- they both paid less than the minimum wage. Whaley was spending $80 per person- and seemed to have 2 people at each of the polling locations (there were 50) and Wagner was paying $75. Whaley was paying drivers $120 for the day- and had more than a few. I spent $10,000 on my whole campaign- she spent over $9000 just on people standing outside the polls.

It shouldn’t cost this much to run for a part-time job that pays $45,000.

The funny thing- is the primary results in the commission race- percentages stayed the same for the front runners:

  • David Esrati 2104 11.77%
  • David K. Greer 2249 12.58%
  • Joseph C. Lutz 1711 9.57%
  • Jeffrey J. Mims Jr. 5353 29.95%
  • Joey D. Williams 6456 36.12%

Even though I came in dead last- I still feel like a winner. No matter what the nasty woman on Lakeview said- our kids do need basketball nets, rims and backboards- and I’m going to keep doing it. I got at least 7 locations that need nets given to me today- which is perfect- because that’s about how many I have left.

I have $225 over my $10K goal- to spend. That buys one box of nets and about 2 cans of spray paint. I’m going to have to return the ladder that’s been on loan since June from the fine folks at Insignia Signs. A replacement costs about $175 (although I want to try to find one that’s lighter). I had a good talk with the senior recreation program coordinator today- and we’re going to work together to try to start some leagues- and get all the courts in top shape. We’ll see how much help we get from the Commission. Commissioner Williams has pledged to help me with this next year.

I’d like to thank Mr. Greer for working with me- and believing in me. Mayor Leitzell for his help. William Pace for so many things that people will never recognize- he personally put on radio ads and billboards for “the independents” and for organizing our volunteers for the polls today. I also want to thank all the people who donated time and money to the campaign, who came to my fundraisers, and encouraged me. I’m sorry I let you down. But, do know, that there are a whole bunch of future voters who now know me- and thank me- because we really do need those stinkin nets.

I love this city. Somehow, I’m going to drag it kicking and screaming into a new age- just not this time.