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Daytonians prefer dots to discourse

I wrote this this morning with the idea of sending it to the Dayton Daily News as an op-ed piece. However, I know that they’ll hack it to pieces- or run it on a Monday when nobody reads it. If you think it’s worthy- send a note to [email protected] [1] and suggest they publish it.

I’m not feeling the love for them right now- and I’m strongly in favor of them moving to a registration system for comments on their site to at least prevent multiple identities online. I’m pretty sure most of you agree that the time has come to clean that mess up.

A friend commented to me the other day that Daytonians consider themselves an inferior race. Yet, when looking over comments on the Dayton Daily News article about ministers asking to extend public transit to the mall doors- it would seem that Dayton is full of racists who believe that owning a car gives you rights to shop at a mall. One person even signed their name “Archie Bunker” – which probably has zero meaning to people under the age of 40 (for the youngsters, it was a name of a racist character in a politically incorrect sitcom from the Seventies).

I doubt many of these people would spew such filth if they had to sign their name to what they say? The problem is, as a community, we seem to be terrified of those who openly hold strong opinions. Our idea of “leadership” almost always equals “consensus builder” and “moderate” or at least the appearance of it. We shy away from debate, instead, always forcing moderated panels and forums with strict rules of engagement.

In my many campaigns for political office, I’ve yet to have an opportunity to ask my opponent what they actually would do, instead, having to rely on questions from an oft naïve audience to challenge the banality of what passes for political discourse. When in the secretive confines of the Dayton Daily News editorial board screenings, it’s considered bad form when I asked how Ms. Whaley can explain a $5,500 donation to her campaign from a demolition contractor from Westerville. I get labeled “abrasive” she gets a hall-pass. These types of questions are standard practice in politics anywhere else but here- and if confounds me.

We’re also fond of holding “Summits” – where the public is invited to come write on big pieces of paper on the walls of a room, then go around with sticky little dots [2] and place them next to ideas they like. Then the “best ideas” are “ranked” and our job is done- and yet another “plan” is championed as the will of the people.

This kind of circus is antithetic to how game changing works. Most “big ideas” are those that don’t garner wide support, or are simple to grasp. They usually involve, as Ross Perot once called the kind of people he liked to hire, “a monomaniac on a mission” or a champion. Great ideas often take time to develop, and require a good vetting- open debate, with pros and cons weighed out by true experts- not by whoever showed an interest and showed up that day.

Former City of Dayton Planning Director Paul Woodie once said to me “in Dayton you need a herd to be heard.” This kind of group-think, and the idea that only popular ideas are good ones have done our community no favors. We tend to push plain vanilla ideas as solutions, and only if tried and tested elsewhere.

We’ve hired in consultants from out of town to do our thinking for us on how to keep our young people here. We’re about to have another cattle-call for ideas on how to change our community for the better so people will stop leaving.

Here’s my idea: stop being boring. Stop demanding safe. Stop hiding behind sticky dots and anonymous postings and say what you really think.

Sure it will be messy, uncomfortable and feelings may get hurt, but if you want to make this a colorful community, we need to stop working with simple vocabularies and voices that continue to lead us with shades of gray, because we are afraid to speak in terms that are colorful.

For the last four years I’ve published my ideas online and given the world the ability to comment on them. My blog is well read by Dayton “leadership” – I know, because so many of them have told me so. What’s sad is that they’ve also said that they wish they had the freedom to say what I say, or use the kind of language I do.

Is that really the Dayton we want? Maybe it’s why we have the Dayton we have.

One still torn by the effects of racism, hurt by the resulting economic segregation and being subjugated by fear of the power of ad individual with a strong voice.

Our country was founded to protect the rights of the individual. Dayton is barely surviving because we fear to champion outspoken individuals.

It’s time to start over, without the anonymity of the sticky dot and to give up on the group-think.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed [3]! If you wish to support this blog and independent journalism in Dayton, consider donating [4]. All of the effort that goes into writing posts and creating videos comes directly out of my pocket, so any amount helps!
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I’m in absolute agreement with you about the comment section; I hate it as much as the “Speak Out” section. You have an opinion that you feel compelled to share in public, put your real name to it.

Robert Vigh

Steps to fix Dayton:

1) Lower tax rate to that of surrounding municipalities 1.75%
2) Get Ombudsman in place to go to bat for citizenry to appropriately lower property tax rates and maybe lower them at the same time.
3) Stop landbanking and auction property’s.
4) Relax zoning laws

( I hope those leaders are reading)

As David put it, greater freedom to the individual.

Regardind DDN, their site is not very nice, consequently, I rarely go there because I do not like the content or interaction. 

I could care less about people putting their names on ideas, if the idea speaks for itself then let it. If it fits the personality of the writer to be anonymous, let them.


This deserves more emphasis:

3) Stop landbanking and auction property’s.

That would actually allow the possibility of creative solutions to our problem, rather than a costly and inefficient government program of bulldoze and landfill (maybe we could come up with a pejorative name for that campaign-finance-fueled lack of imagination: bullfill, landdoze, graftbank?).  Couple that with RV’s next idea,

4) Relax zoning laws

and the sky is the limit for creative deconstruction / reconstruction / re-purposing.  Good ideas come from the creative effort of individuals; thanks for sharing your effort.

Robert Vigh

I was unclear on #2. Appropriately adjust home values so that citizenry is not paying the tax of a $40K dollar home that is worth $20K. And in addition to that, maybe lower their millage.


@ Robert, are you sure you don’t mean lower the income tax?  If you take a holistic look at taxing, by adding income and property taxes together, you get a better grasp of whose taxes are actually more expensive. Further, you have to balance the services provided vs. the taxes collect. If you also add up all of the services provided, even seemingly minute details, such as water softening, trash collection, ambulance services, etc. I think you will find that the City of Dayton is quite reasonable.  For example, how much tax revenue is spent on beautification in a place like Oakwood versus safety? How about how much money would the average property owner spend on water softening equipment if they live in a municipality like West Carrollton or Moraine that pumps its own water and does not soften it? Home water softening systems are costly–they cost more than I pay in property taxes every year. Further, my water bill is reasonable because I live in Dayton. The water quality is exceptional and a very low cost. No softening equipment required. My point is that people do not look at a situation holistically. We are not going to change Dayton by lowering the income tax. I would argue that would be crippling to the City at this moment in time. Further, until people learn to take a holistic view by weighing the costs and benefits to EVERYONE, progress will be slow. Most people need to be emotionally compelled to choose the city over the suburbs. The City has to rise to the challenge by providing a lifestyle that is superior to most outlying I suburbs. I believe that the quality of life I have in Dayton is significantly better than in a suburb. I have fulfilling friendships with neighbors, am active in the community, enjoy parks, farmer’s market, urban night life, creativity, walkability, bikeability.  If people tried to list all factors, what is most important, I think the City of Dayton would land on top in most analyses. But there is a long way to go in terms of healing… Read more »

Robert Vigh


I definitly mean lower the income tax rate. Dayton is in a competition with other cities and their tax rate is higher. For example, my company is within 1 years time of outgrowing its current facility. If I move the company to a suburb all my employees and the company receive a .5% raise. This raise is more than enough to cover the costs of the better location. Dayton has low consideration for us when we move. Meaning, Dayton misses out on our revenue stream. Believe me, other businesses think like I do.

A friend of mine gave their property to the city because they could not sell the house for 5K…..they also could not get the county to say the property was worth less than 40k. So instead of paying the tax obligation, they signed the deed to the city. It now sits vacant with no interested buyers because who in the world wants to pay that tax obligation on a property of that market value? Hence the omsbudsman and the lowering of property tax. Relaxing zoning would help accelerate and turn over unused property in Dayton by lending freedom to the creative spirit of its citizenry.

Holistically this gives everyone more freedom to act on their desires and pursuits. I would argue that this increase in freedom is very holistic and would act grow the city.

The city could raise taxes 3% and add a variety of services, but it would turn into a ghost town and they would have 5.25% of nothing. Everyone with money would move and everyone without it would be subsidized and the city would go broke and crumble.

Robert Vigh

One last thing Hilary, you said: Further, until people learn to take a holistic view by weighing the costs and benefits to EVERYONE, progress will be slow. How exactly do you measure this?


I agree.  Lets lower all of the taxes.
I disagree.  You aren’t getting your money’s worth for any of the services you named.
Great posts.


Thanks for the plug David; it’d be great if folks kept the conversation going over here (I don’t write enough about local stuff to be a good host for it).
Technical?  Not even a single equation…