DBJ profiles Mayor Leitzell- labels me a detractor (not so)

The story won’t be available to the masses online for another week- but for those of you who subscribe to the Dayton Business Journal you can read the front-page story by Joe Cogliano looking back at Gary Leitzell’s first year as mayor.

Gary likes to call himself a problem solver- and prefers to work discreetly. And while it’s often forgotten, he’s only 1 vote with no veto power on a commission of 5, so it’s not like he’s been handed a very big hammer to rebuild a house that’s been suffering from years of inept leadership and management.

Truth is- Gary’s done a great job- but, we have to remember, the bar was lowered pretty low by our last mayor, and our commission isn’t exactly made up of out-of-the-box, risk-takers. In fact, collectively they are the least ambitious bunch of people we could have “elected.” The number of unanimous decisions is mind-boggling, and when there is any dissent, it’s usually for very wrong reasons (the equal protection ordinance comes to mind- where Lovelace voted no- and Williams abstained).

But, the article was about Gary- and when Cogliano called- I had to ask, why me? He said I was the first (and apparently only) person he thought of  who would go on the record with something contrarian. In Dayton- a lot of people will say all kinds of crap behind your back, but few have the balls to say it on the record- hence, we almost always fail debate 101 and go for the consensus opinion on everything.

I am disappointed with Gary on how little he’s used his blog since getting elected. Not that he’s ever been a really prolific blogger- but, mostly he’s used it since the election to lash out at the DDN (I know you’re thinking- Esrati is one to talk). I had hoped he’d open up the frustrations in City Hall to public discussion online- and solicit more views, hasn’t happened.

When it comes to the push for regionalization- there has been nothing out of his office. Dan Foley seems to be the only elected leader talking about it- and he almost got beat by an Oakwood housewife (I’m saying that out of jest – I respect Jan Kelly and thought she would be a great addition to the County  Commission).

A quiet challenge to the city staff about finding alternatives to raising trash fees- unless we improve service isn’t exactly going to set the world on fire. We’ve seen zero substantive  legislation forwarded from the mayor- or the commission for that matter. The commission is a legislative body – after all.

The role of mayor is a leadership position. That’s why the extra $10K a year. Yet business leaders I’ve spoken to haven’t heard a leader speak. As much as I detest Mike Turner- when he spoke or met with business leaders- they came away feeling optimistic about our future. We need the same from Mayor Leitzell. As I say in the DBJ piece- “Generals wear stars for a reason and they show them for a reason. He’s failed to pull rank and say who is in charge”- even if he was to push the leadership role to the city manager- and put him on point (as it should be).

What should we expect? What would make a difference?

  • Most important starting point: figure out a way to hire replacement police and fire personnel. Either change the rules so we can hire using a rule of 10- or make it possible to hire from other departments. Newark, N.J., just laid off 167 experienced officers– and we can’t hire a single one.
  • Our priority board system is an extra layer of bureaucracy that separates the people from power- it’s time to cut the staff- and divert the money directly to the neighborhoods. If people on our current managerial team can’t each be assigned neighborhoods to mentor and develop as part of their responsibilities- we need new management in City Hall. It’s time to make sure that City Hall makes direct connections with the citizens who are left- so that we can start rebuilding.
  • Leitzell talks about starting small businesses- and our growing immigrant population, but we’ve not actually put a campaign in place to start recruiting inbound migration. Leitzell talks about the Turkish refugees, but have we hired anyone who speaks Turkish to help support a budding community? While we’ve had a growing Spanish-speaking population- the city website doesn’t have a word of Spanish on the front page- why don’t we have a Spanish-speaking ombudsman at least?

Solving problems is mostly a retroactive process- we’ve got a future that needs a visionary. It’s time for Mayor Leitzell to start painting the road map to a brighter future for all. We know he can paint miniatures- let’s see his big picture emerge in 2011.

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