Dead kids in Dayton

Zombie flicks seem to be all the rage these days. The un-dead coming to make us dead. That’s no help for Devonta Marquise Rayford, who died on June 13, and won’t have an 18th birthday. He was allegedly shot by a 17-year-old, whose name was published in the paper, Isaiah J. Coleman. Rayford went to Stivers, Coleman to Ponitz, neither, according to sources come from what would be considered disadvantaged homes. It’s almost as if we’ve got sport killing going on, and in my view, it’s our fault.

Within a mile of my home in South Park are three facilities that were built for kids, that are now something else.

Closest is the old YWCA on Hickory Street across from Emerson School/Dayton Christian Middle School/Emerson Academy. It’s not been a YMCA since I moved to the neighborhood in 1986. It had a huge gymnasium, a kitchen, craft rooms, a large multipurpose space and virtually zero parking. It was built for kids to get to, and to play in. Supposedly, it was given to the neighborhood in 1971 by Virginia Kettering. It was where I first attended neighborhood meetings until it was sold off to a succession of failing social service type food pantries that never opened up the place to kids. It hasn’t had a tenant for at least 4 years and sits and rots.

photo of Dayton Boys Club, East side, with banner of yet another charter school

Dayton Boys club about to become yet another Charter School

In the strangest place to build a facility for kids, like the former Dayton Boys and Girls Club. It sits in the arms of a high-speed highway access ramp to US 35. It had an indoor pool, gyms and activity spaces. It’s now getting retrofitted to be another charter school, the Dayton Smart School which is supposed to be a bilingual school (however the website isn’t bilingual, so who knows). The landscapers were hard at work restoring order to a parking lot and grounds that had started to give in to entropy. The Boys and Girls Club vacated it about 10 years ago, and did the same to the West Side location a few years ago.

Bomberger Center across from Stivers was a city rec facility which was specifically turned into a “Teen Center” when Commissioner Idotha “Bootsie” Neal was a commissioner. It had an outdoor pool, and is graced by a beautiful park that has one of the city’s few semi-functional soccer fields (We have one with one goal in Burns Jackson park, just behind Emerson Academy next to US 35, it’s never had a net in the goal frame). Bomberger was sold off to become the Ahiska Turkish American Community Center. You can read about how our city decided to wholesale sell off buildings we built for the community in this post: Dayton can’t make up mind: buy or sell property. You will see a long list of rec centers that have been closed on that list.

I know people want to swim at Bomberger, because I get searches for “will Bomberger pool be open” – and sadly, the answer is no.

Photo of Danger Pool Closed sign at Dayton's Five Oaks pool

Five Oaks pool- closed

Same goes for the Five Oaks pool- which sits gathering weeds. I remember sitting in commission meetings listening to the debate on if this pool should be outdoors or indoors, or have a retractable roof (like Kettering’s main pool).

While the city claims that the cost of running these pools was outside the budget, they’ve gone on a shopping spree buying empty buildings with no declared public use and selling off valuable property for a song without opening up for bids. Or this post which shows how much real estate we’ve “invested our tax dollars in”

For the last two summers, my small business has been a job site for Montgomery County Youth Works- a summer jobs program for teens. Last year, the kids were paid minimum wage for a maximum of 15 hours, but this year, they got more federal dollars and it’s 20 hours. They’ve had a hard time finding enough businesses willing to take kids on. Part of the problem is cities used to hire these kids to be lifeguards at the pools we’ve closed, so instead, I’ve got two kids learning how to be in the advertising business- both from Ponitz.

Which brings me back to dead kids in Dayton. When you don’t give them nets to shoot for, pools to swim in, or jobs to grow in, they end up in prison or 6 feet under. We can blame video games, we can blame the ease of getting guns, we can blame the war on drugs, but, maybe, if those three buildings near me were doing what they were built for, Devonta Marquise Rayford wouldn’t be dead and Isaiah Coleman wouldn’t be headed to prison- which, by the way, costs taxpayers a lot more than running a basketball camp or opening a swimming pool.

I’m David Esrati, and I promise, that when you elect me to the Dayton City Commission, you will have one voice on the city commission that believes that parks and recreation are economic development and that our kids deserve better. Being part of the Gun Report in the New York Times each week isn’t the kind of marketing we should be doing.



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