Debate? What debate. Mayoral Q&A boring.

Calling the live television broadcast a debate between Mayor McLin and challenger Gary Leitzell was the first error. The second was actually taking notes, because the questions and the answers are sounding like a broken record. Neither candidate showed any promise of leadership- with the exception of Gary when, near the end, he said it would be his job as mayor to make the City Manager look great and to make the other commissioners look smarter than him. Compare that with the Mayor calling her cohorts shining stars- without acknowledging that we have a city manager form of government for that very reason- shining stars aren’t something we can reach out and touch.

I’d hope that Cox would post the “debate” on YouTube or some other video sharing site, so people can review it.

The room was filled with political party types, a few business people and the rest of the commission sans Dean Lovelace. There were reporters galore as well as publisher Kevin Reilly and editorial hatchet man, Martin Gottlieb. Since Joanne Huist Smith was part of the panel asking questions, it looked like Lynn Hulsey will be penning the story for the DDN.

I would have loved to see rebuttal to questions- and even better yet- at least one opportunity for the candidates to ask each other questions.

Here are the key points that I thought worth mention.

Rhine on more than one occasion thanked, or congratulated the service unions. It’s clear she knows where her bread is buttered. She’s awfully proud that Dayton is capable of taking out other cities trash. So one hand, we’re talking about being a hub for high tech new business- but, our core skill is menial labor.

BTW- her and Gary are now in lock step on Gary’s idea to recruit 1000 new small businesses, instead of chasing large ones. Too bad her last 8 years has shown that she’s doesn’t have a clue about recruiting any business without a handout.

Gary talks about “Enterprise” not “Privatize”- which sounds almost as good as we’ve got “feds, meds and ed’s” in this town (our three non-profit, non-taxpaying bases that are left). However, with budget cuts, and a general perception of incompetence thanks to our current leaderships ineptitude, selling our services is going to be a tough sell until we can sell it to our own citizens first. Gary talks about a customer focus- Rhine talks about her connections- including her great relationship with President Obama (as if we are going to buy that- esp. after she sat on the fence in the primary- where she and Nan were Hillary girls).

I’m amazed that the Mayor can blame NCR leaving on the CEO who never came to Dayton, but she keeps calling them “The NCR” as well as botching other corporate names the same way. “The Care Source,” “The Pacchia” etc.

It’s also not real helpful to say  that our “downtown buildings are antiquated.” Talk about how not to sell downtown. She goes on to say Caresource had to build new- as if Mendelson’s didn’t have the space, or something couldn’t be done with the former Elder Beerman building to accommodate them. Then she turns around and talks about Bob Schiffler with the Kuntz building- which is most certainly both old- and enjoying a renaissance. I have no love for Mike Turner, but, listening to her muddle through this- made me wish he was still here, even though his answers would have been just as vacuous.

Gary thinks everything will be helped by having “coffee and a doughnut” with existing business owners. The mayor proudly says she meets with 50 a year. The real question is how many is the City Manage meeting with? I know Rashad took the Mayor out to a lot of lunches at Coco’s- but, it was just the two of them. Wrong way to do it then, will continue to be wrong again.

In fact, when Rhine won eight years ago- I wrote her a 5 page strategy on how to jump start the city. Funny- I probably should have posted it earlier- so here it is as a pdf. Ideas for Rhine It might be a good measuring stick for what we’ve seen after 8 years of her rule.

On public safety, no real breakthrough ideas from either. The real scary part is what’s going to happen when the senior officers all retire. No one asked the question- and we haven’t heard an answer. You still need cops to run even the red-light cameras. Technology isn’t going to save us- there is no robocop.

Another point of differentiation- Gary talks about merging services with the County- Rhine says there isn’t much overlap. Indicative of how far regionalism will get under her power- no where. If regionalism is your dream- she’s not your candidate.

The schools aren’t the Mayors responsibility, and Gary is getting hammered for home schooling. I think the real issue is that we continue to believe in DPS as is- and that the charters haven’t accomplished much either. Gary is right- parents are an issue. However, we need to strengthen neighborhoods and the connection between schools and parents. The Mayor talked about Siamese twins- the city and the schools, when in fact we have quadruplets or more- with DPS, Charters, Religious schools, and home schooling- all options. How do we get them all working together? Neither had answers. I’ve talked about sportsplex, a central after school tutoring center, enrichment programs at Boonshoft and Wegerzen- but, it will be harder to implement now that we’ve already done our black and white, East and West side rec-plexes thanks to the current administration.

When the mayor closes with mention of 4 city mangers in 8 years, 2 interim, 2 full, it should be an indication that we haven’t had the right formula in place. Two year averages for a City Manager won’t get us where we need to go. I’m not sure the current commission can give us the city manager we neeed- and when you get down to it- that’s the most important key to this whole election.

I’m not declaring a winner between these two tonight. After eight years the Mayor should have better answers and build more confidence. With an opponent so weak, the challenger should look a lot better. For the city to have to choose between only these two- without a primary- we’ve already lost.

But, when it comes down to what to do with a team that’s been losing- the only answer is to try to change it. That’s what I’ve been hearing going door to door. What are your thoughts?

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