Failing Dayton leadership finds fall guy: meet my neighbor Max Fuller

Max Fuller is an affable guy. When I first moved into South Park he was active in South Park Preservation Works- our non-profit neighborhood development corporation that had rescued at least 8 homes. There was some controversy about him hiring himself and the rates he charged the corporation, but those homes are still standing and occupied today (the NDC is and has been in hiatus for some time.).

Max went to work for the city about 18 years ago- he did his job, he rose in the ranks. I’m not going to speculate on his job performance, but the powers that be kept promoting him until he was the manager of housing inspection and making a decent living. Max raised his kids in the city and sent them to DPS where at least two of them starred in the Stivers Jazz band that won all the national attention. One is now a lawyer and giving back to the community being involved in leadership of one of the “youth movement” networking groups.

Max fixed up his house- making a huge double into a “huger” single. He fixed up and sold his old house. He’s not been to many neighborhood meetings, but he put his time in on the alley sweeps back in the day.

I found out about his “resignation” while out collecting signatures a few weeks ago. He was short a few years from having his full retirement benefits and isn’t quite sure of what’s next. In today’s paper, we find that he’s the one who’s solely responsible for the slow going on the tearing down of vacant homes- despite no negative write ups in his 18+ years of service?

The city of Dayton’s housing inspection manager has resigned and officials promise sweeping changes to increase the demolition of nearly 10,000 vacant and deteriorating properties that drain public safety resources and attract vagrants and crime.

The city’s promise is in response to numerous citizen complaints that nuisance structures are not being demolished fast enough. The city has demolished 54 housing units this year, well off the previously stated goal of 40 properties a month.

The city has received nearly $28 million in federal funds to address blighted neighborhoods and must contract the money out by 2014.

The slow start to this year follows last year’s total of about 300 structures demolished — nearly half the total compared to previous years.

Max Fuller resigned last month as housing inspection manager after commissioners blasted the department for not bringing down nuisance properties fast enough. It is unclear if Fuller’s resignation was related to those issues. A review of his personnel file found no documented issues with his work performance.

Shelley Dickstein, assistant city manager and Fuller’s supervisor, said she could not comment on personnel issues.

via City inspector resigns, officials promise demolition changes.

Of course, no one has fired or asked Shelley Dickstein to resign after the colossal screw up at Wayne and Wyoming where the city first “blighted” almost 90 properties, then paid for 2 appraisals and paid multiple options on them to put together a tract of land for a new Kroger- despite not having a written contract to do so, with a performance guarantee from Kroger or the “developer” Midland Atlantic- on top of supervising our fall guy, Max Fuller.

In the very same issue of the DDN we find that the Ohio Senate has approved a 700-page bill in a near record 2 weeks- with a rushed vote yesterday to beat the opposition crowds that were expected today- and by removing 2 Republican legislators from the committee who were actually using their brains- which addressed the exact sort of thing we’re seeing with Mr. Fuller:

State Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, who is a partner in a pro-management law firm, said while the bill has needed reforms, it has glaring deficiencies. ..

He also warned that the bill could leave long-term public employees, who do not get Social Security or 401(k) plans, out of work just shy of the years needed to qualify for their pensions. Seniority would no longer be the exclusive criteria for deciding a layoff order.

“When those older workers are riffed out of the work force, they get a big fat nothing,” he said.

To get the bill to the Senate floor, Niehaus removed Seitz and state Sen. Scott Oelslager, R-Canton, from key committees.

via Collective bargaining bill passes Ohio Senate.

My guess is we’re going to see a wrongful termination suit probably filed by another neighbor of mine, attorney Jeff Silverstein against the city on Max’s behalf. The city will be tied up in legislation- and will pay a large settlement.

In a few more years- we’ll still be “behind” on our schedule to tear down houses, we still won’t be hiring enough police officers (never mind ones of color) and citizens still won’t have the security and confidence to continue to invest in their neighborhoods to take care of our aging housing stock.

The true problems with vacant homes falling into disrepair are the same reason that a restaurant that doesn’t clean the bathrooms and hires dirtbags to work there goes under- people won’t invest where they don’t feel safe and have an optimistic outlook on the value of their investment.

Making empty lots isn’t the answer. Finding people to buy these homes for a song and make their life in Dayton is.

Unfortunately- City Hall refuses to take responsibility for the population flight, the disinvestment and their failings to provide a vision for how to “keep the restrooms clean.”

Instead- they choose to blame- it’s all Max Fuller’s fault. #FAIL

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24 Responses

  1. bobby March 3, 2011 / 10:07 am
    David, You failed to credit Shelly Dickstein’s resume with the ridiculous option extension with Requarth Lumber for “Ballpark Village”.
  2. David Esrati March 3, 2011 / 10:46 am

    @Bobby- I’m sorry- you’re right… besides already making DHC and Requarth’s buildings compete with cheap rent at “Tech Town” and the “Incubator”- they handed over big options (several times) to these two businesses for the development that was never going to come.

  3. Robert Vigh March 3, 2011 / 11:43 am
    David,
    Why are these homes abandoned or vacant? The solution to the problem is addressing the environment as to why these homes become abandoned to reduce the #. Follow that up with a solid plan on how to turn these lots into something productive. Solutions:
     
    1) Dayton needs an ombudsman to beat the county down on property taxes. I personally know 1 individual that signed the title of a property to the city because they could not sell it for 5K, but the county would not budge off the amount of taxes they wanted to charge. I have heard of others. This has to be addressed.
    2) The city needs to auction off these homes, starting at $1.00, and they need to get the county to agree for tax purposes that it will be taxed at what it sold for. Not some perceived BS value. This would allow neighbors or investors to buy at an auction market price. The increase in private ownership will result in greater use of the lots. Each must be auctioned individually.
    3) Stop spending money to tear homes down when they should be auctioned.
    Yep, pretty sure that solves a whole host of problems.
  4. Bubba Jones March 4, 2011 / 7:58 am
    You are 100% on the mark, Robert!
     
    For the houses that are going to be torn down, it would be great to see the City work with St. Vincent dePaul’s “Deconstruction Depot” prior to the wrecking equipment coming in.  I think there’s already some sort of “partnership” there (DE – you probably know more about this) but it would be nice to see it expanded.  For those that haven’t ventured over to the St. Vincent thrift store on Edwin C. Moses – the Deconstruction Depot is a treasure trove of old building materials at a great price.
  5. David Esrati March 4, 2011 / 8:55 am

    @Bubba- The city is working with Deconstruction Depot- etc. but the supply of homes is bigger than the deconstructors can handle- thanks for the mention of this great program that puts ex-cons back to work.

  6. Civil Servants Are People, Too March 5, 2011 / 1:54 am
    I support preservation as much as anyone, but Dayton has a huge supply and demand problem.   Dayton is dealing with the legacy costs that come with a rich 200 year history of boom and bust.   No different than any other 200 year old city.  The left can say we need to combat poverty and the right can say we need to let the market guide our dollars.   Both are correct.
     
    Even if you stop the demolitions, which does nothing for your supply curve, I have yet to see one proposal to change the demand curve.    Marketing will only get you so far.   A few extra parks or cops will only get you so far.   There is no silver bullet, so therefore a multi-prong approach is the only solution.
     
    There are foreclosure auctions every week.  A huge part of the problem is that homes are already so cheap in some areas that even the slumlords won’t touch them.   (However, there are still many good neighborhoods doing just fine).    If you can’t sell your lemonade for a nickel, do you think selling it for a penny is the answer?   At some point, it is no longer worth the effort.
     
    Furthermore, if an investor can’t afford the rock-bottom prices now – how could they possibly improve the community by buying homes for a dollar?   MANY of the vacant houses across the region are the result of absentee landlords, out-of-state investors, or people who simply didn’t know what they were getting into.
     
    Who do you think will flock to Dayton to buy these dollar homes?  Not the suburbanites.   Maybe a few youngsters, if you’re lucky.   The rest will be,  yup, the landlords and absentee investors.   If they can’t fix the roof on a $5,000 house in west Dayton, they probably can’t do it for a one dollar house either.  The cycle simply repeats itself.
     
    By the way, to sell a vacant house somebody has to own it first.   A tax foreclosures costs the County about $2,000 each.   So you lose money on dollar houses, too.   We need a regional landbank supported by a small sales tax, in my opinion.
     
    Please understand, I am still hopeful for Dayton’s long term success, but demolition (by necessity) must be at least one of the tools in their toolbox.   Not everywhere.   Not every time.   But some of the places and some of the time.
     
     
  7. David Esrati March 5, 2011 / 8:19 am

    @csapt- the thing is, those homes did have value, as did the neighborhoods. When the city put it’s emphasis on “economic development” instead of “community service”- we lost the value of the neighborhoods- and then the homes.

    You’re right- it’s not just marketing that’s going to solve it. But neither is demolition- the empty lots become a problem as well.

    We’re going to have to figure out which neighborhoods we want to provide service to- and which ones we can’t afford to anymore- and start relocating and restructuring. Consolidation of existing resources is key- and that’s the main reason the willy nilly destruction program we currently have isn’t working.

    Hard decisions- but, if made, we have a chance.

  8. Robert Vigh March 7, 2011 / 1:13 pm
    CSAPT: Lets look at this logically. Assuming it costs 2K to tax foreclose on a property, why are there so many foreclosures? Could it be that the tax rate is simply too high and absentee owners feel it will just pass to the city? If the tax rates were appropriate to the value of the home, do you feel people would be more or less likely to pay the tax bill? Granted a small % of 4K is not alot, but it beats spending 2K to seize the property.
    Furthermore, once the 2K is spent, the city could recover $1 (or more) or they could SPEND more to tear it down? Auction it. You make these transactions easy enough and people will buy them to gut them for recycling. They might buy them to tear down and have a larger backyard. Either way, private ownership greatly increases the likelihood of rebirth in my opinion. It also shifts costs to private interested parties and away from citizens.
     
  9. Joe Schmo March 8, 2011 / 10:18 am
    David,
     
    For being so in tune with the shams that make up the City of Dayton, you obviously have not caught on to the biggest sham which is deconstruction. PowerNet of Dayton is given a large sum of money, via a pilot project (NOT a competitive bid) to deconstruct homes and then remove the foundation. Good cause right? Sure, if they were monitored. PowerNet gets approximately twice as much money to deconstruct a home than what it takes to demolish a home, and that does not include the additional $6,000 to remove the foundation. And guess what they do? Often times they remove a few boards and then bid the house out to demolition contractors and just sit back and collect cash. You get $18,000 to deconstruct a house. You bid it to demolition contractors for $7,000. Seem like a sham?
    I agree that Max Fuller is a great guy and got a terrible deal. I hope he does file a lawsuit and I hope he wins. Most people have no idea whats going on as far as citywide demolition is concerned but are quick to voice an opinion. Max had things moving in a good forward motion. I expect all of that to change.
    And as far as trying to save these houses and have people fix them up, HAHAHAHA! David, I am sure you have seen the outside of many of these nuisance homes. Some of them dont look like they are in too bad of condition. But guess what? The inside is usually trashed. Or there is a leaking roof that has caused mold infestation throughout the whole structure, making it financially worthless. Dont believe me? Shoot me an e-mail and I will show you sometime.
  10. Jeff Dzwulski March 8, 2011 / 6:14 pm
    Id like to know if there is a list somewhere of what the demolition targets are going to be so I can photograph them, sort of a house or building mug shot, before it meets its end. 

    There are some places I plan on shooting in-depth because they look like they are on their last legs, but it would be nice to concentrate on the places that are really on the demo hit-list.

    Problem with Dayton everything is so close-hold here.   They are going to tear down stuff.  Supposedly they know what they want to tear down.   Except only the “they” know it, not average joe amateur snaphsooters like yers truley.

  11. Civil Servants Are People, Too March 8, 2011 / 6:24 pm
    Robert – the vast majority of foreclosures are done by the Banks, which have a vested interest in trying to reduce their losses.   They sell the properties, often at a steep discount, simply to get them off the books.    That has nothing to do with taxes.     It is more about job losses and over-leveraged investors.   

    Keep in mind that only about 10% or so of the property taxes go to the City.   The rest is schools, Metroparks, the library, etc.  

    Also, if you look at low-value properties the difference in taxes is relatively small.    If you look at tax rates, I figure it’s about $20 for every $1,000 in value in Dayton.   For example, compare a  $20,000 house to a $30,000 house.    Probably not more than $200 difference, if that.   That’s $16 a month.   If an investor wants a house, the idea of charging an extra $20 month for rent is highly unlikely to stop them. 
     

    If you are saying that you pay $4,000 in taxes, you must have at least a $200,000 home – not typical of these areas in distress.

     
    The County sets the tax values.   If the value is incorrect, they can be appealed.    Yes, there may be issues with that process, too – but that’s not the City’s fault.    The tax rate and the propeprty value are two different parts of the equation.   Lay blame where it belongs.

    So where are these people rehabbing houses?   Where are the people voluntarily demolishing them?   There are very few and certainly not enough.

    Unfortunately Robert, your idea of logic simply doesn’t stand up.   As I said, it is all about supply and demand.

  12. Greg Hunter March 8, 2011 / 10:04 pm
    Dayton caused it’s own supply problem by aiding and abetting developers south of town by selling water virtually into Warren County and backing Austin Road.  The cards were played years ago as most of the politicians are owned lock stock and barrel by sprawling interests.
     
    We are extremely racist and stupid about our way of life in Dayton.  We are getting everything we deserve; unfortunately those that brought us this mess are still in power and have been bailed out.
  13. Gone From Dayton March 9, 2011 / 12:31 pm
    There is no “one” problem and no “one silver bullet” answer.  Let me tell you a story about my experience in Twin Towers (aka Baby Beirut) and why I just walked away from my home of 10+ years.  It is in foreclosure intentionally.
     
    We bought our first home in the mid 90s for $35k.  We were approved for $90k, but didn’t think that was responsible.  We had a decent interest rate and our payments would stay affordable if one of us lost a job, which we did.  We moved from Troy and chose a Dayton neighborhood that we thought showed evidence of improvement.  At the time, public and neighborhood information on the Internet was sparse at best and nonexistent for Twin Towers/East Dayton.
     
    Taxes were not the problem.  Because I qualify for the Homestead Exemption, they were quite cheap.  Insurance rates are another matter.  Because of the high incidents of arson, foreclosures, vacancies, and burglary, our insurance skyrocketed to nearly $1700 for a 1700 sq foot house.  Our taxes were less than 1/3 of our insurance.
     
    Supply/Demand was and is a problem because of lack of police presence/response and lack of consistent housing code enforcement.  What kind of people really want to live in Twin Towers (aka Baby Beirut)?  East End Community Services Corp. is a BIG part of the problem, not the solution.  Any families that participate in EECSC’s programs are “off limits” for Housing Enforcement and most criminal misdemeanors.  The rules do not apply if you “work” with EECSC.  Max Fuller worked w/EECSC and helped to put this policy in place.  I’m glad he is gone.  I only wish the staff at EECSC and the area’s housing inspector would join him.  But rest assured, ole Max will be back on staff at the City of Dayton, just not in a supervisory position.  There will be no press release.  This will be done so that his compadres can ensure he gets his pension.
     
    Recently we were written a legal order by the local housing inspector for gutters and concrete work on our steps.  I visited Max’s house at 17 Clover Street & took about 30 photographs.  His gutters, concrete retaining wall and steps looked like mine.  Why didn’t he have an outstanding legal order?  Because the housing rules don’t apply if you work for the city of Dayton, AND are the boss of the division.  What inspector is going to write that ticket or legal order?
     
    One problem of selective code enforcement is that responsible homeowners, paying taxes, mortgages, and insurance, and keeping up their properties far better than their neighbors are made to suffer living next to white trash that have no consequences.  IE:  vehicles parked in yards and vacant lots (see 130 Nassau, owned by EECSC).  Just drive down any street within 5 blocks of the EECSC office and you will see housing violation after violation with no citations or legal orders.  Forget walking the streets during the day.  The loose pit bulls will attack and you will encounter armed drug dealers along the way.
     
    The brand new houses in Twin Towers are a complete joke!  What decent person wants to own a brand new house in an unsafe neighborhood when the same money used for rent/mortgage in Twin Towers could be used to rent in Miamisburg, Centerville, etc.?  The new house money spent in Twin Towers is a classic example of government waste. 
     
    Yes, loan programs are in place for low-income homeowners who occupy their homes to fix/repair, bring up to code.  But how responsible it is for a homeowner to intentionally go underwater on a home, in East Dayton, when the blight, deterioration, and real crime are not addressed and show no signs of improvement?
     
    My spouse and I remained prisoners in our home for the last 6 years.  We could no longer walk around our block for safety issues or enjoy our backyard or front porch.  Our neighbors’ continual flagrant disregard for the housing code and lack of consequences for violations turned our once decent street into a veritable junk yard of pit bull feces, inoperable vehicles, vehicle parts strewn all across yards, and dirty baby diapers all over the ground.  Do you really want to live next to or near that?  Do you really think other decent people will?
     
    We have left Dayton and do not have one positive thing to say about living there for 10+ years.  We are in a local community which enforces housing codes across the board and has a low ACTUAL crime rate (not skewed by NOT making arrests and filing charges, which is how Dayton fixes its low crime rate).  We walk our neighborhood almost every day without fear of loose pit bulls.  Our neighbors are, well, neighborly!  On moving day, 3 came over to offer assistance, snacks, and conversation.  WOW!  We cried.  We were overwhelmed by their hospitality.
     
    We can enjoy our backyard again.  We don’t hear the neighbors constantly fighting and shouting with each other and the police.  We don’t smell dog & baby feces anymore.  We don’t view junk yards anymore.  Sound like Utopia?  It’s not.  It is a community with shared values and standards of living, even for the working class.
  14. Jeff Dziwulski March 10, 2011 / 6:14 pm
    Excellent post. 

    You confirmed my decision to never live in Dayton if I can help it.  I had considered this, but the look and feel of the place gave a bad vibe.  And what I thought could go down if I lived there actually DID go down in your case….bad neighbors, lack of code enforcment, with the icing of low level corruption which you so excellently detail.

    Who killed Dayton?  The people who live there and own property there, that’s who.

    Sound like Utopia?  It’s not.  It is a community with shared values and standards of living, even for the working class.

    You describe what city neighborhoods used to be like, what I remember them as being like, growing up in Chicago.  Just because someone is working class doesnt mean they have to be a slob.  Unfortunatly, way too many slobs and trash in this area and they all collect in the city.  Almost like locusts….they destroy a neighborhood and then move on to the next.

  15. Gone From Dayton March 24, 2011 / 7:03 pm
    Thanks Jeff!  Stay out of Dayton.  It is not worth the hassle and money.  I don’t think I will ever risk owning a home again because of my experience.  I’m just thrilled to not have to pay taxes to Dayton and Mont. Co. anymore.

    Just drove by ole Max’s home.  I LOVE the new gutters & downspouts, roofs, and paint on his two 2-car garages.  I also like the repair work on his concrete front steps and how he is trying to fix up his retaining wall.  His neighbors can thank me for that.  I took LOTS of photos last February when our homes looked similar and I was issued a legal order and he was not when our gutters, steps, and retaining walls looked alike.  I know Max can easily write a check for $3k for these fix-ups.  It gives me great pleasure that the former head of Housing Inspection actually had to follow the City’s interpretation of the law!

    Now if only the rest of Twin Towers would get moving on just picking up the garbage, it would be a much more aesthetically pleasing neighborhood.

    PS David E: I changed my email.

  16. D Thorne November 13, 2011 / 9:09 pm
    It just seems to me that the best answer is to sell these properties to people who would be then making a positive difference in the community. They would pay taxes and spend money . they would upkeep thier own property, values go up for everyone, the public dosent foot the bill for demo properties and empty land.   no brainer
  17. E Snead May 29, 2012 / 1:26 pm
    It’s a bit like changing human nature.  There is a momentum, and it takes a great deal to change trends like declining neighborhoods.  I agree with “Gone From Dayton.”  I too used to live in Dayton.  I own three rentals in east Dayton.  It is possible for an area to not be owner occupied and still be a clean and respectable place to live.   I am happy with 2 of these properties. But it takes investment.  One gets a new roof soon and the other a new paint job They are located in areas convenient to the hospital and university, but the third has been a disaster.  I can’t rehab the place for being robbed.  Tools gone….  copper gone….  stuff dumped on the property.  Seriously, the other day someone had dumped 25 tires behind the garage.  The neighbors know who is responsible for break ins and vandalism.  They even have caught them on video.  When shared with the police….   nothing. 

    So yes, I have moved.  And I even offered St Mary’s Development Center the house.  Their mission is rehabbing for low income housing.  Guess what?  They don’t want it!  A free house!  I have explored how to give a house away…. amazing.
    I am going to continue managing the 2 properties I own in Dayton, but I will not buy another.
      

  18. Diane May 29, 2012 / 1:37 pm
    E. Snead,

    You could always burn down your problem property in Dayton. That seems to be a popular solution to the lose-lose situation you’ve just described.

  19. E Snead May 29, 2012 / 2:15 pm
    Diane,

    Yes.  It would be my luck to get sued by Dayton for the cleanup and the taxes on the place.  I am curious…. can I just give it to Dayton?  If I stop paying taxes and they foreclose, am I sued for costs?  What a mess.

    I am going to Craig’s list next.  Owner financing on a rehab project…. CHEAP!  If I get enough money to order a pizza, it’s a win!

        

  20. j April 4, 2014 / 11:52 pm
    I really know the hurt and pain of losing our city, the only way of restoring our city is taking it over.  The council has  no idea of how to save our to city, because they are not of our city. I’m coming.   They think they know, but have no idea, of what the people want. Dayton has a strong identity but the weak has no vision. If  for one second they could breathe and not think of numbers they could come up with the answer.  I’ve got the answer that could put us back on the map and make our city once what it was.  I am coming.
  21. eric April 5, 2014 / 3:42 pm
    You say you’re coming.   When you arrive, nobody will be here.  In follow up to my last post on this thread….    I found a guy that traded an old Lincoln and some collectible guns for the house on E 4th St.   Since then, he has had the same problems I had.   We are truly part of the rust belt, folks.   And we dont need social programs to help these poor tenants pay rent and utiities.   They dont pay rent on time and still carry around smart phones and watch Direct TV.   Doesn’t anyone see that already there are too many registered voters living OFF other people’s taxes.   There will never be a turnaround in Dayton until we ATTRACT good business and then make it more attractive to WORK than to sit on your butt and smoke all day.   Oh…. that’s AFTER you rip off the neighbor’s copper.   Yes, I am bitter.  I love history, and I love reading about the days of business growth and how Dayton was the place to be for folks to come find a job.  We have nothing left after decades of tax and spend to help the poor and minorities “pay their bills.”    Well,  when Dayton has nothing BUT those folks left, so be it.   49 years I have been here…. going to South Carolina!  Boeing and BMW are expanding!  LOL
  22. Diane April 5, 2014 / 3:57 pm
    I’m with you, Eric. Two more years until my youngest is out of high school, and then I am out of Montgomery County, OH FOR EVER.
  23. eric April 5, 2014 / 4:31 pm
    Good for you Diane.   I am even going as far as to investigate Ecuador, Costa Rica and Panama…   Check out InternationalLiving.com.    The health care situation in the US will not adjust itself for another decade.   The goal of our govt. is to bankrupt private insurance companies so true “national healthcare” will be the savior.   Why not go to Panama where it is already functioning well at 49.00 per month.   I’m just saying….   the US is no longer the only game in town.  Leaving the US or not….. certainly leaving OH.   To think I used to joke about West Virginia.  Good luck.
  24. Diane April 5, 2014 / 4:47 pm
    I have been a member of the Americans in Panama Yahoo group for almost two years. Panama has its pros and cons, but inflation is taking a toll. Colombia might be worth a closer look. It’s very hot there, though, and I think I would melt. I would rather be cold than hot, so WY is at the top of my list right now with the lowest taxes, lowest population density and among the best senior benefits/services in the country. 

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