Dayton has a highly paid professional who is supposed to lead the city. His name is Tim Riordan. In fact, he’s not paid enough to manage the types of responsibilities he’s tasked with- he makes half of what Jim Leftwich at the Dayton Development Coalition makes, but that’s another story.
Mayor Leitzell is one vote of five, on the Dayton City Commission- the “Board of Directors” for Riordan, the city manager. The mayor’s job is to represent the city at events, to preside over the meetings, and he can perform marriages, he’s a figurehead who has mythical power, but very little real power if the system is working the way it’s supposed to.
Unfortunately for Dayton, the system started breaking with our “rock ’n’ roll” mayor- Paul Leonard- which is right around the time I came to Dayton. Leonard fancied himself as powerful- even though the job paid half of what it does now- and he had the most capable city manager we’ve had since- Rick Helwig. Rick was a class act- in fact, Riordan was one of his protogés. Since then, we’ve had one stumble after another in both offices. Mayors who thought they would be kings and city managers who thought they were politicians. The system breaks when one starts thinking like the other.
Leitzell has taken the low key approach to being the chairman of the board. He’s worked well with a Democratic commission despite his endorsement by the Republican Party (he still claims not to be anything but an independent). He’s worked well with the city manager, and he’s spent time with the priority board chairs and neighborhood groups, business leaders, developers- he just hasn’t made it a circus, with him as ringmaster. When talking with him, he’s thinking about who will run for commission next year to challenge Commissioners Joseph and Lovelace- he’s not even sure if he’ll run again in 3.5 years- that’s not on his radar right now- fixing problems is.
Seth Godin drops pearls of wisdom on his blog daily- and one that hit just before Dayton Daily News editorial board hack, Marting Gottlieb, posted his latest smear job attempt on Leitzell may just be what this city needs to do- vis-a-vis the Dayton Daily Downer:
Critics and fans, passersby and the media crave a battle, a scandal and heroic stories of winning and losing.Want to get written up on a tech blog? Just post a really angry rant about your competition.Want to sell tickets to the hockey game? Just put a few brawlers on the team.The media demands that a politician “get angry” in the face of a conflict or problem that anger won’t have any effect on–but it will make a good story. Your customers demand that you stop doing what’s always worked and race to follow a trend or launch a risky sideline…When you stumble or fall, they won’t say, “sorry, we were wrong.” They’ll say, “what were you thinking!” and talk about it even more. And then the cycle continues.
It was the comments section on an incendiary piece that attacked Leitzell for fixing his own roof and a letter to the editor attacking Leitzell for challenging the DDN to get their geography right that were so vile- and so ignorant, that I demanded accountability from the DDN- and even threatened them with a libel suit. Soon after, the DDN blew away and closed all comments on these pieces. However, it seems that Leitzell is taking exactly the right tack by not joining the DDN circus, where if it bleeds, it leads- and if we can draw blood- we will.
This is the total opposite of the media whore we had running the city previously, who would go out of the way to get attention with outlandish hats, funky glasses and speeches at every opportunity. Of course, now that she’s sucking at the government teat for her health care– and working for Ted Strickland- the hats and glasses are gone. Welcome to the closing of the big top Dayton- you have Mayor Leitzell to thank.