Politics or fundamentals? Dayton’s choice on Nov. 5, 2013

For the last thirty years, Dayton has pursued one “silver bullet” project after another to “save Dayton” or to pivot our fortunes. The list is long, starting with Courthouse Square, the Convention Center, the Arcade, the Arcade Tower, the Victoria, the Schuster Center, Riverscape, Baseball, and while some of these can be counted in the win column by most, the true metric of success- growth, has eluded us.

The Metro area still has the same population- it’s just spread out more. The income levels are stagnating. Property values are dropping, the divide between the rich and poor is spreading and real opportunity for social mobility- the index of how easy it is to move from poverty to prosperity- is ranked very low.

I believe we’ve put too much faith in government to be the engine of the economy, and they in turn, too much faith in bricks and mortar, and not enough emphasis on the people. It’s the people of South Park who make it great- not the government, and not the buildings. The little neighborhood that could decided that liking your neighbors builds equity faster than paint and “progress.”

Dayton is great at forming committees and having master plans. What we’ve moved away from is working on delivery of basic services and doing it in a customer-friendly way.

When I look at the “establishment” candidates- those endorsed by the Montgomery County Democratic party, I see minions of the machine. Nan Whaley has never had a job outside the party in her life. Her view of the world is controlled by the process of politics and raising money and keeping donors happy. Joey Williams and Jeff Mims are along for the ride. You can’t argue with a quarter million dollar machine in the primary with a take-no-prisoners approach. This is politics at its finest. And looking at the splits in supporters with Clay Dixon backing Whaley despite AJ Wagner having been his campaign manager 24 years ago- and Rhine McLin backing Wagner- despite being Whaley’s teammate just 4 years ago, shows that the professional politicians all see this as a game of political chess.

On the flip side, are the two Davids. Myself and David Greer. We’re facing Goliath, with our little $10K budget limits and no political machine behind us. Getting the message out to voters who have been barraged with mailers, TV, radio, yard signs, requires an army of volunteers knocking on doors. Unfortunately, armies also cost money- and require engagement of voters, something years of lies and false promises have beaten out of them.

What we’re selling isn’t sexy. Pride, accountability and service, aren’t things that can be bought off the shelf. The stuff that can be bought- is what funds the campaigns of the big-money candidates- contracts for demolition, prime land and subsidies for new construction, increased police protection, etc. We’ve seen the focus on Meds, Eds and Feds strategy (none of which pay taxes btw) while the taxpayers get hit with higher tax bills, water bills, less service and decaying parks and falling property values.

If you want to see a short video that summarizes the differences- check out what the Brookings Institution is putting out under the “Metropolitan Revolution” name. (Thanks to Chris Ritter for leading me to this). This video sums up what my campaign stresses- a back-to-basics approach, focusing on fundamentals of making Dayton a place where people want to live, invest and run a business:

If this piques your interest, check out their other videos: http://metrorevolution.org/videos/

There has been a lot of talk about the need for a strong mayor form of government, which both mayoral candidates secretly lust for. However, if we really want to make a difference, it’s even more important today to go back to the professional city manager form of government and remove politics from the helm of our ship. It’s been 20 years since we had our last truly effective city manager who was able to stand front and center without a mayor screaming for attention. That may have been because our mayor at the time, Clay Dixon, wasn’t that kind of politician. But, considering that the next city commission’s first job will be most likely be picking a replacement for Tim Riordan, who the voters pick in the November 5th election is probably the pivotal point in Dayton’s future fortunes.

My thinking on open government and community participation is well documented by the existence of this site since 2005. Looking over my campaign materials from runs 20 years ago, I was still stressing the importance of basic service delivery. If elected, I look to focus our strategy on providing tools for our citizens to improve their social mobility and connectedness to each other, and make Dayton a community that has definable differences from surrounding communities- making it a place where pride and innovation come together. The key, is judging projects on how well they reach the most residents- instead of the current focus of supporting the political contributors to the machines’ campaigns.

Please put down Sunday,  Sept. 29, on your calendar for another Esrati Pancake Breakfast. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 113 Bonner Street.



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