Regionalism, Unigov, so easy the Girl Scouts can do it

Regional cooperation is talked about in the “Dayton Region” but not much happens. We can’t get a Countywide 911 system in place, the idea of a regional fire department, police department or even street maintenance is beyond our reach, so we continue to invest in duplication, pay the costs of dual bureaucracies, and suffer the weakness of a house divided. Go back to your youth sports coach- remember the admonishment “there is no “I” in Team”- and then realize it applies here.

While our region does stupid things like build a Clark State facility right across 675 from Wright State, and Sinclair expands to Warren County. While Kettering and others opt out of 911, and we continue to have to elect hundreds of small minded “leaders” and pass levies here and there, without achieving a big picture solution- the Girl Scouts can put aside their petty provincialism and do what adults can’t: merge. And they state the benefits quite succinctly:

Girl Scouts councils to merge
The agreement involving more than 60,000 girls and 16,000 adults was announced this morning by the Girl Scouts Great Rivers Council, one of four groups involved in the merger.

The move, approved last week, Girl Scouts of Appleseed Ridge in Lima, the Girl Scouts of Buckeye Trails in Dayton, Girl Scouts – Great Rivers Council in Cincinnati and Girl Scouts of Maumee Valley Council in Toledo, according to the Great Rivers Council.

The merger will be effective Jan. 1…

The merger of Girl Scouts of Western Ohio is part of a national initiative creating the foundation for long-term success of the Girl Scout Movement and will provide the structure to deliver the benefits of Girl Scouting throughout our region…  and deliver the best personal and leadership development model that defines activities and outcomes… The council realignment will strengthen the infrastructure and resources at all levels of the organization, including fundraising, public relations, property, staffing, and volunteer support…

How bad would a Mayor of Dayton be that could live anywhere in Montgomery county- get paid $150,000, and set a real plan and agenda for the region? Might we get a better candidate than having 50 minor mayors, each paid $30K a year? Maybe we need to pay the Mayor even more- with bonuses- for hitting goals and objectives set by a commission? Would a good mayor, who got us all on track be worth $250K? That’s about what we pay University presidents, and CEO’s of development groups that say they are doing this sort of thing? When John Patterson set up the City Manager form of Government, he envisioned a strong businessman as CEO running the city- with the Commission and Mayor as a board of directors- unfortunately, the ego’s of politicians who use the office as a stepping stone won’t allow the manager to provide that kind of leadership. So maybe it’s time for a change?

The definition of insanity is doing things the same way and expecting a different result. That’s where we are in Dayton right now. Where do we really want to be?

That is the question. The answer, I believe, is so easy, even the Girl Scouts did it. Merge or die.

What do you think?

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18 Comments on "Regionalism, Unigov, so easy the Girl Scouts can do it"

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YES! You’ve hit the nail on the head. These are great ideas, entirely possible though? Of course not. Too much turf, no one with power supports it, etc. I just posted an item on my blog about the “stronger mayor” plan for Dayton. It’s a start…


There is no motivation for anyone, certainly not the suburbs, but not even City of Dayton politicians, to support a merger, for the reasons Michael mentions.

There are also built-in consituencys against merger, mainly the local public employees, all the various little fire and police and public works and planning and zoning departments and so forth, not just the elected officials.

At base, though, the people don’t want it. It really comes down to that. My hunch is that the people of the Dayton area simply don’t want a merger. Folks prefer localism, even if it costs more in taxes.

Incidentally the Conservancy District was the last time a regional government (with power) was set up here. That took special enabling legislation by the state and a favorable Ohio Supreme Court ruling. The two Kentucky metro mergers also required special legislation from Frankfort.

I”m not sure its even worth discussing an issue as dead as this.

Theresa Gasper
Theresa Gasper

I believe it was North Carolina that decided it would only fund one school district per county and the county got to decide which one it was. You can bet that they suddenly started thinking regionally.

What’s sad is that so many people in town believe that we absolutely, positively need a regional form of government to survive, but will just as quickly say it won’t happen in our life time.

I tend to believe the people writing letters to the editor, calling Speak Up and generally being the squeakiest of the wheels are the very people who stand to lose their jobs and therefore do not support anything done regionally. It will take a crisis, but eventually it’s going to have to happen.

We’ve got to start thinking like one or we’re all going to be doomed. Wouldn’t it be great to be the generation that pulls it off, instead of the one that resisted it and created a disaster as a result!


Countywide school districts are pretty common in Kentucky. But they seem to be a novel concept in Ohio.

A good example of crisis forcing merger was in Louisville/Jefferson County back in the 1970s. The Louisville City school district went bankrupt, and it took a court order forcing a merger with the suburban Jefferson County schools, creating a countywide system.

That was easy to do, though, as there already was a countywide school district for the city to merger in to.

Yet is it really merge or die? Maybe for the City of Dayton. But is that really the case for the entire metro area? Dayton, and what happens in it, is pretty irrelevant for most people living in the metropolitan area.

The benefit i see in merger is, maybe, lower taxes (but has anyone done some solid number crunching to actually prove that?)

David Esrati
David Esrati

Jeff- the benefit is REAL ACCOUNTABLE LEADERSHIP. That’s how we move forward (for once).


Jeff, it DOES matter what happens in Dayton. Dayton is still the heart of the region. Businesses considering moving their facilities here don’t identify separately with Centerville, Springboro, or Beavercreek. They may physically move to these suburbs, but to draw creative talent and customers, they emphasize the dynamics of the entire region and how all the disparate parts work together. If the center is dead, it drags down the entire region. If “Dayton” becomes synonymous with innovation, creativity, progress, and regional cooperation, the creative class will follow.


The center IS dead, and companies do move to the suburbs………

The idea is to make the center important again, b/c right now it is not that important. Merging is a good idea for Dayton, but not a good idea for the surrounding cities. If it was a good idea for them, they would do it. But most of the cities in Mont Co have their house in order, and slow thoughtful and proper growths rules over a burden of someone elses problem. I know the argument will be if “Dayton does better we all do better”, which may be true, but cities like Kettering and Centerville think they do a good job as is, and are growing on their own terms – not bailing out the City of Dayton.

I guess my point is that to go regional may make sense, but on some level the City of Dayton has to prove they can change and they can get it in order before people will want to go that direction. Our city, including DPS, is lead by people who are, quite frankly, unable to pass the very tests they want to give, keeping it “IN HOUSE” and the power “CLOSE TO HOME” – without having to actually say it.

We need better, smarter people leading and teaching in this city. Until then, you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken shit.


I know the argument will be if “Dayton does better we all do better”, which may be true, but cities like Kettering and Centerville think they do a good job as is, and are growing on their own terms”

That is really the point (though I’d substitute Beavercreek for Kettering).

One can work at, say, Lexis-Nexis, Woolpert, CSC, SAIC, Northrop-Grumman, NewPage, TeraData, GM Moraine Assembly, Paxar, etc etc etc, and live in any one of the suburban communities developed around I-675, go to the doctor or hospital at the new suburban hospitals, shop at The Greene, Fairfield Commons, the Dayton Mall and surrounding stores, go to church in these areas, send kids to school in a suburban district, and then college at WSU or out-of-town, and go to the movies in suburban cineplexes and live music events at The Fraze or Nutter Center, do outdoorsy things at Carriage Hill or some other metropark or local park, and never set foot in Dayton, aside from maybe jury duty or legal problems requiring a court date.

For someone like this…and that’s probably most people, most voters….The City of Dayton might as well be in a another state, as the city has no bearing on ones or ones’ families daily life.

So the case is very hard to make for merger. There is no obvious cause-and-effect relationship to civic & economic health of the City of Dayton and the quality of life and economic prosperity of the rest of the metropolitan area.


I would agree, Beavercreek is essentially an exburb, they have 3 major ‘new economy’ anchors and two regional shopping centers. Those folks are much more concerned with the pace of Wright State’s expansion efforts and the windfall of development and jobs that will accompany the BRAC rulings at Research Park in the south and the Col. Glenn Beltway in the north then the decline of assembly line jobs. The folks in the eastern Miami Valley could exist without the center city business district. I’m not sure that the same could be said of the southern Miami Valley. All that being said, I don’t know why we could create a viable ‘Research Triangle’ with Wright-Patt/Wright State connecting to Tech Town and the University of Dayton connecting to Research Park. Then a large sector of the City of Dayton could become a player in a regional equation. I see nothing wrong with parts of Dayton being a bedroom community for the people who work in Beavercreek or Wright-Patt.


Let me share the bank accounts with the THREE richest people on this blog and then we will see who realllllllllllllllllly benefits.

I know it would be better for the WHOLE, and Bill Gates giving 1000 people a million bucks would make 1001 people better as a whole, but guess who does not want to do that…….oh yeah, the guy/cities/businesses/universities with the money that already do pretty well on their own. Why share/contribute when you are in good shape and your neighbor who can’t clean up their own house. Like anything else, it really is time to DO IT OURSELVES.


“I’m not sure that the same could be said of the southern Miami Valley.”

I think it could. Southern vally is being tied more into the Cincinnati area via I-75 corridor development.

I knew people who lived in, say, Warren or Butler County, wife worked at Lexis-Nexis or those buisnesses at Newmark, husband worked in the Cincy area, or vice versa. Probably more of this happening.

In my personal case (I live in southern Montgomery County) I know I am in Cincy more than I am in Dayton. I am a member of the CAC and go to their openings and am at Findlay Market at least once a month. I also know of folks who have seasons tickets to the Aronoff. I go to Cincy for the occasional Cincy Orchestra at Music Hall, but it’s a bit too far for nightclubbing (and I don’t like Bogarts compared to CST).

I also watch CET instead of ThinkTV, so another Cincy connection.


“I think it could. Southern vally is being tied more into the Cincinnati area via I-75 corridor development.”

Jeff, I was thinking more of Kettering/Centerville/Miamisburg i.e. Dayton Mall Area. I wouldn’t consider Butler County the Miami Valley just as I wouldn’t consider West Chester Cincinnati. But I guess I just fell into the trap of not thinking in a large enough scope.

P.S. The work you do on Urban Ohio is a great service to all.

Tom Christoffel

This blog entry will be in the November 11, 2007 issue of Regional Community Development News. It can be found at the blog on November 12, 2007. Tom


On a related regionalism note, did you read today about Evenflo’s upcoming move to Miamisburg? They outbid Vandalia for the honor of hosting Evenflo’s HQ. I smell a racket!

John Ise

A contrarian view on regionalism (one that I don’t agree with but one that makes me wonder) is an article given by an old edition of City Journal called” Let’s Break up the Big Cities” ( The bottom storyline was:

To improve older neighborhoods in older cities requires not a single, bigger government but increased numbers of smaller ones. Rather than expanding cities, we should break them up into an array of independent, neighborhood-based governments that would set their own property-tax rates, elect their own officials, and give city residents the same control and sense of community that their suburban counterparts take for granted. City dwellers could direct public spending to the things they consider most important. They could ask the local public works director why their street went unplowed or unpaved, or push the local chief of police to deal with the rowdy playground gang before things get out of hand. Inevitably, such a system would favor economic growth over redistribution. Freed from centralized bureaucracies, these neighborhoods, including many of the older, poorer ones, would prosper. As for paying to maintain, or build, expensive regional infrastructure systems: for that purpose, these independent local governments could cooperate in a loose confederation, or “special purpose district.”


I think approach is or was used in England, in the London area. I recall John Woody writing an op-ed or think-piece for the DDN suggesting this approach, back in the 1990s.

David Esrati
David Esrati

Jeff- would that be “Paul Woodie”- former head of Planning for Dayton and now County Commissioner Dan Foley aide?
John- I can tell you don’t have to do payroll taxes for all these little fiefdoms you are proposing. More headaches for small business.