Same as it ever was…same as it ever was…

“How did we get here?” is a question asked by a band called the “Talking Heads” in a song called “Once in a lifetime.” Dayton now finds itself asking the same question (or should).

“This is not my beautiful house” anymore. We’ve lost population, we’ve lost higher income residents, we’ve lost the trust and faith of the region- after years of ignoring what makes a city a city- the people.

It started when the courts ripped Dayton apart with the stupid idea of busing for integration, ignoring the fact that people are mobile and voted by leaving the community in droves. We replaced racial segregation with economic segregation, but, now, we’re still as racially segregated as ever- with the black/white line cutting  through the city on every election results map like an ugly scar suffered from a horrible crash. It continued with years of cuts to services for the community- parks, rec, police, street maintenance, while we went on a wild chase for “economic development.”

We failed to realize that “economic development” only happens when people feel confident about their investment. Banks only lend when they believe the value will last. People only stay where they believe they have a future. We’ve chased a dream, while ignoring the reality, and now, we’re still being insulted.

The “Talking Heads” were a band, the politicians are our talking heads.The band had it right, the politicians haven’t.
The key to Dayton economic development has always been right underneath us: “Letting the days go by/water flowing underground” yet, our city has failed to put any marketing pieces together until recently that even mentioned our water.

But, water alone won’t save us. There has to be a confidence, that this community can come back. We have to rebuild the neighborhoods and the faith of our residents- all of us, that we can invest again and feel confident. So, this latest plan to spend a little over half-a-million on “saving” 15 homes is just another indication of how we have no plan, no clue, no idea on what to do:

CityWide Development Corporation is looking for newly foreclosed and vacant houses in otherwise stable city neighborhoods to buy, rehab and put back on the market.

The Dayton City Commission, using $625,105 in Ohio Neighborhood Stabilization funding, approved a contract with CityWide, on Wednesday, Sept. 2, to launch the program.

“The city of Dayton is committed to neighborhood revitalization and to using resources wisely to support that goal,” Mayor Rhine McLin said.

About 15 houses will be renovated over three years. No more than $50,000 will be spent on a home. CityWide has already begun working with Dayton’s Department of Planning and Community Development, neighborhood groups and real estate agents to identify properties.

Homes to be renovated must be located in the following neighborhoods: Dayton View Triangle, Princeton Heights, University Row, South Park and Historic Innereast.

“If you drive down a street and 50 percent of the houses are vacant and boarded up, I doubt we’d work there,” said Steve Budd, president of CityWide Development.

CityWide is focusing on stable neighborhoods blighted by a single property.

The rehabbed homes will be sold at market value, which in some cases means the purchase will be subsidized. The homes will be offered for sale to buyers with incomes at or below 120 percent of the annual median income for Dayton, or $52,600 for a two-person household.

“My guess is that at best we’ll break even,” Budd said.

via City gives OK for program to purchase? vacant, foreclosed homes to rehab.

How officially writing off all but 5 neighborhoods is going to revitalize anything is beyond all hope. It’s not about the homes, it’s never been about the homes, it’s about people. We have to have faith that:

“…you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
… you may find yourself in another part of the world…
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house…”

but that you find yourself, living in a city with a future, for all. Where it is safe to invest. Where you feel safe, secure and positive about steps being taken to protect your investment. That people want to live here- because it’s a great place to live.

Band aids like this program, on the bullet wounds of years of ignoring basic neighborhood values, leave us here: “after the moneys gone” with no real answers. Fixing 15 homes in 5 neighborhoods is not the answer. Fixing 10 neighborhoods, with a full-time community police officer, and a plan to work with the neighborhood on taking care of things internally- that would be a better start.

I’m going to be releasing my draft framework, for your input, on how to refocus our city on empowering neighborhoods to take care of their problems, and to rebuild faith for both investors and residents. The goal is that even if: “you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack” like my parents just did- it’s a really nice shotgun shack, in a great neighborhood, with a sense of community, and a confidence that comes from within, not from a talking head, who says they are “committed to neighborhood revitalization and to using resources wisely to support that goal”- “after the moneys gone.”

Our only goal is to restore faith in our once proud city. And while I agree on the premise of focusing on strengths, we can’t officially abandon all the other neighborhoods with programs like this. It’s time to have a systematic plan to build our city with the people we have. How did the powers that be choose those five neighborhoods? Did you have a say?

And, if you don’t live there- how does it make you feel? You are our most important resource, not a fixed up market rate house.

“How did I get here?”

“And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right? …am I wrong?
And you may tell yourself
My god!…what have I done?”

And in November, when you go to vote, make sure you don’t vote the same people in- because, as the Talking Heads end the song- “Same as it ever was…same as it ever was…” has been our guiding principal for too long.

The city has changed. Our talking heads have not. We don’t have a plan, or leadership that can implement one.

Spending over half a million dollars on 15 homes is an embarrassment. Where is Rhine McLin’s plan? Where is Nan’s plan?

“Same as it ever was…same as it ever was…”

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7 Responses

  1. Ice Bandit September 5, 2009 / 10:16 am
    Same as it ever was (slaps self on forehead)
    Same as it ever was (slaps self on forehead)
    Same as it ever was (slaps self on forehead)
    Same as it ever was…..
    (I’d do more, but my oversized white suit is in the cleaners)
  2. Civil Servants are People, too September 5, 2009 / 1:01 pm
    I agree people could always do a better job of spelling out their plans and communicating them with the people.
    The scorched-earth campaign of criticizing every program that comes along is not good for anyone.   The plan cited in the post is one of many programs.   This one is State-funded with limited options for what you can do with it.   Is it better to turn down the money like Bobby Jindahl?   Oh wait, he took the money anyway.
    I know Dayton has a long-term development plan…. how many people bother to read it before they criticize the city?   Our soundbyte culture needs to stop.   At least this kind of blog is a step in the right direction.
    The fact is that we will never bring some of those neighborhoods back without the jobs to bring new people into the region.
  3. David Esrati September 5, 2009 / 11:31 pm

    @CSAPT it may be a State funded program, but who is making the decision on where the money should be spent? With input from where? And, how long are we going to keep handing public money over to CityWide without any accountability?

    I was a part of the vision 20/20 planning process- and I read it. How come if we did have a plan- why isn’t it being discussed at regular intervals at City Commission meetings? Why are we not grading our city manager on his performance per the plan? We can have a plan- but, if we aren’t measuring performance, checking off objectives and adjusting to the market- what do we really have? Not a damn thing.

    In my forth coming neighborhood centered plan- we’ll have real ways to quantitatively measure performance and move communities forward.

  4. David Esrati September 6, 2009 / 7:44 am

    @jeffery It’s funny- I started calling this post Neighborhood Triage- before I latched onto the Talking Heads song.

    I highly recommend looking at the two links Jeff posted. However, back in the early 90’s we had a working group to try to redraw the downtown priority board (the smallest) to include all the historic districts. We met with Cilla Shindell many times- at the time, she was head of the PB system- and were rebuffed absolutely.

    It’s where I first really became friends with Bill Rain who was representing McPherson Town then- and just working on the ideas for his first Loft development downtown.


  5. Josh Bruce September 6, 2009 / 9:51 am
    Need a Project Manager – which I thought that’s what a City Manager was.
    Determine where you want to be in 10 year’s time (mostly speculation). Determine 5 years (estimations). 1 year (more concrete). Make sure the goals are attainable & verifiable (put a man on the Moon). Reverse engineer the steps to get to the 10 year plan from where they currently are. Review quarterly. Rinse and repeat. With the understanding that the plan not only has to allow change – but that it must change; however, you can’t change a plan if you don’t have a plan.
    It worked for Kennedy (space program). It works for authors (determining the end of the book before writing the first chapter). Less theory – more action. Too focused on making it perfect before starting – and by the time it becomes perfect – it’s been reworked into something it was never supposed to be.
    “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
    Good article David – of course now I have that song stuck in my head. Cheers.
  6. David Esrati September 6, 2009 / 10:18 am

    @josh- welcome back to the conversation. Great advice. The fact that we don’t have at least annual public reviews of our progress toward the 20/20 plan- is a sure indication that we aren’t making progress.

    I hope to bring that voice to a commission that votes 5-0 every week on every issue without debate, discussion or even a question of the city manager other than on budget items.

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