The hole on Ludlow Street

Photo by David Esrati of the demolition of the Dayton Daily News building 1923 addition

The day after demolition was allowed to continue

Last week the Dayton Daily news had the sad, sad story of poor Steve Rauch who didn’t get paid for tearing down a perfectly good historic building. No mention of performance bonds- which is the norm for projects like this:

The company that demolished parts of the historic Dayton Daily News building at 45 S. Ludlow St. has sued Student Suites Dayton LLC for allegedly not paying its nearly $800,000 bill.

The civil lawsuit filed Thursday in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court by Steve Rauch Inc. seeks financial damages and a foreclosure on the mechanic’s Lien against Student Suites Dayton (SSD), which originally planned to build a 350-unit, $18 million housing complex that could serve Sinclair Community College students.

Steve Rauch told this newspaper last week that he stopped working on the project when the billing cost for his work hit $869,000 and he still hadn’t been paid.A demolition contract between Student Suites Dayton LLC and Steve R. Rauch Inc. specifies a payment of $1.292 million. Rauch said he stopped working on the project because he hadn’t been paid.

“What a mess that place is down there, isn’t it?” he said. “I’ve liened it — against Student Suites. They haven’t paid me a dime.”

Rauch said he initially held off on filing a lawsuit, hoping to get paid as the project moves forward. “We are not the bad guy that put a bullet in the deal,” he said.

Through an email, Student Suites Dayton declined to comment.The suit alleged Rauch performed all demolition of the former Dayton Daily News and Schwind buildings, and related services. The cost, $775,195, has been due since Jan. 21, 2014, the lawsuit alleges. Interest of 10 percent per annum on the principal has been accruing since then, according to the suit.

Rauch’s attorney, Gregory Page, said the total owed, including interest, is more than $900,000.

“Based on SSD’s ongoing refusal to pay the sums due and owing, Rauch caused multiple affidavits for mechanic’s lien to be recorded against the property,” the suit alleges. “SSD’s actions, including, but not limited to, its failure or refusal to pay the sums due to Rauch, constitute a breach of contract.

”Besides compensatory damages and pre- and post-judgment interest of 10 percent, Rauch seeks attorney fees and costs, and for a judgment ordering the property to be foreclosed and sold. He is also asking that the plaintiff’s liens be paid from the proceeds of the sale.

The city of Dayton, which originally committed $1 million toward the project, increased that to $1.215 million in April 2014. The city’s share went toward demolition and cleanup of the former Schwind Building property.

Aaron Sorrell, Dayton’s director of planning and community development, said at the time that the money was from additional grants, not city general funds.

Complications arose over the Schwind Building, which was demolished in 2013.

A deed restriction imposed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development limited use of the property to low-income housing, and the Students Suites project did not qualify.

Sorrell also said then that the Student Suites project was delayed because the developer could not obtain financing for it as a result of the deed restriction.

The plan to rejuvenate the area for housing while leaving the original Dayton Daily News “bank” building — which is on the National Register of Historic Places — was announced in April 2013.

Source: Ludlow housing project halted

Considering that Rauch also “mistakenly” tore down a part of the historic part of the Dayton Daily news building that was supposed to stay, the developer could counter-sue, that Rauch damaged the viability of the project. Of course, the fact that Student Suites probably asked him to do it by “accident” won’t come out until the gloves come off in the courtroom.

Normally, in order to do demolition of any sort- there is a required performance bond- so as to make sure the job gets completed. Someone in City Hall should be getting fired over this, but since that someone is either Aaron Sorrell, or Acting City Manager Shelley Dickstein, no one is saying anything. After all, they engineered this cluster-duck.

Of course, I did a FOIA request on who got paid what by the city. I’m not a full time journalist, but lucky for us, the Dayton Daily news hasn’t fired Steve Bennish- their last remaining reporter with a brain, and he’s coming out with a long piece in tomorrow’s paper (available online this morning).

What bothers me, is that his answers from City Hall don’t match the ones I got.

Here is my request- and my follow up- with their answers:

From: David Esrati
Sent: Monday, October 26, 2015, 10:27 a.m.
To: Bankston, Toni
Subject: FOIA request-

Toni,
I talked to Stan Early about this on Sat. morning-
I want to find out the status of:
“The city of Dayton, which originally committed $1 million toward the project, increased that to $1.215 million in April 2014. The city’s share went toward demolition and cleanup of the former Schwind Building property.
Aaron Sorrell, Dayton’s director of planning and community development, said at the time that the money was from additional grants, not city general funds.”

Were the funds released? To whom? Whom were they supposed to go to?

Thank you

Her response:

On Oct 28, 2015, at 12:10, Freeman, Angela wrote:

Mr. Esrati:

Please be advised that the funds came from the Moving Ohio Forward Grant, which was used to demolish vacant and foreclosed properties.  We expended a total of $183,591.37.  The funds went to Student Suites to finish the demolition of the Schwind Building.

Angela Freeman | Executive Secretary | City of Dayton | Office of Public Affairs |

Hmmm, only $183.5K- to Student Suites.

So, they committed 1.2 million- but only release 182.5K something didn’t sound right.

Try again:

From: David Esrati
Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 1:24 p.m.
To: Freeman, Angela
Cc: Bankston, Toni
Subject: Re: FOIA request-

So the million was never released?

And a response:

From: Freeman, Angela
10/28/15, 2:37 p.m.
To: David Esrati

In total, $938,591 was expended directly to Student Suites, under our development agreement.  Of that, $183,591.37 was an amendment utilizing MOF funds.  The larger, original balance was from the Development fund and was $755,000.00.

Other expenditures from the City were:

$220,000 to CityWide

$25,000 to Schwind Building Restoration Project

Who was the “Schwind Building Restoration Project” that got $25K and what did the taxpayers get back?

Who is asking about what CityWide did with almost a quarter of a million? And why aren’t they liable for the hole in the ground?

Why didn’t the city sue Student Suites- who got $183.5K and left us with a hole in the ground?

You think these questions would be answered in the Dayton Daily news piece coming tomorrow from Steve Bennish? But, no.

The best line in Bennish’s piece:

The city of Dayton, which owned the former Schwind building next door and agreed to have it demolished despite a deed restriction and lien on the property, now admits that was a mistake.

Source: Funding problems, legal woes stall downtown Dayton project | www.mydaytondailynews.com

 Because the city allowed a project to be rushed through, before financing was arranged and a development contract in place- the historic Cox building is now sitting rotting.
From the DDn:

A breakdown of city of Dayton expenditures also shows the city has spent $938,591 on the project. That doesn’t include $420,000 the city spent to pay off liens on the Schwind building, which has been torn down.

More city spending could follow. Dayton Interim City Manager Shelly Dickstein is concerned that another round of winter weather could damage the historic former newspaper building.

“We’ve looked at the cost to fill the hole so it’s not sitting there blighting the community and so that the building could be buttoned up and not exposed,” Dickstein said.

Rauch estimates the cost to finish the demolition would be $500,000 — to remove basement walls and fill in holes.

So now the demolition costs are up to $1.75 million.

The crazy part- this exceeds the cost projections former local developer Bill Rain had estimated to turn the Schwind into housing for students and still comply with the HUD restriction, but the city wouldn’t offer to help at all, finally forcing him out of the deal which he was given hope on by his “friend” Steve Budd at CityWide. Rain was going to use the DDn building as first floor retail and convert the upper floors of the very solid building into parking for the project. The historic Cox building- would have been adapted use as well.

However, local “power brokers” weren’t paid off, and Rain left for Tampa, where he’s done a series of much larger projects, including the conversion and adaptive reuse of a hospital into a long-term care and assisted living facility. (Full disclosure, Rain is a friend, and a client, I visited the hospital project several times and saw first hand what he did. I also witnessed his work on the St. Clair Lofts and Ice Avenue Lofts in Dayton).

The DDn even admits that they were all excited about these out of town hucksters with their no-money down deal:

The stalled state of the project is a stark contrast to the excitement that accompanied the original announcement from Cox Media Group that “a preliminary plan has been agreed upon for the sale and revitalization of the vacant historic Dayton Daily News building and adjacent property.”

“In addition to the sale of the historic Dayton Daily News’ building and property, Cox Media Group Ohio is contributing $1 million to restore and protect the legacy of the historic building,” the April 2013 announcement said.

The Cox people were most excited, but won’t say this- to get out of the property taxes on their empty building (they also demolished Channel 7 asap to avoid paying property taxes) and to not have to pay the Special Improvement District tax that supports the Downtown Dayton Partnership.

Bennish does manage to get this gem into the story:

In the 2013 announcement, CMGO (Cox Media Group Ohio) said it had been working with the city of Dayton, Student Suites and a California-based nonprofit, United Housing and Community Services Corporation, to finalize a plan to build an $18 million multi-purpose complex on the property. Sinclair was not involved, but once the project was completed its students would have access to housing just a short walk from their classes.

United Housing would own the project “once it was leased up,” said Sorrell.

Attempts to reach United Housing were unsuccessful and there was no listing for the non-profit in a statewide telephone directory.

In a bond document on file with the city of Dayton, United Housing was listed as the borrower of the proceeds of the bonds issued by the port authority.

Student Suites, the document said, “gathers a team of architects, local contractors and financial experts to provide a completely finished project.”

Note the part about “bonds issued by the port authority”- yet earlier in the article Jerry Brunswick (withdrawn school board candidate), the current straw man in front of the Port Authority (another organization that screws up public money with little oversight):

Jerry Brunswick, president of the Dayton-Montgomery County Port Authority, said in the early stages of the project the plan was for the authority to issue tax-exempt bonds to finance up to $15 million. The bonds would be sold through an investment banker.

“I never heard that the (bankers’) investment committee approved it,” Brunswick said. “And we asked. We were told they never approved it. If there was a lien in front of the property, it would certainly impede a positive credit decision.”

He added: “A lien in front of you is not a great way to sell a project. The project still makes sense. We’d like to issue the bonds and we have a new program that can be a part of this.”

Uh, if it had a lien on it then, and now it has a lawsuit and an unfinished hole, I’d say this deal is dead.

Bennish briefly covered the buildings’ history- but, that back story is full of the institutional knowledge that is needed to really understand how we got to where we were today.

With the long-shuttered Arcade across the street, the Student Suites project was seen as a ray of hope for that part of downtown and possibly a catalyst for future development. Then came a snag.

A major legal hurdle involved the deed restriction and lien on the Schwind building, which was imploded as part of the development plan. HUD had imposed the restriction after funding a previous owner’s plan to put low-income housing there.

Records show the Schwind had a rough history. The city originally acquired the building from HUD in 2003 after the owner defaulted on a HUD-insured mortgage. The city transferred the building to Rain & Associates in July 2004, but the building then went into foreclosure and was sold in 2007 through a foreclosure sale to the Schwind Building Restoration Project. The city re-acquired the building in August 2013 as part of the Student Suites project.

The “snag” was fully known and ignored by the city and by Student Suites. This is what we normal working stiffs call incompetence. That Dickstein failed the Wayne Avenue Kroger – with no contract with a tenant before expending over $4 million to aggregate a 12 acre parcel, using multiple rounds of real estate options, blighting the neighborhood wholesale, and spending enormous sums on appraisals, and negotiations should have been the end of her and Sorrell.

Bennish didn’t talk to Rain. The Schwind Building Restoration Project was when Bob Schiffler took over the project. Schiffler had successfully and beautifully done the old Chemineer building at the corner of Fourth and Main- but, soon after they transferred the property to him- PNC took over our beloved local lender, National City Bank- and called his notes- forcing him to sell his beautiful mansion on Oakwood avenue and regroup. The Schwind was ancillary damage.

The education of Aaron Sorrell and Shelley Dickstein at taxpayer expense is getting expensive. Bennish gets this beautiful piece in:

Sorrell acknowledges that the lien and deed restriction were raised by Student Suites as a hurdle to financing, but he said the developer redesigned the project to make the Schwind site part of a second phase that would kick in when the lien was removed.

“We’ll take responsibility for the HUD lien,” Sorrell said. “But the developer has struggled to find financing.”

Dickstein too acknowledged that the city made mistakes. “Looking in the rear view mirror, the project moved forward without financing in place,” she said. “In hindsight, we would change things.”

Maybe the reason the developer has trouble finding financing is because it’s really hard to do much in Dayton or even Montgomery County, due to it having the second highest tax burden in the state? Add to that, the additional tax to support the Downtown Dayton Partnership which gets away with no blame on this mess. Lenders aren’t bullish on doing any renovations in Dayton- or the use of Historic Tax credits to finance them- not a single one has worked since the Cannery- and that went into foreclosure as well- despite a very high rental occupancy rate. (Rain was one of the initial developers in that project- but left early when it was pretty clear that his partners, Beth Duke and Dave Williams had a different vision. Williams, by the way, after flopping a big project in Clayton, got hired by CityWide).

Before he died, Alan Rinzler once told me that he owned the only building in the central business district (the Talbot Tower) that hadn’t been foreclosed on). This is how damaged the Downtown real estate market is.

Considering the city has been going to town issuing tickets to home owners in South Park for peeling paint (I completed painting 3 of my houses this summer)  it’s crazy that this boondoggle hasn’t brought the wrath of Nan onto someone (I’m pretty sure my neighbors are paying for my sins).

A contract between Student Suites and the city required Student Suites to provide the city “with a fully executed copy of a payment and performance bond issued by a surety authorized to do business in Ohio and acceptable to the city … which bond will guarantee completion of the developer’s obligations under this agreement and payment in full of all contractors, material suppliers and others who contribute to the design and construction of the project.”

Student Suites has not provided proof of the performance bond, Sorrell said, although it did pay to insure the demolition activities.

The city’s Housing Inspection Division last year issued a violation to Students Suites ordering the LLC to remove trash and debris from the area. The city says there was no response to the order, which was sent by registered mail to Student Suites’ Independence, Mo., offices.

Whoa, wait- the demolition permit was issued before the proof of performance bond was filed on a project this big? And Sorrell still has a job?

The final chilling end to Bennish’s piece, suggest more of our tax dollars will go to prop up this clusterduck:

Dayton officials are now working to see how they can at least secure the building from the weather before winter arrives.

“We are very concerned about getting it done in the next month or so,” Dickstein said. “With the freeze and rain there is exposure on the historic building. It’s an important project and we want to see it be successful.”

If no one comes to the table, Dickstein said, “We will explore our abilities to move forward with enforcement action on the historic building and move forward to preserve the building and remove the blight and fill in the hole in the ground.”

A good start would be firing Sorrell and Dickstein, and then liquidating CityWide Development to pay for the fixes, and then dismantle the Downtown Dayton Partnership and start returning the tax to the property owners. Those who want the common area maintenance performed by the “Ambassadors” (minimum wage workers in green shirts hired by an out-of-state firm)  can band together to hire their own street sweepers.

Then, maybe, we can learn to leave the development to the private sector and concentrate on providing basic city services like plowing snow and collecting leaves, and hanging basketball nets on city courts.

UpDayton Summit 2013- Local hopes and odd prophets

Note: This post is long. It’s a Sunday morning, New York Times Magazine type piece, that tries to bring some of Dayton’s recent development history into perspective compared to what Mayor John Fetterman has done in Braddock, Pa., star of international attention. Please set aside 10 minutes to digest it.

Dayton, Ohio, is the capital of consensus, committees and groupthink. Listening to one unnamed politician you’d think that he/she spends all day going from one committee to another. With committees come meetings- and from meetings come other sub-committees and more meetings. We’re also good at creating “master plans”- of which we have shelves of them.

UpDayton isn’t like that. It’s a group that’s committed to making things happen. Find something we can do to make a change right now- or at least in the next 6 months. They harness the energy of young professionals and funnel it into things we can see. Be it murals under bridges, murals on bridges, internship programs, etc.- they actually try things.

The annual summit is a way to get people to meet, talk, share their ideas on how to make Dayton a better place and stop the “brain drain” of young people leaving our city.

I went to the first summit 4 years ago- and I attended the 4th yesterday at the Dayton Art Institute. Luckily they’ve moved away from clickers and twitter to face-to-face talking and sharing. The first exercise was for everyone to write down two ideas on a card- and then they started a game like musical chairs where everyone walks around while the music plays and swap cards- until the music stops, and you then stop and discuss and score with the last person you had exchanged cards with. You then have 5 points to award between the first idea on each card. This was repeated three times and you could add “builds” to the idea to enhance it. Ideas with high scores were shared with the group between each exchange round. It was a good way to say hi to a lot of people- and end up having a discussion with someone you might not have met before.

I was in the livability group, there was also an entrepreneurship and a campus group. Of course I was a bit out of the age range- but, I wasn’t the oldest, since there were some corporate types and other organizational leaders (local Pecha Kucha founder and AIA Dayton honcho Matt Sauer) and a few candidates.

After the idea generation exercise, we got to hear a keynote by Braddock Mayor John Fetterman PA in the amazing DAI auditorium. While many of us have heard of how desolate Detroit is, or how Hurricane Katrina caused massive population loss, nothing is like what happened to Braddock- which lost 90% of its residents. Fetterman has become a bit of a celebrity- and has managed to put Braddock on the map as a city that claims on its homepage that “Reinvention is the only Option.” Fetterman could be defined as the anti-politician, except when you realize that Braddock’s entire population is less than 3,000 (or 6 times the number of valid signatures you need to run for Mayor of Dayton). Winning an election where it is truly possible to talk to every voter is a bit different than what has to be done in Dayton.

Needless to say, Fetterman is a big man, with a big heart and a focus on youth. He came to town as an Americorps volunteer armed with a graduate degree from Harvard in Public Policy. He ran for office because things had to change in his opinion. His main goals were to stop the killing, because Braddock had a gun violence problem- and to make the place safe for kids. Playgrounds, art spaces and public areas- from community centers to public gardens were keys to transforming the psyche of a town that was down on itself. He also managed to create a youth work program that gave every kid in town a summer job. Of course, it helped that somehow Braddock became a pet project of Levi Strauss, whic donated a lot of money to the city for using it and its people for an ad campaign. Also, the aesthetic of post apocalyptic entropy has attracted movies to use Braddock as a backdrop for movies of that genre. Not exactly the glossy beauty shot you use to attract people to move in and invest in your city.

But, here is where I get frustrated with Dayton. We don’t trust ourselves to listen to our own home-grown talent. We send more people with vision packing than we empower. I can go back 20+ years and remember the battle’s Commissioner Mark Henry had to fight to work to get “McHenry Town” to happen. McHenry lived in the McPherson Town neighborhood (I can’t remember if it was a historic district yet) and believed in Oscar Newman’s concept of “defensible space”- where blocking off neighborhood access was used to stop non-residential cut-through traffic, cruising for drugs and prostitution and generally to give people a clear set of boundaries to work within. It was a bold experiment, and to Henry’s credit, McPherson town made great strides. However  it is the smallest Historic District in Dayton, so great strides were easy. We didn’t run Henry out- he stepped down from the Commission to go to law school at UD and never came back to Dayton proper, instead, decamping to the suburbs where he could raise his kids and send them to public schools that would give him his money’s worth (you only get one chance with your kids- it’s not like a house which you can walk away from).

But, there was another person with a plan in McPherson Town- his name was Michael Kern. He was a slightly ADD guy with a side of professor Harold Hill (from “The Music Man”). He started buying options on McPherson Town properties left and right. His goal was to acquire rights to 25% or 30% (or some number) and then have the city step in and use a process like eminent domain, to grab the rest of the properties that were in a negative social equity position (or run-down in lay terms). He was looking for using something much like a Tax Incentive District (TID) to reinvest in the district and pull it all up at once, quickly, so that it would become attractive to banks again (at that time he was running into the same obstacle I ran into with buying my house- banks didn’t do home loans to people for houses under $25,000 because homes shouldn’t be that cheap.). Instead, the city jumped on him with the full force of a bunch of Imperial Stormtroopers for every housing violation on his existing properties and put him in jail. Exit Michael Kern. (Kern’s efforts were pre-internet, making it hard for me to research and link to his plans- I think a case study analysis of this might be eye-opening, on how Inspector Gotcha and Mr. Status Quo killed ambition at the threshold of opportunity.)

The last visionary out of McPherson Town was my friend Bill Rain. Bill was working for Bass Systems (a local company that sold checkout system technology to retailers like Target) as a major accounts rep. He was living the good life, when he got the developer’s bug. He put together the deal that put the “one stop center” on Edwin C. Moses Blvd. in his spare time, got a decent check and next thing he was looking to leave Bass and go all in on creating new downtown living spaces- our first true, home-grown urban pioneer developer. We’d already watched the city throw money at McCormick Barron, the YMCA and who knows who else to rehab the old Y into “the landing” and build the new condos along the river on Monument, but Bill had to fight every battle on his own, and took the old butt-ugly Pinsky produce building on St. Clair and gave us the “Lofts on St. Clair” (not to be confused with the St. Clair lofts which came much later) which he and co-developer Dave Williams each had to buy a unit in order to get banks to go along. From there, Bill did the Ice Avenue lofts– a building that was so structurally weak on one side, most thought it should have been torn down, instead, Bill got engineers to figure out how to put it back out of catywampus-ville, and a whole bunch of new downtown living space was added. He was the flint for the fire that became “The Cannery” when he bought the first building at the corner of Wayne and Third, and struck up a relationship with Beth Duke who had the 4th building down the street. Arguably, the Cannery has been the most successful privately developed downtown housing, even though it did end up in bankruptcy- probably in large part caused by the road blocks that the city and HUD added to the project. (Originally, the second floor was to be offices, for a work/live possibility and to decrease the need for parking- since the uses alternate, but HUD supposedly said no to funding office space). Rain dropped out of that partnership to do the Schwind building, where he got his chain yanked by both the City and CityWide Development, to the point he left town when the DeBartolo Company offered him a development position in Tampa. Yes, DeBartolo, as in Eddie, former owner of the San Francisco 49ers and at one time owner of something close to 80% of the shopping malls in this country. Not good enough for Dayton, but good enough for a guy on the 250 richest people in the world list. The Schwind has just made the news again as being wrecking ball material, because an out of town developer is being welcomed with a million dollar gift, to create Sinclair student housing. Had the same deal been offered Rain, it would have happened years ago- without tearing down a piece of history.

As a side note, because the city decided to subsidize the YMCA to the tune of at least a half-million, Joe Moore of Moore’s Nautilus pulled up stakes and moved out of Downtown and swore off ever investing in the city. That’s the problem when tax dollars are used for private development without open bidding and fair playing fields – something Dayton seems to excel at.

So, back to Mayor John and his dystopian utopia. The big man spins a mean marketing machine, and has managed to covet attention to the plight of his neighborhood sized “city.” The real solution to Braddock’s problems probably lie in a total overhaul of the jurisdictional rules of Pennsylvania. What we have here is a “city” about as far from Pittsburgh as Vandalia is from Dayton. And the “city’s” population is about what we have in the total of South Park and Twin Towers combined (or less).

Here is where the UpDayton crowd could have looked for our own transformational leadership. People who are doing things right here in D-Town. No bald heads, big tattoos or the bravado that being a spoiled rich kid allows- since the part that Fetterman leaves out is that he works most of his “magic” by being a big fish in a tiny pond, with a bit of family money being channeled through a non-profit that he runs and comes from his dad and his own pocket, appended with money from Levi’s and other foundations, like the Heinz foundation.

Here we have Jan Lepore-Jentleson slaving away for almost twenty years, trying to navigate around the edges of the bureaucratic labyrinth of federal poverty reduction programs to create East End Community Services. They are building community in a neighborhood that suffered the exact same kind of de-investment that Braddock did. Although Xenia Avenue’s business strip was nothing like it was in the 1950s, much of the blue collar jobs were gone, and all that was left were the watering holes and an odd feed store which is now her base of operations after they moved Xenia Ave. Feed to the ‘burbs as well.

We also have the tag team of Theresa Gasper and Mike and Holly DiFlora, who’ve been part of gentrifying South Park for the last 5 years, investing about $3 million of their own money in a neighborhood that’s been pulling itself up by its own bootstraps for the last 30 years. Change comes at a snail’s pace in Dayton unless you have the blessing of the people in the back room who used to run this town. They were the people who brought you the Schuster Center, Riverscape and Fifth Third field, but, the sad thing is, unbeknownst to many, their ranks have thinned to almost non-existent these days- as Mead, Reynolds & Reynolds, Danis Construction, NCR and others all either left town or had to struggle with their own demons brought on by the massive economic melt-down that set this entire country back 100 years.

Fetterman is a master of telling a story that, upon closer examination, is more like being elected High School Class president than being a force of nature coming to save the urban world (my high school, Cleveland Heights High, was only grades 10-12 and had 2,400 students). When he talks about winning the election by one vote, it was in the Democratic primary where he was going against a 2-term incumbent. The total vote in that election was less than the number of signatures Gary Leitzell had to get to get on the ballot to run against Rhine McLin, and there was no 6-to-1 spending disparity in that race. When Fetterman is asked about how many people have followed his lead and moved to Braddock to do their art thing, he masterfully extrapolates the numbers by saying “it was like 4,000 people moving to Pittsburgh, he said, which sounded like a lot. The actual number is currently 23, in 10 households.”

He also exaggerates the numbers in his presentation by listing what was on Main Street in 1955, and then says shows all the zeros for what is left now. They didn’t have an optician in 1955, but they do now, but he fires for effect, not for the facts.

I’m still a fan of Mayor John. He has somethings dead on right. Safety is key. No one wants to invest where people are getting woken up by gunfire, boom-thunk cars cruising your hood, or having your welcome sign “sponsored by the Crips.” He is making changes and the most telling fact of his speech was that the woman who called him “full of shit” in the Rolling Stone article, who was the “borough manager” was later to have been found with her hand in the cookie jar to the tune of $178,000 of the town’s money. I’m pretty sure she would have been able to keep her scam going, just like some people in Dayton have done for years without getting so much as a sideway look because we don’t have a single elected independent leader, except Gary Leitzell, who isn’t a 6’8″ 350 lb independently wealthy guy able to blow the whistle on his own, since the size of the whistle needed to explain things to everyone in Braddock is a $15 megaphone and in Dayton it takes a lot more (it’s doubtful that Braddock has its own newspaper that’s in bed with the local charlatans who line their pockets with tax dollars like we do.).

Dayton has its own reasons for being on the world map, and not as a dystopia. The Dayton Peace accords make Dayton a mythical place to most in Europe, which may be why Mayor Leitzell’s reputation is better in the London Financial Times than in the Dayton Daily News with his “Welcome Dayton” initiative. His $10k challenge to run for commission which was ignored by the old school politicians who wouldn’t know either change or a great marketing idea if it hit them with a two-by-four is another example of why Gary Leitzell may be the most under-respected mayor this city has  had in recent times (especially considering we’ve had a string of do-nothings or claim everythings in the center seat).

Leitzell isn’t a polished public speaker, although he can hold his own. While everyone in the audience at the UpDayton summit will remember the big sloppy man in shorts (Fetterman blamed his kid for spilling a slushy on him before he left Braddock for the roadtrip to Dayton) for showing his big tattoo of Braddock’s zip code on his arm, Leitzell had to endure a ton of crap for having a small earring by our politically backward establishment. I’ve gotten criticized for wearing jeans and not having a tie on the campaign trail- I doubt Mayor John hangs a rope around his neck ever, because, well, he looks like a skinhead and doesn’t smile according to articles in Rolling Stone and the New York Times.

Sure, compared to Braddock, Dayton looks great was Mayor John’s anthem. “All you young professionals, come on over to my playground and do the urban homestead” was his underlying pitch. While he made it clear what he was up to was Sisyphean in scale, when he talked about housing prices, Dayton is a much better deal than Braddock, we have amazing value here for those looking for it once you move just slightly off the bottom of the basement deals.

Maybe next year, UpDayton will look a little closer to home, because we have our own storytellers, who maybe haven’t been on the Colbert report, or been written up by Rolling Stone, but have done really amazing things. Not that I’m criticizing the UpDayton crew- but, isn’t it almost ironic that UpDayton couldn’t find someone in Dayton to talk it up? We’ve got the talent here, and it needs to be heard.

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To read more about UpDayton over time on Esrati.com search “upDayton”
Another article about Fetterman- Harvard Magazine: Wrought From Ruins
An article about Braddock PA street art.