Let there be light. A video about Dayton’s misplaced priorities

First there was CityWide development- a quasi-government organization that sucked up tax dollars to fix up a house here or there. 30 years later, it’s a fricking bank, building spec buildings that it rents for sub-market rates and hurts local property owners who try to compete. This is the worst of governement.

We don’t vote on who runs CityWide, we barely pay attention to it. And we’ve never asked for our money back- because, well, it’s supposed to come back as the “vibrancy factor”- as in, if we fake looking successful, we’ll be successful. You know people like this- it’s called “fake it till you make it” and if you don’t “make it” – at least you look good doing it.

Then we added the Downtown Dayton Partnership. At first we paid a snake oil salesman a ton of money to “revitalize downtown”- until he ran out of town on a rail, and we started using it as a place to park people we liked and wanted to pay well with no real oversight. We even passed an extra tax levy to fund them. Their major contribution 15 years later- they hire a company from out of town (out of state really) to pay people minimum wage to be “ambassadors” (a fancy name for street sweepers) to keep downtown clean. Their big twice a year parties- Urban Nights, are done with- after mobs of kids of the wrong color decided to come en masse.

Next up, the Port Authority. What’s this? They build buildings for rich private companies, but don’t have to pay property taxes on them, because “we” own them. The idea is, we get income tax from them, so it’s all ok. Can’t give the money to the Dayton Public Schools, because they, well, suck, but- we can give money to city government, because, they do such a great job (at getting themselves and their friends re-elected).

Throw in the Dayton Development Coalition for good measure. They take care of our Congressman (and they used to take care of his now X-wife- remember “Get Midwest”)- because, well, he makes money come back to the companies we built the buildings for that don’t have to pay taxes. You shouldn’t pay attention to these people either- but if you’re wondering why Wright State is in a bunch of trouble, look to former Port Authority and Dayton Development Coalition “leaders” who are right in the middle of it.

So now, we’re supposed to raise the already high Dayton City Income tax to 2.5% because a bunch of the people who either get handouts from government, don’t pay taxes, or have been buying the people in power off for a long time, put a few hundred thousand into a campaign to tell you that you need ANOTHER quasi-government slush fund to pay for pre-school for all.

Let’s be clear. All of Dayton’s eligible four year olds is about 1,500 kids each year. That’s about 1 % of the population. But, Dayton Public Schools, a public system, with lots of oversight, already provides FREE pre-school that’s “5 star rated” to about 400 students and isn’t at capacity. If they had some more money, they could provide transportation which would boost their numbers.

But, no- along comes Dr. Tom Lasley, with his “Learn to Earn” program. He thinks that if he gets every kid into pre-schools, even if they are run by someone in a house, and are “three star” or more, he’ll dramatically change the educational outcomes of Dayton Public Schools.

This is hooey. No amount of pre-school preparation are going to solve the fundamental problems facing Dayton kids. Hunger, homelessness, drug addiction, parents incarcerated, pre-school doesn’t fix that. “Learn to Earn” is a phrase I personally find revolting. I learn because I love learning. To me knowledge and education are a form of worship. It’s how we evolve. It’s not how we earn. This phrase, when applied to our community that is disadvantaged in so many ways, reminds me of “Work sets you free” which was what the Nazi’s put on the gates of hell. I don’t make that comparison lightly.

The four to five million that we will donate to “Learn to Earn” may provide pre-school to another 500 students- but the real bonus is to the staff – including Dr. Lasley, who will spend 20% of it on paying themselves and for overhead. Next up is all the pre-schools that will now be able to get public money for day care- for anyone- not even poor kids, who are already covered by Title 20 money. That’s right, if you live in Dayton, and make $200,000 a year, you can have “Learn to Earn” pay for your child care while you work third shift at Miami Valley Hospital. They didn’t tell you that part.

Of course, Issue 9 is also going to pay for more cops. Let’s talk about “more cops.” Dayton used to have a force of over 500. We are at near our lowest staffing levels ever. But, there are probably 600 cops in Dayton now- the problem is they work for the people who are giving money to this campaign. The hospitals all have private police forces, the universities all have private police forces, MetroParks has a private police force. They don’t answer to anyone. Need a clue how this works Dayton? Ask Samuel Dubose. Any more questions?

And while a small business can’t get their parking lot access restored on North Main Street- because “there is no money available,” the City of Dayton has money for buying back the hole in the ground on Ludlow. And, we always have tax abatement plans for companies where the CEO’s annual salary has two commas in it. GE, CareSource, Emerson, Premier Health etc.

If we were going to raise taxes and wanted to improve our neighborhoods, and do something for all of Dayton- we could invest in free wifi city wide. All of the 15,000 Dayton Public School students will have their own computer next year- but many don’t have internet access anywhere but school. Bridge the digital divide with that money and you open the flood gates to online, self-guided learning for 15,000 kids- instead of preschool for 1500- and guess what, we can even let the taxpayers use it too.

Believe it or not, the United Nations Human Rights Commission declared internet access a fundamental human right back in 2011. No one declared preschool one.

Watch the video. Share the post. Vote no on issue 9.

We can raise taxes when it’s actually for the people, by the people, not another sell out to private enterprise.

Uh, no. You still don’t get “economic development” Dayton

Earth to dumbasses the geniuses on the Dayton City Commission, sorry, too little too late.

Sure, your brilliant idea to turn the temporary tax hike into a permanent one seemed like such a brilliant idea- as you watch the last of your victims of taxation without representation move to the tax-free haven of 2nd story jobs at Austin Landing (only the little people on the first floor pay income taxes there).

It wasn’t just the 2.25% income tax, or the fact that they have to pay to park, but, then you had to add a Special Improvement Tax to pay for the “Downtown Dayton Partnership” which hires a Kentucky company to do what building owners used to do for themselves, and cities used to do as part of the general tax. Oh, yes, and then there was the issue of the kids running the streets- during “Urban Fights” – I mean, “Urban Nights” and the general issues around the bus hub. Oh, and, the fact that you let the feds shut down almost every downtown exit on 75 for years- forcing detours and slowdowns to get to downtown- while Austin Landing has that ridonkulously overpriced new exit. You know- the one you tacitly approved of in your “partnership” with ED/GE- another tax funded slush fund that takes hard-working taxpayers’ money and gives it to private corporations- or “invests it” to help out the rich and powerful.

Here’s the “story” from the Dayton Daily news:

While residential real estate in downtown Dayton booms, there is a different tale with commercial development, as entire high-rises remain vacant and workers continue an exodus to suburban office plazas.

Now, after years of losing downtown jobs, the city of Dayton has a new strategy for fighting back.

The Dayton City Commission last week approved a sweeping change to its existing ordinances on property tax breaks in the downtown district that — for the first time — will make incentives available to proposed commercial/office and industrial developments. Those breaks could be 25 percent or higher.

The city will negotiate the breaks with the developer along with the Dayton School Board, which must be consulted by law. The breaks will be allowed in other Community Reinvestment Act areas in the city as well….

Said Mayor Nan Whaley: “We need these tools to be aggressive in attracting business to downtown.”…

Also part of the city’s changes:

Source: New strategy: Commercial developers to get tax breaks

How about this instead:

  • Stop all tax dollar incentive for private businesses that aren’t available universally for job creation- i.e., no single company benefits. Either you meet the payroll criteria or not. This would be countywide.
  • Eliminate all tax-free zones in the county. Flatten the income tax rate to 1.5% on all wages above $24,000 per year per person. Distribute it to each jurisdiction based on numbers of people according to the latest census. No more overhead for small business in trying to figure out payroll per employee per location worked per tax rate.
  • Eliminate any tax support for outside organizations involved with “economic development” forcing all tax dollars to go to actual public services. End support of CityWide Development, The Downtown Dayton Partnership, ED/GE, the Dayton Development Coalition, the I-75 whatever you call it, and even MVRPC. Tax dollars go to projects for taxpayers- cut out middlemen, cut out slush funds, and eliminate overhead.
  • Put a moratorium on new construction unless you buy and demolish an equal number of units/square feet in the county. Get double construction credit for rehab/restore/repurpose of any structure over 50 years old.
  • Until we’re back to pumping at 80% capacity- give away water to large business users in exchange for jobs and investment. The costs of flooding basements is higher.
  • Grant tax breaks for people who work downtown and live downtown to eliminate parking problems. Grant them a break on the first $50,000 of income.

That’s how you can begin to address your problems. Cutting funding for schools is the absolute LAST thing Dayton needs to do right now, that is if you don’t want to see an exodus of the last remaining victims of your bad stewardship of Dayton and its resources for the last 50 years.

 

Slush fund, Architect and Developer: the three ring circus of public/private partnerships

The very first slide started with an oops, another oops, and another oops.

Up steps Steve Budd of CityWide Development (the slush fund) with a slide of the holdings of CityWide, Miami Valley Hospital and maybe even the University of Dayton between 35 and Wyoming Street along the Brown/Warren corridor. And, no, we won’t mention the words we used to call this development (Mid-Park) because we know it ticks off the people we’re talking to (South Park) about our little circus.

The map with the yellow line was showing “all the property we own” except for the little antique shop at Oak and Warren according to Mr. Budd. Except he quickly was asked if he owned Jimmie’s Ladder 11, Spin City- and oh yeah, the two houses that are left on the West side of Warren- where the powers that be haven’t made an offer with enough commas in it yet.

Aerial view of Warren Street

The “owned” area in yellow- the red, added by me, is the stuff that’s not owned by the developers including Spin City, Jimmie’s Ladder 11, the Antique Shop and the two houses on the west side of Warren

I’ve marked the known “not owned” in red- inside the yellow border of “owned” for clarification. No mention was made of the fact the city had “misdeeded” some of the real estate in question in a lot links deal- and someone may be holding out for another pretty paycheck.

Why they were talking to the neighborhood at all is a really good question. At no point have they come to us, the neighborhood, and actually asked what we want- just what we want to see as tenants in their grand building plans- you know, the norm- a grocery store, a hardware store, a book store…

The parcel in question came into their hands when DMHA/GDPM gave up on their “projects” off Warren which were part of the 60’s 70’s “urban renewal” programs- where they tore down perfectly good housing stock that had lost its luster and replaced it with crap construction of ugly buildings dropped out of the sky into our ‘hood. The promise then was that it was going to be “senior housing” – the only thing senior about it, “Cliburn Manor,”  when I moved into South Park in 1986 was it looked like it was near death.

So the slush fund has to make sure they have another success story in the portfolio of mismanaged tax-dollar aided projects, and is bequeathed the federal property to manage. They seek out a developer, who is willing to take a “great risk” building something in the city of Dayton- so they promise to make them whole, no matter how silly the project scope and scale is.

In this case, the developer is Oberer. The same people who did the funky deal on the Dille Farm, where they built a Costco in Centerville, but expect ambulances from Sugarcreek Township- as once again, government had inserted itself unnaturally in the middle of a real estate deal. They have hired, at considerable expense, some research firm to tell them that there is a market for the 200 plus units they’ve plotted and planned for the aforementioned area. Of course, they are going to do this deal with OPM (other people’s money) and are guaranteed by the taxpayer-funded slush fund that they won’t lose a dime- since we know we’ll make income tax go up while you build it- and who cares if anyone actually comes. They just have to “git ‘r done” and have something rise from the green space. Filling the space won’t even fall back on them. Look at how CityWide still hasn’t found a ground floor tenant for the old Elder Beerman/ReyReyTAC building downtown.

If you need an example of another project that was done like this, go study the history of One Arcade Tower/One Dayton Center/Fifth/Third Center– or whatever they call it at the corner of Third and Main. The one that wasn’t supposed to be built until 33% of it was leased- but, we ignored it and built it anyway…. and lost our butts.

In our third ring of the circus, we have the architect. While an equal player at this point- he’s really going to end up the ringmaster later, once construction begins, but for now, he’s just another part of the distraction engine that’s trying to divert attention from the fact that Dayton is looking at these new construction projects like the Cleveland Browns do when playing the Patriots- let’s keep throwing Hail Mary passes because we’ve already lost 8 of 12 and aren’t going anywhere.

The architect, in this case, Jason Sheets of Moda 4, is a super talented guy who makes cheap look chic, and clean and classy. The only problem is, we’ve already got a few examples up Brown Street that make anything look like an improvement- namely the horribly ugly and dysfunctional “University Place” that Miller Valentine built at the corner of Stewart and Brown- which still isn’t full- years later- and almost every restaurant has taken a year to build out- because of poor planning by the “architects” – and then the other Miller Valentine embarrassment- the heinously ugly mishmash finish Caldwell Street housing that replaced the irreplaceable Frank Z building on Brown. His role in this is to keep billing while everyone else argues about the plan.

Moda 4 just completed the Goodwill Building across from Coco’s- the one with the expansive parking lot- and the stark cold exterior. Not exactly a good match for eclectic South Park- but, we’re trying here.

We’ve already got a CityWide case study up in Fairgrounds- where the Genesis Project built a whole bunch of funky houses and row houses for “DINCS” and hospital employees and UD Profs- that was promised never to become student housing (they lied). Where roofs are leaking less than 10 years out, taxes are kicking in at the same time, and what was supposed to be full of homeowners- is now in flux.

As the homeowners filed out, wondering if what they’d been shown was anything like what will be built, one after another in the Goodwill parking lot- looked across the street at Marvin Gardens, which is owned by St. Mary Development Corp.- and thought- why can’t they build something that looks like that?

Marvin Garden Apartments on Warren Street

Marvin Gardens Apartments as seen from Goodwill parking lot

So as neighbors sat and looked at the presentation, with mouths agape, wondering what planet these people were from, they were serving their ultimate, yet, unrevealed role they will be used for in the future.

As the project sputters and spurts, the three-ring acts will be able to point at the neighbors and blame them for the delays, mistakes and failures that are to come, as the city shirks its responsibility to do what it’s supposed to- mainly sweep and repair streets, provide public services and safety forces and keep the lights on.

The only question that really needs to be answered is why the property wasn’t just sold off to the highest bidder and let them do as they please?
In the end, the results will probably be about the same.

 

We can box up our snow.

We can’t plow snow because we don’t have enough salt. That was good enough for the city commission- and Public Works director Fred Stovall. Salt prices went up, he only has 60 drivers, overtime, etc.

So, schools close, kids don’t get their free meals, their parents have to make alternate plans for child care- affecting tens of thousands of people, because we can’t figure out that a city’s first responsibility is making sure roads are clear- for us- and for emergency vehicles as well.

But, we have plenty of money for…. wait…. a packaging company. Of course, we run it through the loosely controlled slush fund- CityWide Development, where tax dollars go and go and go:

A Dayton packaging company will get $110,000 in incentives to grow in Dayton.

The city is expected to vote Wednesday night to facilitate a $100,000 low-interest loan and a $10,000 grant for Miami Valley Packaging Solutions Inc. to help expand its presence in Dayton. The company is investing $2.1 million to purchase and renovate the building at 150 Janney Road.

The city is providing CityWide Development Corp. $105,000 for the loan, with the extra $5,000 going to CityWide to help administer it. The city is separately giving a $10,000 grant to the company.

With the funding, the Dayton-based packing company will have the financing in place for its planned move and growth in the city.

Miami Valley Packaging Solutions said last fall the new 100,000 square-foot space will be a major upgrade from its current 66,000 square-foot headquarters at 1752 Stanley Ave.

With equipment purchases, the move is expected to cost $3 million. Partners Kenny Phegley, Jamie Williams and Don Chmiel say they want to significantly expand business.

City documents indicate Miami Valley Packaging Solutions will retain 21 jobs and create nine new ones over the next five years. The company bought B&L Packaging in 2009 and specializes in corrugated packaging, with a line of plastic packaging growing quickly.

via Dayton to offer $110,000 in incentives to Miami Valley Packaging Solutions – Dayton Business Journal.

Of course if you own another packaging company in town- this means you are now at a disadvantage- and you still can’t get your employees to work.
But- that’s “Economic Development” Dayton style- where we pick and choose the winners and losers in your tax dollar lottery.

And it there is too much snow, we can buy boxes from Miami Valley Packaging Solutions and package it up- and send it somewhere else.

MidPark? Part of someone’s plan.

If you’ve never heard of MidPark- don’t feel left out. A lot of people have no clue. It’s the working name for the little stretch of land between downtown Dayton and Miami Valley Hospital in the “middle of South Park” – well sort of. And a bunch of money is about to be spent there.

First off, you have to understand there are two South Parks. The original planning district which extends from Main to Wayne and 35/Buckeye Street to Wyoming/Woodland Cemetery. Around 1984 a bunch of people in the neighborhood decided they wanted the protections of a historic designation and had to collect signatures of a percentage of property owners to make it happen. This was the beginning of the great divide- the historic section with around 840 structures- and the non-historic part- which has been losing buildings at a crazy pace. Gone are the amazing old Todd Theater/Burlesque- which would have made an awesome music venue, a bunch of cool historic 3-story buildings- that would fit right into the Oregon District (one real beauty got replaced with a Rally’s – which then got replaced with a drugstore that’s just as ugly- and never opened).

The dividing line for historic/non-historic on the West side of the ‘hood was defined by Cliburn Manor- a Dayton Metropolitan Housing “urban renewal” debacle that lasted about 35 years. It took the place of Martin Sheen’s boyhood home among other things. It was torn down and turned into a giant green space about 3 years ago. The neighborhood has its horribly named South Park Urban Gardens there- SPUG- and not much else.

Originally, the neighborhood group was the South Park Improvement Council (SPIC) and had been in existence since 1903 or some such. Around 1995, we had to come up with a new name, and reformulate to regain our 501-c3 status which was lost over bad bookkeeping. I was responsible for the new name: Historic South Park, Incorporated- or HSPI. It somewhat alienated the “non-historic” part of the ‘hood, even though that part participated very little in our efforts.

As part of the deal of the demo of Cliburn Manor, we were promised a seat at the table. Apparently, when that seat was going to be made available wasn’t clear, because CityWide, MVH and UD seem to have handed the land over to Oberer Development/Greater Dayton Construction and they’ve already selected an architect, Jason Sheets of Moda4.

The neighborhood found this out at its May meeting, on the 28th. There seemed to be some dismay at how this project had gotten this far before we were brought in. One resident was downright angry- demanding promises that the proposed market rate housing have a guarantee that it won’t be section 8 housing in 10 years. She’d been lied to by DMHA 35 years ago- and wanted to make sure this wasn’t a repeat. Others thought new market rate housing would somehow lower prices of our existing property by glutting the market. Not quite sure of how that would happen, since most of our homes rent and sell for less than what they can build new for, but not everyone understands real estate- even if they are a so called “investor.”

What is being proposed is a mixed use 3-4 story building with retail/office on the first floors, possibly office space on 2nd and residential on 2-4. There are no drawings. There are no site plans, at least that’s what we were told. The area will be from Burns Avenue to Kline St, on the East side of Warren. There are two houses remaining on the strip- one belonging to former candidate for Dayton City Commission, Joe Lutz. He and his neighbor are holdouts against the man. Probably a good strategy, considering a less than reputable landlord got $150K each for two crap houses a bit further up on the Brown Street stub where Adams St. dead ends into Brown, just North of Oak St. Those properties were bought by a mysterious shell LLC called Rudy 32 LLC.

If you need a visual of a possible building, look at the corner of Stewart and Warren, where Miller Valentine built a butt fugly monstrosity for Grad students upstairs and retail on the first floor. It houses Fusian, Arbys, Bad Frog, Potbelly, Flyer Spirit, Smashburger, Shish Wraps and a Fifth Third branch- and has had trouble filling up thanks to bad design (it’s crazy difficult and expensive to route fans and vents for a kitchen through the upstairs) and it’s seriously under-parked.

Back when the Cliburn site was being considered as a possible Kroger location, somehow, via the Hospital, we were told Kroger couldn’t go there- and look, Midland Atlantic, the Kroger preferred developer showed us some relabeled plans from another development as a possibility for this space. The developer that they were fighting, was the local guy- with a proven track record- Jeff Samuelson from JZ Companies. He’s the one who started the revitalization of Brown Street single-handedly by bringing us Panera, Chipotle, Penn Station, Jimmy Johns, Skyline etc. Why he wasn’t invited to this new party is something we may never know. Maybe it’s because he did his magic without cutting the hospital in? Maybe because he drove prices and values up before they could buy it all?

Tomorrow, Tuesday June 11, between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., the neighborhood and any other interested parties are invited to come to discuss the future of this piece of land. The meeting will be at the new Coco’s at 250 Warren Street in the private dining rooms in back. Better late than never.

In reality, the neighborhood had nothing more than a handshake promise on development plans. At this point, it’s not public money going in, although, it’s really unclear who put what money up to aggregate this space and was the Cliburn site ever properly sold at fair market value. CityWide Development is a quasi-public slush fund that has little oversight, and a lot of public tax dollars to play with.

And you also should ask, considering Dayton has a crazy high vacancy rate of both commercial space and residential property, both Dayton proper and regionally- having sprawled our way past our means, is more space really needed? Arguments are being made for new GE EPIS Center employees needing new options, as well as hospital and UD employees.

What the residents really want is a new grocery option. A Trader Joe’s in this space would have everyone happy- a Whole Foods or Fresh Fare would do too. It’s too bad Dorothy Lane Market wants to distance itself as far from non-white residents as possible, and has declined every overture to come north. There is also talk that UD is trying to entice a new grocery, possibly the people out of Cleveland who had been talking about a downtown location in the old Greyhound station in the Transportation Center garage.

What the demographers seem to be missing is that UD students aren’t really being counted as residents or rooftops in the equation. They think they all eat on campus in the dining halls. In the last few years, UD students have been getting wealthier and wealthier- as the prices have risen. Their Chinese students aren’t coming over to live in the Ghetto- instead, opting for the Greene. Someone said they saw a student in an Aston Martin the other day, wouldn’t surprise me at all. Considering that MVH, UD and the future GE center’s combined wages probably are making the area one of the highest income areas- that isn’t supported by a proper grocery (a South Park resident/foodie has been doing pricing comparisons between Kroger and finding gross differences in pricing and product selection and quality- more on that in the future).

Arguments could be made that MidPark is nothing more than urban sprawl infill- but, considering the city is also about to spend millions repaving and beautifying this stretch of road to match the section of Brown between Wyoming and Irving, maybe this is the new downtown Dayton, that’s viable?

We’ll find out more tomorrow. See you there?

 

Why do the citizens have to pay for the city’s real estate fetish?

The City of Dayton has a bad habit, it likes to buy real estate with no public use in mind. It’s not just the two buildings in Webster Station– it’s all over the city. And it’s been going on for a long time.

Duane Jack was a self-styled real estate developer who lived in South Park around the turn of the century (1999). He had grand plans, and was looking at projects in Nelsonville and the Fort Piqua Hotel- which is now an amazing library. He stumbled upon the heap of real estate owned by the city- and asked for a list. What he got back was a 4 inch high ream of green bar computer print out- with literally thousands of pieces of property. His first question was why. Unfortunately, he got divorced, moved to Cincinnati and never looked back. He came to mind when I saw the charts accompanying the article in the Dayton Daily News about the shifting tax bases in the four local counties.

Graphic of Dayton Daily News about real estate holdings in 44 counties

Note, Dayton is the only government entity on the list?

Health care, retail and real estate management companies are rising to the top of property tax bases in Greene, Miami, Montgomery and Warren counties compared to a decade ago, when factories dominated the economic landscape.

Transformation of the Dayton-area economy from manufacturing to more service-oriented industries has driven up property tax collections in some counties, while others struggle to adjust to the loss of tens of millions of tax dollars.

“Its sort of the reality around here,” Wright State University economist Thomas L. Traynor, professor and chair of the Economic Department said. “Property taxes are lagging indicators of what is happening around the region. Yes, we’re an economy that used to support big manufacturing that doesn’t exist anymore.”

The Dayton Daily News examined the principal property tax payers in the four counties to determine the types of businesses anchoring the property tax base in 2011 compared to 2002. The data came from the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report released by each county auditor in 2012.

via Tax bases reflect economic shift.

The strange part was the line including Dayton as the 6th largest holder of real estate, with $25.5 million in assessed value and slightly over $2 million in taxes that we are paying- mostly to the county. Also note, the DDN didn’t point out this oddity of the City being a major land owner.

No other government owns enough to make the lists. The real question is why? Do we live in a socialist state where the government owns everything? Is it all necessary for the health and welfare, or serve a true public use?

How much of this is because of the quasi-public slush fund known as Citywide Development? You know the one, it builds brand new office space to compete with the private sector and then rents it out dirt cheap to undercut those of us who pay our own taxes- and to add insult to injury, also gives grants and preferential contracts to companies the city feels the need to prop up (Persistent Surveillance Systems with their $1000 an hour spy in the sky system comes to mind).

Just imagine what the city could do with $2 million extra a year for police, and what we could do if we didn’t own $25.5 million in real estate that requires maintenance etc. Maybe we could have a city where private investors would want to invest because the city delivered top notch services. Naw, that would be too much like what government is supposed to do.

The quasi governmental slush fund

It used to be illegal to pass tax dollars off to private enterprise and to compete with private enterprise, so a whole breed of new quasi-governmental slush funds were contrived. These were kept off the public books- even though they were using public money.

Citywide Development was one of the first organizations of this type, but then came the Downtown Dayton Partnership and the Dayton Development Coalition. Each with progressively higher salaries for their “executives” – higher than the people who were supposed to be running the city.

Both Ed Armentrout and Maureen Pero who ran the Downtown Dayton Partnership collected more cash and benny’s than the City Manager- who had a much larger budget, staff and responsibility. No worries though, they were going to “save downtown” jobs. The only ones they saved were their own.

Armentrout later got his commensurate when his snake oil routine ran into real journalists in Memphis. Pero moved on to bigger and better paydays at CareSource- home of the $3 million dollar a year CEO (running the new form of quasi-government, the sole source contractor for distributing Federal money).

Better late than never, the Dayton Daily News finally realized that CityWide, with it’s purse filled annually by the citizens of Dayton via their tax dollars, actually should report back on what they do with our money:

The top executive for a development organization launched by the city of Dayton and that does business on the city’s behalf has disclosed his salary after having declined to do so in March.

Steve Budd, president of CityWide Development, said in a July 9 interview his base salary is $138,424, roughly 10 percent of the $1.4 million budgeted in 2009 for CityWide salaries. Dayton City Manager Tim Riordan’s base salary is $145,537.

CityWide, a nonprofit that describes itself as the city’s development arm,

via CityWide president’s salary similar to city manager’s.

And if they are the “economic development arm” – could someone please tell us what Shelly Dickstein does? Do we really need two economic development departments? Especially when you read the following and follow both the money- and the logic:

The nonprofit has been around since the early 1970s. As president, Budd has participated in the city’s most significant development projects in the last decade: RecPlex, Tech Town, the Genesis Project, and the Phoenix Project. Many businesses in the Oregon District have received small business loans from CityWide.

CityWide has received more than $20 million in city contracts

“They develop their own projects, and the city gets behind those it’s interested in,” said Paul Woodie, a retired city administrator who helped create CityWide in the early 1970s to function as an economic development engine within the city’s limits. “The city doesn’t have the people anymore, the resources or mental capacity to do it on their own, (to) get that major third-party partner.”

Apparently- we do have the money- $20 million would have gone a long way to paying for police and fire contracts- but, apparently we don’t have leaders with brains enough – I’ll repeat Paul Woodie for emphasis “The city doesn’t have the people anymore, the resources or mental capacity to do it on their own, (to) get that major third-party partner.”

Could that be sour grapes, since Woodie left city hall without sitting in the captains chair, or just the analysis of the last smart man who left the city while the going was good. Woodie is a smooth political operator- who almost always gives to all viable candidates running- covering both sides just in case.

When you read the list of projects that CityWide has backed- it’s no wonder that CityWide has a great relationship with Premier Health Partners and UD- since the Phoenix and Genesis projects both helped raise property values in their areas. We also need answers if CityWide has to follow the same bid process and requirements that the city has to follow in awarding contracts.

Since CityWide seems to think that they can operate off book, one also wonders if there is any penalty for failure- or is that just another excuse to reach into the public till?

When I first moved into the city in 1986, CityWide had a reputation for doing hatchet jobs on homes in the neighborhood.There was no worse epitaph than saying “it’s a CityWide house.” They were also involved in the projects in Wright Dunbar- where we spent over a million dollars on four homes that were sold for about half that.

If government spent as much time working on delivering top quality government services as they did playing shell games in the name of “economic development” maybe we’d have built a sustainable economic ecosystem instead of a dysfunctional one that depends on corporate welfare and a whole load of bureaucratic overhead that’s main goal is to divert tax dollars into the hands of the friends of the politicians we elect.

Don’t believe it? Start looking at who the major donors to our elected officials have been- the picture should be very clear. That is if the electorate has the “mental capacity” to connect the dots.

Dayton’s number one priority for David Esrati

Population loss in the McLin/Williams Era

Population loss in the McLin/Williams Era

I can write the plan, I can write more than 1,000 posts on this site, I can talk about all the little things we could do- and even some of the big things, but there is no greater priority than solving this problem:

From 2001 to 2008, Dayton’s population declined by nearly 10,000 — from 163,962 residents to 154,200.

via Pay freeze, layoffs possible for city workers.

My whole quest for public office began in 1986 when as a new homeowner in a seemingly decrepit part of town, I went to city hall to find out how we could have a “Historic District” with special laws- with no signs and no covenants in the deeds?

It was like talking to a wall. Instead of thanking me for buying a home that had been on the market for 2 years- losing a third of its asking price, and moving out a clan of tenants who did wonderful things like pooping in a pizza box and locking it in the closet- I was ignored and prosecuted for fixing it up (putting on the wrong style of garage door). I tried to tell the commission then that this wasn’t the way you treat the customer, or you won’t have customers.

In the last 7 years- roughly, the time that Rhine McLin and Joey Williams have been on the City Commission, Dayton has lost about 9,000 taxpaying residents, and countless more taxpaying employees.

This is, to quote old Ford advertising “Job 1”- to make Dayton a place where people want to live and work. This should be the primary, if not the only measure of our leadership- net increases in residents, jobs and tax base.

My formula is simple: Hire the best City Manager/CEO we can afford, set goals and objectives, measure performance, adjust course as necessary. It is the job as a commission to guide and advise, hire and fire the City Manager and not much else. He or she, should be the clear captain of the ship. It’s not about the commission, the mayor- it’s about the Captain and his crew. When it comes to statements about safety- I want to have Chief Biehl at the microphone, not Gary Leitzell or Rhine McLin. When it comes to marketing our community, I want the City Manager and the heads of the Chamber of Commerce, the Dayton Development Coalition, Citywide Development etc.

You notice I didn’t say the “city head of economic development?” That’s because I don’t believe that “economic development” is done as a separate function of government anymore than service is a separate part of running a restaurant. Everything the city does- has to be the greatest good for the greatest number. We have to strive to use what we have, to create the most livable, safe, comfortable, friendly city we can.

When we do that right, people will move back, jobs will follow and the transformation will begin.

I hope to be a part of the City Commission that puts these principles into practice.

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…”

Responsible tax dollar management: end job creation grants

While the nation is focused on the auto bailout, there has been a long history of politicians handing out our tax dollars for “job creation” without any responsibility. Promise “job creation” and get free money.

However, when you don’t create jobs, or even lay people off, the tax dollars don’t come back. Read this about UltraCell in Vandalia.

When the Ohio Third Frontier Commission awarded UltraCell Corp.’s Old Springfield Road manufacturing operation $1 million in March to ramp up production of fuel cells, Frank Beafore, the company’s vice president of operations, said then that the money would help him add 25 to 30 jobs by the end of this year.

Instead, hard times are forcing UltraCell to lay off local workers, just days before the company this week announced another grant, this one from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Jeff Vorwerck, 56, said UltraCell laid off six to seven workers in the last week of November, including himself.

via Tough times force UltraCell layoffs.

I had questioned the City of Dayton’s “donation” to BGH studios when they got handed $50K (down from $125K) back in May. They claimed 19 employees and were going to create 30 more jobs- yet, the grapevine says they just laid off half their staff.

There have been others, recruited with tax dollars, only to go belly up. The fiasco that Citywide Development underwrote in the West Fifth Street YMCA (I can’t remember the name of the company right now)- cost millions.

How about real change from the Obama administration: let’s eliminate the tilted playing field and stop all tax dollar spending on “economic development” and concentrate Government on infrastructure and services.

In the auto bailout, the cost of health care is often cited as one of the reasons American car companies can’t compete. Instead of bailing them out of their bad business decisions- let’s just come up with a better health care system where insurance company CEOs aren’t cashing $100,000,000 paychecks- while costs continue to skyrocket.

In the meantime- is it too late for the government to get our “job creation” money back?