Video for the people: Esrati and his camera at candidates forums

For the last 4 years- or 4 political races- if you’re counting, I’ve been videotaping candidates nights and posting them on YouTube. I believe more people should have access to these events, which are not widely publicized or well attended.

This week, we had two that had larger crowds- Monday night at the NAACP event, and Tuesday a lunch held by the Dayton chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Two very different experiences to say the least.

The NAACP event hurt itself by inviting way too many candidates. They had all the Dayton mayoral and commission candidates, three school board candidates plus the write in, Trotwood council, and Jefferson and Harrison township trustees. Long event, to hear very little from anyone. Note, these are never debates- these are forums- with candidates being timed and asked questions that are often not well constructed. I was chastised publicly at the beginning of the event by NAACP chief Derrick Foward for not having yet delivered a personal DVD to him of the Northern Hills candidates night. He questioned me at the end as well- as to when I would provide him with a DVD of this event. Of course, the Whaley campaign wasn’t asked for a personal DVD- yet they had a camera there. He made an issue of it again at the end- to which I responded that he should stop bullying me- and there is Nan’s camera- unfortunately, my camera didn’t catch the end of the meeting- either because someone turned it off- or there was a malfunction (I don’t bring an entourage to run my camera). The biggest issue of the evening was the discussion of traffic speed and red light cameras. Other than that- there wasn’t much real info to be had. Some of the candidates from other jurisdictions seemed unable to speak with a microphone- which made it even more difficult to sit through.

Tuesday, the mayoral and commission candidates were invited to speak to the AIA as well as the Home Builders Association and the Associated General Contractors of Dayton. They had Dan Edwards from WDTN channel 2 as a moderator. The questions were written in advance and there was a set schedule. The questions had more meat- and required deeper responses. If you are going to watch any one of these candidates events- this would be the one.

I attended a mayoral forum at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church this morning- just to tape the mayoral candidates to make sure people had access. I didn’t attend the one run by the Dayton Black Journalists/Cox event- or tape it because I figured that “journalists” would manage to get their event online on their own. To date- I’ve not seen it.

Since all the commission candidates had shown up (Commissioner Williams had originally told me this was a full commission forum) they told us that the commission candidates would have time at the end to say something. That video won’t be up for another few days– but, when I started to get the crowd going– it was time for me to stop (as the people in the back were wildly gesturing the Time Out and your time is over). That’s what happens when you speak the truth in Dayton- you get shut down. Although the event was billed to start at 10 a.m.- they didn’t start serving food until 10:15 and it was 10:45 before the introduction of the mayoral candidates. There was more time given to prayer and thanking all of the people involved than what I was given with the microphone. But, you can watch that all for yourself when I get it online.

I really like the vibe I got at Macedonia. They seem to be an activist church working to heal their neighborhood. They have a non-profit housing rehab group, they have fitness classes, and a charismatic young new pastor from Texas. What I find funny is that it’s so important for politicians to be born here- but, that a pastor who was introduced as the “best pastor this side of Heaven” can be accepted so easily from Texas.

There are things that can be done to all candidates events to make them better- the most important one be to have a set schedule for each set of candidates- so that we don’t have to sit through everyone. The NAACP event should have been Dayton Commission from 7-8, school board from 8-8-30, etc. Another is to make sure your microphones work. That was an issue at Macedonia. And although wireless mics are nice, it’s a lot smarter to have a central podium with a wired mic- both from a standpoint of it working- and from the standpoint of videotaping an event- a camera only has to focus on one spot. If you are smart- have a banner or backdrop behind the speaker to promote your organization. And, please- start and stop on time. Not just for the candidates- but for the voters. We need more of them to be at these events. Usually I can count on at least 20% of any audience being “entourage” and the rest are die hard political operatives. These aren’t reaching the broad community the way they should.

And- if you really want to shake things up- why aren’t the candidates ever asked to ask questions of each other? What are we afraid of? I try to keep a list of upcoming events current on my campaign site: I hope to see you at one of the upcoming forums. Feel free to check any other candidates site to see if they do as much to keep you informed.


The non-candidates mayoral forum


April 16, 2013, here is the video-  edited version with just the candidates who made it on the ballot

I just returned from the oddest candidates night of them all- 2 hours of people who may not be on the ballot, talking about what they won’t be able to do anything about if they got elected Mayor.

The meeting was at New Zion Missionary Baptist church at 3426 W. 2nd Street just a block from the Delphos split. The parking lot was rather full as I pulled up a few minutes after 6- with the customary parking lot guards in attendance. It’s one of the sad facts of life on the West Side of Dayton that churches have to pay guards to watch the parking lots. It’s a safety tax that goes along with the iron bar style screen door that you don’t see in East Dayton.

The church wasn’t listed on Foursquare yet- but it is now. I was taking notes and filming- so no tweets. I’m probably one of the few candidates who actually runs their own twitter account.

The line up on the program was long, those in red didn’t make it:

  • Lary E. Ealy
  • Derek O. Folley (aka Foley)
  • Eric L. Gregory
  • Gary Leitzell
  • Joseph C. Lutz
  • Marcus J Rech
  • Dashawn P. Romine
  • Diane B. Sloan
  • AJ Wagner
  • Nan L. Whaley

That’s 10. Lucky for us- only 6 showed up. Questions were first delivered by random draw from a basket, then from the InnerWest Priority Board, the Dayton Unit NAACP, then area pastors and then the audience. Questions weren’t answered by all- and the process of who got what and time limits were always awkward.

Derrick Foward of the NAACP made a point to identify Whaley, Wagner and Leitzell as lifetime members of the group and also that they don’t endorse, but will identify candidates they don’t feel are qualified. As a note, lifetime memberships start at $750, easy to pay if you are Nan or AJ and use your campaign funds which are huge. To me this reeked of “pay to play” politics. My standing answer on joining groups is to quote Groucho Marx “I wouldn’t be a member of any organization that would have me as a member.” I had to repeat that to Derrick twice before he got it and smiled.

The “candidates” got 5 minutes each to give a intro speech. There wasn’t anything remarkable said, except the left field idea from Derek Folley about building metro rail from Richmond to Dayton. The questions were mostly softball and pointless.

Note, the only two candidates in attendance were Nan Whaley and myself. The only other candidate that’s certified is Joey Williams.

The mayor and the city manager don’t create jobs. Neither does the Federal Government- at least not efficiently. Asking people how they’d create jobs in West Dayton is just opening the door for stupid to walk in. The one kind of jobs the Commission could create is hiring more police to make the city safer, but that question wasn’t asked- nor was how does buying 2 buildings for $450,000 each makes our city better.

The reality is our city isn’t even capable of hiring the best, brightest and most experienced police- because we have a policy of only hiring from our academy- a process that has failed us and cost us. This question never gets asked.

Then the questions of the murders and should we ban guns. We had a gun ordinance that Tony Capizzi tried to put on the books- it’s not something that can be done at a local level. It’s like asking the clerk at the checkout lane in Kroger to build a new store- you’re talking to the wrong people. The real issue is safety in the neighborhoods, and there are real answers to this- they just won’t come from your standard political stump speech- unless it’s given by me.

There was a lot of talk about jobs for felons. You’d think everyone on the West side had a rap sheet. The main problem here is the failed “war on drugs”- again not something local commissioners can do much about- except stop charging people for minor pot possession.

Nan Whaley even took credit for the Dayton Works Plus program for reentry, yet, when I’ve talked to people who’ve tried to get Nan’s help with downsizing bid packages, they got no where. When they called Mayor Leitzell, they got almost an instant response and help.

Then there was the question of why most of the retail businesses on the West side were being run by people that didn’t speak English. No one said you have a choice on what businesses to support, or that the issue again comes down to risk and safety, but Leitzell did talk about entreprenurial education in the schools and Gregory talked about the failures of the SBA to work with small businesses and that the demise of the Savings and Loan industry has hurt small business.

I asked the first question from the audience- and directed it to Nan. No, it wasn’t about the push poll, because it’s not good form to embarrass the young lady in front of a big audience, so I asked about why she hadn’t put changing the petition process on the ballot, since she’s been on for two charter revisions. She did admit that the notarization process could go- but that was as far as she went. Never mind that we can’t change the charter or recall commissioners as voters, thanks to obsolete language and fuzzy logic on voter rolls.

After, there was “fellowship and food” for all. Whaley didn’t stick around long. Folley didn’t engage much. I sat down and talked with people about substantive change, the kinds of things I talk about on this site, and even found a few readers. At the end, AJ, Leitzell and Gregory were still working the people who were still there.

I’m not going to post video of all the candidates- we’ll wait to see who gets on the ballot first, plus, I need to focus on getting my literature done and ready for the pancake breakfast this Sunday.

If I met you at the event, please, leave a comment- and ask me the questions that you wanted to hear answers from the candidates tonight- or how I’d answer them different.

This is my way of engaging- it’s open to all.