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.

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.

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.

 

Tax dollars chasing tax dollars for no tax dollars

If the headline sounds stupid, think about this:

The Dayton-Montgomery County Port Authority owes $1.1 million in back taxes on the parking garage on Patterson Boulevard next to the CareSource building at 220 E. Monument Ave. The 220 E. Monument Ave. building is current on its taxes, but the garage is behind.

via Delinquent Downtown Properties – Dayton Business Journal.

Your tax dollars built the Relizon/WorkFlow One/CareSource building and now CareSource- totally funded with your tax dollars- isn’t paying taxes on the building their people are undoubtedly parking in.

But, it just gets more entertaining.

Despite, being literally right across the street from the garage that’s technically owned by the taxpayers- the taxpayers are being stuck with the bill for another parking garage:

The city of Dayton is moving forward with the financing to pay for the new downtown garage for Water Street.

Commission approved Wednesday a bond purchase agreement to borrow $6 million from the Ohio State Transportation Infrastructure GRF Bond Fund Program. Of that, $2.5 million comes through state loan proceeds and $3.5 million from state infrastructure bank bond proceeds. The funding will help pay for the acquisition and construction that supports the three-story 429-space garage that will serve the Water Street development.

via Dayton to borrow $6M to pay for Water Street garage – Dayton Business Journal.

The first article pointed out that almost one in four properties downtown aren’t current on their taxes- but, there have been no cuts to the “Downtown Dayton Partnership” which is supposedly funded with property taxes in the “Special Improvement District” or SID. Never mind the fact that buildings are dropping in value like rocks- as businesses move to Austin Landing where your tax dollars built a brand new mega intersection and funded development in an unincorporated township- where mysteriously, only the little people pay income taxes (people working at Kohl’s and Kroger and Five Guys pay taxes- people working at Teradata or Thompson Hine- do not).

One must also wonder if the closing of all the downtown Dayton exits on I-75 just after Austin Road was built wasn’t an attempt to squeeze the last life out of downtown- so it can turn into more wrecking bills for Steve Rauch and company? Because one way to cut vacancy rate is to just tear down buildings.

In the meantime, getting a police officer to solve a crime in Dayton becomes even more of a pipedream, as the force continues to dwindle because of budget cuts, retirements and a lack of money to pay cops – because, well, parking garages are more important.

I’m just wondering when the city is going to start building garages for people who are still stupid enough to buy houses in our city? Oops- they tried doing that in Wright Dunbar and it hasn’t exactly taken off.

At some point voters need to wake up. There is no silver bullet to save downtown or your neighborhood. If we focus on the basics first- like snow removal, police response times, solving petty crime, cleaning streets- and making the city building department business friendly- we’d see a lot more progress than these Hail Mary moves to “create economic development.”

We also need to take a hard look at what has occurred at Austin Landing- and stop this idea that we can have these tax dodge havens. Those were all Dayton jobs- maybe the answer is to expand the south airport and annex the whole area into Dayton and turning it into an “enterprise zone” (like at the airport- because, well, that’s been so successful).

Heading into the new year end tax time, I’m looking at our whole screwed up multi-jurisdictional taxing mess and thinking of it as a design problem. How would we simplify the collection of taxes in the region and cut the amount of time wasted on fining and forgiving small businesses who can’t keep up with this rats’ nest of jurisdictions?

It’s really pretty simple- one single income tax rate. A single property tax levy. And an absolute limit on numbers of elected officials per people per square mile. And put a complete stop to investing public tax dollars into private developments- that’s not what we pay our taxes for.

But then again- it’s becoming really clear that only little people are expected to pay taxes anymore.

Hits, runs and errors. Society’s failings- not baseball.

I’ve never been afraid in Dayton, Ohio. Maybe because I’m wired wrong. On the way home from the first CIRGV meeting, I saw a young teen walking fast up W. Third with a 22.-caliber rifle, I turned my scooter around- and stopped him to talk- before he scurried off, and I called the police. Yes- I should have called cops first- and headed on my way. I’ve also been all over Dayton- way past dark, hanging basketball nets. Carried the ladder at least a thousand feet to the remote court in Western Hills – close to midnight to put up nets- without a worry.

Urban Nights is supposed to be when we put out our welcome mat. When all feel welcome to go downtown. Well, all, except the people we don’t want to acknowledge live in our community- urban, black youths. And, this isn’t an indictment of them- we’re all to blame. We’ve worked for the last 50 years to separate ourselves and to pretend that everything is hunky-dory. What happened and what I saw Friday night, 9 May, 2014, Urban Nights wasn’t an epic event by any means. As a very young boy- I remember my Dad lifting me to the window in East Cleveland of our 8th floor apartment to look North over the city of Cleveland- with the sky glowing orange from the fires during the Hough and Glenville riots. He took a photo that ended up on the cover of the Plain Dealer Sunday magazine- my grandmother, painted it, the painting hung on our walls for a long time, and faded away from relevance. I don’t know where the painting is now, but- the memory of the sky stuck with me. That was an epic event.

This year’s spring Urban Nights seemed like it was lightly attended compared to others. The rain was holding off, but, the crowds were still light. I had almost stayed home, after a long week, but a friend had texted and I headed over on the scooter and parked it next to Drake’s Gym/Gentile Produce and started at St. Clair between Fourth and Third. As usual, I ran into lots of friendly faces including our former neighborhood cop, former Mayor Gary Leitzell, a BOE worker, Tim Kambitch- head of the Dayton Metro Library- all within the first 40 minutes. I headed over to 2nd Street and saw my friend Haitham at Carmen’s Deli- and waited for the band to start at 9- it was Hal Melia’s Brass Tacks band- with a horn section. I talked to Brian West- a friend and trumpet player- who said the guy on trumpet was probably the best in a 200-mile region. They were tight- the singer had a great voice- but, when they started playing their second song by Chicago after only 6 tunes- I’d reached my limit of pop- and headed round the corner to see what was going on at Courthouse Square- and to check out the AIA at the Business Furniture spot.

The police were congregated at Second and Main. On bikes, cruisers, and a few of the new SUVs. Courthouse Square was dark. The architects had already closed up shop- I continued ambling down S. Main where I passed a white guy with a megaphone standing on the corner- reading scripture. Other than the security guys that I saw at the RTA bus depot, he was the last white person I saw as I made my way through a crowd of black youths. I didn’t feel threatened. I didn’t sense any tension. It was around 9:20 pm. I made it down where I was almost to 4th street, having passed TNT Fashion and was looking over at the Kuntz building- at the corner of 4th and Main- it’s still one of my favorite downtown buildings, with its red clay color and castle-like ornamentation. I glanced back toward Third and saw a swarm of kids out in Main Street- moving like a flock of sparrows, undulating, changing direction together as if they were some sort of magnetic liquid goo being moved by a mysterious unseen magnet.

I took out my phone and started recording, with the thought that the police would be the ones to act badly. I was wrong. Someone says at 0:45 “he’s recording” – as if they are totally oblivious to the city’s new security cameras and the ones RTA has had. At 1:05 my phone gets swatted from my hands, I pick it up, stick it in my pocket and start chasing the punk. At this point, I’m mad, but not thinking about what comes next. Sort of like GWB invading Iraq. Thanks to his baggy pants and me not being totally out of shape at 51, I am gaining on him as he stops, midway down 4th St., across from Dave Hall Plaza- you can hear the complete exchange. He wants to fight, I don’t know what I want. I’m also aware of the huge mob that has run after us and is starting to surround me- someone swings- hits me in the temple- my glasses go off, I turn- and step on them. More hits come- I’m moving to the wall to at least make sure that I don’t end up in the center of a beat down- and can stay up. Fighting a lot of people doesn’t work out like a Bruce Lee movie- they don’t conveniently wait for you to dispatch them one at a time, they all come at you at once. Most of the blows come to my head- at some point- I lost vision in my left eye temporarily. As fast as it starts, it ends- I go over to pick up my glasses- one arm of my glasses is askew- I pick up the lenses and stick them in my pocket. One of them is going to be the only way I can read until morning. A cop on a motorcycle pulls up as I wave him down- and tell him I was assaulted by a kid wearing a white wife beater, baggy jeans. The cop told me to wait here.

I post to Facebook using Siri voice recognition- at 9:45 pm

“Just got assaulted at urban nights, while videotaping of Nealeigh out in front of the RTA glasses are broken so I can’t see what I’m typing”

Apologies to my friend Tommy Nealeigh, who is usually worth videotaping, I said “melee” – but Siri apparently isn’t a riot girl.

Another crowd swarm started at Fourth and Main- by an RTA bus. I filmed again.

No cops had come back- so I called 911, and as I was on the phone, another officer came by- I flagged him down. Told him again what had happened and asked 911 to send a medic. I told them I was moving toward 4th and St. Clair- but was crossing over to the Dave Hall plaza corner- and would wait there for a medic. I didn’t think I was bleeding- which was confirmed by friends, former city planning director Paul Woodie and current city purchasing director Pete Hager, who were walking down Jefferson toward Fifth Street. The fire engine passed us- then the medic passed us- even as we waved- and I called back to 911 to confirm my location. The medic had my neighbor Jen Quinn in it- and she checked me out and suggested I go to a hospital- I said I needed to go to the VA- and they started driving before I agreed to it. I would have had a friend take me, but she said it was too late- just decline transport.

My phone was getting messages like crazy- with friends checking in. I had to hold up the one lens to my right eye to read them. A Dayton cop came and took a statement, gave me a report number. About an hour later- another officer showed up to do the same thing.

In the thread on Facebook, the discussion turned to safety of downtown, whom to blame. A friend pointed out that there had been an event promoted to youth- and then cancelled at the last minute and blamed organizers. I found no evidence of this event happening this year- but they had a teen celebration in the fall of 2013.

The VA called in the guy to give me a CAT scan- and I left with a shot of an anti-inflammatory in my butt. The three hours of ice pack seemed to have averted major bruising. I got a printout of my recent eye exam, so I could get some glasses. My head is still a little sore, and thanks to Kevin Harrington at Downtown Dayton Optical I now have 2 new pairs of glasses- one for reading and one for the computer. When I tried to pay Kevin, he refused payment- almost had me in tears.
He said “most people don’t appreciate what you do for this city- I do. One of the advantages of owning your own business is you can do nice things for people. I really appreciate you, and- I’m sorry what happened last night”

I’m sorry what happened too.

After the video had stopped recording in my pocket- some kids did come over and said they were sorry- I said that I was kind of in shock- after hanging 300 plus basketball nets- I’m the one that gets beaten up. One kid said – “oh, you’re esrati” (mangling my name)- which was the one glimmer of hope for the evening.

But, after the bruising of my ego and when my head heals- what do we as a community do? The Dayton Daily has kept this event to a few column inches in the back of the paper today. Chastising the Downtown Dayton Partnership, or reporting negative things happening at their signature event is something to be minimized. It was on the 11 p.m. news- I saw it from my bed in the VA ER. From 100 to 1,s000 youth have been attributed- my guess is around 500. That someone had a gun is also part of their synopsis.

But, this is more than one event. This is what happens when you stop finding money to put basketball nets on rims, fill in pools, close rec centers, stop having midnight basketball in the summer. This is what happens when you bus kids all over the city- instead of maintaining strong neighborhood connections. This is what happens when kids have kids- and let their kids run the streets. If you are a mother, or a grandmother and see your kid in these videos, you are failing your babies.

screen grab from melee, with kid identified who hit David Esrati

On the right of this frame, from around 0:39 you see the kid in the white wife beater and baggy jeans, pushing someone else aside.

I’m lucky I’m here to write this, with my only problem being the two- to three-week wait for my new no-line bifocals with AR coating to show up. I’ve had friends say I should take up boxing, others say I should have had a CCW. Meeting violence with violence is not the answer. I’m sure that had I been carrying a gun, someone would be dead right now, possibly me. I do know how to fight- but, one man against a mob- the odds aren’t good. I’m not happy in retrospect with my own choices of words and actions in the span of those few minutes- but, then again, a bad decision in a few minutes is what puts many of our young black men in prison. I’m not black. Someone told me on the campaign trail last time, that “if you were black, you’d have been elected long ago.” I still wonder about what would make someone say that- and, if it was true.

I’m sure that this post is too long for an event that spanned just a few minutes. If you are still reading, thank you. If you’ve watched the videos- thank you. If you see your kids in the videos- it’s time to have a talk with them. It’s time for our community to have a real talk about this. Our kids need better options than this. It’s not their fault, it’s ours. We’ve failed them.

Had I been anyone else, I would have seen that crowd and would have run the other way. I’m sure that I may think twice about doing what I did on Friday night. But, hopefully, the young man who decided to hit my phone, and then me- maybe, just maybe, he might read this, and realize that this wasn’t his triumphant moment in life. Maybe when he tells his friends about his beating on this old white dude- one of them says- you hit the green net man, that guy is cool. Maybe not.

I know I could have behaved better as well. We all need a better understanding- a better dialogue in this community. We need better solutions for our youth. For our community.

I got hit, I ran, I committed errors. This isn’t baseball. Let’s all work together to fix this.