The reality of “a publicity stunt”- Esrati puts nets on rims

Tom Archdeacon should have written this story a few weeks ago. The story would have shared the history of Dayton street basketball, and the sorry shape of our community’s parks would have been the focus. Instead, it became a political piece, and I was interviewed again. Two pictures, front of the local section, and Commissioner Williams calls my efforts a “publicity stunt.”

I’ve never done a pr stunt that took as much work, and, if the city had been doing its job, I wouldn’t have to be doing the basic fundamental city service of maintaining our parks. A good friend in the advertising business uses this as a mantra to clients- “actions speak louder than words” to help guide clients on where to spend their ad dollars, I am a believer.

Here is the DDn article on the commission race- mostly about my nets campaign. There is no mention, unfortunately of the video that 2 Ponitz CTC students did.

Esrati’s hoops promise enlivens Dayton campaigns

Posted: 12:05 a.m. Friday, Aug. 23, 2013

Dayton City Commission candidate David Esrati is installing basketball nets and trying to replace damaged rims at many of Dayton’s neglected parks. He leaves a sticker with his phone number to call if net replacements are needed.

By Jeremy P. Kelley – Staff Writer


Dayton Daily News Photo by Jim Witmer, of David Esrati with his pole sticker

Dayton Daily News Photo by Jim Witmer, of David Esrati with his pole sticker

As the six candidates for Dayton mayor and city commission fire up their campaigns for the November election, one candidate has made a very public show of improving city parks this summer.

Commission candidate David Esrati has called the state of Dayton’s parks “a disgrace,” and he’s spent the past two months improving basketball courts — digging out weeds and branches that were growing through the pavement, plus putting nets on basketball hoops that had none.

Esrati said he’s personally put up more than 200 of his green-marked nets on city, school and church courts, and even on kids’ portable baskets. He puts a sticker on each pole, encouraging people to call him if a net needs to be replaced.

“Who wants to live next to a park with no rims and no nets, a tennis court with weeds, grass that doesn’t get cut? That makes a statement,” Esrati said, hauling a ladder out of the trunk of his car. “But this is pride. It’s community pride.”

Esrati said he got few votes in West Dayton in May’s primary and needs to do better in November to win one of the two commission seats up for grabs. He’s putting up nets in all parts of the city, but he went to more than two dozen Dayton businesses, largely West Dayton barbershops, to get people to sponsor his nets program. The grassroots effort is important for a candidate who has pledged to spend no more than $10,000 on his campaign.

“I know from advertising and marketing that an ad is pretty worthless, but a service is worth something,” he said. “The stickers will stay, and if I win or if I lose (in November), I’ll still fix the nets.”

Esrati is one of four candidates running for two commission seats.

Incumbent Joey Williams said he has done steady work for the community for years, referring to Esrati’s basketball-net effort as “a publicity stunt.” Williams pointed to safety initiatives, such as the Community-Police Council that he’s championed, plus his role in improving the city’s bond rating and finances, while some cities struggle.

Candidate David Greer said he’s been spreading his message of citizen empowerment at public events and neighborhood meetings, and his campaign will be going door-to-door this weekend. Greer is focused on getting people to vote, saying turnout for the May primary was “very discouraging and sad.”

Commission candidate Jeffrey Mims said he has not done much campaigning yet, but continues his youth mentoring and other community activities. He said he is focused on improving jobs, safety and the school-community relationship.

via Esrati’s hoops promise enlivens Dayton campaigns |

There is evidence that conditions of public parks have a direct impact on property values. For all the “economic development” projects the city has engaged in over the years- from Courthouse Square, the Arcade, Riverscape and tax abatementa, grants and other expenditures of our tax dollars on big things that will “save Dayton” – there is nothing as valuable to our citizens as clean, safe, well maintained parks with functioning amenities for the people who live here.

From a 2010 article in Dayton Most Metro, written by Shannon O’Neil (full disclosure- a supporter of my campaign)

Over 30 studies have been done on the impact of urban parks on property values. Typically people are willing to pay more for a home that is near or overlooking a park due to the “hedonistic value.” This means that the value of a property is affected by the home’s proximity to the park and the quality of the park itself. The report measures the value of a home within 500 feet of the park but states that the economic value of the park on property values has been measured at distances up to 2,000 feet…

Parks that are poorly maintained or unattractive are marginally valuable and dangerous parks can reduce property values. Parkland adds 5% value to the assessed value of dwellings within 500 ft. Excellent parks add 15% to the value of a dwelling while problematic parks reduce the assessed value by 5%.

via Economic Impact of Revitalizing Cooper Park | Dayton Most Metro.

The facts that you can’t play a full court game at Princeton Rec Center, despite it having 6 backboards and full time city staff, or that the only park with lights on at night is Burkham park- where the poles spin, the backboards are made of rotting wood, and 1 rim is missing and 1 has more curves and ups and downs than a roller coaster, should make it clear that these problems didn’t happen overnight, nor are they something that our current commission has cared about.

For a city with basketball nearing a religion, we’ve had heretics leading us for years. One of my favorite things to point out, is that the two mayoral candidates spent $360,000 in the primary to get 7,500 votes- or $50 per vote. Although it’s illegal, they would have done better to promise to pay every voter $20, had twice the voters and still had $60,000 left over- which could have bought new backboards and rims for every city court. Frankly, although I prefer the idea of A.J. Wagner as Mayor, I’m not so sure I want either of these money-blowing candidates holding our city checkbook.

Right now there is a relatively new backboard at Roosevelt Rec Center on W. Third Street where the backboard failed and not the rim. I’d be out there getting it welded this weekend, but the question of if the backboard is under warranty or not hasn’t been answered. It’s been a 6 days since it was reported to the Rec Center staff. I guess it’s a PR stunt by watching how long it takes for the city to act as well, seeing as this is one of the most popular courts in the city. It will be interesting if they ever fix the 4 lights that are there as a tease to our ‘ballers- since they’ve never been turned on, and now have all 4 lenses shot out.

I would be remiss, not to thank Jeremy Kelley, who wrote one of the nicest articles about me to ever appear in the news. Thank you.

As to my statement of ads being worthless- and being in the advertising business- 95% of ads (and 99% of political ads) are horrible and are reaching the wrong people. Advertising has changed a lot with the advent of the Internet and the ability to micro target, but even then, most ads are an unwelcome intrusion into your life- the masters of advertising believe in “marketing as a service” or- giving you utility as part of the relationship between the brand and the customer. That’s what Google does- in trading utility for the opportunity to deliver advertising. Which would you rather see- green nets, or political yard signs? This question will be on the test on November 5th. Your actions will speak louder than words.


Moe’s on Brown becoming Hot Head Burritos, a step closer to local flavor

It didn’t take long for Moe’s to mosey off Brown Street, and now signs in the window suggest that local chain Hot Head Burritos will be taking over the space.

The real question is how long can a strip of fast food feeders survive without any other reason to head there other than to eat? A bookstore, a clothing store (other than the flyer apparel shop) a drugstore, a small grocery, a gym? All of these are normal retail sites that typically surround a college campus.

Almost every new business on Brown is a chain, save Dolcessa and the aforementioned flyer gear shop. What makes this strip special, unique, interesting? Even Hot Head and Deweys are small chains.

If we don’t add some local flavor, there is no real reason to make it a destination?

Is it time to require developers to include at least 20% local flavor in projects? I’m not a fan of legislating business practices, but, since we have no problem sticking our noses into everything else for “economic development’s” sake, why not foster local business?

Homogenization is good for milk, for the most part. It’s not good for a city’s shopping options.

Death by study and development.

We have a lot of committees, we have a lot of plans. We have a lot of people doing economic development, but don’t seem to be developing economically.

What to do?

The County spent good money on a bad idea. Had they asked the community first, they would have heard that we don’t want to spend millions to add to sprawl, but they spent it anyway- $150K down the drain:

Montgomery County paid $150,000 to Threesixty Architecture of Columbus for a feasibility study of a proposed 6,900 seat hockey arena and events center at the I-75 interchange that will be built this year at Austin Pike on the county’s southern border.

via With troubles of its own, county passes on arena.

The Dayton Business Journal had two tables of how much and who we spend money on economic development annually as a region in their Feb 12 09 issue:

The top 12 area economic development departments have operating budgets of $8.53 mill, employ 40 people making decent money.

The top12 Economic development groups (non-municipality attached) have operating budgets of $19.5 mill and employ another 70.

Just imagine if that $28.03 million was spent on providing public amenities to all- from ice rinks to velodromes to BMX facilities to libraries, livable and walkable communities, and high-speed fiber based Internet instead- luring business with a great, affordable quality of life?

That’s economic development.

Biz center opens- as real biz is ready to pack it in.

I’m not the development authority, yet in the last month, three businesses have come to me asking for help, because the city just doesn’t seem to want to talk sensibly. We’ve had a “One Stop” permitting center for years, but now, we have the new and improved “Dayton Business Resource Center”

On Monday, Feb. 9, the Dayton Business Resource Center, a one-stop shop for business location and expansion services in the city, opened at 371 W. Second St.

“In today’s difficult economic climate, it’s more important than ever to help businesses compete and grow,” said Shelley Dickstein, assistant city manager for strategic development.

The center is a collaborative effort between the city, Montgomery County, the Downtown Dayton Partnership, Citywide Development Corporation and the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce….

The 2,300 square feet of newly renovated space brings together the serves of several agencies under one roof to provide help with permits, plan review, zoning guidance, financing and incentive information, site seeking and other services.

via Dayton biz resource center opens.

Last night I wrote about the proposed ice arena for Downtown- and guess what, no Dayton economic development people, or the County economic development people were involved in this major proposal for “Economic Development.” In fact, when the county people were approached about their involvement in the Austin Road proposed ice arena, in a project that has been grinding away for over 12 years- they said the rink was only a new development in the last year – and they weren’t supporting it (even though we published the “talking points memo” that wasn’t supposed to go public).

The reality is, it’s not just Dayton, or the suburbs, but the entire State of Ohio that needs some simplified processes for starting and supporting businesses. Instead of building new office spaces, how about a simplified tax collection website at the State level where all State and local taxes are managed based on your EIN?

How about modifications to the building code to allow for easier re-use of old buildings for new purposes?

How about a standardized system of tax breaks for business based on forward thinking initiatives like the number of employees that can walk to work, instead of the current inequitable system that forces communities to compete to give away tax revenue to big business for jobs that aren’t guaranteed?

How about focusing on providing the essential basic services like snow removal- before trying to promote even more businesses that people won’t be able to shop at because you can’t pay a snow plow driver?

Common sense seems hard to come by in Dayton.

Maybe we need a Common Sense Training program instead of a County based diet workshop?

Maybe instead of voting for political hacks, with cushy patronage jobs (Nan Whaley and Matt Joseph both worked for the County in patronage jobs when elected) Dayton voters might start waking up to why they have a commission that insists on making a mockery of the City Manager form of government (even though we “invented it here”).

It’s time to take government out of “economic development” and focus on providing service. Business will find its way here, if it could only drive down the street a week after an ice storm without going sideways.

Should Dayton be investing in child care?

Michelle Obama and I are in total agreement, according to a story in today’s New York Times:

As first lady, Mrs. Obama has said, she plans to make herself an advocate for working parents, particularly military families, urging better access to child care for all. Trying to juggle public duties with two young children, she will be a living illustration of the very issue she describes.

A Family Expected to Balance State Dinners With Sleepovers –

When I first ran for Mayor one of my proposals (note: I actually proposed things, imagine that) was to build 24 hour subsidized day care for working citizens of Dayton and subsidized to a lesser extent- for those who just came to the city to work. My goals were two-fold:

  • To differentiate Dayton and give it a competitive advantage in recruiting employers and employees, since good childcare can be expensive, especially to lower income, lower skilled workers. With Dayton’s average household income hovering around the poverty line, it was intended to help give citizens a chance to break the chain of poverty.
  • To help prepare children for lifelong learning. Headstart programs don’t start early enough, with key developmental processes taking place between birth and three.

Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and AmericaTo further justify the value of an emphasis on early childhood education, one only needs to look at the work of:

educational visionary Geoffrey Canada, whose Harlem Children’s Zone—currently serving more than 7,000 children and encompassing 97 city blocks—represents an audacious effort to end poverty within underserved communities. Canada’s radical experiment is predicated upon changing everything in these communities—creating an interlocking web of services targeted at the poorest and least likely to succeed children: establishing programs to prepare and support parents, a demanding k-8 charter school and a range of after-school programs for high school students.
Whatever it Takes

And although I only heard of Geoff’s work recently, on “This American Life” I’ve been convinced that Dayton isn’t going to see the return of a robust economy until we start doing things very different, and place a strong emphasis on educational attainment and intellectual pursuits. We didn’t get to be the birthplace of aviation, the home to so many great inventors and becoming a model of a new form of government (the City Manager system) by accepting the status quo.

We’re in the process of completing the last of our new school buildings, we overwhelmingly passed Issue 52, the new school levy- even though many of us are suffering financially thanks to powers way above our pay grade, and we have a new school superintendent who seems quite focused on promoting strong new leaders to these schools (I’m lucky to be friends with two new principals in DPS).

If there was ever a time to begin a radical new early childhood education program it would be now- while the Federal Government is looking to invest in job creation, new programs that support education and ways to jump start the rust belt economy.

Michelle Obama- are you listening? Want to help?