A Dayton candidates night and a voters fright

Last Wednesday night, instead of working, or doing something fun, I went in for a two hour reminder of why Democracy no longer works in America.

(full disclosure- my firm has done some work and printing for the following candidates or their businesses, Jocelyn Rhynard, Shenise Turner-Sloss, Darryl Fairchild, Karen Wick-Gagnet)

When this country started, it was easy to pick people for elected office. You’d have a town hall of all the white male property owners, they all knew each other, and they chose the people based on personal knowledge and it was done.

Now, we just let anyone on the ballot, at least anyone that can make it through the political parties barricades and hurdles enforced by the board of (S)elections, and then to raise as much money as possible to run for an office that very few of the candidates and even fewer of the voters really understand.

Both the Dayton City Commission and the Dayton Board of Education positions are limited in their actual scope and power. This is by design. They are only allowed to hire a few people, and are there as a corporate board, to guide and review the performance of the leader they hire, be that person called a City Manager or a Superintendent. Instead, we’ve got ego-maniacal demi-gods running who think they not only steer the ship, but also are the guys running the engines, standing guard duty, manning the radar, cooking the food and even scrubbing the decks- all for a mere pittance on the school board and on a salary way richer than it should be for the city commissioners, who only have to show up for one meeting a week.

That said. Sorry about the audio in this video. The PA provided by the City of Dayton at the Northwest Recreation Center badly needed a new XLR cable, but, we’re too busy giving away millions to downtown investors to spring for $15 for a new cable (or less if you go to CCT). I’m even sorrier for what was recorded.

Of the school board candidates, only one actually talked about what we might need to do to change the way we deliver education in the classrooms to move achievement forward- that from Mario Gallin, a former school member who works at Ruskin for East End Community Services and still attends every board meeting. The Ruskin/EECS educational delivery method is based upon the Geoffrey Canada, Harlem Children’s Zone model of comprehensive wrap around services. The only other candidate to mention anything of the like was slate member Paul Bradley who spoke of the Oyler school in Cincinnati which he knows about because his fiancee worked there.

The seating and speaking arrangements were telling. First came “the slate” from the left, then the soloists, who have their own alignments, and the sole incumbent, Joe Lacey who cited parenting duties for calling him away and leaving early. Then the Commission candidates, less Joey Williams. In an unprecedented concession, Priority Board Chairman David Greer allowed Jeff Mims to have Williams time allotment, which judging by Mims reactions to questioning the city’s loss of funds due to internal errors, was a mistake. Mims got defensive and blamed the mess on former planning director Aaron Sorrel, which Darryl Fairchild was quick to call him on. Somehow, despite massive failures in her past, City Manager Shelley Dickstein always gets a hall pass, no matter how much taxpayer money is wasted, and the city commission is never to blame either.

The “slate” is four candidates running together for the school board. Insiders believe them to be hand-picked by Mayor Nan Whaley. Mohamed Al-Hamdani, William E. Harris Jr., Paul Bradley, and Karen Wick-Gagnet have hired a campaign manager (Nan’s old campaign manager) Uriah Anderson, who works for the ever popular Burges & Burges out of Cleveland. They are the folks Sinclair and the Health and Human Services levies both hired (hence the dual billboards around town). This kind of money, power and help hasn’t been seen since the “Kids First” slate ran in 2001 with the sole goal of putting a ton of money into the hands of demolition contractors, construction companies, architects and adding a $645 Million jolt to an ailing Dayton economy.

If you want to read an interesting excerpt on Kids First, follow this link. They spent over $200K on a campaign where all their opponents collectively spent $13,000 between 5 candidates. Note that the four seats that are up this time- were filled by unopposed candidates (Lacey, Roundtree, Lee and Baguirov). The last cycle, we had 4 candidates for 3 seats, and newcomer John McManus spent north of $35K to unseat Nancy Nearny by a mere couple of hundred votes forcing an automatic recount, while the other incumbents Walker and Taylor waltzed on in.

When asked (by me, via Chairmen Greer) why the slate hired an outside consultant, and how much they paid them, the room seemed to turn on Mohamed Al-Hamdani who tried to pass off the question with “we haven’t paid them anything yet” – while defacto saying their campaign manager worked for Burges. The slate is keeping quiet about how much they’ve raised or spent, and because the first reporting deadline isn’t until Oct 28th- the voters will have very little time to learn who is buying their candidates and for how much.

Needless to say, if you look back to the Kids First promises, and the whys, the district is in the exact same sorry shape now as then. Still at the bottom of the barrel for educational achievement, yet with a much higher staff turnover, more turmoil, a third less students, funded by an ever shrinking property tax base (often thanks to Nan Whaley and her love of tax abatement as economic development). The only difference between that slate and this one is that the Kids First slate actually would openly embrace charter schools, while anyone running for school board now has to categorically blame them for the failing of the district.

I still plan to listen to the candidates again, yet, I threw up a little when I heard Reverend Harris saying that he was going to concentrate on truancy as his platform. This is the simpletons solution to educational improvement- and why I also laughed at Dr. Roberson’s entire presentation of his case for why he should be superintendent. The other single issue candidate seems to be Jo’el Jones, who thinks all of our problems can be solved by the office of family and community engagement rising from the ashes. I agree it’s needed, but, it won’t solve the problems of this sinking ship.

While there is no doubt more to Jocelyn Rhynard than her four kids in the district, and her involvement in her kids school, River’s Edge, I didn’t feel she had a fully formed plan and was way too nice in her response about how she’d work with current superintendent Rhonda Corr. Going back to being on the campaign trail with former Dayton City Commissioner Dick Zimmer, it’s always bothered me that procreation counted as qualification for office- he’d start out with “I was born in Dayton, grew up in Dayton, had 9 kids and 19 grandchildren” – as if he chose where to be born, grow up. Mim’s also tells the same sorry story about how he told his family to move to Dayton when he was 3 months old. Rhynard, like Gallin, actually attends school board meetings regularly. Jo’el Jones is also sometimes there. I’ve never seen any of the slate attend.

We need more than platitudes and feel good stories- which is also part of Mohamed’s approach. He’s got a great story to tell of how he came as an immigrant and Dayton’s been good to him, but, he moved back into the city the same day he filed to run, a part he conveniently leaves out.

Hopefully, in the Wednesday night Dayton Education Council candidates night at Ponitz High school (741 W. Washington Street) – starting at 6pm we’ll here speeches sounding more like cogent solutions to stop the turmoil, turnover and terrible achievement scores instead of homilies and grand standing.

If any candidates need an example of what a plan to improve school/student performance looks like, I offer this video I made last December to make a case for a trans-formative plan to discussion. Of course, since no one on the board cares about anything except their own agenda- it was never discussed.

If you are looking to research candidates online- here are the websites I can find:

Of course in most of my searches, more shows up about many of these folks on esrati.com.

Thanks for reading.

Why bother to have elections at all in Montgomery County?

Donald Trump won Montgomery County.

The local democratic party did nothing to win any new seats, and Debbie Lieberman came within 1% of losing to Gary Leitzell, who only spent $6000 and barely campaigned.

No seats changed hands. No republicans were replaced, no incumbents got voted out. Phil Plummer who should be in jail instead of running it- got re-elected.

Mike Turner hasn’t faced a serious opponent since his first race.

The local dems endorsed Ted Strickland from the start as well as Hillary Clinton and we see how that turned out.

We don’t really hold elections here, we just rubber stamp decisions made in back rooms on who should be allowed to run.

UPDATE

an hour after posting: And one other thing happened, without anyone knowing in advance, from Thomas Suddes:

Then there’s the General Assembly. In January, Republicans, led by Speaker Clifford Rosen-berger of Clinton County, will hold 66 of the Ohio House’s 99 seats. That’ll be the biggest House majority either party has held since Ohio went to a 99-member House in 1966 – 50 years ago….

It takes 66 House votes – the number that Rosenberger will have – to pass a bill as an emergency measure. That may seem like inside baseball, but for this: Voters can’t challenge emergency measures in statewide referenda. If Republicans could’ve passed union-busting Senate Bill 5 as an emergency measure, voters couldn’t have killed SB 5 (as they did, resoundingly, in a 2011 referendum).

Source: Ohio Democrats find selves in tough spot

How does labor feel about that? Some labor groups even backed Portman in this election.

In the spring election, be it in May or March (I can’t remember, because they switch it up- and the Board of Elections site is worthless) the democrats will be selecting their new precinct captains and ward leaders. It only takes 5 signatures of registered dems to get on the ballot. It’s long overdue to throw out the stacked deck of patronage job holding precinct captains that keep allowing the Monarchy of Montgomery County to continue with their lame “leadership.”

This is also the year where three seats will come up on the Dayton City Commission- Mayor Whaley, Joey Williams and Jeff Mims. The question is who will really try to challenge them. Whaley raised half a million last time so she could raise your taxes, charge you for street lights, and raise your water and trash bill, while buying empty buildings and giving away Garden Station for $10. Williams has repeatedly won more votes than any other candidate, yet has done little but go with the flow. Mims, despite being a former educator, local and state school board educator- has zero problems allowing more tax abatement shortchange Dayton Public Schools.

But, consider everyone in the country who said Congress was broken, worthless and gridlocked, how many seats changed hands?

Case closed.

The “regionalization” plan that wasn’t

When Joey Williams actually posts something political on Facebook, you know people are talking. And that Joey is distancing himself from the new plan is an instant giveaway that this plan is DOA. Not that he has any clout- but, I digress.

I’ve always said that if Kettering were the largest community in the County – and there was talk of regionalization, it would have happened already. Kettering, for the most part, is the model of effective government.

Can’t say that for either the vounty or the City of Dayton, where nepotism, favoritism and as I like to refer to them- “the monarchy of Montgomery County” rule.

This idea of merging the county and the city governments is a joke, if you aren’t including the townships- it’s just a backward move at consolidation- trading in 5 grossly overpaid members of the Dayton City Commission for 3 even more overly paid members of the Montgomery County Commission, who have even less to do.

The regionalization expert cited in today’s Dayton Daily news says:

“(David) Rusk, founding president of the research group Building One America. The former Albuquerque, N.M., mayor wrote “Cities without Suburbs,” a study often described as the bible of government regionalism….

“In effect Dayton city hasn’t received any dowry from the marriage. It hasn’t received a square foot of additional territory. It hasn’t picked up population. It hasn’t picked up any tax base,” Rusk said. “In effect it has simply swapped a governing body that’s elected solely by the residents of the city of Dayton for a governing body that’s elected by everybody in Montgomery County.”

Source: Merger plan has long way to go

Let’s review: Both the city commission and the county commission have basically one job- to hire a professional administrator to see over their large budgets, union contracts, and running the organization. In the business world, we call these the board of directors- unfortunately- in the political world- we elect people- not based on their expertise, or knowledge of running effective organizations- but, based on a popularity contest closely controlled by two local political parties- that operate more like “good ole boys (and girls) clubs” than effective political operators. Their most important role is to get people elected who can then hire the party faithful (again- under-qualified) to work in patronage jobs.

Each elected office gets a budget for these friends and families- the worst offenders are the Board of Elections- where convicted rapists get hired without a job application, Dayton Waste Collection- where generations of a certain union family continue to keep their jobs even when they can’t drive, and oh, lets see- almost every other department in the city.

Remember when the young City Manager, Rashad Young, had his grandpappy working in IT- the one with the kiddie porn on his work computer? Or going back- way back, when our Mayor Richard Clay Dixon was working for Dayton Public Schools- and taking sick days from his DPS job to travel on government business? Or, back to the county- how County Administrator Deb Feldman- signed off on a convicted felon, Raleigh Trammell, to run a welfare program? (And yes, he was convicted of welfare fraud BEFORE she gave him the position).

Realistically- both governments are cesspools. It’s almost laughable when the Dayton Daily quotes this:

“This is a conversation not precipitated by scandal, as it was in Cleveland, and certainly not by the fact that our local public officials are in any way lacking in integrity, dedication to the public and ability,” said U.S. District Court Judge Walter Rice, an officer of the nonprofit Dayton Together group, which currently has about 20 members.

That’s because we can’t add two plus two together for the most part, your honor. The reason for the huge shift to Warren County- for the loss of population in Dayton- and the death spiral of property values in our city core- is from ineptitude and a lack of understanding of how the pieces fit together. Readers of this site are constantly reminded of how this mess is failing us.

This plan has it backwards- the way it should work- is the largest municipality in the county should run the county. This would immediately force the other communities to put away their pet squabbles and join together quickly to over power the stupidity that runs Dayton. Merge Centerville, Kettering and Washington Township into one- and let them run the show. Then Dayton would add Trotwood and Jefferson Township and maybe even Harrison Township- to one up the other. Then Huber Heights and Riverside would join forces with CKW and maybe throw in Moraine too. Next you know, Miamisburg, West Carrolton are looking for partners- and voila- regionalization has happened- much the way a parliamentary system works- where you have to form alliances to gain power.

However, the State could step in and fix all of this mess, putting limits on number of elected office per capita within a region defined by population density. No more 6 man police departments, or kangaroo municipal courts. No more “economic development” officials at lower than the county level. And most importantly- a lot less political overhead- the true reason that it sucks to do business in Ohio- where there are so many different tax rates, rules and authorities it makes your head spin.

This hair brained idea of merger should be the last hurrah for Dan Foley- who is only in politics because he’s the son of a judge, and he thinks he was some kind of wizard for implementing computerization when he was the clerk of courts. The reality is, if we graded any of our leaders based on performance; ie- growth of jobs, wealth, population, or efficiency – none of them would have kept their jobs longer than a single term.

One quote gets it right in the paper, Mark Owens:

“We have 86 counties in Ohio that have our kind of government. If there’s something wrong with that kind of government, it ought to be done on a statewide basis, not making Dayton and Montgomery County some type of a test tube or laboratory to figure out what’s going on.”

And the answer is yes- our state is a mess.

When buying political office in Dayton, don’t buy local: Whaley spends out of town

The post election campaign finance reports were due Friday.

The Dayton Daily weighed in claiming this the most expensive race ever, if you add in the in-kind donations the Whaley campaign took in:

Whaley raised $364,969 and spent $411,656, according to reports filed beginning in January 2013. She spent more than she took in because of carry-over amounts from 2012

A.J. Wagner raised $122,190 and spent $140,888 during the same period. His report includes $10,000 loans from Zafar Rizvi of Butler Twp. and Michael Oberer of Washington Twp.

Together the two candidates raised $487,159 in cash and spent $552,544. By comparison, spending for the the Turner-Rhine McLin match totaled $770,000.

But while that 2001 race still wins as far as overall spending, using another measure, Whaley may very well have run the city’s most expensive mayoral bid for a single candidate. “In-kind” contributions – which are services or things of value, such as production cost for mailers or food donated for events provided to a campaign – save the campaign from having to spend money on those items and services. If the value of those in-kind contributions are included with Whaley’s total cash contributions she easily tops Turner’s spending in the 2001 race, with $532,640 in expenditures and in-kind contributions.

via Dayton Mayor candidates spent nearly $500k | www.mydaytondailynews.com.

All that money, to get a measly 9,211 votes and a record low turnout of 16,334. For comparison, 4 years ago, Gary Leitzell won the office over Rhine McLin with 15,316 while spending around $20,000.

When you take Whaley’s $532,640 and divide it by number of votes, she spent an astonishing: $57.83 per vote. Wagner, spent $19.78 per vote to get 7,123 votes.

Looking over the reports a few things:

  • Mims and Williams reports are incomplete, missing their expenditure pages.
  • Greer’s report says he spent $4,414.19- but only has listed $300 expense to Dayton Weekly News- suggesting he was doing totals for the campaign- not the period (which was only from Oct. 18 to Dec. 6, 2013.)
  • A.J. lists his vendors, right down to everyone he paid to stand out at the polls on election day. Nan’s lists vendors- who then subcontracted work- so you don’t know what she really paid for or to whom. Apparently, her friend Gen Murphy runs a temporary services company now- since she paid her $1,000 for “election day services” which is a nice way of obfuscating who got paid on election day.

Whaley spends big money with out-of-town people:

  • Ohio Democratic Party 10/17/13 $22,971.09 Contribution 340 E. Fulton Street Columbus OH 43215
  • The New Media Firm 10/18/13 $4,905.50 Media 1730 Rhode Island Avenue, NW, Suite 213 Washington DC 20036
  • Momentum Analysis 10/19/13–$1,000.00 Consulting Fee 1508 Monroe Street, NW Washington DC 20010
  • The New Media Firm 10/23/13 $36,003.18 Media — 1730 Rhode Island Avenue, NW, Suite 213 Washington DC 20036
  • Ohio Democratic Party 10/29/13 $18,384.51  Contribution 340 E. Fulton Street Columbus OH 43215
  • JVA Campaigns 10/29/13 $7,293.70 Media  1301 Dublin Road, Suite 302 Columbus OH 43215
  • The New Media Firm 10/29/13 $14,236.75 Media  1730 Rhode Island Avenue, NW, Suite 213 Washington DC 20036
  • Ohio Democratic Party 10/30/13 $6,204.43 Payroll Service 340 E. Fulton Street Columbus OH 43215
  • JVA Campaigns 10/30/13 $2,250.00 Media 1301 Dublin Road, Suite 302 Columbus OH 43215 1486
  • Ohio Democratic Party10/31/13 $12,022.84  Contribution 340 E. Fulton Street Columbus OH 43215

Note, this is all within a 2-week period- and tells us nothing of what she was actually buying. Mailings, TV time, volunteers- we have no idea.

And, there are media buying firms in Dayton who have a lot more experience buying media in our market. Considering the regular commission for placing TV and Radio by an agency- is 15%- this is $54,897.90 in buys, sending $8,234 out of our community to DC or Columbus- and that was just the money on media- what the ODP did with their $59,582.87 in two weeks, we’ll never know.

The real question is where have all the voters gone? 4 years ago 29,750 people made a decision on who would be mayor. This year, 16,334. Did we really lose 13,416 voters? Or were that many people non-plussed by the choices?

Four years ago I got 9,440 votes. That’s 229 more votes than Whaley won with. Had I drawn the same number this time, I would have come in 2nd to Williams and you’d be calling me commissioner.

  • Jeffrey J. Mims Jr. 8,698 30.94%
  • Joey D. Williams 10,333 36.76%

It was also interesting that the Dayton Daily News didn’t mention anything about Mims having to quit his elected position on the state school board – giving the Republican Governor yet another appointee, until after the election. It was on Nov. 17th in an article written by the Akron Beacon Journal:

Just one board member — Jeffrey Mims of Dayton — is African American, and Mims is resigning from the board after getting elected to the Dayton City Commission Nov. 5. Mims is also a Democrat, meaning the board could add another Republican when Gov. John Kasich names his replacement.

Just two of the 17 members reside in urban school districts, and one of the two is the departing Mims.

via Obscure board has big impact on school policy | www.mydaytondailynews.com.

A minor detail, conveniently overlooked, despite my asking Jeremy Kelley of the DDN what happens to Mims school board seat in our pre-general election interviews.

A few other interesting details on the reports:

Whaley got a sizable donation well after the election from the CEO of CareSource:

  • Pamela Morris Lemmon 10736 Falls Creek Ln. Dayton OH 45458 11/18/13 Check $1,500.00

Is this to help grease wheels for more taxpayer-funded construction for CareSource- which is hauling in windfall money thanks to the Affordable Care Act?

And, will Oberer Development still be doing their development with city support on Warren Street since Mike Oberer extended a $10K loan to A.J.? Rumor had it that George Oberer got a call from Nan threatening further support for them working in the city if they continued to support her.

His report includes $10,000 loans from Zafar Rizvi of Butler Twp. and Michael Oberer of Washington Twp.

Dayton Mayor candidates spent nearly $500k | www.mydaytondailynews.com

To download and look at the reports yourself, go to the MCBoe.org site: http://www.mcohio.org/boe/candidate_tools/CF_Reports/ and select 2013, and 2013 Post General.

 

 

 

 

 

Politics or fundamentals? Dayton’s choice on Nov. 5, 2013

For the last thirty years, Dayton has pursued one “silver bullet” project after another to “save Dayton” or to pivot our fortunes. The list is long, starting with Courthouse Square, the Convention Center, the Arcade, the Arcade Tower, the Victoria, the Schuster Center, Riverscape, Baseball, and while some of these can be counted in the win column by most, the true metric of success- growth, has eluded us.

The Metro area still has the same population- it’s just spread out more. The income levels are stagnating. Property values are dropping, the divide between the rich and poor is spreading and real opportunity for social mobility- the index of how easy it is to move from poverty to prosperity- is ranked very low.

I believe we’ve put too much faith in government to be the engine of the economy, and they in turn, too much faith in bricks and mortar, and not enough emphasis on the people. It’s the people of South Park who make it great- not the government, and not the buildings. The little neighborhood that could decided that liking your neighbors builds equity faster than paint and “progress.”

Dayton is great at forming committees and having master plans. What we’ve moved away from is working on delivery of basic services and doing it in a customer-friendly way.

When I look at the “establishment” candidates- those endorsed by the Montgomery County Democratic party, I see minions of the machine. Nan Whaley has never had a job outside the party in her life. Her view of the world is controlled by the process of politics and raising money and keeping donors happy. Joey Williams and Jeff Mims are along for the ride. You can’t argue with a quarter million dollar machine in the primary with a take-no-prisoners approach. This is politics at its finest. And looking at the splits in supporters with Clay Dixon backing Whaley despite AJ Wagner having been his campaign manager 24 years ago- and Rhine McLin backing Wagner- despite being Whaley’s teammate just 4 years ago, shows that the professional politicians all see this as a game of political chess.

On the flip side, are the two Davids. Myself and David Greer. We’re facing Goliath, with our little $10K budget limits and no political machine behind us. Getting the message out to voters who have been barraged with mailers, TV, radio, yard signs, requires an army of volunteers knocking on doors. Unfortunately, armies also cost money- and require engagement of voters, something years of lies and false promises have beaten out of them.

What we’re selling isn’t sexy. Pride, accountability and service, aren’t things that can be bought off the shelf. The stuff that can be bought- is what funds the campaigns of the big-money candidates- contracts for demolition, prime land and subsidies for new construction, increased police protection, etc. We’ve seen the focus on Meds, Eds and Feds strategy (none of which pay taxes btw) while the taxpayers get hit with higher tax bills, water bills, less service and decaying parks and falling property values.

If you want to see a short video that summarizes the differences- check out what the Brookings Institution is putting out under the “Metropolitan Revolution” name. (Thanks to Chris Ritter for leading me to this). This video sums up what my campaign stresses- a back-to-basics approach, focusing on fundamentals of making Dayton a place where people want to live, invest and run a business:

If this piques your interest, check out their other videos: http://metrorevolution.org/videos/

There has been a lot of talk about the need for a strong mayor form of government, which both mayoral candidates secretly lust for. However, if we really want to make a difference, it’s even more important today to go back to the professional city manager form of government and remove politics from the helm of our ship. It’s been 20 years since we had our last truly effective city manager who was able to stand front and center without a mayor screaming for attention. That may have been because our mayor at the time, Clay Dixon, wasn’t that kind of politician. But, considering that the next city commission’s first job will be most likely be picking a replacement for Tim Riordan, who the voters pick in the November 5th election is probably the pivotal point in Dayton’s future fortunes.

My thinking on open government and community participation is well documented by the existence of this site since 2005. Looking over my campaign materials from runs 20 years ago, I was still stressing the importance of basic service delivery. If elected, I look to focus our strategy on providing tools for our citizens to improve their social mobility and connectedness to each other, and make Dayton a community that has definable differences from surrounding communities- making it a place where pride and innovation come together. The key, is judging projects on how well they reach the most residents- instead of the current focus of supporting the political contributors to the machines’ campaigns.

Please put down Sunday,  Sept. 29, on your calendar for another Esrati Pancake Breakfast. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 113 Bonner Street.