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.

The dilemma of the friends and family plan comes to light

Karen Wick Gagnet and Jim Gagnet are like family to me. I’ve known them for over 20 years. I’ve watched in amazement as Jim has set his sights on redevelopment and done things that others wouldn’t even dream of. The list of his successes is formidable. At one point, he was teamed up with Tom Tornatore and they tried to rehab almost all of the Oregon business district single handedly. They ended up in bankruptcy when local lenders didn’t have the balls or vision to see what these two were up to. The buildings that house the 5th St. Wine and Deli, Roost Modern Italian, Luckys, the Samu (which has Press, Sew Dayton and  Pulse) and Johnston (with Clash Consignments) were all part of their “empire” as was the Diner- now Vex.

Jim shook off that fall, and started back. The derelict building in South Park without a roof- at 412 Hickory was his next major project. He paid $30K for a building that had negative value. He rebuilt the roof, the floors, the windows- all from cash since no bank would lend. He also took on building Coco’s number 2 on Wayne Avenue- most of which was built with his own sweat equity.

They hired my firm- The Next Wave to develop the identity, the ads, the menu design. We built their website, I was even involved with the architectural plans. They’ve been good clients for a long time.

Now, they are being drawn and quartered on the front page of the Dayton Daily news for getting preferential treatment by the city. Lots they’ve bought had been dumped on, and may have even contained some of the materials from their rehab of adjoining homes. From the DDn:

City Public Works Director Fred Stovall said the Coco’s owners called city Street Maintenance Supervisor Jim Brinegar directly and asked for the cleanup; he stressed it was for their residential property, not their business. Brinegar OK’d it, and the city hauled off roughly eight truckloads of trash.

Last Wednesday, the crew came back for another pile. At least five city workers were at the site, along with two city dump trucks and a city front-loader, which was scooping up blocks of concrete.

Stovall said city workers hauled away another eight truckloads that day, but he put a stop to it when contacted by the Daily News. He estimates the roughly 16 truckloads at two cleanups cost the city about $2,600.

via City cleans up private property for Coco’s Bistro owner | www.mydaytondailynews.com.

To many in Dayton, this is an insult. Repeated calls about dumping are often ignored. Alleys and empty lots in other areas of the city are ignored. But, this is Dayton, where we have no problem shooting anyone in the back who dares to do anything other than what the herd mentality rewards.

The reality is, if our city were working properly, we wouldn’t be a dumping ground. The other reality is, Nan Whaley has fundraisers at Coco’s. We do take care of those who take care of our politicians. But, even if the bill was $5,000 or $10,000 this is a bogus chump change argument- a public lynching of good people for the benefit of selling papers (notice I don’t call it a newspaper).

The City Commission gave UPS a buyout of a lease that was to run through 2019- with annual revenue to the city of almost $2 million a year, as well as the requirement to maintain the old Emery Air Freight hub in pristine, operational condition. The city took the net present value, or about $7 million as a buyout. The commission then gave away half of it- to IRG- carpetbaggers from California- and a three-year lease on the property which is due to expire in the spring of next year. IRG then proceeds to scrap  everything of value in the building to put more money in their pockets, lets the facility go to hell, and has next to nothing to show for it.

That didn’t make the front page of the paper. Let’s see- $3,000 is iTeam worthy- but $3 million+ isn’t?

I don’t think that the city should have cleared the private lots based on published city policy. When my neighbor Rodney bought the dump  of a house next to my cottages for tax value, he’s had to pay for all the debris hauling- and he’s still being charged taxes at the same rate as I am for my cottages- despite the fact his has no utilities and is falling apart. We need to provide fair and honest service to our citizens, regardless of who you know, and how much money you have. It’s the American way.

Had it not been for the Gagnets, the city would still have a bunch of under-utilized empty buildings- not just on Warren street, but in the Oregon District as well. They are the real champions of economic development- and they deserve not to be prosecuted in the court of public opinion because our city is run by petty criminals who take care of themselves and those they like- with the  infamous friends and family plan.

I often get told that my lack of tact makes me unacceptable as a candidate for commission. I believe in open, honest discussion of issues, and stick to the facts, the truth and look at things from an objective point of view. This is an incredibly hard post to publish. It’s also risking a client. There are no other candidates who will touch this with a 10-foot pole, or open their sites up to comments and discussion- I do, I always have, and I always will. You don’t have to like me, or my positions, but I promise one thing, you will respect me for not playing favorites or ducking the hard subjects. Thank you for reading.

Another gastronomical find: fresh ginger ale at Coco’s

Yesterday, it was the deep-fried pretzel from Hearts Hot Dogs on Courthouse Square. Today- it was fresh ginger ale at Coco’s.

Ginger ale is the oldest soft drink in the United States- and used to be touted to heal what ails you. I first experienced it when I had my tonsils out- and didn’t particularly love it then (age 6). I’ve found a new love of ginger- of the pickled variety- when it comes with sushi. I also love Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger Ginger snaps, but, that’s the extent of my ginger love. Until lunch today, when Karen Wick-Gagnet, asked me to try their new fresh ginger ale. Instant love.

It’s not on the menu yet- you have to ask for it. $3 a glass, no refills. But, my oh my- worth it. They are also making a Ginger Mojito for $8 for those of you who partake. Yes, Coco’s is a client (and I support my clients) – but my reputation as a food critic is on the line here, so I wouldn’t steer you wrong- go try one. You’ll love it.

Go ask your server for one- tell them Esrati sent you.

Coco’s is at 515 Wayne Ave, Dayton OH 45410 in the Historic Oregon District. Phone is 937-228-COCO (2626) Open Mon- Friday lunch and dinner- Saturday- dinner only.