The cheap bastards in Dayton City Hall

When I first got involved in my second career as an unpaid citizen of Dayton, I found our city to be overly bureaucratic. We had our neighborhood organization, that got things done- and then we had the mysterious “Priority Boards” which were a huge bureaucratic buffer zone between the neighborhood and the City Commission. They had offices, staffed with several full-time employees, who made pretty decent money. More money than the city commissioners who were part-time, and supposedly the brain trust that was steering our city to prosperity.

When I, or anyone else would go to the City Commission with a complaint, they’d say “have you been to your priority board about this?” As if it was a crime to actually talk to and expect action from those we elect.

The city patted itself on the back often for being such a model of “citizen participation”- when in fact, it was just another place to hire people into patronage jobs. It really didn’t require any skill to work for the priority boards- it was all about who you knew.

So, each neighborhood had to have its own organization- a neighborhood association, which ideally was a non-profit (a 501 c-3 by the tax code), and had to hold elections to have at minimum a leader, a treasurer and a recording secretary, and then, depending on the size of your neighborhood elected representatives to your priority board seats- which could be anywhere from 1 to 4 in our case. The problem was that the neighborhoods, planning districts and precincts didn’t follow any of the same boundaries- making for coordinating the many heads more like a Hydra than a true democratic process.

At one point, to make sure the neighborhoods had a say- additional seats were created per organization, be it a full fledged neighborhood association or even a block club. Throw out proportional representation- just try to fill the rooms- to keep the patronage pogues looking busy.

The system was expensive- with offices in the seven “districts” of the city. Southeast held about 40% of the population- and always seemed to have the most “representation.” The downtown priority board was an afterthought- and didn’t even have a full-time staffer. The historic districts were split between all the priority boards- when in fact- they, along with downtown, were the ones who were most alike- and could have had a really strong voice if they hadn’t been segregated.

While the city was still flush with cash- thanks to corporate headquarters like Reynolds & Reynolds, Mead, Standard Register, NCR- it was easy to blow money on the priority board patronage jobs- which could be counted on around election time to help the Democratic Party have an Army to make sure their chosen candidates got elected. All was good and fine…

Until, well, the system broke and a Republican managed to get elected Mayor. Mike Turner, managed to tick off Reynolds & Reynolds CEO David Holmes- getting Holmes to put a ton of money behind Tony Capizzi to challenge Turner- and when Turner won again- Holmes took his company to Kettering.

There were other things at play, some pre-Turner, with Tom Danis buying off Police Chief Tyree Broomfield to step down, games played with an “Architectural review committee” slowing down the city-funded Arcade tower project- so Danis could get his Cit/Fed tower built first- and who knows what the Beerman family was doing to keep their real estate deals going- where they were making a fortune off the construction of 675, and CJ McLin and his daughter Rhine were doing the same with the 35 West deal.

The priority board system was a way to make the poor citizens of Dayton think they mattered, when in fact, they were just there to keep the party in power so that the friends and family of the Monarchy of Montgomery County could continue to kiss the wealthy asses of those who really were supporting our city.

I’d advocated for getting rid of the priority boards from day one- to have neighborhood presidents meet directly with the city manager 4 times a year. Note- the city manager- not the mayor or the commission, they aren’t supposed to be the ones running our city, but we’ve long forgotten that.

So, in today’s paper, we find out that what’s left of the vaulted citizen participation system is about $96K a year thrown out to the paupers to play pretend with- compared to a budget that used to run close to $8 million a year:

The city provided about $13,000 for 27 neighborhood festivals this year.

The city also awarded $83,046 in mini-grants to 20 neighborhood projects this year, three times the amount in 2014.

Source: Dayton pushes policy reforms

I always found it odd, that 25 years ago- our neighborhood thought it was a privilege to get to ride around on the back of a trash truck once a month on a Saturday morning to pick up the garbage that our overpaid trash collectors skipped.

People in other communities would wonder why would you pay your taxes to spend your Saturdays doing “community service” without a court order.

This is the travesty of Dayton. While the people who are still here fighting to make their community a nice place to live, and paying the 2nd highest income tax in the county, the cheap bastards in city hall are bragging about “awarding back less than $100,000 a year” to help those who volunteer- while giving multi-million-dollar tax breaks to General Electric, while raising trash and street light fees, and still having no problem buying buildings for half a million each- for which there is no public use.

Yeah. “Cheap bastards” is actually a nice name, for people who are really taking a crap on the people they represent. And, one other thing, you shouldn’t have to work so hard to have a great, safe, clean neighborhood. You should be able to spend your time living your life.

Board of Elections only open for monkey business- not for voting

It’s easy to understand why the Board of Elections can’t find any money to stay open late for early voters who prefer to vote in person, they blew our tax dollars on overtime for salaried managers and on bonuses to friends and family (for longevity and “performance”).

To top if off, there isn’t an ethical or moral person sitting on either the board or working in the Montgomery County BOE or we wouldn’t have had the issues we’ve had; with the hiring of a convicted rapist without a job application (he was the brother of another worker) and a powerful lobbyist’s son who was first fired for forging a signature on an absentee ballot– then arrested for dealing meth.

The four-member board often splits down the middle by party lines, and third party or independent candidates are provided none of the assistance like having their signatures checked by board workers on their “lunch breaks” ahead of turn in.

The board salaries are exorbitant as well: $20k a year to meet twice a month. These positions are nothing but ways to pay off the local political party chiefs who either pocket the cash, or turn it over to the party coffers. Most of the patronage employees are also expected to heavily support the party with donations.

The entire office has no interest in either getting candidates on the ballot or getting ballots into the voters’ hands.

Hence- today’s article in the Dayton Daily News:

The Montgomery County Board of Elections will not have extended evening and weekend hours for early voting after Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced Wednesday that he broke two tie votes in favor of the board’s two Republican members.

“My analysis considered the financial constraints of the board and the time already allocated to early voting,” said Husted.

He said there is ample time for people to vote early during normal board hours Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or from home.

“Frankly, I see this as voter suppression,” said Dennis Lieberman, a Democrat who offered two motions Oct. 18 to extend the board’s hours. “People are coming there at 4:30 or 5 to find it was closed. This is not what we should be doing in America.”

He said he was at the board Friday afternoon and it was packed with people who wanted to vote early in person for the Nov. 8 general election. He said the board had budgeted for additional hours. Among area counties, both Greene and Butler boards of election have extended hours, including Saturdays.

Husted’s ruling also overturned Lieberman’s effort to allow early voting after 6 p.m. Nov. 4, which Husted said would violate state law. That law is separate from a voting reform law that reduced the early voting period but which is on hold because it will be subject to a referendum in November 2012. The board’s other Democrat, Tom Ritchie, voted with Lieberman. Husted must break all tie votes.

Board Chairman Greg Gantt and member Kay Wick voted against extending evening and weekend hours and allowing early voting after Nov. 4. Gantt said there are plenty of opportunities for people to vote from home or in the board office, as well as on election day, and the board shouldn’t spend money on staffing for extra hours…

The Rev. Darryl Fairchild, who joined other ministers in complaining about the lack of extended hours, said he was infuriated by the Republicans’ position and Husted’s decision.

“A person who is entrusted to ensure that every person gets a chance to vote decided to prevent people from voting,” said Fairchild. “It is ludicrous for (Husted) to say ‘financial concerns’ given that his party just voted to spend $15 million on a second primary in 2012.”

via No extended early voting for county.

As Reverend Fairchild points out- the idea of a second primary to select candidates for Congress is only being caused because the secretary of state chose to go with a horrifically gerrymandered new map. The BOE is hoping to hold another restricted polling place election like the one I ran in last year- with 4 polling places for the entire county- which turned out to be a farce.

The reality is, having only one elected person overseeing elections is a farce, and what we really need is to create a new system of chief ethics officers in each county to oversee not only elections but all government offices so that we don’t have the kind of mischief we see in the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

There needs to be an investigation into the overtime being paid for salaried employees, and why Montgomery County is paying double what they pay for the same jobs in Greene County. We also need to start investigating if the claims made by former employees of ballot failures are true- and if they are, need to re-evaluate the qualifications of the employees and the people who hire them.

Democracy is a farce if we can’t trust that our elections are handled fairly and properly.

It’s pretty easy to afford extended hours for a few weeks before an election, just hire some more friends and family to oversee it. Why not? Seems to be the standard operating procedure downtown.

How does nepotism happen in City Hall?

Either we have rules and policies, or we don’t. It seems there are two types of people who work for our city- honest, hard-working qualified types- and those on the “friends and family” plan.

I’ve written about the cronyism before. I’ve written about the patronage jobs. I’ve questioned how some families seem to be entirely on the city payroll, and nothing changes. No outcry, no investigations, no examination of qualifications. I get anonymous calls about hiring of people without testing or even posting of the jobs. I know of “contract” workers who get a nice check without having any real accountability, and I’ve known about this for a while- the lawsuit by former IT head for the City, Bill Hill- for wrongful termination, after he was forced to hire Rashad Young’s grandfather who turns out to be into kiddie porn:

before he left to take a job in Cincinnati in 2002, Young was named acting assistant city manager. Hill claims Young urged him to hire his step-grandfather, Charles Evans, as deputy director of ITS, according to the lawsuit. Hill acted on Young’s suggestion….

Problems escalated when Hill issued a reprimand to Evans for violation of the city’s sick leave policy.

“Evans exploded in response, accused Hill of being a racist, indicated he would take the matter to his grandson, and threatened that Hill’s employment would be terminated …,” according to the lawsuit….

Federal investigators entered the fray in 2006 seizing computers, disc drives, VCR tapes, compact discs and DVDs from Evans’ office and home. He pleaded guilty in United States District Court in 2008 to one count of possession of child pornography.

via City pays $145,000 in bias case.

Because of the hiring of someone on the “friends and family plan” we have a lawsuit, a bunch of legal fees (which were probably 3x the cost of the settlement) a department in turmoil, a perception of incompetence, and to top it off, the taxpayers now get to pay the settlement costs- which would have kept 2 police officers on the streets next year.

It’s time for a full-out examination of every hire on the city payroll. It’s time to not only terminate people who were hired for whom they know, but to terminate the people who hired them. It’s time for a professional management team to step up and start acting like professionals, because frankly, we can’t afford any more of these lawsuits or settlement payouts.

It’s also time for the city to stop sandbagging with legal maneuvers on the illegal firing of city traffic signal electrician Victor Pate who was wrongfully terminated for moving to Jefferson Township when the residency rules were overturned. The cost of the outsourced lawyers by far exceeds the cost of paying Mr. Pate back his lost salary and benefits.

Real professionals own up to their mistakes and do the right thing. Apparently we don’t have them running city hall. Rashad Young, you are not missed. The citizens of Dayton should be suing Young to recover the settlement costs of this case. An investigation should take place on how Evans was hired, and if it is determined that Young broke hiring rules, his pension should be at risk. It’s time to start setting examples, and this might be a good place to start.