“What is Esrati’s end game”

Graphic accompanying Esrati's Endgame postA friend was asked this week, “you know Esrati, what’s his end game?” and my friend had no answer.

Really, it hasn’t changed since I bought my crap house in South Park on Jan 28, 1986- the day the Challenger space shuttle blew up. Buy low, sell high.

Sure, my $14,500 house could sell for 10x that now. And my neighborhood is one of the few in Dayton that has rising property values. But, that’s not enough.

Dayton Ohio, as a city, hasn’t seen the same prosperity, and other neighborhoods are suffering. It’s why I set out to run for Mayor back in 1993, after experiencing the incompetence of the leaders who jack slapped me for installing the “wrong garage doors” on a “historic home” way back when.

All these years later, the same kind of fools think they know how to fix Dayton, and instead, keep dragging it down.

When I talked to Paul Leonard, the “Rock-n-Roll Mayor” of Dayton- who was leaving just as I came to town, he asked a simple question: “What happened to “be the cleanest, safest city in America”? And there you have it. We went from a simple guiding principal, to one of let’s pretend government knows how to do “economic development.”

We blew a ton of money on the Arcade back in the early 80’s- and are about to do it again. We built the tower next to the arcade with tax dollars- and then lost it. We built new schools, only to see them shrink and die. We’ve torn down old buildings, and made it impossible to re-purpose them, so that they become rotting reminders of what was once a boom town. We’ve raised taxes to support a patchwork of fiefdoms, that add no value at all to the community- with more police chiefs, fire chiefs, mayors, city managers and school superintendents for  half a million odd people- while the city of NYC with 8.5 Million people can manage with one each.

I could go on, with the quasi-governmental organizations, non-profits and end-runs around a system so convoluted no one knows who does what and why- many with tax dollar support, and zero oversight;  like the morons running the Metro Library system with $187M of your tax dollars- and no respect for your rights, or Sinclair Community College which is doing everything with Montgomery County money that it gets- to expand services outside the county.

Which brings me to my end game. It’s really simple. Uni-government, that’s run by people who are elected, not anointed in the bowels of political party HQs. A government that believes in good schools, safe streets, excellent services, equal opportunities and fair and equitable taxation and incentives.

It’s really not that complicated. It’s not utopia. It’s just not possible in this lifetime says my friend, who posed this question to me.

But, that’s the problem with Esrati. He’s wired differently and thinks “Yes we can.”

I’ve spelled out the framework for Reconstructing Dayton. And, hopefully, as soon as I get past these two lawsuits, and the primary this spring has enough people named to the Montgomery County Democratic Party Central Committee to stop being the party of patronage, we can get moving on undoing the stupidity of people who believe that you have to color within the lines drawn in 1785 when Ohio was formed by the “Northwest Ordinance.”

Who in their right mind wouldn’t like to see Greene County and Montgomery County join together and create a single government that has one set of courts, one police force, one safe jail, one zoning law, one tax collecting authority, etc etc. (other than all the micro-minded people “working” in micro-fiefdoms like Moraine, Clayton, or Oakwood- don’t get me started on the urban township tax dodges).

Go look at the growth in Columbus, Cincinnati and even Cleveland- and ask why isn’t it happening here? This city has so much going for it- yet, we can’t get past all of our personal prejudices. We’re still as racially and economically separated as ever, we have people living in poverty for no good reason, and jobs and industry are passing us by. We used to build things like trucks, refrigerators, cash registers in Dayton- now, the world turns to places like Spartanburg SC and Marysville Ohio. There is a reason for that, and it is us.

It’s time to have a serious discussion of these issues. To analyze how we’ve become a place that has to pay people to come invest. A place where we have all the pieces to build a great economy, but lack the instructions on how to put them together effectively.

That’s my end game. Are you in?

Dayton’s “Rock and Roll” Mayor, Paul Leonard weighs in

I was curious. Since 3 out of 5 living Dayton mayors had backed A.J. Wagner, I wondered what Paul Leonard would say. So I wrote him an e-mail. He gave permission to publish- as long as I didn’t cut anything. It’s worth a read.

From: David Esrati <[email protected]>
Sent: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 9:13 AM
To: Leonard, Paul R.
Subject: A question for a former Mayor of Dayton?

Hi Paul-
Just wondering since the four mayors who followed you have weighed in on the mayor’s race-
Whom would you back? A.J. or Nan?
And- would you be willing to state which publicly?
And- why one over the other?
I’m curious.Thanks
On 10/29/13 10:25 AM, Leonard, Paul R. wrote:


Interesting questions—these days I’m usually only asked that question in the locker room of my Kettering gym!!

I will try to answer you as best as I can.  I’ll begin by disclosing that Nan has talked to me; A.J. has not.  Her contact was nothing more than a courtesy call on a former Mayor—not a request for a formal endorsement.  Smart internal politics, but not much more than that.  As you know, I have not been involved in local Democratic politics for quite some time, so I have no inside knowledge about either candidate’s platform for Dayton’s future.  I know only what I read and see—like any other voter/area citizen.  Of course I am concerned about the city’s future.  This is my home—forever.

I’ve known A.J. for a long time.  I helped him get his first city job.  I don’t know Nan all that well although a couple of my students are working on her campaign and seem to be favorably impressed.

Here are a few of my thoughts:

1.  I don’t agree with A.J.’s claim that Dayton is a “dying” city.  I saw the city when it really was a dying city—in the 70’s when our industrial base began to crumble and the town went from a quarter of a million citizens to its current population. In my opinion, Dayton is a study in survival. Through generally good political, business, and citizen leadership, we are alive today and have begun to stabilize with a more diverse business/industrial base.  We will never be a quarter of a million people again.  But we can be a medium-sized city with a good quality of city life, gentle Midwestern schools and values, well-placed between two bustling metropolitan cities (Cincy and Columbus) for those who want and need more of those things that big city life has to offer.

What is “dying” is our neighborhood stock, safety, and cleanliness.  In the 1950’s, Dayton’s slogan on every trash can downtown was—“Dayton: America’s cleanest and safest city!” Not a bad goal for the 21st century Dayton.

In my opinion both candidates have failed to develop a vision and plan for drastic neighborhood revival and survival.  There have certainly been some isolated successes, but nothing substantial that could turn neighborhood deterioration around and once again make Dayton “America’s safest and cleanest city.” Nan seems to talk about a “roadmap for job creation.”  That’s important. But jobs is a word that comes too easy to politicians these days.  That’s everyone’s first answer.  In sum, I think A.J. has been a little too negative, and Nan has missed an opportunity to bring a new, young face to substantial neighborhood revitalization.

2.  The mayor’s job is the most important and significant “regional” elective office.  When people in Washington or Columbus look at a region like Montgomery County, the mayor of the central city IS THE MOST IMPORTANT elected leader.  He or she is the region’s soul and personality. The structure of the central city government is not the issue–leadership is the issue!  I have seen very little discussion from either candidate about leading the region into the future.  Both have pledged to be more out-front in terms of leading Dayton’s future.  But what does that mean?  Real change in how the greater Dayton community works together as ONE is needed.  The city can’t live without the suburbs and the suburbs need a viable central city  to be relevant.

My bottom line–if I were a Dayton voter I’m not sure who I would support.  Frankly, I think the city will be okay with either.  The question for Dayton voters is:  if okay is not the goal, who will be best?

I, as well as others, will always stand ready to provide advice, counsel, and historical perspective to whomever gets elected–no matter the politics of any elected official.  I want my hometown to get better and better with the election of each new mayor and each new commissioner. These would be my public comments.  More an endorsement of Dayton as opposed to an endorsement of any particular candidate.

One final note with respect to you:  I have watched you grow and mature politically over the years.  You got off to a “rocky start.”  I am pleased however, to see you remain involved.  Different voices are needed if we are going to re-invent our future as a thriving community in a very competitive new century.  I wish you all the best in whatever you choose to do.

Paul Leonard

From: David Esrati <[email protected]>
Date: Tue, 29 Oct 2013 11:05:10 -0400
To: Leonard, Paul R.
Subject: Re: A question for a former Mayor of Dayton?

Hi Paul-
I really wasn’t expecting such a well thought out and lengthy response. Thank you.
Being 51 is a lot different than being 27 and the proud new owner of a $14,500 house in a neighborhood that appeared to be dying then.
It isn’t now. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made in South Park- and I think that a lot of the lessons learned here- would work elsewhere- cities are made up first of people- then of buildings. Take care of the people- and the buildings take care of themselves.
Unfortunately- I’ve had to listen to both candidates for mayor more than I’d like. I’m not in love with either- but, I’ve had to witness Nan’s parochial approach to leadership- I’ve nicknamed it the “Friends and Family Plan”- where if you’re her friend or a part of her family- you get favoritism. It’s still the modus operandi of the Montgomery County Democratic party. They are the only party that endorses in primaries- and the only one that asks “if we don’t endorse you, will you drop out”- not very “democratic” if you ask me.
I’ve told A.J. numerous times- to focus on the positive- and his vision. He’s as headstrong as Turner in that respect. It’s unfortunate that he doesn’t listen- but, who am I but the guy who has been losing elections for 20 years.
I too agree that politicians talking about influencing jobs is like politicians talking about the weather. That’s why I don’t do it.
The amount of money Nan has raised and spent makes me ill. To think what I could have done with the basketball courts with just a tenth of her money. As it stands- I’ve hung over 260 nets and put up three new rims. Not enough- but a good start.
I would love to publish your answer on www.esrati.com
I think it’s insightful- but- I don’t think it was meant for publication. Let me know.
Ohio is long overdue for an overhaul of jurisdictions. The latest developments of income taxes being charged in Townships has me very concerned. I think we need to seriously look at consolidating jurisdictions by mandate- instead of waiting for all our chiefs to figure it out.

For the pride of “America’s cleanest and safest city” to return- we’re going to need some new voices with some new ideas- because frankly, we didn’t get to where we are because we were paying attention to what was happening around us.

I hope to be one of those new voices, but only time will tell.

Thanks again.

From Leonard, Paul. R. 11:59am

I agree with many of your sentiments.
Our political parties and money in politics have put a serious dent in our democracy as envisioned by forefathers like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
I no longer feel good about Washington—it’s broken and the likes of Truman, Kennedy, Eisenhower (statesmen and leaders) are gone. But there is hope—even if it’s one community at a time. That’s where America will be re-invented—even if the simple beginning is nothing more than replacing basketball nets on our public playgrounds! (Great idea, by the way!)
Don’t worry about losing elections–Lincoln lost a few before he got it right!
As a matter of fact, I learned more in my one loss than in all of my wins—about myself and what is important in life.
Anything I communicate via the social media is free to be published. One condition—i don’t wish to have parts published. It’s all or nothing.
Again, best wishes and always fight the good fight. Paul

Rashad Young to leave Dayton for NC: the real issues

The mark of an excellent leader is that he has a capable number two ready to step into his position.
That’s not the case with Mr. Young, however, he’s hardly to be faulted. We have a city manager form of government, with a part time mayor. Someone needs to tell that to Mayor McLin- who has made every effort to keep Mr. Young out of the lime light- or to let him do his job.
However, McLin is no different than Mike Turner before her, and Clay Dixon before Turner, and Paul Leonard before Dixon and… well, that’s as far back as I go.
If Young had been allowed to do his job, we’d know more about what he was, or wasn’t capable of.
It’s unfortunate that Young will leave before the citizens have a chance to vote at least two new faces to the commission. His announcement comes at the same time we learn that the city is facing a $20 million deficit. It’s going to take a strong leader, who knows our community. We can’t afford to bring in an outsider.
We have the talent here. I’ve already suggested Colleen Ryan, now with the Dayton Development Coalition. Other options, David Bohardt (who didn’t run for Mayor this time), Dr. Mike Ervin (he’s already doing so much- why not pay him for it)- and now that we don’t have a residency rule- there may be a lot of other candidates available.
The most important change we can make is to help Mayor McLin retire, and empower the new City Manager to lead and do their job. Otherwise, it’s futile.
Best of luck Rashad- hope they give you a chance to really manage a city in North Carolina.