Faux regionalism plan finds foes pre-launch: must be good

The headline is a joke. “Plan divides Democratic leaders” says today’s Dayton Daily news. Calling them “leaders” is the first miscue, and the second is referring to them as “Democratic” since the party has worked to make sure no one gets elected, or even on the ballot, before first passing muster in front of a select group of a “screening committee” of which Dayton Clerk of Courts Mark Owens and County Commissioner Dan Foley both are a part of. They endorse pre-primary filing, to strongly advise people NOT TO RUN- unless they gain the endorsement. This is how it is in the “Democratic” monarchy of Montgomery County.

The paper says there is a rift between Owens and Foley:

One county commissioner’s plan to unify the governments of Dayton and Montgomery County has apparently caused a rift between the Democrat and his party chairman before a coming announcement this week detailing the consolidation effort.

Commissioner Dan Foley, a longtime advocate for a more regional government, said he will announce the proposal, called Dayton Together, downtown on Thursday. On Monday, Montgomery County Democratic Party Chairman Mark Owens tersely questioned Foley’s merger plan push.

In the letter, Owens writes to Foley: “First, a number of questions have been raised about the transparency of your actions to date, the process you are planning, who is involved and how your plans are being funded.” Foley said this effort shouldn’t come as a surprise to the community as he became active in the discussion as early as 2008 after he was first elected commissioner in 2006. Paul Leonard, former Dayton mayor and lieutenant governor, is co-chair of a 16-member committee working on the charter. Foley said committee members working on the plan would be revealed Thursday at the 1 p.m. news conference at the Engineers Club of Dayton.

“Our first job that we are going to be announcing Thursday is really building this charter so people can then form an opinion about whether they support it or not,” Foley said.

This is just the first step in a months-long process, the county commissioner said. Any charter would have to go to voters and be approved.“We’re asking people to keep an open mind until we finish the charter,” Foley said. “The community has the ability to say yes, they support it, or no, they don’t think it’s a good idea. But we’ve never really respected the community by asking them yet. So what we’re trying to do is build the process,” Foley said.

The result of that process, Owens said, could lead to the disenfranchisement of Dayton’s 140,000 residents when pushed into a larger voting block.

“They won’t have a say in local government like the people in Kettering would, Vandalia would and Huber Heights would.” Owens said in the letter it would diminish Dayton’s ability to help determine police and fire staffing, when streets are paved and when trash is collected.

Regional economic competitiveness and cost savings would outweigh some early growing pains, Foley said. “The question about a more efficient structure of local government is one that’s rooting in how can we compete better for jobs and how do we become more unified,” he said.

Source: Plan divides Democratic leaders

This  “Dayton Together” effort has been going on for a while, only it was called “One Dayton” a few years back. The group screwed a local consultant who was hired to manage the process, and seems to have scaled back the grand plans.

But, let’s be honest about what’s really bugging Mark Owens. Dan Foley used to be clerk of courts. He full well knows that there is only one need in the county for a clerk of courts, one single website for all legal filings, and one database and system- at the county level. That’s the way it’s done in Columbus. Municipal judges, who are limited to hearing misdemeanor cases, run countywide. If we really were doing this right, Kettering, Centerville, Vandalia, Huber Heights, Oakwood, Miamisburg and who knows who else- would all lose their municipal courts- and the patronage jobs that go with them (Owens has a staff of 90 I think). And, the races for Municipal Court judge- plums to hand out to the party faithful in the law profession (just because politicians make laws, we somehow think lawyers are somehow qualified to be leaders, nothing can be farther from the truth) would be harder to control. (We rarely ever have someone challenge a sitting judge in Montgomery County- thanks to an “unwritten agreement” between the parties– another way voters are disenfranchised- by Mark Owens, who DOES NOT BELIEVE IN LETTING VOTERS CHOOSE CANDIDATES).

Let’s be really honest. The idiots in Columbus who keep talking about Ohio taxes being too high are missing the problem. Ohio’s problems stem back to the Northwest Ordinance of 1785 which divided Ohio into 88 counties and gave us this insane structure of villages, townships, cities, counties and a whole other grid of school boards, that has no rhyme or reason, but results in way too much governmental overhead.

80% of Ohio’s population is packed into large urban areas. The rest of it- is rural farm land with sparse population. By electing so many Tom, Dick and Janes, we really end up with quantity over quality and a big whopping bill to pay.

Don’t count Foley as a saint either- his goal is to get a job at the quasi-public slush fund he helped start- the Dayton Development Coalition which will pay him 2 to 3 times what he makes as a County Commissioner- for doing next to nothing (County Commissioners also do next to nothing- since we have a County Administrator who actually runs the county).

The biggest problem in all this is that we have to say “look at this” to legitimize doing the right thing. That regionalism worked in Indianapolis or Louisville or even partially in Columbus isn’t how you make something better- look at the entire State of North Carolina that runs via County Governments and wake up.

Also- stop picking party puppets to get elected by the party instead of the people. That would be a real start to regionalism.

Dayton’s culture of fear

If you’ve been in Dayton for any length of time, you’ve come to realize that we don’t have 6 degrees of separation, we have about 1.2. You’ll see it in your connections on LinkedIn and Facebook. Hardly any of my 1,500 friends on FB in Dayton only have 1 friend in common- and people who connect with me usually have a posse of shared friends. Same on LinkedIn where almost all my connections share a connection- very few are 3 people away meaning that neither of us know one person who knows us both- but that we both know people who know each other.

So why the focus on this seemingly positive, small community in a post about the “Culture of fear”- because we worry too much about what our friends might think if we take an actual stand on an issue.

I spoke to a friend whom I’d helped recently- and asked for a recommendation and got this answer “Oh, but I can’t say that publicly, I don’t want to raise any waves.” Another friend, lamented to me that despite his long-term work for a politician and strong support- he was unable to get an endorsement. Of course, if he wins his upcoming race- everyone will be his new best friends. Ask the Mayor of Dayton, Gary Leitzell, who ran against an incumbent who raised 6x as much as he did- if people talk to him now who wouldn’t give him the time of day before. Or, the supporter who isn’t willing to give $200 to your Congressional campaign because it reports to the FEC, but has no problem writing a check for $199. I’ve heard people use the excuse that they can’t support a challenger to an incumbent because they are on the board of a non-profit and wouldn’t want to risk support to their charity should the challenger not win.

Have a great idea? First question out of possible supporters- “has this been done somewhere else before” – this is from people in a city that takes great pride in being the birthplace of aviation. Were people asking the Wright brothers that question- and then ignoring the idea just because no one had ever flown in a heavier than air machine before?

Our community is paralyzed by this culture of fear. We’re immobilized forever as if caught in concrete and cast in bronze. Why can’t we do regionalization right and do it now? There are plenty of examples that government can be done in a more unified way across this country- but we still won’t act. The English had rules about the taxation of tea, did the founding fathers just sit around and accept the stupidity of laws and taxation from afar? Our rules about jurisdictions in Ohio come from the Northwest Ordinance of 1785- do you think it’s time to update them?

When will the real leaders step forward and start making changes? When will we stop worrying about not upsetting the status quo? When will we set our sights on accomplishing things that have never been done before instead of sheepishly crawling in long after the process or program has been thoroughly tested and proven.

It’s hard to be a visionary looking forward in Dayton, Ohio, when the whole culture is focused on watching your own back.

The secret group trying to do regionalism without telling anyone: One Dayton

please note: this is a long post for esrati.com, but it is the unveiling of a secret group that is already spending your tax dollars with favored political consultants to advance a cause that can’t be spoken of in public… yet. I hope you find it useful and informative.

A group has been meeting to begin a regionalism movement in Montgomery County, and as always it’s being done behind closed doors because we, the people, aren’t smart enough to participate until they’ve planned and announced their grand strategy.

Businesses have been contacted and asked to pledge money, and a non-profit 501c4 has been set up, and once they had enough pledges in hand, they were to crawl up the mount to ask the great Clay Mathile for his blessing and support.

Only one problem: you don’t do regionalism behind closed doors. Ever.

Not unless you want it to fail- which is exactly what Ms. Deborah Feldman, the criminally negligent county administrator, is trying to do by undermining the process by attempting to sneak a contract to her good friend Bill Burges (the “levy master” ) in Cleveland.

That contract was issued and voted on at the June 14, 2011, County Commission meeting, item 11 0959 for $197,000.

The request was sent to only five consultants, and only Burges responded. The fact that he included two of the other “consultants”- Jack Dustin of WSU and Don Vermillion of UD (and former county administrator) in his proposal pretty much sealed the deal. Two others, one in Cincinnati and one in Indianapolis didn’t respond. With less than a month to respond, Burges submitted a 22-page document: “PUBLIC DIALOGUE ON REGIONALISM”

What is odd, is the people selected to be the “fiscal agent” for the program: one of the signatures on his proposal, Deborah L. Norris of Sinclair Community College. Dick Ferguson of UD, who works for UD President Dan Curran, is also a contractor- for a project run by his boss, Curran.

So, let’s follow the money roundabout. County Commissioner Dan Foley, City Commissioner Joey Williams, UD President Dan Curran, Chamber of Commerce President Phil Parker, former chamber pogue and now head of hospital lobby, GDAHA Brian Bucklew start up a non-profit 501C4 called One Dayton. Dayton attorney Josh Chernesky is the statutory agent. 7/13/2011

The stated goals:

A. To promote the social welfare of the citizens of the Miami Valley;
B. To research, develop and promote the distribution of information about the benefits of regional collaboration;
C. To improve prosperity and competitiveness of the Miami Valley by acting as a catalyst for regional service consolidations;
D. To initiate and implement collaborative economic development efforts;
E. To encourage the development of public policies that will lead to greater economic opportunity and a better quality of life for citizens of the Miami Valley; and
F. To engage in any lawful act or activity and to do all things necessary, convenient, or expedient to further the general purpose of the corporation either alone or in association with other corporations, firms, associations or individuals.
SIXTH: The corporation shall have no initial members.
SEVENTH: No part of the net earnings or assets of the corporation shall inure to the benefit of, or be distributable to, its members, directors, officers, or other private persons, except that the corporation shall be authorized and empowered to pay reasonable compensation for services rendered and to make payments and distributions in furtherance of the purposes set forth in Article Third hereof.

So if you read it the way I do- 6th says no members, and 7th says we can pay people who aren’t members- but once membership has been declared- we can only pay reasonable compensation.

Yet- right off the bat, the county commissioners commit $197,000 of your tax dollars, to a consultant out of Cleveland, almost 30 days before the non-profit has even been incorporated. Of that, there are four $27K payouts to Sinclair, Central State, WSU and UD, $25K for “seed money” for a 30-minute TV show on regionalism (total cost not quoted) and $54K to Burges & Burges for consulting and $10K for long-distance travel and expenses. The only sure thing seems to be managing 3 summits.

Note, much of this is before the election for the County Commission- a way to put Judy Dodge and Deb Lieberman in the public eye at public expense.

Funny that the final report and rollout is described this way:

After the November election, (bold italics added for emphasis by esrati) co-chairs will finalize and roll out a final report including key goals, major opportunities, serious problems and obstacles, clear strategies and tactics for how to achieve change and expected impact and results. This report has the possibility to be a roadmap, designed by local leaders and citizens, hard for any elected officials and others to ignore.

Why the election cycle is even mentioned in the proposal should raise eyebrows.

This part about sponsorship should also be seen by all. Burges includes names and categorizes them as cash donating suckers and donation in kind friends for us:

The following organizations could serve as financial supporters, in-kind resources, key communicators and community outreach vehicles to strengthen the process and advance participation and results.

  • Cox Media
  • Central State University
  • City of Dayton
  • Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Dayton Bar Association
  • Dayton Development Coalition
  • Dayton Foundation
  • Dayton Power and Light
  • Greater Dayton Hospital Association
  • Sinclair Community College
  • THINK TV
  • University of Dayton
  • Wright State University

The following organizations could serve as in-kind resources, key communicators and community outreach vehicles to strengthen the process and advance participation and results. Some may also be sponsor candidates. All will be asked to generate publicity, attendance and conduct satellite summits.

  • Congressman Michael Turner
  • Dayton Business Committee
  • Dayton Metropolitan Housing Authority
  • Dayton Metro Library
  • Dayton Most Metro
  • Dayton NAACP
  • Downtown Dayton Partnership
  • Five Rivers Metroparks
  • Generation Dayton
  • Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority
  • League of Women Voters of Montgomery County
  • Local library systems
  • Montgomery County ESC/Dayton Public Schools
  • Montgomery County mayors, managers and trustees
  • Parity, Inc.
  • Organized labor
  • Our Common Heritage
  • State Legislative Delegation- Bipartisan House/Senate Representatives
  • United Way of the Greater Dayton Area
  • Up Dayton and Communications Council
  • WVSO
  • Other civic, faith or media partners

When it comes to Burges & Burges’ qualifications- he gives a long list of his teaming partners – like WSU and UD working together- and then only gives his organization cred for doing levy work. He does claim to “Serving as the lead consultant for winning the election for Cuyahoga County Reform” yet doesn’t say what he actually did, or how he did it (and leaves out the fact that the impetus was an FBI bust for rampant corruption in government)- much more was said about what he’s done here.

B&B has had a long-standing engagement with Sinclair on strategic, research and communication projects; and collaborated with the Fitz Center on projects such as the Neighborhood School Centers, regional dispatch and the DPS Levy [Issue 52]. B&B has also worked effectively with many other IHE’s for 28 years, and its principals have decades of higher education experience.

They go on to say:

We know the area well, after years of work for the Human Services Levy, Sinclair Community College, Dayton Metro Library, Dayton Public Schools, the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission, GDRTA, the Greene County Public Library, Greene Memorial Hospital, Miami Valley Career Technology Center, United Way and others.

He also adds:

We have worked well with area leaders, are members of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, in the Miami Valley weekly and have an office located at Shook Construction.

The list of people on his team include five from his office and a really long list of people from the “partner” universities and their accomplishments.

What blows my mind is that this same approach, of town halls and summits etc. was just done by the Miami Valley Planning Commission– which had very little public engagement, cost a lot more – and basically told us that sprawl and overbuilding us are killing our ability to afford the infrastructure. Yet, MVRPC- our own REGIONAL PLANNING COMMISSION wasn’t asked to bid on this program. Nor were local people who have been working on this and who registered the domain name OneDayton.org-  Dayton Most Metro, Bill Pote.

They, along with other groups who could have managed this “strategic initiative” like local agency “The Ohlman Group” weren’t asked to bid. Nor was anyone from the “poster-child-for-regionalism” community of Louisville. Other documents obtained by this author would suggest that the core leadership group had a different plan on the table, but something made the County Commission pull the trigger early (maybe because of budget cycles, or maybe to pre-pay for on the side election polling assistance).

Considering regionalism is something that requires a broad based, non-political, well reasoned public support, the fact that the first money that the group spends publicly, without clearly identifying who is behind this initiative – is hand money to a political operator from outside the region to plan the “educational component” of the program.

Commissioner Foley, who has been the sole Montgomery County Commission voice on this project, seems to have convinced the two candidates up for reelection that spending county dollars to have them front the forums will be good for their re-election campaign, and that they can probably pick up tips from Burges on running their campaigns based on his polling. I’m sure Burges will do fine- like he did on Rhine McLin’s reelection campaign.

The way to do regionalism is out in the open. With a very good presentation of facts with supporting documents. How many police chiefs, fire chiefs, city planners, economic development hacks, street maintenance directors etc.- never mind elected officials, elections, and borders we have to pay to maintain- vs. the cost  structures other states operate on that have county government like Florida or North Carolina.

Do the taxpayers really like supporting all these extra layers of “government” if for a much lower tax bill- we could have more service providers and less tax apologists?

The reason you haven’t read about this anywhere else but esrati.com is clearly taken care of in the Burges Proposal: “Clearly, Cox Media is the ratings leader for integrated lV, radio, internet and print news. Involving Cox would raise awareness of residents. Cox also has a new digital production facility, low production rates and a positive record of participation in recent civic issues” and as well as: “Greater Dayton’s key websites, whether based at large media organizations, IHE’s (Institutions of Higher Education), civic andeconomic development organizations or standing independently like Dayton Most Metro”

Bribing media outlets isn’t out of Burges reach either: “Whether or not this level of media involvement is entirely achieved, it is important for strengthening awareness and engagement. Determining the level and net cost [after media sponsorships] will define how far we can go with media involvement. If helpful, we will work with the county to help build commitments to participate from the media, other sponsors and partner organizations between the time the project is funded and when it formally begins.” remember, Burges places media buys for all the levy campaigns and major political campaigns- nice loot to wave in exchange for “public support.”

I don’t have the luxury of Mr. Burges inside connections. All I have is the most read political blog in Dayton- that tries to give those that care to know about the nasty inner workings of our obsolete and crumbling political/nepotism machine in Montgomery County and it’s minor fiefdoms. I know this post is long- but, you now have most of the documents that I have on this back room deal- and a little analysis to chew on.

What say you, members of the community now called OneDayton in the greatest sense of the word?

8:34 am note: the fallout from this piece has already begun. I’ve decided to add to this piece in the comments.

South Park as the Catalyst for a Greater Dayton?

It’s nice to see a good news piece about our neighborhood , Historic South Park, as the cover story of the Dayton City Paper. Despite what you may think about this neighborhood from reading the uncensored stories here- of my recent break-ins (which can almost all be connected directly with just a few bad actors).

The piece is written by one of our own- it’s PR for sure- but, it has the facts straight, unlike what you’d read in the Dayton Daily.

I particularly liked this quote- which if extrapolated- is also the answer for Dayton- greater Dayton, not just the city of…

While the physical layout of South Park contributes to its neighborliness, and an active neighborhood association aids its development, no single entity is strong enough to lift up a community on its own, according to urban historian Alexander von Hoffman. “For successful and sustained renewal, communities need a cadre of leaders who can change the perceptions and actual conditions that affect the reputation of their neighborhood,” von Hoffman said. “Leaders must coordinate the actions of its residents and create innovative alliances between local government, private investors, realtors, individuals, non-profit groups and law enforcement.”

via Building a better South Park : Dayton City Paper.

Note the part about “changing perceptions and actual conditions that affect the reputation”- it’s what’s missing in Dayton. We don’t have the vision- coming from a cadre of leaders- in fact, one would question if we’ve elected leaders at all in Dayton- we seem to have mouthpieces committed to the status quo. Find an elected leader having a conversation about change online- in public- or even mentioning things we could do.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of people to form the core cadre- but what it does take is a concerted effort to show a vision of where we could be- and how we’ll get there.

We’ve got too much dead weight in elected positions throughout “greater Dayton”- with all of our fiefdoms- it dilutes the strength of leadership and lends itself to largess and laziness.

But, back to the South Park article- we’ve seen a huge shift from around 70% rental properties to 70% resident-owned properties in the last 25 years I’ve been here. Because of a shared vision- we’ve seen neighbor after neighbor not only take care of their own houses- but, invest in others. The confidence in our shared vision has made the neighborhood vital and confident investment has followed.

Because I’m running for office- I’ll also point out, that I served as President for 2 years- and cultivated a successor- who was then followed by Karin Manovich. I took over a neighborhood that had been divided by the previous president- who liked to foster a class divide- I brought the neighborhood back together, mended fences and brought structure and order to meetings that had been running many hours- and got them under control. I was also the innovator who suggested the for-profit development corporation- South Park Social Capital, which was instrumental in transforming Skinner;s bar- a trouble spot, into the South Park Tavern.

None of the South Park miracle would have been possible without some of the things that I believe have been key to our success:

  • Definite boundaries with good natural divisions.
  • Historic zoning which has helped standardize expectations for repairs- and differentiated the neighborhood from others.
  • An amazing variety of housing stock, with something for everyone.
  • The central location with excellent highway access.
  • Good corporate neighbors- UD, MVH, NCR
  • A wide cross section of people in the community, from diverse professions, backgrounds and socio-economic diversity.
  • And most importantly the investment of MVH in supplying Community Based Police officers over the last 15 years. Without improved perception of law enforcement- none of this would have been possible.

There is one thing I’ve learned in the 25 years of being part of this organized community- is that we can’t take our eye off the ball. We have to keep our citizens engaged and working together. I’ve seen blocks rise and fall and rise back up again- all based on the people who are living there. I’ve seen houses rehabbed- sell high- and then fall into disrepair only to be picked back up. There is no finish line in this competition for a quality neighborhood- only a journey that can be progressively more enjoyable if the community chooses to work together.

If there has been one factor that has slowed us down more than anything- it has been the loss of so many young families over the years who leave as their kids hit school age. If we don’t have confidence in our community schools, it severely hurts our community. I’ve been trying to work with Dayton School Superintendent Lori Ward to find ways to reconnect neighborhood kids who could be attending as many as 30 different schools- hopefully, soon, we’ll have an initiative in place to solve this major problem and start keeping our best social capital in our community- in our community.

What happens when the people leave Dayton?

Dayton made another list- number 5 at losing population. It’s another one of those stupid how-do-you-define-“Dayton” questions that really needs answering soon if we don’t want to keep being made fun of- and continue to lose respect for all that we have:

5. Dayton, Ohio

Population: 153,843

Population Change 2000-2009: -11,961

Population Percent Change 2000-2009: -7.21%

Home Vacancy: 18.9%

For its size, Dayton, Ohio, was once one of the most productive and creative cities in the U.S. It produced more patents per capita at the turn of the century than any other. The city was home to several former great Fortune 500 companies, including National Cash Register, Mead Paper and Phillips Manufacturing. Through the first half of the 20th century, Dayton had one of the healthiest manufacturing industries. It had more GM autoworkers than any city outside of Michigan during World War II. In the past 50 years, Mead has merged with West Virginia Paper and moved to Richmond, and GM has closed one plant after another in the city.

via us-cities-running-out-of-people: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance.

If you look at the Dayton Metro Area- the losses are much smaller- not worth a story- but, since we continue to believe that the health of a core isn’t that important- we keep missing opportunities.

The other day I was reading a trade journal- sponsored by local company NewPage. You know the paper merchant formerly known as Mead. They proudly stated that they were headquartered in Miami Township- or Miamisburg (can’t remember- and I’m not in my office right now). Try finding that on a map?

It’s that kind of lameness that perfectly defines our problem. While we continue to think that because we know the differences between Beavercreek and Trotwood- the rest of the world cares. Never mind that we’ve let sprawl and over-building dilute our community- the reality is, we’ve been talking about how we’re going to fix our problems a lot more than we’ve actually fixed any of them.

With cuts coming in state and federal funding- we’re going to see Dayton proper face even bigger challenges- and the first ring communities suffer even more as more people file out- but- not too far out, because believe it or not- even poor people want safe neighborhoods and good schools.

In the meantime- the current city commission isn’t talking about serious regionalism- or about concentrating what limited resources we have on making sure we get our fundamental services right- they are thinking about spending money demolishing excess inventory- with no plan on how to regrow our community.

Last I checked- we don’t pay taxes to do property maintenance on other people’s buildings- nor do empty homes require government services.

Let’s make use an analogy: Dayton as a restaurant.

At one time- we made a lot of different dishes (manufacturing) and we were very good at it. We had good servers (public services) and a great clientele (population). The population came here because we were a good value: low cost of living, reliable work force, strong business leaders. Translated- the dishes we made were reasonably priced, the servers showed up and the people in the kitchen made sure the dishes came on time.

First problem was when tastes started changing- and we weren’t willing to change the menu. NCR missed the rise of the electronic cash register, GM missed small cars and Frigidaire – well- I’m not sure why we stopped making refrigerators- other than they could probably be made more cheaply elsewhere. Our unions had gotten a bit fat and lazy over the years- and seemed to forget that there were other people on the planet who could do what they did. The days of never changing the menu were over- people wanted different, they wanted just in time, they wanted higher quality at a lower price.

Second problem- when we started telling our customers whom they were going to sit with to eat. The devastating impact of school busing for “integration” was one of the major engines to build the suburbs. The customers who didn’t like sitting with strangers- picked up and left. The restaurant lost 25% of its business almost overnight. What’s worse- it lost most of the customers who bought steak- and tipped well- yet management didn’t change anything for years. Even 30 years later- the realization that this policy was a failure never really hit home. We tried turning the restaurant into a food court- with a little something for everyone- (magnet schools) and never really understood that people still wanted the high end steak dishes- while we were trying to sell them fast food. We still had the same number of seats and employees in the restaurant – although our customers had stopped coming.

Then we tried to go into the manufacturing business ourselves. We’re restaurateurs- we’re supposed to be a service industry- but- we thought we’d try our hand at building offices for new customers- hoping they’d come to our restaurant- the one that can’t make or deliver the meal the customers want. We failed miserably. Building buildings and huge “silver bullet” projects like the Arcade, the Arcade tower, Riverscape, Tool Town etc. weren’t what we were supposed to be doing- but we did, because handing our customers’ money over to our rich builder friends kept getting the management re-elected. Look at the growth of the campaign donations and who paid the tab. These people weren’t eating at our restaurant- they were just talking about it like they still did.

What we needed to do was to learn to refine our menu, keep the best servers, shrink the dining room, concentrate on the finest ingredients we could afford- yet we were still thinking we could run our place like we always had- ignoring the competition.

If we’d concentrated on basic services- good schools, safe neighborhoods, clean streets- and not gone off in a million directions- we’d still have a restaurant. Now, we’re thinking that by destroying tables (taking houses out of the inventory) somehow we’ll be able to bring people back to our restaurant. Again- we’re not concentrating on delivering the best service- or using our limited resources to create a restaurant people want to eat in- we’re just getting rid of tables and chairs.

But, if we’d wake up and look around- we have all the things people could want- we have safe neighborhoods, we have good servers, we have great intimate booths- and stages for performance, and good schools- the works- it’s in a place the world knows as Dayton- but we know as Oakwood, Centerville, Kettering, Beavercreek- etc. If we could only stop drawing lines on a map that slice and dice this into fiefdoms- we’d start looking a lot better.

Why can’t we have a regional school system? Why is it OK to have Sinclair Community College- for the whole of the area- but not a Dayton Public Schools for the whole? Why is it OK to have county commissioners who do almost nothing- and get paid the most of locally elected officials- for full-time work- while the cities have part-timers? Why do we still have townships – in an urban area? Why do we insist on so many elected people- for an area that hasn’t grown all that much in the last 40 years- when we’ve cut back on so many other things that we actually need- like police officers?

We need new management of this restaurant- from top to bottom. We need a new focus on delivering fine food- with the best possible servers- in the restaurant we have- with one management team, one top chef- and hold them accountable. We need to market our place to the world- as one that you want to come to eat, to stick around for a show- and decide this is a great place to hang out.

It’s time for a vision- and leadership of one city, ready to compete on a global scale, with real leaders, paid real money- held accountable by the public to take us where we want to be. The truth is we don’t have a choice. Without rebuilding our customer base- we can’t keep serving the same dreck with new menus forever.

What would we have if we paid our mayor $250K, and, had one sheriff, one fire chief, one inspector gotcha, one prosecutor, one auditor, one chief ethics officer- and all of them made $200K a year? We’d actually have huge cost savings- and a team of people that could be held accountable.

Maybe we’d even have a place people would recognize as a real city- instead of the clusterduck we have now.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be recognized as a leader again? Then maybe, people would actually want to come buy some of those houses cheap and fix them up- and eat at our restaurant again.