It’s your tax money they are speculating with…

Tonight, the Dayton City Commission bought the hole in the ground where the Schwind and the Dayton Daily news used to sit. They spent $450K of your money. That hole still has to be filled in. The old Cox historic building- nope, they didn’t buy that. They left that with the demolition contractor, who no doubt will be the one they pay to fill the hole he left.

They also handed over the “Paru Tower” to the land bank- so they wouldn’t have to pay taxes to the schools. And Mayor Nan has the nerve to call herself the education mayor. Not only did they pay $500K for it- keeping it out of the hands of private developers who were willing to pay $350K for it- and pay taxes, they gave a commitment to the Landbank for $250K for “maintenance.”

Oh, and, they also decided to commit to a three way contract to build a multi-million dollar bandshell  on Dave Hall Plaza to give free concerts, and contribute another $500k.

All in one evening. And remember, they want to raise taxes in November.

Because this was such an epic night of mis-directing tax dollars to private ambitions, instead of the public good, I decided to go down and speak. I had plenty better to do, which is why I’m writing this at 11:15 at night, at work.

Here’s what I said- give or take, before the three minute timer went off:

It’s nice to be here in a real, legal, political meeting, where I know I won’t be rudely interrupted or have the mic shut off.

You weren’t hired to be real estate speculators. You were hired to run a city and provide services to our citizens.

You’re failing.

Former Mayor Paul Leonard said that he counts on me to try to keep you straight and honest. I take that as an honor. He asked me, “Whatever happened to being the safest cleanest city?”

And I wonder that too.

Because, frankly, I think the problem in this city is sitting in front of me.

How else do we have a police force that’s half the size, and can’t solve the murder of one of their own, over 16 years later?

Or find the murderer of SGT Major North Woodall?

Or find the cretin who stabbed a young girl on a school playground, in broad daylight?

Maybe it’s because you have money to buy buildings for which there is no public use.

Not just one, two, or three… but on a shopping spree.

There’s 601 E. Third. $450K

There’s the old Supply One on Wayne. $450K and you gave it away for $10

There’s the old Key bank. $500 K. And now- another $250K to hold it? Really?

And then there’s the Schwind and the Dayton Daily building which are now an expensive hole in the ground.

10 years ago, a local developer had a plan to turn the Schwind into student housing and still comply with the HUD deal. His plan cost $1.7 million then. You’ve spent twice that to tear it down and grow a money pit.

But, lets not stop there. We have a band shell. It’s in Island Park. Apparently, that’s not good enough for you. You want to spend half a million more to build a new bandstand… while people aren’t feeling safe in their homes.

You now have the nerve to be asking for a tax increase?

You’ve spent 5 million on empty buildings and a hole in the ground.

And I’m not even bringing up the $5 million plus you spent without a contract to secure property for the Wayne Avenue Kroger that never came.

The sad thing is it’s really hard to un-elect you thanks to our rigged charter.

But, it isn’t as hard to do a charter amendment anymore.

If you insist on spending millions more on real estate speculation and a band shell, it’s time that we start a charter amendment process to strip you of the ability to spend tax dollars for real estate for which there is no immediate public use.

Another charter amendment to stop you from giving tax breaks to companies that pay their CEO more than 10x what they pay their lowest paid employee.

To end tax breaks and incentives that aren’t equal opportunity open to every business, from the corner store-owner, to the corner office type.

And lastly, it’s time to stop the charade of allowing rich white men to control their own private police forces in the city of Dayton to protect their royal white rear ends.

If you want a cop that has police power, you get them from the City of Dayton, not the UD police, or the Miami Valley Hospital police or the Grandview police or even the Metroparks police.

They’ve all grown while our department has shrunk.

If you want to hire your own, you should have to pay a $50K a year license fee- so we can hire the cops we need so there isn’t blood in the streets-

Which I place fully in your hands.

So, go ahead, be real estate tycoons… because, I’m tired of paying for it, I’m tired of you supporting your supporters, like a certain demolition contractor, and I’m sick of seeing all of the development efforts focused downtown.

I would have continued with this:

There is often talk of West Dayton as a food desert. I don’t see you going into the grocery business…. Why is that?

Get back to basics.

For Kevin Brame. For Sgt Major Woodall, for the 7 year old who’s afraid to go on the playground now.

We, the people of Dayton don’t need any more real estate. We need you to protect our investment in our real estate.

It’s not about the empty buildings, it’s about the ones that still have people living in them.

Because we are supposed to have a government of the people, for the people.

But, I always have to stop at 3 minutes exactly- and they never respond. Because they don’t really work for us, or care what we say.

I’m going to be working with Neighborhoods over Politics [edit and addition- 20 aug 2016] with like minded people who give a shit, [end addition] to write the charter changes and to collect the signatures needed. We’ll be on the primary ballot next Spring, when Joey Williams and Jeff Mims and Nan Whaley will all be trying to get on the ballot for the fall.

If the voters have any common sense, and some good people chose to run, maybe, we can get rid of all three in the primary, change the charter to stop giving away the store to the rich, and actually get some things done.

If you are interested in helping, we’ll have a sign-up soon, but it might help if you either comment on this post, or at least follow it for notifications in the future.

 

The demolition derby in Dayton needs to end

There was nothing wrong with Schwind building, nor the old Dayton Daily News building on Ludlow. Both were solid buildings in good locations, and prime candidates for adaptive reuse.

But, apparently the right local developers didn’t pay off the right people, because money that could have made their projects an easy go- was spent instead with long-time Dem Party supporter Steve Rauch.

What’s most interesting is that this was after he “mistakenly” tore down the historic addition to the original Cox building.

The city of Dayton will spend $215,000 more than it had originally planned to pay for the demolition and cleanup of the Schwind Building property, which officials said will help the roughly $18 million student housing project move forward.

A federal deed restriction on the Schwind property along Ludlow Street meant the Student Suites developer was unable to secure financing that would have covered the demolition and cleanup costs, said Aaron Sorrell, Dayton’s director of planning and community development.

The city is increasing its contribution to $1,215,000 from an original commitment of $1 million to fulfill its promise of fixing issues on the Schwind property, officials said.

“The reason we pushed this forward is because there was a shared sense of responsibility,” Sorrell said. “Our agreement with Student Suites is we’d deliver the Schwind property free of any liens and encumbrances: We have not been able to do that because of the deed restriction.”…
Sorrell admits that footing the bill for the remainder of the Schwind cleanup means the city will not be able to remove as many blighted and abandoned homes as it could have otherwise. But the additional expense will help a project progress that will provide a boost to the revitalization of downtown, he said.
via Dayton to pay for Schwind cleanup.

I’ve been watching a house at 828 Frizell, near DeSoto Bass to see how long the city would take to demolish it. Unlike the Schwind, it needed to come down, although it was making a damn good effort to self-destruct without any help.

The first picture was taken April 10 at 7:27 pm. The neighbors told me that they heard a massive boom- as the house slid off its foundation, and the chimney toppled onto the home next door. The city put some cones out.

photo of 828 Frizell, which slid off it's foundation

House at 828 Frizell on April 10, off the foundation

May 8, I went by again, expecting to see it demolished. Nope. 8:48 pm

Photo of 828 Frizell Ave

May 8, 2014, 828 Frizell is still leaning left.

Last night, after hanging nets, I drove by, it was after 9:30 and dark- the house was a pile of rubble. I didn’t see anyone out to ask when it came down, but was glad to see the city had finally addressed this serious public safety hazard.

The differences between 828 Frizell which needed to come down, and the Schwind which didn’t are night and day. But, the result is the same- public money being spent to tear our city down, instead of to make our city a great place to live.

I’ve already said that at the rate houses are being blighted and torn down, we will expend a hundred million and never keep up. We’ll always be the dog chasing the tail, instead of moving forward. Had we handed half the money we wasted on tearing down the Schwind to developer Bill Rain, he would have had student housing and low income housing in the Schwind to conform with the deed restrictions. Had they handed him the old DDN building- he would have had ground level retail and parking on floors 2 and 3. I’m pretty sure local developer Bob Schiffler would have done something similar.

But the housing stock demolition process is a whole other story.

Some houses like 828 Frizell were absolute demolition cases- many others are in the process of following in the footsteps. The process starts when a bank forecloses on a property that isn’t worth anywhere near what they lent on it- or, the tax bill is exceeding the value the home can be sold for.

Why the declining value? The wizards of Wall Street contributed a great deal to the demise of home values with their derivatives markets and loan bundling. But the City of Dayton has done much of the damage to its own property values over a long period of time. School busing to “solve” segregation was the first strike, where the city lost 100,000 people in a short time. Adjusting for those losses compounded the city’s problem- instead of adjusting to a smaller population, they asked for and got a higher income tax- to be charged to the people who couldn’t vote for the tax. Businesses began their exodus, first to the Kettering Research Park, and then to Austin Landing. Both tax-supported projects that made money for developers- and political donors- and hurt tax collection even more.

The one at Austin Landing is particularly odd- white collar workers don’t get taxed, while blue collar workers do. They just voted to make the district bigger last week;

Three south suburban communities now have more land from which to draw income tax revenue after they approved expanding a zone covered by an agreement.

About 11 acres will be added to the Austin Landing property from which Miamisburg, Miami Twp. and Springboro split income tax revenue.

Legislative leaders from those three jurisdictions Thursday night approved an amendment to increase the Austin Center Joint Economic Development District.

A JEDD is a partnership granted certain oversight authorities, including levying taxes, under the Ohio Revised Code….

The Austin Center JEDD levies a 2.25 percent income tax on all retail businesses and some offices (emphasis added) within its boundaries, according to Miami Twp. records. That percentage is consistent with Miamisburg’s income tax rate. Springboro’s
via 3 jurisdictions vote to expand Austin tax zone.

The city, already plagued with a remaining low income population, which results in lower test scores for students in the beleaguered school system, then began to cut services to families, closing rec centers, not taking care of parks, and cutting basic maintenance like street paving, grass cutting in public spaces, even housing inspection. The great “Model Cities” inspired “Priority Board” system was eviscerated, leaving  a skeleton on life support.

In a series of desperate for tax revenue moves, the city worked against existing businesses, picking favorites and subsidizing some businesses while ignoring others. Attempts to “improve” things like their efforts to be real estate developers for the Wayne Avenue Kroger- took millions of dollars- with the city actually “blighting” the neighborhood into failure with a series of options on the “doomed” properties. When Kroger pulled out, no one was fired, or even questioned, on how they could go this far without a contract.

Other cities tried to chase down blight and demolish, only to realize that it was like going down the rabbit hole. Philadelphia finally said enough- instead of allowing property owners the easy route of boarding up shit properties, went after owners demanding that they fix up or hand over.

From the LA Times:

McCall staples a poster to the plywood covering the door. The poster declares the building “a blighting influence,” in violation of a city code that requires all buildings to have working doors and windows. Plywood or other boards are prohibited, and the fine is $300 per opening — per day.

After decades of ignoring the blight that has spread through its neighborhoods, Philadelphia is trying to reclaim its vacant homes through aggressive initiatives designed to compel negligent owners to fix their properties or see them seized and torn down.

via City of Brotherly Love finally tackles neighborhood blight – Los Angeles Times.

McCall is a city employee- and the city realized that boarding up a house actually hurts the value of all the other homes on the block. So do the stickers saying a “house has been winterized” – meaning that water won’t freeze and break pipes- but is also a printed invitation to scrappers to come steal anything and everything inside.

Accountability for ones investments is long overdue in Dayton. From slumlords like Jan Singleton, who has managed not to pay taxes- or take care of his properties for years, confounding the city law department and inspectors- to the city itself, which has no problem charging you $250 to cut your lot- while they have foot high grass on our boulevards.

Before and after photo as city cuts grass in public boulevard

How high was the grass on Burns Ave. before the city cut it? Ticketable for sure.

How can a city have any legitimate authority to tell people to cut grass when they can’t do it themselves? Yet, they can pump a million and a quarter into the developers’ and demolition companies’ hands for the Student Suites project on Ludlow.

Back to the Philly Story:

Neighborhoods where the new strategies have been applied have seen home prices rise 31% over four years,compared with a 1% rise in comparable areas, according to a study by Ira Goldstein of the Reinvestment Fund. The initiatives increased home values by $74 million throughout Philadelphia, Goldstein said, and brought in $2.2 million more in transfer tax receipts.

Philadelphia had been spending millions of dollars a year to tear down vacant properties, and it didn’t seem to be making much headway, said Rebecca Swanson, who directs the city’s vacant building strategy. So in 2011, city officials decided to try a strategy they hoped would prevent properties from becoming run down in the first place.

The city utilized software used by the IRS to track down owners of the vacant buildings. Then the city took the owners to a newly created Blight Court. The door and window ordinance also allows the city to attach liens to property owners’ other personal property, including, in some cases, mansions in the suburbs.

“That was the whole point, to catch them early, cite them for doors and windows, and hopefully that incentivizes the owner to come out of the woodwork and do something,” Swanson said.

Where is the accountability for the money squandered on Tech Town- where tenants pay no rent, driving rents down on other buildings where landlords have to pay the same taxes they always have had to? Ask Dayton Hydraulic and Jerv Janney how he feels about city subsidies of the Water Street project- while his buildings already have to compete with Tech Town? He’s suing the city for a bunch of money– because he’s been backed into a corner.

This is a city that just bulldozed every public outdoor swimming pool. Has committed to spend a million dollars on fixing up basketball courts after a political opponent embarrassed them by hanging 300+ nets on courts that weren’t being serviced (btw- I’ve yet to see a new rim, new pavement, or backboard).

It’s time to stop thinking demolition is the answer. Blight will stop when there is a legitimate reason to live in this city. Saying we’re a leader in demolishing things ain’t it.

The death of historic preservation in Dayton

Photo by David Esrati of the demolition of the Dayton Daily News building 1923 addition

The day after demolition was allowed to continue

Apparently the cost of a hall pass to tear down a historic structure is $500. You can probably even skip paying that, if you can get the blame shifted to city staffers who never run the risk of getting fired (unless you either get caught with child porn on your computer or you blow the whistle on someone hired because of whom they are related to).

There is zero accountability in city hall. The demolition of the rear section of the Dayton Daily News building, despite it clearly being slated for saving by Landmarks, clears the way for the demolition of every other historic building in Dayton.

City staff failed to notice that facade preservation was not written on demolition permits obtained by Rauch, said Aaron Sorrell, director of planning and community development for the city. He said Students Suites officials knew it was to be preserved, but had asked for the city to consider allowing it to be cut down with only the bottom third remaining as a decorative wall. That proposal had not yet gone before the Landmarks Commission.

Sorrell said the city has the ability to seek minor misdemeanor charges against the developer in Dayton Municipal Court — with a penalty of $500 — for the violation. The city can also order the developer to pay a “mitigation fee” that could be “up to 75 percent of the estimated demolition and disposal cost for the violation,” Sorrell said.

via Preservationists question demolition of old Daily News… | www.mydaytondailynews.com.

And while there was a small whimper from the community about the loss of this building, no one misses the Schwind- except maybe former patrons of the Embassy lounge. The terracotta detailing on it wasn’t quite as ornate as others in the area, but it was a building with zero structural defects and prime for a rehab. Two previous local developers were both denied tax re-appraisals and any funding for their plans to turn it into housing. When the Dayton Daily building had two reductions in tax valuation since the DDN abandoned it:

In 2006, the DDN building was appraised at approximately $2.4 million. Since then, the appraised value listed on the auditor’s website was reduced in 2007 to $450,000, to less than $165,000 by 2011. The recently demolished Schwind building, in comparison, had been appraised at $338,000, more than twice the price of the Cox building and land.

via Time to fire the “community development” manager.

Were tax values decreased for Cox in exchange for the lump sum donation of half a million dollars to “River Run” the paddle boat course on the river, and a pledge for money to go toward this demolition (typically, government money can’t be used to tear down property that’s protected by preservation laws).

Why demolition even began before the deed on the Schwind building had been cleared is also worthy of investigation. Should the deed restrictions hold, this project may never come to fruition, leaving us with an empty hole on a streetscape and half of the historically significant part of the Dayton Daily News building. Was the rush to complete a deal that funneled money into the most expensive political race on record? Demolition contractor Steve Rauch has been a large donor in the past to the Democratic machine.

Considering that the laws that have protected historic districts have been part of the formula that has given Dayton its only successful neighborhoods based on property and tax value increases over the last 30 years (that are in areas served by Dayton Public Schools) does this mark the end of preservation in Dayton? For a city that had no problem hauling me into court in 1986 for putting up the “wrong kind of garage doors” on a non-historic structure- facing an alley, who is going to take responsibility for the demolition of a landmark?

No money for swimming pools, but over a million to subsidize student housing

City of Dayton under Nan Whaley and Joey D Williams have closed pools claiming lack of funds, yet- have millions for developers.

We don’t have money for pools for our kids, but we do have money for developers.

Sinclair Community College is the only public institution of higher learning in Ohio that has zero debt.

They also have no student housing. In fact, state law prohibits 2-year schools from being in the housing business. And, while we have plenty of vacant homes in the city that can be bought dirt cheap (I just ran into a realtor today who was checking out a house around the corner that’s listed for $36K), and a shrinking population, the city thinks it’s the taxpayers’ job to help fund a housing complex for students going to a school which we already subsidize through our taxes:

The city of Dayton has approved over $1 million in funds to purchase and demolish a downtown property for a proposed student housing project.

Dayton City Commission approved Wednesday an agreement for CityWide Development Corp. to acquire the Schwind Apartment Building, 25-27 S. Ludlow St. from the Montgomery County Land Reutilization Corp. for $255,000. It also approved $755,000 to help with asbestos removal and demolition of the building ahead of its planned redevelopment. The funds will be paid for through tax-exempt bonds issued through the Dayton and Montgomery County Port Authority.

Shelley Dickstein, assistant city manager for strategic planning, said substantial cleanup has taken place in the building to prepare it for demolition.

via City to buy downtown building for new student housing project – Dayton Business Journal.

We’re broke when it comes to raises for our employees. We closed our pools and can barely cut the grass because we have no money for amenities that make our city a desirable place to live, yet, we have money to help a developer build housing for college kids.

Once again, the people who we’ve elected to represent us, spend our money on special interests in the name of “economic development” instead of making sure we have adequate police protection or pick up leaves in the fall.

 

Is Dayton broke? Or not?

The point of belt tightening seems to be lost on the former City Manager and the City Commission. When you are facing a $20 million hole, you don’t give pay raises- of any sort, pre-negotiated or not. It’s called living within your means- it’s called doing the right thing, it’s called avoiding layoffs later.

The unions are right, although, they should have considered eliminating raises as well, because, well, $20 million isn’t something you just find laying around.

The whole finger pointing, denial, and publicity just before the election is embarrassing.

Fasnacht produced a copy of a city personnel policy statement from July 2008 that said managers and executives are only eligible for merit increases.

“There are no designated steps in the salary ranges of executive, management and mid-management group employees,” according to the policy statement.

via Spokesman claims pay hikes are city policy.

And having a city spokesperson who can’t find the policy he’s citing?

Biedenharn said it is the city’s policy to give nonbargaining unit employees compensation similar to what union members receive. Of all 1,578 city employees represented by a bargaining unit, 446 got step increases totaling $762,958, city records show. All 379 managers got the “step equivalent” raises, including several on the job since the early 1980s.

Biedenharn said this policy was set by former City Manager Jim Dinneen around 2004, but he could not produce a public record to document the policy. .ibid

A professional organization doesn’t have these problems. It’s busy working on solving the problem, not arguing about the mistakes it’s made.

Looking over the list of people getting pay raises, I find it insulting that anyone getting paid over $100,000 is getting a raise right now, especially a blanket raise. And, if it’s true that former City Manager Rashad Young got a severance package or raise after announcing he’s leaving, all hope is lost.

And- does anyone else see some oddities in the list?

Wanda Smith, deputy director, police: $1,435.20 ($121,368)

Shelley Dickstein, assistant city manager: $1,414.40 ($121,014.40)

Richard S. Biehl, director of police: $1,393.60 ($117,873.60)

via Dayton officials defend nearly $300,000 in pay hikes for managers, executives.

The Chief makes less than the Deputy Director of Police (who is set to retire in the DROP program). The “Assistant city Manager in charge of “economic development” or “corporate welfare” as I prefer to call it, who spent over $2 million chasing the Kroger that never came got a raise?

And in tomorrows (Oct 28, 2009) Commission meeting, the city is still handing out your tax dollars to private enterprise under the heading of “Neighborhood grants:”

D.     Neighborhood Grants:

7.       Schwind Building Restoration Project, Inc. – Development Agreement – to enhance the built environment and facilitate redevelopment in connection with the Downtown Façade Improvement Program – Office of Economic Development.       $24,425.00

8.       Medwork, LLC – Development Agreement – for the relocation and expansion to the former Delphi office building located at 1435 Cincinnati Street – Office of Economic Development.       $100,000.00

10-28-09 Agenda.pdf (application/pdf Object).

Private companies are now “neighborhoods”- and you wonder what happened to money for neighborhood improvement? It’s time to stop handing your tax dollars to the “friends” of Rhine McLin and Commission. I applaud Bob Schiffler for his work on the Schwind building but giving the man $25K toward this project is just an extra free cherry on a chocolate sundae.

We’re facing serious financial problems in Dayton, yet, City Hall seems to be tackling yesterdays instead of working on tomorrows.

And as a last note to misguided priorities by the commission and the Montgomery County Democratic Party- the Dayton City Commission is endorsing the library levy at tomorrows session, but not Issue 4 for the Metroparks. If they believe in Regionalism, and in “Economic Development” – our Metroparks is one of our few outstanding selling features of our region. They should be supporting it. Correction 9:33 am they endorsed it back on Sept. 9th, 2009 http://www.cityofdayton.org/cco/Commission%20Agendas/2009/09-09-09%20Agenda.pdf