An outsider’s prescription for Dayton


The ignored secret behind successful organizations (and nations) is infrastructure. Not the content of what’s happening, but the things that allow that content to turn into something productive.

Here are some elements worth considering:

  • Transportation: Ideas and stuff have to move around. The more quickly, efficiently and safely, the better. This is not just roads, but wifi, community centers and even trade shows. Getting things, people and ideas from one place to another, safely and on time is essential to what we seek to build.
  • Expectation: When people wake up in the morning expecting good things to happen, believing that things are possible, open to new ideas–those beliefs become self-fulfilling. We expect that it’s possible to travel somewhere safely, and we expect that speaking up about a new idea won’t lead us to get fired. People in trauma can’t learn or leap or produce very much.
  • Education: When we are surrounded by people who are skilled, smart and confident, far more gets done. When we learn something new, our productivity goes up.
  • Civility: Not just table manners, but an environment without bullying, without bribery, without coercion. Clean air, not just to breathe, but to speak in.

Infrastructure and culture overlap in a thousand ways.

At the organizational level, then, it’s possible to invest in a workplace where things work, where the tools are at hand, where meetings don’t paralyze progress, where decisions get made when they need to get made (and where they don’t get undone).

It’s possible to build a workplace where people expect good things, from their leaders and their peers and the market. Where we expect to be heard when we have something to say, and expect that with hard work, we can make a difference.

It’s possible to invest in hiring people who are educated (not merely good grades, but good intent) and to keep those people trained and up to speed.

And it’s essential for that workplace to be one where the rule of law prevails, where people are treated with dignity and respect and where short term urgency is never used as a chance to declare martial law and abandon the principles that built the organization in the first place.

Yes, I believe the same is true for nation states. It’s not sexy to talk about building or maintaining an infrastructure, but just try to change the world without one.

Here’s something that’s unavoidably true: Investing in infrastructure always pays off. Always. Not just most of the time, but every single time. Sometimes the payoff takes longer than we’d like, sometimes there may be more efficient ways to get the same result, but every time we spend time and money on the four things, we’re surprised at how much of a difference it makes.It’s also worth noting that for organizations and countries, infrastructure investments are most effective when they are centralized and consistent. Bootstrapping is a great concept, but it works best when we’re in an environment that encourages it.

The biggest difference between 2015 and 1915 aren’t the ideas we have or the humans around us. It’s the technology, the civilization and the expectations in our infrastructure. Where you’re born has more to do with your future than just about anything else, and that’s because of infrastructure.

When we invest (and it’s expensive) in all four of these elements, things get better. It’s easy to take them for granted, which is why visiting an organization or nation that doesn’t have them is such a powerful wake up call.

Source: Seth’s Blog: Infrastructure

As I sat stuck in a traffic jam yesterday reaching from Downtown to Moraine, on I-75 N at 4:30 pm, I thought about who was the idiot who has I75, Main St, Warren Street- all covered with orange barrels at the same time? Who wasn’t working proactively, right then- to not just clear the blockage- but, trying to re-route as much traffic onto alternative roadways, and also- how did we allow the I-75 downtown reconstruction to shut down all the exits to downtown for so long…

But, then I realized the answer is nobody, because we don’t have leadership with the vision to see the implications of our pettiness, because it’s all we know. We have, and have had, leadership for so long that’s arrogant, unresponsive, and hell bent on their political future more than our regions. And then this piece comes out from Seth Godin this morning.

What started me on my political highway of failure at the hands of an uninformed and underinformed voter base, is summed up in Seth’s fourth point- Civility.

After crossing the gods of garage door appropriateness,  I went for help from my elected leaders with the asinine notion that they would listen and help.

Seth: “but an environment without bullying, without bribery, without coercion.”

When I went to the City Commission out of frustration about garbage collectors working 30 hours, getting paid for 56- and got shut down- and then the Commission had a secret, illegal meeting to discuss ways to block citizens from speaking at City Commission meetings- I expected a groundswell of support as I brought this issue to the forefront. Instead, I was arrested, mocked, and locked into a prolonged legal battle when all the resources were stacked in their corner.

Seth: “we expect that speaking up about a new idea won’t lead us to get fired.”

Our City (Dayton – the location on the map, not the one divvied by political fiefdoms that battle constantly) would do well to look at Seth’s list of four simple elements of “infrastructure” to learn how to put things back into order.

It’s not about highways and civil engineering – it’s about civility.

It’s not about big ideas- it’s about being free to express them, without fear.

It’s not about education- it’s about the values we place on it.

And lastly, it’s not really about infrastructure as much as it is about values we hold sacred.

For the benefit of all of us, not just the inner cabal of the  Monarchy of Montgomery County.

Thank you Seth Godin.



Which candidates are: open, generous and connected?

Seth Godin asks today about “Open, generous and connected”

Isn’t that what we seek from a co-worker, boss, friend or even a fellow conference attendee?

Open to new ideas, leaning forward, exploring the edges, impatient with the status quo… In a hurry to make something worth making.

Generous when given the opportunity (or restless to find the opportunity when not). Focused on giving people dignity, respect and the chance to speak up. Aware that the single most effective way to move forward is to help others move forward as well.

and connected. Part of the community, not apart from it. Hooked into the realities and dreams of the tribe. Able and interested in not only cheering people on, but shining a light on how they can accomplish their goals.

via Seth’s Blog: Open, generous and connected.

What if we ask that question of the people we elect?

What new ideas have each of the City Commissioners brought forward? How impatient are they with the status quo? How have they changed our community’s thinking?

Which are generous with giving people an opportunity to speak? (Remember, I was arrested in the City Commission chambers protecting your right to speak and be heard on public access). What platform are they using to communicate? How often do they engage?

Who is connected to the community- and truly understands it? Other than Mayor Leitzell- not a single small business owner, yet, isn’t small business the heartbeat of America? When A.J. Wagner released his plan for education, compare the comments:

Leitzell said Wagner’s ideas look like a 20-year plan that doesn’t address more immediate issues. He also said teens should be taught basic business skills so they can become self-employed as a fall-back option.

Whaley said Wagner’s ideas are straight from the Learn to Earn initiative, and added that she already serves on the executive committee of that group. She pointed out that Wagner has not specified exactly where the money would come from.

via Mayoral candidate touts education plan for Dayton |

Mayor Leitzell adds something new and doable, Whaley adds herself and shoots holes in it.

And, I’ve been saying for 20 years that we need to look at day care and Head Start programs, but I’ve done it in print and online- where all can see and discuss..

When evaluating candidates, ask yourself- who is open, generous and connected (and not just by donations on the last one). Ask what their plan is- and ask others what they could do to make that plan better.

Selected Martin Luther King Jr. quotes to think about

Looking forward toward the next election- we have a decision to make. Either vote for the safe, same-old, candidates from the two parties who can’t seem to come to grips with the fact that they no longer seem to represent us. We are held hostage and forced to listed to their trash-talking, outrageously expensive “campaigns.”

I can’t imagine what the media would say today about Dr. King’s crusade- would they get the same kind of dismissive coverage that the Occupy Wall Street movement received? Or treated like Dr. Ron Paul who continues to do very well in the primaries but his achievements are always marginalized? Would they be counting his support by the amount of money raised by the marchers.

The legitimacy of our ideas isn’t valued in dollars, nor should they be.

These quotes were posted by Seth Godin this morning- please think about them:

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

And a few more thoughts, from one of the greatest men of my lifetime:

“On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ And Vanity comes along and asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But Conscience asks the question ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.”

. . .

“We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

. . .

“The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority.”

via Seth’s Blog: Straight up.

Just remember, there is not a single person elected in this country by a majority of our citizens. When that happens, things will be very different.

For the next election, you can vote for traditional candidates and be an expedient, vain coward- or listen to your conscience. I am running to make sure that money leaves politics and that you never again have to choose between the lesser of two evils, but always be able to vote your conscience. Please consider making a donation to my campaign.

Mayor Leitzell refuses to join the circus

Dayton has a highly paid professional who is supposed to lead the city. His name is Tim Riordan. In fact, he’s not paid enough to manage the types of responsibilities he’s tasked with- he makes half of what Jim Leftwich at the Dayton Development Coalition makes, but that’s another story.

Mayor Leitzell is one vote of five, on the Dayton City Commission- the “Board of Directors” for Riordan, the city manager. The mayor’s job is to represent the city at events, to preside over the meetings, and he can perform marriages, he’s a figurehead who has mythical power, but very little real power if the system is working the way it’s supposed to.

Unfortunately for Dayton, the system started breaking with our “rock ’n’ roll” mayor- Paul Leonard- which is right around the time I came to Dayton. Leonard fancied himself as powerful- even though the job paid half of what it does now- and he had the most capable city manager we’ve had since- Rick Helwig. Rick was a class act- in fact, Riordan was one of his protogés. Since then, we’ve had one stumble after another in both offices. Mayors who thought they would be kings and city managers who thought they were politicians. The system breaks when one starts thinking like the other.

Leitzell has taken the low key approach to being the chairman of the board. He’s worked well with a Democratic commission despite his endorsement by the Republican Party (he still claims not to be anything but an independent). He’s worked well with the city manager, and he’s spent time with the priority board chairs and neighborhood groups, business leaders, developers- he just hasn’t made it a circus, with him as ringmaster. When talking with him, he’s thinking about who will run for commission next year to challenge Commissioners Joseph and Lovelace- he’s not even sure if he’ll run again in 3.5 years- that’s not on his radar right now- fixing problems is.

Seth Godin drops pearls of wisdom on his blog daily- and one that hit just before Dayton Daily News editorial board hack, Marting Gottlieb, posted his latest smear job attempt on Leitzell may just be what this city needs to do- vis-a-vis the Dayton Daily Downer:

Critics and fans, passersby and the media crave a battle, a scandal and heroic stories of winning and losing.Want to get written up on a tech blog? Just post a really angry rant about your competition.Want to sell tickets to the hockey game? Just put a few brawlers on the team.The media demands that a politician “get angry” in the face of a conflict or problem that anger won’t have any effect on–but it will make a good story. Your customers demand that you stop doing what’s always worked and race to follow a trend or launch a risky sideline…When you stumble or fall, they won’t say, “sorry, we were wrong.” They’ll say, “what were you thinking!” and talk about it even more. And then the cycle continues.

via Seth’s Blog: Drop everything, we need you to perform in our circus.

It was the comments section on an incendiary piece that attacked Leitzell for fixing his own roof and a letter to the editor attacking Leitzell for challenging the DDN to get their geography right  that were so vile- and so ignorant, that I demanded accountability from the DDN- and even threatened them with a libel suit. Soon after, the DDN blew away and closed all comments on these pieces. However, it seems that Leitzell is taking exactly the right tack by not joining the DDN circus, where if it bleeds, it leads- and if we can draw blood- we will.

This is the total opposite of the media whore we had running the city previously, who would go out of the way to get attention with outlandish hats, funky glasses and speeches at every opportunity. Of course, now that she’s sucking at the government teat for her health care– and working for Ted Strickland- the hats and glasses are gone. Welcome to the closing of the big top Dayton- you have Mayor Leitzell to thank.

The Dayton Process- is anyone else doing this?

A local power broker called me the other day to tell me he liked my “Dayton Process” idea a lot. Then he asked “is anyone else doing this?”

Hmmmm. Do I go to the patent office to check? Or Google? What do I search for? I wouldn’t even know where to begin?

Such is the nature of original thinking. Did the Wright Brothers have to have an example of man flying to try?

Seth Godin talks about asking for analogies and examples today:

I was talking to someone about a complex and specialized issue. It’s quite possible that this was the first and only time in the history of the world that this precise set of circumstances had ever occurred. He said, “do you have an example of how this has worked before for you?”

I was puzzled. I mean, not only hadn’t I ever had this precise problem, but no one in the world had…By the time there is a case study in your specific industry, it’s going to be way too late for you to catch up.

via Learning by analogy.

Does someone else doing something first legitimize the idea? Is it only viable if it’s worked before? Go down this path and you are doomed to the status quo.

The Montgomery County Democratic Party runs a “candidates’ school” which is more about the process of getting elected the conventional way with fund raising, sound-bite campaigns and party machinery. There are even pay schools like this one in Virginia where they talk about their success rate.

If you search for “level playing field elections” on Google, all you find is examples of how the playing field is far from level anymore.

In some ways elections have become more akin to popularity contests, with our winners having to come out of central casting, in others- it’s just plain simple, we’ve got the best politicians money can buy.

There is a good possibility that by putting six well prepared candidates on the primary ballot in two years with the Dayton Process, plus the two incumbents (who are welcome to participate) could easily knock me out of the running in the primary (as well as the incumbents since only 4 candidate advance). It’s a risk that I’m fully aware of, but isn’t that the nature of innovation?

At this point, the process is still just an idea, I haven’t started setting a meeting schedule, or training programs. I’ve met with a volunteer who wants to help work with the CRM software and discussed it with the Mayor Elect.

I’m still looking for candidates, my list has grown since the first post. As part of the process, we’ll be keeping a “scorecard” of attendance, speaking engagements, blog posts, voter contacts made and recorded- so at the end of two years, voters will have an idea of how motivated candidates have been. There will be no more “claims” of service to the community that are undocumented, it will all be measured.

Each candidate will have to formulate their own platform and strategy for differentiating their candidacy. There could be a consensus among the candidates that some are better suited to run than others- and people step down. It could turn into reality TV with people scheming to work together- I don’t know all the answers.  There could also be some major divisions among the candidates- making things a little more difficult- but all this will depend on the people involved and the way we work together.

The goal is better leadership for a better community through a new democratic process- not, to do something that people have done before.

The old way hasn’t been working too well, so it’s time to try something new. If it’s been done before, great. If not, what will it hurt?