“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?

The shell game continues: more taxation is not the answer

How do we make sure our region goes belly-up? Keep raising taxes to cover the mistakes of our leaders.

We have too many municipalities, too many different taxation districts, too many different rules and WAY too many Chiefs for an area that is shrinking.

Why did Reynolds & Reynolds move from Dayton to Kettering? Maybe the instant .5% raise for those not living in Dayton or Oakwood. There is no excuse for the hodge-podge system of taxation we have in Montgomery County.

And now, Miamisburg, is asking to boost their rate to match Dayton’s:

Miamisburg City Council is placing a 0.5 percent income tax increase on the May 4 ballot.

The council voted Tuesday to approve the tax increase.

The city’s current 1.75 percent income tax has been in effect since 1977 and is the largest source of revenue for the city.

“Our revenue sources are simply not keeping up with the cost of providing services, and the current economic downturn has only magnified the problem,” said Mayor Dick Church Jr. “With no reasonable expectation that the economy will rebound soon, the city has two choices — initiate deep cuts in public services, or pursue a revenue increase that will maintain police, fire/EMS and other essential services.”

Income taxes are paid to Miamisburg by people who earn wages within city limits.

City Manager Keith Johnson estimates that about 70 percent of residents will not be affected by the proposed rate change.

via Miamisburg places income tax increase on May 4 ballot.

Their logic is the same as Dayton’s – the tax will mostly be collected from people who can’t vote it down- the ones who live outside Miamisburg but work in it. Dayton used that same logic- and you’ve seen the massive move out of the city. Look at the vacancy rates downtown- and compare them to The Greene. Start to see the difference?

Why is Miamisburg in this jam? The answer may be found on page 52 of the 2008 financial report (Note 18):

NOTE 18 – SUBSEQUENT EVENTS:

On January 22, 2009 the City issued $5,610,000 in bond anticipation notes at an interest rate of 2.87%. The proceeds will be used to help fund the City’s share of the Austin Road Interchange project. The notes mature on November 4, 2009. It is anticipated to be repaid with general obligation bonds in the future.

The $5.5 million dollar share of the Austin Road interchange could be the straw that broke the budget’s back. While the city has to pay hard money for its share of the project, the people have to wait for the developers to build the “paradise” that will bring “new jobs” and “economic development” to… well, more than just Miamisburg.

If you were trying to choose where to put your business at the Austin Pike exchange- you could go West and North to Miamisburg and suffer a 2.25% income tax rate- or go East and North and be in Washington Township- where there is no income tax at all. Considering the property tax abatements, and the deals where the property taxes get put back into your development for the next 15 years (long enough for the developer to cash out)- the whole deal ends up only benefiting the developers who build more excess retail, excess office and excess industrial space in the pursuit of the holy grail- “economic development.”

However, if we had UniGov- Regional Government- with only one tax rate, and a lot less elected n00bs in charge, we might even start to look at the big picture- which is, we can’t raise taxes and entice business at the same time.

But that would be common sense now. Sorry Miamisburg, you will pay for the sins of your leaders- who’ve once again helped the developers dig into your wallets. You can’t have police and fire and good schools- without helping make the rich richer and you poor.

Next time they ask you to vote for a tax increase- ask why you can’t just let the county govern you- and save the overhead of a bloated municipal government.

Here is what the Dayton Grassroots Daily Show had to say:

And if you wonder why people are flying planes into IRS buildings– don’t worry- it won’t be long before everyone has had enough of this steal from the poor and give to the rich form of leadership.

Maybe we’re thinking of the wrong kind of unigov?

The recent Kettering Health Network move in Greene County had me thinking of what impact a new health campus might have on Montgomery County. What happens when doctors, who work at Kettering- want to move to Beavercreek- so that they won’t have to pay income taxes? A giant sucking sound? Possibly.

One of the reasons we see both the Greene and the Mall at Fairfield Commons right on the edge of Montgomery County is because RTA doesn’t extend service to either. It’s a racist way of keeping “bus people” away from the malls. That also means RTA, which depends on sales tax revenue, misses out on all that retail sales tax.

Most of the talk of “Unigov” or “Regional Government” has been about merging cities within Montgomery County for efficiencies. However, communities like Oakwood and Kettering just don’t want to play along. We have all these different taxing districts, with so many different tax rates. We have over 20 police chiefs- the whole thing is what happens when evolution is left unchecked- freaks of government emerge.

Maybe we should be considering merging Montgomery and Greene County instead? Expand Five Rivers Metroparks across the two counties, one street maintenance organization, one sheriff, and, maybe even a prosecutor that believes in handing out justice (and no, Mat Heck, I’m sure not talking about you). We have one sales tax that covers RTA, the Arts, and Parks and Rec. We have one income tax über county wide- that is divvied up per capita, with a kicker to any community that buys more services from the county- ie: building inspection, code enforcement, street maintenance, “economic development,” police, fire. As time goes by, we have at least one strong regional leader to project a sense of direction. Plus, our MSA becomes significant.

I don’t think anyone is as connected to County government the way they are to Municipal government- and that could be our ace in the hole. Your thoughts?

And another one packs her bags

For all of the efforts of the “Creative Class” movement in Dayton, I was sitting with a friend on Friday who is packing her bags for Austin Texas. Marianne is a talented licensed massage therapist who has been practicing for at least 10 years in the area. She has about 500 clients. None of them are moving with her to Austin. If you ask the person who cuts your hair what kind of following is needed to survive- the number is around 250- for an LMT, 500 is a great number.

Her faith in Dayton is broken. She’s leaving. She’s walking away from a pretty good business to start from scratch. That’s a big leap, and a statement on her lack of confidence in the area.

Somehow, we’re failing massively. It’s not just NCR leaving, it’s our future.

It’s not about convening any more group-think sessions, blue ribbon panels, or hiring more consultants. It’s time to put some people in charge, set real goals and objectives and then start a clock ticking. Either progress toward the goal, or be gone.

No more namby-pamby either. If you have to pay your customer to do business with you, you should be fired as a salesman. All this “economic development” nonsense has to go. It’s not about selling the sizzle- it’s about having the steak in the first place.

It’s sad when I have to go back to a post from, oh, 2006 to remind people what to sell. It’s also funny that it brings up Austin Texas too. I think it’s worth a re-read: When our “leaders” and “economists” don’t understand what drives jobs

Yes, I know I listed as one of our strengths the DHL hub- alas.

It was the post that Dan Foley referred to when he was sworn in: Grattitude

Talking about our strengths isn’t going to bring Marianne back. Only recently did the Dayton Development Coalition start talking about our abundant water instead of “Get Midwest”– but, at least it’s a start.

I’d probably also add this amazing fact to the list: The dollar value of the research being done at WPAFB exceeds that of the entire amount done at every Ohio state university. We’re sitting on a ton of very bright people here- although it’s easy to forget since the people in media don’t spend time covering anything with an IQ over their own.

How do we move from down-and-out former tooling and manufacturing powerhouse to a dynamic community of learners and doers? For one- stop electing people who are cogs in the old broken down machine that has run our community into the ground.

The second step is to stop doing things the way we’ve always done them before. UniGov is only an idea that’s been proven to work elsewhere- why aren’t we looking beyond that to things that haven’t been tried before?

I believe that we’re going to have to do some serious social re-engineering to undo the damage that court ordered busing caused. We’re also going to have to look at grading our entire region on how well we move the needle together toward goals of full employment, low crime, healthy people, healthy communities.

Looking back at how badly we’ve slipped is one thing. Looking forward to how we want to be is another. I’m working on ideas to transform the region- like the Bcycle bike share plan (minor) to universal day care/head start programs run at the neighborhood level (major- and not published yet) to work toward making Dayton a leading lifestyle community- sort of like Austin, without having to be in Texas.

Because, they may have SX/SW in Austin- but we have water, and with water- all things are possible. Take that Texas. You may have Marianne for now, but we’re going to get her back- with some of her new friends in a few years.

24 different communities, 24 different governments

Reading the Dayton Daily News article about financial standing of local communities, it reminded me of our number one failing in local government- we don’t have local government, we have an entire league of governments.

On the Montgomery County site they list 24:

* Brookville

* Butler Township

* Centerville

* Clay Township

* Clayton

* Dayton

* Englewood

* Germantown

* German Township

* Harrison Township

* Huber Heights

* Jefferson Township

* Kettering

* Miamisburg

* Miami Township

* Moraine

* New Lebanon

* Oakwood

* Riverside

* Trotwood

* Union

* Vandalia

* Washington Township

* West Carrollton

via Montgomery County, Ohio – Government.

That means 24 city managers, 24 mayors, 24 police chiefs- you get the picture.

They compete for resources, they compete for funding, they compete for everything except to make the region competitive on a global scale, because they are too busy competing with each other.

If we switched to UniGov or regional government we could save substantial money by eliminating redundancy. We may also be able to afford better leadership. Sure, we’d be cutting quite a few jobs at a time when jobs are hard to come by, but- we’d have a better environment for business with fewer jurisdictions to have to pay taxes to, fewer rules to break unintentionally as business people, and a clear idea of who is leading us and where they are going to take us.

If elected to the Dayton City Commission, I hope to make my position obsolete before it’s time to reelect me.