Take me to your leader, please.

The other day I attended a meeting of Grassroots Greater Dayton (GGD)- a new(er) organization that is working on regional issues of sprawl and cooperation. I’m a firm believer in their platform, and would love to see the irrationally feared “uni-gov” come to Dayton. It’s sort of funny that to try to eliminate the redundant and numerous organizations targeting “development” that we have to form yet another organization.
Our problem isn’t talking about the issues- our problem is we can’t advance outspoken leaders in our community. It’s just not in our DNA.
Long ago, former City of Dayton Planning director, Paul Woodie told me “You need a herd to be heard” in this City- and that’s still true today. GGD had a room full of bright people, but no vocal front man- to lead the charge. Because its funding comes partly from the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission, it’s unlikely that GGD will back a political agenda- or candidates- at least not directly.
How can we move forward as a community without visionary leaders at the front? The answer is unfortunately, we can’t.
The reality is that in Dayton leadership has been done out of a back room for a long time- decisions are made one of two ways- either through proxy- or by putting on a well-directed charade of group-think to come up with a plan that still must be approved by the “powers that be.” If you are wondering who they are- look into an organization that calls itself the “Dayton Business Committee.”
If we want to see progress- we first have to define what “progress” is. Then we have to find a few monomaniacs to drive this community toward those goals like Dwayne Wade drives to the basket.
I’m going to take a quick stab at a list- without going to look at other sites like GGD for hints:

  • Community pride: we are in desperate need of a positive self image for our community. We absolutely need to think of ourselves as Greater Dayton- but shouldn’t have to say anything but Dayton- the modifier is an embarrassment.
  • Zero-residential building growth plan: until our population is increasing, we shouldn’t allow new development unless old inventory is either eliminated or renovated. By providing a rehab credit that can be sold to new property developers, we can see a renewal movement in targeted core city areas.
  • No extension of roads, sewers, schools, water infrastructure with government money, outside of a defined greenway around our metro area. Instead of overcrowding the “new growth community” schools, all new housing residents will be bused to inner-city schools. This will not only force integration, it will begin to force new school funding formulas.
  • Total public safety force integration. All police and fire under one unified County command. This will remove a major cost for every local community to bear, and resources can be better deployed to combat crime and possible terrorist activity.
  • Build high speed rail connecting Dayton to Cincinnati and Columbus– before gas prices hit $4 a gallon. Also consider a light-rail system in Dayton- connecting the Dayton Mall area North through Downtown all the way up to the Airport, and from the VA on the West Side all the way to WSU and the base East.
  • Ban smoking in public places- not only is it costly to public health, it makes us look backwards compared to progressive States that have already done it. It’s embarrassing that Louisville, in the heart of tobacco country can do it- and we can’t.
  • Begin focusing on walkable-communities, giving developers tax credits for not building big-box, car required shopping.
  • Encourage high-mpg modes of transport. Free parking for motorcycles, scooters and hybrid/ electric vehicles.
  • Build an amazing rec-plex downtown on the former McCook field site- visible from 75, and central to the region. Include everything from bicycle velodromes to white water rafting and x-treme sports pavilions.
  • Look at the local arts scene as a source of economic development. Winterguard brings millions to our community every year, look at what SXSW brings to Austin. It’s time to look at our local contribution to music from the Breeders and Guided by Voices to Zapp- and realize Dayton has a groove worth jumping on.

On the State level:

  • Revise the Ohio tax collection system to a simplified single site- with automatic prompts for every tax payment- we probably spend more trying to collect missed payments than we end up collecting because of the hodge podge rules, dates, sites, forms and bureaucratic stupidity. The idea of collecting 88 different sales taxes is just one indication of how stupid we’ve become.
  • Advance single payer health care for all Ohioans. Why not be the first to offer something that could be a huge lure to manufacturing companies? GM complains about the costs of health care- and the overhead to manage it- as a small businessman, I can tell you the horror stories of this mess. If Ohio is the heart of it all- we should be the first to have the heart to take care of all of us. Someone has to be first- why can’t it be us this time?
  • Fix the way we fund public schools. I don’t know how to do it- neither does anyone else- but the State has been in contempt of the Ohio Supreme Court ruling for way too long.

I’ve probably missed a ton of things- but I started out with the idea of a short list- and this has already gotten way too long.
If you have any ideas to add- feel free to comment-
In the meantime- please, lets figure out who can lead us closer to some of the above ideas.

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