The Dayton Daily news voters guide to Dayton City Commission race 2019

You can go to my opponents websites and look, but you won’t find meaningful content.

I’m not suggesting that the Dayton Daily news voters guide is the best way to choose your candidates either, since the questions and the allotted word counts were very odd in my opinion, but, as my Facebook friends know, I promised to post my answers after the deadline and before the Dayton Daily News got around to putting the guide up. Link: http://vote.daytondailynews.com/build.do

Of course, I wrote a little more on some questions and a little less on others- and of course, had links to important references (which broke their software) and so I’m posting here:

My other websites:

Experience Small business owner, veteran, community activist, neighborhood president, founder of South Park Social Capital, Dayton Business Journal 40 under 40, citizen journalist publishing esrati.com since 2005. Renovated 5 buildings in Historic South Park; have been a leader of the neighborhood renaissance over the last 25 years. Owner of The Next Wave, an award-winning advertising agency. 5-gallon blood donor. Big brother for 28 years. 3 term elected precinct captain to a party that doesn’t like me.

Education Wright State University, BSB Business 1988. US Army, Communications, Airborne, served with 7th and 11th Special Forces Groups.

What are the most pressing issues facing the city, and what will you do to address them?

Dayton, as a region, has too many governments, elections, elected offices and overhead. Duplication of services is putting the region at a competitive disadvantage. I’ve begun research on the cost per person of having 29 jurisdictions and posting the data at www.reconstructingdayton.org  Reconstructing Dayton is a 501(c)(4) non-profit dedicated to analyzing the organizational structures of government, and working to help elect representatives of the people who are committed to smaller, smarter, more efficient government.

Just the crazy number of different incomes taxes in Montgomery County makes life difficult for small businesses. This has to be re-examined. The city has also been involved in picking winners and losers in their support of development. It’s not fair for businesses like Lily’s Bistro, Blind Bobs, Corner Kitchen, Roost, The Oregon Express etc, to have to compete with a business like the Troll Pub that was given their building for $10 and had Garden Station thrown in for free. I plan to implement what I call “Equal Opportunity Economic Development®” that makes sure that all businesses are treated equally.

Over the last 5 years, I’ve hung over 500 free green basketball nets, all over the city. That campaign goaded the city into investing over a million dollars on our playgrounds, but, it’s not enough. Our kids need more opportunities to be engaged in adult led activities. We need a whole new focus on keeping our kids out of trouble and giving them opportunities to succeed. I have a plan for an entirely new approach to youth sports and activities in coordination with the schools.

And, lastly and most importantly, no one should see the property value of their home go down, or stagnate because of a lack of faith in the future of their neighborhood. I plan on bringing the same strategies we’ve used successfully in South Park over my last 33 years here to the entire city. Most importantly, we have to stop raising taxes on folks for fixing up their properties, and make sure that everyone has affordable safe housing that is a secure and stable investment. New approaches to tax incentive districts, economic opportunity zones, homestead exemptions are all part of the solution.

If you are an incumbent, why should you stay in office? What are your accomplishments? If you are not an incumbent, why should you be elected to city commission?

People either love me or hate me. It’s pretty been that way my entire life. I don’t really care if you like me, but I do care about my integrity. It’s the one thing that’s non-negotiable. I’ve fought the city over stupid historic zoning rules, secret illegal meetings, and the open meetings laws. I believe that “Democracies die behind closed doors . . . When government begins closing doors, it selectively controls information rightfully belonging to the people. Selective information is misinformation.” I found this quote in my research for my battle with the school board and city over the closed-door school closing task force that chose to close Valerie Elementary School, one of our top preforming schools.  Patrick Henry said “The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when rulers may be concealed from them… [T}o cover with the veil of secrecy the common routines of business, is an abomination in the eyes of every intelligent man.”  Yet, the current Mayor and Commission routinely have a second meeting each week in violation of the city charter which specifically calls for a single meeting each week to manage the business of the city.

I believe there are more efficient ways for our commission to operate, in the way that John Patterson intended them to- as a board of directors to a professional city manager who is to lead the city. I plan on seeing the staff and the city manager present much clearer metrics of their success each week at the commission meeting. I think the citizens will be amazed at the difference when everything is conducted in the open.

What will you do to improve life in Dayton’s neighborhoods outside of downtown?

I promise to make sure that your biggest investment, your home, increases in value. In the 33 years I’ve been involved in the South Park neighborhood, I’ve seen my house increase in value by over 15x. When I moved to South Park and bought my house for $14,500, you could have bought any house on my street for that. Now, we’ve had homes sell for $240K. While some people point to historic zoning, and housing stock- I believe that the South Park Miracle began when we stopped selling homes and started selling community. When I made the video “South Park Soliloquy”

back in 1997, it changed the conversation. My neighbors looked at me funny when I suggested using the music of Buckwheat Zydeco as our soundtrack, but I truly believe that his infectious happiness set a new tone for our neighborhood.

I was never a fan of the extra layer of bureaucracy caused by the Priority Boards and prefer direct connections to neighborhood groups that want to place a stake on a piece of Dayton. The city needs to empower neighborhoods to choose their own destiny. Our neighborhood was lucky to have Premier Health pay for our Community Police Officers for 20 years, which I think was part of our success story. I believe that real economic development includes making sure you feel safe in your home.

We also have to stop penalizing people for improving their homes with higher taxes. This idea of reevaluating the value of homes every six years is a criminal abuse of power. What you pay for your home is the value you should be taxed on, when you sell it, the next buyer assumes the cost of the improvements. In some severely depressed areas, we need to find ways to force the values back up, even if it means paying homeowners their taxes back to make improvements. A house shouldn’t ever sell for less than a nice used car.

We also need to review our parks and recreation programs and opportunities for our kids. I spent a lot of time on some pretty horrible basketball courts to know that our kids don’t feel that there are people and places that take an interest in them. I’ve got a plan to transform youth sports in this city, just like I helped goad the city into fixing up our basketball courts.

It took South Park three decades to find its groove, so I can’t promise overnight transformations, but I do know how to help guide and empower neighborhood groups in the right direction.

What will you do to improve downtown?

Downtown Dayton will be doomed as long as we have Austin Landing- where people who work in tall buildings and wear the proverbial “white collar” don’t pay any income taxes and the people who work in retail and “blue collar” jobs in the one story buildings are taxed at 2%. If you look at the number of businesses that left downtown to go there, you see why all but one major building downtown has gone through foreclosure. We need a unified, lower, countywide income tax yesterday. That is one of the only ways to make downtown competitive again.

The issue of parking will be solved as we see the rise of self-driving cars, and alternatives like the free “Wright Flyer,” bike share, and car share, as well as the growth of downtown living opportunities. I was the one who introduced the Bcycle bike share to Dayton, and if it had been implemented properly, it would have had a much greater impact than it’s had.

What we have to do next is make redevelopment of old buildings competitive with new construction without sticking it to the schools with tax breaks. I have a plan.

The city this year moved to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Do you agree with the decision, and what message does it send to the community?

We have a serious problem in Dayton, it’s called the Montgomery County Jail. It’s unsafe, it’s not fit for human habitation, and it’s being used to do the wrong things. We need to stop sending people who aren’t a threat to others to jail. We need to find new ways to punish people who do bad things- like steal money from disabled veterans (Our county prosecutor can’t indict a ham sandwich). People have had small amounts of marijuana since before I was born- it’s not a crime. It’s a morality judgement. The real question is if marijuana has medicinal applications, why isn’t it sold at drug stores like every other drug? We have to stop picking winners and losers based on race and wealth. The real criminals in our community when it comes to marijuana possession are the ones who awarded the medical marijuana licenses to mostly rich white folks. We need a system for managing mental health issues and drug and alcohol addiction. We need real universal health care. Marijuana is not our biggest problem.

What should the city’s role be in the redevelopment of the Dayton Arcade? Is spending city money on the project a good investment?

Why are we only talking about the arcade? We’ve been picking winners and losers with our insider economic development for years. We paid to redevelop the arcade once- and then handed it over to Tom Danis for $36K back before I first ran for office in 1992-93. It was an issue on my campaign literature then. Now, I’m wondering about the deal that gave the Montgomery County Fairgrounds to Premier Health and the University of Dayton over the developers who had invested in developing bids that were tossed out.

There is only one fair way to approach projects- I call it “Equal Opportunity Economic Development” where no matter how big or small your project, you have to qualify under the same formula for assistance.

Right now, I guarantee you that your tax dollars are making some of the same folks rich, while taking advantage of others. That’s not very American.

What needs to be done to protect the city’s water?

Our water is a regional asset, and as such, should be the responsibility of the entire region, not just one municipality or another. Right now, the big worries are aging infrastructure including the same lead pipes that led to the disaster in Flint, and firefighting chemicals that are working their way into the aquifer.

Part of the problem is that when companies like Delphi closed, that were huge users of water, we stopped pumping as much and the water table started moving higher- closer to contamination. We need to attract new big users, to keep the water table deeper. That’s not going to be achieved by higher water rates for large users. It’s time to properly market those resources.

We also need to strike a balance between development and protecting the aquifer. The Sherwin Williams plant fire woke a lot of people up. That doesn’t mean every small machine shop is dangerous.

What do you think needs to be done to address crime concerns in Dayton?

We have too many police chiefs in Montgomery County. We have too many courts, too many prosecutors, too many jurisdictions. It’s hard to even do a proper background check without checking at least a half a dozen sites. All that said, the Dayton Police Department needs to either become the regional police certification and training organization, or we need to stop having our own separate academy and strange rules against hiring from outside. We’ve been unable to hire minorities for over 30 years- yet when Cleveland laid off hundreds of minority officers years ago- we couldn’t hire any of them. Our department is under strength and way too white. We can fix that, but not if we don’t change the way we run our department.

I’m also very concerned about the rise of the private police forces operating within our city. Why should only rich institutions like Miami Valley Hospital, the University of Dayton, Sinclair, Metroparks and Kettering Health be able to count on their police to keep their stuff safe? And, when they do anything wrong, we have no control over them. The Samuel DuBose shooting in Cincinnati still haunts me.

I’m a huge proponent of community-based policing and would rather invest in bringing the department up to its old strength of around 500 instead of hovering around 360.

Of course, job creation and ex-offender programs that work go a long way to cutting crime.

How will you build Dayton’s economy?

Companies, investors and people build economies where they think their investment is safe and will return a reward. Our community has been so down on itself that we’ve been like the ugly girl trying to get to the dance. We have to stop throwing money away on corporate welfare and invest in our community’s welfare. We also have to stop tilting the playing field, by pitting new development against established businesses. How fair is it to the folks in the Oregon District who didn’t get a building and garden station handed to them for $10 to compete? That has to stop.

I plan on pioneering “Equal Opportunity Economic Development®” to make sure that every part of starting and running a business is done with a fair and honest set of rules and a level playing field.

A large part of Dayton qualifies as an SBA HUBzone – and I don’t think we’ve worked hard enough at bringing investment to all parts of the city. I think that we need to create a new kind of economic opportunity zone by allowing businesses that meet HUBzone qualifications- to have unlimited access to H1B visas. In other words, if you are willing to live and work in these “Historically Underutilized Business Zones” you can bring as much social capital as you want or need. This would be attractive to the tech titans and put real dollars into West Dayton.

I also believe that we can be a leader in re-entry programs in paying ex-cons to deconstruct the dead homes- and reconstruct the ones that are worth saving. I worked with Kent Development for years who had half of this model in place, before the politicians put them out of business through unfair contracting processes.

I believe that uni-gov, when properly and fairly implemented in the region, will do more to make us competitive and grow the economy. I also don’t believe in quasi-governmental organizations being tasked to do the work of government is a viable or honest solution.

The city commission doesn’t have direct control over the schools, but the school system is one of the major reasons people move out of Dayton or don’t move in. What do you see as the role between the commission and the school board?

In the last three years, the incompetence at Dayton Public Schools has been a major focus of my blog. When the school board passed over a very qualified, internal candidate who was a DPS grad, and hired not one, but two train wrecks of a superintendent, it saddened me. Unfortunately, school board members are almost impossible to remove from office in Ohio, so leading up to the August turn-in deadline, I hope to help find at least three smart people to try to upgrade this board. If there is one thing that’s absolute, it’s that poverty is the main correlating factor to performance. I believe we need to look all the way back to my first campaign in 1993- where I suggested year-round schools, coupled with a longer school year and a longer school day to help empower parents to be able to work. The actual instruction time would decrease daily, and the learning life skills time would increase. You can watch a video of my proposal here:

I’m hoping that the Statehouse will finally fix the unconstitutional school funding formula and crack down on charter schools, but I also believe we have to push to make some other changes including eliminating double-dipping, retire/rehire and bring real responsibility and accountability to the strange system of the Educational Service Centers which seem to just be a playground for retired superintendents. If we truly care about educating children, we need to restore respect and opportunity for young teachers to build the schools of the future.

What can you do as a city commissioner to help the fight against opioids in the community?

Unfortunately, I can’t bring Good Sam back from the wrecking ball that the current commission allowed to destroy a building we’ve subsidized for almost 100 years. We need real options for addicts- not the jail. I believe the only solution is universal health care. It’s way above my pay grade to make that happen, but, if I can’t get Premier and Kettering health networks to work together to come up with a viable, working intervention and rehab program as well as adequate mental health capacity, I’ll do everything I can to bring some affordable competition to the community.

If you look at who funded a lot of our politicians’ political campaigns it was overpaid bureaucrats in the local health care duopoly. It’s time to come clean at all levels.

When former Mayor Gary Leitzell proposed safe injection sites the community laughed. It’s too bad, because that’s one of the best ways to start to support the road to recovery and stop the deaths. Addiction is an illness, not a criminal act.

What else do you want voters to know about you?

Go to my sites, read what I’ve posted over the years, then go look at the output of every other candidate. How many videos do they have online, how many ideas have they proposed to the community. How accessible are they? How many hours of unpaid community service have they invested. When you consider that there are over 2800 posts on Esrati.com and over 340 videos on Youtube- you have to realize that I’ve been making a commitment to keep the community informed, thinking and questioning.

I’m really proud of two posts in particular: esrati.com/deadly which proved that pepper spraying people in restraints wasn’t a one-time thing in the jail, and esrati.com/manofmystery which uncovered one of the oddest stories of international intrigue in Dayton surrounding the former school board president whom I forced to resign.

I still play ice hockey in an old men’s league in Kettering. I like 2 wheeled vehicles from my electric scooter and my conventional mountain bike, to my 2009 BMW R1200RT motorcycle that’s been across the country and back.

My dog comes to work with me every day.

I love what I do for a living.

My house and office are full of books. Reading is my guilty pleasure. Movies fascinate me. If you want a few recommendations of my most recent favorites: Ex Machina, Three Identical Strangers, Green Book, Whiplash, Her, and my all-time favorite Pulp Fiction.

Woodland Cemetery is my personal mecca (my dog George likes it too).

I decided to hang free green basketball nets instead of buying yard signs the last time I ran in 2012. I’ve hung over 500. I hope I inspired a few kids and made them feel like someone cared.

I’m lucky to have some very eclectic and successful friends. An Olympic champion swimmer with 3 gold medals who now crusades for safe sports, the advertising creative director of the decade, an inventor whose father discovered RDNA, a Grammy winner, a pizza shop owning philosopher, a 2-time Pulitzer winner, a mortician who makes the best fish in town, an accountant with the Midas touch, and a nurse who does clinical research. I was lucky enough to have my dad until he was 89 and my mom was just shy of 91. I’ve not been lucky in love, but, I’m a hopeless romantic and an optimist.

Serving my country as a US Army paratrooper was the smartest thing I ever did and maybe the dumbest as well. I had a chance to go to West Point Prep and took the wrong turn at the fork in the road- and that, has made all the difference, and is a big part of the reason I ended up in Dayton and adopted it.

I’m pretty sure if you read all of this, and all the other candidate’s responses, you’ll find that mine is not like the others.

And, I’m probably the only one who called Steve Jobs and had a ten-minute conversation – asking for a job when he first started Next. If politics depresses you, try listening to my friend Buckwheat Zydeco RIP. If you want to see politics as usual change, vote for me.

 

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