The Dayton Double Standard

My first introduction to the Dayton Double Standard was when I bought my home for $14,500 in 1986. I proceeded to fix it up by putting up new garage doors only to be hauled into court for putting up wood grain vinyl doors in a historic district. First argument was how was I to know, since there were no signs and nothing in the deed. Those arguments fell on deaf ears in City Hall- and in court. The second argument was the exact same style doors were on a house in the Oregon District- owned by a judge. So what- you screwed up.

I ran for mayor. Turned in about 503 signatures and got on the ballot. Did it again a few months after the primary when Mark Henry stepped down and a special election was being held. The next time- gathering signatures the exact same way- I was 3 short. Then even later- when using the voter rolls, I started seeing 20% rejected.

When I bought my office building for $2,200 in 1988 it had $2,400 in back taxes (at $50 a half) a $400 water bill, and was in condemnable condition. I had to fight to get conditional use zoning so I could put a small ad agency in a former grocery store. Every single obstacle was thrown in my way. When it came time to get the “occupancy permit” I was given the run around for 9 months. Rules, we have rules here. I was entitled to a tax break for investing in a historic district- had it not been for city manager for a year, Bill Estabrook- it never would have been granted. Maybe it’s part of the reason he got the boot. I even had a city inspector walk in one day and tell me he’d shut me down for customers parking in front of neighbors homes on a public street. By this time, I’d figured it out and cursed him out telling him if my name was Tom Danis, he wouldn’t be daring to threaten me like this. This wasn’t long after Danis, a prominent local business “leader” paid our police chief, Tyree Broomfield $100,000 to step down.

Ignoring any and all political leanings, I’ve been flabbergasted how it’s become de rigueur for local government to “support economic development” by taking tax dollars paid by all of us and invest in private companies “to create jobs.” MCSi got a lot of help, including having a new headquarters built for them on Hemstead Station Drive, only to soon discover that the company was a total house of cards and the CEO a felon (although he only got 7 days). Yet, we’ve shut down public swimming pools, been unable to maintain public parks, and passed tax levy after tax levy or seen taxes raised to give us ever smaller police and fire services, libraries, schools, etc. I always thought taxes were to provide public services- not to fund private companies- especially those whose owners give large political donations (read about Qbase- please, I broke the story a year before anyone else noticed).

Yet, injustices continue and only the little people seem to get hurt. How does a local business get to write non-stop bad checks without being prosecuted for a felony? I once had an employer stiff me on a paycheck and took him to court and was awarded treble damages- 3x the amount owed, plus court costs. Maybe that I was in Cleveland Heights and not Dayton, where the working man was protected instead of feeling powerless.

I’ve missed filing a form to summarize the filing of other forms- and been fined a large amount and made to pay. Yet, we’ve seen a local business be deeply in arrears on taxes and allowed to carry on. How does this happen? My business is a bit odd in that almost everything we do isn’t subject to a sales tax- because it’s advertising and promotion- the only thing we charge tax on is the printing of business cards, letterhead and envelopes for stationery. A few times, we’ve collected no sales tax- and instead been handed an estimated bill by the state- well in excess of what we’ve ever averaged- and had to go round and round to get it resolved- yet, we’re hearing this business owes thousands in sales taxes- and was still operating.

Ohio regulations on serving liquor say that at 2:30 the caps go on the bottles. It’s now being disclosed that after hours parties at this same establishment were regular occurrences. Do the laws only apply to some people and not to others?

My business has tried for years to land government contracts. We’re eligible under two different set-aside programs and have yet to see it put us in a position for any work. Yet, the same local businessman mentioned above has held government contracts in Montgomery County for years, only recently resigning it after the paper published a story of all the problems he had in other places and his tax situation. My question is how did he get these contracts in the first place- and keep them?

Speaking of doing business with the government, how did Congressman Mike Turner manage to remain unscathed through the Dayton Development Coalition “Get Midwest” debacle in which his wife got a no-bid contract, charged an unbelievable sum and delivered crap? Or, for that matter, wasn’t questioned how his wife was doing work for the Army Corps of Engineers under a GSA Schedule (a GSA Schedule is an open-ended contract to do business with the federal government) while her husband sat on the Armed Services Committee? Or did work for the Home Depot PAC- a seemingly odd thing to do for a small Dayton firm for a company based in Atlanta.

I guess it’s the same as what Orwell talked about in Animal Farm- where all animals are created equal- but some animals are more equal than others. Welcome to Dayton, Ohio. The home of the double standard.

 

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5 Responses

  1. Bubba Jones July 31, 2012 / 7:32 am
    Interesting post, David.  Interesting from the standpoint of now you seem to be saying that Higgins was (to paraphrase Orwell) “more equal” than you.  That seems to be a 180 degrees different from you wanting the local community to support a business that was “struggling” as you said in your earlier “Two Sides” post.

    Is this your way of saying that you might have been wrong in the earlier post and maybe you were snookered a little bit by Higgins?

    (hmmmm… I wonder if this thread will get 55 comments in less than 48 hours!) 

    Well-loved. Brilliant: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  2. Gina Kay Landis July 31, 2012 / 9:26 am
    Seeing the light is always a good thing.

    Well-loved. Brilliant: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  3. Donald Phillips August 1, 2012 / 12:38 pm
    Poor Mr. Esrati! Jesus only had to suffer once for humanity!

    Brilliant or Bozo? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  4. Lynn August 8, 2012 / 8:34 am
    Hey David, I have found this double standard you speak of to be accurate.  It seems the ordinances and occupancy permits are only for certain people.  Meanwhile there are plenty of rooming houses and businesses that are not legitimate in the city and no one does anything to check to see if there is anything on record. The rules are only for those that choose to follow or for what few complaints buidling services chooses to do that day.  What if we could generate money from exploring these illegimate businesses and permits?  The city could be better if we get status quo out of there.

    Brilliant or Bozo? Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. David Esrati August 8, 2012 / 10:26 am

    I’ve posted before that we should consider revising SRO (Single Room Occupancy) ordinances- esp. for Sinclair student housing- and in Downtown buildings.
    Any time government is fining people- it means something has broken down in the process. We should be analyzing and refining to make less fines from the “nanny state” and more efficiency and revenue for all of us.

    Brilliant or Bozo? Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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