The “Downtown Dayton Partnership”- everyone is wrong.

I am sure that someone is going to call me arrogant for this- but- the quotes in today’s paper show how off base our thinking has gotten.

The “Downtown Dayton Partnership” – or DDP, is a small group tasked to provide “economic development” efforts focused on a very narrow version of Downtown. Why the gerrymandering? Because to do this, they had to get downtown property owners to pay extra- in the form of a “Special Improvement District” (SID) tax.

Many of the companies who agreed to pay this premium, are now gone- Reynolds & Reynolds being the main one. Others were smart not to join, like the Oregon District and the area around the Ballpark (Webster Station) – which most people would consider downtown- but are not included by the DDP’s charter.

For running a small office- the director, Maureen Pero, a former Dayton City Assistant City Manager, was paid more than any other person in Government employ. Now she is leaving her job- and someone else will be asked to step up- probably for about half the money. The good thing for the politicos looking for a handout, is you don’t actually have to live in Dayton- or Downtown to have the job.

I am providing a link to the DDN article- which will go away- but have excerpts (indented) with responses after each (full width)

Critic applauds Pero’s decision to step down from Dayton post

“That’s good news because I think the partnership’s been going in the wrong direction for some time,” said Jerry Hauer, owner of Hauer Music Co. on Patterson Boulevard. “I think it’s an opportunity to regroup.”Hauer said the DDP took its eye off its original purpose of promoting retail.

“Under Maureen’s helm, they pretty much didn’t pay attention to what the organization was set up for. They went off in a different direction, and it aggravated a lot of people,” Hauer said.

Hauer said the DDP is hindered by the boundaries of a special improvement district, an area bound by the Great Miami River, U.S. 35 and Patterson Boulevard whose taxes fund the organization.

“It’s got to include the whole downtown,” Hauer said. He said the special improvement district must be expanded. And, he said, too little has been done to provide secure, convenient and cheap parking.

Hauer is guilty of the same tunnel vision- his focus is on retail- which is only part of the issues facing downtown. Narrow vision, in this case, only thinking about retail, or “downtown” is what is causing so much duplication of effort in our “ED” community.

City Commissioner Nan Whaley said much of the criticism of Pero and the DDP is misplaced. Business hubs such as Webster Station and the Oregon District declined to join the special improvement district when approached, she said.

“You can’t force them to tax themselves more if they don’t want to,” Whaley said.

All the businesses pay taxes already- the question is what do they get from paying the additional tax? A bunch of green shirted “ambassadors” managed by a Kentucky firm, doing what should have been done already. How many additional downtown police officers, or street sweepers could the city have provided if they hadn’t allowed the SID to take place, and there were still as many jobs downtown? When the city cut basic services, while hiring ED people, they lost focus on the core role of Government. Cuts in basic services, increased hassles in doing business in the city core (from permits to parking) are reasons not to locate downtown. Also, since sprawl is being allowed willy-nilly, there is a glut of available space where you aren’t paying the SID tax- or the City income tax which is the second highest in the area (Oakwood charges 2.5% so they can still collect something from CEO’s who work in Dayton and live in Oakwood).

Whaley said downtown Dayton scored several successes during Pero’s decade-long tenure as the head of DDP.

“If you look at downtown before Pero is there and after, you see RiverScape, the Schuster Center and (Fifth Third Field),” she said. “There’ve been some great gains.”

All three projects have little to do with Pero. It is doubtful that any of them pay the SID tax.

Without Pero at the helm, “it’d have been difficult to get a lot of the amenities that we have now,” agreed Bryan Bucklew, a DDP trustee representing the Greater Dayton RTA.

How difficult is it to hire janitors?

As for downtown retail, “Once we get to that (population) threshold, we think we can get that retail,” Whaley said.

Downtown retail is hampered by so many other issues- including a very difficult permit process, higher costs of doing business (partially due to the SID) and bad land use planning. Retail is not going to save downtown.

Whaley summed up the issue of downtown safety this way: “It’s a perception problem and not a reality problem.”

While this line may have worked for an ad campaign for Rolling Stone, perception is reality. Until we have leaders who can clearly communicate with the region- we will not see a change in the views of Downtown.

Whaley and Bucklew credited Pero for tackling thorny issues such as cleaning up Third and Main streets after a downtown melee in 2005. Through DDP’s Safe and Clean program, “ambassadors” now patrol and clean downtown streets.

This gets to the heart of the issue: Pero was there for 10 years, it took her 9 to address the issues at Third and Main. It’s sad to say no one inside City Hall couldn’t do this- for less, while living in the city, and actually keeping the contract local.

There has to be a better way.

If we have to keep this stupid organization- it’s too bad Bill Rain has left town- he could have made something happen with that kind of budget.

The better solution is to overturn the tax, have city hall take responsibility, and enlarge our definition of Downtown- so that every small thing isn’t a big part of a small area- it’s called holistic thinking, and it’s long overdue in Dayton.

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