The man with no plan

Tim Riordan is a man without a future. He’s already receiving his pension- and drawing a nice salary for his City Manager position. He’s holding down the fort, in a defensive position praying for an economic turnaround that’s going to save his, or his successor’s behind.

As a good faith measure, he’s taking a tiny pay cut:

Dayton City Manager Tim Riordan is volunteering to take a pay cut worth three days of his salary — $1,700 — in addition to the three-day unpaid furlough he and other management employees took earlier this year.The Dayton City Commission approved the pay cut at its meeting Wednesday, July 21.“We are asking people to make sacrifices,” Riordan said. “Before I do that, I want to use myself as an example.”

via Dayton City Manager volunteers to take pay cut.

Of course, he’s preparing to ask the city staff who got their “step increase” last yearwithout approval from the commission– to give it back.

Fighting a rear-guard war is never how you win a war.

The problem is, Dayton hasn’t identified and capitalized on what can make it a winner. We’ve been doing the Hail Mary “economic development” incentive initiative for over 15 years and seen a huge FAIL as employment has shrunk and companies have left town. We never seemed to have enough chips in our stack to play with the big boys. NCR went to Georgia for over $100 m, and the executive suite went to NYC because the Schuster Center isn’t Broadway, and the Dragons aren’t the Yankees.

Suppose we announced to the world that our days of diverting tax dollars to corporate welfare are over. We guarantee not to tax you anymore than we need to pay our infrastructure and public safety bills. We’d also set some goals for public lifestyle improvements- a plan of what we hope to achieve in the next 5 years in terms of parks, recreation, schools, neighborhoods. We’d have set goals, with set price tags and set completion points. We’d get out of the development by reaction to private whim ( a local company wants a handout to build wind turbines) and get into the proactive planned strategy mode.

Plus, it’s time to use our loss leader.

Dayton actually hiked its water costs a few years back, not listening to its biggest customers that the new prices were out of reach. The first reaction by Cargill- “we’ll just drill our own wells” which they did. Delphi ended up leaving town. We’re now running at less than 50% capacity- we also pushed everyone’s water bill up (mine tripled over the last 10 years- did yours?). This was how we gave the people “no new taxes” as politician-speak loves to go- but, unfortunately, it also took away taxes as businesses left due to the killing off of our one really competitive weapon: cheap, great water.

Suppose we started giving away our water so cheaply that the county couldn’t compete? We’d gain more water customers of course, but in exchange for it- we ask for some things like an end to incentives there as well. No more financing Teradata moving a half-mile on the taxpayers, or more money into building new subdivisions when we already have a glut of homes. Would we start to have a fighting chance? How about a single regional income tax rate- a uniform 1.5% that’s shared based on a formula calculated on population density. All of a sudden, we’re sounding like a fighter, instead of a punching bag.

Tim Riordan is probably the best person for his job- only because he knows how to play the game here and knows the players. The problem is the game we’ve been playing has been Russian Roulette with more than one bullet.

It’s time to change the game. But, we need a man with a plan.

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