The reality of “a publicity stunt”- Esrati puts nets on rims

Tom Archdeacon should have written this story a few weeks ago. The story would have shared the history of Dayton street basketball, and the sorry shape of our community’s parks would have been the focus. Instead, it became a political piece, and I was interviewed again. Two pictures, front of the local section, and Commissioner Williams calls my efforts a “publicity stunt.”

I’ve never done a pr stunt that took as much work, and, if the city had been doing its job, I wouldn’t have to be doing the basic fundamental city service of maintaining our parks. A good friend in the advertising business uses this as a mantra to clients- “actions speak louder than words” to help guide clients on where to spend their ad dollars, I am a believer.

Here is the DDn article on the commission race- mostly about my nets campaign. There is no mention, unfortunately of the video that 2 Ponitz CTC students did.

Esrati’s hoops promise enlivens Dayton campaigns

Posted: 12:05 a.m. Friday, Aug. 23, 2013

Dayton City Commission candidate David Esrati is installing basketball nets and trying to replace damaged rims at many of Dayton’s neglected parks. He leaves a sticker with his phone number to call if net replacements are needed.

By Jeremy P. Kelley – Staff Writer


Dayton Daily News Photo by Jim Witmer, of David Esrati with his pole sticker

Dayton Daily News Photo by Jim Witmer, of David Esrati with his pole sticker

As the six candidates for Dayton mayor and city commission fire up their campaigns for the November election, one candidate has made a very public show of improving city parks this summer.

Commission candidate David Esrati has called the state of Dayton’s parks “a disgrace,” and he’s spent the past two months improving basketball courts — digging out weeds and branches that were growing through the pavement, plus putting nets on basketball hoops that had none.

Esrati said he’s personally put up more than 200 of his green-marked nets on city, school and church courts, and even on kids’ portable baskets. He puts a sticker on each pole, encouraging people to call him if a net needs to be replaced.

“Who wants to live next to a park with no rims and no nets, a tennis court with weeds, grass that doesn’t get cut? That makes a statement,” Esrati said, hauling a ladder out of the trunk of his car. “But this is pride. It’s community pride.”

Esrati said he got few votes in West Dayton in May’s primary and needs to do better in November to win one of the two commission seats up for grabs. He’s putting up nets in all parts of the city, but he went to more than two dozen Dayton businesses, largely West Dayton barbershops, to get people to sponsor his nets program. The grassroots effort is important for a candidate who has pledged to spend no more than $10,000 on his campaign.

“I know from advertising and marketing that an ad is pretty worthless, but a service is worth something,” he said. “The stickers will stay, and if I win or if I lose (in November), I’ll still fix the nets.”

Esrati is one of four candidates running for two commission seats.

Incumbent Joey Williams said he has done steady work for the community for years, referring to Esrati’s basketball-net effort as “a publicity stunt.” Williams pointed to safety initiatives, such as the Community-Police Council that he’s championed, plus his role in improving the city’s bond rating and finances, while some cities struggle.

Candidate David Greer said he’s been spreading his message of citizen empowerment at public events and neighborhood meetings, and his campaign will be going door-to-door this weekend. Greer is focused on getting people to vote, saying turnout for the May primary was “very discouraging and sad.”

Commission candidate Jeffrey Mims said he has not done much campaigning yet, but continues his youth mentoring and other community activities. He said he is focused on improving jobs, safety and the school-community relationship.

via Esrati’s hoops promise enlivens Dayton campaigns |

There is evidence that conditions of public parks have a direct impact on property values. For all the “economic development” projects the city has engaged in over the years- from Courthouse Square, the Arcade, Riverscape and tax abatementa, grants and other expenditures of our tax dollars on big things that will “save Dayton” – there is nothing as valuable to our citizens as clean, safe, well maintained parks with functioning amenities for the people who live here.

From a 2010 article in Dayton Most Metro, written by Shannon O’Neil (full disclosure- a supporter of my campaign)

Over 30 studies have been done on the impact of urban parks on property values. Typically people are willing to pay more for a home that is near or overlooking a park due to the “hedonistic value.” This means that the value of a property is affected by the home’s proximity to the park and the quality of the park itself. The report measures the value of a home within 500 feet of the park but states that the economic value of the park on property values has been measured at distances up to 2,000 feet…

Parks that are poorly maintained or unattractive are marginally valuable and dangerous parks can reduce property values. Parkland adds 5% value to the assessed value of dwellings within 500 ft. Excellent parks add 15% to the value of a dwelling while problematic parks reduce the assessed value by 5%.

via Economic Impact of Revitalizing Cooper Park | Dayton Most Metro.

The facts that you can’t play a full court game at Princeton Rec Center, despite it having 6 backboards and full time city staff, or that the only park with lights on at night is Burkham park- where the poles spin, the backboards are made of rotting wood, and 1 rim is missing and 1 has more curves and ups and downs than a roller coaster, should make it clear that these problems didn’t happen overnight, nor are they something that our current commission has cared about.

For a city with basketball nearing a religion, we’ve had heretics leading us for years. One of my favorite things to point out, is that the two mayoral candidates spent $360,000 in the primary to get 7,500 votes- or $50 per vote. Although it’s illegal, they would have done better to promise to pay every voter $20, had twice the voters and still had $60,000 left over- which could have bought new backboards and rims for every city court. Frankly, although I prefer the idea of A.J. Wagner as Mayor, I’m not so sure I want either of these money-blowing candidates holding our city checkbook.

Right now there is a relatively new backboard at Roosevelt Rec Center on W. Third Street where the backboard failed and not the rim. I’d be out there getting it welded this weekend, but the question of if the backboard is under warranty or not hasn’t been answered. It’s been a 6 days since it was reported to the Rec Center staff. I guess it’s a PR stunt by watching how long it takes for the city to act as well, seeing as this is one of the most popular courts in the city. It will be interesting if they ever fix the 4 lights that are there as a tease to our ‘ballers- since they’ve never been turned on, and now have all 4 lenses shot out.

I would be remiss, not to thank Jeremy Kelley, who wrote one of the nicest articles about me to ever appear in the news. Thank you.

As to my statement of ads being worthless- and being in the advertising business- 95% of ads (and 99% of political ads) are horrible and are reaching the wrong people. Advertising has changed a lot with the advent of the Internet and the ability to micro target, but even then, most ads are an unwelcome intrusion into your life- the masters of advertising believe in “marketing as a service” or- giving you utility as part of the relationship between the brand and the customer. That’s what Google does- in trading utility for the opportunity to deliver advertising. Which would you rather see- green nets, or political yard signs? This question will be on the test on November 5th. Your actions will speak louder than words.


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20 Responses

  1. cathymong August 24, 2013 / 1:55 pm
    David, you can be a royal pain in the butt. You can be blunt and hurtful to some you target. I have taken issue with some of the attacks, others not so much. The thing I worry about is whether you can be a team player; whether anything at all can get done if you were elected and everyone else remained the same, sans new mayor. Part of me wants you to be a city commissioner to see if you can do what you say you can (the nets are a great start and nothing close to a publicity stunt; we should have 100 more stunts like it, in fact). The other portion of me wonders if Dayton City Commission meetings would be similar to the old Moraine City Council meetings I used to cover for the DDN. People used to tell me they made popcorn and gathered around the TV on Thursday nights to watch the fights. Eventually it all worked out but not before one of them died in a house fire, one was run over while walking and another died in a fiery crash. I’m not wishing ill of anyone, certainly, but there is a certain amount of “plays well with others” necessary in politics if anything is to be accomplished (current Congress is an example f that failure). Could you address this, please?
  2. David Esrati August 25, 2013 / 12:00 am

    Cathy, can you point to empirical evidence that having a board of directors that all votes in lock step produces results? Because, I’ve watched our city commission do some pretty stupid things, without question- like spend well over $4 million on gathering real estate for a new Kroger store- without a contract with Kroger- and end up with an empty lot.

    As to playing well with others and being a “Team player”- no one remembers when South Park was in such an uproar that we had two warring factions- and talk of ballot box stuffing- before I took over as president and restored calm and order to our neighborhood. That I conceived and founded South Park Social Capital- a for profit, neighborhood development group that bought the old Skinners bar that is now the South Park Tavern. Or that I was one of the founders of VOB 108- now VOB Ohio and served on the board for almost 7 years. Or, that I’ve been on the organizing committee for the last 5 years for Summitup – a social media conference in Dayton put on by about 8 professional organizations. I might not play well with people who believe that the city is theirs to run on the “Friends and Family plan”- true, but, apparently it’s OK to get elected and make sure all your friends have jobs and tickets to the first four games.

    May I also point out that people said Steve Jobs was blunt and hurtful, and was never considered a team player. The Apple Board of Directors fired him- drove the company into the ground, brought him back- and the rest is history. Are you sure you want people who like to play paddy cake with each other while we face the risk of turning into the next Detroit- or would you prefer someone who is fearless and doesn’t quit?

    May I also point out, when people want creative marketing solutions they’ve come to me and my firm. This country doesn’t seem to like creative problem solvers in office- Cory Booker lost his first run for Mayor- despite being a Stanford grad- and running against a felon. We’ve elected people like Clayton Luckie- now doing time, who was great at being a “team player” – we elected Rhine McLin- 2x to mayor.

    This community hasn’t even had a primary in 20 years- because we’ve become such believers in this “team player” playbook that has lead us to having parks that are a disgrace, higher costs and less public service while the city has been playing real estate tycoon with our money.

    Your choices are Joey WIlliams- 12 years on the commission with at least 2 supporting votes the entire time, Jeff Mims, who was on the Dayton School Board, when he ran for State school board and quit his Dayton position when he won- who would have to quit his state position if he wins- or David Greer and myself. Considering David Greer, Mayor Leitzell and I had no problems running together- pooling resources, and all committing to run for under $10K ea- I’d say we’re better team players than AJ Wagner who is running solo, or the Nan Whaley Juggernaut that Williams and Mims are counting on to ride their way into office with backing from the political party that endorses in primaries (why have a primary if the voters aren’t allowed to decide?).

    And last but not least, I think what’s bugging you and the party- is that by running a smart, innovative campaign where actions speak louder than words, you are digging at the bottom of the barrel to find excuses to throw against the guy who seems to be outsmarting the big money political machine.

    Someone told me the reason I limited my campaign to $10K is because I couldn’t raise more than that. That’s nice- but the reality is, I believe raising big money is akin to selling your soul to the devil- and requiring you to remain indebted to your donors- which I refuse to do. My mind and conscious will always be clear. My integrity is not for sale, nor will it be questioned. I will work for the people of Dayton- to give them good honest government- one that follows the rules of the charter which says the business of the city will be conducted in one meeting- not two, and will fix it so that the people will be able to recall me, something that isn’t possible now.

    And, when you really dig to the bottom and try to compare me to Abner Orick, I’ll stop with the nice rebuttal, to what I consider a really stupid question, because if Joey Williams had been doing what he was supposed to be doing for the last 12 years, I wouldn’t have had any rims to hang nets on. Why aren’t you questioning him?

    Thanks for asking.

    And no, I’m not Steve Jobs- or do I have dreams of being him- even though I can dress up like him for Halloween. So don’t throw back that “he thinks he’s Steve Jobs” as your next method of debasing my candidacy.

  3. cathymong August 25, 2013 / 11:00 pm
    David,the top of your answer was brilliant and enlightening, just what I was hoping you’d share. It answered my questions, which I believe were valid. Then you slid into your familiar attack mode, and that’s “what’s bugging” me (I don’t know or care about what’s bugging the party). Work on it. Just a little. You just might win.
  4. David Esrati August 25, 2013 / 11:45 pm

    I thought I was working on it Cathy, by leading by example.
    When will it dawn on people that NOT having primaries is odd?
    When will it dawn on people that there is no excuse for still having a lily white police department?
    It’s time to stop buying into the status quo- and realize that we’re getting short changed.
    I’m sorry I mentioned Rhine in the post, I notice you picked her up at the airport today. Lets try a little full disclosure here please.
    Can we just stick with the part of you that wants to see me on the commission?

  5. David Esrati August 26, 2013 / 7:23 am

    Let me put it another way for you Cathy- because at the heart of the matter- we’ve got a problem of defining what “playing well with others” means in this instance.

    Playing well with others has meant that the commission does as it’s told- instead of telling the city manager what he’s to do. And when they do tell the city manager what he’s supposed to do- it hasn’t been their ideas, it’s been the ideas of the big money in town.

    How many projects have we spent money on that were going to “save Dayton.”

    • Courthouse Square
    • The Arcade
    • The Arcade Tower
    • The Convention Center
    • The Schuster Center
    • Riverscape
    • Baseball
    • Everything that Citywide has dumped money into

    And that’s not even a complete list- in the meantime-

    • Are our parks nice? No.
    • Are our streets safer? No.
    • Has our median income risen? No.
    • Have property values increased in the neighborhoods or downtown? No
    • Has our population increased? No.
    • Are our schools better?
    • Has our social capital been enriched? No.

    As I said- playing nice with others, is it proven to work? Is that the metric you want to use to judge?

    To quote Bill Cosby, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

    To quote Steve Jobs:  “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
    BusinessWeek, May 25 1998

    Maybe instead of focusing on what you consider my weaknesses- you focus on my strengths- and realize, that they are far more important

    One more Steve Jobs quote: “The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament.”
    Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World’s Most Colorful Company, by Owen W. Linzmayer

    I dare you to use the word “Innovative” with my opposition.

  6. Bill Rain August 27, 2013 / 9:01 am
    David- Cathy has given you a road map to overcome your perceived weaknesses with voters. Listen to her…as you know in advertising, perception becomes reality and people will never get to your great list of accomplishments because of how they perceive you.  You are connecting with the community and voters with your parks / basketball net program but have taken steps backward with this exchange.  Apologize and move on..
  7. David Esrati August 27, 2013 / 5:03 pm

    I hang 200+ nets in Dayton, run a campaign for under $10K so there will be no question on who I’m going to represent, and two people who’ve hired me, are focusing on my “ability to get along with others.”
    “Yes, but” seems to be a favorite thing for Daytonian’s to say.  We focus on negatives instead of positives- which may be why our community is struggling.

    I’ll continue to hang nets. to push for city services to improve- to challenge people to come up with innovative solutions to problems and to have open, honest discussions, but, why I have to sit here and apologize for telling the truth- and being compared with the Moraine City Council- I’m not sure what I did to deserve this.

    What we need to do is put personalities aside and get to work on the issues. No more “buts”- just do. Judge by the results.


  8. David Lauri August 27, 2013 / 5:34 pm
    I like you, David, but you’re wrong if you think that people don’t have to like you to vote for you.  I think the majority of people who vote won’t vote for someone they find unlikeable.
    Two good things about the net campaign:
    1) Through your actions you pointed out something negative about your opponents without having to say anything about them (the City won’t spend a fairly small amount of money to keep basketball courts in good repair for citizens to use).
    2) Through your actions you got some good P/R and got some people to like you.
    You’ll do what you want to do, of course, but if you want my advice (which may be worth only what you pay for it), you’ll do more stuff like the net campaign and do less stuff that’s really just defensive bickering that doesn’t put you in a good light.
  9. David Lauri August 28, 2013 / 8:18 am
    David, people like AJ Wagner, Joey D Williams, and Nan Whaley, they vote for these candidates, and they don’t seem to care that they can’t have meaningful discussions with these candidates on their websites.
    I think it’s great that you provide as a community forum of sorts. It’s a great way to differentiate yourself as a candidate who’s not like all the rest.
    But is your comment about incumbents’ websites helpful? It’s a point you’ve made before. Does it make people like you and want to vote for you? Is the smartest thing you can do to comment directly about other candidates, or would it perhaps be smarter to focus on being positive about your own ideas and your own actions, letting people draw their own conclusions about how you’re different from the others?
  10. David Esrati August 28, 2013 / 8:40 am

    Three of my friends telling me the same thing. OK- I get it. I’ll make an attempt from now on to not talk about anything from the past- and only talk about the future. I’ll throw away my institutional knowledge publicly- and laser focus on my vision of the city. I will ignore people who try to compare me to the members of the Moraine city council- and always take the high road. I’ll be sweetness and light. I’m sorry I went into attack mode Cathy, even though you took what many consider a noble accomplishment and diverted the conversation to a negative (ostensibly for my own good).

    Now, can my friends please do the same, and focus on my strengths? No other candidate gets the eyeball the way I do. No other candidate has over 2100 posts with discussion over 8 years online for examination- and no other candidate posts his campaign fundraising in real time. If you want an open, honest, transparent government, you have to look at candidates who support those ideals with a wide angle lens- not a microscope.

    Thank you all.

  11. cathymong August 28, 2013 / 9:44 pm
    David, I would never compare you to a member of the Moraine council of years past. I was simply trying to point out that fighting among members was an embarrassment for the city and entertainment for everyone else. I agree with your other friends that you have it sewn up if you show the softer side of David Esrati, the part that has the greater good of Dayton in mind, its children, its inhabitants and their homes and its future. I really would love to see this little light of yours shine, shine, shine. It would be a refreshing, much-needed change. 
  12. David Esrati August 29, 2013 / 9:44 am

    @Cathy- Thank you.

    @David Lauri- I’m just pointing out that if you want to complain about other candidates- generally, the only place to do it is here. And, that this has been the online forum for years- for all things politics. It’s also a repository of information that comes in useful- someone just asked on Facebook- “What was the name of the Veteran who killed himself at the VA”- answer:


  13. Jason August 29, 2013 / 1:02 pm
    Mr. Esrati, 
    While I agree with none of your politics and usually only come to your website for a differing point of view then my own, I have to give credit where credit is due. I absolutely love your DaytonHoops campaign. It’s refreshing to see someone take pride in their community and work to actually make it better. While I don’t have a lot of money I would be willing to come out sometime and help you put up nets or do work on the courts. 
    Keep up the good work.
  14. David Esrati August 29, 2013 / 1:38 pm

    Hi @Jason- thank you for the offer and sharing your feelings about hoops Dayton.
    I’ve only got a couple of courts I need to do a deweeding on right now- and the question is when I’ll have time to do them. There is nothing stopping anyone from taking a flat shovel, broom, branch shears to the following places:

    • Gettysburg park- behind the old marine training base.
    • Highland Park- off Steve Whalen Blvd at Wyoming (the court is high up – you have to look up to see it)
    • Burkhardt rec center.
    • Edison School old site- off W First. (I’ve done it once- but the grass is growing back).

    Typically it takes between an hour and 2 hours per court.

    I’ll try to let people know when I’m heading to these parks via Twitter @esrati and Facebook- ElectEsrati


  15. David Lauri August 29, 2013 / 3:50 pm
    The point, David, is that there are two ways to go about comparing yourself to other candidates.
    One way is to say, hey, go to Nan Whaley’s site and see if there are any comments there or if she interacts with voters there.
    Another is to say, hey, I’ve got this great website,, where I post my ideas and allow comments, even ones that are negative about me, and where I respond.
    The first way comes off as whiny and negative.
    The second way shows something positive about you, and voters who value candidates who maintain interactive websites will notice whether the other candidates have them.
    And speaking of having a place to complain about candidates, I have such a place.
  16. Bill Rain August 29, 2013 / 3:56 pm
    Well done David….  Everyone will like the kinder, gentler David… The David I know who will give you the shirt off his back… Put me down for a Basketball rim.  I will have it shipped to your office.  Keep up the great work
  17. David Esrati August 29, 2013 / 4:11 pm

    Thanks Bill- 2 rims just appeared today! Will be hung tonight!

    @David Lauri “I’ve got this great website, where I post my ideas and allow comments, even ones that are nagative about me, and where I respond.”

    But, you knew that. So did everyone else who is reading this thread- they’re here. :-)

    I’ve got this great website,, where I post my ideas and allow comments, even ones that are negative about me, and where I respond. – See more at:
    I’ve got this great website,, where I post my ideas and allow comments, even ones that are negative about me, and where I respond. – See more at:
    I’ve got this great website,, where I post my ideas and allow comments, even ones that are negative about me, and where I respond. – See more at:
    I’ve got this great website,, where I post my ideas and allow comments, even ones that are negative about me, and where I respond. – See more at:
  18. Nick Brusky September 4, 2013 / 10:51 pm
    David, I have to say that I laughed out loud when Joey Williams accused you of doing a publicity stunt.  Joey Williams is a publicity stunt! Pure hype. 

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