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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” [1] 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 [2] 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 [3]

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 | www.mydaytondailynews.com [4].

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 [5].

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.


If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed [6]! If you wish to support this blog and independent journalism in Dayton, consider donating [7]. All of the effort that goes into writing posts and creating videos comes directly out of my pocket, so any amount helps!
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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?


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.

Bill Rain

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..

David Lauri

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.

David Lauri

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 esrati.com 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?


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. 


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.

David Lauri

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, Esrati.com, 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.

Bill Rain

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

Nick Brusky

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. 


[…] I was shocked and surprised to see 2 letters in support of my campaign in a Sunday edition of the Dayton Daily News. These letters were in reaction to the article published Fri Aug 23rd, and posted here: http://esrati.com/the-reality-of-a-publicity-stunt-esrati-puts-nets-on-rims/10309/ […]