The secret group trying to do regionalism without telling anyone: One Dayton

please note: this is a long post for esrati.com, but it is the unveiling of a secret group that is already spending your tax dollars with favored political consultants to advance a cause that can’t be spoken of in public… yet. I hope you find it useful and informative.

A group has been meeting to begin a regionalism movement in Montgomery County, and as always it’s being done behind closed doors because we, the people, aren’t smart enough to participate until they’ve planned and announced their grand strategy.

Businesses have been contacted and asked to pledge money, and a non-profit 501c4 has been set up, and once they had enough pledges in hand, they were to crawl up the mount to ask the great Clay Mathile for his blessing and support.

Only one problem: you don’t do regionalism behind closed doors. Ever.

Not unless you want it to fail- which is exactly what Ms. Deborah Feldman, the criminally negligent county administrator, is trying to do by undermining the process by attempting to sneak a contract to her good friend Bill Burges (the “levy master” ) in Cleveland.

That contract was issued and voted on at the June 14, 2011, County Commission meeting, item 11 0959 for $197,000.

The request was sent to only five consultants, and only Burges responded. The fact that he included two of the other “consultants”- Jack Dustin of WSU and Don Vermillion of UD (and former county administrator) in his proposal pretty much sealed the deal. Two others, one in Cincinnati and one in Indianapolis didn’t respond. With less than a month to respond, Burges submitted a 22-page document: “PUBLIC DIALOGUE ON REGIONALISM”

What is odd, is the people selected to be the “fiscal agent” for the program: one of the signatures on his proposal, Deborah L. Norris of Sinclair Community College. Dick Ferguson of UD, who works for UD President Dan Curran, is also a contractor- for a project run by his boss, Curran.

So, let’s follow the money roundabout. County Commissioner Dan Foley, City Commissioner Joey Williams, UD President Dan Curran, Chamber of Commerce President Phil Parker, former chamber pogue and now head of hospital lobby, GDAHA Brian Bucklew start up a non-profit 501C4 called One Dayton. Dayton attorney Josh Chernesky is the statutory agent. 7/13/2011

The stated goals:

A. To promote the social welfare of the citizens of the Miami Valley;
B. To research, develop and promote the distribution of information about the benefits of regional collaboration;
C. To improve prosperity and competitiveness of the Miami Valley by acting as a catalyst for regional service consolidations;
D. To initiate and implement collaborative economic development efforts;
E. To encourage the development of public policies that will lead to greater economic opportunity and a better quality of life for citizens of the Miami Valley; and
F. To engage in any lawful act or activity and to do all things necessary, convenient, or expedient to further the general purpose of the corporation either alone or in association with other corporations, firms, associations or individuals.
SIXTH: The corporation shall have no initial members.
SEVENTH: No part of the net earnings or assets of the corporation shall inure to the benefit of, or be distributable to, its members, directors, officers, or other private persons, except that the corporation shall be authorized and empowered to pay reasonable compensation for services rendered and to make payments and distributions in furtherance of the purposes set forth in Article Third hereof.

So if you read it the way I do- 6th says no members, and 7th says we can pay people who aren’t members- but once membership has been declared- we can only pay reasonable compensation.

Yet- right off the bat, the county commissioners commit $197,000 of your tax dollars, to a consultant out of Cleveland, almost 30 days before the non-profit has even been incorporated. Of that, there are four $27K payouts to Sinclair, Central State, WSU and UD, $25K for “seed money” for a 30-minute TV show on regionalism (total cost not quoted) and $54K to Burges & Burges for consulting and $10K for long-distance travel and expenses. The only sure thing seems to be managing 3 summits.

Note, much of this is before the election for the County Commission- a way to put Judy Dodge and Deb Lieberman in the public eye at public expense.

Funny that the final report and rollout is described this way:

After the November election, (bold italics added for emphasis by esrati) co-chairs will finalize and roll out a final report including key goals, major opportunities, serious problems and obstacles, clear strategies and tactics for how to achieve change and expected impact and results. This report has the possibility to be a roadmap, designed by local leaders and citizens, hard for any elected officials and others to ignore.

Why the election cycle is even mentioned in the proposal should raise eyebrows.

This part about sponsorship should also be seen by all. Burges includes names and categorizes them as cash donating suckers and donation in kind friends for us:

The following organizations could serve as financial supporters, in-kind resources, key communicators and community outreach vehicles to strengthen the process and advance participation and results.

  • Cox Media
  • Central State University
  • City of Dayton
  • Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Dayton Bar Association
  • Dayton Development Coalition
  • Dayton Foundation
  • Dayton Power and Light
  • Greater Dayton Hospital Association
  • Sinclair Community College
  • THINK TV
  • University of Dayton
  • Wright State University

The following organizations could serve as in-kind resources, key communicators and community outreach vehicles to strengthen the process and advance participation and results. Some may also be sponsor candidates. All will be asked to generate publicity, attendance and conduct satellite summits.

  • Congressman Michael Turner
  • Dayton Business Committee
  • Dayton Metropolitan Housing Authority
  • Dayton Metro Library
  • Dayton Most Metro
  • Dayton NAACP
  • Downtown Dayton Partnership
  • Five Rivers Metroparks
  • Generation Dayton
  • Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority
  • League of Women Voters of Montgomery County
  • Local library systems
  • Montgomery County ESC/Dayton Public Schools
  • Montgomery County mayors, managers and trustees
  • Parity, Inc.
  • Organized labor
  • Our Common Heritage
  • State Legislative Delegation- Bipartisan House/Senate Representatives
  • United Way of the Greater Dayton Area
  • Up Dayton and Communications Council
  • WVSO
  • Other civic, faith or media partners

When it comes to Burges & Burges’ qualifications- he gives a long list of his teaming partners – like WSU and UD working together- and then only gives his organization cred for doing levy work. He does claim to “Serving as the lead consultant for winning the election for Cuyahoga County Reform” yet doesn’t say what he actually did, or how he did it (and leaves out the fact that the impetus was an FBI bust for rampant corruption in government)- much more was said about what he’s done here.

B&B has had a long-standing engagement with Sinclair on strategic, research and communication projects; and collaborated with the Fitz Center on projects such as the Neighborhood School Centers, regional dispatch and the DPS Levy [Issue 52]. B&B has also worked effectively with many other IHE’s for 28 years, and its principals have decades of higher education experience.

They go on to say:

We know the area well, after years of work for the Human Services Levy, Sinclair Community College, Dayton Metro Library, Dayton Public Schools, the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission, GDRTA, the Greene County Public Library, Greene Memorial Hospital, Miami Valley Career Technology Center, United Way and others.

He also adds:

We have worked well with area leaders, are members of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, in the Miami Valley weekly and have an office located at Shook Construction.

The list of people on his team include five from his office and a really long list of people from the “partner” universities and their accomplishments.

What blows my mind is that this same approach, of town halls and summits etc. was just done by the Miami Valley Planning Commission– which had very little public engagement, cost a lot more – and basically told us that sprawl and overbuilding us are killing our ability to afford the infrastructure. Yet, MVRPC- our own REGIONAL PLANNING COMMISSION wasn’t asked to bid on this program. Nor were local people who have been working on this and who registered the domain name OneDayton.org-  Dayton Most Metro, Bill Pote.

They, along with other groups who could have managed this “strategic initiative” like local agency “The Ohlman Group” weren’t asked to bid. Nor was anyone from the “poster-child-for-regionalism” community of Louisville. Other documents obtained by this author would suggest that the core leadership group had a different plan on the table, but something made the County Commission pull the trigger early (maybe because of budget cycles, or maybe to pre-pay for on the side election polling assistance).

Considering regionalism is something that requires a broad based, non-political, well reasoned public support, the fact that the first money that the group spends publicly, without clearly identifying who is behind this initiative – is hand money to a political operator from outside the region to plan the “educational component” of the program.

Commissioner Foley, who has been the sole Montgomery County Commission voice on this project, seems to have convinced the two candidates up for reelection that spending county dollars to have them front the forums will be good for their re-election campaign, and that they can probably pick up tips from Burges on running their campaigns based on his polling. I’m sure Burges will do fine- like he did on Rhine McLin’s reelection campaign.

The way to do regionalism is out in the open. With a very good presentation of facts with supporting documents. How many police chiefs, fire chiefs, city planners, economic development hacks, street maintenance directors etc.- never mind elected officials, elections, and borders we have to pay to maintain- vs. the cost  structures other states operate on that have county government like Florida or North Carolina.

Do the taxpayers really like supporting all these extra layers of “government” if for a much lower tax bill- we could have more service providers and less tax apologists?

The reason you haven’t read about this anywhere else but esrati.com is clearly taken care of in the Burges Proposal: “Clearly, Cox Media is the ratings leader for integrated lV, radio, internet and print news. Involving Cox would raise awareness of residents. Cox also has a new digital production facility, low production rates and a positive record of participation in recent civic issues” and as well as: “Greater Dayton’s key websites, whether based at large media organizations, IHE’s (Institutions of Higher Education), civic andeconomic development organizations or standing independently like Dayton Most Metro”

Bribing media outlets isn’t out of Burges reach either: “Whether or not this level of media involvement is entirely achieved, it is important for strengthening awareness and engagement. Determining the level and net cost [after media sponsorships] will define how far we can go with media involvement. If helpful, we will work with the county to help build commitments to participate from the media, other sponsors and partner organizations between the time the project is funded and when it formally begins.” remember, Burges places media buys for all the levy campaigns and major political campaigns- nice loot to wave in exchange for “public support.”

I don’t have the luxury of Mr. Burges inside connections. All I have is the most read political blog in Dayton- that tries to give those that care to know about the nasty inner workings of our obsolete and crumbling political/nepotism machine in Montgomery County and it’s minor fiefdoms. I know this post is long- but, you now have most of the documents that I have on this back room deal- and a little analysis to chew on.

What say you, members of the community now called OneDayton in the greatest sense of the word?

8:34 am note: the fallout from this piece has already begun. I’ve decided to add to this piece in the comments.

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15 Responses

  1. David Esrati September 13, 2011 / 8:33 am

    By publishing this- my phone has rung a few times this morning. Apparently the efforts of OneDayton and the County are two separate programs- despite, Mr. Foley’s connection.

    The public records request took a week to fill- and when I got it back, it was copied to all the commissioners, plus Douglas Trout and Amy Wiedeman of the County.

    I am guilty of not being a full-time professional journalist- checking in with all the parties involved for comment. This piece would have then been over 5000 words- and taken more than the approximately 4 hours I’ve got in it so far.

    Yes- I’m guilty of writing first, seeking comment later- but, if this is what it takes to get the “professional journalists” to do their job- or the public and private entities to understand how citizen journalism can expose secret meetings- so be it.

    Could this piece be better- yes. Do I feel a need to apologize for it- for possibly exposing the rabbits before they are pulled out of the hat- no.

    Comment away.

  2. Rob September 13, 2011 / 9:16 am
    “Members” and “Employees” aren’t the same thing.  The terms you list are standard non-profit incorporation terms that really mean there are no owners (members) and fees are paid for services/work/salaries, not as a reflection of profit distributions to owners.  Hence – “non profit”.

    Don’t let them get you down because you don’t play by the rules of polite society! 

  3. Steve V. September 13, 2011 / 10:02 am
    Here’s a great example. From what it appears, the bridge “painting” work on Bigger Road over I-675 has been complete on the northbound side for about 6 weeks now. But, the left lane of the highway is still closed, causing a traffic nightmare during rush hour. There was an accident Friday and a car wedged under a semi this morning.

    I contacted the contractor (Omnipro) to see about removing the barrels if that side is done. No response and always voicemail. ODOT said it was a Montgomery County project. The Montgomery County Engineer said it was an ODOT project (even after I told them ODOT said it was there’s). The highway patrol and the sherrif’s office shrugged.

    “There are at least 40 jurisdictions that do this type of work in Montgomery County.”

    I guess the boogeyman is paying for it? Public safety has been unnecessarily put at risk for at least 6 weeks, and no one has a clue of what to do about it. 

  4. Hall September 13, 2011 / 1:49 pm
    I’ve never made a public record request so I don’t know if it’s ‘standard’ that others are “told” about the request. It actually wouldn’t surprise if it DOES in fact happen all the time, albeit behind the scenes.
  5. How to Destroy the County September 13, 2011 / 2:22 pm
    Regionalism is already underway in the form of a new and different policy similar to the failed forced busing program from the 70’s but this time on a county wide basis. The City of Dayton with the County’s help is deporting problem-causing democrats (black people, sex offenders and welfare moms with illegitimate kids) from Dayton into section 8 housing in the south suburbs. Naturally all the problems these people caused in Dayton have moved with them into the south suburbs. Criminal activity is now common in areas that literally never used to see crime (I have a friend that was burglarized twice in Oakwood by these people and several that were victimized in Washington TWP) and many residents are simply making plans to leave the county to escape this retake on the forced busing policy that ruined the City of Dayton. A steady decline in home prices and school quality and increases in crime will continue until the entire county is ruined just like the City of Dayton was.

    Take action now and sell your house and move to Warren County while you can still get a decent price. Warren County will not deport ghetto trash from a bad part of town into your neighborhood and ruin it with forced regionalism because they don’t have ghetto trash in their county to deport. Real estate in areas like Springboro that is close to the southern end of Montgomery County is going to be worth a fortune as the next safe refuge. Learn from the lessons of Dayton View and leave early instead of staying and hoping things will reverse course. Goodbye Montgomery County, goodbye.

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

  6. John Ise September 13, 2011 / 2:25 pm
    Boy, that last guy who posted is quite the dick!
  7. David Sparks September 13, 2011 / 2:41 pm
    @ Hall: Yes, folks are told about their public records requests. I’ve even had public officials call me back and ask me “why” I was making a search.

    I always tell them, “because I can.” 

  8. David Sparks September 15, 2011 / 12:18 pm
    It must also be noted that you are not required to identify yourself when making a public records request.
  9. Hall September 15, 2011 / 2:24 pm
    @David Sparks: 99% of the time, the question “Why?” doesn’t warrant a response. You can ask my kids too, I don’t answer “why?”.
  10. Civil Servants Are People, Too September 15, 2011 / 6:33 pm
    Regarding public records requests, the reason we ask “why” is because we can often provide the information that is desired WITHOUT actually completing the request as it’s written.  

    Many times, the requests are so insanely broad as to force us to waste hours and hours on useless research (on your taxpayer dime, mind you) when a single document or discussion might have been a perfectly satisfying answer for the person requesting records.

    For example, a record requests asks for “all public documents related to XYZ company.”     That could literally be decades of research you are asking for – when all you really want to know is how much they got paid for the last street paving project, or economic development incentive program.

    If you submit a formal request, I am legally obligated to respond.   I do not have the option of editing the information or deciding what should be included, or not included.   I must give you everything you asked for – no matter how irrelevant it might be for you.   I am personally and professionally liable for providing that information.   

    That’s why we ask “why” and why you can’t expect a rapid response to a formal record request.

    So, on behalf of all public servants, please allow me to suggest that you simply ask for what you want first – before you waste your time (and ours) on a formal record request.

  11. David Sparks September 16, 2011 / 7:31 am
    What Civil Servant said. But I’ve always been real specific with my requests anyway. The “why” I received was a “why are you looking?”

    Perhaps a better question from the guvmint side would be to just ask “What exact information are you looking for, so we can better help you isolate that information,” or something to that effect, as to avoid the appearance of paranoia or discouraging searches on the guvmint’s part. 

  12. Jeff Dziwulski September 20, 2011 / 5:57 pm
    Sounds like we are getting a view of the local “community power structure” (at least a part of it) with the listing of players.

    And, guess what, Louisville is NOT the poster child for regionalism…for Dayton.

    Daytons problem, as indireclty noted by the poster who adivsed everyone to flee Montgomery County before “Pleasantville” turns”colored”, is that regionalism that ends at the county line isnt regionalism at all. 

    The approach that is required here is something like Portland Oregons’ “Trimet”, since the Portland metro, like Daytons, crosses county lines, with substantial suburban areas outside the core county. 

    If ….at minimum…Greene County isn’t brought into this the concept will fail.  It will be like that old “MetroLake” proposal for Lake County, Indiana, that merged Gary, Hammond, and East Chicago into one big merged city but still kept suburbia free from the merger.  Doesnt solve a thing.  

    In the final analyses I see a lot of wasted effort here with this regionalism effort.  

  13. David Esrati September 20, 2011 / 6:09 pm

    @Jeff Dziwulski – as usual, you are right on the money. Not working with Greene County- and not redefining the rules written almost 200 years ago about our form of government in Ohio- amounts to bailing water from the Titanic with a teaspoon.

    We need to look at our Region- and build a government that works for all. And then get our congressional map to align as well.

    One taxation structure- one property value system- a few leaders- and a lot of followers.

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