UniGov- a hot topic since 1967?

Thomas Suddes makes a case for UniGov in today’s Dayton Daily News.

He’s dead on, except at this point, this amounts to kicking a dead horse:

Ohio also doesn’t need its 700 “special district” governments, such as port authorities and fire, park, etc., districts. All that brush just hides which typically unelected folks caused which mess.

• Ohio doesn’t need horse-and-buggy counties and should require (not just allow) each county’s voters to simplify its government. Cuyahoga County is the poster child, but 87 others are antiques, too.

It’s ridiculous to elect coroners and engineers and sheriffs. Each county should elect a legislative body by districts (whether legislators are called “commissioner” or “councilor” or “exalted floorwalker of the first chop”); elect one countywide executive; and elect a prosecuting attorney. That’s it.

via Thomas Suddes: Ohio has too many school districts, government entities.

I’ve had this copy of Dayton USA for a while, it’s from April 1967- and one of the cover stories is “How Do You Spell Modern Government?” Where Peter Dayton makes the case for UniGov.

He points out the stupidity of 25 different fire and police chiefs and says “Our only reason for residing in this area is that Dayton is a business, manufacturing, financial center. And no matter where we live, we depend on its health for our livelihood.”

Fascinating reading- even 42 years later. It’s a 9.4mb PDF. (I’ve tried to make it as accessible as possible with OCR, but I don’t have time to correct it all) Dayton USA APR 1967 “URB. URG. METRO. How do you spell modern government?”

I have to thank my friend Bill Rain for sending this to me over a year ago. Sorry for holding out so long in sharing it.

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15 Comments on "UniGov- a hot topic since 1967?"

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Bill Rain
David- I have to give credit to my mother for saving this article and giving it me when they moved to Florida.  It had been a while since I had re-read the article and now living where the “grass it greener” I have these observations.  No place is perfect. Every community should look back at the historic perspective of how and why decisions were made.  Whenever I look at projects in different communities and don’t understand why something is the way it is, I ask about the history.  Bad decisions can usually be traced to self interest instead of community interest.  An example is my new home town of Tampa.  Tampa could have controlled the port shipping market for the southeast but fought containerization because of the “cash cow” of bulk mineral and produce shipping out of the port.  Tampa created the markets in Jacksonville and Savannah because they accepted the new technology of containers. In Dayton, I always wondered why I-75 was the way it was.  After reading Jev Janney’s book about his grandfather Frank Hillsmith ( a brilliant man).  He fought the “Central alignment” option pushed by Arthur Beerman and David Rike because it cut the downtown in two.  The retailers wanted to bring more customers to their stores (self interest)and threatened to move their stores out of Downtown. 60 years later, both Rike’s and Beerman’s are gone and the I-75 alignment has hurt downtown and further separated West Dayton from the Economic center.  I bring these up because the article uses historic perspective to show a process for making the right decisions.  Metro government would help Dayton because you are competing with every city in the US and world.  Dayton’s main assets are Water, affordability, technical innovation (wright-Patt, UDRI, Composite center, the new RFID center, etc) and great people.  Someone needs to add up the cost of all government in the Dayton MSA and ask the question, “What could we do with this money”.  The Metro initiative will need to be populace driven but could be done while preserving individual community look and feel.  You need to look at Louisville… Read more »
David Lauri

@Bill: I’d love to see maps of or other material about the central alignment for I-75 through Dayton that was proposed and not selected.  I’ve always wondered why in the world they built I-75 right on top of the river.

Bill Rain

Laura Leyes, an archtect in Miamisburg, has the original poster boards of the alignment options.  Her father did the printing and saved them. Jev Janney’s book may be at the library.  I don’t have my copy anymore but Dayton Hydraulics (DHC) office is on Jefferson Street Downtown and I am sure they would have a copy for you to use.  Ask for Tony Taylor and tell him Bill Rain sent you.

John Ise

I’m not convinced that a larger, regional “UniGov” is the solution.  Maybe for regional issues (transportation, some municipal services, regional planning, and perhaps even education), but I’ve found local, smaller governments that are closer to the citizenry are most responsive, particualrly compared to larger bureacracies.  The Mannhattan Institute ran an article some time back called, “Let’s break up the Cities”.  Here’s an excerpt that I found nodding my head at:

Voters’ common sense tells them that the closer they are to government, the more it will respond to their demands. They will see their hard-earned tax dollars spent on the kind of projects they prefer and will have a greater assurance that interest groups—such as public employee unions—will not usurp local government for the benefit of their own members, who may not even live in the city in which they work.
In fact, there are good reasons to go one step further. To improve older neighborhoods in older cities requires not a single, bigger government but increased numbers of smaller ones. Rather than expanding cities, we should break them up into an array of independent, neighborhood-based governments that would set their own property-tax rates, elect their own officials, and give city residents the same control and sense of community that their suburban counterparts take for granted. City dwellers could direct public spending to the things they consider most important. They could ask the local public works director why their street went unplowed or unpaved, or push the local chief of police to deal with the rowdy playground gang before things get out of hand. Inevitably, such a system would favor economic growth over redistribution. Freed from centralized bureaucracies, these neighborhoods, including many of the older, poorer ones, would prosper. As for paying to maintain, or build, expensive regional infrastructure systems: for that purpose, these independent local governments could cooperate in a loose confederation, or “special purpose district.”

Bill Rain

John-  I am huge believer in the neighborgood association (lowest form of government).  They know the issues in their areas and are best equiped to resolve issues.  My idea for regional government was always to treat the cities and suburbs like neighborhood aasociations. Centerville, Oakwood, Mcphersontown, Downtown or whatever the citizens think of as their neighborhood grouped into larger blocks that elected a commissioner to represent their interest. Things like police, fire, zoning, permitting, planning/growth managment, transportation, Econ Dev would be better served by a regional government.  Schools would be like the neighborhood associations in the fact that they should be local but you should not have 26 school boards.  Tampa is in hillsborough county, we have a unfied school district but my neighborhood has it’s own school.  We take ownership of the school but don’t deal with all the admin issues.  The principal is the CEO and the residents are stockholders and the school board/Administration is the board of directors.  All of this can be done and transparent to the citizens but the problem is how to get it started.  Change is never easy.  I always thought some catastropic event would have to happen to make the Dayton region want to change or think there was an issue.  The current economic environment might be that event.


The real Bill Rain, or a sock puppet?   I would have loved to interview you about your experience re  the loft housing trend, and why it stalled.

Bill Rain

Jeff- I don’t get the sock puppet comment but yes. David knows how to get ahold of me and would be glad to answer any questions.  Bill


Bill: I’d love to see maps of or other material about the central alignment for I-75 through Dayton that was proposed and not selected.  I’ve always wondered why in the world they built I-75 right on top of the river.

The alignment decisions started during WWII, when the decision was made to route the “US 25 Expressway” west of downtown instead of along Patterson Blvd.

Then the consideration was how to align it west.  At first ODOT plans called for an alignment closer to downtown (and preserving Robert Boulevard) as a depressed freeway.   Then, from the early 1950s, there is an example of this in the Harlan Bartholmew plan, which also shows a depressed freeway just west of downtown (the plan resembles the original ramp arrangement for the  Dan Ryan just west of the Chicago Loop). 

The decision for an elevated freeway closer to the river probably came about in the mid 1950s, as a result of traffic engineering consultants recommendations, but aslo dovetailing with an urban renewal plan for the area from 1959-60 or so.  The gensis of that plan was also in the late 1940s.

There was also some considerations on how to align the freeway between Moraine and Downtown.  Original plans called for an alignment along the river and then through Southern Hills.  Instead an alignment through Edgemont was recommended by the consultants, and  chosen.


The sock puppet remark comes from people claiming other peoples names and identities on online forums.  Or they use aliases.  You see this on the DDN comments sometimes.


UniGov will be next to impossible to pass……….. but what does it take to get it on the ballot? It would be interesting to see how a vote would go, and there are some troubles with UniGov, mostly about being people being overlooked and neighborhoods losing their identity and uniqueness. But what ever you do there will be some negative.

Lofts stalled bc of cash – too often owners of possible loft places want to nickel and dime a project if they back it but if they are willing to sell a potential place they want twice the market value for the place – it is a no win situation. Or at least it is in Dayton.
I have always thought that the key to any DT success is people actually living there. People live in places like Georgetown Apts in Kettering and work in DT or Centerville or Beavercreek. In other words people could live DT and work elsewhere – even though it would be ideal to live and work in DT – but once you have people in an area businesses generally take notice. City of Dayton obviously can’t or won’t do anything to attract actual business DT, so they may as well back any and all living situations for DT. But they need to make places affordable – they truly is the key. $1250 a month is not affordable – why not just own a home at that point?

John Ise

Bill, good to see your back in the Dayton e-community as it is.  Like you, I’m in the Sunshine state taunting my Daytonian friends during the dead winter months while I’m sunning it up.  But for me Miami is now home.  As the saying goes, the very best thing about Miami is it’s close proximity to the United States.

John Ise

Carl Hiassen has the very best description of Florida:
“The Sunshine State is a paradise of scandals teeming with drifters, deadbeats, and misfits drawn here by some dark primordial calling like demented trout. And you’d be surprised how many of them decide to run for public office.” 

For more see: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/04/15/60minutes/main688458.shtml and Ohio suddenly looks not-so-bad.


funny about Florida, the State,………… been 9 time, or so, and always thought I could make a nice living bc people are lazy ( not the retirees, the natives, locals) Sorry, no offense to Floridians, but their pace of life, even compared to Ohioans, is dreadfully slow.
Life, anywhere, is good if you have good friends, good family, good drink, good food……etc………… the key is to define, for yourself, “good.”

Bill Rain

John- We will have to catch up offline. Florida is not the promised land and has as many or more problems as most states but is home for now.