What would Dayton advertise? What could Dayton advertise? QOL!

Jay, a reader, always sends me interesting pieces to stimulate a post. Unfortunately, as this isn’t a paying gig, I often don’t get to write about everything I’d like to- but, this letter from a CEO about why he’s giving up on Detroit- should be a wake-up call for Dayton- and Ohio. There is a reason we’re losing a couple of congressional seats- and making babies won’t solve it. We have to be perceived as a desirable place to live and work. Note the word desirable-

from the CEO letter:

We don’t have a perception problem, we have a reality problem. Most young, highly talented knowledge workers from places like Seattle or San Francisco or Chicago find the even the upper end suburbs of Metro Detroit to be unappealing. I think long term residents including many leaders are simply so used to the dreary physical environment of Southeast Michigan that it has come to seem normal, comfortable and maybe even attractive. Which is fine so long as we have no aspiration to attract talent and capital from outside our region.

My fears were confirmed when I began trying to gather local economic development literature to use as a recruiting tool. The deficits which so dog our region are sometimes heralded by this literature as assets.

via Michigan CEO: Soul-Crushing Sprawl Killing Business | Rust Wire

The post has some nice maps with the migration patterns out of Detroit. What was once the 4th largest city in America and the city that produced what we needed to win WWII- is now suffering a fate that Cleveland and Dayton will soon be facing if we don’t get our priorities in order. I am not total gloom and doom- I’m sure in another 50 years, Dayton will be doing just fine- it’s the next 20 that will hurt.

More than anything, I’m sure of one thing- “Economic development” efforts by the government are a total waste of time and resources- as are arguments about tax burdens. When GE, the nation’s biggest corporation, can pay its executives millions- and still claim to have made no taxable income in 2010– we should get the message that the rich have fully and completely taken over our government- and that taxes are only for little people.

I don’t expect our federal government to make things right either. When the former CEO of Countrywide does no jail time for swindling billions and placing the failures of the little homeowners for the downfall of the entire global economy- while the Feds pursue and jail a guy for faking his income on a loan– we should know full well we’re screwed.

If you get the feeling, with the latest budget cuts and threatened privatization of everything from prisons and roads to economic development offices in Ohio, that it’s an every entity for itself – see who survives community death match- I’m right there with you. There is no time for arguing over the spilled milk of who let NCR leave Dayton- or Iams leave Dayton, or GM leave Dayton. And there is no way we’re going to have cash to lure 1 big employer or 1,000 little ones as Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell likes to talk about- we only have one option: differentiation through innovation- and it has to be built on truth- not puffery or dreams.

We have to make good news fast- and show that we’re a better place to live than Austin TX, Chicago IL, LA or NYC.

And it shouldn’t be too hard- have you seen the cost of living in those places? Have you tried the commute in LA?

While I don’t give a crap about the Wright brothers- the history of innovation of our community is strong- by individuals- not by our community. It’s time to stop having group think about everything- and make some promises: in Dayton (the entire Montgomery/Greene County region) we’re going to improve quality of life for every citizen by at least 10% in 10 years and 25% in 20. Simple goal.

How will we do it?

Eliminate government overhead and increase spending on quality of life offerings. Instead of having hundreds of people elected to do whatever it is they do- let’s just elect a president and house of representatives to the region. That’s right- one leader- and a group of reps to argue about what we need to fix first. The president is full time- the reps are 1 meeting a week for $250 each.

  • One school system, with a Superintendent and a house of representatives that meets once every two weeks. The system must balance all schools in the region with academic, economic and racial metrics.
  • One safety force- with one chief for police and fire.
  • One set of building and zoning codes- with one chief officer who is elected.
  • One parks and recreation system, one street maintenance division, one trash recycling system- etc. You get the point.
  • One tax levy for all- one tax rate for all- and most importantly- one metric that counts- quality of life.

The metrics: how smart, fit, happy, healthy, wealthy, safe and optimistic are we? If it’s not getting better- we have an instant election. If we’re making progress- we don’t. Quality of life (QOL) will be the only metric that matters.

When you get right down to it- the idea of having scheduled elections and term limits is stupid- and doesn’t do us any favors. The goal should be to have the best people running the show- and to keep them as long as possible. You wouldn’t change managers every two years in a profitable business- or tell the coach who wins all the games he can’t keep coaching because his term limit is up.

If there is one thing I’ve learned about living in Dayton proper- is that you almost have to work hard to have the community you want. You also have to have a zeal for adventure to find stuff to do that’s fun- not that it’s not all there, but that our perception is that it’s not. Maybe it’s because we’re too busy keeping track of all these little fiefdoms- maybe it’s because we’ve grown in size (sprawl) without making adjustments to our organization to account for the changes?

It’s time to re-evaluate the whole shooting match. It’s time to organize our leadership about what we want for results- not about working with what we have.

Start innovating- start thinking about what kind of community we want and build a radical new system that’s built to support that vision and it’ll happen. Keep doing what we have and, well- look at Detroit.

There should only be one goal of our government- one focus: quality of life. Let’s innovate our way into the forefront of forward thinking communities by adopting a simple focus- and then advertise the hell out of it.

I think we can fill some empty houses that way- a lot better than spending money to tear them down.

 

 

 

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13 Responses

  1. Thomas Kohn March 27, 2011 / 9:35 am
    I think you pull the punch in setting the general goal of “improve quality of life for every citizen by at least 10% in 10 years and 25% in 20. ” Moderate inflation would eat those goals for an appetizer..
    The advice to single-source services and guidance (school system, superintendent, safety force, Chief for police and fire, building and zoning code enforcement, parks and recreation, street maintenance, trash recycling, and finally a unified tax levy) is laudable, but it requires changes to the charters of many cities and many agencies. It is important to plan how to accomplish such a huge goal and to overcome the objections of those powered constituents who see it as an attack on their power base.
  2. David Esrati March 27, 2011 / 9:47 am

    @Thomas- it’s not just income being meausred- it’s number of HS diplomas, college degrees, health (The entire city of Somerville MA went on a diet), income tax and sales tax collections rising, unemployment down- etc- it’s a big metric.

    However we can’t improve what we can’t measure.

    As to people objecting- and the charters- we can wait till almost every city is broke- or we can do something now. Either way- we need to at least fast track the conversation.

  3. truddick March 27, 2011 / 12:56 pm
    Having a school system run by elected officials–that’s already what we’ve got, and it works unevenly.  That’s because those elected officials are, by and large, amateurs.  The politicians with no education background on our school boards–local and state–far outnumber the retired teachers or current college profs.  Other public offices that deliver defined services are either appointed or the candidate must show some credentials–so that we don’t wind up with coroners who are ignorant of medicine nor auditors who aren’t accountants nor prosecutors who aren’t lawyers.  Why do we continue to tolerate education leaders who are, by and large, not educators?

    True, some educators are not competent either.  But if offered a wager on which committee would make better decisions about education, seven teachers or seven randomly-selected politicians–which side would you want to bet on?

  4. David Esrati March 27, 2011 / 5:56 pm

    @Truddick- maybe you missed this post: http://esrati.com/voter-fraud-photo-id/6519/

    This is where the former educator wrote a note to the Board of Elections about her campaign contributions- after being elected to a school board.

    Again- if progress is being made- no election- if not- they get put on the ballot.

  5. Mike Bock March 28, 2011 / 3:08 am
    Dr. Ruddick, You ask, “If offered a wager on which committee would make better decisions about education, seven teachers or seven randomly-selected politicians–which side would you want to bet on?”
    Are you asking, who — teachers or representatives selected by the local community through a democratic process — would be most likely to make decisions about public education most in the public good?
    The suggestion that teachers or retired teacher should be put in charge of public education is asking that the public put an unreasonable trust in teachers. It seems a reasonable principle of human nature, one that the public has every right to believe as true, that for each person: “Where I stand is a function of where I sit.” The public would respond to the suggestion that regulatory bodies overseeing banks would be improved if their members were all bank CEO’s or retired bank CEO’s. There would be talk of allowing a committee of foxes to be in charge of the chickens.
    The fact is, there is simply too little public control of public education. I think it is a big mistake to abandon hope that our democratic processes might yet produce effective government, because, a vitalized democracy is really our only hope. How else as a society can we advance to a good future?
    The current attack on teachers should cause some soul searching in the educational establishment, as to why there has been such a failure of educational leadership and such little advancement in creating more effective systems of education. A fair analysis would not result in putting most of the blame on elected officials for what ails public education — except for the fact that most often school board members have abandoned their authority and have deferred to the professional advice of the superintendents and principals they hire. Yes, we need leadership — but that leadership must come from an alert public who makes our democracy work.

  6. Mike Bock March 28, 2011 / 9:10 am
    David, Interesting post. But, it seems to me, as I said in replying to Dr. Ruddick, you should start emphasizing that the only avenue for change is the vitalization of democracy.

    You write: ”The metrics: how smart, fit, happy, healthy, wealthy, safe and optimistic are we? If it’s not getting better- we have an instant election. If we’re making progress- we don’t.  … It’s time to reevaluate the whole shooting match. It’s time to organize our leadership about what we want for results- not about working with what we have.”

    But how can the “we” you speak of actually express themselves without the chance to participate in periodic elections?  What is the mechanism — other than scheduled elections — by which “we” can have impact on the system?

    Yes, our democracy is weak. It is unfair. It has brought, too often, unimaginative, lazy and / or corrupt leadership. But, we have no other choice but to try to vitalize it. The system is basically a good system, but it has been deliberately twisted to work to the advantage of a small group — as witnessed in last year’s Montgomery County Democratic Party Reorganization Meeting. But the mechanisms for an effective democratic system in the MCDP are already in place. At least every four years, according to Ohio Revised Code, county political parties are required to have a Reorganization Meeting in which all 360 precincts in the county may democratically choose a delegate in a precinct level election.

    Many of your readers, I’m sure, know nothing about the fact that according to Ohio Law political parties are required to operate democratically. I hate to admit that I didn’t have a clue how MCDP works until 2005. The mechanism are there for political parties and for government in general to operate democratically. The problem is, the “we” you speak of, is in the dark and kept there deliberately by those in power. It would take a big effort on the part of a lot of people to make our democracy work. What is needed is an energetic community of citizens who are determined and willing to work to make our democratic mechanisms effective. You are helping to create that community through this blog and through your election efforts.

    Basically, in our whole country, the battle is not between R and D — but between democratic forces and antidemocratic forces. And the antidemocratic forces are winning. I regret not volunteering to help you get the 500 signatures required for you to be on the ballot.

  7. truddick March 28, 2011 / 10:58 am
    I wrote that some teachers are incompetent: David and Mike, you are therefore agreeing with me and offering evidence of one of the exceptions.
    Observation might yield more clarity.  Once, pre-1960, politicians funded schools generously and left teachers alone; building principals were former teachers who did little reporting and community outreach and instead concentrated on education and discipline (and were empowered to impose discipline), and teachers were among the higher-paid professionals with similar credentials.  Post 1960, politicians started campaigning on “education reform” while slowly whittling away aat funding and making it more complicated.
    The architect Stewart Brand wrote “innovation means throwing away what works.”  Our education system has been innovated and reformed to the extent that the successful KIPP schools are heralded as innovative when in fact they’ve simply brought back the 1950s.
    So think; are you at risk for throwing away what works by calling for more unrestrained innovation–or should you be thinking instead about copying something that works, either our own past system or one of those from the 23 or so nations that keep outscoring us in literacy, math and science?
  8. James March 28, 2011 / 12:39 pm
    It looks like advertising the board of elections would not be a good idea!  It’s sad to see more ridiculous stuff coming out of this office.  If the letter written to the board of elections is legitimate this is another example of this office not serving the citizens.  How could a government office that is supposed to look out for the citizens not bring this to our attention.  Why was there not a house cleaning of the leadership of this office many months ago for incidents that have already happened there?
  9. Neil March 28, 2011 / 3:32 pm
    The letter posted is really hard to believe.  Let us all thank and reward the board of elections for supporting functionally illiterate candidates in the past by letting them steal our tax dollars today.  Did anyone ever do a background check on the person that runs the absentee voting department there?  I believe the office is run by a republican we should just ask the repbulican deputy director about it.
  10. Nickolas Post March 29, 2011 / 11:02 am
    Hi my name is Nickolas Post. I am an 18 year old trying to upstart a small business based in Dayton that is trying to reinvent the urban core through creative art and art marketing all over the city via music, advertisements, green art, visual art, dance, and food. I totally agree with the above opinions that individuals have to start making moves! If anyone would like to get involved in my group Post Design Initiatives -“We are rust belt art”, please email me at [email protected], facebook Post Design Initiatives, or visit the site that is forming now http://www.postdi.webs.com. Thank you and I truly believe that quality of life is what can bring up Dayton!!
  11. Bob from the Boro March 30, 2011 / 7:29 am
    I am not sure getting down to one police chief etc. would work, but we do need serious consolidation of local governments if we are to ever get the cost down.  The purpose of government is to provide a certain level of services to its citizenry and not the employer of last resort.  The Springboro police chief wrote an article in the local paper about how absurd it is that he could fire his pistol out of his building and the bullet would cross four police jurisdictions before it hit the ground which is pure insanity.  Townships and cities need to be forced to merge until we have signfiicantly less political subdivisions that we have now.  

    Unfortunately, no one wants to give up their fiefdoms and it will never happen.  At least until the country collapses from the weight of its own stupidity.

    Slash government now!

  12. David Esrati March 30, 2011 / 9:24 am

    And a few days after this post- the Dayton Daily has a story about the Quality of Life rankings already being done: http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/dayton-news/where-do-local-counties-stand-in-state-health-rankings–1121673.html

    The rankings are a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The report is billed as the first to rank the overall health of counties in all 50 states.

    How about if we used these metrics for approval of Government in greater Dayton- if we’re not moving up in the rankings- we change things.

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