Why Dayton needs to stop acting like a city in decline

Last night, I had the honor of attending the Dayton Public Schools Superintendent’s Scholars ceremony for kids getting straight A’s (yep- one of the Esrati household is brighter than most). There, we got to hear and later meet an exceptional student from Thurgood Marshall High School- Ashley Cooper. Ms. Cooper has a 4.1 gpa, is involved in all kinds of extra-curricular activities and is a Gates Scholar. Yep- she has a free ride to any school she gets in.

She wants to major in Political Science- and is accepted at Ohio State. I think she’s setting her sights too low- but, that seems to be typical in Dayton, we don’t realize that our city will be an undeniable powerhouse in the future- not because we have great leadership, or great schools, or even Gates scholars- but because we have something everyone needs and takes for granted: clean water:

Every gallon of water we use has an economic value — the value of whatever we can actually do with that water, whether it’s brew our morning coffee, grow an acre of wheat, or make a microchip.

Yet in our homes, our schools, our companies and organizations, we typically behave as if the opposite were true. We act as if clean, on-demand water has zero economic value. Especially in the developed world, the value inherent in water is hidden under a cloak of invisibility. Although the water has indispensable usefulness, it rarely has a price.

What’s often oddly missing from the conversation about the business of water is the price of the water itself. The companies that are taking water seriously today have something at risk — their inability to function without reliable water, or their reputation if they squander or damage local supplies. Some see an opportunity in persuading other businesses to try to understand their water risk.

What is so striking is that businesses that start to take the economic value of water seriously immediately start to use it and think about it differently.

via The Business of Water | Fast Company.

Sure the Dayton Development Coalition has their H2Open for business initiative, but unfortunately, we’re still confused about how to work together to sound like a real region on the move.

Just like Ms. Cooper, who could be shooting for Harvard, Yale, Princeton or other Ivy League powerhouses-yet is headed to OSU, we are still wasting considerable energy spinning our wheels in Ohio talking about banning abortion, ending collective bargaining and taxes on casinos- instead of blowing away our insane jigsaw puzzle of jurisdictions that make true leadership and vision a virtual impossibility.

If there is one thing I’ve noticed while watching the Cory Booker show- “Brick City” is that he has a single focus on crime reduction- and that his leadership position changes perception in the community.

We have no local leadership.

Every government authority has been handed over to committee, with city managers, administrators and directors- all given quasi-power and a bully pulpit that’s been cut down to pre-school size.

We forget the power of powerful voices- our school superintendents share the stage with the 7 dwarfs (the school board)- the Mayor has the four mouseketeers, the County administrator has the three blind mice- and our superstars, like Ashley Cooper are constantly surrounded with people without a purpose, without clear authority to go out and change the world.

We’re sitting on the most valuable resource known to man, yet we still fail to capitalize on it.

We’ve got talent like Ms. Cooper- and we fail to recognize it (the only major news outlet to show up in Google results for a search on Ashley Cooper, Gates Scholar is channel 45- FOX!).

How much else do we fail to recognize and capitalize on due to our dilution of leadership capital?

(and note, if you want to see change in Dayton- so that we can vote to change “leadership” mid-course- please contribute to the legal fund to challenge our ridiculous city charter)


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