What is the key to making the city of Dayton successful in the next 10 years and beyond? What steps should the city take now to make sure it gets there?
The Dayton Daily News asked the city’s three mayoral candidates those questions this week, and got three visions for Dayton’s future.
Nan Whaley said downtown housing, bike lanes and attractions like the planned River Run will make urban areas more vibrant and draw residents. She also called for a cooperative project to improve schools so young residents stay in the city when they start families.
A.J. Wagner’s top priority is improving and cleaning up the city’s housing stock, again aimed at drawing new residents and investment. He said his strategy to attract new businesses and more local jobs was a close second behind the housing plan.
Gary Leitzell took a different approach, saying an effort to change negative attitudes and perceptions about Dayton, and marketing the city’s world-class positives will draw residents and businesses, thus increasing tax revenues and allowing the city to spend more on its priorities.
All three want Dayton’s population to grow, and the city could be at a crucial point. According to the 2010 census, the city had lost 46 percent of the population from its 1960 peak, falling from 262,000 to 141,000. The foreclosure crisis of last decade accelerated that decline.
But early Census estimates from 2011 actually showed a very slight population gain for the city. Was that estimate just a blip, with Dayton eventually headed toward Youngstown’s 60 percent population loss? Or could Dayton follow Columbus and become only the second of Ohio’s six major cities to grow?
Each of the candidates has a plan to make that growth happen, and city voters will decide May 7 which one they think is best.
The top two vote-getters May 7 will advance to a two-candidate November election for mayor. The third-place finisher May 7 will be eliminated.