What is the key to making the city of Dayton successful in the next 10 years, and what steps should the city take now to move in the right direction?
The Dayton Daily News asked the city’s five City Commission candidates those questions this week and got five visions for Dayton’s future.
Esrati said Dayton can be “at the top of every top 10 list as the most desirable place to live, work and play” if it takes innovative steps to differentiate itself from other cities.
He wants to make Dayton into Ohio’s “first digital city,” turning wireless Internet access into a public utility, to help solve the digital divide between rich and poor. With the price of Internet-capable devices rapidly dropping, he said this would allow every family to have endless reading material to advance children’s education, and allow adults to handle online job listings and applications.
Like Mayor Gary Leitzell, Esrati wants a neighborhood association in every area, tied to a reward system to get people involved.
“You get youth programs going, you get more bucks, you get empty lots cleaned up, you get more bucks,” Esrati said.
He also says Dayton’s recreation department should push organized basketball and soccer leagues, saying those efforts would help to increase community pride and lower crime rates.
And Esrati, an Army veteran, continues to push for changes to Dayton’s city charter, saying it is too hard to get on the ballot or to recall elected officials.
Esrati is currently on a payment plan for late property taxes and said he is in discussions with the IRS about resolving a tax lien tied to his business.
David K. Greer
Greer said his biggest goal is to “put the interests of the people first.”
“People feel they’re not cared about or cared for in the way they feel they should be,” he said. “A lot of the citizens that I communicate with don’t trust the city.”
Greer said he traces that mistrust to “a lack of genuine effort” on the city’s part to bring economic development, retail stores and well-paved streets to West Dayton over a span of years. He said as commissioner he would focus on drawing development west of Broadway Street.
Greer said the city needs to listen to its residents’ concerns in all neighborhoods and act on them. He said that will make citizens more energized and eager to help themselves and their neighborhoods, which in turn could lead to more people and businesses moving in.
In his platform statement, Greer said, “Until we structure how the different (city) departments interface and then revise the conduit for communicating to the citizens in a more ‘user friendly’ spectrum, we will continue to be a divided and dysfunctional city.”
Greer, like Esrati, has been a Democrat for decades, but said he’s running as an independent because he’s tired of mudslinging between political parties and doesn’t want to feel beholden to party leaders.
Lutz said he believes the flight of jobs and residents out of the city will reverse as people see the value in Dayton’s housing market.
“We have to change the psychology,” Lutz said. “For people who think maybe Dayton’s not a good investment, we need to get them thinking, ‘This is the time to buy.’ We’ve hit bottom and … things are moving up.”
Lutz said his focus would be on housing and neighborhoods. He wants to create a “vacant property registry” that would penalize owners for leaving homes vacant and boarded. He called for a rule that any home being sold must first be inspected and brought up to a certain standard to prevent blight.
He wants more housing rehab and less demolition. The city spends roughly $10,000 to demolish a house. Lutz proposed giving that $10,000 to any investor willing to add $10,000 of their own to fix the house instead.
“When you get rid of the blight, people have a better feeling about themselves, and when they feel better about themselves, there’s less crime,” Lutz said. “When there’s less crime, more people are interested in moving into the neighborhoods. When people move in, then real estate properties go up. When properties go up, people feel more secure in their financial future and they’re willing to spend more, then there are shops or businesses. It’s an emergent thing.”
Mims pointed to five areas he thinks are key to the future of the city — city-school partnerships, improved economic development, safety for residents, enhancing use of city assets and making the city the clear leader of the region.
“That will make businesses want to move here, bring their employees here, have their employees educated here, and have quality leisure time and a safe environment,” Mims said.
Mims said upgrading schools upgrades the quality of life for the community. He called for continued city support for the Learn to Earn and Ready Set Soar programs to get local students better prepared at a young age.
Mims said many city issues are linked together, saying the more people who are educated, the more people find jobs, which in turn expands economic development opportunities for the whole city.
He talked about the need to create a vision of hope for young residents.
“One of reasons why gun violence is higher in Dayton than in the rural and suburban communities is not because there are more guns,” Mims said. “But the options in terms of how you solve your conflicts, and your vision and hope for yourself and your family, seems to be more blurred. The vision for high quality of life is not as defined as in other communities.”
Williams said the key to Dayton’s future is that the city must be competitive with other regions nationally so companies want to locate jobs here, entrepreneurs want to stay here as their companies grow, and young people want to stay when they graduate.
“We need to grade out well when it comes to things like safety, and having exciting things for people to do, which is why it’s so important to continue to have great recreational facilities, great arts communities, and continue to develop what we’re doing on the water and our bikeway projects,” Williams said.
Williams wants the Dayton-Cincinnati corridor to compete with places like Atlanta and Charlotte. He said the foundation for that is a strong financial base.
“Everything starts with financial management,” Williams said. “That affords us the opportunity to do all the great services we want.”
He said while some cities struggle, bond rating agencies upgraded Dayton’s status in recent years. While Cincinnati is weighing major police and fire layoffs, Dayton has new recruit classes for both services in training now.
Williams also is pushing for citizen-police cooperation to reduce violence, better recreation options for youth, and a continued positive relationship with local schools.
Williams described himself as “the only candidate who brings the unique quality of being able to bridge the needs of the business community, the civic community and the social community in Dayton.”
DAVID K. GREER
Age: 58 | Residence: 344 Middle St. | Education: Patterson Co-Op High School graduate | Current role: Retired; acting president of Powernet of Dayton | Political/government highlights: Northwest Priority Board chairman, member of Dayton Community Police Council | Political party: Longtime Democrat running as independent
JEFFREY J. MIMS JR.
Age: 66 | Residence: 531 Belmonte Park North | Education: Bachelor’s degree from Central State, Master’s from Wright State | Current role: State school board member | Political/government highlights: former president of Dayton Public Schools Board of Education, former president of Dayton Education Association (teachers’ union) | Political party: Democrat
JOSEPH C. LUTZ
Age: 53 | Residence: 606 Warren St. | Education: Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Wright State | Current role: Author, entrepreneur | Political/government highlights: Southeast Priority Board member | Political party: Independent
Age: 50 | Residence: 113 Bonner St. | Education: Bachelor’s degree from Wright State | Current role: Advertising agency owner | Political/government highlights: Former president of Historic South Park, past candidate for city commission and Congress | Political party: Longtime Democrat running as independent
Age: 47 | Residence: 1229 Sunnyview Ave. | Education: Bachelor’s degree from Central State, master’s from Ohio State | Current role: City Commissioner, Market leader for RBS Citizens Financial Group | Political/government highlights: 8 years on Dayton Public Schools Board of Education, 12 years as city commissioner | Political party: Democrat