Incumbent mayor Gary Leitzell spent less time talking about specific milestones the city could reach in the next 10 years, and more time focused on how promotion, marketing and other steps could make Dayton known as a progressive city.
“The biggest thing we need to change is people’s attitudes and perceptions. We have to get them thinking of Dayton as a world-class city with positive outcomes,” Leitzell said. “How do we do that? We have to promote the good and not harp on the bad. We have to market ourselves effectively at a national level so that people are looking at us as a viable place to relocate.”
Leitzell said good marketing focused on what he called Dayton’s world-class universities, school facilities, arts venues, baseball team, Air Force museum and more, would attract more residents, lead to more business startups, more entrepreneurs, more opportunists and foreign immigrants. That influx would increase the tax base, giving the city more money to work with.
“You’ll see an increase in the middle class, inside the city,” he said. “That’s what we have lost is our middle class.”
Letizell agreed with other candidates that neighborhood quality is a major issue. But his first solution had more to do with current residents than with housing or demolition.
“What I’ve noticed, having been chairman of a neighborhood association and a priority board, is that those neighborhoods that have neighborhood associations have fared much better than those that don’t,” Leitzell said.
The mayor called for a city effort to create neighborhood associations in those areas that don’t have them. That dovetails with the city’s DIY push of the past two years — the acronym started out as Do It Yourself, but has since evolved to Dayton Is Yours.
“We, the citizens, make up the city,” Leitzell said. “It’s not just government. … And I can help first-hand with this — I know what tools are available (to neighborhoods). I know how to inspire people.”
Leitzell said Dayton has to think differently, try new things, and “not be afraid to screw up” in order to get the national attention he wants. He pointed to his “$10,000 challenge,” where he asked all city candidates to run for office on budgets of $10,000 or less, which he said would have put Dayton in the spotlight. Whaley and Wagner declined.
He said Dayton also has a unique opportunity this year to elect three political independents — aligning with commission candidates David Esrati and David K. Greer — to take party politics out of city government.
“What did Portland, Denver and Seattle do?” Leitzell asked. “They marketed themselves — Hey, we’re a progressive city, we attract this, we have these amenities. So the young professional, active people migrated there. Well guess what? It’s our time.”
Residence: 114 Volkenand Ave., Walnut Hills neighborhood
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Goldsmiths College, University of London
Current role: Mayor
Political/government highlights: Three-plus years as mayor, former neighborhood association and priority board chairman
Political party: Independent