Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell continued his focus on the positive in Thursday’s State of the City speech, calling attention to two years of budget surpluses, the GE EPISCenter and Dayton racino developments, and national magazine rankings calling Dayton the happiest city to work in and most affordable city in America.
“It’s interesting that none of these things that I have mentioned were happening before 2010,” Leitzell said, referring to the year he took office.
Leitzell scheduled the annual speech just five days before Tuesday’s runoff vote, where he, Nan Whaley and A.J. Wagner will compete for two spots in the November election for mayor.
Leitzell talked repeatedly about innovation, creativity and the need for Dayton to try new ideas, even if some of them fail. One of the biggest innovations he pointed to was 2011’s immigrant-friendly city plan called Welcome Dayton.
That was appropriate, as the speech was held at the Ahiska American Turkish Community Center on East Fifth Street, with Leitzell applauded the growth of Dayton’s Ahiska Turk community from 150 families in 2010 to more than 450 today.
But while he complimented that immigrant group and promised that Dayton will prosper, Leitzell said the city as a whole is lacking a sense of community. He urged residents to build relationships with their neighbors and local businesses, saying “people make a city, and people need to be more involved in their community.”
Leitzell said Dayton can transform into “a model city of 21st century innovation, simply by maintaining the course of the past three years, “because it’s working.”
“Are things perfect? No. Are things improving as quickly as we would like them to? No. They never do. But they are changing. And Dayton is better for it,” Leitzell said.
Wagner congratulated Leitzell on some successes, but took issue with the mayor’s rosy view of the city, pointing to vacancy and deterioration of housing stock.
“I challenge anyone who drives out North Main Street, or Salem Avenue or East Third Street, or in many of our neighborhoods, to say that things are going well,” Wagner said.
Whaley took issue with Leitzell’s dig at the Learn to Earn education plan, where he said, “Better and more consistent marketing of Dayton at a national level would go a lot further to solve the issue of unfilled jobs a whole lot sooner than a long-term education plan ever will.”
Whaley said Dayton’s leaders need a long-term vision for the community. “We didn’t really hear anything tonight about the actions we need moving forward,” she said.
READ THE FULL TEXT OF THE MAYOR’S SPEECH AT DAYTONDAILYNEWS.COM
Learn more about the candidates and issues
We asked all the candidates for Dayton mayor, commission, Troy Council and Urbana Council questions about the future of their cities and what they will do if elected. Get their answers and information on tax and school issues in communities such as Beavercreek, Centerville, Oakwood, Fairborn, West Carrollton and around the Miami Valley in our interactive voters guide at www.daytondailynews.com/go/vote
Dayton Decides event
The three candidates for Dayton mayor will take part in a Dayton Decides event on Saturday, May 4, from 6-11 p.m.
at Brixx Ice Co., 500 E. First St. The event will feature the candidates addressing the city’s issue and live music performances.