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Every so often I Google my name, just to see what others write. I find mentions on Reddit, Nextdoor, Facebook, in papers and magazines and even books people have written. Most refer to our immigrant friendly initiative titled “Welcome Dayton” from 2011. Every so often I find a comment like “He never did anything” or “He couldn’t do anything”, “2nd weirdest politician in Dayton history”etc. etc. So I am here to set some myths to bed. More change occurred in my four years as mayor than in the eight years prior to being elected and the eight years since. How, you may ask? I understood the power of suggestion. I made a lot of them and sometimes to the right person who could follow through and implement them. The first thing I suggested was making commission agendas available to the public online BEFORE the Wednesday commission meeting. It was done and drove the cost of contracted services down because it made bidding more competitive because competing vendors could see who got the contract and where they were cutting costs to get the contract. This meant the City had more money to do other things.
I mentioned to the police chief that I could view mug shots of sex offenders in my neighborhood but I don’t know who the burglars are. Neighborhood crime maps would also be useful. Tools like these would help citizens be on the look out and help police. The police department had the tools to do this but the previous administration was afraid it would make Dayton look bad. I said go for it. Give the people the tools to protect themselves. The police department produced a web site that allows access to neighborhood crime stats in almost real time (24 hour delay) and produces a weekly report by district with mug shots of those arrested.
Have you ever filled out a police report online? You can do that for insurance claims if you don’t have a suspect. I made that happen after my car was broken into at 4AM and I had to stay awake until an officer could stop by and take a statement at 10AM. Now I can secure the car, go back to bed and file a report while drinking my morning coffee.
Do you pay your water bills online? Well you can thank my wife for that. She complained to me every time she had to send an e check through her bank and it never arrived on time. I complained for her to the city manager every quarter until he got tired of it and the water department came up with paydaytonwater.com to stop the complaining.
Do you participate in the tire buy back program every year? Well, after a Priority Board clean up event in Southeast Dayton I realized that we had a serious tire dumping problem and took the city manager out to drive around to see how bad it was. He had staff look into the laws regarding tires, what could be done with them and even discovered that people were stashing them floor to ceiling in vacant houses. I suggested some kind of buy back like those states that give refunds on bottles. Staff worked with the solid waste district and the buy back program became a reality.
I will cover one more thing here and save some stuff for a follow up post. Sometimes my suggestions did not get the desired result BUT lead staff to come up with their own solution. I mentioned to the fire chief that they should hand out cards listing the social helpline phone number 211 to the ambulance frequent flyers. These are the people who abuse emergency services and use ambulances as a taxi service. I suggested that if these people wanted a sandwich and someone to talk to the social services would be more effective and cut down on costs. They tried it. Several months later the fire chief leaned towards me and stated that he wanted to tell me that because of my suggestion they were able to solve the frequent flyer problem. My card idea wasn’t working but they began to realize the abusers always requested to be taken to the same hospital each time. So they started taking them to a different hospital or told them they had to take them to a different location. It stopped. He wanted me to know that my idea helped them solve the problem.
So if you are one of those people who believed I did nothing as a mayor I hope this is opening your mind a little to the truth. The fact is this, I may have had zero political experience in 2010 but I had much management experience. Suggesting others to take the lead is not what politicians do. It is what good managers do because they want the end result, not credit for the idea. I made a lot of very logical and sensible suggestions and staff turned them into reality.