Election 2019: Four candidates run for Dayton City Commission

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DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The four candidates running for the two Dayton City Commission seats bring a variety of ideas and backgrounds: Shenise Turner Sloss – who has worked for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the city of Dayton, and worked as a campaign chair; Christopher Shaw – an incumbent commissioner finishing his first four-year term and small business owner; Davis Esrati – a local businessman who is a prominent local blogger and activist; Matt Jacobs – a veteran of the commission and incumbent finishing his fourth term and served during the foreclosure crisis.

The top two vote-getters will win two seats on the Dayton City Commission in the Nov. 5 election.

David Esrati

David Esrati

David Esrati’s platform hits multiple areas: neighborhood real estate values, the growing size of private police forces in the city, making the RTA free and driving to reform the Montgomery County jail are among several.

Esrati shared concerns of other candidates that development is too focused downtown. One of his major priorities is making the real estate process in the city clearer and making it easier to track properties.

“We have zombie real estate that can’t be sold,” Esrati said. “There’s problems with deeds, and you can’t track the properties back to the owners.”

He would make the Dayton RTA free and use advertising to make up the difference in cost.

“We already pay for it through federal taxes and a half-percent sales tax,” Esrati said. “We can put advertising on buses to break even. Getting people to work is important to economic development – it’s from the ground up.”

He’s also concerned about growing private police departments at large hospitals and colleges.

“Nevermind the Dayton police is two-thirds of what it was, the University of Dayton, Miami Valley Hospital, Sinclair and Kettering Health have huge police forces now,” Esrati said. “That doesn’t work. If their people don’t feel safe in the city of Dayton, they can hire for Dayton.”

Esrati believes people want to return to the city and want to live here, but the city needs to clean up the real estate process.

“We have example after example of houses foreclosed, stripped and vacant that have been brought back [in my neighborhood, South Park],” Esrati said. “People want to live here and pay for it.”

If you could only accomplish one thing during your term, what would it be?

“The most important thing I can do is not to send you to the Montgomery County Jail if you’re a Dayton citizen.”

Matt Joseph

Matt Joseph

Matt Joseph has served four terms and almost 16 years on the city commission. He said he’s running for his fifth because of the chance to help run the city as it is on the rise, not during the days of the Great Recession.

“A few months after I was elected, Mayor Rhine McClin called a conference of all the non-profits, businesses and officials in the city to talk about the foreclosure crisis,” Joseph said. “We spent so much time trimming and re-setting priorities, now we can do more than just the basics. I want to make sure every neighborhood takes place in the recovery, not like it was in the 90s or others historically.”

Joseph served as a staffer for former Congressman Tony Hall. He enjoyed the job so much he decided to run for the city commission. While he’s been on the city commission, the payroll has been trimmed from 2,000 workers to 1,100.

“We’re still providing the same services and in some cases better,” Sloss-Turner said. “We’ve cleaned out the organization because we had to. Now we’re starting to recover.”

He said despite his years on the commission, he is always learning.

“I feel like I have a good handle on the budget process and infrastructure,” Joseph said. “It’s a big city and there’s something to be learned every day. I like that about the job.”

If you could only accomplish one thing during your term, what would it be?

“I would like to assure people, even though we are starting the recovery, we have a couple of years of tough decisions to make as we position ourselves for when things really get going. I want to assure them we’ll apply the common sense test to the things that come before us and continue to give citizens the services they need.”

Chris Shaw

Chris Shaw

Chris Shaw is running for his second term on the commission. He originally ran on workforce and economic development in the city. A small business owner, Shaw was part of the Dayton Chamber of Commerce and served as the economic development chair.

One of Shaw’s focuses is creating a higher-skilled workforce in the city. One would be a major apprenticeship program.

“Here’s the deal – get into a four-year apprenticeship program, get college credit and have zero debt,” Shaw said. “At a minimum, an apprentice can make $50,000 a year and in some programs $100,000 a year without college debt.

“This is attractive to both teachers and counselors. Where before success was getting a kid out the door and ready for college, now it’s about job readiness. There’s been a paradigm shift.”

Shaw wants to see further development in neighborhoods. He said the Gem City Market was a groundbreaking move for the city, not just as a grocery store but as an opportunity for people.

“We take a lot of heat for the development we do downtown and I get that,” Shaw said. “They want to see that in their neighborhood. Those are our neighborhoods. But smart economic development starts in the urban core. We have to attract young urban professionals to Dayton and we can do that through the arcade, restaurants, bars and then expand to other areas of the community.

If you could only accomplish one thing during your term, what would it be?

“We aren’t unique to any other Midwest city in that we’re hard on ourselves,” Shaw said. “It’s really telling a better and more positive story about what we have here. Talking about good things, because that’s what attracts people to the area. It’s a positive story, a good story and one I want to continue to tell.”

Shenise Turner-Sloss

Shenise Turner-Sloss

Shenise Turner-Sloss first ran for office in 2017 as a candidate for the city commission. She’s running again two years later. She previously was a campaign chair for commissioner Darryl Fairchild.

Turner-Sloss would like to see the commissioner position as more of a public servant role. She said it’s been treated as a symbolic position in recent years.

“We have to make sure the people we elect have passion, are creative and innovative and aren’t using this as a political springboard,” Turner-Sloss said. “It’s a part-time job but it’s still a job.”

As a former city worker, Turner-Sloss is concerned about staff cuts and the number of troubled neighborhoods in the city.

“We really have to get away from people who are making decisions and who don’t have the best interests of the city as a whole, whether it’s the east side, west side, north side, northwest, or whoever is making the core decisions downtown.”

Sloss-Turner said half of the 65 neighborhoods in the city are suffering from six to seven thousand vacant and blighted structures.

“The homes don’t have good value and we don’t have enough affordable, decent rental properties,” Sloss-Turner said. “It’s a crisis across the country as a whole, but it’s something we can target.

She wants the commission decision process to be more transparent and more accountability when it comes to funds.

“We’ve been cut by the state and there’s nothing deceitful about that, but we also have to account for the general fund,” Sloss-Turner said. “We had to forfeit $477,000 of our department of housing and urban development dollars because we missed a deadline. We are now under scrutiny for the $3.2 million we can’t account for.

If you could only accomplish one thing during your term, what would it be?

“We were hit by an economic downturn, and then the tornadoes,” Turner-Sloss said. “It’s a heightened situation where we are and we need to create a balance. We need clearer processes and have the ability for people to question decisions. We need to have accountability for each and every one of our residents. Residents shouldn’t have to wait for the city to come to them.”

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