Candidate refuses interview
By Jim Bebbington
Wednesday, October 20, 1999
DAYTON--Dayton City Commission candidate David Esrati left an interview Tuesday with the Dayton Daily News editorial board, refusing to answer questions because the board would not repudiate what he claimed was a racist music review published in August.
Esrati said the music review showed the paper put too much emphasis on a person's race.
"If we are going to say people's skin color makes a difference then that is an unacceptable criteria," Esrati said. "Sorry, it would be nice to discuss issues with you."
Esrati, who runs a local advertising agency, and incumbents Idotha Bootsie Neal and Dean Lovelace are running for two Dayton city commission seats in the Nov. 2 election.
Neal said she did not share Esrati's ire at the music review.
"I'm not surprised," she said. "David has an interesting approach to conflicts and situations."
The Daily News published Aug. 20 a review of an album by G. Love and Special Sauce. "Some songs on Philadelphonic ... had me checking the band photos to make sure no one in this trio had become black," the reviewer wrote. He praised "Jimi `Jazz' Prescott's phat stand-up bass and G. Love's harmonica, tasty blues guitar riffs and his increasingly convincing attempts to rap."
Lovelace and Neal said the city has been enjoying a time of growth and that the cooperation among the current city commissioners has made it possible.
The city is the site of construction of downtown amenities like the minor league baseball stadium and RiverScape riverfront park. A $3 million housing rehabilitation project opened this week in the Historic Dayton View neighborhood.
"We are all kind of excited about the era we are in about the thing coming out of the ground," Lovelace said.
Neal said the city's efforts to rebuild would keep and attract jobs and improve the city for low-income residents.
"The way you address that is not just through subsidies but by creating opportunity," Neal said.
Contact Jim Bebbington at 225-2262 or e-mail him at [email protected]

19 Oct. 1999

Asked if the article (see below) was appropriate , first Hap Cawood responded with "That's not my department." To me, it sounds like Hap should be a politician instead of a pundit. Next response was that it was a "good angle" and a perfectly OK article. Not for me. I left. Here is the 200 word statement I left with them:

A "No" uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a "Yes" merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble.
- Mohandas Gandhi

I do not wish to take part in an evaluation by a newspaper that publishes an article that equates a person's skin color with the style of music he performs.
When I challenged this stereotype I got excuses instead of answers. That this racist view was written by a person of color isn't an acceptable answer.
I believe that when editors refuse to answer their reader's questions, they lose the right to ask questions.
Dayton has been pillaged by a select group of businessmen who seem to be above question. The publisher of this, newspaper prefers to hobnob with the genteel, rather than standing objectively and speaking for the people.
I'm not a good politician. I don't tell people what they want to hear. I can only promise to serve and represent the people of this city, and insure they come first.
What I am, is the only choice for change.
I can't change the Dayton Daily News, but by declining their interview, they might hear that they too, must be accountable for their actions.

For those loyal readers who wonder what I would have said if they had repudiated the article:

(This material is not to appear in the Dayton Daily News.)

With me as the only choice for change in this election, Dayton voters must decide if they are satisfied with the status quo, or are interested in reversing a 20-year exodus of residents and businesses. A vote for David Esrati will end all secret meetings of the City Commission, bringing our first open government in years. I will push to end school busing for desegregation, building community by making sure a neighborhood's children attend the same school. We must concentrate on providing and improving services to citizens instead of funding more Danis Construction mega-projects. We must rebrand Dayton as a success, focusing on our strengths instead of our weaknesses.
It will be my mission to find and develop candidates for future elections who can continue to work for the people, instead of for unions, PAC's or political parties.
As a neighborhood activist and small business person, I would bring a fresh new perspective to the Commission. As a former paratrooper, I bring a can-do attitude. As a truly independent candidate, I bring an unbiased voice to represent the people who elect me. On November 2nd, please do your part and vote. Additional information about my campaign is available at


What do you think? Did I do the right thing? My internal discussion is still at full tilt. Visit the comments page, and send me your views.

6 Oct. 1999

I will attend the editorial board interview on Tue. Oct. 19 at 4 pm. If they refuse to repudiate this blatant form of racism, I will leave.

30 August 1999, Dayton Daily News "Speak Up"

"Re the Aug. 24 letter "'Daily News Music review demonstrates racist thinking"; What the letter writer has failed to recognize, in typical short-sighted manner, is that music is cultural. Being black is cultural. Being white is cultural. Being Hispanic is cultural. You get the idea. Unfortunately, the letter writer doesn't. - Unsigned.

My response: I guess Winton Marsalis shouldn't play classical music because he isn't culturally correct. By the same cultural General Colin Powell should forget about being president. As long as we still look at skin color, sex, or physical ability as a qualification for intellectual capability we are no smarter than the Klan. I stand by my statement. - David Esrati.

Dayton Daily News still thinks skin color has something to do with musical ability.

Letter to the editor, and statement to the editorial board. published, with out a response 24 August, 1999

I was amazed to read the following words in a record review in today's "Go" (Aug 20,1999, pg 19) - and then amazed by the managing editors defense of this blatantly backward statement.
G. Love & Special Sauce, Philadelphonic
"OK, I admit it: Some songs on Philadelphonic (Okeh/550) had me checking the band photos to make sure no one in this trio had become black. Confirmed still white, but there's cause to wonder," Reviewed by Bob Underwood."
I thought the human race had evolved past the idea that "black people have rhythm" and "like watermelon" Apparently not at the Dayton Daily News.
I am unable to discern the color of a persons skin by the music they make- nor do I care.
I know I can tell the difference between racism and reporting by words put to print.
There appear to be some stupid people at the paper who still think that the color of a person's skin has anything to do with the music they make.
Until the paper's editors address this, I refuse to submit to any screening of candidates for endorsement. I fear that people who still think skin color has anything to do with musical ability may also make the assumption that it also has bearing on a person's ability to lead this city into the next millennium.

page 19, Dayton Daily News "Go" section, 20 August, 1999

Does this offend you? Send a letter to the editor.

If you want to read a real review of the above album, I found this one from the Cleveland Free Times

City OKs luxury box at stadium
Jim Bebbington
Thursday, August 12, 1999

Despite criticism from a city commission candidate, Dayton commissioners Wednesday unanimously approved buying a luxury box in the new minor-league baseball stadium.
The commission voted 4-0 to amend a lease with the builders to have an additional luxury box built in the 7,500-seat stadium. The city will pay a one-time fee of $92,000. Other boxes are going for $25,000 a year.
City officials said the money is coming from the funds it already committed to spend on the baseball stadium. No discussion preceded the vote, but Commissioner Idotha Bootsie Neal said later the city will use the box to entertain out-of-town visitors and as a marketing tool.
"These aren't additional funds," she said.
Neal was joined in support by Mayor Mike Turner and commissioners Mary Wiseman and Dean Lovelace. Commissioner Lloyd Lewis Jr. was absent.
Before the vote, city commission candidate David Esrati said the city could put the $92,000 to far better use. It could "easily pay for two community-based police officers for a year," he said.
Lovelace said the city government entertains businesses and visitors and wants to be able to show them the newest downtown attraction.
"It's something we already paid for, as long as we use it in a constructive manner," Lovelace said.
The city has loaned Mandalay Sports Entertainment $11.2 million for construction of the stadium and expects to spend $6.5 million for architects plans, the land and preparing the site.

CONTACT Jim Bebbington at 225-2262 or e-mail him at [email protected]


City chiefs have term for economic development: Suite life
Leigh Allen
Thursday, August 12, 1999

Economic Development. You've got to love that capitalized phrase. At least you have to love it if you're a public official.
Economic Development is the best excuse for tax-funded sport since the divine right of kings. It's perfect for dining high on the hog. Or watching ballgames from a luxury box.
As an added bonus, when officials have a big time on little guys' money, Economic Development can be an alibi for keeping it secret.
In 18 years in Kentucky's capital, I saw Economic Development used to explain all kinds of chicanery, including ordering troopers to speed movie stars to the Kentucky Derby. When I came here, I feared the days of being able to fill columns with such fun and games was over. Luckily for me, but not the taxpayers, the Dayton City Commission decided to go for a little luxury.
After reading Tuesday's story about the commission's prospective $92,000 ballpark luxury box purchase, I decided to catch Wednesday's commission meeting to hear the discussion on this innovative use of tax money. Only there wasn't any.
The only speaker was commission candidate David Esrati, who opposed the purchase for many of the reasons that had crossed my mind. When the time came to vote, it was just four quick "ayes" (Commissioner Lloyd Lewis was absent). No reason to dawdle when luxury is at stake.
Is it money well spent? A city official told me Dayton gets 10 to 15 out-of-area company visits a year. With 70 home game days a year, chances are you'll only have such visitors for a few. Dayton has dozens of projects with local companies, ongoing relations with more, but execs of those can probably find the park on their own.
I tried to find whether the owners of other corporate suites would help out if a touring CEO wished to catch a game without messing with the riffraff in the stands, but the mostly tax-backed Dragons didn't answer queries about how many of the park's planned 28 (now 29) suites have been sold, let alone to whom, so I couldn't check around much.
The one company I correctly guessed would have a skybox said it will be using its box itself, but would help out in a special case. So, should Bill Gates decide he's sick of the rain in Seattle and wants to consider a headquarters city where he can count on the occasional drought, he's got a place to plunk his laptop.
There's also the question of whether a luxury box is a good Economic Development ploy. This is a place where snobbishness is delightfully rare. An exec who prefers to sit in good seats in the crowd rather than behind glass is more likely to be happy with a move to the Miami Valley.
City officials say they got a good deal from the Dragons. Ante up $17.7 million in cash and forgivable loans and you rate a good deal, but that's beside the point.
Also immaterial is a claim the $92,000 is already dedicated to baseball. If so, maybe some baseballs could be used to fill potholes, bean crooks or bonk rodents.
Besides, luxury boxes can be a visual abomination. I was shocked when I finally got into Jacobs Field for an Indians' stockholders' meeting to find the allegedly beautiful throwback stadium has an entire side that looks like an ugly modern office building. The boxes may have to exist to line team owners' pockets, but the city shouldn't add to the blight.
We can only hope fans are able to look into the city skybox to see who's there each game. Or that the $92,000 includes the price of a Web cam so the citizens of Dayton can watch their tax dollars at work.
CONTACT Leigh Allan at 225-7317 or e-mail [email protected]


Officials will view ballgames in style

By Jim Bebbington
Tuesday, August 10, 1999

After paying for more than half of the construction costs of a new minor league baseball stadium, the city of Dayton is planning to spend $92,000 for a ballpark luxury suite reserved for city use.

The money is coming from $6.5 million the city has already committed to pay for the land for the stadium and is not expected to increase what the city is spending on the project, said Economic Development Director Joe Tuss.

Tuss said the $92,000 will pay for the construction of an additional luxury box. The stadium will have 29 such luxury suites.

The city's box will be used for economic development, hosting visiting delegations and marketing for the city, Tuss said.

He said the city's cost is reasonable because it's a one-time charge while local private companies are being charged as much as $25,000 a year for similar suites.

City commissioners could not be reached for comment Monday and Mayor Mike Turner said he did not want to comment on the matter.

The city commission is expected to vote Wednesday to amend its lease with the stadium owners to have a suite at the stadium.

The 7,500-seat stadium is being built by Mandalay Sports Entertainment of California, which is bringing the Dayton Dragons, a Class A minor league baseball team, to Dayton next spring. The ballpark is scheduled to open in April.

The city is spending $6.5 million to buy and prepare the land at the site and will lease the land to Mandalay's stadium ownership entity, Riverfront Area Redevelopment Enterprises Inc.

The city also has loaned Mandalay $11.2 million toward the $15.8 million construction cost. The loan will be forgiven at 5 percent a year for each year Mandalay keeps a team in Dayton.

After 20 to 30 years, the stadium will revert to city ownership.

The city will get game tickets as part of the suite package. It will have to pay for any food or beverages consumed.

Other minor league baseball stadiums have similar boxes for their local governments, Tuss said, including Lansing, Mich., and Mobile, Ala. "It is not unheard of," he said.

City council members in St. Petersburg, Fla., may have violated their state's open meetings law when the entire council sat in their city's luxury suite for a Tampa Bay Devil Rays baseball game, according to a report from The Associated Press.

Dayton City Commission candidate David Esrati criticized the move and said the city should not pay for a box.

"If city officials want to go to the ballgame, they should pay for it themselves," Esrati said. "The citizens are not getting a free ride."

Let's see- first we pay for the stadium, now we pay for a box, next we are going to have to buy first 3 row seats for UD Basketball games too- and maybe rebuild UD Arena in the name of "economic development." I forget where our founding fathers said anything about "Life liberty and the pursuit of economic development."

If the city Economic Development department wants to take a prospective business to a ball game- they should call the Chamber of Commerce, have Phil Parker call one of the box owners, and have them host the visitors. The City could better spend this money on something we need - like more community based police officers.


Impact Weekly

5 August, 1999

Lost that democratic feeling
Study shows Dayton residents feel Shut out.

Dayton's not a very democratic place. That's the judgment of a few longtime local critics of the status quo. But now those critics can point to some of the data gathered for a recent study about citizen participation in activities aimed at affecting outcomes of public policy debates and decisions.

The study, conducted by faculty and staff at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research (ISR) interviewed activists and randomly surveyed residents in 14 cities across the country. Though the authors of the study's draft report are careful to avoid coming to any sweeping conclusions, the data released in July paints a picture of a demoralized Dayton citizenry.

Responding to a telephone survey, Dayton residents rated their city lower in regard to race relations than did the residents of any other city, listed in the report. Only the residents of Birmingham, Ala., rated their city government's performance lower than Dayton residents did. Dayton also fared badly in respondent evaluations of the local school system, opportunities for political involvement, neighborhood safety and pride in the community.

At a time when most local media are celebrating the emergence of several large, high-profile development projects downtown, the survey results and other details in the study should have a sobering effect on local officials and civic boosters. The study describes both "virtuous" and "vicious" cycles of citizen participation, suggesting that both leadership and citizenry have a role in choosing between the two. " citizens can come to believe that governance is something that is done to them rather than by them," the study warns.

But the results aren't news to some people. Dayton residents are used to feeling that their contribution isn't highly valued. Two years ago, after a noisy public reaction, the city commission backed off staff recommendations to significantly curtail citizen participation at meetings. But even after backing off the proposed restrictions, the commission began vigorous enforcement of time limits on public participation. And while ordinary citizens watch from their seats at commission meetings, corporate chiefs and downtown development leaders were and are allowed to give seemingly endless presentations on the merits of government contributions to private development schemes.

The data paints a picture of a demoralized Dayton citizenry.

Parents and local residents discover even more severe restrictions against public speaking at school board meetings than those they encounter at the city commission. And, several times in the last few years, both school board and city commission have used the police to remove and, on occasion, arrest citizens frustrated by the lack of opportunity for effective input. Dayton Mayor Mike Turner even supported the arrest and continuing prosecution of relentless critic David Esrati for a silent protest. The stab at muzzling Esrati eventually cost the city more than $100,000 in the settlement of a civil suit and more in legal fees and staff time. (See more about this at The Mask page of this site)

But the attempt to limit citizen participation isn't a recent development. The ISR study even hints that priority boards, long touted by the city's PR apparatus as an advance in citizen participation, don't achieve their intended result. "... political participation is relatively low in Dayton, Ohio," the draft says, "despite that, city's comprehensive system of Priority Board's that dates back to the mid-1970s." The study does not conclude that the priority board structure is a failure, but for some residents the system is another staff-driven bureaucracy that blocks access to elected leaders.

The study also notes that cities with reform-style governments, such as Dayton's commission-manager system, which includes nonpartisan and at large elections, seem to discourage citizen participation. The reforms that led to the creation of that government were engineered by National Cash Register's John Patterson and other business leaders in 1913. Eighty-six years later, local media continue to praise business leaders and private sector initiatives, as examples of good government.

In July, an article in the Dayton Daily News celebrated the gentility of contemporary corporate-based civic leaders like retired Mead CEO Steve Mason and Reynolds and Reynolds CEO David Holmes. In promoting the $120 million Second & Main project, the $25 million baseball stadium and other projects, these new titans use persuasion, collaboration and their executive aura to get money rolling in," the article said.

The fact that the money rolling in is both public and private may not matter to editors at the News but, for Dayton neighborhoods reeling from disinvestment and concentration of poverty and public schools facing a continuing long-term financial crisis, the emphasis on downtown development may seem like the bitter fruit of perennial disenfranchisement.

Another recently released study this, one by the National Public Health and Hospital Institute - makes clear that Dayton had one of the country's worst poverty rates in 1990. "The city has also seen a dramatic growth in the concentration of poor people living in high-poverty areas. Nearly half of the city's poor lived in such areas in 1990, a 50 percent increase from 1980 levels," says a press release announcing the study.

Under the circumstances, does anybody really believe that if democracy were the order of the day in Dayton, if the people got to decide, they would choose $200 million in investment for downtown and choose welfare reform and poverty level wages for the neighborhoods?

Jeff Epton

Dayton Daily News
Sunday, July 25 1999

Location for performing-arts center all wrong
Center belongs on 5th Street, In entertainment district (DDN Headline)

As the only recorded opponent of tearing down the Lazarus building to put up a performing arts center (PAC) at Second and Main, I wish to back up my belief that this is not in the best interest of Dayton and its taxpayers.
I look back at pictures of Dayton before the interstates, before Sinclair Community College, before all our marvelous "development projects" and I see a thriving downtown with 7 theaters, lots of housing, shopping, and very few empty holes.
Now I can count at least four large holes with surface parking lots where we could put a PAC and actually ADD something to downtown instead of replacing the Lazarus building. I emphasized "replacing" because it simply cannot be replaced. To use the old adage ­ "they don't build them like that anymore." In fact, to build something with the same street "presence" would probably cost at least $100 million and end up looking as cheap as the three towers that surround it ­ slick concrete, glass, marble, with no ornate fenestration, or nooks and crannies for falcons to roost. For "development agent" Peter Horan to call it "junk and memories" shows he has no idea of what development is and no sensitivity to preservation or craft. In Europe, buildings aren't considered old unless they are over 1000 years old, and the memories are cherished. Horan's style thinking is why we don't still have seven theaters, downtown housing and a thriving downtown.
My suggested locations are:
The corner of First and Wilkinson next to Planned Parenthood.
The Corner of Second and St. Clair across from Cooper Park..
Jefferson next to Price Stores (where there already is a vacant hotel across the street and a parking garage, with new housing going in right behind it in the Beaver Power Building).
My preferred site is the corner of Fifth and Main, catty corner from the Convention Center.
Building the PAC at Fifth and Main, next to the Reibold building and across from the Convention Center and Dave Hall Plaza makes a lot of sense.
1. It means our tax dollars are shoring up our own properties instead of the three "towers of power" at the corner of Second and Main (Mead, Kettering and Fifth/Third).
2. The Convention Center can attract larger events by having a 2,200-seat auditorium to go with its display space.
3. It allows the building of a spiffy new speed/sky walk from the transportation center garage straight down Fifth Street to the new PAC, giving us parking and a hotel.
The Fifth and Main location would also strengthen the proposal to reuse the Arcade, another place where tax dollars are expected to carry the load of the redevelopment.
Fifth Street is where the PAC belongs for another reason ­ it's undeniably our "entertainment district." With the restaurants and bars in the Oregon District, Gillys, Chins, the Neon Movies, the Spaghetti Warehouse, The Crowne Plaza restaurant, you have a multitude of other establishments to serve your before- and after-performance crowds.
There is also the added benefit of providing a foul-weather option for festivals that were to be held at the proposed Dave Hall Plaza amphitheater.
The pork-barreling use of tax dollars to build a hotel, parking garage, and housing as part of the Performing Arts Center is reprehensible. These are projects that are clearly better accomplished by the private sector. How fair is it to the Marriott, the Doubletree and the Crowne Plaza to have to compete with tax-subsidized competition? Didn't our quest for class-A office space lead to disaster when the City pushed the Arcade Tower at the same time as the Cit-Fed (now 5/3rd) tower? Would the housing element compete with efforts underway at the Cannery and the Beaver Power Building?
I also wonder why we are still paying a half-percent sales tax to RTA if there is all this extra money for construction projects (3rd and Main, the ballpark and now the PAC). Maybe RTA should just provide free bus service (like Portland OR) or stop taxing us to pay for non-transportation items.
With $25 million already committed by the Second and Main partnership, we are already half way to a PAC (sans add-ons). With subscription, sponsorship and some tax dollars we could be breaking ground next year. We would also save the money needed to demolish the Lazarus building and garage (which seems to hold cars just fine). Those properties would become tax exempt until a redevelopment plan surfaces. After all, the city contributed almost half of the purchase cost to our rich benefactors, the Second and Main Partnership.
The proposal for Second and Main is no more than a tax-supported beautification project for our richest citizens. It is a charity project for construction companies. It is an insult to Dayton taxpayers who have had to watch the corner of Salem and Grand sit rotting for 10 years for lack of funds while we have endless amounts of money to help millionaires.
George Bernard Shaw once said: "A government that robs Peter to pay Paul, can always count on the support of Paul."
I say it's time to review the real motivations for this project, and evaluate some alternatives to this enormously expensive proposal.

David Esrati

Dayton Daily News
Tuesday, June 15, 1999

David Esrati: Behind all that type, a driven candidate
He certainly didn't appear a gadfly or other flitting beast. He did appear someone who doesn't want to become the Harold Stassen of Montgomery County.

No doubt about it. No doubt at all. This guy doesn't have the right personality for holding public office.
Too colorless. Way too reserved.
That's what I would have thought if I had talked to him without having heard tales, without having read dozens of news articles about his actions.
Policy wonk. With suspenders, no less.
But I had heard the talk. I had read the stories. I knew about the ninja mask and the giant check and the sparring match with a then-mayor and all that exciting stuff.
So it was like talking with a whispering Rosie O'Donnell. Or basso Richard Simmons. Or smart Dan Quayle. Something was wrong with this picture.
It was hard to reconcile the flamboyance and aggression with the quiet, laid-back nature of Dayton City Commission candidate David Esrati, who was sit- ting across the table from me at his advertising agency. Ad agencies aren't necessarily staid, but without his goatee Esrati could pass for an accountant.
He certainly didn't appear a gadfly or other flitting beast. He did appear someone who doesn't want to become the Harold Stassen of Montgomery County.
With three unsuccessful tries for city office and a couple of petition filings that got tossed, Esrati is only a contest or two from the "perennial candidate" label. So this time he plans to run a little harder. Raise money, even.
Esrati is in a three-way race for two seats, running against incumbents Dean Lovelace and Idotha Bootsie Neal. He figures he's got a reasonable shot.
Esrati's already serious in another sense. He's got positions on almost everything, opinions on the rest, scattered along the general political spectrum as well as the local one. Many of his ideas are out of the current local mainstream, a few are outside city control but none he said to me seemed to come from la-la land. Primarily, he believes city efforts should concentrate on providing basic services in neighborhoods, not in major building projects like the new ballpark. I spent almost three hours talking with Esrati. It could have been three hours with a poli sci professor or congressional aide, except profs and aides are mostly more extreme.
No masks. No hostilities. No show. Just positions and explanations, all reasoned, mostly well.
So I had to-ask. Why a ninja mask?
He gave the mountain climber's answer. Because it was there. He wanted to protest government hiding from the public, and that was the mask he found, first.
Why the battles? Why the grandstanding?
Esrati says he doesn't really know. He says the stories get exaggerated as they spread, which is understandable, but acknowledges there's a truth from which the tales emerge - he has in the past been ready to take umbrage, to allow some old chip on his shoulder to get in the way of new ideas in his head, even to get silly.
Whatever the cause, the image of flakiness is there, giving Esrati a big obstacle to overcome on the credibility front. He hopes to overcome that with face-to-face campaigning, but that could create another image problem.
One of being too reserved. Policy wonk. With suspenders, no, less.
CONTACT Leigh Allan (937)225-7317 or e-mail him at [email protected]

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updated 20 October 1999

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