Free Speech Lost is Freedom Lost/the Dayton City Commission Fails the Test | August 8, 2007

This post is from David Esrati’s Blog…

Dayton City Commission meetings: public not that welcome


A bunch of people from South Park went down to the commission meeting tonight- and a few of us got there after their 6pm start time.

It didn’t use to be a problem, as long as you filled out a speaker’s form, you could take it up and have a chance to be heard. Not any more.

If you are just a minute tardy, you don’t get to speak. You hear something at the meeting that you want to talk about- come back next week. You look over the agenda- and see nothing mentioned about Ernies Tavern on Wayne Avenue- but are surprised about their informal resolution- too bad. Our current City Commission doesn’t really care.

I spoke to the Mayor about this after the meeting- she didn’t do much more than listen, and then suggested I talk to the clerk, Len Roberts. My response: he works for you, you work for me- so I’m coming to you.

Ohio has “Sunshine laws” or “Open meeting” laws for a reason. Apparently, our current commission thinks we aren’t worth hearing unless we meet their time schedule. Quite frankly, I’m disgusted.

The worst part: the Commission had plenty of time to banter about what they did over the last week, and have Commissioner Whaley cracking wise every couple of minutes, but they didn’t care to hear at least three other citizens who had wanted to speak.


My Comment:

This is an experience that all too many citizens have when attending Dayton City Commission meetings. Back in the era of Mayor James McGhee things were a little more raucous, the combative Mcghee would engage in shouting matches and then gavel you out order. During Republican Mike Turners term, an equally combative mayor, the speaking time was cut to three minutes and then the Clerk cut off the microphone.

What happened to David Esrati, as chronicled above, is much more the norm than an anomaly. Anyone who attends meetings or watches them on Access TV can see that this is true. It is also outrageous. We have FIVE democrats on the city commission who apparently have forgotten that to be a “democrat” you must also be DEMOCRATIC!!

Ok, so we have a few “nut” cases who want to expend the Commission’s “valuable time” and what might be considered frivolous or inappropriate subjects for a commission meeting. I understand that this can be and sometimes is a real problem. However it is one that a competent parliamentarian could should easily take care of. And, of course there are always Dayton Police officers in the room to escort people out…Not a valid excuse.

The reality here is that the “nut case” issue is an aberration, a once in a while situation, and does not justify in any way the Commissions attitude. These are OUR public servants. It is we the people who elected them to office to REPRESENT us, not blow us off. The Commission should not, and must not, be disrespecting citizens who have substantive issues that they want to bring before them.

We live in an increasingly Undemocratic world, one where fundamental tenets of Civil Liberties are under great pressure. Democrats at the national level caved in last weekend to the Bush administration on passage of a onerous law allowing wiretapping of phone calls without a warrant that smashes the 4th amendment into little pieces. Understand this, Totalitarianism will not come to the US of A in one fell swoop, rather it will come in increments, a creeping sort of fascism that obliterates our most fundamental Liberties before many even know they are gone. That it is why it is so important to have an open forum at the City Commission level, at the Priority Board level. Without that discourse, without that challenge to authority happening in full public view, we are doomed to a an eventual world without the basic freedoms we now hold so dear. And, it will be our own fault if we do not take up that battle now. This is not hyperbole , it is the future unless we act…
One of my favorite quotes, and one that give me great inspiration, is from the great American Patriot Thomas Paine:

These are times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

Be a Winter Soldier, defend Liberty and Free Speech.




  1. It’s not just the limits on speaking- it’s the absolute lack of a response. Try going to a business owner- talking to them about a problem- I guarantee you won’t get a blank stare back.

    Comment by David Esrati — August 8, 2007 @ 7:52 pm

  2. I think we should have a couple of Republicans involved, but then again no lib wants to give up their power to take someone else’s money. I pay, you pay… and they do a real good job of getting things done. At least a ‘publican would be more effective. We have a bunch of losers who run this show, and it actually is well presented to those who have real cash – which would help change things – and these people with cash want nothing to do with drug addicted ladies who wear funny hats.

    Comment by gene — August 8, 2007 @ 8:41 pm

  3. “At least a ‘publican would be more effective”

    You mean ‘publicans like “Heckuva Job” Brownie or Tom Noe?
    Or maybe some crack legislators like Randy “Duke” Cunningham, Bob Ney, Mark “Pretty Boys” Foley, Dave “Diaperman” Vitter. How ’bout some of that good ole Abu Gonzales or “Scooter” Libby style patriotism? Or homemade Donnie Dumsfeld or L. Paul “$12 billion missing” Bremer competence? And lets not forget George “Osama bin Laden determined to strike in the US” Bush’s legendary foresight.

    Comment by scurrvydog — August 9, 2007 @ 10:17 pm

  4. Dayton city government was not designed to be responsive to the public.

    I posted a version of this over at DaytonMostMetro, but this is a better place for the comment.

    Y’all have to go back in history to see why we are where we are.

    Back in the 1890s Dayton was engaged in a class war. The industrial workforce was nearly 40% -50% unionized. Maybe more. This really threatened the local bourgouis so they organized to break the back of labor.

    Unfortunatley (for them) they couldn’t control local elected officials, because there was just more workers than mangers in “the city of a thousand factorys). The local government and the police chief sided with the workers during strikes and picket disputes (though it was corrupt in its own way).

    Management did break the back of organized labor using various methods that didn’t require city government help, but they couldn’t control government yet. And what’s worse, after the defeate of the union movmenet in the early 1900s, the working class here found a [i]political[/i] outlet via the Socialist party, who started to become a real force in local politics, winning some elections, and acting as a possible force for munciple reform.

    Thent came the big flood of 1913, where the NCR boss organized relief. This was the ostensible catalyst for reform, that the city couldnt handle flood relief, but the real reason appears to be to reform the city on managments terms, not the workers, as represented by the local socialists.

    That was the reason for nonpartisan at large elections, to destroy potential voting blocks in working class wards…to dilute representation, and for a city manager, to keep public input or critique of city operations at arms length. Dayton was to be run by a distant, technocratic government, rule by experts.

    Then there was the provision for referendum and intiative, progressive “direct democracy” window dressing in the charter as the hurdles for qualifying a measure for the ballot was higher than in other places. The tool of direct democracy was there, but it was designed to be too difficult to use.

    Also, nonpartisanship was window dressing. There certainly was a ruling faction. The local buisness community here formed a nominating committee, who vetted and endorsed candidates. The people of Dayton voted for who their bosses wanted them to vote for. The party was the party of management, and government was rule by the engineers and managers. Dayton was akin to the Illium of Vonneguts Player Paino.

    That is the history of city government here, and pretty much that was how it worked probably into the 1930s, maybe later.

    Of course labor didn’t stay down, as the CIO suceeeded in organizing mass production and unskilled labor here on the eve of WWII. And the black community challenged the status quo in the 1960s, perhaps earlier.

    Yet, the idea or habit of city commission not really interested in what the citizens had to say goes way back, and is ingrained in the local history and the very structure of local government.

    Comment by Jeff — August 10, 2007 @ 9:52 pm

  5. Thanks Jeff for your comments…the following comments are excerpeted from a letter recently written by NCR President [John]Patterson to the president of the business Men’s Boosters’ Club of Dayton. Note the the imperiousness of the tone of the letter. Remember, this is was the tail end of the era of the Robber Barron’s and John Patterson if not a true Barron, was certainly a colleague…

    Proposed Removal a Serious Matter

    The proposed removal of our plant from Dayton is too serious a matter to treat lightly. It is a business proposition and we place Dayton in the same position that we place other cities; that is, we will be pleased to show the business people of Dayton through our plant, and let them judge of the value it is to Dayton, and after they have seen it, we will be pleased to have their propositions as to what they will do to have The. N.C.R. Company’s offices and factory remain in Dayton. I must say, however, that there are so many reasons why we should leave Dayton, and so many advantages in locating the plant in other places, that it will be almost impossible for Dayton to retain it

    What the Boosters Should do
    The Booster Club should stop the extension of the city limits. Dayton has the reputation of being the worst governed city of the state, and many of its people seem to be proud of the reputation. The government of the city and county should be taken out of politics, the citizens to vote for the best men regardless of party; the newspapers of Dayton to support in this movement to nominate a “Citizens’ Ticket,” instead of supporting party tickets.

    Do Right for Its Own Sake

    Even though all these things should be done we will not guarantee to remain in Dayton. These things should be done, first, because they are right and, second, because it will pay the Dayton people to do all of them whether The N.C.R. Company remains or moves away…..

    Politicians Rule the City

    In our city one hundred organized politicians have overcome seventy-nine thousand disorganized citizens. These politicians have appointed themselves the managers of this enterprise, and the people in many cases want a change. The next question is, How shall we bring it about?

    Here you must pardon me for illustrating from my own personal experience. We have found a monitor cash register machine system, which organizes the business of retail stores and brings order out of chaos. It does not prevent wrong-doing; it does not prevent mistakes; but it tells the proprietor after they have occurred, and he can thus guard against similar errors
    Patterson was not a complete megalomaniac, offering some reasonable suggestions along with his dictatorial bent. Patterson’s vision of Dayton as a Model City has influenced this city’s politics, for better or worse for 110 years…

    The entire letter can be viewed at http://www.daytonhistorybooks.citymax.com/page/page/4390483.htm

    Comment by leftofdayton — August 10, 2007 @ 10:40 pm

  6. I was hosting Commissioner Whaley’s blog- which she wasn’t doing much with. She hadn’t paid the hosting fees- so after letting her skate for almost 9 months- and sending numerous invoices- I shut it off. Got a nice note saying she wouldn’t be needing my services- and her campaign manager will contact me to move the url somewhere else.
    What a nice response…

    Comment by David Esrati — August 12, 2007 @ 3:03 am

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