Dayton's New Mayor Talks About Police Reform and City Spending
Mayor Jeffrey Mims addresses the 142 suggestions the city received in regard to police reform and explains how the city may spend some its $138 million in COVID relief funds.
Dayton Mayor Jeffrey Mims is in Washington D.C. at the Conference of Mayors. He’s meeting with leaders across the country to discuss the challenges facing American cities. And to talk about solutions. WYSO’s Jason Reynolds spoke with Mims about how he hopes to move Dayton forward.
Transcript (edited for clarity):
REYNOLDS: The relationship between the Dayton Police and community has been tense at times, with the city’s response to the George Floyd protests and, more recently, the discipline of the officers involved in Clifford Owensby’s traffic stop. There are committees and groups offering up hundreds of suggestions, but what do you want to see happen to improve police relations?
MIMS: Well, you know, a hundred and forty two recommendations and more than 100 citizens, we think that's remarkable. We could have taken the position of ducking and dodging relative to those kind of concerns. I think we took the responsible position. In fact, I know we took the responsible position of talking with the citizens, including our police, and figuring out how we could create the best set of trust elements between police and citizens that we could.
REYNOLDS: Which of those recommendations do you like? What's one that you're excited to act on?
MIMS: My committee put forth the first one, and that was the body cameras. The body cameras help us increase some element of trust and facts. Additionally, the other committee—or the other recommendation— that I liked was knowing your rights, knowing their rights when they're stopped, knowing how to engage a police person when they're asked to do X or Y or Z. One of the other big ones that we have is how do you increase, if you will, the de-escalation of circumstances between police and citizens. So having more work done in those areas is going to be a lifesaver for us going down the road.
REYNOLDS: Water contamination is a problem across the country, including here in Dayton. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is a source of contamination, and the City filed a $300 million drinking water contamination lawsuit against Wright-Patt back in May. How are you going to address this issue?
MIMS: Our water is very important for us. We have some of the best water in the nation, and as a result of that, we sell water. So it's not just you fix the water or fix this little pond over here. But our water department has been very ahead of the curve, if you will, relative to the way that we have our well fills, the way that whenever we have contamination, we have the opportunity to shut down the well that potentially may be contaminated and then to run water from one of the other two wells that we have. And the lawsuit has to take care of itself. I mean, we have substantiated where we are with regards to that. But in the meantime, our citizens can feel comfortable with the fact that they are always going to be drinking safe water.
REYNOLDS: Dayton has over $100M in recovery funds to spend. I know one goal is to remove vacant houses and buildings that are blighting neighborhoods, but what else? Where else does Dayton spend this money? And how do we make sure it's used equitably?
MIMS: The good thing is that we've done something that no other city has done in our area, and that is to take those sets of dollars, hold them aside, and then talk to the citizens over a period of community meetings to find out what they want to do with those dollars. The vision that they have is the city's vision in terms of how do you look at improving challenges that we've had relative to minority businesses and support for those areas. Additionally, just ideas and thoughts about how people feel about our city. How do you enrich yourself? How do you enrich your neighbors in terms of creating some conditions that will make the city better for all of those who were involved in this whole process?
REYNOLDS: Outside of downtown, what are some things the city is doing to incentivize businesses, especially in more underserved areas of Dayton?
MIMS: The West Dayton incubator is moving extremely well. We have a lot of young entrepreneurs who invested in Dayton. There's a tremendous amount of work that's being done. The library that we have and the media center that we have over on 35 and Abby. And the work that I'm doing with the community, with Bing Davis and Judge Rice and others in having a statue of Paul Lawrence Dunbar erected on that site as well.
So, there's just excitement all over the place. In Westown, we have an employment center there. There are so many things happening across the city that are increasing the level of hope for citizens, and because of those things happening, the job opportunities are growing. And as the job opportunities grow, then you get to one of my goals, which is increasing the median income for the citizens of Dayton.