Around 30 Dayton residents were at the City Commission meeting Wednesday to talk about neighborhood investment. Members of the group Neighborhoods Over Politics (NOP) filled up the City Commission chamber with a list of requests focused on getting the city to pay more urgent attention to empty and dilapidated houses, and enforce housing codes, particularly on the west side.
Andrea Hatcher with NOP lives in Madden Hills.
“My heart is in the community,” she said in an interview before the meeting. Her family has been on the west side for 60 years, as the area has gone from a stable neighborhood populated with local businesses to an area pocked with abandoned homes; many are bank-owned or in tax foreclosure. “Seeing what it has become based on what I know it used to be has been heartbreaking.”
City planning director Aaron Sorrell presented a map showing investments in all areas of the city; the planning department looks at new construction and infrastructure, as well as capital investments in education, parks, housing and other categories; from 2000-2013 the total investments came to $3.6 billion city wide, with around $1.1 billion estimated to have gone to the north and south west sides.
But a lot of the money for dealing with abandoned structures specifically comes from the federal government or legal settlements, which Sorrell says tend to dictate the manner in which those funds are distributed.
“Our funding source dictates our strategy in many cases,” he said. NOP has criticized the city for appearing to overlook large swaths such as Wolf Creek and Dayton view, where the problem of abandoned houses is rampant.
Members of the administration including the mayor and incoming city manager Shelly Dickstein met with the group in the fall and toured those areas. After presentations by NOP and Sorrell, several commissioners expressed appreciation for NOP and an interest in working together.
“Our city government is fully engaged in this process,” said Commissioner Chris Shaw. “We want the same things you want.”
Ohio could get new funds for demolitions soon, and there are a few hundred in Dayton’s pipeline now. But even after hundreds of demolitions, a new survey shows 6600 structures still stand empty in the city, which NOP says drives down quality of life and feeds crime in neighborhoods. The group has also asked that the process of addressing neighborhood blight become more transparent and community-based.
Sorrell’s presentation emphasized that the city is already working on many of the areas the group is pushing for. After the meeting, Andrea Hatcher said if that’s the case, then she’s not happy with the pace of the work.
“That’s why we’re Neighborhoods Over Politics. Because this is politics.”