Last Monday I heard fellow bloggers, David Esrati and Gary Leitzell, make short speeches at the McCook Field Neighborhood Association meeting, held in the basement of Calvary Baptist Church. David is a candidate for the office of Dayton City Commissioner and Gary is a candidate for the office of The Mayor of Dayton.  I know Gary through his web-site, “This Old Crack House.” I was positively impressed with his presentation. Gary comes across as a thoughtful problem solver dedicated to the general common good of the community.  Members of the McCook group seemed interested.

Garay Leitzell at the McCook meeting

Garay Leitzell at the McCook meeting

I know David Esrati from the Montgomery County Democratic Party, where we are both members of the Central Committee. And I know him from the beginnings of DaytonOS. David gave DaytonOS its sphinx like name, a name that proposes an interesting question of how a web-site could be a region’s Operating System.

David gave a fact filled presentation that demonstrated a very impressive grasp of what now is happening in Dayton, and what the future challenges to Dayton will be. David comes across as a well informed idea person who enjoys defining and analyzing innovative ways for our community to become healthier and more successful. David’s web-site is Esrati. Recently David posted a YouTube video on his site, showing his presentation to the Dayton Marketing Community “Big Idea Breakfast” about the Dayton Bicycle bike share program that he is promoting.

Both David and Gary, I believe, are well qualified for the positions they seek. I believe both have the character, the commitment to the public good, and the problem solving skills that should cause Dayton voters to take a serious look. It would be great if the coming campaign could be a meaningful dialogue between these candidate and the current incumbents of the offices they seek to win. There’s a lot to talk about and the time of an election gives a big opportunity for engaging and educating the public about issues facing the community. But, if history is any guide, the incumbents will most likely choose an antidemocratic strategy, they believe will assure them victory, and will more or less stonewall the whole election. After all, the politburo of The Montgomery County Democratic Party has spoken, and the incumbents are the anointed ones.

David Esrati

David Esrati

The fundamental issue facing our community is: Can we make our democracy work? My advice to both David and Gary is to make their campaigns all about the issue of democracy, and to use their campaigns to help implement strategies to make democracy work. My suggestion is that their candidacies and the vitality of future elections can be helped by deliberate efforts to build up a nonpartisan organization, Grassroots Dayton, that I would love to see come to life.

The campaign for City Council or Mayor should not focus on which candidate is in favor of a Dayton Sportsplex or how Dayton garbage collection can be improved. We need to get the citizenry to look at the big picture. My advice is to not focus on the smaller parts and, instead, take the perspective of the big picture. In the big picture, it is obvious that our system is failing. The answer to our problems is a system answer. I’ve frequently quoted W. Edwards Deming’s big insight that 85% of quality problems in a system stem from how the system is organized — not from the individuals in the system, nor individual components in the system. (See my article, “How Can The System Known As The United States Be Made To Work To Provide “Liberty and Justice For All?“)

Systems thinking leads to this punch line: Right now, we have a oligarchic, antidemocratic system that is organized for the benefit of special interests. We need to move to a system of democracy. We need to make our system of democracy work. We need to vitalize its current structures.

We can never have a government “for the people” unless we first have a government “of the people.” Everywhere you look, democracy is suppressed. I think it would appeal to a lot of voters the idea that a candidate has a plan he will commit to, and that in his campaign he works to implement, by which there is a realistic prospect that our democracy will be vitalized.

David and Gary both have good ideas, but, the point is, how do we vitalize a system that doesn’t rely on the ideas of one or two individuals but that regularly empowers the best ideas of many in the system to come to the fore, and that regularly works in the interest of the common good? How do we vitalize our democracy? How do we use democracy to help us to successfully work through problems? How do we make our system of democracy work? This is the key question. Oligarchy and cliques have failed us.

I’m thinking that the answer to each of these questions should be part of Grassroots Dayton’s strategic plan and each of your campaigns could help develop a nonpartisan grassroots community that will outlast this political season. My advice is to make this campaign to choose Dayton’s leaders all about the big picture — all about democracy, all about vitalizing the system of democracy we say we believe in.

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