When I was teaching in Dayton Public Schools, my goal was to cultivate a classroom where students would understand their value and develop into contributing members of society. As Mayor, my goal is to cultivate a city where youth, families, businesses and all who call Dayton home can thrive while contributing to our community.
We’ve made tremendous progress, but there is much more work to be done. The future of our city will depend on our collective ability to invest in young people. We must break cycles of generational poverty and set our youth on a course to reach their full potential.
To hear from young people themselves, I convened nearly 300 students from across Dayton’s high schools for an inaugural youth summit on topics like mental health, career readiness, civic engagement and mentorship. My colleagues on the City Commission and I are advancing this commitment to youth through a $1 million 2023 budget allocation to fund youth development programs. This work will require all of us and there are several community partners equally committed to changing lives. Omega Community Development Corporation, for example, is just one of only four organizations in the country to be awarded a Hope Zone grant by the U.S. Department of Education to help improve educational and social outcomes in Northwest Dayton.
To build upon the work being done by various community partners, the City of Dayton is driving transformative change throughout our neighborhoods. In the next few years we will spend $22 million to eliminate 1,100 blighted properties, reducing our nuisance list by 75%. Through Dayton Recovery Plan grants awarded to Rebuilding Together Dayton and Dayton Habitat for Humanity, eligible residents will have the opportunity to receive critical home repairs in our target neighborhoods. We’ve also launched a pilot program to sell city-owned residential lots to responsible owners and convened a housing roundtable of diverse stakeholders to plan for the future of housing in our community.
To further incentivize neighborhood development, we’ve created a fund through the Dayton Recovery Plan to help small businesses finance first floor commercial spaces throughout neighborhood corridors like Salem Avenue, which will soon undergo Phase 3 of a $12 million dollar road rebuild. In addition to Salem Avenue, we’ve made significant infrastructure improvements throughout our entire city, repaving 178 streets and making needed upgrades to multiple parks.
However, improving our neighborhoods isn’t just about filling potholes and creating more livable spaces, it’s about public safety. That is why in 2022 the City Commission approved a restructuring of the Dayton Police Department, led by Chief Kamran Afzal, to put more officers on patrol, assign geographic beats and establish a community services division. This important shift toward community policing will also welcome neighborhoods to work directly with police to develop neighborhood safety plans – giving residents a voice in building a safer community.
As we strive to build a city for our future, it is essential that we continue to revitalize its economic engine, downtown Dayton. With $1.5 billion of investment over the last decade in downtown, the Dayton Arcade has come back to life, the Dayton Convention Center is undergoing renovations, and construction has begun on the redevelopment of both the old Mendleson’s building and the Grant-Deneau Tower. Downtown has also welcomed various new businesses, commercial office space and new housing.
Maintaining our city’s forward momentum, especially as we anticipate the economic impact of remote work is vital. Having spent my life in Dayton, I can say I’ve seen the good times and the bad, but there are plenty of reasons to be excited about Dayton’s future.
Jeffrey J. Mims, Jr. is the Mayor of Dayton.
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