Commission candidates have competing ideas on how to make Dayton a better place

A candidate forum last month featuring Dayton city commission and mayoral candidates. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
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A candidate forum last month featuring Dayton city commission and mayoral candidates. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Top two vote-getters in November election to join panel.

The four candidates for two Dayton commission seats say they are seeking similar goals for the city but they have different ideas about how to achieve them.

Darryl Fairchild, Scott Sliver, Shenise Turner-Sloss and Stacey Benson-Taylor vow to make investments that improve neighborhoods and quality of life.

But the candidates disagree about what investments will make the city a better place to live, work and play.

The top two vote-getters will join the commission. Fairchild and Turner-Sloss have campaigned together, while Sliver and Benson-Taylor are running as a pair.

Sliver and Benson-Taylor, like mayoral candidate Jeff Mims, are endorsed by the Montgomery County Democratic Party. But Fairchild and Turner-Sloss are Democrats as well.

Darryl Fairchild

Fairchild, 55, manager of chaplain services at Dayton Children’s Hospital, is seeking reelection to the commission after winning a special election in 2018 to fill the seat of Joey Williams, who stepped down.

Fairchild lives in the Dayton View neighborhood and said in an interview he has a strong resume and list of accomplishments.

Daryl Fairchild is running for Dayton Commissioner. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
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Daryl Fairchild is running for Dayton Commissioner. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

He says this includes pushing the city to develop plans for its neighborhoods and proposing and helping pass a charter amendment that ensures the city’s water system remains a public utility.

Fairchild said he was an instrumental part of the Dayton police reform process and will make sure recommendations are put into policy and practice.

If reelected, Fairchild says he will work to establish committees to study and come up with recommendations for improving neighborhoods in the city, similar to the process used for police reforms.

“Housing is the top priority,” he said.

Fairchild said he wants the city to hire inspectors — probably contractors — to survey and evaluate the condition of housing units across the city to identify properties that are unsafe or need repairs.

Fairchild says he wants the city to develop a comprehensive plan and program to repair, enhance and expand housing — investments he says will improve neighborhood aesthetics and property values.

In addition to housing, Fairchild said he wants the city to invest in young people.

He said the city should work on some of the other recommendations of the City of Learners initiative, like funding summer programming and after school programming and mentoring.

Fairchild also said he wants the city to pursue municipal broadband to expand access to high-speed internet in the city, hopefully while creating competition that drives down existing providers’ prices.

About $138 million in federal rescue funds are headed Dayton’s way, which presents “an opportunity of a lifetime” that the city cannot afford to squander, he said.

“We can invest in our neighborhoods in ways we haven’t been able to do in over 30 years” — probably longer, he said. “We can set this city up for significant improvements in our neighborhoods and our ability to attract small businesses.”

But the city faces an uncertain economic future as it tries to recover from the pandemic, and the health of the city and its ability to move forward requires experienced and prepared leadership, Fairchild said, adding that’s exactly what he offers.

Stacey Benson-Taylor

Benson-Taylor, 50, who until recently was the regional director for AFSCME Ohio Council 8 labor union, said she decided to run for office because she was concerned that her opponents’ negativity would harm the progress the city has made.

Good leaders should be honest with their constituents and Dayton certainly has issues, she said, but striking a cynical tone and acting as though nothing has gotten better is wrong and a mistake and does not inspire confidence, nor does it motivate people to help solve community problems.

“I know there are challenges and obstacles, but I believe in the people here in the city and I believe in the future of the city,” she said.

Stacy Benson-Taylor  is running for Dayton Commissioner. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
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Stacy Benson-Taylor is running for Dayton Commissioner. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Benson-Taylor said her main focus is on supporting working families.

If elected, she says she will ensure the city provides support to small businesses, which are vital to transforming neighborhoods, as well as residents whose homes are falling apart.

The city, she said, can provide resources to aspiring entrepreneurs to teach them how to start a business and open brick-and-mortar shops.

Downtown has been booming, and the ongoing revitalization can spread to other neighborhoods if the city helps create and supports new economic centers, she said.

City leaders need to look at what’s working in its more thriving areas and find ways to replicate that success in other parts of the city that aren’t performing as well, she said. But every neighborhood is different and has its own needs, she said.

After serving as a union leader for 15 years, Benson-Taylor said she knows the city’s budget inside and out, and she has experience finding creative solutions to financial challenges, including during difficult economic times like the Great Recession and the pandemic.

She said budget planning and decision-making are extremely important roles of the city commission, and she is especially skilled in this area.

Dayton could lose a big chunk of income tax revenue due to the shift to remote working during the pandemic.

But Benson-Taylor said she is the perfect person to help the city figure out how to maintain essential services with fewer resources.

Also, Benson-Taylor said residents want a cleaner and better maintained city, and she thinks that’s possible partly through partnerships. She said some neighborhoods have teamed up with waste management on beautification projects.

The city also needs to improve its line of communication with its citizens, because citizens are the city’s “eyes and ears,” she said, and people also need to know what city government can do for them and they need to understand the programs are available.

“I want people to know and have good information and good knowledge about what we do as a city and the role citizens have in what we do,” she said. “I think that’s the way for us to be the strongest city possible.”

Scott Sliver

Sliver, 58, a pastor with Dayton Vineyard, said this election is about the future of the city, and he is equipped to be the kind of leader the city needs at this critical time.

Dayton’s leaders need to make the city cleaner, safer and a better magnet for good-paying jobs, Sliver said, but he noted that he’s always asked while knocking on doors and interacting with residents what he plans to do about Dayton Public Schools.

Scott Sliver, running for Dayton Commissioner, speaks at the candidates forum held at Grace United Methodist Church Monday Sept. 27, 2021. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
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Scott Sliver, running for Dayton Commissioner, speaks at the candidates forum held at Grace United Methodist Church Monday Sept. 27, 2021. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

The schools are managed by a separate, elected school board.

However, City Hall must find ways to support and improve the school district because people won’t move into the city or stay here when they decide to have kids because they are concerned about the quality of the schools, he said.

Sliver said it’s clear the city commission needs a stronger relationship with the school district’s leadership, and he vows to make that happen.

“This is the big nut to crack,” he said, adding that every kid in Dayton needs a mentor and he will work to connect children and families to existing programs and expand current programming if needed.

Dayton also needs to promote itself better, especially to help dispel the all-too-common perception that Dayton is bleak and unsafe, he said.

Sliver said his background in advertising, marketing and communication can help showcase all Dayton has to offer.

Sliver said he is optimistic about the city’s prospects and doesn’t think it’s all “doom and gloom,” like he says his competitors suggest.

“I want to be seen as the candidate people can relate to, they can connect with, that they trust and they would call when they can’t call anyone else,” said Sliver.

After attending community listening sessions, Sliver said he believes the city should put a significant share of its federal rescue funds toward building, expanding and incentivizing affordable housing projects, because that’s what the people say they want and need.

Sliver also said he’d like the city to upgrade its amenities, possibly by adding water features at as many parks as possible.

Sliver said he is creative problem-solver and with fresh ideas to tackle major issues, like unsightly streets, alleys and properties.

He says he would like the city to consider creating designated dump sites in neighborhoods, to help combat illegal dumping and littering, which are widespread issues citizens commonly complain about.

The city already operates a green debris drop-off, where citizens can dispose of grass clippings, tree limbs and leaves.

Shenise Turner-Sloss

Turner-Sloss, 39, a logistics management specialist at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, said the city needs to face some “uncomfortable truths,” like how it remains one of the most segregated and impoverished urban areas in the nation.

She said this is unacceptable. She vows to get the city to invest in crumbling neighborhoods and complete a critical assessment of the root causes of barriers preventing residents from thriving and being successful.

“We need someone in office who is intentional, who is on the ground doing the work,” she said. “I think the people of Dayton are fed up, they’re tired, they’re overwhelmed.”

Turner-Sloss is running for Dayton Commissioner. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
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Turner-Sloss is running for Dayton Commissioner. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

The city needs to do better in many areas, said Turner-Sloss, who lives in the Southern Dayton View neighborhood and who co-founded Neighborhood Over Politics, an advocacy group focused on combating social ills and inequities.

She worked for seven years for the city in community development roles. She said her experience working for the city managing and administering key programs and funding streams makes her uniquely qualified to decide where to make changes and put resources to improve residents’ quality of life.

Turner-Sloss says she wants the city, in partnership with the county treasurer’s office, to launch a new and improved Lot Links program that puts vacant and abandoned properties into the hands of community members who want to return them to productive use.

She said she wants the city to have a “participatory budget” in which citizens provide direct feedback about their priorities and how they would like to see the city spend taxpayers’ money.

Dayton has “too many gatekeepers” who try to make sure the same voices are elevated time and time again, she said, and those voices all too often align with the establishment and the people already in charge.

Turner-Sloss said it was a mistake to eliminate the priority board system, and she wants the city to come up with a new system for collecting input and creating a pipeline for future leadership.

“We need to look at models to get people more actively involved,” she said. “Residents need to have a say.”

Dayton has a rare opportunity to reimagine policing and public safety in the city, especially since police reform recommendations are being put in place and a new police chief is about to be hired, she said.

Turner-Sloss also said she will try to make sure the city spends its $138 million in federal funds on what’s most important to citizens — and not on what city administration and leadership thinks is best.

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