See what the Dayton mayoral, commission candidates shared during forum

A candidates forum was held at Grace United Methodist Church Monday Sept. 27, 2021. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
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A candidates forum was held at Grace United Methodist Church Monday Sept. 27, 2021. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Candidates running for office in Dayton shared the spotlight and tried to distinguish themselves from their opponents during a Monday forum held with about five weeks to go before election day.

Mayoral candidates Jeffrey Mims Jr. and Rennes Bowers and commission candidates Shenise-Turner Sloss, Scott Sliver, Darryl Fairchild and Stacey Benson-Taylor fielded questions about mask mandates, the importance of the city’s relationship with the school district and planned cuts to the ombudsman’s office.

Also, they were asked about their plans to confront major challenges, like the glut of vacant and abandoned properties and potential revenue losses from pandemic-related shifts to remote working.

The candidate forum at Grace United Methodist was hosted by the Dayton Unit NAACP in partnership with sponsors including the Dayton Daily News, the League of Women Voters of the Greater Dayton Area, the Dayton Montgomery County National Pan-Hellenic Council and the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio - Free and Accepted Masons.

The election cycle is getting into full swing, and absentee and early in-person voting begins next week, on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

Jeffrey J. Mims Jr. is running for Dayton Mayor. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
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Jeffrey J. Mims Jr. is running for Dayton Mayor. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

In the mayor’s race, Commissioner Mims faces Bowers, a retired Dayton firefighter. Both hope to succeed Nan Whaley, who is running for governor and decided not to seek a third term.

Mims, a Democrat who is finishing his second term on the commission, says voters and the people of Dayton know him and his community contributions after a long career in education and public office.

Mims said Dayton has had very strong job growth in the last six years, driven in part by large projects around the Dayton International Airport, and the city is on the right track thanks to projects and investments like the redevelopment of the Dayton Arcade.

He said he supports new and expanded apprenticeship programs to expose young people to career paths while teaching them the skills they need to get good jobs.

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Mims said the city needs leadership at this important time, and a few other candidates make unrealistic promises that have no basis in reality.

He said he’s honest and straightforward about the situation the city is in and what actually can and cannot be done to address its challenges.

“We need to have more truthful answers,” he said. “I can stand up here and ... say exactly what want I think you want to hear ― it’s not going to work.”

Rennes Bowers is running for Dayton Mayor. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
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Rennes Bowers is running for Dayton Mayor. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Bowers, who calls himself a biblical conservative, said he’s knocked on thousands of doors and many residents told him they do not trust the city’s elected leaders.

He said the city has neglected its neighborhoods, and its streets aren’t being fixed and vacant homes aren’t being torn down, but he can unite the community and get things done.

He said citizens care most about public safety, which is one of his top priorities, and growing the economy requires having a safe community with good amenities.

“You will never attract businesses if you are considered to be an unsafe city,” he said.

The event moderator asked Bowers about his presence in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Bowers said he was in the nation’s capital that day to pray for the country, but he says he was not at the Capitol and did not witness or take part in the insurrection.

Bowers told this newspaper he was appalled by the violence and his trip to Washington was no different than many others he has taken over the years to pray for the country he loves.

He said he visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to honor his high school friends who died in the war and also made a trip to the Lincoln Memorial.

“If going to Washington D.C. to pray for your country and honor your friends that died in Vietnam, if that’s wrong, then don’t vote for me,” he said. “But I think it’s a shame we have to try to smear people — if I was at the Capitol building, I think that’s a legitimate question. I was not at the Capitol building.”

In the four-way race for two commission seats, incumbent Commissioner Fairchild hopes to win reelection and he supports Turner-Sloss’ campaign and vice versa.

They face Benson-Taylor and Sliver, who also are running in tandem. Like Mims, both were endorsed by the Montgomery County Democratic Party.

Fairchild, who won a special election to fill the seat that was vacated when Joey Williams stepped down, said he wants to launch a process to improve the city’s neighborhoods similar to what has been done with police reform.

Darryl Fairchild is running for Dayton commissioner. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
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Darryl Fairchild is running for Dayton commissioner. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Five committees met regularly for months to come up with recommendations for reforms for the Dayton Police Department, which are now in the implementation phase. Fairchild said the same kind of work can be done to come up with a concrete and comprehensive plan to invest in local neighborhoods and housing.

Dayton can attract people from expensive markets, including the east and west coasts who can’t afford housing where they currently live, Fairchild said, because workers can move pretty much anywhere because of the shift to remote working.

“We need an aggressive plan to try to bring people here,” he said.

Sliver, a pastor, said the city faces some tough decisions but he’s the right person to make them because of his creativity, vision and experience.

Sliver said eliminating blight is important and there are tools available to improve properties and neighborhoods, such as tax credits, and some parts of the city are flourishing and others can too with the right people in charge.

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 city needs clean and safe neighborhoods, job opportunities that pay a living wage and good schools, Sliver said, noting that he will focus on these matters and he thinks he can help inspire businesses to move into the community.

“You can’t go wrong when you invest in people,” Sliver said, later adding, “I am a hopeful guy ― I believe we’re going to get through this.”

Stacey Benson-Taylor is running for Dayton commissioner. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
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Stacey Benson-Taylor is running for Dayton commissioner. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Benson-Taylor said it takes between 85 to 120 tax-paying residents to pay for one city job, and job reductions may be necessary due to budget problems.

She said she will make sure front-line services are staffed and funded appropriately, and she will look closely at the city organization to determine whether it is “top heavy” and needs changes.

Benson-Taylor, who was the regional director and staff representative for AFSCME Ohio Council 8, said she represented city employees during extremely challenging financial times, including two recessions, the loss of a major airline, the transfer of the Dayton Convention Center and much of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When it comes to knowing staffing levels, when it comes to knowing services, when it comes to knowing the options that are available, there is no other candidate ― other than Commissioner Mims ― who understands that budget as well as I do,” she said.

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

Turner-Sloss said large amounts of federal dollars are headed Dayton’s way, and the city needs to make the right spending decisions and she wants a “participatory budget” process that includes more citizen input.

She says she is the only commission candidate who is a former city employee who knows the inner workings of the city organization and she is deeply knowledgeable about some important programs that can eliminate blight and clean up neighborhoods.

Turner-Sloss, a logistics management specialist with the federal government, says it was a mistake to end the Lot Links program that put abandoned properties in the hands of people who want to renovate them, and she proposes a new and improved version of the program.

“We cannot continue to disinvest in our communities and its people,” she said.

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