Dayton commissioner votes against budget; Mayor says it’s ‘a political stunt’

Dayton City Commissioners Darryl Fairchild and Jeff Mims and Mayor Nan Whaley. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
Dayton City Commissioners Darryl Fairchild and Jeff Mims and Mayor Nan Whaley. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The Dayton City Commission on Wednesday voted 4-1 to approve the 2021 city budget, with Commissioner Darryl Fairchild voting no, saying it does not fund his priorities, like the Human Relations Council and youth programming.

Fairchild said the city slashed funding to the Human Relations Council, which protects the civil rights of vulnerable community members, provides contracting assistance to minority businesses and also is an integral part of the police reform efforts.

“The other evening, Dean Lovelace’s ghost I guess woke me up in the middle of the night and just convinced me that someone needs to speak up for HRC,” Fairchild said last week.

A petition that circulated online that was signed by more than 400 people was submitted to the city demanding it increase the Human Relation Council’s budget and re-evaluate “deep funding cuts” to recreation and youth services.

But other leaders on the commission and the city manager said there is a lot of misinformation going around about the budget and they are disappointed Fairchild opposed a budget he did not raise concerns about during its development over the course of many months.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley accused Fairchild of only voting no to make a political statement because he’s up for reelection this year.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you were doing a political stunt, I didn’t really know you wanted to have input in it, because we’ve had four months of conversation and you’ve said nothing,” she said.

Darryl Fairchild
Darryl Fairchild

The city’s $196.1 million approved general budget funds five full-time HRC staff to help renters and workers facing discrimination, minority businesses facing barriers of entry, new immigrants trying to make their way, citizens with a grievance and residents confronting injustice, said Fairchild.

The 2019 budget funded twice that number of staff, he said.

“I think the current status of the HRC is inexplicable given the history of its creation, purpose and the current issues related to race relations,” he said.

Fairchild said every year the city claims that money is tight and it cannot fund neighborhood development and youth programs, and yet somehow it was able to find $650,000 for security for the KKK-affiliated group’s downtown rally in 2019.

The city declared racism a public health crisis last summer, but the budget puts no funding toward this work, he said.

He said the city’s excuses about allegedly having insufficient funds for important investments are not true and not acceptable.

He said the Human Relations Council is needed in this critical time because of community demands for racial justice and police reforms.

A petition sponsored by Dayton/Miami Valley DSA that was submitted to the city says the city needs to fill vacant job positions at the Human Relations Council, including the Welcome Dayton coordinator and the community-police relations coordinator.

“We demand the city of Dayton immediately use a racial justice and equity budgeting process to ensure a fair, equitable and anti-racist budget for the city of Dayton,” the petition states. “This process should also re-examine the deep funding cuts proposed to Recreation & Youth Services.”

On Wednesday, Fairchild moved to table the city’s budget ordinance until there is “adequate funding” for the Human Relations Council and youth programs.

The motion died, and immediately after the city commission voted 4-1 to approve the budget.

Dayton’s 2021 budget calls for reducing the Human Relations Council’s allocation by more than 13% to $870,000.

But 15 of the city’s 18 departments and divisions tracked in the general fund will see budget reductions, compared to the original 2020 budget, said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein.

Three departments will see increases primarily due to shifting funds from somewhere else into the general fund, she said.

Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

To cut costs due to the COVID-19 economic crisis and related revenue crunch, the city instituted a hiring freeze, abolished vacant positions across all departments and offered a voluntary separation plan, Dickstein said.

“We were in the midst of a global pandemic where we had substantial revenue loss, and we had to cut $20 million out of the budget,” Dickstein said.

The Human Relations Council is a priority, but the city is waiting for program direction as police reform groups continue their work developing recommendations that the city will try to implement, Dickstein said.

The city expects to use direction from the reform efforts to make staffing decisions about the Human Relations Council, possibly including reorganization, she said.

“There was purposefully a pause so that we could be as responsive as possible and put a structure in place that is effective and sustainable going forward,” Dickstein said.

The Human Relations Council is down about four positions, but two are being filled by temporary workers, Dickstein said.

Using temporary employees gives the city flexibility if it decides the roles, responsibilities and job descriptions need to change, she said.

The city’s 2021 budgeting process began about six months ago and has gone through many steps, including workshops, outside vetting of revenue projections and public hearings, said Dickstein.

She said commissioners unanimously supported the recommendations through various steps in the process, up until last week.

“I regret and I am very disappointed that we will not have unanimous approval of the 2021 budget,” Dickstein said.

Whaley said Fairchild could have raised budget concerns over months of discussions and hearings, but he only stated his objections last week. She said she believes it is a “political ploy.” A couple years ago, Whaley similarly accused Fairchild of trying to score political points after he called for the city to take a fresh look at demolition activities and bring “more urgency” to blight removal.

Commissioner Fairchild, who won his seat in a special election in 2018, is running for reelection this year, in what could be a crowded field.

There are two commission seats up for grabs in November. Commissioner Jeffrey Mims is not seeking reelection because he is running for mayor.

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