Q&A: 7 run for Dayton commission. Here’s what they are saying

Seven people are running for two open Dayton City Commission seats, but a May 4 run-off election will winnow the field to four candidates.

The commission candidates are incumbent Commissioner Darryl Fairchild; Scott Sliver (a faith leader); Jared Grandy (former community-police relations coordinator); Shenise Turner-Sloss (logistics management specialist); Valerie Duncan (former city employee); Jordan Wortham (former police officer); and Stacey Benson-Taylor (a union leader).

ExploreMeet the 7 running for run-off in Dayton commission race on May 4

The Dayton Daily News sent each of the candidates a list of questions.

Here are some of their edited answers.

1. What makes you qualified to be a city commissioner? Why are you a good fit for the commission?

Stacy Benson-Taylor: I understand many of the challenges that our citizens are facing especially in the areas of economic development, better wages, and police reform. I have over 30 years of experience in serving employees in this community and have been a bridge to a brighter future for working families. ... I represented city of Dayton employees through two recessions, the loss of a major airline, the transition of the Convention Center to a private entity, and many other challenges that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic. During these difficult times, I was successful in negotiating and working with city officials and served as a bridge to using creative solutions to increased revenue, cut costs, and managed budgetary challenges and obstacles with minimal job loss and the interruption of vital city services.

Valerie Duncan: With my extensive work experience in public service, I am prepared to meet the tasks at hand as your Dayton City Commissioner. My 31 years working for Montgomery County and the city of Dayton have given me the know-how to solve city issues. This includes years working in various city of Dayton departments, addressing the needs of the neighborhoods, business districts, and concerns of Dayton residents. ... I also prepared grant proposals for development projects. The development projects were developed for neighborhood and business districts to improve the viability and attractiveness of the neighborhood and business districts. My work also involved helping neighborhoods and business districts reviewing Plan Board zoning changes, Board of Zoning Appeals variances, and liquor license renewals.

Darryl Fairchild: I am the only candidate that has experience as a city commissioner. Over the last challenge-filled three years, I have demonstrated responsible and responsive leadership. I have a track record of accomplishments: I campaigned on creating a plan for our residential neighborhoods. Now, the visioning plans for three of our four neighborhood regions are complete. The fourth will be done in weeks. ... From day one, I have worked to strengthen the relationship between police and community by participating in the Community Police Council. This effort prepared the way for our police reform work. ... I have worked to protect our water.

Jared Grandy: As a former city of Dayton employee who worked for the Dayton Human Relations Council, an agency that operates as an arm of the Dayton City Commission, I understand the role of a commissioner and will be ready to get to work day one. Also, as a lifelong Daytonian I have a deep appreciation for this community, our neighborhoods and the wants and needs of Dayton residents. I come from a working-class background and will fight for working families. I have a strong pro-worker, pro-union platform that includes enacting policies that make sure new hires receive information and training regarding their rights as workers and the benefits of unionization. Protecting union’s rights to communicate with members on the job site and through electronic means (a necessity in the COVID-19 era). Supporting policies that help unions modernize dues collection and cut down on red tape. Strengthening workers’ power at the bargaining table by allowing government employees to legally strike without fear of permanent striker replacements, as well as requiring mediation when negotiations extend past a fixed period.

Scott Sliver: I have a strong background in public speaking and leadership, coupled with my business and advertising background and pastoral skills (counseling, teaching, caring for people). I serve on: The Executive Board of the Dayton Unit NAACP; the Community Police Council – part of the Human Relations Council (HRC); the police reform working group (Community Engagement) ... I’m personable, friendly, and possess strong communication skills. I’m a good listener. I have built strong relationships all across the city. I’m accessible. I’m a hard worker.

Shenise Turner-Sloss: I hold a B.A in Political Science, M.S.A in General/Public Administration, certifications in housing financing and community development, and over 15 years of experience in local and federal government. ... . I am running for office because I am confident in my ability to best represent the will and interests of all residents in Dayton; and furthermore, include them in the decision-making processes. Many times, we allow political parties to choose our leadership, who in turn, tout the party lines while lacking essential experience and compassion to be effective in their elected position. Blind party allegiance and identity politics have discouraged qualified and experienced candidates from seeking elected office.

Jordan Wortham: I have a unique perspective due to my law enforcement background which gave me the ability to build a rapport with the citizens of Dayton. Due to my business experience, I will be able to operate a budget in a fiscally conservative manner.

ExploreDayton will have special runoff election: Here are mayor, commission candidates

What are the biggest problems facing the city? And why are these the biggest problems? What are your specific plans to address these issues?

Jordan Wortham: The lack of jobs and high-paying jobs that bring sustainability to families.

Shenise Turner-Sloss: One of the biggest problems facing the city is that we have become one of the most impoverished cities in the nation. Poverty is the most pressing issue in Dayton. This single-handedly decreases opportunity while increasing economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political insecurities within the city. ... Downtown development at the expense of disinvested neighborhoods are inexcusable. Blight has become more prevalent as demolished (sites) remain stagnant, creating unsafe and environmental hazards in communities. . ... As commissioner, I will make our neighborhoods and its residents a priority. I will continue to build on the fabrics that make Dayton a great place to live, work and play by fostering the resilience and perseverance of Dayton residents. As commissioner, I will make a deliberate effort to address community concerns through intentional leadership with a vision for all of Dayton.

Scott Sliver: The city had to cut its budget 15% to 20% across the board—$18 million! It will take time to recover from that loss of revenue, but we have to continue providing the same quality essential services to our community. Every citizen and neighborhood should benefit from the (pending) $147 million in federal dollars (The American Rescue Plan.) The mayor and city commission must take a thoughtful approach when allocating those dollars. I will push for every neighborhood to get a slice of that pie. What if we allocated $1 million to every neighborhood and worked with them to decide how they could best use those funds? ... More investment across the board is needed in each of our 65 neighborhoods. Blighted structures need removed. Vacant lots need to be mowed on a regular basis. The infrastructure needs to be improved to attract new businesses.

Jared Grandy: There is a lot at stake in the coming years. There is a budget deficit caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, our infrastructure needs rebuilding and we continue to see crises around the country with regard to the excessive use of force by law enforcement. However, the federal government is sending $147 million dollars to Dayton. ... Congress is getting ready to pass a massive infrastructure bill and communities across the country are taking a hard and critical look at their law enforcement institutions. Dayton deserves leaders that will listen to the community as we receive aid from the federal government, money for infrastructure and as we re-imagine public safety.

Darryl Fairchild: While we can name problems such as financial insecurity for the city, jobs, economic development, youth disengagement, and distressed neighborhoods, these problems can be addressed by really investing in the neighborhood housing plan, putting youth to work as interns on job sites and partnering with businesses to build back the identity of each neighborhood. We’ve put a similar energy in downtown development. We can build up all of Dayton with the kind of leadership I offer.

Valerie Duncan: The main concern ... is the overall conditions of our neighborhoods. The major issues centered on the number of dilapidated and boarded houses in the city of Dayton. Other issues concerned the lack of investment in the urban core of the city and the feeling of abandonment. Other concerns are the build-up of trash in the alleys and roadways. The city of Dayton lacks Youth Centers with activities for children and young adults. There appears to be a lack of resources to abate the boarded-up houses and no programs to give Dayton residents an opportunity to become homeowners. Programs for tax abatement should be provided for all residents to participate regardless of their income. Housing programs for low and moderate-income families need to be created. Collaborating efforts can be done for those neighborhoods that suffer from housing blight by channeling resources to address these problems. The city of Dayton’s partnerships needs to be created for housing programs that give residents opportunities to become a homeowner.

Stacy Benson-Taylor: The biggest problems facing the city of Dayton are the health and safety disparities resulting directly from the lack of economic opportunities in disadvantaged communities. Poverty leads to food and housing insecurities, failing educational systems as well as inadequate, inaccessible and unaffordable health care. ... I cannot reiterate enough the need to invest in our communities from within. We must create economic development opportunities for Dayton’s working families and provide quality educational opportunities for students and adults if we intend to diminish these health and safety concerns.

What are your top budget priorities for the city? Do you think the city is spending too little money in some areas? Do you think it’s spending too much money in other areas? How would you balance the budget while pursuing you top spending priorities?

Jared Grandy: I believe that the community should have a say in how their money is spent. I believe we should invest in our neighborhoods by cleaning up and preventing unofficial dumping sites that are pervasive in many Dayton neighborhoods. I believe we should be more aggressive about tearing down dealbated and abandoned properties. We should invest in our young people and properly fund our Department of Youth and Recreational services and rebuild pipelines of communication between the residents and the City of Dayton, by perhaps brining back priority boards or similarly situated institutions. I support downtown investment, however we cannot afford to neglect our neighborhoods.

Darryl Fairchild: If re-elected I will work to build on my accomplishments. In the near future, there is only one priority for the city commission. We will need to guide the city through a complicated and uncertain fiscal environment. We have both a generational opportunity and challenge. The opportunity - the city of Dayton will be receiving $147 million dollars from the American Rescue Act; the challenge - we do not fully know the long-term financial impact of the pandemic. With the loss of jobs and people working from home, the city’s revenue is likely to be significantly reduced. These two factors and a multi-year recovery make it important to use the $147 million well. Within this priority I will focus on 1) protecting basic services; 2) advancing neighborhood development including new homes, rehabilitation, and demolition, improving business corridors, and investing in current and new businesses; and, 3) assisting those impacted by the social distancing - our youth and our elders.

Scott Sliver: The city’s top priority is to ensure that essential services are uninterrupted. Removing the trash, maintaining the streets, police, and fire, etc. But the community is concerned about other issues such as funding for Youth Services, Parks and Recreation, and funding for the Human Relations Council. Again, every citizen in every neighborhood needs to benefit from those federal dollars (the $147 million).



Jordan Wortham: Top priorities: Public safety, street maintenance, water plant and public works. Is city is spending too little? Yes, in select neighborhoods throughout the city. Do you think it’s spending too much money in other areas? Yes, exorbitant pay increases for top city officials’ salaries. How would you balance the budget while pursuing you top spending priorities? Reallocation of funds from ineffective programs.

Stacey Benson-Taylor: As a bridge to building stronger communities, one of my top budget priorities involves making sure that city departments providing essential services are appropriately staffed so that the city can address many of the issues that plague our communities such as street paving, trash and waste removal along with the mowing and overall maintenance of vacant lots. If fully staffed, this investment into the community helps improve infrastructure and beautification, thus creating a living environment that leads to economic development and opportunities. As a bridge to better community police relations, another one of my top budget priorities is ensuring that the recommendations of the 5 police reform working groups are appropriately funded. We must also be committed to reviewing our entire public safety budget and allocating new funds and/or reallocating funds where necessary ... As a bridge to fiscal responsibility and balancing the budget, I would propose a review of administrative, managerial and supervisory positions and responsibilities to ensure that the ratio of leadership to front line staff is appropriate. A reduction in this funding could go to increase staffing levels in which have been drastically reduced over the past 15 years due to cuts in the local government funds received from the state along with the loss of income tax revenue due to job loss.

Valerie Duncan: The top budget priority for Dayton is to address the city’s chronic housing problems, of dilapidated and boarded-up houses. Protect Dayton’s drinking water by being proactive in addressing the current problems of contaminants that exist in our water supply and the deal with the causes of the contamination to restore the region’s water supply and keep it safe. Also, there are many opportunities for Dayton to create good-paying jobs for Dayton residents. The are other needs such as the economic development of undeveloped land within the city of Dayton. This can be done with a true dedication to those efforts by the City. Again, helping the development of our neighborhoods including addressing the housing blight and other neighborhood issues. Also, Dayton also needs to be committed to small business development. ... along with funding from the general fund for more housing inspectors to address the dilapidated houses and to tear down structures that are beyond repair.

Shenise Turner-Sloss: My top priority in spending is with neighborhoods and developing programs in the city that create opportunities for residents and specifically youth. This would be my priority because the city, in recent years, has continued to neglect certain neighborhoods; as a result, these neighborhoods have continued to diminish along with its housing valuation. Blight has become more prevalent as demolished sites remain stagnant creating unsafe and environmental hazards in communities. In addition, there are still numerous abandoned properties that are unlivable. Downtown has seen the most investment and revitalization. This is not a bad thing; however, it should not be at the expense of other neighborhoods. There needs to be a balance in community and economic development in all 65 neighborhoods.

About the Author