Dayton Mayor Jeffrey Mims Jr. on Wednesday took part in a 25-minute State of the City address that was in an unusual format but touched on some familiar themes about the importance of youth development and the progress being made to improve quality of life in the city.
The mayor, who gave his first State of the City address a year ago, this time opted not to give a speech and instead participated in a semi-casual conversation with a retired journalist who asked him questions about downtown development, public safety, local job growth, infrastructure investments and “hooning,” which is reckless stunt driving behaviors.
The one-on-one conversation with Marsha Bonhart took place in front of a crowd at the downtown Dayton Metro Library, and audience members included city leaders, county officials, school board members and other community members.
Mims talked about the things he and the city have done and want to do in the future to engage and connect with young people.
The mayor hosted a youth summit in the fall that was attended by hundreds of students. He said that will become an annual event. Mims also said he wants to convene a mayor’s council consisting of young people that will meet quarterly.
Mims said one of his priorities is helping young people get the skills they need for good jobs through apprenticeships and programs that provide relevant work experience.
“We have right now, not just just here in this region but across the state, probably like three (open) jobs for every one person,” Mims said. “And those jobs do not all require college.”
Asked about downtown, Mims said the urban center is welcoming new hotels, apartments and other investments that generate tax revenues to the city, which it then invests in all neighborhoods.
The mayor said, “We’ve had more ribbon-cuttings in Dayton than I can ever remember.”
Later Wednesday, Mims attended attend a ribbon-cutting for Sierra Nevada, which has built aircraft maintenance repair and overhaul facilities at the Dayton International Airport.
Mims said the city is moving in the right direction. He said evidence of this includes Dayton last year becoming just the fifth U.S. city to join the National Civic League Hall of Fame.
Mims highlighted police reform efforts, including the city launching a first-of-its-kind mediation responder unit that is dispatched to calls for service involving non-violent disputes, like noise and neighbor complaints.
When Mims gave his first State of the City address last year, he had only been on the job for 38 days. Before that, he had served as a city commissioner for two terms.
Looking back on his first year in office, Mims said he thinks it went very well in large part because of the relationships he’s developed with many community partners.
Montgomery County Commissioner Carolyn Rice, who was in the audience on Wednesday, said she appreciated Mims’ decision to break from tradition and take a “creative” and “refreshing” approach to providing an update about what’s happening in Dayton.
“It is about having a conversation and not talking at, but talking with,” said Rice, who has attended about half of the State of the City addresses in the last 17 years.
Rice said the city and Montgomery County have an important partnership, and the State of the City provides some insight into the areas city leaders want to focus on, as well as the things they want to achieve and what they already have achieved.
“It’s good to check in and see how they’re feeling and what the spirit of the year is going to be,” said Rice, who added that like the mayor, youth investments are a priority of hers.
The mayor ended the event with a promise that he will do all he can to make life better in the city.
“We have neighborhoods that we still have not gotten to yet, and I just say to those individuals who look out their windows and their doors and who see things they don’t like, just understand that we’re on our way,” he said.
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