Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley on Wednesday said she would focus on helping people trapped in poverty, unveiling efforts to reduce evictions and reform the city’s towing practices.
In her sixth State of the City address, Whaley said Dayton remains too segregated and unequal, tied to decades of discriminatory policies that she said she will work to dismantle.
Whaley revealed that she has convened a task force to research and make recommendations for reducing evictions in the city.
Last year, a Dayton Daily News analysis found that Dayton Municipal Court had granted more than 12,000 evictions since 2012.
Whaley said she will spend the rest of her term as mayor focused on reducing barriers for people living in poverty and will find ways to ensure people of all colors and from all Dayton neighborhoods have good opportunities.
“We must look unflinchingly at the impact on our communities of color and people living in poverty,” she said. “For these Daytonians, it may feel like they have been in free-fall for years — and they don’t have a parachute at all.”
Task force members will include elected officials and representatives from the courts, legal aid groups and social service nonprofits and “responsible” landlords, she said.
In 2016, Dayton’s eviction rate ranked 26th highest out of the largest 100 cities, according to data from municipal court and the Eviction Lab at Princeton University.
Evictions are important to address poverty at its roots because losing housing can result in job loss, instability for children and a court record that makes finding new housing difficult, Whaley said.
The mayor has followed national and local conversations about evictions, including the Dayton Daily News’ reporting and the work of the Eviction Lab, according to Whaley’s senior policy aide.
Debra Lavey, senior attorney with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, is one of the people who will serve on the mayor’s new eviction task force.
Lavey, who received a formal invite Tuesday, says she looks forward to talking about how evictions impact people’s lives and exploring ways to reduce the number of cases and make the process more fair.
“Evictions definitely decrease family stability and neighborhood stability,” she said.
Studies show that people who are forced from their homes often have trouble holding onto their jobs and children face disruptions like being removed from school, Lavey said.
People who are evicted often have to move into replacement housing that’s more expensive than what they can afford or that is substandard and is located in worse areas, she said.
Whaley on Wednesday also said small fines like a parking ticket can be a big burden on poor people.
She said Dayton’s system currently requires people to make two stops when they need recover vehicles that have been towed. Citizens must go downtown to pay the ticket and make another trip to pick up their cars.
Whaley said at a minimum she will make sure that residents only have to make one trip to retrieve their impounded vehicles.
She also said she would work with Dayton police to try to make sure the towing practices are not too burdensome on people living in poverty. She said she’s worried about taking transportation away from people who need it to get to work.
Cherish Cronmiller, president and CEO of Miami Valley Community Action Partnership, attended the State of the City and said she was impressed by the speech.
While the mayor listed some notable accomplishments the city has made, the mayor acknowledged that low-income and working-class residents might feel left out, Cronmiller said.
Cronmiller said the mayor in recent months reached out to agencies that serve people who are struggling to make ends meet and has shown dedication to poverty initiatives.
“Based on the address today, it sounds like the mayor is really committed to focusing on those in the community that have felt left behind,” said Cronmiller, who also was asked to be on the eviction task force. “Such an agenda is very reassuring to our agency, and others, that serve these residents every day.”
Whaley also vowed to work with stakeholders to ensure all residents benefit from new investment and the city’s resurgence.