As the six candidates for Dayton mayor and city commission fire up their campaigns for the November election, one candidate has made a very public show of improving city parks this summer.
Commission candidate David Esrati has called the state of Dayton’s parks “a disgrace,” and he’s spent the past two months improving basketball courts — digging out weeds and branches that were growing through the pavement, plus putting nets on basketball hoops that had none.
Esrati said he’s personally put up more than 200 of his green-marked nets on city, school and church courts, and even on kids’ portable baskets. He puts a sticker on each pole, encouraging people to call him if a net needs to be replaced.
“Who wants to live next to a park with no rims and no nets, a tennis court with weeds, grass that doesn’t get cut? That makes a statement,” Esrati said, hauling a ladder out of the trunk of his car. “But this is pride. It’s community pride.”
Esrati said he got few votes in West Dayton in May’s primary and needs to do better in November to win one of the two commission seats up for grabs. He’s putting up nets in all parts of the city, but he went to more than two dozen Dayton businesses, largely West Dayton barbershops, to get people to sponsor his nets program. The grassroots effort is important for a candidate who has pledged to spend no more than $10,000 on his campaign.
“I know from advertising and marketing that an ad is pretty worthless, but a service is worth something,” he said. “The stickers will stay, and if I win or if I lose (in November), I’ll still fix the nets.”
Esrati is one of four candidates running for two commission seats.
Incumbent Joey Williams said he has done steady work for the community for years, referring to Esrati’s basketball-net effort as “a publicity stunt.” Williams pointed to safety initiatives, such as the Community-Police Council that he’s championed, plus his role in improving the city’s bond rating and finances, while some cities struggle.
Candidate David Greer said he’s been spreading his message of citizen empowerment at public events and neighborhood meetings, and his campaign will be going door-to-door this weekend. Greer is focused on getting people to vote, saying turnout for the May primary was “very discouraging and sad.”
Commission candidate Jeffrey Mims said he has not done much campaigning yet, but continues his youth mentoring and other community activities. He said he is focused on improving jobs, safety and the school-community relationship.
Voters will choose between Nan Whaley and A.J. Wagner, who defeated incumbent mayor Gary Leitzell in the May runoff vote. Both Whaley and Wagner said they’ve been walking city neighborhoods this summer, talking to voters. Whaley said she has focused on explaining her Road Map for Growing the New Dayton.
“We really believe this campaign is about creating jobs in the city and throughout the region … and providing great services to our neighborhoods,” Whaley said.
Wagner, who finished a distant second to Whaley in the primary, said he knows his campaign has to work harder at getting out the vote.
“Our message is less politics, more change,” Wagner said. “We need to get jobs, we need to clean up our neighborhoods, we need to provide for more public safety.”
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