• Reginald Henderson

Trapped in Tradition


Did you vote in the most recent primary election? At a meager 8% of total voter turnout, the chances are that you didn’t. There are plenty reasons why you may not have, but that’s for another article. If you are one of the 13,594 who did, congratulations. You’ve determined part of Dayton’s future. So, I hope you voted with intention and understanding. Judging from the results, the collective attitude seems to be stuck in tradition.


Let’s start with the Mayor’s race. The Montgomery County Democrat Pay continues its 20-year dynasty (minus 2010-2013) with Jeffrey Mims receiving over 58% of Dayton votes. That left Gary Leitzell and Rennes Bowers to fight for scraps. Somehow, Bowers gained over 25% of the vote even after stating he, “hasn’t seen systemic racism in the police department.”


Then there is the Commission race which, on her 3rd attempt, put Shenise Turner-Sloss in the top spot with over 20% of the votes. Not too far behind was Stacey Benson-Taylor at 18.5% which may preview Dayton’s desire to fill the void of Black women in commission, since Idotha “Bootsie” Neal in 2004. Darryl Fairchild (incumbent) and Scott Sliver also received enough votes to make it to the next round, which ended the campaigns of Jared Grandy, Jordan Wortham, and Valerie Duncan.


Consistency always pays off, but the force of the Montgomery County Democratic Party was enough to put first-timers in the ranks of justifiable candidates. As soon as the mailer for the endorsed candidates Mims, Benson-Taylor, and Sliver hit the doorsteps of Dayton voters, their spots were secured. It’s a shame that citizens give the Democratic Party so much access to political leadership in Dayton, but that is the tradition. Dayton citizens vote conservatively and via name recognition and/or party affiliation instead of policy, political awareness, or character.


Who has the time to think about that stuff anyway? You have to find out who’s running, differentiate the campaigns, and learn about them personally. It’s way easier for someone to just put their trust in an organization they know and has moved Dayton at least closer to the right direction. For too long, that has been the Montgomery County Democratic Party. Since, most people don’t pay politics much attention (if at all), they do as little as possible to get that sticker and feel like they’ve made a difference. It’s almost a reflex.


Alternative campaigns wanting similar levels of trust that Dayton citizens have with tradition have the ultimate challenge of inspiring new voters, but I digress.


The election also revealed shameless support for every charter amendment the City of Dayton proposed. If you did not read the actual language of any of the proposed changes and voted yes, you are part of the problem. Those who did read, should have some basic questions starting with, “Who came up with these changes?” I don’t remember seeing any community meetings, forums, or newsletters mentioning our city charter needed to be revised. Even if we did need to change some policies, who determined how, what, or when? Seems like they threw us a bone, and we went running.


Effectively, the Mayor will have “specified duties,” the Mayor and commission get significant pay raises (still part-time), the commission can hold private, I mean, electronic meetings, the Chief Examiner will determine police and firefighter recruitment, City employees still can’t publicly engage in Dayton politics, and Dayton water is still a public utility. Great job, Dayton.


I say that sarcastically because our power as citizens is undermined when we don’t think critically about things placed before us. When the Democratic Party says vote one way, we should ask why. When political leaders tell us vote on ordinance changes, but don’t explain the ordinance, we should ask why. The answers, or lack thereof, may hold the truth. We don’t have to be geniuses to fight the political battle. We just have to be curious enough to ask questions and bold enough to stand against nonsense. Otherwise, we will be trapped in tradition.

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