Monday, March 11, 2013

The Dayton Voice, Again

David Esrati and Chuck Porter responded to a previous post: The Dayton Voice and A.J. Wagner. I could have used the comment section of that post to follow up, but there is so very much to say it seemed better to use a whole new post to further explore the life and times of the Dayton Voice.

The first message excerpted below is from David, a Dayton-area iconoclast of the first rank, a blogger on local political issues, and a candidate for Dayton City Commission in the upcoming election. (Read the full text in the comment section at the end of The Dayton Voice and A.J. Wagner):

Letter from David Esrati

"Jeff," David writes,

"Although I think AJ is a much better candidate than the democratic party endorsed Nan Whaley, I think of AJ as a career politicians, with a boatload of baggage."

The truth, David, is we all travel with "boatload[s] of baggage. It's the human condition. Ad hominem attacks don't accomplish much, except to muddy the water.

"[Incumbent Mayor] Leitzell is an independent, who challenged all candidates to run for less than $10K. Nan and AJ have each raised in excess of $60K already- and are going to spend much more.

"I'd have to think you'd respect that."

Well, I suppose I can respect that, and it might make Leitzell's defeat more noble when it happens. But it will still be a defeat.

"Also- the part you leave out about AJ is that he's still a political animal. He quit his last elected position as Judge, so his friend Steve Dankof could get nominated by Strickland before he left office. When Dankof wouldn't keep AJ's friends and family on the patronage payroll- AJ wanted to "un-resign." They worked a backroom deal so AJ's pal could keep her job. This is what we need to put a stop to in Dayton."

I actually omitted a lot about A.J.--mostly because I wasn't making any attempt to be comprehensive. But here's the thing, David--when A.J. published a few official county notices in the Voice, he was being a good steward of public funds and opposing policy that mandated purchasing from the Dayton Daily News at monopoly prices. That's the sort of frugal government expenditure you believe in and support, yes?

As for A.J.'s on-again, off-again retirement, why wouldn't I simply conclude that A.J. was trying to protect a competent colleague and public employee? Indeed, it seems awkward and there might be more to the story, but your implication that it was a corrupt ("back room") move ought to be supported by more rigorous journalism.

"Just because AJ put some cash in your pockets- doesn't make him a good guy, or a good choice for Mayor.

"David Esrati"

Actually, David, none of the money the county paid for those public announcements made it all the way to my pockets. In the heat of unpaid bills, it all evaporated before it hit the ground.

Who knows, maybe it paid for a press run that included an article about you--one in which we likely treated you with more respect than you ever got from the Dayton Daily News.

The next message, also excerpted, is from Chuck Porter, who worked for the Voice for several years as paper carrier, bookkeeper and circulation manager. When he finally left Dayton, Chuck and his family moved to Nebraska to manage an organic farm. Chuck's still out there, making his committed, diligent and trying-to-be-green way.

Letter from Chuck Porter

"Jeff," Chuck writes,

"I have very limited memory of AJ Wagner, and, so, won't comment about his character or fitness for leadership. But, I couldn't let a read of your post go by without thanking you (and I sincerely mean this) for letting me see and experience a way in which speaking truth to power and embracing diversity could be guiding principles for a business. The Voice was much more (and, I know, sometimes much less) than a business.

Well, our mission--to treat working people, women, people of color and the LGBT community as legitimate readers, sources and audiences for the news was a very good thing, but I'm not sure about the guiding-principles-for-a-business thing. Regardless, it seemed the right thing to do.

"I look fondly back on my years as a staff member, and I proudly remember that we paid delivery drivers $8/hr -even in the mid-to-late 90's- because we knew they were people of the utmost importance to our mission. I was proud and happy to be one of those drivers, and I was even more delighted to remain on staff in other roles, even after your departure.

"It is my hope that you and Marrianne look at those years in Dayton as important and formative, not just for you, but for a city that needed a Voice."

Thanks, Chuck for the "atta-boy."  Marrianne and I hope that the Voice told stories that were relevant and unique, but what we know is that being part of the Voice and working with everybody there and developing real relationships with readers and activists was singularly enriching. No other work experience in my lifetime has taught me more or been more rewarding. We had the privilege to be part of something much bigger than ourselves.

"...I do believe countless people were changed -if even in a small way- by picking up The Dayton Voice off the rack somewhere in the Miami Valley. Awareness was given where it hadn't been before...regarding racial/sexual/gender inequality, ecological/financial negligence, and political/media shenanigans, eyes that were closed were pried open with the possibilities for local performance and visual art.

"I came into that mix of people because you invited me.

"Chuck Porter"

Whatever we accomplished we did it together, and you were part of the mix because you recognized what the Voice was trying to do and made yourself part of that effort. Too bad we couldn't make it last, but like you say, the Voice is still there, part of us.

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