Interview With Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell, Part Three

Mar 17, 2011

This week, WYSO is airing an interview in three parts with Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell. Emily McCord spoke with him on Friday, March 11, before Governor Kasich released his budget, but in today's final installment, she did ask him what his thoughts were regarding the collective bargaining legislation that's moving through the house and senate.

Gary Leitzell: I've always stood by the idea of compromise. Yes, there needs to be changes and there needs to be give and take on both sides. I don't necessarily approve of the way the whole thing has come about. I think our governor did what most politicians do which is get up and say, I'm going to do this, or I'm going to do that'. He created a bunch of hoopla. He created a bunch of conflict. My way of doing things would be to sit down in a room with a bunch of union people and say look, here's what the city managers and mayors are telling me. Give me your side and do you think within eight or nine months come to a compromise that would be agreeable on both sides?'. In the end, you achieve the same results but you don't create hatred and frustration and fear. It's a different style.

Emily McCord: So, do you think the current collective bargaining laws, as they are now, hamper the city?

GL: There are problems with that. If we don't have money and the binding arbitration says we need to give a 3% raise and really don't have the 3% to give, then we have to lay people off in order to cover the 3%. That's not fair either. If you're fighting for an increase, you end up losing union members. That's not benefiting the unions either so you've got to come up with some kind of way of saying, look, let's work this one out and compromise so we're not hurting you and you're not hurting us,'. The message we have to send to all municipal employees, at least here in Dayton, and we're going to start working on it, if they want to guarantee job security and pay raises in the future, they all have to participate in talking up the city. We've got to convince business owners to create jobs here in Dayton because our salaries are based on the tax base. If we can increase the tax base, we can guarantee certain raises in the future. Right now, we don't have the tax base and if our union people are complaining and whining about the city, it doesn't reflect well when they're talking to business owners. So, let's be real and start talking up the positives and attract businesses here to guarantee that. We have to change the way we think, which is what I've always said when I was running, we have to change the way we think and the good thing is it doesn't cost money to change the way we think.

EM: When it comes to the new administration in both the house and the senate and the governor, do you have a relationship with them?

GL: No. Well, I know the representatives here and get along very well. I've met the governor's wife. I've seen the governor a couple of times. He's been to Dayton three or four times. I'm impressed that there's a focus from the governor's office on Dayton and the implication that I got from the governor's wife was that they see Dayton as having a lot opportunity for job growth, which I would agree, and they want to basically market that and make that happen, so I'm all for that. I don't pick sides when it comes to party politics. I'm the independent mayor. I consider myself to be the person who has to follow the voice of reason. So, I get along with everybody, which is cool.

EM: What is your vision for the city of Dayton?

GL: I see Dayton becoming the entrepreneur center of the country. I mean, that's what I'd like to see it become. So, um, we have a history of innovative, creative people and we should follow in that tradition and attract them here. And they didn't just done come from they weren't just home grown here. They came from all over the world and settled here. So, we've got to provide that opportunity to a world market. We've got to start believing that Dayton is a world class city. I keep using that term when I'm out at the schools. We've got world class school buildings. We've got world class facilities in tech town and UDRI. We've got world class universities and we've got world class people. So, we've got to believe we're world class and act like it, and that will turn things around.