Debate Forum 07/09

Debate Forum 07/09Debate Forum 07/09

Debate Forum Center:  Will the buses stop at the Fairfield Mall?

By Alex Culpepper

Illstration by:  Sam Rhoden


For years the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority (RTA) has wanted bus stops close to the Mall at Fairfield Commons, and in 2011 the Beavercreek City Council voted unanimously to reject the RTA’s application for those bus stops. Among the reasons why the city did not approve the RTA’s request, the city believed the RTA plan did not meet the city’s design specifications for bus stops. Then in August of that year, the federal government got involved when the Leaders for Equality and Action in Dayton (LEAD) filed a complaint against Beavercreek, charging discrimination because the rejection of bus stops denied some minorities access to jobs and health care in the area. The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) responded in June of this year, and they say Beavercreek has indeed been discriminatory.

The FHA ruling now means Beavercreek must return to the issue of bus stops close to Fairfield Commons, and the FHA has made recommendations for what the city must do. If the city is not compliant, they will lose a great deal of federal money normally used for updating existing roads and building new ones because under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, no city that receives federal dollars may discriminate based one race, color or national origin. The city has yet to respond to the FHA mandate, and protesters have been marching on Fairfield Road.

Supporters of the Beavercreek City Council’s decision say the council is responding to correspondence from many residents who are against the installation of the RTA bus stops. Another issue supporters mention is the lack of ridership studies and the possibility that perhaps the stops are unnecessary because the RTA does go to Wright State University. They also cite problems and safety concerns related to malls with bus stops. Supporters further say Greene County’s CATS Public Transit system is in place to serve residents and travels to Montgomery County as well.

Opponents of the city’s decision say these stops need to be there for people to have safe and easy access to jobs in the area and the Soin Medical Center where they not only may have work, but also seek medical treatment. They say the closest RTA bus stop is in front of Wright State University on Colonel Glenn Highway, about a mile and a half from the mall. Opponents claim discrimination because they say there is no other valid reason why Beavercreek would deny the stops because the RTA has done more than enough to accommodate the city’s needs in planning, designing and setting up the bus stops. Opponents also refute the safety concerns because the RTA has stops in many areas where crime and other problems are not issues.

Matters involving busing and discrimination – genuine or alleged – are nothing new in this country. Opponents of Beavercreek’s decision claim discrimination, and the FHA has sided with them. The city of Beavercreek claims to honor the wishes of its residents, and supporters cite an array of other reasons – social and economic – for why the RTA should look elsewhere.

Reach DCP forum moderator Alex Culpepper at AlexCulpepper@DaytonCityPaper.com

Debate Forum Question of the Week:

In 2011, the city of Beavercreek voted unanimously to deny the placement of three RTA bus stops along Pentagon Boulevard near the Mall at Fairfield Commons. Recently, the Federal Highway Administration ruled that the city’s decision is discriminatory toward African Americans who use the RTA to reach the mall from Dayton and surrounding communities. Has the Beavercreek City Council acted in a discriminatory way, or is the city right in claiming the bus stops are unnecessary?

Debate Left: Unfairfield Commons

By: Ben Tomkins

I am going to preface this piece by saying that it has been a long time since I have lived in Dayton. To speak about the RTA issue I will be working from my memory of Wright State and the Fairfield Commons, the information I was able to find online and a general impression I have carried with me regarding the, shall we say, “social paradigm” that exists between Beavercreek and downtown Dayton.

Although at first I felt I would be seriously handicapped by my social and geographical isolation from the city of my youth, it became obvious very quickly that gaining an understanding of why the city of Beavercreek would oppose an RTA route to the Fairfield Commons would not require me in the least to draw conclusions from what the opposition has said. Rather, one need only watch their feet and see what they are tap-dancing around while talking their good game.

I have developed the following hypothesis, and will support it with factual assertions and an analysis of the comments issued by Beavercreek city council members.

Hypothesis: I believe the reason the city of Beavercreek is opposed to an RTA route that stops near the Fairfield Commons is because they don’t want individuals who can’t afford or don’t have access to a car (poor people, or worse, poor black people) to be able to go to their white, upper-class mall.  

Subject 1: Mayor Scott Hadley

“Security and aesthetics” (in response to a survey the city of Beavercreek issued to its citizens regarding the addition of bus stops around Fairfield Commons)

Wow.  It would appear … that Beavercreek issued a survey … which included among other checkboxes … the words “security” and “aesthetics” as reasons to reject the bus stops.

Holy God, could those words possibly be more flimsy? That’s like Paula Deen referring to her enjoyment of a restaurant which employed tailcoat-wearing black men posing as slaves not as racist, but as resembling a “certain era in America.”

Right. The racist one. I get it.

Same thing here. Why would a question of security or aesthetics possibly need to be included on a bus stop proposal? No really, think about it. Does the mayor truly want to poll public opinion to see if a bus stop on Pentagon Boulevard will aesthetically detract from a mall?

Of course, by “security” the survey is referencing the security of the individuals who are waiting at the bus stop, right? Yeah. Consider the following:

The obvious bus route to extend is Route 1. Route 1 begins near the Dora Tate Center, which serves distressed populations in Dayton. It’s an excellent thing that this bus route also goes to Wright State so people who need access to education can get it. In between, it goes straight through downtown on Third Street.

Listen, when rich people, religions or whoever use code words rather than just coming out and saying something, you’ve already got all the information you need to know about their motives.

Subject 2: Beavercreek Vice Mayor Brian Jarvis

“Right now, in all (citizens) that I’ve talked to about this, I have not been presented with a case where this application presents any benefit at all to the city of Beavercreek.”

And yes. Another gigantic, steaming pile of BS. Gee anybody-in-the-universe, what possible benefits could exist from a bus route to the Fairfield Commons? How about money? This is a dead giveaway. When a politician it standing between businesses and money and not getting raked over the coals for it, you know it’s about something else.

Also, take careful note that he doesn’t say who he talked to or from what demographic. This clearly betrays the fact that the only people he’s talked to are rich white people. Why? Because less-than-rich people would have brought up – for starters – the whole money thing.

Subject 3: City Council member Phyllis Howard

“They strongly have said that they did not want this type of transportation in this community.”

“This type of transportation?” Would that transportation be for “you people?” Who the hell doesn’t want a bus stop in their community? Oh wait, I know! The people who live in “this community.” I don’t know if you picked up on it, but the way that whole quote is phrased has a condescending tone to it that betrays an arrogance and superiority I find quite unctuous.

I have to say, given the quality of the statements being offered in opposition to the bus routes, I’m not shocked in the slightest that local, state and federal agencies are getting behind the RTA and threatening to yank funding for Beavercreek if they don’t comply with a reasonable and beneficial proposal. What’s astonishing to me is that a city, which is by definition a public institution, would have the audacity to treat itself as if it is a private country club. This is not the South, and the South isn’t the South either. People in the Dayton area have a right to have access to malls and movie theaters whether they are rich, poor, black, white or whatever. Personally, I think Councilwoman Julie Vann said it best:

“Beavercreek isn’t an island. We live in a metropolitan area. We don’t have a right to put a fence around Beavercreek.”

True. But apparently they have a desire to.

 

Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colo. He hates stupidity, and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of the issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at 

BenTomkins@DaytonCityPaper.com.

 

Debate Right: Beavercreek decision is about local decisions

By Rob Scott

 

Here we go again. The Obama administration and the bureaucracy serving it are attempting to play the race card. In this instance, race is the card being used to hold a community hostage – namely the city of Beavercreek. I would think eventually the American people – or more namely the media – would stand up and say enough is enough.

This has not become any more evident than the recent decision by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) claiming the Beavercreek City Council acted in a discriminatory fashion when, in 2011, the Council denied the Dayton Regional Transit Authority’s (RTA) application for three bus stops in their city near the Fairfield Commons Mall. Specifically, the FHA is claiming that Beavercreek did not want the bus stops because it will bring African Americans to the Fairfield Commons Mall.

Local government constantly makes decisions and Beavercreek’s reasoning is the council did not see a need for the stops at the Fairfield Commons Mall. The council even requested studies from the RTA to show whether the stops would in fact be needed. Need is a very important issue in this debate. The Beavercreek City Council acted in accordance to their duties and in representing the residents of Beavercreek without race even being an issue or consideration.

Ultimately, the dispute is between federal decisions versus a local one – or Beavercreek versus Washington D.C. Many times the federal government ties monies to require states and local governments to comply with their stringent guidelines. However, there is a fine balance with this “control.”

Under Ohio law, municipal corporations – cities and villages – have certain powers granted to them in Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution that exist outside authority found in the Revised Code. Due to these powers that originate in the constitution, laws passed by the Ohio General Assembly that interfere with them may be invalid as applied to municipal corporations unless those laws are sanctioned by other provisions of the constitution. These powers, granted by the Ohio Constitution and known as “home rule” powers, include the power of local self-government, the exercise of certain police powers and the ownership and operation of public utilities.

While Ohio courts have not specifically defined the limits of “local self-government,” they have found the following to be matters of local self-government: Internal organization; the control, use and ownership of certain public property; regulation of municipal streets; and procedures for the sale of municipal property. Obviously, this concept of “home rule” is between local government and Ohio, but should be considered in the debate as well.

As part of the decision for Beavercreek, many relevant factors included the need for the specific bus stops and the reasons why the additional bus stops were being requested. According to the “Faces of the RTA” information book, the RTA is overwhelmingly subsidized with sales tax money from Montgomery County residents and federal assistance, which combined accounts for more than 80 percent of their revenue. Only 15 percent of their budget actually comes from passenger fares. This is an astonishing figure when you begin to debate the needs in other communities, specifically across county lines.

Will the reliance of federal monies and local sales tax revenue the RTA receives grow if additional bus stops are added at Fairfield Commons? Obviously, these additional bus stops are not going to be funded by bus fares. Considering the costs associated, most likely there are not enough passengers to justify the cost of building a stop and maintenance.

Additionally, the residents of Greene County already have a full-service public transportation system that is paid for by Greene County taxpayers. The Greene CATS Public Transit is open to all residents of Greene County and is funded by the county’s taxpayers.

Also, to dispute those claiming discrimination against Beavercreek, another mall in Beavercreek – The Greene – has an RTA bus stop at it. If Beavercreek was “discriminatory” toward African Americans – as the FHA is claiming – then why the bus stop at The Greene that Beavercreek would have to approve?

Finally, for the FHA to claim the RTA bus stops were denied at the Fairfield Commons Mall as discriminatory towards African Americans is ridiculous. The services of RTA are used not just by African Americans but also those of all races and ages. For the FHA to single out one race as being discriminated against is in itself discriminatory.

As a current city councilman in Kettering, I have never been faced with the decision over a specific bus stop. However, I have had to weigh several home rule decisions regarding differences between Kettering and Ohio, including federal dollars. Kettering has several bus stops throughout the city with Kettering residents of all races utilizing the RTA service.

All government is connected in different ways from the national to the local level. Ultimately, every community needs to do what is right for themselves. Beavercreek has RTA bus stops at one major mall for their city and in their community. They have their own county transit system and believe there is not a justifiable need.

The decision by Beavercreek was not motivated by race, but was based upon a disagreement on clear need. The city is being penalized for making a local judgment call they feel is the right one for their residents.

Rob Scott is a practicing attorney at Oldham & Deitering, LLC. Scott is Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party and founder of the Dayton Tea Party. He can be contacted at rob@oldhamdeitering.com or www.gemcitylaw.com.





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