Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Mayor Leitzell’s Pride Month proclamation
(Click above image to embiggen)

If you’ve been a regular reader of my blog, you probably know that I was not a fan of Gary Leitzell during his campaign to become mayor of Dayton. This stemmed in part from his interjecting a concern “with changing the legal definition of a traditional word like marriage” into his response to my asking him where he stood on the addition of sexual orientation as a protected class to Dayton’s non-discrimination ordinance. It also stemmed in part from what I perceived to be his hypocrisy on the issue of traditional marriage given the non-traditional state of his own marriage. And it also stemmed in part from Leitzell’s seeming inability or unwillingness to say clearly and simply that he would oppose any attempts to remove sexual orientation from Dayton’s non-discrimination ordinance.

Now we finally have some clear evidence of Mayor Leitzell’s views on sexual orientation’s being a protected class included in Dayton’s non-discrimination ordinance; that evidence comes from the mayor’s having issued a proclamation declaring June 2010 to be Pride Month in the City of Dayton.

God, talk about difficult. The man couldn’t just say back in December 2008 that he supported Dayton’s non-discrimination ordinance’s inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes and would oppose any attempts to remove those classes? He had to raise the issue of marriage knowing full well that marriage isn’t a local issue and knowing moreover that his own marriage wouldn’t satisfy those clamoring for allegedly traditional marriage?

I’m glad this is finally settled. Thank you, Mayor Leitzell, for continuing your predecessor’s tradition of proclaiming June as Pride Month and for clearly stating that you are “committed toward ensuring that all of [Dayton’s] citzenry is protected from the harm of discrimination,” including discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

6680 Poe Avenue,
partially de-mazered
(Click image to embiggen)

Driving north of town recently I noticed that the mm Mazer logo logos had been removed from atop the former Mazer Corporation buildings on Poe Avenue, and so I decided to stop by to take some photos. Mazer was a privately-held family-run company based in Dayton for over 40 years. I worked for Mazer for almost 18 years, and my mother worked for Mazer before me for about 10, so between us we have a fair amount of the company’s history covered.

I started at the company between my sophomore and junior years in high school, as a keypuncher, typing data onto 8-inch floppy disks for batch jobs to be run on Mazer’s IBM System/36 minicomputer. Yes, I got that job because my mom was Mazer’s data processing manager, but nepotism had a long history at the Mazer Corporation, starting with the Mazer family* but not limited to them.

Those were the days when Marshall Mazer, founder of the company that bore his name, not only was still alive but still ran the company. His son, David Mazer, about whom you can find plenty of angry comments around on the web from people displeased with his handling of the demise of Mazer Corporation, was only the crown prince back then, and Marshall put David through his paces, making him learn the business from the ground up, working in every department. David even worked for my mother for a time; I remember a story she told once of David’s being angry at her for something and her replying to him, “What are you going to do, go tell daddy?”


My Neff Road business card, complete with a 513 area code and old-style embossed Mazer logo (not very visible, but it looked like this: mm Mazer logo)
(Click image to embiggen)

My mother left Mazer for a job at Reynolds+Reynolds shortly after getting me hired on at Mazer, but I stuck around, working my way up to my level of incompetence, first as a programmer and then eventually as director of MIS. Actually I did manage to be quite competent for the majority of my time at Mazer, writing quite a lot of software for systems such as paper inventory and invoicing and computerized job cost estimating, some nifty stuff for the time, even if I do say so myself.


My gay car,
parked in the Neff lot
(Click image to embiggen)

The bulk of my time at Mazer was not at its fancy new world headquarters on Poe Avenue but rather at its original Dayton plant on Neff Road, where office space was carved out in odd bits from the manufacturing and warehouse space. This is where Mazer printed vast quantities of Marshall’s invention of spirit duplicating masters, the dittoes that school children of generations past would so eagerly sniff as worksheets were passed out in class, and whose purple ink got Mazer employees banned from setting foot in the local Marion’s Piazza because a group of our press men once hadn’t changed their shoes, tracking purple all over Marion’s carpet.

It was at Mazer that I came out, at first by my increasing involvement in local gay rights groups and then by pulling into the parking lot on Neff Road in my brand new gay Mazda Miata. I wasn’t the only queer employee at Mazer, either in the offices or on the plant floor, but I was the first openly gay one. My boss at the time, Mazer’s president and Marshall’s son-in-law, wasn’t phased by my coming out—when I told him I’d written a letter to the editor that made it clear I was gay, he said, “Oh, is that all? I thought you were going to tell me you were quitting” (a reaction very similar to my uncle’s). The vanity plates I ordered for my gay car, however, did cause my boss some concern; he thought I was asking to get killed.

It was also at Mazer that I first got onto the World Wide Web, both with a personal site (http://www.mazer.com/dlauri, which the Internet Archive does not have, but I do) and with Mazer.com, hosted on a primitive Windows server running IIS for which I was responsible.

One of the last big things I did at Mazer before really reaching my level of incompetence was helping to plan the company’s move to its new headquarters buildings on Poe. These buildings weren’t built for Mazer but we did have them completely gutted and renovated, and they were quite a step up from the hodge podge of office space we were used to on Neff. Not only did we have new carpets, textured walls, and fancy new office cubes and furniture, but we also had state-of-the-art technology including T1 lines connecting us to the Internet and our remote plants and fiber-optic backbone throughout the buildings. Also, at my boss’s insistence, we had no public address system**; no instead we got what is now common place in restaurants, an on-premises paging system to be used to let people know when they had calls or visitors.

Mazer scrolls:
(Click a scroll to embiggen it)

Looking west from atop 6680 Poe Avenue at the time of Mazer’s move, this view is before the I-75 renovation and the Miller Road boom
(Click image to embiggen)

In preparation for our Exodus from Neff Road to Poe Avenue, the creative folk in the Creative Services division drew up some scrolls about the anticipated journey. After the move, these scrolls were carefully cut out from the drywall at Neff and installed in the new lunchroom on Poe (click a scroll above to embiggen it).


My corner office at Poe
(Click image to embiggen)

Around this time was the pinnacle of my career at Mazer. A perk I got with the move into our buildings at Poe was a corner office, albeit a ground floor one without much of a view, hidden as it was behind the new concrete Mazer Corporation sign in front of our building. Not that being on the first floor was entirely without its status, for Marshall, by then retired, also had a first floor corner office, directly opposite mine and conveniently accessible through our new computer room. Despite my rise in stature, when Marshall (whom actually I still called “Mr. Mazer”) needed computer help, it was I who had to supply it.

Unfortunately it was all downhill from there. I had employees to hire and fire, stupid H/R forms to fill out, and executive meetings to attend. Read this earlier post to see some notes from an utterly useless but typical meeting of this time period. I had reached the level of my incompetence, was no longer happy in my job but too afraid to just quit and forgo its perks. Luckily for me, however, my boss, in a restructuring hinting of the company’s ultimate demise, thought me at this point to be dispensible and cut me loose, along with a fair number of other employees. With the focus that hindsight gives one, I can see now that that was the right thing for me, and I was luckier, in many ways, than Mazer employees who stuck around to the company’s bitter end.

*Fun Mazer nepotism story: For a time, Marshall Mazer’s nephew worked part time for me as a programmer and part time up in the lab in the small building on Neff that also held Marshall’s office at the time. It seems Marshall’s nephew would tell me he was needed in the lab and he would tell Irv in the lab that he was needed down in MIS, giving him the cover he needed to go goof off somewhere. Eventually, of course, Irv and I figured out what he was up to, and to Marshall’s credit, he fired his nephew for his duplicity.

**Fun paging story: Once, in my early days at Mazer, my boss at the time got in trouble when Marshall heard my voice over the PA system paging someone to pick up a call; Marshall thought it inappropriate that I, a man (well, actually then still just a boy), be assigned to cover the reception desk.

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
Bad parking:

Today’s photo is another example of bad parking, this time in the garage in which I park beneath my apartment building. I suspect the age group of the drivers of these two kissing cars is similar to that of another driver whose bad parking I documented earlier this year.

My car has parking assist which sounds a tone if I’m backing up and get too close to something. It doesn’t do that when I’m moving forward, presumably on the assumption that I can see well enough where I’m going. I guess it’s too bad these two cars, which thankfully both are parked beside my car and not facing it, don’t have a similar feature for their front bumpers.

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

An endorsement, of sorts, of David Esrati for Congress

If you’ve visited my site before, you may have seen mention of David Esrati; if you’ve visited Esrati.com, you may have seen comments I’ve made on his posts (he allows comments, I do not, choices that as bloggers we’re each free to make).

A short bio of David Esrati, for those who don’t know, is that he’s a small business owner in Dayton, a neighborhood activist and a perennial candidate for public office. That last bit, running for office, might be what he’s most well known for, and he likes it so much that this year he’s run for the position of Congressman representing Ohio’s 3rd District twice.

You wouldn’t think it possible to run for the same office twice in the same year, but Esrati’s managed it. The first time he got only as far as gathering enough signatures on petitions to qualify to run but failing to follow all the rules for filling the petitions. Dr. Mark A. MacNealy, the only Democrat who did manage to run in the OH-3 Democratic primary and who therefore won unopposed, decided for some unspecified “change in circumstances” to withdraw from the race, thus giving Esrati a second chance.

This time around Esrati was very careful with his petitions, videotaping each person who signed them, a step that was in part a somewhat gimmicky way to garner some publicity but was also a safeguard against the possibility of the Montgomery County Board of Elections* being nitpicky about technicalities. I was one of the people who signed Esrati’s petitions this time.

If your candidate can’t beat David Esrati, there’s no way he can beat Mike Turner
Why, you might ask, would I want someone who couldn’t get it right the first time to have another chance? Well, a very basic reason is that we’re going to have a primary anyway—by dropping out more than 40 days before the general election in November, MacNealy triggered the expense of a special primary no matter how many people run, just as we had to have the first primary even though MacNealy was unopposed. Since there’s going to be a primary, we might as well take this time to get to know the candidates better and give them, especially whoever wins, a chance to build up some name recognition. Even if you prefer one of the other choices (besides Esrati in this special primary are MacNealy’s campaign manager, Joe Roberts, and another guy, Guy Fogle), if your candidate can’t beat David Esrati, there’s no way he can beat Mike Turner.

 

Esrati is good on gay rights
A more important reason why I have voted for Esrati in the past and intend to do so again this time is that I’m a single issue (if you have to guess which one, you obviously don’t know me) voter and Esrati has taken the right stand on the issue that’s important to me. I don’t care how good a candidate is on other issues if that candidate takes the wrong stand on my issue. Esrati oppposes discrimination based on sexual orientation, is for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and he supports equal marriage rights**.

Mike Turner’s taken the wrong stand on my issue in the past as Mayor of Dayton and continues to do so as Congressman. Turner thinks discrimination based on sexual orientation should be legal, he thinks that the government should waste money kicking out needed service members if those service members are queer, and Turner thinks that letting queers marry is such a threat to the American family that the U.S. Constitution should be amended to ban gay marriage. I don’t care how good Turner may be on other issues such as predatory lending; he’s never, ever going to get my vote.

Esrati is accessible
to voters

I understand that most voters do not make decisions on the basis of a single issue, and if that’s true for you, you may well still find that you like Esrati’s positions on other issues. Visit Esrati.com, and you’ll see that Esrati’s written plenty about what he thinks about a lot of issues. Plus you can watch lots of video of Esrati speaking about what he thinks. Care about a particular issue and wonder what Esrati’s take on it is? Go to his site and post a question, or send him an e-mail. Esrati isn’t shielded behind a savvy political staff; he’ll answer your questions directly.

Esrati is not politics as usual
If you take a look at Esrati’s opponents’ websites—robertsforohio.com and guyfogleforcongress.com—you won’t find that same level of exposure and involvement. Roberts’s and Fogle’s sites are prettier than Esrati’s but also pretty uninformative about where they stand. That may actually be good in terms of being electable, but it’s also discouragingly business as usual. Frankly, I don’t give any of the three choices, Roberts, Fogel or Esrati, much chance of beating Mike Turner, but for me that’s a reason to go ahead and vote for someone good on my issue and different from play-it-safe politicians.

Esrati makes his opponents more accountable
Not only did I sign Esrati’s petition to get on the ballot, but I also decided to donate a small amount of money. I also did so during his last city commission race. I hadn’t actually planned on doing so this time around but thought about it some more and changed my mind. Donating to Elect Esrati isn’t really a bet that he’ll win but instead is a small investment in some transparency and openness in the election process. Esrati posts not only his own campaign finance reports but also those of his opponents. By running for Congress, David Esrati makes his opponents, both in this special primary and in November’s general election, more accountable.

David Esrati may be crazy, he may be annoying, he may be unelectable, but he’s got integrity, he tries to make his actions match his words, and he offers something to the voters of OH-3.

*A nitpick I have with the Montgomery County Board of Elections website (apart from the nitpick Esrati has which is that they don’t provide the forms online that a candidate needs to run) is that if you try going to mcboe.org (no “www.” in front), you’ll land on the Montgomery County website, not the Board of Elections site, which you can get to only if you remember to include the “www.” (www.mcboe.org). This DNS laziness also affects the Montgomery County Treasurer’s real estate site (mctreas.org instead of www.mctreas.org), and I’ve tried to point it out to the Montgomery County webmaster, to no avail.

**Having written written before about some interesting Google queries that have brought people to my website, I know that one I’ll get will be whether David Esrati is gay. Actually, I just checked (not about his being gay, silly), and even before my having written this post, somebody just last month came to my site having googled “David Esrati gay.” It’s difficult to prove a negative, and sure, there are lots of queers who’ve been heterosexually married, had opposite sex boyfriends or girlfriends, etc., but I’ve met David Esrati’s girlfriend, and no, I don’t think he’s gay. Actually, closeted gay politicians worried about being outed don’t usually take pro-gay positions.

Monday, June 28th, 2010

I love the view from my balcony, day or night. The moon is out, the city’s alight, oh, what a beautiful night!


Click image to embiggen

 
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david@davidlauri.com