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Perspective: Seeking equity for taxpayers

Several Dayton-area leaders were named as supporters of a Senate resolution declaring racism a public health crisis. Elevate Dayton is publishing the opinions, perspectives and analysis of the Dayton leaders in a series. Montgomery County Treasurer Russ Joseph outlines how his office is creating transparent and fair practices.

By Montgomery County Treasurer Russ Joseph

When Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, reached out to community leaders in Ohio to support the Senate resolution that he, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif, introduced to declare racism a public health crisis, I did not hesitate. I too see racism as a clear health crisis.

As your County Treasurer, I see the effects of institutional racism on public health most clearly in its relationship to housing discrimination in our community. I believe in this time of introspection, we must acknowledge the continued effects that racist policies like redlining and disinvestment have had on public health. This resolution is a crucial first step in helping to heal our community and move in a new direction.

Housing policies indisputably affect human health. Where someone lives can affect their safety, their access to healthcare and educational services and even where they get their groceries. Past practices of developers placing racial covenants in property deeds and banks denying mortgages to minorities by redlining, and more recently by the banks’ predatory lending practices in the 2000s, has led to generational disinvestment in Black and minority communities.

As Treasurer, I’m using this acknowledgment that racism is a clear public health crisis to inform my public policy positions and to seek equity for taxpayers by creating transparent and fair practices that address the issues our residents face.

My office works hard to collect every tax dollar owed to our community, but we also know there are real people behind every property, and we do everything we can to help them meet their commitment to the community. We have worked extensively to create easier ways of paying taxes, such as offering monthly payment plans and a new user-friendly payment site.

As a Board Member of the Montgomery County Land Bank, I sponsored a multimillion-dollar program to tackle vacant and abandoned properties. These properties are a safety and health risk to our residents and many are a direct result of decades of disinvestment in minority neighborhoods. We will continue to seek private and public investments in our neighborhoods to improve the quality of life for residents.

But these programs and recent resolutions by our government officials, including the one  proposed by Sen. Brown, are not enough. I think we can and must do more, and I am eager to support initiatives that create equity in our community such as pathways to first-time home ownership and continued community-based reinvestment in our minority communities.

Inequality in our community remains far too prevalent. I am committed to working to dismantle the damage done over generations. I am proud to stand with Sen. Brown and declare racism a public health crisis. We all have a role to play in shaping a more equitable future, and I intend to fulfill mine.

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