David Esrati (born September 14, 1962) is an activist, small-business owner and political campaigner in Dayton, Ohio. He has been characterized in the press for his confrontational style. Having regularly run for office for approximately twenty years without being elected, he may be considered an example of a perennial candidate.
The successful appeal of his prosecution for disrupting a public meeting by wearing a ninja mask has been characterized by the Ohio Public Defender's Office and recognized Dayton v. Esrati as a precedent setting case with respect to public comment in limited public forums. In particular, this case has gained notice from legal scholars making recommendation on setting public comment policy. and by the First Amendment Center Dayton also played host to another precedent setting case identified by the Ohio Public Defender's Office which illustrated the importance of narrowly construed and un-content focused nature of rules for limited public forums that are necessary to respect the free speech rights of citizens while at the same time ensuring efficient execution of a public office holder's duties. A second balaclava-wearing by Esrati at a commission meeting in protest of proposed changes to citizen participation rules did not result in any legal action.
Through the course of the legal proceeding leading to Esrati's eventual victory he won against the City of Dayton and then Mayor Mike Turner in five courts. This expensive and futile effort by the City was high-lighted in Wired magazine for setting precedent in free-speech at limited public forums, and for the foolishness of efforts to litigate against speakers unless they are being unruly.
Dayton City Commission campaigns
Esrati's campaign style is based on Web 2.0 technology which results in competitive turnouts for significantly less spending than traditional campaigners. Esrati has run unsuccessfully for City Commission six times (beginning in the early 1990s), from which he said he's "learned a lot".
Esrati first sought a nomination in the Dayton Mayoral race of 1993, which Mike Turner, his prospective congressional opponent in 2010, won over Clay Dixon. This election was notable because of the physical confrontation between Esrati and Dixon which some say marked the end of Dixon's political career.
He received 21% of the vote in the 2009 race for City Commission.
He came in fourth out of five candidates in the May 7, 2013 Dayton, Ohio primary for Dayton City Commission to move forward to the Nov 7, 2013 general election.
Esrati's campaigns at the local level have focused on good governance, transparency and protection of civil rights. For instance, on the Dayton's employee residency rule, he stated "The real issue is that people should want to live in Dayton because of the things we do right, not because we want to limit the rights of our employees." He recommended pay-cuts for elected officials rather than city employee wage freezes in the face of Dayton's looming structural budget deficit.
David Esrati previously lost the 2008 Democratic primary for Ohio's 3rd congressional district and ran in the special primary for the 2010 election. His platform at the local and congressional level has focused on campaign financing,He has said that "I think it's time we end the casino on Wall Street, we put Americans back to work and we stop letting our political system be sold off to the highest bidder." His vocal criticism of establishment business-as-usual, unique position on the issues and continuous advocacy for improvement garnered him notice as a "tough-minded" problem solver . He finished third, with less the 19% of the vote. He came in third in the March 6, 2012 Democratic primary for the new OH-10 district, in a 6 way race.
In addition to activism, Esrati leads community organizing efforts as well. In contrast to activism, community organizing requires specific, implementable plans to bring about durable social change. He served two terms as the president of Historic Southpark, Inc, a non-profit dedicated to improving the nationally recognized historic district. Esrati started the city's first for-profit community development company, He has organized small groups towards improving the health and happiness of the community.
He has opposed the misuse of funds for urban revitalization to instead destroy viable buildings. He was associated as a commentator with the political blogsite DavtonOS, an affiliate of Grassroots Dayton.
^Adair, Allen V. "PROTEST SITUATIONS (ME219)". Ohio Office of the Public Defender. "Dayton v. Esrati (1997), 125 Ohio App. 3d 60 -- Disrupting a lawful meeting and other charges were properly dismissed where city could not show its actions were not directed at the communicative nature of the defendant's conduct. Defendant quietly donned a ninja mask during city council meeting to protest proposal to reduce public participation."
^Hudson Jr., David L. Hudson Jr. (February 10, 2010). "Speaking at public meetings: Overview". First Amendment Center. "An Ohio appeals court refused to dismiss the lawsuit of an individual who sued city officials after being thrown out of a city commission meeting for wearing a ninja mask. In City of Dayton v. Esrati (1997), the Ohio appeals court reasoned that the individual wore the mask to convey his dissatisfaction with the commission. “The public nature of the legislative process and the right of citizens to participate in and voice their opinions about that process are at the heart of democratic government,” the court wrote. “The government may not impose viewpoint-based restrictions on expression in a limited public forum unless those restrictions serve a compelling state interest and are narrowly drawn to achieve that end.”"
^Huist Smith, Joanne (August 16, 2007). "City Commission critic dons mask to protest speaking rules". Dayton Daily News (Dayton: Cox Ohio Publishing). "Wearing a Ninja-type mask to address the Dayton City Commission on Wednesday night didn't have the same shock value for local activist David Esrati that it did in 1996. Eleven years ago, he was placed under arrested for refusing to take off the hood.The charge against him in 1996 was dismissed. "To remind you how important citizen participation is, I thought I would bring this back out," Esrati told the commissioners Wednesday, referring to the mask. "Any restriction on citizen participation is a mistake.""
^"WILL DAYTON TAKE A HINT ON ESRATI CASE?". Dayton Daily News (Dayton: Cox Ohio Publishing). April 9, 1998. "Dayton's attempt to prosecute its old irritant - David Esrati - was a boneheaded play, made more boneheaded by an appeal when a municipal judge rejected the idea, and more boneheaded yet when the city went to the state Supreme Court after the appellate court ruled against it, 3-0. Now the Supreme Court has refused to hear the case. That leaves the U.S. Supreme Court."
^Koerner, Brendan I. (September 27, 2010). "Mr. Know-It-All: iPhone Fixation, Twitter Tantrums, iPad Snobbery". "The council has one shot at making its ban stick. “If they can show that the person would be very disruptive, that might work,” says David L. Hudson Jr., a scholar at the Vanderbilt University’s First Amendment Center. But unless you’ve wreaked havoc at past meetings—say, by tossing chairs or burning effigies—the council will have a tough time proving its case. The city of Dayton, Ohio, learned that lesson the hard way in 1997, after it was sued by a man who’d been kicked out of a public commission meeting for wearing a ninja mask. An appeals court ruled in favor of the ninja, finding that his menacing attire was a protected form of speech (this despite the fact that everyone knows ninjas don’t talk)."
^Montgomery County Board of Elections (04/01/08). "Election Summary Report" (pdf). Montgomery County Board of Elections. "Dem 3rd Dist, US Representative DEM Total Number of Precincts 469 Precincts Reporting 469 100.0 % Total Votes 76009 Times Blank Voted 25512 DAVID ESRATI 9091 11.96% JANE MITAKIDES 42204 55.53% CHARLES W. SANDERS 24714 32.51%"Check date values in: |date= (help)
^Montgomery County Board of Elections (11/24/09). "Election Summary Report" (pdf). Montgomery County Board of Elections. "Dayton - Commissioner Total Number of Precincts 151 Precincts Reporting 151 100.0 % Vote For 2 Times Counted 30947/99773 31.0 % Total Votes 44211 Times Blank Voted 3478 Times Over Voted 4 Number Of Under Votes 10719 DAVID ESRATI 9440 21.35% NAN WHALEY 17420 39.40% JOEY D. WILLIAMS 17351 39.25%"Check date values in: |date= (help)
^Hulsey, Lynn; Jessica Wehrman (February 21, 2008). "Congressional candidate report contributions". Dayton Daily News (Dayton: Cox Ohio Publishing). "Of the three Democrats running in the March 4 primary, only Jane Mitakides of Washington Twp. filed a report with the Federal Election Commission. She lent herself $50,000 for the race and collected an additional $35,909 between Jan. 1, 2008 and Feb. 13, the period covered by federal election campaign finance filing rules. Mitakides spent $10,619 and has nearly $75,290 on hand. Businessman David Esrati and former Waynesville Mayor Charles Sanders, both Democrats, did not file reports by press time."Cite uses deprecated parameters (help)