Editor's Note: The following profile is part of a series highlighting the candidates running for seats in contested races as part of this year's town election, which takes place on Saturday, April 12. Dedham Patch is looking to showcase why the candidates are running and what they hope to bring to the table. Check back leading up to the election for more profiles on the candidates. If you’re a candidate and would like to have a profile included, please email email@example.com for more information.
Dan O'Neil is running for Board of Selectmen this April against Thomas Boneck, Mary Gilbert, Kenneth Gilchrist, Cheryl Schoenfeld, Brendan Keough, Dennis Guilfoyle and Dennis Teehan.
Dedham Patch recently spoke with him regarding his campaign. For more information on O'Neil, visit his Facebook page at Dan O'Neil Candidate for Selectman Dedham, Ma.
Why are you running?
I think the town needs more outside of the box thinking. I think we need to be more creative in how we do things and we need to develop revenue sources. We are in a situation where we are taxing citizens out of town and we need to find a way to take some of that burden off the taxpayers.
What do you hope to accomplish on the board?
I want to see the Municipal Campus done and well as a Civic Complex. We have the Robin Reyes fund that could fund a 30 year bond and the town has a great rating so the interest would be relatively low, but I’d also like to make our business community a partner in our town. They do business here, they provide jobs and I feel they should be more than just a tax source. Businesses when they contribute to the town they do business in get a tax write-off that can help them in other areas of their business. We have the Dedham Square Circle which is a great group, I know many of the members and they try to get the square businesses and the community together. Why aren’t we doing this with big businesses? This should be explored. They are as much a part of the community as we are. It only makes us stronger.
What do you see is the most pressing issue facing Dedham right now in relation to the seat for which you're running?
That’s easy. Taxes. We’ve been increased 80 percent over the last 12 fiscal years and we are facing yet another increase in FY’15.
What do you think you could do to help resolve this issue?
As I said in the first question our town needs more revenue sources. The Civic complex which I explain on my blog can be a revenue source that can bring some money back in through offering sports activities indoors and also bringing in out of town business much like Norwood does but on a much bigger scale. I also think we need to identify waste and be more cost efficient with our budget to also help our taxpayers. We have 8 plans for a municipal campus, for one I think that is a bit much. For the complexity of that project I could understand maybe 5 plans and we also still fund a senior center search committee even though the senior center is part of the municipal campus plan. Wouldn’t that lead you to believe the search is over? I think we do too many of these kinds of things and taxpayers aren’t happy. Reasonably speaking you expect your property taxes to double in your lifetime, but the way we are going it could happen in less than two decades. I find that unacceptable and our citizens should as well.
Name one unique idea you would like to bring to the table if elected in April.
My unique idea has to do with the schools. I was the only candidate that attended Bill Keegan’s presentation at FinCom. Bill said much of the school budget increase was due to sending more students to Blue Hills. I had an idea and blogged about it earlier in the week. We have a school sitting off of Route 109, the Dexter Elementary School. One wing is being used as a day care. The rest of it is unoccupied. I would propose we use the school as a trade extension of Dedham High School and offer Cosmetology, Nursing, Electrical, Plumbing and Carpentry and any other trade Blue Hills offers and offer it here. We increase our enrollment by keeping more students in Dedham and we give them what Blue Hills is without paying Blue Hills and with out having to bus the students to Canton. Our students can walk out of Dedham high with a diploma and a career and can still go to college as an option.
When school is out we offer classes to adults who want to learn a trade such as a person who may have been laid off and may be having difficulty getting back into the workforce or college drop outs or folks who have a GED. We charge tuition for this and any profit goes back into the school system to help fund their budget. We can even offer classes to non Dedham resident adults and charge an out of town fee to collect even more money. This could be a huge coup for our town and it gives a school a use it didn’t have so we aren’t wasting a building and we aren’t paying another school to give an education we could easily provide.
Do you have any upcoming election-related events residents should know about?
I have a few sign holding events coming up the week of the election, but other than that I will continue to reach out to our voters and get my message to them that we can do better and we should want better. On election night I will be holding an event at the MIT Endicott House at 80 Haven St. in Upper Dedham. Anyone is welcome to come.
What is one thing voters might not know about you?
Well I blogged this so some of your readers might know this. I have twin nephews Andrew and Daniel. They are both legally blind. Daniel is Autistic and both have cerebral palsy and Andrew is confined to a wheelchair. Daniel has knocked a lot of doors with me, I made him my honorary campaign manager. He inspired me to reach out to the town about starting a challenger basketball division special needs children. Well with the help of Park and Recreation and Dedham Youth Basketball we made it a reality and we gave these special children the chance to be part of a team and learn the game and get to play and have fun like every other kid. This program is the thing I’m most proud of in life. We just finished our sixth season. It is now run by pathfinders which is now part of Park and Recreation, but I still have parents to this day come up and thank me and I have to admit that really takes me back and just gets me. It’s just special. These kids and their parents really inspire me.