South Kingstown Town Council Special Election: Jim O'Neill

Former South Kingstown Town Councilor Jim O’Neill is running for the open Council seat in the Sept. 22 election.

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of profiles on the four candidates running for an open seat on South Kingstown's Town Council. Profiles will run through the Sept. 10 edition of the South County Independent. A Q&A feature regarding town issues will appear in the Sept. 17 edition.

SOUTH KINGSTOWN — If there’s any indication of James O’Neill’s passion for South Kingstown, his office may be it. He has dedicated an entire room and more to his South Kingstown Town Council campaign, from campaign signs to large piles of documents about local issues.

O’Neill is running as an independent in the Sept. 22 special election, against Democrat Bryant Da Cruz and independents Joël Dargan and Liz Gledhill. He is running on a platform of experience and dedication, as he served on the council from 2000 to 2014 before being defeated in the last election.

“I served on the council for 14 years,” O’Neill said. “I have not stopped. I have not stopped going to council meetings. I have not stopped going to planning and zoning meetings. You only do this if you care about the town, and care about what the town will look like in 10 years, 100 years.”

During his tenure as an elected official, O’Neill said he missed nine of 600 meetings. During that time, the council worked with foresight to improve South Kingstown, from supporting South County Hospital and the University of Rhode Island, to asking state officials to address climate change issues, to creating a Healthy Places by Design designated community, he said.

He was known for being outspoken, and for sparring with former President Kathleen Fogarty – now a state representative – and former President Ella Whaley.

“Yes, we had unbelievable political difficulties [on the council],” O’Neill said. “But this town always came first. We made a great town.”

At the top of O’Neill’s priority list is local governance, which he argues the town is losing. The state constitution grants South Kingstown the ability to maintain control of local issues, but land use regulations, school funding and the local economy are at risk, he said.

“Local governance is number one,” he said. “People live here; they’ve moved here because they like our schools; they like our land, our water; they moved here for those reasons. And those are the reasons you protect.”

O’Neill grew up summering in Green Hill. He graduated from University of Rhode Island and in 1991, he and his wife, Anne, and their two children moved to Green Hill. He owns Coastal Properties South County, a real estate firm, on Main Street in Wakefield.

“I really enjoy South Kingstown,” O’Neill said. “I love what we do with our village plans, our comprehensive plan, because it’s meant to do a little bit of everything: economic growth, historic preservation. I love the mix [in South Kingstown].”

Over the years, O’Neill has seen plenty of changes in the area.

“I’ve had my office [on Main Street] for 20 years, and I’ve seen Wakefield up and down,” he said. “Now I’m really worried, because if you ever interview the stores that leave, it’s the lack of customers, free spending people. We need participation by customers down here. Our Economic Development Committee, they need to figure out how small business can work in our villages.”

O’Neill said to help the economy in South Kingstown, the council needs to support businesses such as South County Hospital, URI and Schneider Electric.

“I think the town has built out most of the easy developable land,” he said. “Right now, what is at stake is, do we lose our neighborhoods? I’m a big fan of our neighborhoods and neighborhood elementary schools. I don’t want to lose Peace Dale and Wakefield, because they’re affordable. I don’t want them to become gentrified, then no one will be able to afford to live here.”

Recently, O’Neill has advocated against several development projects, including the Alzheimer’s care facility proposed for the site of the former Larchwood Inn on Main Street, and the expansion of the cottage community The Pointe at East Matunuck. O’Neill frequently attends Town Council, Planning Board and Zoning Board meetings, and is often the only candidate present.

“No one else running has been to these meetings,” O’Neill said. “I am vigilant; I am dedicated; I am experienced.”

(9) comments

Hometowner

It's funny, at the bus stop this morning everyone seems to believe Jim O'Neill is the most suitable candidate because of his experience. The consensus is none of the other candidates have any experience. The residents seemed concerned about the lack of leadership on the Town Council. We all agreed, Jim is the only choice now that McEntee is gone.

The people's voice is what's matters, Mikey!

No more o'neil

Hometownher, Oneill's sole claim to fame is doing nothing on the town council for 14 years. But since you're so close with him, can you find out about that $400 "in kind" donation he got from Miss Mcentee, and whether she works at his office as he reported in his June 30 2015 board of elections report? [wink]

Hometowner

No other candidate has the education, experience or qualifications that Jim O'Neill possesses.

What do the other candidates offer?

We need experience leadership in our Town.

No more o'neil

Hometowner (or should we call you mr or mrs mcentee? ;)

O'Neill's "experience" is being a bully and a blowhard, and even though the voters showed him the door last year, he just refuses to stay away.

SK not only doesn't need him, SK told him in no uncertain terms to go away last November. He wasn't even close. He's turned into the proverbial bad penny.

You may be partially right on the current council. It appears the entire TC elected in november 2015 is useless, with mcEntee being expensively useless, sticking SK taxpayers with the $$$ of a special election. Did she care so much about SK home-towners not to fund her personal political ambitions with our tax dollars? Did she or her husband offer to reimburse the town for the trouble and expense? And how many meetings did Healy miss this year?

You must be the dtc, you keep trying to spread rumors about Gledhill wanting a paid fire department. Disappointing that the South County Independent takes part in spreading this intentional misrepresentation. I wonder how much ad space O'Neill had to buy to get this newspaper to overlook such misrepresentations? Then again, so few people even know it's online.

O'Neill has always been a democrat running as an independent. He's always been afraid of a democratic primary, as much as he's pulled the dtc party line. Do you think he's a gop? He's been at the front of the line to give taxpayers money away, just not that you've noticed.

O'Neill takes in more $$$ from people than any other candidate. So much so that he tossed some to carol mcentee last year. Look at his campaign finance filings, he takes in $1000s from the same wealthy "donors", some who live in SK, some who don't. He clearly has his list of wealthy "go to" money people who he can count on getting $1000 out of every election. Good for them that they have it to spare, but it's not as if he behaves respectably. Who would give a donation to a man who said "She's lucky I didn't hit her?" And what's the $400 "in kind" donation from carol mcentee, whose place of employment is listed as oneill's office, in his 6/30/15 report?

Fundraisers should be held in SK. The Ocean Mist, The Mews, the Bowling Alley, Rivers Edge, Phil's, every restaurant in this town can use the business, as well as exposure to people who might never have been in a place where a fundraiser is held. Objectivity on the town council does not require the members to live under a rock, or keep their heads in the sand. We need someone like Liz Gledhill who will listen to the citizens of this town, even those who can't write a $1000 check to support a candidate. We need someone who can think critically, understands the role of the town council, the importance of the town council, and the limits of the town council. People like oneill who can't admit they might have been wrong? Enough is enough, no more o'neill.


[wink][wink][wink]

Hometowner

Jim is the only experience candidate.

Our TOWN needs him along with Meg Healy to lead SK.

Collins, Clough and Viele have been useless.

Our Town will go to hell if Jim O'Neill is not elected.

Gledhill wants PAID firefighters because her husband is a fireman.

Gledhill was a Democrat and now running as an Independent.

Gledhill held a fundraiser at Ocean Mist and wants the TOWN to reconsider the retaining wall.

What about the poor 200+ residents living there?

Save our TOWN and vote Jim O'Neil.

No more o'neil

He's proud? What a fluff piece on a bully. "He was known for being outspoken, and for sparring with former President Kathleen Fogarty – now a state representative – and former President Ella Whaley." Didn't he call Kathy Fogarty vile names? That's not sparring, that's disgusting and disgraceful bullying.

Didn't he say "She's lucky I didn't hit her"? Didn't Meg Healy and Carol McEntee deny hearing him say it, although the video shows McEntee rushing to his side to turn his mike off, and Healy was what, an entire 12 inches away from him?

Your paper hit the skids years ago, and now it's rasping its last weak breaths.

rhodycat

This man has threatened to strike a woman in town hall on tape. This is not an allegation, it is on tape. The fact that he is desperate to get on council does not make him worthy. We need to move away from degenerate curmudgeons if we want to restore a sense of community to our local government.
Please do not condone violence against women as a way to solve problems, please do not vote for this miserable coward.
http://www.independentri.com/independents/south_county/south_kingstown/article_8d5a6ba1-2a24-55de-b11d-993714b2d102.html

rmasterson

If "far left and progressive" equals understanding the entire population, not just their friends and knows that we actually have to think about the future, I'll take Liz and Abel. Mr. O'neill is someone who loves the sound of his own voice and finds it very, very difficult to even listen to someone with a dissenting opinion. New blood on the council is long overdue!

TimJosephFlah

Liz Gledhill is a lovely, pleasant person and a great pastry baker. Please do not vote for her as she is as far left and progressive as her friend Teresa Tanzi. She has no real world skills or qualifications for the job as Town Councilor. Of course, neither did Abel Collins who has performed very poorly since his election. Her signs say "always an advocate." What the heck does that mean? NOTHING.

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