22 Aug 2014
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Candidates Vow to be Voice of District 5

The seat was left open by incumbent Ronald DeNapoli, who declined to run citing health reasons.

Candidates Vow to be Voice of District 5 Candidates Vow to be Voice of District 5
In many ways, the three candidates running for the District 5  Town Council seat could not be more different from one another. 

Nick DiMartino is an account manager for heavy equipment company Milton CAT, a father of two young boys and a longtime youth sports volunteer.

Michael Owens is a college senior at UMass Boston launching a career in public service after interning at Quincy District Court, then-U.S. Sen. John Kerry and Gov. Deval Patrick’s offices.

William Sweeney is a Certified Public Account and a practicing attorney who has a long and contentious history in Braintree town government.

However, there is one thing they all have in common.

Each has promised to be an active, engaged voice for their district, represented currently by Ronald DeNapoli, a councilor who, citing health reasons, declined to run again this year and has been absent from the majority of council meetings this term.

"When I get involved, I'm in," DiMartino said. "If I'm going to commit, I'm going to commit."

"I know I will give it 100 percent," Owens said. "I plan to attend every meeting."

“I felt that I would be the better voice," said Sweeney, who has campaigned for the District 5 seat in the past. “I’m running because I think I can make a difference."

There is certainly not a lack of issues for the candidates to engage with in the district, located in the heart of Braintree and filled with many thousands of households and containing one of the town's most vibrant business areas.

District 5, comprised of precincts 5A and 5B with voting locations at Town Hall and Liberty School, stretches as far east as Liberty Street and west as Franklin Street. Its northern border roughly equates with the top of the rotary and it reaches as far south as Peach Street.

There are 4,346 registered voters in the district, trailing only districts two and six, and its residents are some of the more active voters in Braintree, Town Clerk Joe Powers said. 

Among residents, the most important issues are school space, traffic safety and the recent automated waste roll-out, according to interviews with all three candidates. Business owners in South Braintree Square are focused, as ever, on the lack of parking.

By and large people are happy with the town, Owens said. He said he has knocked on 99 percent of the doors in the district and spoken with hundreds of residents.

Owens' vision for improvement in the business district would be, in part, to institute a community policing bicycle program for South Braintree Square to enhance quality of life and help address parking issues there, and build a beautification program for the Ivory Street corridor. 

Public-private partnerships with Covanta, which runs the transfer station, Motel 6 and the MBTA could help address poor curbing and pedestrian access, litter and the visual aspect of the roadway, Owens said.

DiMartino, who lives on Academy Street, has also been hitting the streets, and said he feels he has a strong base of support in his neighborhood. 

The new waste program has been at the forefront of residents' minds, DiMartino said. Some people are complaining about the barrels being too large, others say they don't have enough capacity.

"It's a touchy subject," DiMartino said.

Along with the 100 Roads Program, DiMartino would like to see a similar initiative for sidewalks. He also said he would work with residents if elected to install stop signs and other traffic calming measures on newly-paved roads.

All candidates mentioned being disappointed that the former Knights of Columbus property on Washington Street is not being used for parking in the square by the town or a coalition of businesses. It was bought earlier this year by Toyota of Braintree owner Charles Tufankjian.

"The square has become a lot more vibrant in the last couple years and that has put a lot more demand on the parking," Sweeney said.

Sweeney, former Town Administrator under the old form of government, said he has also heard from residents on trash and on roads. He said he would use his financial training to focus on the budget. 

"The struggle is always adequate funding to the schools and public safety," Sweeney said. "As we get new growth in the town and increase the tax base, the challenge is to use those resources in the best way possible."

Along with bringing a voice to the district, Sweeney said he can help make the council a stronger part of town government. 

Sweeney said Town Meeting, which voted to de-fund his salary in 1998, leading to a lawsuit and eventual settlement, was actually "New England at its best," a forum for all residents' concerns.

“The Town Council has a stronger role to play," Sweeney said. "The council can bring a lot to bear on what’s important for the residents.”

The local election is Tuesday, Nov. 5. 

Visit the Town Clerk website for polling locations, a list of nominated candidates and more election info. And use our Braintree Patch Election Blog to share your thoughts on the candidates.

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