This is number 4 in a series of email interviews with Mayoral and Council Candidates.
1. Please rate the following core services in the order in which you, personally, feel they should be prioritized (O'Neal's answers follow the listed core services):
> capital improvements three
> public safety one
> quality of life, as in entertainment; parks; sport events; the arts; etc. four
> road and bridge maintenance and infrastructure two (2 & 3 are almost a dead heat, but I understand the distinction)
2. Do you support a 1 percent sales tax to fund the police and fire pension plan?
O'Neal: The voters rejected the 1-cent proposal. I would not place it on another ballot without broad based input and very careful consideration of all other options.
3. Do you support a sales tax of some amount less than 1 percent but equal to or more than 1/8-cent? If so, what would you consider the ideal amount within that range?
O'Neal: Any comprehensive solution is probably going to have to include some extra revenue source. The amount and type would vary depending on what other components are proposed.
4. Describe, in your opinion, what are "core city services."
O'Neal: Public safety, public health, public works and economic development.
5. If forced to cut areas of the budget which include the core city services you listed or indicated in #4, list the order in which you would cut the services from the most to the least amount.
O'Neal: Safety must take priority of everything else. After that one can't provide a "one size fits all" list. For example, if we had imminent economic development and job creation opportunities that would enhance our revenue and tax base we should pursue those. On the other hand, what if we had a major outbreak of a virulent strain of influenza? Or if we had, God forbid, a bridge collapse or a major problem with wastewater treatment? That's why the city has a rainy day fund. I would like to see it significantly increased, but it has helped handle unforeseen events, i.e., ice storms.
6. Are there any core city services listed in #4 that you would simply refuse to support cutting? If so, why would you refuse to cut those services?
O'Neal: I will not support any further reduction in our police and firefighters ranks. My first priority will be to reopen the police and fire academies. We are short nearly 40 police. With continued attrition and closed academies we are jeopardizing public safety. Without additional firefighters we may have to close a station and risk losing insurance accreditation; something that will cost all of us extra insurance premiums.
7. When funding capital improvement projects how would you set priorities among the projects eligible for funding in the current and upcoming voter approved capital improvement project lists?
O'Neal: Those priorities should be set with the combined input of a broad base of citizens, staff and council. I favor "lifting the hood" of our CIP and getting some new sets of eyes to assist in determining project priorities for the next three-year proposal.
8. How would you stay in touch with your constituents to insure you were properly representing them?
O'Neal: Use of new technologies i.e. Internet blogs (such as yours) and software such as "My Emma" or "Constant Contact," to build a large database of registered voter e-mail addresses. My "fantasy" is to have 20 % or more of the registered voters involved in an ongoing two-way exchange. I favor the establishment of more citizens advisory groups comprised of more diverse opinions and on a wider range of topics. Should City Utilities employ the new "Smart Grid," the potential exists to use that for two-way exchange of ideas and opinions.
9. Explain why you want to serve on the City Council.
O'Neal: I believe my life experiences in business and government can help Springfield as we desire to remain this great city in which to live, work, play and worship, driven by conservative values and progressive ideas. We will have at least 4, perhaps 5, new members of council. I want to help facilitate that transition, promote strategic planning of our city's future, continue quality provision of the services our citizens need, and conduct the business of our city like a business. Simply put: To operate our government in a civil, effective and efficient manner, with the least tax burden possible.
10. If elected to City Council, will you read the background information on every bill proposed for passage before you enter the Council Chambers to hear first reading of a bill and before casting your vote to either support or oppose the bill?
O'Neal: Members of council have to do their homework. It takes time and effort. My previous council service required anywhere from 10 to 40 hours per week, depending on the agenda. I think the ceremonial duties of the mayor, combined with the work you refer to, plus the aggressive agenda I plan to pursue to re-connect with our citizens will require an even greater dedication of time and effort. I am willing to make that investment.
11. In your opinion, do current events effect past votes of the public on any given sales tax?
O'Neal: Certainly. Economics conditions, public perception, poor communications, all influence the outcome of elections, and most certainly tax issues. Here's something I learned from my work with the trucking industries efforts to enhance its image. It explains the role of image and why we should, weather we¹re truck drivers or politicians, be concerned about it. "Public image shapes public opinion which shapes public policy."
12. In your opinion, would it ever be beneficial to poll registered Springfield voters or your zone constituency, by some method you might determine yourself, regarding controversial issues before making a decision as to whether you would support a particular bill?
O'Neal: Yes. As I mentioned above I want to significantly improve the scope of opinion and our ability to determine public sentiment. Council always has an inherent risk in either developing tunnel vision or being held hostage by a vocal minority.
13. Do you consider yourself to have a conservative philosophy or a liberal philosophy, or perhaps, somewhere in between? Explain.
O'Neal: I've become quite tired of labels being applied to persons for the self-serving purpose of political expediency. I have been recently and frequently the victim of attacks designed to incorrectly describe or attribute my allegiance or affiliation. I realize that is not your intent of your question. I am somewhere in the middle. I do not fashion my self wholly or totally as a liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican or Libertarian. When asked, I have identified myself publicly as a Democrat. I guess I'm a Utilitarian; I like to get things done. Given the choice of a debating society or a group of carpenters, I'd favor the latter. They know how to build stuff.
14. What personal philosophy(ies) do you hold which might effect the way you vote on future issues of the City?
O'Neal: I believe the city must remain on solid financial footing. Economic development and job creation is very important. To accomplish that requires our attention to parks, the arts, education, transportation and the environment. My philosophy is one of collaboration, communication and cooperation. We have done amazing things in our community when we let these principles guide us.
15. Do you recycle? If not, why not?
16. When was the last time you visited a Springfield area park? When and if you visited a Springfield area park, did you attend a special event or just decide to go to the park?
O'Neal: Springfield's park system is recognized best in class nationally, and is truly a jewel in the crown of he Queen City of the Ozarks. I enjoyed Parks Department League softball for 12 years when I was younger. Since a skiing accident in 2003 I'm not as physically active as I used to be, but we still enjoy our parks with our children and grandchildren. They use our parks, golf courses and greenways frequently. I used Phelps Grove last fall for family events and just relaxation. As a child, Fassnight, Doling and Grant Beach were frequent haunts.
17. What is your favorite color?
O'Neal: Either blue or green, depending on the hue or shade.
18. What is your favorite item of clothing and why?
O'Neal: Although I'm not always crazy about wearing ties, I purchased one in London that people always seem to comment on. I feel good wearing it. But I am most comfortable in gym shorts and a tee shirt. (Not always a pretty sight)
19. What is your favorite genre of music?
O'Neal: Beatles, Stones, Moody Blues, Eagles, Johnny Cash, Allison Krauss. I like a wide array. I appreciate originality and unique interpretations of other people's stuff.
20. What is your favorite book?
O'Neal: I really like unique compelling stories of American history. I'm currently reading "Manhunt," the story of the assassination of Lincoln and the ensuing capture of the conspirators. Three other books by Eric Larsen are fascinating: Devil in the White City; Isaac's Storm; Thunderstruck. They all read like a John Grisham novel. The difference being they are true and tell incredible stories reflecting the essence of specific venues of American history, the society of that day and the impact of new technology we now take for granted-- but always weaving a concurrent tale of serial killers, murder or political infighting. They are real page-turners and very educational.
Along the same vein is another great book, "Charlatan: American's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man who Pursued Him and the Age of Flimflam," by Pope Brock. It's the true story of John R. Brinkley, a brazen con man who set up a medical practice and introduced an outlandish surgical method of using goat glands (testicles) laced into men's bodies to increase virility and cure nearly all ailments. Thousands of people flocked to Kansas and received the procedure, sometimes with disastrous medical results. The "Doctor" became a millionaire, started the first talk radio station and rabble roused the populace of Kansas into very nearly electing him governor, failing by only a few hundred votes. He invented campaigning techniques still used in modern politics. With his radio show as a bully pulpit he built an incredibly loyal following that believed anything he said and would follow him off a cliff. He was subsequently stripped of the title of "Doctor" by the Kansas medical review board, his radio station closed by the precursor to the FCC and forced into exile in San Antonio Texas, where he started all over again. They continued to come to his soothing sanatorium and subject themselves to all kinds of quackery at his behest, killing or maiming patients by the score. Interesting sidebar: When forced to move his radio station outside the US, just inside the Mexican border, he produced innovations that endure to this day. It was several hundred thousand watts and could now be heard all the way to Chicago or Los Angeles. He would preach a little and then let some local talent sing a little. Before long, the music became very popular with unknown performers like The Carter Family, including little June, who Johnny Cash listened to as a young boy in Arkansas as well as Ernest Tubb and many others who would go on to be giants in the music industry. Brinkley's innovations actually introduced what we now know as country music, blues, and rock and roll to the nation. You just can't make this stuff up.
If I only had one book it would be the Bible. It never gets old and seems to always provide relevance. Believe me, recently, it has taken on more and new meaning.
21. Do you have any pets? Cat(s)? Dog(s)? Are you a "cat person" or a "dog person" and why?
O'Neal: Both actually. My wife made me a cat lover, but I've always been first and foremost a dog lover. We have four dogs and two cats. It is amazing the attachment we get to our animals. Losing one is like losing a family member. As for dogs, I heard it put this way: If you lock your wife and your dog in the trunk of your car and come back an hour later,which one do think will be happier to see you?
22. Do you attend a church regularly? If so, what faith would you associate yourself with?
O'Neal: Yes. I am a Christian. I've attended Cornerstone Church since 1983.
23. What is your favorite kind of food?
O'Neal: All the stuff not good for you: Pizza, red meat, Italian, comfort food, BBQ.
24. What is your favorite kind of pie? Candy?
O'Neal: Pie: Coconut Cream. Candy: Caramel. Thankfully, I don't eat sweets much, which is how I keep my girlish figure.
Thanks for the opportunity to chat with your readers and being patient for (and with) my responses.
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