City Council District 2 Profile: Corey Dinopoulos — South End News
If he wins the District 2 City Council election in November and succeeds Bill Linehan, South Boston web designer Corey Dinopoulos will occupy a unique place in Boston history.
As a half-Greek, half-Irish gay man, he would set a precedent as both the first openly gay and the first Greek-American councilor from District 2, yet he will also follow the tradition of the Irish pol from South Boston. The dichotomy is somehow emblematic of Dinopoulos, who is part of the new influx of youth and diversity that is challenging South Boston's Irish influence, while his Irish roots reflect that tradition.
He said at a March meeting of the Blackstone/Franklin Square Neighborhood Association, "I'd like to focus on the South End more than previous councilors have." Over lunch at the South End Buttery, Dinopoulos said, "Out of all the neighborhoods in the district, I probably know the South End best." He went on to outline his inspirations, ideas and priorities.
In meeting with potential voters, Dinopoulos has determined that transportation, housing and education are key to retaining city residents. Dinopoulos's ideas on public education were shaped by his parents' experiences as Dracut public school teachers and his own public-school education. Observing the Boston public schools (BPS) during his 12 years of residency here, Dinopoulos thinks BPS is under-funded for a number of reasons and he believes that the Payments in Lieu of Taxes or PILOT program could help fill the gap.
As an example, he said, "For example, Northeastern University is paying only 20 per cent of the $40 million they would owe if they paid taxes. That's irresponsible and as councilor, I would hold these institutions accountable." Dinopoulos, who voted No on Question 2 to raise the charter school cap, also thinks that charter schools are at odds with the survival and improvement of BPS because they outperform the public schools through non-competitive means such as hand-picking the best students, excluding those with special needs and language barriers and not administering standardized tests.
"The charter schools were established to be think tanks of innovation and to test new methods of learning. Whatever is working should be cycled back into [BPS]," he said. Dinopoulos hopes to work on stemming the exodus of students from BPS to private and charter schools and the exodus of faculty to suburban schools.
Dinopoulos feels that the South End and South Boston are under-served by the current transportation network and would like to see improved bus service in both neighborhoods, dedicated bus lanes, better prevention of vehicular speeding and other measures to make daily commuting easier and improve access to shopping, dining and leisure destinations. Dinopoulos lamented waiting at the bus stop for as much as 30 minutes with dozens of people in line while several full buses rolled by without stopping. Dinopoulos uses monthly MBTA passes but sometimes resorts to ride-sharing services when the bus is very late.
"Whether it's spending yoru money on a taxi or an Uber, we shouldn't have to be reaching into our pockets every time we want to get around," he said. He seemed encouraged by the T's new pilot program for bus-boarding, such as opening all doors on the Silver Line. He also suggested expanding the outlets for purchasing T passes.
Dinopoulos also expressed concern for the future success of the Flower Exchange due to its distance from any of the MBTA stops, and asked the developers at a recent community meeting how they plan on getting people to their site. Citing the recent pedestrian fatality on Tremont Street, Dinopoulos would like to see speed bumps and other measures to curtail speeding.
For the myriad challenges to commuting around the city, Dinopoulos said, "I don't think a cars-only solution is the right solution. It needs to be a multi-modal strategy with maybe more bus lanes or bus routes. I am a big proponent of safer biking. Without trying to harm parking, I'd like to see more safe bike lanes."
At a recent public meeting at City Hall, Dinopoulos recalled that the transportation officials who were testifying were unable to say how many square miles of protected bicycle lanes exist in the city. Dinopoulos learned it is three square miles, and he would like to see that increased.
Dinopoulos was a student at Massachusetts College of Art and Design when he was bitten by the political bug when he heard first-time gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick speak. "He came out of nowhere; no one knew who Deval Patrick was.
"When I heard him speak for the first time I was really inspired by his message and his ability to connect with people. I remember taking my design class to the Boston Common to listen to him speak at the gazebo. We were holding signs and I was really excited to help him run for governor."
He credits MassArt with inspiring him to public service. "As design students, it's our goal to communicate ideas to people. I think Mass. Art got me to think about being more civically engaged and to communicate ideas to the world." Dinopoulos also gained knowledge and experience as a co-founder of the unsuccessful Boston 2024 Olympic bid.
I learned a lot about community meetings from the Olympics. For months, we had conversations in every corner of the city that were very well-attended. Some people supported it, some people hated it, but I learned how to accommodate the people who didn't see eye to eye with me." He believes in seeking out opposing viewpoints. "You have to understand what the other side is thinking. I feel like empathy goes a long way; putting yourself in people's shoes."
As a web designer, Dinopoulos has had to follow Americans with Disabilities Act rules for accessibility for hearing and visually impaired users, which led him to heightened awareness of disability access in other areas. He spoke proudly of being able as a candidate to provide solutions for citizens. A Troy resident wrote to Dinopoulos about her difficulty walking with a stroller past nearby construction, and after observing the situation, Dinopoulos succeeded in getting barriers placed to provide a safe passageway.
Dinopoulos was accompanied to the interview by campaign manager Anna Glass, a South Boston native who was working as a legislative aide in Colorado when she saw a posting for a leader for Dinopoulos's team and decided to come back to Boston for the campaign.
"He's very passionate about education, transportation and housing and those are all issues that I feel very strongly about," she said. Dinopoulos expressed pride in the fact that his campaign manager, treasurer and the printer he uses for campaign materials are all women. "Like my mom, I support women wholeheartedly and I wanted them heavily involved in my campaign. There aren't a lot of women running, so my only way of counteracting that was to hire them."
Dinopoulos has visited the half-dozen or so neighborhood associations in South Boston as well as several South End associations to introduce himself to residents and hear local concerns.
Dinopoulos admits there are public-policy issues such as the opioid epidemic, which has affected both the South End and his South Boston neighborhood so tragically, for which he does not have the answers.
He wants to learn by listening to experts and to families affected by the drug crisis. "I'm not an expert in everything, but I am definitely willing to talk and listen to people with open ears."
by Michele D. Maniscalco, South End News