Op-ed: Vote Yes To A City Form Of Government To ‘Improve Representation’ To All; Address ‘Crucial Issues’

EDITOR’S NOTE: Framingham Source invited 10 community members to write op-eds on the ballot question voters will see during the April 4th Town of Framingham election. Voters will be asked to approve a new form of government for Framingham. A vote yes means Framingham would adopt a city form of government, with a Mayor, an 11-member City Council and a 9-member School Committee. A vote no would keep Framingham as a town.
However, the ballot question is not that simple. Every household with a registered voter was mailed a copy of the ballot question. To help voters understand the issues, five individuals wrote a vote yes op-ed and five wrote a vote no op-ed. The series will publish on Source this week with one yes and one no op-ed for five days.
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As a 37-year Town resident, taxpayer, Town Meeting member, and member of the Ways & Means Committee, I am deeply involved in our Town government.  

Despite having tremendous respect for dedicated Town Meeting members, I cannot support the current Town Meeting form of government.   

Although essential services are how most residents measure the effectiveness of government, our current government has failed to address several crucial issues:  rising tax rates, widespread pollution, and neighborhood blight.

New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “You are entitled to your own opinion but not to your own facts.”

I will express my opinion and provide facts about two serious failings of our present government.

Opinion #1: The Present Town Meeting form of government lacks town-wide Representation.                                                                                

Facts:

  • Framingham’s 26 square miles include 18 widely diverse precincts.
  • 100% of the 5-Member Board of Selectmen, as well as the TM Moderator, live in 2 contiguous northwest precincts.
  • 100% of the School Committee live in North Framingham, while 60% of students live in South Framingham.
  • With no oversight, the BOS and Moderator make appointments to Boards and Commissions.
  • 77% of all Moderator appointees live in North Framingham.
  • 86% of her appointees to the Finance and Capital Budget Committees live in North Framingham.
  • Only 2 appointees live in the 4 precincts below the Downtown.
  • A 58% TMM vacancy rate in 3 Southside precincts gravely diminishes their voice.

 

Opinion #2:  A City form of government would improve Representation.                                                                             

Facts:

  • Council members will be elected from each of nine neighborhood districts and two will be elected town-wide.
  • School Committee members will be elected by each district rather than at-large.
  • Mayoral appointments are subject to approval of the Council.

 

Opinion #3:  Town Meeting Government lacks Accountability.

Facts:  A southeast Framingham toxic waste site provides an egregious example of lost tax revenue, unenforced zoning by-laws, and environmental injustice.

  • In 2006 NSTAR paid Framingham $2 million in back taxes for a 20-acre Superfund site and agreed to clean it up, put the land to better use, and increase tax revenues.  
  • The Town did not enforce compliance.
  • Four businesses had permits to operate on the site but ten squatters did not.
  • All the permit applications lapsed and had incomplete or false information.
  • None of the businesses paid personal property taxes as they hid in plain sight from the Assessor’s Office.
  • Instead of receiving revenue, so far, the Town has lost $165,000 in taxes from just one of the fourteen businesses.
  • Town taxpayers have been forced to pay for these illegal businesses’ consumption of myriad Town services including Police, DPW, Legal, Inspectional Services and Board of Health.
  • In 2014, after being assaulted by smoke from 15 mulch pile fires on this toxic site, Southside Town Meeting members tried to bring this problem to the attention of the Selectmen and the ZBA by sending detailed reports and speaking at their meetings.
  • The ZBA has continued to award these businesses Special Permits; TMMs have held demonstrations and continue to speak out.
  • The Board of Selectmen has shown no accountability for this environmental and financial abuse of Town residents.
  • The DEP-mandated clean-up of the site will cost $11 to $93 million and require accountability.
  • The Selectmen routinely meets in Executive Session to discuss complex issues, yet they have repeatedly avoided responding to these questions:

“Are you willing to accept liability for the Town if workers, customers or trespassers are injured while on this toxic property now and, more so, while the lengthy clean-up is in progress? Will these businesses be made to pay their back taxes and permit fees? Will they be charged for excessive use of the Framingham Fire Department?   Will you investigate who is responsible for the false data in their applications and have it corrected? Do you believe the ZBA has upheld the purpose of the Zoning Bylaws to protect and promote the life, health, safety and general welfare of the residents of Framingham?”                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

  • With 5 members and staggered 3-year terms, accountability is diluted on the BOS and significant change nearly impossible.

 

Opinion #4:  A City form of government will improve Accountability.                                                                                   

Facts:

  • A Mayor will be solely accountable.  If dissatisfied, citizens can vote the Mayor out in 4 years.
  • The Charter makes elections more competitive than Town Meeting where a person can be elected with one write-in vote.
  • Councilors and School Committee members, if not accountable to their constituents, can be voted out in 2 years.

 

                                                        I urge you to vote “Yes” for the Charter on April 4.

 

Judith Grove

Town Meeting Member

Chair Precinct 15

Framingham Source Editor

Susan Petroni Framingham Source Editor Email: editor@FraminghamSource.com Phone: 508-315-7176

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