If you are struggling to answer the town/city question, “which is the best form of government for Framingham,” there is a reason.
It is written and taught that you can never define what is in the “public’s interests” through simple factual debate. People weigh the factual arguments differently according to their individual values, wants, and needs.
I suggest trying a simpler approach to the Charter question and at the same time empower yourself. Ask yourself, “which government option works best for me.”
Consider reviewing the list of arguments and facts relative to the Charter Question available on the town’s website, and then apply your lifestyle, your values, and your approach to local government participation. I did, and it cleared things up for me.
What I currently want out of our local government is to have a voice on matters of concern and get to good value from my tax dollars.
Currently, to have a voice in our town government, it takes my participation at night meetings, networking, research and study, and political skills to be effective. Political relevance is reserved for the appointed full time town professional staff and those residents who choose to make local participation their part time avocation. After doing both for many years, I no longer want to do either.
The city option provides me with an identifiable and accountable mayor and a precinct city councilor both of whom want my vote, which almost guarantees that I will be heard and at least considered on issues that matter to me. A city provides a clearer path making me more relevant and empowered with far less time and effort.
The second issue of importance to me is getting value for my tax dollar.
In Framingham, for the most part, we receive top quality service. Note, that I did not mention good value.
My research of comparable Massachusetts communities shows that Framingham spends nearly 20% more per person than other comparable cities and towns to deliver basic services. The one comparable community in Massachusetts that spent more money than Framingham was the Town of Brookline. Again, note that I said the Town of Brookline. All of the other comparable communities that spend less than Framingham per person are cities. In our current government, an unelected town manager creates the budget, an unelected finance committee advises town meeting, and 216 elected but “virtually unknown” town meeting members approve the budget. In a city, an identifiable mayor will develop the annual budget and the elected city council would approve both the budget and the tax rate. The city government budget process will produce more value for our tax dollars.
So back to the beginning.
If you are at all conflicted on this question, try to simplify this task. Since you cannot definitively answer the question as to “what is in everyone’s interest,” ask a question you can answer. Ask yourself what is important to you and determine which form of government serves your individual interests. If everyone does this and votes accordingly, we will get the best answer to the more complex question.
Finally, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the Charter Commission members for providing the citizenry this unique opportunity.
We can thank them with a large turnout on April 4.
Robert L Merusi
Merusi is a former member of Town Meeting, Keefe Tech School Committee and Framingham School Committee. He currently serves on the Framingham Housing Authority. He is the former Director for Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs. He ran unsuccessfully for Framingham Charter commissioner.