UPDATED: Framingham At-Large City Council Candidate Christine Long

At-Large City Council Candidate Christine Long

Editor’s Note: Some responses are blank as candidate did not answer

Age:

Occupation:

Years lived in Framingham:

Family (optional):

Municipal experience:

Volunteerism:

In less than 100 words, why should someone vote you to represent them as a city councilor?

Website or Facebook page linkwww.longforcitycouncil.com/

 

Editor’s Note: Candidates were asked to provide one-word answers only

Name one business that Framingham needs: Amazon

Name one amenity Framingham is missing: fine arts

How much would you vote to increase (or decrease) the tax levy in your first year of office? – 5%

Do you support a split tax rate for businesses and homeowners? Yes

Should Framingham become a sanctuary city? No

Would you support the creation of a dog park in Framingham? Yes

Would you support the construction of a splash pad in Framingham? Yes

Would you vote for a debt exclusion override to build a new school in Framingham? undecided

Should City Hall remain in downtown Framingham? No

Do you support Framingham State purchasing the Maynard Building for its new partnership with Danforth Art? Yes

What is your favorite place in Framingham? (just one): Garden in the Woods

Name one thing you personally did in the last year to improve the Framingham.

 I continue to volunteer my personal time to work with staff, residents and stakeholders by being a well versed, informed Planning Board member. As the Chair of the Planning Board I have worked diligently with the Administrator and the Board to continue to improve the application and permitting processes as well as provide careful review of all land use applications to render the best defensible, conditioned decisions possible. In this way projects contribute to our tax base while upgrading individual residential and commercial properties. On an aside, I continually invest in landscaping improvements that enhance my individual property while providing an inviting habitat for wildlife thus enhancing the overall value of my neighborhood on Hemenway Road.
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Question #1 – In your opinion, what is the biggest issue facing Framingham?How would you go about fixing it as a city councilor?

Economic redevelopment is the #1 issue plaguing Framingham due to a lack of effective outreach on the part of the Economic Development Department.
Without new development and thoughtful, careful redevelopment of existing commercial sites there is no relief to reduce the tax burden that is experienced by residential and commercial taxpayers.
No additional revenue is brought into the municipality without this essential element injected into the existing tax base. In addition, property values suffer from the lack of new construction and the municipality’s inability to attract highest and best uses. The continued practices of accepting the lowest and least desirable uses for lack of soliciting new business opportunities results in low property values that is attractive to those in the tax-exempt, non-profit sector to build in Framingham. Property values need to rise to a higher level.
We need an entire overhaul of the Economic Development Department that functions in its intended role as a marketing agent of the City, one that is willing to solicit, attract and negotiate with specific business partners in accordance with our Master Land Use Plan as a guide. The Planning Board’s role is to process and permit application but is not responsible for business outreach which is the sole purpose of the Economic Development Department.
Effective business outreach would change the entire dynamics of development and redevelopment possibilities and outcomes being proposed in Framingham.
Question #2 – The Framingham Public Schools represent more than 50 percent of the total budget for the community. Would you support a level-funded budget, a level service budget, and increase in the school budget or a decrease in the school budget? Level funded. Why? What are your thoughts on improving the school district? While the school district and the municipal government are separate entities, without good schools everyone’s property values plummet. What will you do to build a positive working relationship with the school district?

Education is the most important asset that a community can provide to its residents. Without excellent schools the community suffers in every possible way. However, we must keep in mind that our tax rate must lend to affordability so that our seniors and young families can continue to stay in Framingham.

Since level funding by definition is when the schools are funded at the same dollar amount as the prior year this automatically creates a problem due to many unpredictable variable cost factors. Contractual obligations that involve unions and its employees in addition to uncontrollable increases in costs that involve variables such as special education, employee health insurance, etc., can only be addressed if the municipality applies a level service funding approach to meet the needs of the school district.

Unfortunately, level funding never equates to level services. Framingham must provide at a minimum level services to its school district to continue to provide the same level of services to students that was provided in the previous year. This would mean there would be no reductions in staff or programs. Although this means
that the costs of staff and services automatically increase annually, it does support a commitment to the educational needs of the community. Framingham has continually experienced a fiscal shortfall in this area and this particular issue needs to be a major focus of a new council and cannot continue to be funded at a minimum level that does not meet the needs of the Framingham School District.

Lastly, busing is an additional cost that is not factored into the 50% figure. The reality is that the School budget is closer to 70% or our entire fiscal budget. The issue of neighborhood schools v. busing needs to be reconsidered.

Although the City Council will have a limited role in working with the School Committee it is imperative that the Council is able to ensure that its efforts are cooperative and collaborative to work towards a positive goal of providing the schools with the support and funding needed to be successful in education our children.

As a parent of two daughters, one of whom attended Framingham schools, I understand the importance of funding diversified, quality programs and
how proper staffing is key to providing quality education programs for our children. In turn, quality education enhances and increases our attractiveness as a community to those considering making Framingham a place to raise their children.

The council needs to be apprised of all associated costs and expenses regarding the school budget in order to work with the Mayor to evaluate and make informed decisions regarding adequate funding to meet the needs of the school district. Proper level service funding must be maintained with an allocation towards
allowing for unanticipated additional costs (cost plus approach) that may occur throughout the school year to ensure that staffing and programs and not interrupted. In this way continual shortfalls would be avoided and eliminated from future reoccurrence.

 

Question #3 – Traffic is a major issue throughout Framingham. How will you work with the city council and the mayor to alleviate this headache for residents.

Framingham is a major transportation hub within the metrowest region. As such, Framingham is the recipient of “pass through” traffic that is difficult to control and manage. In the past year the Framingham Planning Board contributed approximately $60,000 of our mitigation monies held and earmarked for traffic and
transportation improvements to the Department of Public Works for a study being performed by VHB consultants. The cost of the first phase of this study is approximately $200,000. This collaboration with DPW to invest in a Master Transportation Plan and Municipal Traffic Study will lead to the creation and eventual adoption of a Master Transportation Plan for Framingham that is much needed. A Master Transportation Plan will provide the needed guidance when making land use decisions as to how traffic and infrastructure improvements can best be managed.

In addition, the Planning Board spent $30,000 on a traffic study for the 9/90 area and there have been multiple studies done throughout Framingham on a case by case basis during project review.

MA DOT is an integral and critical part of the discussion when speaking to traffic particularly since many of our roadways are owned by the State. In order to be
able to understand and make educated decisions when permitting projects in addition to how Framingham can work with MADOT to build and improve its transportation system, this Plan must be funded. The first phase of the study is expected to be completed within a few weeks. The Planning Board will be contributing more mitigation money funding to the DPW for the second phase of this study shortly. Please visit the Framingham Planning Board webpage
for information on this topic.

 

 

Question #4 – Framingham is home to Framingham State University and MassBay Community College. How will you work with two to make sure they are community partners with the City of Framingham?

 

Again, education is the most important piece of any community. I would like to see a community commitment to the expansion of these two colleges within Framingham that integrates them more into the community. Framingham leaders need to encourage higher education institutions to provide housing opportunities for its students within Framingham much like Lasell College has partnered with the City of Newton with continued expansion of housing opportunities and programs. Likewise, Boston College has continued to improve and expand its housing options and programs in Chestnut Hill. Consideration of a PILOT program (payment in lieu of taxes) should be part of any discussion with non-profit institutions since MassBay and Framingham State are both State Schools and not private organizations like Lasell and Boston College.

Expansion of programs and living facilities increase opportunities for small business to locate in Framingham in addition to existing mid-size and large corporate based partners such as Bose, TJX, Genzyme, Staples, etc. An uptick in student presence in a community would provide additional revenue and encourage a diversity of businesses to consider locating within Framingham.

 

 

Question #5 – Discuss your vision for Framingham for economic-development. Be specific, including Nobscot Plaza, Saxonville lumber yard, Mt Wayte Plaza, and downtown Framingham. Feel free to discuss the Golden Triangle and Tech Park too.

Zoning is the critical piece in order to redevelop those sites that are currently stagnant and blighted.

The Planning Board has worked diligently to follow directives laid out in Framingham’s Master Land Use Plan adopted and revised in 2014. Moreover, the Planning Board continues to follow a work plan that is based on the Master Land Use Plan to upgrade, improve and amend zoning to address areas of blight, decay and in need of rezoning. The Planning Board and a collaborative working group worked very hard to create the Central Business Zoning in 2015. This change in zoning incorporates mixed used and a variety of offerings to attractive new business to the downtown area.

Framingham leaders need to engage owners of these parcels in meaningful discussions that include public participation of all those stakeholders to come to consensus as to the best and highest use for the redevelopment of these sites. Private property owners of these plazas have to have a reason to want to engage with the City to redevelop these properties. Tax incentives or other municipal credits should be considered to encourage plaza owners to redevelop their parcels.

Currently, I am a member of the Steering Committee that is reviewing zoning proposals for the Golden Triangle. Upon completion of the review sometime in December, the recommendations will be presented regarding zoning options for redevelopment that includes a more cohesive, interconnected use of land. With respect to the Technology Park, the Transfer of Development Rights zoning article was adopted in 2015 to provide an opportunity to enhance “smart growth” options for new redevelopment within the Tech Park parcels while preserving open space parcels elsewhere.

 

Question #6 – Framingham is home to several major businesses, but it also has many small businesses within its borders. How can the city of Framingham be more responsive to the business community? What steps would you recommend?

 Fix the permitting process so that it falls under one agency. Correct the deficiencies found within the current structure – separate functions that fall under the category of economic development department to clearly define the marketing function from the zoning and permitting function. Provide clear direction to those hired to work in the Economic Development Department as to the mission and description of the scope of work that they are to perform for the community. The business community has continually complained that there is no clear understanding of who or what department they need to contact to address issues with business growth, development and the need for building partnerships with Framingham.
Question #7 – Do you think Framingham is family friendly? Yes. Why or why not?
Framingham is a very welcoming, family friendly community. It possesses a wealth of valuable resources that could be developed more to expand its offerings to all residents. Currently Farm Pond, Bowditch Field, Cushing Park, Wittenborg Woods, Callahan Park, and the Cochituate Rail Trail to name a few are available
for use by residents.
The King’s Bowling project that was not developed was a loss to the Framingham community. Amenities and sports offerings such as bowling is much needed to
provide more offerings and develop more community programs for youths and families. The addition of Lifetime Fitness and the expansion of the services at the YMCA permitted by the Planning Board have been great additions to the health and fitness services offered in Framingham.
However, we need to expand upon and improve our offerings regarding the fine arts. We are fortunate to have Amazing Things Art Center and Framingham MakerSpace in Saxonville (expanding its space) that provides additional creative art enjoyment as well as hands on creativity with metal, wood and welding materials.
Unfortunately, the Fountain Street Studio building has been sold for future redevelopment. The loss of artist studios needs to somehow be replaced. Moreover, the Senior Center provides a much needed support and activity function for our Seniors. In the future renovations to Mary Dennison Park are planned with the addition of a Skate Park as well.

 

Question #8 – In the last 18 months, the Danforth museum and art school was evicted from its home of decades, Fountain Street was closed to the public and the Fountain Street Fine Arts gallery along with many Fountain Street artists have left Framingham. How would you support the arts in Framingham as a city councilor?

This is of great concern to me. The Fountain Street Studios being closed is a great loss to Framingham participants and residents. Framingham lacks in the area of fine arts and needs to find ways to draw this sector into the municipality.

In turn activity generated by the fine arts will draw a larger audience to Framingham as other communities have experienced such as Salem, Cambridge, Boston, etc. Cultural arts is a must have for any community to expect to grow and increase its attractiveness to those wanting to make Framingham their home.

 

Question #9 – Do you feel there is waste in the Framingham municipal budget? If so, please site specific areas where you would reduce funding.
  I have watched the budget grown substantially over the past two decades with the changing needs of the municipality. However, being the Chair of a revenue generating Board, the Planning Board, I am at a loss for why the increase in tax base does not show a reduction in tax expense to residential and commercial payers.
Alternatively, I have seen a steep increase in the number of employees being hired, an increase in managers in all departments, and a great increase in salaries, in turn leading to a large increase in spending. With a new administration coming in on January 1, 2018, it would be the responsibility of those elected to review the budget to identify those expenses that can be eliminated and/or reduced as well as those essential staff positions and services that must be retained. I am confident that a departmental restructuring will provide the elimination of overlapping non-essential personnel as well as identify those essential key staffing positions needed to provide a top quality performing government.

Question #10 – As one of only 3 individuals who will be elected city-wide, how will you work to make sure that Framingham is united and not 9 individual districts? Give specifics.

 

As the current Chair of the Planning Board, former Town Meeting Member, former Chair of Standing Committee on Public Works and Government Study, I am accustomed to working with groups of all sizes to obtain the necessary buy-in of all stakeholders towards achieving any given particular goal. I am able to work with all personality types and mindsets to come to a compromise to achieve the goal at hand. Consideration of all stakeholders opinions, ideas and particular points of view is essential when developing policies and proposals that ultimately affect everyone within a municipality in order to arrive at the best of all possible final products that a group can achieve. Up to this time, zoning proposals have been carefully vetted by all residential and commercial stakeholders, in addition to the Standing Committee on Planning and Zoning, Boards and Commissions having an interest, with Town Meeting finalizing the vote through the public
hearing process. The Planning Board has heightened social media that continues to improve its community outreach and is inclusive of municipal departments to provide the best possible review of all proposals regarding zoning as well as land use applications.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

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

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