Framingham District 6 City Council Candidate: Scott Ellinwood

District 6 City Council candidate Scott Ellinwood

District 6 is Precincts 10 and 11

 

Age: 33

Occupation: Manager, Financial Planning, Reporting, and Analysis

Years lived in Framingham: 7

Family (optional): Wife Samantha, two year old little girl, and a baby boy.

Municipal experience: No prior experience, which includes no biases, ties, or commitments other than to the community in Framingham.

Volunteerism: Active participant in the community build of the new Barbieri playground earlier this year. It was an extremely hot and labor intensive day, but the group of volunteers worked long into the day to create an area that will truly benefit the younger members of our community for years to come.

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

As we transition to a city, my background in business, finance, and the creation of efficiencies in my workplace will be imperative to controlling our budget and taxes, while still improving our lives, our local businesses, and Framingham’s appeal. The ability to dig into the numbers, understand their impacts, and develop new solutions is a necessity that we should not take for granted. In addition, I grew up on cooperation, perseverance, love, and support. These values should be at the core of our city. When combined with an openness to new and differing perspectives, I am best suited to achieve positive results for Framingham.

In less than 100 words, describe your district: District 6 is a broad mix of home owners and apartment dwellers, almost all of whom lead separate lives between the large apartment complexes on Route 9, which encompasses most of precinct 10, and the residential neighborhoods south of Route 9 in precinct 11. A number of individuals are long-time residents of Framingham, if not life-long. As time has passed though, I have seen the district welcoming more young families and first-time homebuyers, which is creating a new dynamic and belief about who we want to lead Framingham. The push I see is for new voices to be involved in order to help lead Framingham into the future.

Website or Facebook page link: www.facebook.com/scottellinwoodforoffice

Election announcement submitted to Framingham Source during the nomination period

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

How much would you vote to increase (or decrease) the tax levy in your first year of office? 1.5% Increase

What business is needed in your district? Ice Cream Shop

What amenity is lacking in your district? Community Gardening

Should Framingham become a sanctuary city? No

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

Should it be built in your district in Cushing Memorial Park? Yes

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

Should it be built in your district? No – District 8/9

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

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

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

What is your favorite place in your district? (just one): Cushing Memorial Park

Editor’s Note: Candidates were given up to 350 words to answer each question. Answers are copy & pasted into this report.

QUESTION #1: In your opinion, what is the biggest issue facing your district? How would you go about fixing it as a city councilor?

The biggest issue facing our district is the ever-increasing budget and its resulting impact on our real estate taxes. From 2011 through 2016, the General Fund’s expenditures increased by 47%.

Inflation was only up 6.7% over the same period. After steady employment from 2005 through 2013, Framingham’s payroll count has grown by 14% in the last 3 years. To keep up with the growth in spending, real estate taxes have continuously increased. While the tax rate has gone down the last two years, rising home values still mean that our homeowners are paying higher taxes. Many residents are finding the effective tax too burdensome and/or they feel they are not getting the same value out of their taxes that they used to.

To fix the issue, we need to better evaluate the use of our tax dollars (at a line item level of the mayor’s proposed budget, like I do at my current job), find efficiencies, support areas that yield effective results, and limit the need for future spending increases. In some areas we will also need to reduce spending and government intervention in our lives where we are not obtaining effective results that more than offset the increased tax burden on our residents. It is always easy to just throw money at the problem, but we are nearing a critical limit. The choices will not be easy, but I am committed to realistically balancing the needs and wants of our
residents against the push for increased taxes that drive out our long-term and valued residents.

 

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? Why?

I believe that we can, at least in the short-term, support a level-funded and level service budget for non-school budget items. This can be done through the reduction of waste and non-value added items, along with the use of technology to create new efficiencies in many of the city’s departments. For the school budget, we need to support programs that are working well and re-imagine or disengage from programs that are not leading our students to success. The goal on this front (administrative/programs) would be budget neutral, as we need to save increases in the budget in the near-term to hire additional staff to help educate and support our growing enrollment. We also need to make sure we budget appropriately for the professional development of our staff, as current spending is significantly below the state average.

 

QUESTION #3 – Traffic is a major issue in your district. Currently, the winter street bridget (a MassDOT project) is still closed and behind schedule to re-open. How will you work with the neighborhood, other city councilors, and the new mayor to solve the problem of traffic issues and off-schedule  projects.

The construction of the Winter Street Bridge over the train tracks was destined to be a major problem before it started. A two-year project to replace a small bridge is unacceptable. If elected I will push Framingham and the State to find more creative solutions for construction projects to eliminate the never-ending timeframes and traffic impacts. In this case, Framingham/MassDOT should have worked with CSX to find a workable solution that, in one weekend, would have allowed for the demolition of the old bridge. Another path could include bonus and penalty situations for developers that complete projects under an aggressive timeline or who take any longer than an agreed upon deadline. While bonuses may slightly enhance the cost of the project, a significantly reduced timeframe will limit the impacts on citizens and businesses. Instead of reduced property values that reduce tax collections, we can maintain stable or increased values by improving infrastructure in shorter time frames.

 

QUESTION #4 – Your district includes Cushing Memorial Park and Farm Pond Park, as well as the Macomber property. What is your view of open space vs economic development in Framingham?

As with many of the issues, we need to find realistic and manageable solutions. If every acre in the town were open space, there would be no real estate tax revenues. If every acre is developed then, well, there are too many negatives to list here. For each of the listed areas in District 6 and for others around Framingham, we must look at each in terms of the city’s strategic plan. In areas that are already densely populated, we need to make open space a priority to ensure that there are available areas where our citizens can enjoy the outdoors. For areas that already have an abundance of open space and supporting infrastructure, we can lean more toward the side of managed development. This managed development would result in additional real estate tax revenues for Framingham that could be used to enhance our current open spaces. A dog park or tennis courts in Cushing Memorial Park would be a welcomed addition and there is still land that connects to Framingham State that could be turned into a walking trail. These are just a few ideas of what could be done if the budgets were available.

 

QUESTION #5 – District 6 includes Keefe Technical High School. More than 50 percent of the students come from Framingham. What role do you see the vocational school in your district? in the City?

In both the city and District 6, Keefe Tech needs to be promoted as a valuable and equal choice. Completing the standard high school experience and matriculating to a college environment is not the career desire for every child and our children should be aware of all of their options. Keefe Tech and its immersive environment aptly prepares many of our children to progress into professions that are in high demand and pay well. The jobs are critical to our communities and can be very rewarding as well. As such, if elected, I will support the full inclusion of Keefe Tech as an equal option for our young children as they near high school.

 

QUESTION #6 – Part of your district includes Framingham State University. What role should the University play in the community? How will you work with the University to make sure they are community partners with the City of Framingham?

We should increase our partnership with Framingham State University to do what is best for Framingham. Having a major state university in our borders is something that we need to capitalize on. With an increase in on-campus students, the school is much more than a commuter school. This sense of community within the university can be shared with the surrounding neighborhoods to create a sense of pride in our university, instead of just a campus that many of us drive by each day. In addition, the city can create and offer internships within the government that create opportunities for the students to become increasingly involved and invested in Framingham.

As the university will benefit from a more open partnership, I would expect the university to become more involved with Framingham. FSU could start by promoting on-campus activities and sports more prominently. Additional promotions will bring our neighborhoods together around the university and expose our kids to the possibilities that FSU has to offer. This exposure may promote more of our own residents to attend the school and keep our bright minds in our city, as opposed to leaving for other colleges in the state and across the U.S. In the long-term this will improve Framingham’s appeal to employers, which will draw more commercial
interest and tax revenue to the area, while also increasing the population of those who can truly be effective in our government.

QUESTION #7 – Do you think Framingham is a safe community? Why or why not? How will you work with the mayor and the police department to make sure Framingham has a good quality of life?

I believe that Framingham, overall, is a very safe community. We have very low violent crime rates compared to the rest of Massachusetts and the U.S. and the crimes we do have tend to be related to drugs. For the areas of the city where drug issues are more prominent, I want to work with the mayor and the police department to enhance the street visibility of our well-trained and valuable police officers. I will push for increased walking patrols in areas with known drug
issues, as well as in downtown and local parks. I believe that this will instill an increased sense of safety, open up needed communications and a sense of community with our citizens, and hopefully reduce the prevalence of illegal drugs.

In addition, as both medical and recreational marijuana has become more prevalent across the state, we need to make sure our officers are equipped to handle any issues that arise. Be it additional training, new programs, or an increased use of random DUI site checks at night, we need to be prepared to invest in our police to continue to keep our communities safe.

 

QUESTION #8 – Describe your what your role would be with the business community in your district and in the City of Framingham, if elected. What is your vision for economic-development?

While the business community is smaller in District 6 than many other districts, we do border many large business centers. First, seeing downtown should include more than just driving through it. Instead, we need to continue to labor to create a vibrant area that attracts and supports businesses (and residents). I will push the city council and mayor to work with the Framingham Downtown Renaissance, local businesses, and property owners to continue to breathe life into the downtown area through family friendly events and more inviting/occupied storefronts. In addition to downtown, we have other areas of opportunity in Framingham, where we can restore vibrancy to vacant and dilapidated lots, with the Mt. Wayte and Nobscot plazas being the most prominent. We must work productively with developers to create manageable and realistic plans that benefit the city and its residences first and foremost, while allowing the developer to succeed as well. We can all come out ahead and create a larger base to spread the burden of tax increases across.

A third major area of concern is Staples. With Sycamore Partners taking the company private, we need to understand what changes Sycamore may make and proactively plan and work with them to minimize the impacts on Framingham. If the changes at Staples are significant enough, they could also impact other businesses in the vicinity, like Bright Horizons and Residence Inn. Instead of lower commercial tax revenues from just Staples, we could also end up enduring a
cascading effect on other businesses in the area, putting additional strains on our budget.

 

QUESTION #9  – Do you think Framingham is family friendly? Why or why not? What would you do to do make the community more inviting to families? What can be done in your district with Cushing and Farm Pond parks?

I believe that many areas of Framingham are family friendly, especially the parks, which my family runs through, walks in, and plays in, most notably at Cushing. As previously noted under the open space question, adding in a dog park and/or tennis courts and a public bathroom at Cushing would go a long way. All of these options cost money though, so we will need to find funds in our current budgets, instead of just increasing taxes on our communities.

As far as the areas that are not very welcoming, like any place there are certainly some in Framingham. To start with, we should focus our creation of bike paths to be near our parks, so families can more safely commute to our open spaces without the need of a car. This could also reduce the need for large parking lots, which would increase our open space while reducing costs.

Another area of focus should be our downtown. With the construction complete or nearly complete, we need to develop creative ideas to bring families back to downtown. An additional mix of family friendly businesses will help – think ice cream, escape rooms, or weekly activities in the summer. Along with this comes a desire to have some outdoor seating at restaurants/cafes.

While likely limited in nature, outdoor seating will create a more welcoming experience for all. As we move to re-invigorate the energy in downtown, we need to make people feel safe as well, with increased walking patrols of our police officers. We could even have one of the weekly activities each year be a “meet the officers” event where you can get to know who the people are who protect us. Bringing this activity to the downtown will bring more and more people into the heart of the city and create a critical mass that will support our businesses and help them strive.

QUESTION #10 – How will you make sure that residents in your neighborhood have a voice in the new City of Framingham, if elected? Give specifics.

Residents of District 6 (precincts 10 and 11) can call, email, or send a Facebook message and expect to hear back, not from a secretary or a delegate, but from me, within a day. Or if they prefer to talk in person, we can always set up a time when I can stop by their house.

Periodic (ex. semi-annual, quarterly), larger public gatherings for District 6 is another avenue that I would explore if elected. The constituents can also attend the regular city council meetings and voice their concerns there as well. Lastly, as I get to know the other candidates and their various backgrounds, it may make sense for all four of us to sit down for dinner periodically, as each will bring a different voice and set of concerns to the table.

 

QUESTION #11 – How will you get residents in your neighborhood, especially those in apartments, more involved in their community? Give specifics.

This topic is extremely important in District 6, as it is the combination of mostly houses in precinct 11 and mostly apartment complexes in precinct 10 along Route 9. This dichotomy can also be seen in voter turnouts. In the last three local elections, including the latest this spring where we voted to become a city, precinct 11 had turnouts of 9%, 18%, and 36%. Precinct 10 only had turnouts of 3%, 6%, and 13%. For reference purposes, total turnout was a lackluster 6%, 13%, and 28% across all of Framingham.

The numbers don’t lie; all across Framingham, we need to increase the participation of our citizens in the democratic process. This is especially important in precinct 10, where less than 250 people voiced their opinion out of ~1,850 registered voters in the most recent election. I am inspired to see that one of the mayoral candidates is from precinct 10, but the general lack of participation leaves their voices muted, even though they contend with many of the issues facing Framingham today, such as Route 9 traffic, increasing rents, and a lack of walkable parks and stores.

Ideas, such as moving elections to a weekend date, at both the local and national level are something that I would like to encourage our city and state to support. For many, but certainly not all, this would reduce one of the major obstacles to voting, the commitment to their employers. While this may be a long-term option, in the short-term we need to better engage with our residents. Elected officials and the city should hold informational forums in open spaces across Framingham and in common spaces in the large apartment complexes. This investment in our community will perk up interest in voting and the daily activities in our community, which will increase Framingham’s long-term prosperity.

 

QUESTION #12 – Framingham is a community full of social, economic and cultural diversity. What can you do as a councilor to not only represent your district but to the bring the nine districts together as one City?

As a city councilor, for any district, you must represent your district’s needs and desires. When those clash with the success of other districts though, that is when things become tricky. When those situations arise, I will need to realistically and thoughtfully weigh the needs of District 6 against those of other districts and decide when, what may not be the best solution for District 6, may be the best solution for Framingham. When these issues arise, I will dedicate myself to work for what is best for the city. In the long-term, doing what is best for the city will bring success to every district.

This ability to cooperate and negotiate to create realistic and manageable solutions is something that we do not see enough of today’s government, especially at the national level. The fight should no longer be a “me vs. them” mentality, but a how. In many cases, the how will be to figure out how to create the most value for our community, while limiting/mitigating any negative consequences. In many cases, the solutions will not be perfect, but by taking this approach, I believe that it will create an effective council that brings us together, as one city.

 

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Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

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

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