At-Large City Council Candidate George P. King Jr.
Occupation: Semi-Retired, Work part time at Framingham State
Years lived in Framingham: 47 Total
Family (optional): Daughters Cortney and Kathleen
Municipal experience: Edgell Grove Cemetery Trustee, Library Trustee, Finance Committee member, Retirement Board member, Tercentennial Commission Member and Chair, Charter Commissioner, Town Clerk and Town Manager
Volunteerism: Coached for Framingham United Soccer. Former Town wide PTO President and PTO member at Dunning and Walsh. Former member of both Walsh and Dunning School Councils. Former Director Knox Trail Boy Scout Council
In less than 100 words, why should someone vote you to represent them as a city councilor?
I have the knowledge and experience to address the difficult issues that Framingham faces as we transition to a new government. I am committed to stabilizing Framingham’s tax rate and water bills. If these issues are not considered seriously and addressed quickly it threatens the affordability of our community for
many residents. I understand the town thoroughly have the opportunity to manager it over a decade ago. I believe my experience and knowledge will play a critical role in a transition of government.
Website or Facebook page link: www.georgekingframingham.com
Election announcement submitted to Framingham Source during the nomination period
Editor’s Note: Candidates were asked to provide one-word answers only
Name one business that Framingham needs:
Name one amenity Framingham is missing: A community center
How much would you vote to increase (or decrease) the tax levy in your first year of office? 0%
Do you support a split tax rate for businesses and homeowners? Yes
Should Framingham become a sanctuary city?
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?
Should City Hall remain in downtown Framingham? Yes
Do you support Framingham State purchasing the Maynard Building for its new partnership with Danforth Art? Yes (Disclosure I work part time for Framingham State)
What is your favorite place in Framingham? (just one): Outdoors
Name one thing you personally did in the last year to improve the Framingham. Charter Commission Member
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 Framingham?How would you go about fixing it as a city councilor?
The biggest issue is unquestionably affordability. We need to fight to keep Framingham affordable. Our tax rate is one of the highest per thousand in the State.
That is an indicator of soft financial underpinnings. The impact is masked a bit with homeowners due to the split tax rate, but that does not take away from the basic concern.
Although some would say we have done a good job the last couple of years limiting tax increases, I also feel we also have missed opportunities. For example, every 1 percent on the tax levy in FY 2016 was about 1.7 million dollars. We finished the year with essentially a surplus of over 8 million. Not always a bad thing, but if we had split the difference and let the taxpayers keep half, we could have reduced the tax levy and walked away with a surplus.
We need to scrutinize our spending to assure we only spend what is necessary to deliver our excellent municipal services. If we do not control the rapid growth in water and sewer bills and the high tax rate, Framingham’s affordability is threatened.
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?
Our investments in education are critical to our success as a community.
As an educator I know that the Framingham Public Schools face many daunting challenges. Overall I feel they have met them well. Yet, we have work to do.
We have level 3 schools that must demonstrate growth and improvement. The work is not inexpensive and I believe we have to do our best to fund schools.
At the same time we have to work closely with the schools to assure they are delivering their services in the most efficient manner possible.
I believe in recent years this has not always been the case.
We should work closely with the new superintendent and school committee to guarantee that all allocated dollars are necessary and spent wisely.
When we achieve that level of consensus I am confident we will all feel more confident in fulfilling the financial needs of the school department and delivering the quality education our children deserve.
We are well on our way to improving the relationship between municipal and school side of government. When I was Town Manager I had an excellent relationship with the Superintendent and School Committee. We did not always agree, but the respect and communication allowed us to work together to iron out areas of difficulty.
With a new superintendent and a new mayor the opportunity is there again anew, to build bridges and enhance communication. I am confident that these two
individuals with the support of the school committee and city council will forge a new relationship to benefit all of us, and our kids.
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.
Traffic is clearly an issue in Framingham, a simple ride across town almost any weekday proves it.
There are two approaches that will need to be addressed.
The first is a practical one. As a Town we have to do a better job to manage our highway construction projects. Too often on a ride there are multiple unrelated detours impeding traffic. Planning these projects has to be better coordinated to avoid multiple delays. We can control that ourselves to some extent, and should.
The second is longer term. The issue of traffic was recognized during the Charter debate as an urgent one. The new government has as an independent traffic commission that is being established to help address traffic issues in Town. This will be an important step for focusing on the problem, but it is not a panacea. The one aspect of the problem that can’t be overlooked is that we have an historically high number of cars on the road, yet our road capacity is virtually static. If you try to put 12oz’s into a 10 oz. jar, there is going to be some overflow that can’t be prevented.
Mitigation is critical. Lets start with more coordination with our construction schedules for a quick fix.
Then let’s see what improvements the traffic commission can offer. We will not solve it, but we can improve it.
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?
I want to again disclose that I work part time for Framingham State University
I believe overall that Framingham State and Mass Bay can be great partners with the community; it is in Framingham’s interest to have a good relationship with these institutions.
Framingham State has done well to modernize and improve their campus. They allow their athletic fields to be used by community groups on a regular basis. I would like to see more shared use of the facilities, especially in the summer. The Town could utilize the facilities when the University is not. This kind of cooperative arrangement would be valuable to the community and a great way to compensate Framingham for the loss of tax dollars incurred but expansion of the university in recent years.I hope Mass Bay makes clear their intent of staying in Framingham. Mass Bay makes vital educational services accessible for many. The permanent presence of Mass Bay would be valuable to Framingham and I hope they make that commitment in the near future.
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.
These are difficult problems that are not going to be solved easily. There are many interests involved, some private and some public. It is likely that we will not replicate what was previously happening at our blighted shopping centers, but we still must strive for quality use. A mixed-use approach is something I could support, but to date we seem to get only proposals for an alternative use. We can reject these alternative uses of course, but we are burdened by the presence of unequal interests. The landlords of at least two plazas have long-term leases on their property and their motivation to find a new use is limited. This is a definite blockade that needs to be penetrated.
Corporate responsibility is something we need to discuss more frequently. Why should Shaws be allowed to hold the lease on a shopping center for their business needs while allowing a blighted property to fester in the heart of Nobscot? I think we need to hold them responsible at least for the condition of the center. If they are not going to let anyone use it, at least make it attractive.
The same is true of the appearance of Mt. Wayte and Franklin St., but at least they are not being sustained to our knowledge by a large corporation. Hopefully that will allow for a quicker resolution that is acceptable to most.
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?
Our small business community can play a critical role in our economy, and to a large degree this group and its challenges have not received the attention that is needed.
Framingham has long had a split tax rate, and overall it has served us well. We have been able to continue to attract major businesses to our shopping centers and office parks, while providing a break to residential taxpayers. However, the people who get left behind a bit with this approach is the small businessperson, be it restaurants, small office buildings or other small business property.
The problem has become worse as our tax rate has risen to such historically high levels. The fixed costs that a small business faces with just town charges from property tax and water and sewer bills are huge. Add normal ownership costs, it is challenging to make a profit.
We need to open a regular and productive dialogue with the business community. We need to find realistic and reasonable steps we can take to help them, help us.
WE need to look out for them and assure that business choking construction such as the Winter Street bridge replacement is completed efficiently and not allowed to draw out well beyond the deadline. The success of small business can drive our local economy. I fear the current situation is not sustainable for small business, we must make it a priority
Question #7 – Do you think Framingham is family friendly? Yes. Why or why not?
I think overall Framingham is family friendly. We have an excellent library, great schools and good park and recreation programs. However, there is always room for improvement.
One issue that was discussed this summer was our beaches. The schedule is problematic as it starts in mid-June and ends in mid-August. Some of the beaches appear under utilized. I would like us to look at maybe having fewer beaches open longer, or some other kind of arrangement. That is one example as to how we can work to make things even better for our taxpayers.
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?
I would welcome the opportunity to work with the cultural council; the historic commission and other non-profits bringing more art, culture and history to Framingham. We have some terrific groups and support organizations in this community that with a little help will put us in a great place.
I am hopeful that the Danforth Museum/Framingham State agreement will be a major step in the right direction. Establishing their presence on the Green, along with the Framingham History Center can be a tremendous cultural attraction.
Finding space for artists is more difficult and more frustrating. The Fountain Street studios are a fantastic asset, and to not have access to them any longer is a detriment. I hope a viable solution is found.
Question #9 – Do you feel there is waste in the Framingham municipal budget? If so, please site specific areas where you would reduce funding.
Every budget has inefficiency, and some items are more critical than other. I believe we can deliver the same fine services we have today at a lesser total cost than we currently do. We accomplish that by carefully scrutinizing the budget from beginning to end and having significant and in-depth discussions regarding large and complex areas of spending.
This kind of deep scrutiny by the legislative branch is something that was not possible when there were over 200 people in the legislative branch. That is the fault of no one, it is just a fact based on the apparatus of government. I am sure there are legislative functions that Town Meeting may accomplish better than an 11-member council, but in this instance I believe the smaller city council can make a critical difference.
The fight to keep Framingham affordable begins with scrutinizing spending. I feel well qualified to help as a City Councilor. I will assure we keep the services we want and deserve, while doing so at a cost that is affordable.
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.
.I think we are well poised to have a unified, diverse and complete government because we have nine districts. The districts assure that each neighborhood in our community has accessible representation at the same level as any other neighborhood.
My entire experience in Framingham government has encompassed a whole town perspective and I see no problem in continuing that. It will be aided greatly by the nowledge everyone is now finally fully represented.