Framingham District 5 City Council Candidate: Robert Case

District 5 City Council candidate Robert Case

District 5 is Precincts 8 and  12

Age: 40

Occupation: Data and Performance Analyst

Years lived in Framingham: 5.5 years

Family (optional): Husband – Christopher (together 15 years / married 10 years); Anna (9) at McCarthy Elementary; Christian (5) at Dunning Elementary; Pre-Adoptive Foster Son (3)

Municipal experience: Town Meeting Member and Chair of Precinct 8 for past 3 years and member of the Standing Committee on Ways and Means for past 3 years

Volunteerism: Member of statewide volunteer Speaker’s Bureau for MARE (Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange)

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

Our new city requires leaders with new ideas, integrity, energy, and experience. My work in town government over the last three years has given me significant insight into Framingham’s amazing strengths and significant challenges. My background in the financial industry, arts, arts management, and the non-profit sector has taught me that the foundation of great leadership involves collaboration and finding common ground. As we move in this new direction together, I promise
to consider the needs of District 5 residents first in every decision. And I will always value transparency and accountability over cronyism and “politics as usual.”

In less than 100 words, describe your district: At the junction of three major roadways, we are the hub: a vibrant and diverse district with young families that are new to Framingham, life-long residents, retired senior citizens, and students at our two outstanding colleges, MassBay and FSU. We have amazing shopping and dining on both sides of Rt.9, along with a huge variety of other businesses. Our neighborhoods are family friendly and walkable; they have charm and character and long-standing traditions like block parties and festive holiday decorations. I see District 5 as the heart of Framingham and a gateway district to the downtown area.

Website or Facebook page link: www.VoteCase.com and https://www.facebook.com/caseforframinghamdist5/

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? Level-service budget until reviewedDo you support Framingham State University’s decision to move commencement to Worcester? No

What business is needed in your district? Young Adult and Family Friendly Entertainment

What amenity is lacking in your district? More Sidewalks

Do you support keeping Learneds Pond open longer? Yes

Should Framingham become a sanctuary city? Yes, with limits similar to Boston

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

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

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

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): Framingham Center Common

What is your favorite place in your district? (just one): B. Sisters Cafe

 

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?

As I’ve gone door-to- door speaking with residents of District 5 over the last few months, I’ve learned a lot about the issues that matter to my fellow residents. The concerns are varied, and all of them are worthy of discussion and consideration. But there is one overarching issue that I believe will affect them all: how we transition to a city government.

Our new city officials will have the opportunity to bring new ideas and energy to the challenges that Framingham faces. But more than that, they will have to decide whether to continue the status quo or forge a new, more inclusive approach to governing. Who we elect will have a direct effect on our ability as a city to effectively address every issue before us.

Many of the residents that I’ve spoken to feel disenfranchised and disconnected. During the transition, I will fight to ensure that all voices are heard and that the City Council is accessible to all. Our residents must always have the ability to address our City Council during its public meetings. I will review each Mayoral appointment independently to make certain that the concerns of District 5 residents are always represented.

I will inspire confidence in our government through transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility. With thoughtful planning, the City Council can develop creative policies that will allow us to expand our tax base, encourage new business, be a leader in environmental sustainability, rid the city of blight, and support a vibrant cultural life.

 

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?

Total enrollment continues to rise every year, and we must provide the resources to ensure that every student receives a quality education. We cannot allow our schools to fall behind, and we must attract and retain excellent teachers. It is imperative that we provide access to the best technology and other resources available so our students will be able to compete with their peers and excel both in higher education and in their future careers.

The strength of our public education system impacts our whole city. Excellent schools attract families and encourage new businesses to relocate here to find skilled workers. This expands the tax base, creates jobs, and drives home values, all of which provides support for better bond ratings to help fund infrastructure and capital improvements. In order to meet the educational needs of our children, Framingham must find new and creative ways to obtain funding. I propose that the City Council and School Committee form a school funding coalition with surrounding towns and municipalities. Working together, we can more effectively fight for an update to the state’s formula that determines public school aid.

Framingham has great schools, but significant challenges with space and funding loom. Our new government must find new ways to address these issues so we can continue our tradition of excellence in education.

 

QUESTION #3 – Traffic is a major issue in your district. How will you work with the neighborhood, other city councilors, and the new mayor to solve the problem?

Traffic is a major issue across all of Framingham, but particularly in District 5 due to the number of major roadways that converge here. I believe traffic alleviation and calming measures will require a three pronged approach:
1. Collaboration between neighborhoods and public safety officials,
2. Continuation of the Complete Streets program,
3. Making public transportation a more accessible and viable option.

Our public safety and DPW officials must regularly solicit feedback from our neighborhoods on traffic and public safety issues. I propose restarting regular neighborhood meetings with our public officials and dedicating a portion of each meeting to traffic concerns. I also support the creation of a Traffic Commission (as allowed by the Charter). Creating this commission must be a priority for our new government, and the commission must include balanced representation from each district in addition to residents with public safety experience.

The City Council must work with our Planning Board and DPW to monitor future Complete Street opportunities in new developments and update/improve older streets for all modes of transportation. Our Planning Board should consistently require that all proposals before the board include a Complete Streets review tied to traffic studies. We need to leverage all of our resources, including mitigation funds and quarterly Complete Street reviews, to ensure that the program is effective in
increasing the accessibility of our streets for pedestrians and other modes of transportation. This will allow for safer and more passible streets and encourage more environmentally-friendly modes of transportation.

As Framingham continues to grow, the City Council must consider a serious investment in citywide public transportation options. This will reduce the number of cars on our streets, increase public safety, and be more environmentally friendly. We need to take a closer look at the MWRTA and consider how Framingham can help it to grow with more dedicated routes and stops throughout our city.

 

QUESTION #4 – What is your view of open space vs economic development in Framingham?

Framingham needs to effectively manage our future development to preserve our open space and natural resources. I support a collaborative and creative partnership approach to all future development. This will require the full cooperation of residents and our government leaders to work with future developers to ensure that all voices are heard and our city’s long-term needs are met.

I think it is important that we start by identifying our open spaces and natural resources and developing a long-term strategy for preserving them that takes into account community goals and needs. At the same time, Framingham must support development that meets specific local needs, while ensuring that projects benefit our city long-term and are not made for a short-term gain or solely in response to shifting market trends.

We must continue the process of streamlining the permitting process. By ensuring consistency between all departments and boards, we can encourage more investment in the city. There must also be a balance between residential and business concerns so every project can carry Framingham forward well into the future. The City Council must maintain a strong working relationship with our Planning Board and Zoning Board to ensure that the needs of our citizens are met while also supporting a viable and current Master Plan for our city. This working relationship with our boards will ensure that our conservation goals are met and that
residents, businesses, and developers are treated equitably.

I will support appointees to the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals who are experienced in their fields and who do not support a cookie-cutter approach to planning. Zoning regulations are extremely important, but protecting our natural resources sometimes requires that we develop creative approaches that may occasionally justify making exceptions to these regulations.

 

QUESTION #5 – 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?

I will work with the leadership of FSU to repair and redefine the relationship between the university and the city. Our district and the university must have a mutually respectful relationship in order for both sides to thrive. There will be differences of opinions and goals from time to time, but I believe that meaningful dialogue, collaboration, and the pursuit of common ground are the best ways to overcome challenges and the “us vs. them” perception. Our partnership should encourage both sides to pool resources in a way that provides educational experiences for students and promotes more community and neighborhood renewal throughout Framingham.

It is important that we engage FSU, and in particular their Office of Service and Civic Engagement, to identify additional needs in District 5 and Framingham at large. By collaborating with the university, I believe we will be able to increase the quality of life for residents of Framingham while providing real world experiences for students that they cannot obtain inside a classroom. FSU already provides a number of interns and student teachers to our public school system, community
organizations, businesses, and social service agencies. I will work to harness that existing relationship and capitalize on the wealth of current knowledge at the university to always keep Framingham ahead of the curve.

We should encourage regular neighborhood meetings between the district and the university. These meetings can take the form of a Listening Campaign where we collaborate to form a reciprocal relationship in order to be agents of change citywide.

 

QUESTION #6 – Your district also includes Bowditch Field? Do you think the facility is underused or overused? If under used, what type of events do you see at Bowditch?

I believe Bowditch Field is drastically underused. Bowditch is a crown jewel in District 5 that can be used to raise needed funds for the city while also providing an amazing venue to host community-building events.

Every successful city has a thriving cultural scene and opportunities for residents to support and show pride in their city. Much like Providence, RI, we need to find Framingham’s version of the WaterFire celebrations. Bowditch is a great place to host such events.

Overall, Framingham must make it easier for groups to use Bowditch One idea is to host regular music festivals at Bowditch. This would add immeasurably to the cultural life of our city and could draw significant numbers of visitors to Framingham. As attendance at these events grows over time, Framingham will reap the benefit of additional income to our local economy. I would also like to utilize Bowditch to celebrate the diversity we have in Framingham and host regular cultural festivals and celebrations. This is another great way to build and strengthen community pride in Framingham.

There is also an opportunity to host professional or semi-professional sports teams at Bowditch. We need to reach out and encourage sports teams to make Framingham their home. Bowditch Field has first class amenities, from the turf to the Press Box, and we should take advantage of those.

 

QUESTION #7 – Your district also includes the Callahan Center. Framingham has a large percentage of those over the age of 55. How will you make sure seniors have access to the center and its programming? How will you work with the mayor and the rest of the Council to support the senior community in Framingham?

Like other cities and towns around Framingham, we must provide dedicated bus transportation for our seniors to reach the Callahan Center. It’s vital that we  facilitate access to the Callahan so seniors can fully participate in its important programs and services. As City Councilor, I will work with the Mayor’s office to secure funding to make this a reality. It is imperative that we start providing dedicated transportation soon, especially as we face an increase in our senior
population as more Baby Boomers reach retirement age. In order to properly support this population, we must honor them by continually improving their quality of life in Framingham.

Quality of life is important for everyone’s health and especially for senior citizens. The Callahan Center helps our seniors increase their activity level, decrease stress, eat better and prevent decline. I believe we can grow the center’s programming by fostering closer relationships with FSU and Framingham Public Schools, increasing funding to allow for greater staff numbers and more activities, and developing a plan to offer daily meals for seniors. Nutritional programs and regular daily meal interactions will help seniors to stay healthy, encourage more physical activity, and keep our seniors connected to each other and to our larger community in Framingham.

 

QUESTION #8 -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?

Overall, I feel Framingham is a safe community, but I believe there is always room for improvement in how public safety is addressed and executed. As the City Councilor from District 5, I will support an increase in staffing to help achieve public safety goals and also ensure that our police force always reflects the diversity of Framingham. I believe this will assist with greater community policing efforts and promote a reduction in crime.

Increased staffing will also result in better traffic enforcement. Speaking with residents in our district, I have heard many complaints about traffic, speeding, reckless driving, and congestion. By allocating more officers and resources to traffic and parking enforcement, we can hopefully help to alleviate many of these concerns. As City Councilor, my goal is to serve as a liaison between residents and public safety officials to ensure that city officials understand citizen concerns and are working to address them.

Public safety must be a top priority for Framingham. I think it is important to solicit regular citizen feedback on public safety issues. I propose restarting regular neighborhood meetings with our public officials and dedicating a portion of each meeting to public safety concerns. I will work to foster a continued dialogue between our district residents and our public safety departments, as I believe this type of communication fosters understanding, educates, and ultimately
promotes safety.

QUESTION #9 – Describe your role as city council with the business community in your district and in the City of Framingham.

I look forward to working with businesses in our district to make sure that their needs are heard by the City Council. A vibrant and growing local economy will help Framingham attract larger corporations which in turn will help increase local jobs for residents. I believe that my role as a City Councilor will be to serve as a liaison between the businesses and the residents in my district and to help ensure that the city engages with local businesses in a way that both benefits the city and grows the local economy. I will also make it my responsibility to help address neighborhood concerns, such as when a business may be negatively impacting abutters or nearby neighborhoods.

As City Councilor, another goal of mine is to help attract different types of businesses to the district. I look forward to soliciting constituent suggestions and working collaboratively with the EDIC (Economic Development and Industrial Corporation) to proactively attract businesses that meet the needs of our city and district. I think it is also important for the City Council to support the Planning Board in maintaining Framingham’s Master Plan. This will help the city pursue a strategy for attracting desired businesses that will support the needs of our residents.

 

QUESTION #10 – 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?

Framingham is extremely family friendly and a wonderful place to raise children. This is one of the major reasons why I chose to move to Framingham. From the quality of the schools and educational programs and the convenience of everyday living, to the accessibility of other major cities and our own high quality sports programs, Framingham offers a variety of amenities important to families. However, I feel Framingham can still do more to improve the quality of life for our
families and children.

I believe it is important that Framingham develop more entertainment and recreational options for families, children, and young adults to help attract more families and keep them in town and more connected to our community. One important feature that I think Framingham should a simple, affordable, and popular form of entertainment, and they can be built in a variety of ways to accommodate toddlers to younger teens.

Splash pads are also cross-generational activities where parents or grandparents can bring children to play. Children can enjoy water activities while adults can choose to stay dry, enjoy their coffee, and chat with their neighbors. A community splash pad is a recreational opportunity that can be enjoyed by everyone, including families that may not be able to afford a membership to one of the private pools in the area. Framingham should also explore the possibility of adding a
community pool if we can develop a plan to keep the pool from running a financial operating loss as is the case in a number of other cities and towns.

I also believe Framingham should find ways to attract businesses that offer more entertainment and activities for older children and teenagers golf, escape room adventure activities, etc. I think it would be important for Framingham to start a teen and young adult city commission in order to solicit feedback from our young adults about what they would like to see in our new city.

 

QUESTION #11 – In the last 18 months, the Danforth museum and art school was evicted from its home of decades, the Framingham Artists Guild had to find a new home, and recently dozens of artists including the Fountain Street Fine Arts gallery have left Framingham. How would you support the arts in Framingham as a city councilor?

I believe my extensive background in the arts, arts management, and non-profit world would be an asset in supporting Framingham’s artists and arts organizations. As I have mentioned previously, cities with a dedicated and strong cultural arts component are able to leverage their arts organizations as major community builders.

As City Councilor, I will support efforts to fund, promote, and produce community-based arts programming to ensure the arts remain a vital part of life for residents of Framingham. In order to accomplish stronger arts programming, I would work with our core arts organizations already in Framingham to identify and develop new opportunities, ideas, and collaborations, and explore federal, state, and local funding options to make them a reality. I will recommend to the Mayor and support strong appointees to Framingham’s Cultural Council that can also help to develop a comprehensive cultural arts plan for our city.

Some other ideas I would like to explore:
 Holding an annual Arts Festival,
 Holding outdoor theatre performances in our parks,
 Working with our Planning Board to incorporate appropriate art installations as part of the aesthetics for new commercial developments,

 Similar to Cambridge, exploring a city ordinance to dedicate a small percentage of construction costs on municipal capital investments to be used to fund the creation and restoration of public art throughout Framingham.

We already have a large number of artists in Framingham, and we should do everything we can to celebrate and support our own. I understand the difficulty of working for and managing a non-profit arts organization, so I can easily identify with the stress and struggle that local artists experience. I will work with our local artists to create partnerships linking arts organizations to performance spaces and opportunities throughout the city.

 

QUESTION #12 – How will you make sure that residents in your neighborhood have a voice in the new City of Framingham, if elected? Give specifics.

Part of making sure the residents of District 5 have a voice in our new city government is to make sure they have access to me as their City Councilor. I have pledged to hold regular office hours and coffee meetings throughout the district, and to make my personal cell phone and contact information available to my constituents. I will also be available at public events to speak with residents about their needs and ideas for our district.

Communication is key. I think the city should provide dedicated pages on its website for each of our city’s districts. I also plan to invite residents to sign up for a district newsletter that will be e-mailed out regularly. This newsletter will be a great way to publicize information about upcoming events and projects that will affect our neighborhoods, as well as a great way to follow-up on action items that have been generated through I have also pledged to restart regular neighborhood meetings with our government leaders and public safety officials. I feel it is important to give public opportunities for residents to address city leaders outside of
regular council meetings. These neighborhood meetings will provide additional opportunities for residents to have a voice and make their concerns known. It is important to hold these meetings in different neighborhoods around the district to allow for easy accessibility. Our first City Council will develop rules on how the council operates and its meetings are run. I will always fight to make sure that residents’ voices are heard by making sure enough quality public comment time is
available at every City Council meeting.

 

QUESTION #13 – How will you get residents in your neighborhood more involved in their community? Give specifics.

Individual and small group meetings with District 5 residents will help me get to know people better and identify those who would like to become or remain more involved. Restarting regular neighborhood meetings will immediately help to get residents more involved. I hope that these meetings will be a place to brainstorm new ideas and develop projects. I want residents to see these meetings not only as an opportunity for sharing and communicating, but also as a chance to collaborate and become active.

As the City Councilor for District 5, I will use my knowledge of our residents to make recommendations to the Mayor for appointments to our various boards and commissions. Framingham has an amazing history of community involvement, and we must not lose that institutional knowledge or enthusiasm as we move forward together as a city. I will count on the vast knowledge, experience, and skills of our residents to help inform my decisions as well as to help build our community.

 

QUESTION #14 – Framingham is a community of 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, it will be my job to help lead the way toward creating and restoring pride in our city as a whole. The City Council must support city-wide community building events that make our residents proud to call Framingham home. I will propose and support Framingham Day where the residents of Framingham can come together to celebrate what makes our city special. It will be a chance to support our local organizations, businesses, artists, and residents in a creative and family-friendly atmosphere. I will look to form closer partnerships between the city and our various civic-oriented organizations to help with planning
these types of community events. I can then provide the leadership at the local level to gain access to city resources to help make these events a reality. I will support efforts to organize parades, fireworks, and other large-scale community and public holiday events.

I also think it is important to provide city-wide recreational opportunities that connect the city as a whole. The Cochituate Rail Trail is a beautiful public amenity on the east side of Framingham. I would like to work with our Framingham Rail Trail Committee and Parks and Recreation Department to find ways to create or link other trails around Framingham. I would support efforts to create a Framingham Scenic Trail Loop that would allow residents and visitors to enjoy the beauty of
the different areas throughout the city. These trails would provide pedestrians and cyclists the ability to easily travel around Framingham and could possibly tie into other towns’ trail systems.

These types of projects and events will have initial costs up front and will require an investment from the city to fund them. I believe these types of projects are important because they are direct investments in our residents, and the community pride in our city created by them will far outweigh the initial costs.

 

 

Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

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

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