Editor’s Note: If the answer is blank, the candidate chose not to answer
Framingham Mayoral Candidate Ben Neves-Grigg Sr.
Years lived in Framingham: 28
Which City District Do You Live In: 6
Family (optional): Married to Rose, 8 children (7 sons / 1 daughter), 3 daughters-in-law, 12 grandchildren (9 boys / 3 girls)
Municipal experience: None
Volunteerism: Years ago “Toys for Tots” and Boy Scouts, but not anything recently.
Website or Facebook page link: www.bennevesgriggformayor.com and “Ben Neves-Grigg for Mayor” on Facebook.
Editor’s Note: Candidates were asked to provide one-word answers only
What is your favorite place in Framingham? (just one): My house.
How much would you vote to increase (or decrease) the tax levy in your first year of office? 1 %
Apartments in Framingham — Too many, just right, not enough? Sufficient.
Should City Hall remain in downtown Framingham? Yes
Does Framingham need an arts center? Yes
Would you support the creation of a dog park in Framingham? Yes.
Does Framingham need a town pool, a splash pad, or neither? Both.
Name one business that Framingham needs: Entertainment.
Describe Framingham in one word: Welcoming.
Mayoral Candidates discuss:
1) Making Framingham more Family-Friendly
2) Saving the arts in Framingham
3) Fixing the traffic congestion in Framingham
Editor’s Note: Candidates were given up to 350 words to answer each question. Answers are copy & pasted into this report.
QUESTION #1 – 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?
As mayor, I will have the responsibility for all the departments and all the employees within the city, and I will take that seriously. I will take personal responsibility to ensure that everyone is adequately compensated for the training and expertise the deliver to Framingham.
Yes, FPS requires the largest portion of the budget but I rank education as the very foundation of building good citizens, keeping America competitive in the world market. By developing well-rounded, smart graduates through sound teaching standards, state-of-the-art buildings and equipment we can fill colleges with superb students. FPS must be supported.
I will with the Superintendent of Schools, as with all the departmental leaders, review all expenses for value-added with an eye on finding places to cut without giving-up excellence. Regarding funding, each department has unique missions to accomplish within the City of Framingham and that mandates specific operational characteristics of each office/department, including workforce, expertise, equipment and training. This means that each venue is funded accordingly. Now, with that, I will add that I want to focus on our employees, those who serve the residents in Framingham daily.
I want to ensure that each department puts people first. We must compensate all our employees for the dedication and expertise they deliver. Therefore, I will provide equitable pay across the board. Contracts will be reviewed, positions may be consolidated or eliminated but much of the movement will be done over time as attrition progresses.
By cutting management and consolidating positions we can bring in more entry level, hands-on personnel to serve our residents in Public Works, Schools, Police, Fire, Maintenance and Recreation as well as the sundry of administrative offices in the city. If we, myself and the department leaders, work collaboratively with budgets to find room to make adjustments that save money we will be capable of reducing the budget while maintaining services.
QUESTION #2 – Framingham is home to Framingham State University and MassBay Community College. How will you work with these two schools to make sure they are community partners with the City of Framingham? Would you support a tuition free program for Framingham students, like the City of Boston initiative?
Framingham to help those students who excel make a college education affordable. However, it seems that we (the candidates) get a lot of questions regarding benefits, incentive programs, new facilities, tuition assistance, etc. all of which cost money. There is a finite amount of money to go around. We cannot expect our tax payers to carry the weight for everything. We must look for creative approaches to identifying funds from other sources to help those who have shown dedication and promise to the future.
Through my planned thorough review of every budget and expenditure for each department, I feel confident that we will identify available funds. That being said, I do not believe that will be sufficient to provide for all the assistance and proposed new facilities to move Framingham forward. But, we can sure begin work on projects and as more funds become available through economic development by inviting more business in Framingham we will be able to allocate more funds. Upscale business, that offers unique shops, classic restaurants and beautiful settings.
Yes, I would support an affordable program to provide higher educational opportunities through Framingham State University and Massachusetts Bay College. I will work diligently to help those two educational institutes grow in our community. I want to have regular interaction with those organizations so we can work together in meeting objectives and safety for the student bodies.
Please understand, that I will do anything within our authority to help the residents of Framingham, that is a given. I will work with the City Council to identify proposed initiatives from every district and town wide need. We will carefully prioritize those proposals found viable and work diligently to achieve them, educational assistance included.
QUESTION #3 – Do you feel there is waste in the Framingham municipal budget? If so, please site specific areas where you would reduce funding. In creating your budget, where would you want to spend more money? Give examples.
I am a simple man, I understand the revenue for Framingham to be around 281 million. That is a lot of money. However, I also understand that operating a city the size of Framingham is quite expensive.
My administration will conduct a review of all the expenses identified on the financial reports and look into how that money is actually allocated toward a given project. I will identify funds that are earmarked for projects that seem to be non-existent such as the Fountain Street bridge and asked tough questions.
I am also, intrigued by the School Superintendent’s excellent ability to identify places to reduce costs. That is exactly the mentality I will approach all the budgets with. I will begin a review of external services we hire to assist us in our daily operations for duplication of effort and redundancy. We will review the organizational structure of all the departments to look as cost factors and identify positions that can be cut or consolidated under one city umbrella.
We need to review employee benefit packages to ensure they are providing the best coverage at minimal cost. The entire financial picture review will begin within days of assuming office and will continue for most of the first 90 days. I am certain we can do better.
QUESTION #4 – Discuss your vision for Framingham for economic-development. Be specific with properties like Nobscot Plaza, Saxonville lumber yard, Mt. Wayte Plaza, downtown Framingham, the Golden Triangle and Tech Park.
Building the economic base of Framingham is essential to reducing taxes and adding revenue to the budget. We must stop, spending money before it gets in the coffer as before. We have to be prudent and set money aside for those rainy days; disaster, immediate need (311), residential emergency fund and special city-wide community events. Thereby, building confidence in government and reuniting this wonderful community together.
Nobscot Plaza: I want to work with the owner and developer of that plaza to find a middle ground that will meet both the city and the owner’s desires. The city focus under my administration will be on our residents and what is best for them and I am sure the owner/developer will be evaluating profit… that’s business. With that being said, something has to be done! We cannot leave it go as it is; that is a disservice to our residents of Nobscot. I will to encourage the project toward a combination of retail and residential with the residential apartments being built for medium or fixed income residents. My hope being that we can create a location that will give elderly residents an affordable option as opposed to living in assisted living facilities and other facilities that puts comfortable living out of reach. The retail portion of this locale should include things such as a modern convenience store that provides for basic family needs, boutiques, small fashion stores, a café/sandwich shop and, of course, maintain the CVS.
Saxonville Lumber: I would like to see this be developed into a recreation center like Dave & Buster’s, something that offers indoor recreational options for teens and adults – paintball, climbing, laser tag, etc. and a cafeteria for refreshments and food. There are a variety of venues available that we could invite and I believe the residential area in and around Saxonville could/would support such a vision. Perhaps, make the facility two-sided with kids’ a venue on one side and an teen/adult venue on the other. Just some thoughts, but we must market Framingham better in the public market.
Mt Wayte Plaza: This seems to be a done deal, but I would encourage those in the decision-making process to ensure that the builder/owner improve the roadways to satisfy the increased demand.
Downtown Framingham: I have said it before and I will say it again, downtown Framingham is the focal point of Framingham, it is what people identify with Framingham. We have a lot to be done downtown and I will do all that I can to make improvements. Some of my thoughts are tough choices but we have to clean up downtown Framingham so folks will feel comfortable and safe coming downtown. We need to review the zoning of the downtown strips on Concord, Union, Hollis, Irving and Waverly to ensure that we are creating the image we want our visitors and residents to experience, IE: widen store fronts, improve external façade to create a softened, pleasant appearance. I am in favor of building a up-scale apartment complex with retail on the street level downtown, but I want to set the building back sufficiently to widen streets in the area. I also want to erect a new solar energy parking facility downtown. We can charge a modest fee to park so that the facility pays for itself.
Route 9 Area: I look at Worcester Road as being pretty self-sufficient, however we as city leaders do need to keep a close eye on the progress of both the retail and tech industry along Rt 9. I will create a joint committee of both business professional and administration officials to monitor and review planning in the Golden Triangle of Worcester Road and Cochituate Road.
QUESTION #5 – Does Framingham have a racial and economic equity problem in your opinion? If yes, how would you address it as a mayor.
You know, as I see it, we do not have a huge issue with inequality, racial or otherwise. The majority of folks in Framingham are welcoming, concerned and understanding of diversity.
There are rare cases of bias but that is usually individually based and, certainly, unfounded. I can assure our residents that I will address any issue of prejudice that comes to my administration with absolute resolve, whether it be internal to city government or external.
QUESTION #6 – How would you make Framingham more green? Outline the steps you would take in your 4-years.
I am excited to implement a Greener Framingham initiative that would introduce more cost-effective heating and cooling mechanisms on government facilities, better control devices to save energy when not needed. Tighten older buildings, windows and doors to prevent heating/cooling loss.
I want to bring in more solar energy panels/devices to reduce energy consumption and reap some of the rebate/incentives offered.
I will introduce energy charging stations in the downtown area to encourage the use of more energy efficient vehicles. I will ensure we maintain our public open spaces and keep them available to the residents.
I know the city has begun a street light program that reduced electrical consumption. I will ensure we continue to look at all the alternatives to making Framingham energy efficient while maintaining safety and visibility.
QUESTION #7 – The biggest problem facing Framingham that no one talks much about is: _________________ And I would address it by: _____________.
I believe that Framingham needs to build a renewed confidence in government, there seems to be too many blanks in the reporting of government activities such as spending, revenue, decision making, planning, etc. I am not being overly critical because the current town government seems to expose most of the activities. But I want to use the media resources and technical resources we have to ensure that all activities of government are disclosed to the public.
QUESTION #8 What would you accomplish in your first 100 days? Be specific.
· Introduce means to allow the residents direct access to city government to address needs and information, such as the 311 Project.
· Initial plans to restructure the city managerial structure to a more lean, efficient managerial formula that puts more street-level employees on the road to serve the public.
· Complete my administrations review of income and expenses and prepare remedies with the City Council.
· Confirm and appoint all the positions within my administration.
· Complete planning to rebuild the economic base of Framingham.
· Evaluate “in process” projects for cost vs value added, ability to fulfill planned need, and contractual inequities.