Editor’s Note: If the answer is blank, the candidate chose not to answer
Framingham Mayoral Candidate John Stefanini
Occupation: Lawyer and Educator
Years lived in Framingham: 53
Which City District Do You Live In: District 8 (Precinct 15)
Family (optional): Wife Cecila, Two daughters Kristina and Julia
Municipal experience: Framingham Board of Selectmen (1991- 1997), State Representative (1992 – 2001), numerous boards, task forces and committees
Volunteerism: Framingham Heart Study (3rd cohort & Friends trustee); Framingham Lacrosse League (coach & trustee); MA Taxpayers Foundation (trustee); UMass Club (founding member); New England College of Optometry (Corporator); Framingham Democratic Town Committee (member); Brazilian American Association (member), Columbus Club (member); Elks Lodge (member); Flag Day Parade Grande Marshal; MetroWest Medical Center (Board of Trustees); Framingham Boys & Girls Club (founder); Cushing Hospital Task Force (Chair); Framingham Business Association; MERC Advisory Board (member).
Editor’s Note: Candidates were asked to provide one-word answers only
What is your favorite place in Framingham? (just one): Cushing Memorial Park
How much would you vote to increase (or decrease) the tax levy in your first year of office? Zero
Do you support a split tax rate for businesses and homeowners? Yes
Apartments in Framingham — Too many, just right, not enough? Too many
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? Yes
Name one business that Framingham needs: Framingham (not Quincy) Market
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 your mayor, I will do everything in my power to ensure that our schools are ready for our kids and our kids are ready for our schools. For the first year of my administration, I would support a level service budget unless a compelling case was made by the School Administration and Committee for new services.
This summer Superintendant Tremblay cut hundreds of thousands of dollars from the school administrative budget, without affecting support for our teachers or the resources for our students.
One of my first tasks as mayor is to perform a top-to-bottom review of our government and budget; this includes working with the superintendent and the school committee on the school budget. We need to review the budget, continue to fine tune and make sure we are giving our kids a first class education.
As mayor, I will ensure that the financial resources are available to support our schools. I will work with the Council to grow available revenue to be used for our children in our schools: by filling our vacant shopping centers; stimulating growth in our commercial centers; and working to grow local businesses and commerce.
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?
We are fortunate to have two institutions of higher education in our community. My administration will focus on building the relationships between our government, Framingham State and MassBay. Regular meetings between all parties will open much needed dialogue, and we can work together on addressing the needs of Framingham, especially the neighborhoods surrounding the schools, the schools’ needs and the needs of their students.
I would enhance the collaboration of the two to develop a community engagement and educational enrichment program open to Framingham residents with a focus on families and children. I would also encourage the development of a downtown Framingham, such as expanding FSU’s Innovation Center, presence to add value and energy to the downtown Framingham experience.
Boston’s new program to provide tuition free college and university education to its residents is a worthy goal and worth exploring private funding options to achieve it. We need to look to our state government and seek tuition remission programs based on promised community service, state budget strategies that keep higher education costs within reach for families and individuals, more scholarships for exemplary students, and no-interest loans for students and their families.
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.
We need to do a much better job with our budgets to keep Framingham affordable. We need to do a top to bottom review of all municipal services to ensure that we are proving them in the most cost effective and efficient manner possible. We need to look for efficiencies and cost control measures that do not impact on the quality and quantity of municipal services. Every department budget must be subject to an intensive review and retooling where appropriate. Framingham must remain affordable to our residents. We must not increase the tax burden on our residential property owners until we first eliminate waste and redundancy in our local government.
Framingham is a great community with the people, resources and ability to become even better. We need to work together, neighborhood by neighborhood, in an open, public and participatory process to create a strategic master plan for Framingham that embodies our values, speaks to our dreams and meets our needs. This will inform our budget priorities.
Neighborhood Area Groups must be a part of our planning as we seek vibrant solutions to vacant or underutilized commercial properties.
I envision a Framingham where all of our diverse neighborhoods are vibrant, thriving and proudly displaying our values. A Framingham where you eagerly take friends to dinner in Downtown; consume produce grown at one of our local farms; celebrate and protect our diversity; embrace our local businesses; where everyone’s voice is represented and heard; where our students in all of our schools are reaching their full potential. A place we proudly call our home.
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.
Our shopping centers should reflect the needs of its surrounding neighborhoods. We need to look at activities for all ages. We need to explore ways to connect our shopping centers to our open spaces, like downtown with Farm Pond, the commuter rail and proposed housing; and Nobscot Plaza with our working farms. We need to find solutions that not only bring Framingham revenue for our schools, public safety and public works programs, but ones that strengthen the character, security and vitality of our neighborhoods.
We need to think outside the box. For example, I could see an Eastleigh Farm ice cream stand at Nobscot Plaza to help the plaza and farm owners to earn revenue – accomplishing two goals. Likewise, I can see our working farms partnering with local restaurants for popular farm-to-table meals for their mutual benefit.
I am committed to convening interested parties, listening to everyone’s ideas, building consensus on a strategic plan, and then rolling up my sleeves to secure the public and private resources to finally make these goals a reality.
The naysayers will say it cannot be done, but my experience in government and in the private sector says otherwise. During my decade in Framingham government, when we needed more revenue for our schools and municipal services, we collaborated to get the long stalled 9/90 project done – generating jobs and tax revenue for Framingham.
Likewise, we need to work with our corporate neighbors, landowners and investors to retain and attract national and international companies interested in our ideal location, plentiful resources and skilled workforce. We need to begin to compete for these jobs and related revenues.
We need to believe in our collective knowledge and power to make these parcels productive once again for the neighborhoods they serve and our wider community.
QUESTION #5 – Does Framingham have a racial and economic equity problem in your opinion? If yes, how would you address it as a mayor.
Framingham is a community of diverse populations that enrich us as a community and brings vibrancy and positive energy to our many neighborhoods. We also need to acknowledge that racial and economic diversity also brings challenges.
Our government must reflect the community as a whole. We have a moral obligation to include all racial, ethnic and linguistic communities in decision making, as employees of the community, and as members of boards, commissions and committees.
Access to Health Care is one area that must get our attention. Racial, ethnic and linguistic populations often find barriers to quality accessible health care and racial and ethnic disparities in health status are well documented. We cannot let this stand. We must work with our hospitals, health centers, physician and nurses to reach out to under-served populations to assist people to reach a better health status.
Police and Public Safety interactions must be sensitive to and cognizant of the racial and ethnic diversity of our population that may bring tension if we do not manage and train our staff to understand, value and respect these differences. Expanding community policing will strengthen the bond between officers and the community they serve.
All of our neighborhoods, regardless of the socioeconomic status of their populations must get quality services, expect excellence from their schools and be treated with the dignity and respect.
QUESTION #6 – How would you make Framingham more green? Outline the steps you would take in your 4-years.
As mayor, I will bring top-notch qualified environmental professionals to the table to help us develop and implement efficient and cost effective policies and programs that will enhance and help sustain our environmental integrity:
Reduce, recycle & reuse our solid waste streams and safely reduce, eliminate and dispose of hazardous waste by setting aggressive measurable goals for each and establishing known best practices, and explore the feasibility of curbside composting;
Increase residents awareness of how they can conveniently reduce their carbon footprint and help make Green Framingham a reality in our homes and in our daily lives;
Preserve, protect and promote our open space and recreational areas, including our working farms, Farmers’ Markets and community gardens;
Increase Framingham’s use of renewable energy, reducing its overall power consumption, utilizing a more environmentally friendly fleet of vehicles, and exploring additional alternative energy sources including wind, solar and non-fossil fuel sources to power technology; and,
Cleanup environmentally contaminated sites throughout our community, including 350 Irving Street and Dennison Park, prevent pollution, stop pollution and hold environmental polluters responsible.
To achieve these goals, we need to make our environment one of our top priorities. Currently in Framingham, no one person is charged with monitoring and managing our progress in achieving these goals. As Mayor, I will assign this significant responsibility a full-time Director of Environmental Integrity who will be accountable to get this done.
QUESTION #7 – The biggest problem facing Framingham that no one talks much about is: _________________ And I would address it by: _____________.
Opioid addiction is an epidemic affecting every segment of our community. We need to acknowledge it so we can begin to break down the stigma surrounding addiction and mental health. We must also educate our youth of its dangers to prevent its spread. Working together with our public health and safety officials, social service agencies and our hospital, we need to ensure adequate and timely treatment for those in need. Lastly, we need to make sure that front-line personnel are trained to use Narcan when necessary and prepared to provide an access point for recovery. Our neighbors inflicted with this addiction need our compassion, our understanding and our assistance.
QUESTION #8 What would you accomplish in your first 100 days? Be specific.
My first 100 days as mayor will be focused on working to fill our underutilized shopping centers and downtown, reclaiming our focus to our neighborhoods and residents from central government and insiders; and beginning the strategic master plan process.
On my first day as mayor, I will call the President of Shaw’s for a meeting so we can immediately get to work on a solution to the Nobscot blight and file an ordinance calling for a six month moratorium on new apartment proposals to give us time to study the impact of units already approved.
Next, I will set up new systems in our government that focus on constituent services and making sure all voices are heard in our government, such as:
Work with the Council to establish Neighborhood Advisory Groups, volunteer citizens who will work with our Council, community boards and committees, and the Mayor to assure that residents’ voices are heard and guarantee each neighborhood retains their unique characteristics and vitality;
Adapt Visual Budget to provide taxpayers with the next generation of accessibility in financial information, allowing citizens to view, engage with, and discuss spending;
Establish 311 Hotline and develop a dedicated community mobile application to bring government closer to its residents;
Host weekly briefings to answer questions about current activities, holding regular office hours throughout Framingham and meetings in every neighborhood;
Make appointments that represent our demographic, geographic, economic and ideological diversity of our community;
Hire a Citizen Participation Officer established in Charter to improve communication and outreach between residents and their municipal government; and,
Implement the strong transparency and participation requirements in the Charter.
We will then begin the process of creating a community-wide strategic master plan. We need to review government from top to bottom to ensure that we are providing services in the most cost effective and efficient manner possible, eliminating redundancies and waste wherever they exist. We need to keep Framingham affordable, while maintaining the level of services we expect from our government.
We will also review current zoning, planning, environmental and related bylaws and practices to determine the strengths and where positive changes can be made.