Editor’s Note: If the answer is blank, the candidate chose not to answer
Framingham Mayoral Candidate Priscila Sousa
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? Undecided
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
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?
My mission for the Framingham Public Schools is to give every child the opportunity to succeed that was afforded to me. I arrived in Framingham at the age of seven knowing fewer than a dozen isolated words in English and because of the foundation given to me by the Framingham Public Schools, I received my bachelor’s degree at the age of 20 and went on to begin my first year of law school as the class’ youngest member. Had it not been for Framingham Public Schools, I would not be here today. I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to pay this investment forward. Every child deserves a chance to explore their full potential, and the classroom is the ideal place for this.
It is my duty as mayor to make sure that we prepare the next generation of leaders. Every child deserves to be primed for success.
Currently in Framingham, not every child is being set up to succeed. With overcrowded classrooms, a lack of tech proficiency, and special education cuts looming over educators, we are unable to fulfill that duty. Simply throwing more money, less money or the same amount of money into schools will not resolve these issues unless there is a plan to go along with it.
I will do everything in my power to secure the special education programs long-term, further familiarize our children with technology so they can perform well on online state testing, and provide immediate relief to our crowded classrooms, whether through modular enhancements or otherwise. Whether we can accomplish those goals by redistributing a level-funded budget within the system, increasing the budget or raising the bar and maintaining a level-service budget, the fact remains that these are things that must be addressed.
No one person will be able to make these determinations completely on their own.
Starting January we will have a School Committee that represents every geographic area of the city and, along with the school superintendent, we will be able to have conversations that will determine how to best direct the budget to achieve these goals.
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?
As someone who grew up unsure of the possibility of a college degree, access to higher education has made a tremendous impact in my life and opened doors I thought possible.
Framingham State University and MassBay Community College partnered in 2016 to offer a four-year degree for $28,000. The program, which costs less than a year of college at most private schools allows students to earn an associate’s degree and then a bachelor’s degree. After completing the associate’s degree program at MassBay, students are guaranteed acceptance into Framingham State..
This partnership between the two institutions makes the reality of a college degree possible for young adults who only dreamed of higher education before. To ensure that this partnership benefits our young population and sets them up for success, Framingham must maintain a partnership with both institutions. This includes facilitating the possibilities of MassBay remaining in Framingham.
With MassBay’s lease of the Farley Building expiring in the summer of 2019, it is imperative that we help them find a permanent home in Framingham by then. Keeping MassBay in Framingham and close to Framingham State University ensures a smoother transition in their associate’s to bachelor’s programs for a student population that is too often juggling multiple priorities and working against tremendous odds to achieve success.
I will do everything I can to position young adults of every background to succeed if they work hard. Currently that means keeping MassBay in Framingham but if resources become available for a partnership with the Commonwealth for free college for low income Framingham students as Boston did, I am fully amenable to that discussion. It is a discussion that will require many voices to be heard and a solid community partnership with MassBay and Framingham State. The incoming mayor must ensure these partnerships are sustained so we may take advantage of any and all opportunities to expand access to higher education.
I intend to have Framingham produce a specialized labor force that will ultimately contribute to our economy. We cannot do that without providing access to higher education for those who wish to have it.
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 have had the opportunity to meet with department heads in Framingham and it appears that any potential misuse or waste is not wilful. My candidacy is established on the principle that a government that assumes the needs of the people and imposes cannot be effective. Just as I want to have an open channel of communication with the residents of Framingham, I also want to establish and maintain an open channel of communication with the heads of our department as to not make inappropriate impositions. Determining what is waste in the municipal budget will require more communication with every department and the opportunity to have a clear understanding of the strengths and challenges of each department. None of those things can be done from the outside looking in.
Through my experience running a small business, I understand the importance of being able to run a budget. In Framingham, with a $300M budget and a myriad of comments from residents indicating their needs are not met, it is clear we need a comprehensive review of every department and their resources. The most vital investment to be made in this equation will precede any budget determinations: an investment of information. Because there is a deficiency in proper channels of communication between the people and government, people cannot voice their concerns/needs and without that vital information, Framingham is always at a significant risk of waste. If we tackle the problem by first addressing the risk, we ensure that once we deal with any waste, it will not become a reoccurring issue.
With all the information available to departments we will be prepared to reallocate resources wherever necessary. Communication with the people and between departments is key to avoid redundancy or neglect.
Creating a budget is a task that any wise mayor cannot and should not do on their own. Taking the needs of every part of the city into consideration, through productive collaboration with the city council, the school committee, department heads and the people, we can have a fiscally responsible budget that will properly indicate our commitment to the people.
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.
Strategies must serve the purpose of developing solutions that put the people first.
Our downtown area should provide more experiences-based businesses such as restaurants, entertainment, etc. to create a unique identity that sets it apart from Route 9.
Blight is an issue in Framingham. From Mount Wayte to the Nobscot Plaza, abandoned properties are an expensive eyesore, costing homeowners over $8,000 in property value. I live on Mount Wayte and every day I drive by this eyesore that causes tremendous discouragement.
Each of these properties is located in different parts of town that have a unique population, needs and concerns. What will work for the Saxonville lumber yard will not work for the Golden Triangle and the same goes for all the other examples. Finding solutions for each area will require communication with the people most impacted by these properties: the neighbors. Campaigning has given me an opportunity to speak to different residents and knock on doors in those areas. It is clear we need to continue productive conversations to discuss solutions that work for each neighborhood..Continuing these conversations without the tools to provide solutions will keep areas neglected and neighbors discouraged.
The Center for Community Progress is a national program created to help communities deal with blight in a manner that fosters economic development. They provide technical assistance and policy research to find community-oriented solutions for abandoned properties. I will begin forging relationships with such organizations and take the benefit of their experience to give affected neighborhoods new life. One of their success stories is the Downtown Memphis Anti-Neglect Initiative. Using public nuisance suits, they resolved the eyesore issues. Additionally, the appointment of a City Solicitor with experience in negotiations with developers will be critical in ensuring that Framingham is no longer at risk of being home to abandoned properties.
If Framingham is still at risk of another predatory lease that tied up the Nobscot Plaza for many years, I will have failed as mayor. It important that solutions for these properties be found quickly and that proposals bear the long-term needs of the community in mind.
QUESTION #5 – Does Framingham have a racial and economic equity problem in your opinion? If yes, how would you address it as a mayor.
Any racial and equity problems in Framingham stem from the fact that the most vulnerable members of our population are unable to communicate their needs and their concerns, and therefore suffer tremendous equity problems. Our city charter passed on promises of a more transparent and responsive government that could lead but also listen and that represented the needs of everyone. As mayor I will be accountable to the promise of the charter and to all the people of Framingham so that your voice will finally be heard.
Solving our economic and equity issues will begin with a government that truly represents the people. In our new form of government, the compensation for members serving in our city council is $5,000/year. Given that this amount of money barely covers childcare costs for the numerous city council meetings, we are ensuring that the opportunity to be a representatives is available only for those with the expendable income to do so. We must make becoming involved through elected office more financially accessible by increasing that amount. Only then will we see more diversity in our city council and a city where the diversity inside the walls of our new city hall will mirror the diversity on the outside of it.
Framingham’s economic and equity issues are most often expressed in the context of relationships with local authorities. We must foster a positive relationship between local authorities and the entire community and show that municipal services are not restricted to certain parts of town. It is important that our community feels safe in Framingham and that can be achieved through a close relationship with local law enforcement. A person that knows their local officers know who to look for if they feel their local playgrounds, parks, etc. are unsafe. Efforts must also be made to ensure that our officers on the ground who work with the population daily are given the proper resources to do their jobs. While Framingham has excellently trained officers, we must make sure that they are provided with the resources to serve our community with excellence and compassion
QUESTION #6 – How would you make Framingham more green? Outline the steps you would take in your 4-years.
One of the most exciting areas of innovation in Framingham is sustainability. I am passionate about creating a more sustainable Framingham that prioritizes green initiatives and educates the incoming generations about the importance of caring for our planet. Before a federal administration that does not prioritize environmental protection, municipal government is the first line of defense in ensuring that we as a people do not lose sight of the importance of sustainability.
I understand the problem here in Framingham is that there is no dedicated office or roles to ensure that this remains a priority in our current and upcoming municipal projects. There are no dedicated resources to pursue a green economy and no adequate infrastructure.
I plan on addressing this issue by hiring a municipal energy manager. With the right person for the role, it is a cost-effective position that will bring a significant amount of money into the municipality in the form of grants. To make sure our sustainability efforts expand beyond energy initiatives, we will also have a sustainability coordinator, who will find other cost effective ways for Framingham to go green beyond clean energy.
In the next 4 years I would also like to see Framingham take creative green approaches to other problems in our community. South Framingham is a food desert and while we may not be able to bring a major supermarket south of Route 135, we can discuss creative solutions to address this issue. While canvassing Districts 8 and 9 I have encountered a significant portion of the population of avid gardeners. If local corporations incorporated sponsoring community greenhouses as part of their corporate responsibility, neighbors could use the space to grow their own food. Projects like this in cooperation with nonprofit organizations such as Daniel’s Table could become a green solution to a social justice issue. Having the space to discuss such ideas could provide us with ways to implement this plan or even better ideas coming from the community.
QUESTION #7 – The biggest problem facing Framingham that no one talks much about is: _________________ And I would address it by: _____________.
The disenfranchised segments of the population.
I will address this issue by setting positive precedent for greater community engagement as we begin this new form of government. I will bring the municipal government to the people. I plan on hitting the ground running and establishing a continuing rotation of a week-long series of visits to each district. We cannot serve or represent the people if we are not familiar with their concerns. Meetings with members of the district, site visits and ongoing communication will be an absolute priority in my administration. Taking the time to listen to the concerns of the population and grasping a clear understanding of their ever-changing needs will enable my administration to make the effective appointments necessary, pinpoint the areas where we can continue to improve people’s lives and open ourselves up for community-led innovation.
When I look around Framingham, I see its diversity, its culture, and its economy, and I see the same community that helped shape who I am today. But I also see that there are people who are not as fortunate, not as successful, and not heard. I am running because there are voices in this community that have gone unheard for too long. There are groups that have been disenfranchised for decades and whose contributions have been ignored. I don’t believe that giving any one group a voice should be done at the expense of another. If there is not enough room at the table we need to build a bigger table, and I see no better time to do it. Our city charter passed on promises of a more transparent, familiar, and responsive government, one that could lead but also listen, one that represented the needs of everyone. We need a mayor who will be accountable to the promise of the city charter and to all the people of Framingham, so that your voice will finally be heard.
QUESTION #8 What would you accomplish in your first 100 days? Be specific.
My “first 100 days promise is simple: to conduct this transition in a manner that produces positive impact on the people of Framingham. It is imperative that this transition be, completely seamless. It is important for us to remember that this 2018 will be a year of setting precedent here in Framingham. It is crucial that we focus on stability and security and that both those things are transmitted to the people of Framingham not just now, but in the long run. As we set precedent, I want to make sure that going forward the City of Framingham is known for innovation, diverse collaboration, and a municipal government that cares, truly cares.
To set positive precedent for greater community engagement going forward, I will bring the municipal government to the people. As mentioned earlier, I plan on hitting the ground running and establishing a continuing rotation of a week-long series of visits to each district. By listening, I will be an effective advocate for the people as we conduct a comprehensive overview of every department in Framingham to eliminate waste and find areas for improvement.
The transition calls for the appointment of over 100 positions. I will work tirelessly to ensure that every position to be filled is filled with a competent professional for the role. I plan on taking advantage of the decades of institutional experience we have in our department heads and preserve their expertise in municipal government as much as possible. While I am running on new vision and innovation, stability for our residents is of paramount importance.These new positions will determine the course of the city and it is imperative that we make the right choices.