Framingham District 8 Council Candidate: Steven Croci

District 8 City Council candidate Steven Croci

District 8 is Precincts 15 and 18.

Editor’s Note: If an answer is blank, the candidate chose not to answer it. In full transparency, this is the district where I reside.

Age:  65

Occupation:  Retired. Genzyme Corporation, Regulatory Affairs Manager Quality Compliance;Corporate Quality Compliance Audit Manager Over 30 years in Corporate Quality Management field; Quality Compliance, Quality Assurance, Corporate Compliance Auditor of Quality Systems, Quality inspection

Years lived in Framingham:  65, lifelong resident of Precinct 15

Municipal experience:  Unencumbered by any Town government voting history or decisions; Independent of any political party platform, program or ideology

Volunteerism: Youth Baseball Coach for 20+ years, Holliston, Framingham, Milford, MA; AAU Baseball Coach, (14 and Under) Ashland Tides, 3 years; AAU Baseball Coach, (14 and Under) Frozen Ropes, Franklin, MA, 5 Years

Website or Facebook page link: https://www.facebook.com/steven.croci.79

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

I am running to provide Precincts 15 and 18 with stronger representation in the new city government.

I support the following:

  • A strict budget review process to reduce government spending and reduce property taxes.
  • Addressing problems of small businesses relating to municipal regulations that hinder their ability to thrive, succeed and
    provide valuable services.
  • Implementing a Quality Management System for municipal government for Framingham. An audited and controlled system of protocols, and standard operating procedures would improve the management of all city departments; increasing … operating efficiency, communication, active responses to the public’s needs and controlling finances.

In less than 100 words, describe your district:

My Primary focus is the Quality of Life in District 8. This district has been forgotten and neglected by town government.

For decades, the Southside has deteriorated. Crime, drugs, overcrowding, and traffic, have all increased and are now serious issues of public safety. Neighborhoods have been left with blighted properties, absentee landlords, serious parking problems and overcrowding. Southside infrastructure … streets, sidewalks and utilities are old and generally in poor condition. All of this coming with increased property taxes.

I will work to revitalize neighborhoods by strengthening bylaws and improving the enforcement of housing inspection on multi-family properties.

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? Decrease by 3-5%
  • I would not cut Police and Fire departments from the City of Framingham budget. 
  • Do you support a split tax rate for businesses and homeowners? Yes
  • Should Lake Waushakum beach be open through Labor Day weekend? Yes
  • Would you support the construction of a splash pad in Framingham? No
  • Would you support the creation of a dog park in Framingham? Yes
  • Would you vote for a debt exclusion override to build a new Fuller Middle School in Framingham? No
  • Should District 8 have its own school? No
  • Should a new school be built on the Bethany property? No
  • What business is needed in your district? 
  • What amenity is lacking in your district? Good streets, sidewalks and utilities; these need to be fixed first.
  • Do you support the tax incentives for the new apartments that Town Meeting approved this year? NO
  • Should Framingham become a sanctuary city? NO
  • What is your favorite place in Framingham? (just one): Cushing Park
  • What is your favorite place in your district? (just one): Cushing Park
  • Life in District 8 is a challenge.
  • I will bring a strong Southside voice to the Framingham City Council

QUESTION #1 – In your opinion, what is the biggest issue facing your district? How would you go about fixing it as a city councilor?

My Primary focus is the Quality of Life in District 8.

This district has been forgotten and neglected by town government.

For decades, the Southside has deteriorated. Crime, drugs, overcrowding, and traffic, have all increased and are now serious issues of public safety.

Neighborhoods have been left with blighted properties, absentee landlords, serious parking problems and overcrowding. Southside infrastructure … streets, sidewalks and utilities are old and generally in poor condition. All of this coming with increased property taxes. I will work to revitalize neighborhoods by strengthening bylaws and improving the enforcement of housing inspection on multi-family properties.

 

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?

I would favor a level funded budget and a decrease to the school budget.

Overlapping functions, departments, duplication of positions, to many high cost administrations and cost and operating inefficiencies are ways to reduce the city budget.

Framingham needs to be more fiscally responsible and the implementation of a strict budget review process would lead to a tighter
budget and a more stream lined government, better productivity and less inefficiency.

Residents are paying high property taxes and are NOT getting their money’s worth.

 

QUESTION #3 – Traffic is a major issue in your district? The closure of the Winter Street Bridge by MassDOT has been a heachache for the District 8 neighborhoods. But it was made worse by Framingham road work on Route 135, Dudley Road, and Mt. Wayte and Union Avenue – all part of the detour route. How will you work with the neighborhood, other city councilors, and the new mayor to solve the problem.

There needs to be better communication and coordination between public works, contractors and the neighborhoods. Also city and the DPW must improve its overall management of capital projects by having stronger contracts administration enforcement including penalty clauses for contractors who fail to meet project timelines and contract performance guidelines. Contracts should specifically state contractor requirements and measureable deliverable to which the contractor can be judged against and specify cost penalties to the contractor if the contract milestones are not met.

There have been significant traffic problems for the neighborhoods, as well as for local businesses. With all of the detours, it has created additional traffic problems in small neighborhoods resulting in shortcuts, pass throughs and detours.  The Winter Street Bridge project will be partially opened by November 2017.

On future projects, I will work more closely with the neighborhoods and keep them informed and get their input for any additional roadwork to be proactive in resolve problems and the public’s concerns.  I would work with the Mayor and City Councilors, in the future, to map out any additional roadwork.  This will require working with all parties and departments to stagger the work so it isn’t
done all at once and attempt to minimize and disrupt the quality of life issues in the neighborhoods.

We will need to work with these departments to ensure that the timing of the roadwork will minimize the impact on small businesses and on neighborhood life.  It greatly affects local businesses’ ability to operate if they can’t travel to their destinations without taking multiple detours.  This is very discouraging for the consumer and very hurtful to local businesses.   If possible, it would be best to minimize the number of major projects under construction going on at once ex. Winter Street bridge and the resurfacing of Rte 135 happening at the same time.  Doing major work on the bridge and Rte 135 at the same time, especially during rush hour and with car traffic and train traffic through town is a major problem If there is no other alternative to having more than one project going on at the same time, I would propose that some of the major street work be done at night, to alleviate the traffic problems as well as minimizing  the disruption to businesses.

 

QUESTION #4 – The Brazilian American Center (BRACE) Is located in your district? Do you speak Portuguese? How will you work to make sure the interests of these district residents are heard?

I am a lifelong member of St. Tarcisius church. My parish houses the BRACE center in its former elementary school and supports
the activities of the center. We as a parish provide financial support to BRACE and support its operation.

BRACE is a great resource at my church, St. Tarcisius.  I would start off with partnering with a representative BRACE to listen and
understand their concerns.  I would work with the BRACE liaison, to ensure that their needs are communicated up to the Mayor,
Council and to the appropriate city departments to ensure that their concerns are being heard. Likewise I would ensure that the
activities and happenings planned in the district are communicated down to BRACE.

Having a liaison at BRACE, would facilitate and improve the line of communication relating to upcoming discussions and decisions to
ensure more effective participation by both the City and BRACE.  In partnering with the BRACE liaison, I would work with them to
bridge any language barriers making sure there are adequate translation resources available. Working with the liaison, their needs
will be heard and would foster more inclusiveness between BRACE and the City.  Ensuring that every citizen’s concerns are heard is
important and results in strong neighborhood as well as a strong city.  We need to ensure that people’ss voices that haven’t been
heard in the past will be heard in the future by the new City government.

 

QUESTION #5 – The Framingham/Worcester commuter rail borders your district. Do you support the transit-oriented development proposed for District 7, 8, and 9? Why or Why not? My vision for downtown Framingham would include …

improvement and development of better transit service for the south side districts which would include bus service throughout
the districts and more specifically improvement by the state to the MBTA rail system. Transportation is an issue for Districts 8 and 9
that need to be solved.

 

QUESTION #6 –  The arts have struggled in Framingham over the 18 months. Last year, the Danforth museum and art school was evicted from its home of decades, the Framingham Artists Guild had to find a new home, the Performing Arts Center of MetroWest had to find a new home, and 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?

The City as whole should foster and encourage the development and maintenance of the ARTS in Framingham. The existing Downtown Development group could act as City representative for the Arts to Help them maintain their existence as a vital culture resource for Framingham and to ensure there will always be place for them in Framingham. City money and budget constraints would likely prohibit much if any financial support by the City nonetheless it should act in whatever capacity it can to aide and assist in helping to maintain these groups and by support their needs.

I think it is  important to have and house cultural arts in Framingham.  It is very saddening that all of the artists from Fountain Street had to move.  However, due to the safety of everyone housed there, a decision had to be made, even though it was a difficult one.  Not only does it affect the community at large who enjoyed visiting and utilizing these facilities but it also impacts the artists who provide their valuable cultures service to the community.

Moving forward as a city, I think it is extremely important to promote the arts in the new City of Framingham.  Framingham is the “Hub” of the Metrowest and by having the cultural arts here would attract more visitors and enhance the community as well as local businesses.  I would support and initiative that the new Mayor and work with the other city departments to look at the various vacant/abandoned buildings that could house these types of activities.

Becoming a City, will mean encompassing all aspects of life, and one of those is the cultural arts.  The city of Worcester came back from a “blighted” area and now they have many cultural events.  The various artist/restaurants could partner together, an “Evening with the Arts and Dinner.”

 

QUESTION #7 – Do you think your district is safe? How will you work with Police to make sure residents in your neighborhood feel safe?

Unfortunately for decades, the Southside has been forgotten and as a result has deteriorated. Crime, drugs, overcrowding, and traffic, have all increased and are now serious public safety issues. Neighborhoods have been left with blighted properties, absentee landlords, serious parking problems and overcrowding. Southside infrastructure … streets, sidewalks and utilities are old and generally in poor condition.

There are a few neighborhoods in District 8 that could be safer.  There is currently a community policing program going on in one of the neighborhoods in my district.  They have quarterly meetings with the Chief of Police and have an officer that is dedicated to their neighborhood.  I would reach out to other neighborhoods in the district and see if there would be similar interest in replicating this type of program.  Once you have community/neighborhood involvement and get people engaged, the people can make a difference.

I have had numerous conversations with the Chief and have spoken about my concerns.  He is very open to ideas and willing to discuss neighborhood improvements and solutions.

Once you have people engaged, they can make a difference. Sometimes residents don’t know how to get involved, but once you
present an opportunity they will engage.

I have also worked closely with the FPD in the past on a number of specific issues affecting my immediate neighborhood. I have developed good working relationship with the Police Chief and Officers and have met and spoken with them on many occasions to solve problems affecting the neighborhood relating top parking, and public safety.

I would work with the FPD to foster more involvement and better communication between all residents of District 8 and the FPD.

 

QUESTION #8 – As a city councilor how will your support the businesses in your district?

I will support Southside small businesses to address problems relating to municipal regulations (zoning bylaws, signage, and permitting process) that hinder their ability to thrive, succeed and provide valuable services.

Their ability to do business must be made easier and less cumbersome. Small businesses must be able to quickly navigate through the city’s permitting and bylaws.

In addition, small local businesses need to be given similar type incentives (TIF) that are currently offered to large development projects in Framingham. Small business owners have told me that the city needs to level the playing field so they can compete against larger businesses. Providing incentives and helping to level the field would help them develop their businesses and be able to serve the community’s needs and succeed in today’s difficult economy.

In a recent MWDN article, traffic, parking, homeless, safety concerns, high rent and taxes are all issues that have been cited and identified by existing small downtown business owners as areas of on-going problems. These problems need to be addressed first. Revitalizing downtown cannot be addressed until the traffic congestion problem caused by RT 135 and 126 though center of town is solved. This problem is also compounded by the railroad passing through town many times per day and tying up traffic. There needs to be a reason to use the downtown and something to draw customers to downtown businesses. More apartments and condos are not the solution to their state concerns and problems.

What I would support is the formation and development of ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ZONES that would serve as an incubator for startup companies. These zones would provide available space at low rent where entrepreneurs could utilize their research and development skills to develop new products and services. These zones would provide manufacturing space, for startup companies to
encourage new ideas in areas like …IT, technology development, and biotech. The zones should also provide important lab space that would attract biotech startups whose primary needs are for lab space to develop their products. Creating economic Zones would also would create jobs, provide needed revenue to the city and also stimulate downtown activity.

Local small business is what makes the neighborhoods vital and strong.  I would like to work with the businesses in my district to plan
a Focus on a small business month. This would highlight a business and urge all Framingham residents to patronize a particular
business.  The creation of a Small Business Organization would be beneficial to identify the concerns, specific to District 8 small
businesses and to hear their ideas on how City can collectively promote their businesses.

 

QUESTION #9 – Do you think Framingham is family friendly? Why or why not? What would you do to do make the community more inviting to families?

I think Framingham can be more family friendly.  There are a lot of family activities that are posted on line for family activities.  We have wonderful family environments here in Framingham, Cushing Park, the lakes, carnivals, the Farmer’s Market, Eastleigh Farm, Summer Camp and many others.  I think by adding/bringing back the cultural arts here will be very inviting for the family friendly events.  More must be done to engage and drive families to these amenities.

Framingham is family friendly depending on which on which side of Framingham you live. There are many amenities in town that can draw families but all are not easily accessible or available to all families.

Unfortunately, there is still the feeling of division between the north and south sides of Framingham brought about to some degree by cultural and ethnic differences. Until this divide is overcome and these differences are reduced and improved Framingham will not be as family friendly and as ‘great’ as it can be.

QUESTION #10 – 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 bring the nine districts together as one City?

The Southside has always had a black eye.  It’s time to change that.  Much to the disbelief of most, the neighborhoods are very tight and neighbors really do care about one another, their neighborhoods and their community.  I believe they don’t feel they have a strong voice, therefore, they think nobody cares.

As a city, the first thing I would want to do is to eliminate the "invisible Southside/Northside distinction.   We are now a city and
need to act like one.  I would encourage all City Councilors to look at the “whole” just not their part.  Look at what would be best for
the city as a whole.  As I have said, I will be a strong voice for my District and ensure that are needs are met and we are no longer overlooked.

My experience in the is that Framingham’s government leaders and committee members don’t know the Southside or have never or not recently visited and walked through Southside neighborhoods to see and judge for themselves what impact their decisions have had on the neighborhood’s quality of life.

Many past Town officials did not understand the issues, problems and the specific needs of the Southside neighborhoods by making decisions without gathering enough information and input from the neighborhoods to realize what the impact of their decisions have on the people’s lives.

Improved communication and coordination between city departments and the community would greatly improve bring all parties together.

As a Councilor I would on a team approach to problem solving that would reach out to other councilors for their input, and ideas in order to discuss and resolve problems that affect the our community.

 

QUESTION #11 – Voter turnout in Precincts 15 and 18, which comprised District 8 was at 23% and 21% on Sept 26. What can you do, if elected, to get more people involved in their district, including voting in local elections?

People need to feel that they have a vested interest in their government and until they can be convinced that their government hears
and respects them then it will be difficult to get their involvement to vote. It all comes down to matter of trust.

For decades, precincts 15 and 18 have been forgotten and neglected by town government. It will take time to gain back their trust that their government cares about their needs, that they are being heard and that their government works for them and responds to
their needs.

I would be engaged with the district.  I would talk with the residents of District 8 folks about voting and how important it is to hear their voice.  Very often, people think "oh well my one vote won’t  make a difference but it does.  Voter apathy is difficult to overcome.

I would work to get people engaged and to more actively participate.  It is, however, the responsibility of each individual to vote. People need to have a reason to go out and vote.  Having good candidates to vote for who represent their priorities and needs that would improve their quality of life would attract more voters to the polls. This would give them a reason to vote. I would discuss with them the importance of their vote and what a real difference it can make.  I would try to identify the reasons why they don’t vote and see if these issues can be fixed.

 

 

QUESTION #12 –  The biggest problem facing Framingham that no one talks much about is: _________________ And I would address it by: _____________.

I would say one of the problems facing Framingham is the homeless that occupy the downtown area. The homeless and mental health issues of the people who occupy the downtown area create problems for businesses. These problems relate to public safety and security. The police are constantly being called to respond to business’ complaints. Valuable resources are being used to address these problems but without any solutions. These resources could be used for other purposes and to solve other problems in the community. A lot of time and money are being used and wasted by responding to the same problems without a permanent solution. All of these issues impact the ability of downtown businesses to succeed and prosper. If there is a feeling that the downtown area is not safe and security, people will not go downtown to patronize businesses. Until these problems are solved the revitalization of downtown will have difficulty succeeding.

Framingham has long been the dumping ground for social services and these problems end up in downtown.

The town in the past has had some success in working with /SMOC and the state social services agencies to remove programs which have made the downtown better but have totally solved the problem.

The City will need to continue to work with the state and local organizations to clean up existing problems and to remove programs from downtown.

 

QUESTION #13 – The south side of town takes a lot of hits. If you were in charge of a PR campaign for the area south of Route 135 what would the slogan be? How would you market the area to those in other Districts? What type of event would you organize to highlight the area’s  strength? Where would you hold it? How would you make sure the neighborhoods south of Route 135 are not looked at as “inferior” to other parts of town? How will you make sure they get equitable services and respect?

Slogan: “Southside Strong” or "Get out of the cold North … Come to the Southside for some Warmth”

I’m not sure you could market the district very well at the present time with all the neighborhood problems that need solutions … traffic, congestion along with neighborhood issues like blighted buildings, absentee landlords, severe parking problems and overcrowding.

The truth is, there are not a lot of ‘strengths’ at the present time in Precincts 15 and 18 that would draw people from outside the district to come to the Southside.

Downtown would be a logical choice but downtown has its own unique set of problems that the existing businesses are currently dealing with. But maybe something could be set up with the businesses particularly restaurants and Jack Abbey’s where there would be a food tasting event consisting of all the different restaurants foods to highlight the different cultures and varied foods on the Southside. Also, a beer tasting event might be an idea sponsored by Jack Abbeys highlighting local brews from the area.

Although technically just outside the district, I would try to hold some sort of community event at Cushing Park which has space for set up of events, a children’s playground area, and walking paths and possibly tie it into the new skate board park when that is completed.

As a city, the first thing I would want to do is to begin to eliminate the "invisible Southside/Northside distinction.  We are now a
city and need to begin to come together and act like one.  I would encourage all City Councilors to look at the “whole” just not their part.  Look at what would be best for the city as a whole.  As I have said, I will be a strong voice for my District and ensure that are needs are met and we are no longer overlooked.

Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

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

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