A year ago we reformed our local government with a modern structure and a slate of new leaders to govern ourselves in a more collaborative, transparent and efficient manner. Voters broke all records for local turnout, blogs and papers filled with ideas, leaders emerged from every neighborhood, and candidates pledged to bring voters’ values and voices to local decision-making.
While we still have much more to do, our collective decisions will bring long-term benefits to our community. Ongoing shortsighted actions that make us less transparent and diverse, more inefficient and ethically challenged, and that continue to expand our carbon footprint, need to change and may eventually have to be adjusted by voters. The people of Framingham continue to clamor for positive change.
Framingham residents — living on working farms or in public housing, speaking English or one of dozens of other languages, worshipping their God or no god — never hesitate to enlist or volunteer to right a wrong or help a neighbor in need. We respect each other, cherish our diversity, rally for those in need, support our local businesses and protect our neighborhoods.
We always have and always will fight for equality for everyone, from the Revolution and Civil War, Harmony Grove to Open and Affirming churches, to support for a courageous young boy. Our diverse neighborhoods are sewn together into a community fabric that define our common values.
These core beliefs were the driving force behind reconstituting our local government a year ago in order to ensure diversity of ideas, representation and services for each and every resident. Our new government gives our leaders the tools to protect and enhance each of these unique areas and cultures within our community.
We are making progress on some fronts. Our School Committee, drawn from our neighborhoods, wasted no time using these tools to bring the positive change the voters of Framingham wanted. The Committee ended activity fees and barriers to nutritious meals, brought equity in the building of a new Fuller Middle School, established zero tolerance for hate, and have supported our dynamic Superintendent.
Now our municipal leaders need to heed voters’ voices and implement the spirit and mandate of the Charter.
We can do better! Framingham is a great community with the people, resources and ability to be even better. We need to work together, neighborhood by neighborhood, in a transparent and participatory process to create a strategic master plan that embodies our values, speaks to our dreams, and meets our needs.
It starts with diversity of opinion. Respectful conflict of ideas is necessary for a healthy, accountable democracy. Next, we must all have the same baseline of information without filters or need for FOIA requests. Then, we need to set value based goals and seek common ground to achieve them. And lastly, we need to work diligently to implement it.
It is time for our government to have the same belief in Framingham as its residents. A place where everything and everyone matters. Where all voices are welcome. The place we proudly chose to call home.
John A. Stefanini is a former State Representative and Selectman, and was a member of the Charter Commission. He also ran to be the City of Framingham’s first Mayor and lost to Yvonne Spicer.