By Adam Freudberg
FRAMINGHAM – After last week’s election, our soon to be two-year-old city government is moving forward to its next phase. I am optimistic that Framingham’s still new model of government will thrive in the term ahead. Still at the start of this experiment, we remain a city in its infancy fast approaching the toddler years. But just like a toddler, we can develop, learn, and grow. We can focus together on cooperating and decide on each challenge and opportunity in front of us.
This transition from 317 years of town government to a city has not been perfect. New requirements, new rules, and little training. Ours was often a “learn as we go” situation relying heavily on those who have been in government before, and listening to those who haven’t.
Come January, I have tremendous high hopes for the 20 officials recently elected to the City Council and School Committee. This promising new group will soon be in place for all of 2020 and 2021 to ramp up the groundwork that has been laid by Town Meeting, the Charter Commission, and the inaugural class of elected officials. I truly hope they can hit the ground running and make thoughtful, common sense strategic moves and decisions to set us on course for 2025, 2030, and far beyond.
Working together starts right now. The transition to the next phase of city government has already begun.
In my current role as Chair of the School Committee, I have a responsibility to ensure the transition sets up every single incoming member for success. The day after the election, all four new Member-Elects received this letter outlining numerous resources and training opportunities available to them. With the support of the School Committee, they all had the opportunity to attend the MA Association of School Committee’s Annual Conference last week to take the training courses the law requires of all new members. Additionally, at this week’s meeting the incoming members sat at the table with us and will continue to do so at the December meetings. They can speak up, observe, and prepare alongside the current members.
I encourage the incoming City Council to join us in having a productive transition. The Mayor and new City Council should collectively endorse common goals so they stand united at the start of the term. Whether it is sustainable energy goals for municipal buildings, a more transparent
budget development process, or job creation – something (anything!) to unite our Executive and Legislative Branches is a must.
So, what’s next in the new term? I hope a lot is next! This new term will determine Framingham’s path on some very big, impactful decisions. Each of these decisions has an impact on the school district as education-related efforts and funding decisions are directly tied to transportation, economic development, recreation, population growth, and more. During the next two years, I expect government will decide to move forward or not around at least the following topics:
Purchasing a building to be the centralized municipal complex for government services, including the Central Office
Opening a new elementary school south of Route 9 where 2/3rds of the student population lives
Deciding if a portion of last year’s $12 million city surplus can be deposited into the capital savings account to reduce the impact to the taxpayer for future building projects, as was done proactively for Fuller
Providing universal preschool for 4-year-olds
Adopting the Community Preservation Act to access state funding for historic preservation and protecting open spaces
Pursuing negotiations with CSX (the owner of key downtown properties) in order to reduce traffic at Routes 126/135, resulting in economic growth and fixing many parking challenges
Expanding the Callahan Center’s offerings for our growing senior population
Requiring more than the minimum on energy efficiency for all future building projects
These are just a few examples of the big decisions this new group of elected officials must ponder, vote on, and set a path forward for our city.
As a resident and father of school-aged children, I want my government to make proactive decisions and not defer. This next term is the time to make choices.
The School Committee will do its part, yet without a total team effort joined by the Mayor and City Council, the status quo will remain.
The next term is the time to have respectful debate. Look at the data. Hear from the public we represent. Consider if using funding for each concept is the best use of government resources. Call the question. Take the vote. And finally decide, yes or no.
Adam Freudberg, District 4, is serving his first term on the Framingham School Committee and serves as the Committee’s Chair. These are his own personal views and are not written on behalf of any committee or organization.