By John Stefanini
FRAMINGHAM – Seven years ago Town Meeting declared Framingham a Green Community. It was a declaration of our collective values: that it is time for Framingham to take bold steps to fight climate change and leave our planet in better shape for future generations.
This pandemic reminds us of the important and powerful role that each of us have in controlling our collective destiny.
As a municipality we have accomplished little more than banning plastic bags and catching up on basic maintenance.
Yet, Framingham’s carbon footprint still continues to loom large with no overarching goal or masterplan to eliminate it.
Our municipal buildings lack solar panels or electric charging stations despite the largest solar company in the country, Amerseco, being located here. We have not adopted the Community Preservation Act, as have 163 other communities. Our non-emergency fossil fuel-fleet lacks alternative fuel vehicles. Environmental justice sites still remain in our southside neighborhoods. And we struggle to preserve, let alone expand our open spaces.
Our state and federal leaders have provided governmental grants, private tax incentives, and technical assistance. We have not properly leveraged these resources.
The truth is we are all talk and no walk.
As a municipality, we need to do two things to make our words into deeds and make Framingham Green: set an achievable goal and work together to implement it.
Many communities have set two overarching energy sustainability goals: transition to 100% renewable energy by 2025, and reduce their carbon footprint to zero by 2050. These are aggressive, but achievable goals for Framingham.
Second, create a Sustainability Commission of leading stakeholders chaired by our Mayor. It will require collaboration by our highest level of civic, philanthropic and business leaders to transition us to a more sustainable tomorrow.
What we are proposing is not unique or bold. Look around at other communities in the Bay State. Ashland, Greenfield, Boston, Arlington, Newton are just a handful of the municipalities who are tackling climate change with new initiatives, programs and targeted goals. They brought together everyone in the community, discussed ideas, achieved consensus and published how they planned to reach their goals. Then they set to work.
Our city is fortunate to have many citizen leaders and active groups like Sustainable Framingham, Transition Framingham, and Framingham Earth Day Festival Committee.
We now have our first Sustainability Coordinator. We have enthusiasm and ideas. People are ready to roll up their sleeves to get to work. It is time for City leaders to embrace these citizen leaders to get the job done.
While many municipal chief executives have led these efforts over the past decade, absent such leadership it has been accomplished though local legislative action.
As such, I will propose an ordinance, drafted in collaboration with citizen leaders and environmental activists, that I hope will spur conversation by interested residents to encourage action.
Working together, we can and will develop a shared vision with a plan to implement it.
John A. Stefanini, a former state representative, is the District 8 Framingham City Councilor in Framingham. He can be reached at Stefanini143@gmail.com.