By Isabella Petroni
FRAMINGHAM – I am a Framingham resident and a college student. More specifically, I am a resident of the Tripoli neighborhood south of Route 135. I am here to ask you to vote Yes on Question 3 in support of the adoption of the Community Preservation Act.
Based on what I have seen on Facebook, there seems to be a clear divide in the advocates for both the Yes and No camps. To clarify, this is only based on the advocates I have seen online, not based on the votes cast already or votes to be cast.
The divide I have seen seems to harken back to Framingham’s classic divide of North vs. South. As such, this divide also represents class, socioeconomic status, and/or race. North Framingham is less ethnically diverse, has a higher socioeconomic status, and is more likely to resemble a Greater Boston suburb. South Framingham is more ethnically diverse, has a higher immigrant population, has a wider range of socioeconomic statuses, and is more urban in its layout, likening it more to a Greater Boston city such as Quincy or Chelsea.
Many of the people I have observed in the Yes camp come from the northside and have higher socioeconomic affluence. Many of the people I have observed in the No camp come from the southside and have lower socioeconomic affluence.
I find this divide present in this question disturbing and a recycling of America’s history with environmentalism, particularly who was part of the environmental movement. For years since the birth of the modern-day environmentalist movement in the 1970s, it is more likely to be characterized by white, middle-class people. As such, environmentalism is framed as an issue only thought of by the rich. This is a myth.
The goals of the Community Preservation Act, if implemented, is to allow communities to use funds to preserve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing, and develop outdoor recreational facilities. This is a benefit for all who reside in Framingham.
The need to develop urban green space in forgotten neighborhoods can be accomplished. The development of better outdoor recreation spaces can be accomplished. Resisting the gentrification that has come into Downtown Framingham and building actual affordable housing can be accomplished. Protecting historic sites in South Framingham can be accomplished.
The passing of the Community Preservation Act is not just a blessing for Northsiders. It is a blessing for the Southside as well.
Because having green space to play and celebrate in is not just a thing for the wealthy. It is for everyone.
Framing the need for this as something that only concerns the privileged is disrespectful and condescending. Having parks and beaches available to the working class and the poor is important and needed. It is not a frivolous waste of dollars. Maintaining health through recreation and being outside is just as important as getting proper education and healthcare.
I understand that there is a fear that the committee developed, if the CPA passes, will not favor these southside projects.
I also still applaud the development of projects funded by the Community Preservation Act in the Northside.
But, my support for Question 3 comes with a price.
Representation and funding must be given to the Southside.
For too long, this city has ignored its residents south of Route 9 and especially the residents south of Route 135.
The switch to a city government has helped this and the development of neighborhood associations such as the Coburnville-Tripoli Neighborhood Association and neighborhood groups in Beaver Park has allowed for action to be taken.
But, we have been giving the city government a short leash and we will not be afraid to yank it back.
When a committee is developed if the question is passed, representation from the southside must be guaranteed.
Funding for projects on the southside must be guaranteed. They were discussed in the report. They should be considered on equal footing. In fact, these should be a priority to the committee because of the neglect given by the municipal government.
I wanted to provide the voice of a lifelong South of Rt 135 resident to this conversation.
I wanted to provide the voice of someone who has been studying environmental justice at school. Someone who understands that the passing of the CPA will allow Framingham to take a step closer to achieving environmental justice for all of its residents.
I urge you to vote YES on Question 3 so that Framingham can start what it should have a long time ago. It will no longer have the excuse.
Isabella Petroni, 19, is a voter in Precinct 15 in District 8. She is a dual-degree student at the University of New England. She is the founder and current chair of the Framingham Youth Council and a former member of Senate President Karen Spilka’s Youth Council.