By Mary Kate Feeney
FRAMINGHAM – Last month, Framingham voters said yes and took another step towards making Framingham a greener community.
Once enacted the Community Preservation Act gives us the tools to take action instead of simply talking about the environment, preservation and recreation. But the CPA will only work if we shape the ordinance surrounding its implementation to fit our needs and values.
We talk a great game about the environment and the importance of listening to all neighborhoods, and dream big about the new recreation facilities we want. Social media is filled with thoughts about splash pads, community gardens and rail trails. Our elected officials go on about solar and mourn the loss of the Millwood Golf Course. The city government half heartedly puts forth plans to reduce our carbon footprint. It likes the concept of open space and improving the planet, but needs constant reminding to take the bold steps.
It is time for us to step up and get the job done.
Soon the Council’s Rules and Ordinance Subcommittee begins reviewing the proposed ordinance setting up the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) and incorporates the CPA into our by-laws. This drafting will set the stage for the committee and how it will operate for years to come.
As a strong supporter of the CPA, I closely followed the debate that unfolded this election season. Both sides had powerful arguments we should consider when planning for the CPA. We cannot cookie-cutter our way through this process.
Equal representation on the committee is a must. Along with the Massachusetts requirement to include members of certain boards on the CPC, it allotts for up to four community members. We should take advantage of those four additional seats, with two members from each of our zip codes – 01701 and 01702. Newton has a similar requirement, breaking down representation by wards.
Additionally, one of those members should be from the business community. We need to partner with our business community more, and having a representative from that sector is valuable.
In order for CPA to work, all of Framingham must benefit and all of Framingham must have a seat at the community preservation table.
I once wrote that if Framingham had a bingo card, transparency would be the center square. The CPA process needs to be open, transparent and participatory. Potential project applications should be posted on the City of Framingham website at least one month before the public hearing. An easy to access directory of proposed and completed projects should be available for all to reference. Not only does Cambridge have full directories of applications on its well designed website, but uses maps to show project locations. It is a fabulous way to get a birds eye view of CPA investments in the community.
Establishing their calendar at the beginning of the year gives the CPC and the public ample time to comment and submit ideas. At least four meetings would be held: organizational meeting, project recommendation hearing, allocation of funds hearing, and project and allocation of funding vote meeting. A full report outlining their recommendations and funding would be submitted to the Council by the fall for their review and vote.
A great place to start for project ideas is the Open Space and Recreation Plan drafted by our Parks and Recreation Department with public input. From a walking trail and boat launches at Farm Pond to restoring the Washaukum Bathhouse to the Bruce Freeman Trail, we are not lacking in projects to tackle. Starting there, with soliciting public input and plans, reaching out to various stakeholders, will give Framingham the robust process we deserve.
I am so excited to see the CPA in action in Framingham. I look forward to the day where more community gardens pop up in different neighborhoods or a splash pad is flowing for kids on a hot summer day, or when Rep. Chris Walsh’s dream of a trail around Farm Pond is a dream no more.
We can get this done. I believe in us. But we can only do this together with a committee, an ordinance and a plan that is truly Framingham.
Let’s get to work.
Mary Kate Feeney, a resident of Pheasant Hill, is a former aide to Governor Deval L. Patrick. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.