By John Stefanini
Dear Mayor Spicer:
It has been a while since we had one of our many “talks” on live television in front of hundreds of people. While we did not always see eye to eye, I did like and shared in your ideas about increasing transparency, listening to neighborhood concerns, broadening representation of our boards, protecting our seniors, and supporting our schools.
Now, here we are nearly four years later.
Our City is facing a crisis with its water and sewer enterprise fund. In a matter of three years, the fund has gone from a surplus of $9 million to a deficit of $6.1 million. Tax bills have been delayed, causing our residents to get a shock of two tax bills due on May 1.
We are struggling to confront the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 1918, Framingham’s response to the Spanish Flu outperformed much of the Commonwealth and the nation owing to our aggressive multi-lingual outreach. One hundred years later sixty-two percent of the individuals in Framingham infected with COVID-19 have a primary language other than English.
Yet, we have ignored our own history forcing the state to canvass our neighborhoods and resulting in disjointed efforts to test and vaccinate our neighbors.
You promised a government open to all, not just for insiders or for those who donated to your campaign. Yet, in the Spicer Administration, only your most hardcore supporters and donors have access. Everyone else is shut out. Pleas for working together and collaboration are ignored.
We heard a lot about transparency when you ran for office. What we received instead were questions dodged, coverups, vilifying the press, and a consistent abuse of the public records law to avoid releasing information, leading to your decisions being overturned by the state on 24 or 26 appeals. You even walked out on the Council instead of taking questions during an important conversation about the future of Nobscot.
Your promises of focusing on neighborhoods, establishing a 311-citizen hotline, supporting our schools, consolidating municipal services, and creating an Innovation Task Force have likewise been broken. You have cut the school budget five times this year alone, at a time when our students and teachers need to know they are supported. Your administration refuses to invest more to fix crumbling roofs, which will leave us in a crisis of condemned schools if the problem isn’t fixed. And your secretive process on road projects – Nobscot Center, Union Avenue, and 126/135 – leaves neighbors in the dark.
You are a powerful symbol of diversity, equity and inclusion. But little progress has been made in our disability, lower-income, and immigrant communities to increase opportunity for youth, engagement by residents, or wealth creation for small businesses. In fact, your policies, budgets, and appointments have largely ignored these communities.
More and more people are upset with you for breaking these and other promises.
You need to hit the reset button (again) by admitting mistakes, seeking advice, collaborating with others, and honoring your promises. If the reset button is not for you, maybe it is time to hand that button over to the Council Chair.
During the Charter process, leaders from other communities that had recently become cities warned us of temporary hostility amongst families, friends and former political allies divided over the question of city verses town. Your campaign was savvy to exploit these divisions, but these divisions have now passed as they said it would. But some of your diehard supporters continue to fuel this fire by bullying and spewing negativity. Their negativity is causing people to check out of our community – figuratively, and literally. We are losing bright talent with good ideas because of this toxicity. We need leadership that rallies us around the things we share in common.
Not a week goes by that I do not receive a phone call from a Spicer voter, confused and upset, wondering how we can fix the current state of affairs. I always listen. But I tell them, and I say to you and to your hardcore supporters now: It is time to put Framingham first. This isn’t about me. It isn’t about you. It is about our community.
The people of Framingham have put their trust in us to create a Framingham that embodies our values, speaks to our dreams, and meets our needs. We need to demonstrate our belief in Framingham. Our small businesses want a government ready to help with recovery efforts. Our teachers, parents and students need to know the mayor not only has their backs, but will lead them forward. Our seniors deserve an advocate focused on keeping Framingham affordable.
Our vibrant immigrant communities deserve an ally.
I have given much of my adult life in service to Framingham. And I will continue to do so in whatever capacity I am in. I am not throwing in the towel.
You owe it to the people of Framingham to answer their questions, their concerns and to work on their behalf. There is much work to be done.
P.S. If anyone reading this wants to serve Framingham full-time, have a bold vision, thinks strategically, and is prepared to challenge the status quo, please give me a call.
John A. Stefanini ran for Mayor in 2017 and serves as the District 8 Councilor.