Editor’s Note: SOURCE Media emailed all 4 candidates who will appear on the September 14 ballot and gave all four candidates the same amount of time to complete the Q&A below. Three of the four candidates returned the Q&A by the deadline. One did not respond.
The two candidates with the most votes will move on to the November 2 ballot. The winner on November 2 will be elected for a 2-year term as City Councilor in District 7 to replace Councilor Margareth Shepard, who chose not to seek a third term.
Occupation: Co-Founder and Executive Director, Beantown Jewish Gardens; Owner and
Artist B.B.batiks; Gardener, Rehl Gardens
Years lived in Framingham: 4
Municipal experience: Member, Agricultural Advisory Committee
Do you speak another language? Hebrew
Why should someone vote for you to represent them as a City Councilor in District 7?
I believe that civic engagement strengthens our community. An energetic and purposeful innovator, I have the leadership experience to encourage communal engagement and thriving communities. I am sensitive to the social and economic diversity of our district and it is my goal to establish robust lines of communication between our local government, residents and business owners.
Political Website or Facebook page link: https://www.facebook.com/Leora-for-City-Council-
Describe District 7 in 3 words: walkable, diverse, fabulous
District 7 needs: Me!
Framingham has (too few, just the right amount, or too many) apartments. A need for affordable housing.
Do you support a split tax rate for businesses and homeowners? Yes
Zoom Fatiqued or Zoom Happy? Pro Municipal Meeting Accessibility via Zoom
Should City offices close early on Fridays? (yes or no) To be determined by the ability of the City to provide services to residents.
Report Card time for the Mayor. What letter grade would you give her?
C. As an educator, I’ve never liked letter grades – there’s no opportunity to reflect on strengths and areas for growth.
Report Card time for the City Council. What letter grade would you give the current District 7 City Councilor?
A-. As an educator, I’ve never liked letter grades – there’s no opportunity to reflect on strengths and areas for growth.
City Council pay is too high, too low, or just right? I support their recent budget decision to maintain their current pay rate of $5,000/year while making many cuts.
The elected Mayor should attend every City Council meeting like she attends every School Committee meeting? (yes or no) The Mayor, or a representative of the office, should attend all City Council meetings.
Best run department in the City is: The yard waste facility and recycling drop-off center, run by Department of Public Works, are great community assets!
My favorite place in District 7 is: Jack’s Abby with a (seasonal) Cranberry Berliner and Truffle Mushroom Pizza.
If elected, which one City Council subcommittee would you wish to serve on (you may be appointed to more than one but which one would be your priority)?
Environment and Sustainability, Public Health, Safety & Transportation, Planning & Zoning
QUESTION #1: Residents in the Grant Street neighborhood have been complaining for years about speeders and crashes. The problem has only gotten worse in 2021. What specific steps would you take to alleviate residents’ fear of a daily crash in their neighborhood? How would you make them feel safer?
Many residents along Grant Street and Bishop Street have spoken to me about the speeding and traffic accidents along these roads, as well as the overweight trucks. As a homeowner one house away from Grant St, I regularly hear it from my windows as well. I applaud the efforts of Grant Street residents who have organized around this issue and brought it forward time and again over the years. The current curb extension work happening along Grant street is consistent with the City’s traffic calming policies as one potential step towards a solution, although initial accounts indicate it is not yet having a calming effect to reduce accidents. It is movement.
As a Councilor, I will continue to work with the Traffic Commission asking for traffic calming solutions for Grant Street, and our entire neighborhood. Continuing the work of our current Councilor, I will work with residents to voice their concerns to the appropriate boards and commissions, and advocate tirelessly on their behalf. Further, I will communicate with residents as to the process and progress, and next steps we can take together.
Engagement in the City’s current transportation master plan process provides opportunity for District 7 concerns to be heard beyond our neighborhood echo chamber. Further, I encourage District 7 residents to consider applying to fill the current vacancy on the traffic commission. As more District 7 residents engage in our city government, our neighborhood issues will gain prominence in city wide decision making and priorities.
QUESTION #2: How will you support businesses in District 7, if you are elected a city councilor? How will you support economic development in the City?
As the main economic driver of District 7 is the downtown district, see question #5 response.
QUESTION #3: Do you support a plan to build a justice center in downtown Framingham? Why or Why not?
I support the idea of developing the Danforth Building as a Regional Justice Center or District
Courthouse. In coordination with Statewide needs, and with Senate President Karen Spilka as an advocate, I look forward to reviewing a detailed proposal for the currently vacant site. Having worked as a Case Manager for Court Diversion in Vermont, I recognize the complexities of a coordinated regional approach in justice work.
On a local level, the development in downtown Framingham would increase visitors to the area and be a welcome addition to support our surrounding local businesses and economy. It must be done in coordination with parking solutions and traffic flow considerations.
QUESTION #4: Do you support the proposed medical overlay zoning district? Why or why not?
The proposed medical overlay zoning district appears to achieve the city council goal for maintaining life sciences, medical offices or health care purposes in the area, without restricting the pool of potential bidders for the property at 61 Lincoln Street, which the City is looking to sell. I think this is a reasonable goal. Although I do not share the sense that it is necessary given the surroundings and proximity to the hospital, I would support the proposed zoning overlay based on the desire of the City Council and the findings of the City Solicitor.
QUESTION #5: Before the pandemic would you describe downtown as thriving or in need of
revitalization? As everyone is trying to recover from COVID-19, what does downtown Framingham need? What is the #1 issue facing downtown and how would you address it as a City Councilor?
Consistent with my desire to learn and collaborate with those around me, I have reached out to District 8 Councilor John Stefanini (whose District also encompasses part of the downtown), as well as Anthony Lucivero, new Executive Director of Downtown Framingham, Inc., in order to hear more about initiatives that have been successful in the past, and what they see as needs moving forward. I have also approached the majority of the downtown businesses to hear from them what they want from the city, what we are doing well and what we can improve. A majority of the business owners do not live in our district, and many do not live in Framingham, although their needs as owners are needs of our district. I appreciate that our downtown businesses are largely locally (regionally) owned, and not multi-national corporations.
I chose to live in Framingham as I was looking to live walkably convenient to a commuter rail location and local businesses. I engaged with DFI to learn more about the history of the area, and current initiatives to support and entice businesses. Their organizing work over the years has been a tremendous asset to our community. I applaud the suspension of regulations during the pandemic of requirements that have allowed for sidewalk and outdoor seating areas, as well as dedicated parking areas for pickup.
The variety of businesses in downtown creates a complex set of issues and concerns, from traffic to language. What our downtown district needs is for people to work together to continue to stabilize and grow the economic engine of this central business district. It is full of potential and I look forward to working alongside leadership from neighboring Districts, the City administration, boards and commissions, as well as local community partners in this area to develop a well-rounded, balanced approach to growth and address issues of concern.
QUESTION #6: The outgoing CFO said she left the City of Framingham fiscally sound. Do you agree? Why or why not?
Framingham has suffered during the pandemic, as have all municipalities. Watching the recent City Council budget conversations left me concerned about the numbers, and also about the process. As somebody who started my own organization, keeping both a short term and long term perspective on fiscal considerations is important, and appears to have been a challenge. As we emerge from the COVID pandemic, and the building moratorium, it will require all our city agencies, staff and leadership to work together to develop fiscally sound operating efficiencies moving forward.
QUESTION 7: What is the #1 issue in District 7? Why does it exist? What 3 steps would you take to resolve it?
District 7 has played a special role in our community’s development. Previous generations of Italian immigrants were able to build full lives here through home ownership and community networks. Today, new generations of immigrants are enriching our neighborhoods and continuing this tradition. In order for our City government to adequately and effectively support neighborhood residents, we must be connecting with them and hearing their concerns. We must be a welcoming city, if not in policy then in practice, to business owners, residents and those who frequent our amenities.
As small as District 7 is geographically, it is also diverse. Residents by Learned Pond Beach are rightly concerned about how the area is used. Unfortunately, this spring we saw another drowning death. From my conversations, I understand the issues in that area require coordination between three city departments- Public Works, Police Department, and Parks and Recreation. These are ongoing issues and conversations, which the pandemic has made more challenging to resolve. Residents along Grant and Bishop streets are concerned about traffic and the regular accidents they see and hear. Our downtown businesses are concerned about safety, accessibility, and the economics of staying in business. Butterworth Park is a neighborhood gem with ongoing conversations about facilities and use.
It’s not possible for me to pinpoint one issue as primary. As somebody who has built an organization, holds multiple jobs, and volunteers with a variety of organizations in the community, I am able to move forward numerous issues simultaneously. I have been known to be relentless in my advocacy efforts.
QUESTION #8: Do you support the 10 cents bag fee that was created by the City of Framingham? Why or why not?
The “plastic single-use checkout bag reduction ordinance” was created to eliminate the use of plastic single-use checkout bags and encourage the use of reusable bags. The intent of the fee on distribution of plastic single-use bags creates a financial inconvenience and thus further incentivizes people to bring their own bags. I fully support the intent and regulations of this ordinance, passed in January 2018, amended in November 2019 and whose full implementation was delayed until July 2021. The monies collected are retained by the stores, in an effort to not place additional burden on them, which is especially important for our small business owners. Any fines levied against business for non-compliance are paid to the city.
Coming into effect on the heels of over a year of disturbances of life amidst a pandemic made education about the rollout that much more important. That has been lacking, from the administration, city council, Environmental Taskforce, and various advocacy groups that proposed and lobbied for the ordinance originally. We must do better in our coordinated efforts.
I find the concerns about hardship endured by low income shoppers to be both valid and well-intended, although I question if these calls are based on attempts to alleviate personal inconvenience (with a touch of classism), or grounded in reality. As a long time environmental activist and advocate, a member of The Sudbury Valley Trustees, Native Plant Trust, and Stearns Farm CSA, I care deeply about the stewardship of our local natural spaces and planet Earth. Plastic bags pollute not only our road sides and storm drainage systems, but also our solid
waste collection and recycling facilities. We must take collective action to reduce their production as a single use item.
QUESTION #9: The City Council is the legislative branch of government. It creates laws and rules for the City (known as ordinances). What ordinance would you file to improve your district (or city-wide) if elected? Why?
I intend to continue to learn the issues before filing any ordinances. The power of the City Council as a unit is the variety of perspectives and skills that it encompasses. I intend to represent our district within the balance of the group.
QUESTION #10: The City’s executive branch (the Mayor & the COO) and the City’s legislative branch (City Council) have hardly worked cooperatively or collaboratively during this term. What could you do to help the two main branches of government work better for its residents? Be specific.
I bring a strengths based, forward focused approach to my work, and will bring that to my roll on the City Council. It’s time for the city council to focus on what it can do, not what it is unable to do. Since the tension that exists comes from two parties, it will require both sides to engage in a more productive working relationship. Enough with the blame game. The City government must be more responsive and transparent in its interactions with the City Council, and with residents. The process of transitioning from a town to a city has been rocky. I question if expectations of a quick and smooth process were realistic, and part of the hostility. We are in this for the long haul. It is not possible to set up all systems simultaneously. While the charter has provided guidance, prioritization and efficiency is required. The City administration must do a better job of communicating how and why it is moving forward the way it is.
I would like to see less demanding and condemning from the City Councilors in their interactions with the city employees and each other. In my years of group facilitation work, I often emphasize the way that people interact is as important as the content of what is expressed. As adults, I expect them to control their language and their tone. Both parties might benefit from some study of the new civics curriculum that Framingham Public Schools has rolled out with their 8th and 11th grade students this past year, in coordination with the
State Standards in Social Studies and Civics. Our next generation of leaders is watching and learning and I look forward to engaging them in the democratic process moving forward.
QUESTION #11: Which vote by the City Council, between January 2018 and July 2021, do you disagree with? and why?
Editor’s Note: The candidate chose not to answer the question.
QUESTION #12: The Mayor presents a proposal to City Council. If elected, how would you evaluate whether or not the project is worthy of your vote? Be specific.
Prior to the City Council meeting, I would take the initiative and research the issue, learning the
background and reviewing past discussions on the topic. As a new councilor, I would reach out to City employees, local experts and residents, and/or community members at large, as appropriate. As I am establishing relationships and setting up systems of communication, I would utilize them in my outreach and research efforts. I intend to hold regular community conversation opportunities, in multiple languages. In my canvassing, I have met many former town meeting members and know that our District 7 is rich in opinions, experiences and expertise. I intend to hear from a diverse array of voices in consideration of whether a project is worthy of an “aye” or “nay” vote.