Q&A With District 7 City Council Candidate: Magda Janus

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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.

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Magda Janus

Age: 57

Pronoun: she/her

Occupation: Currently working part-time as a PCA (Personal Care Assistant)

Years lived in Framingham: 28 (25 as a homeowner)

Family: husband David, son Zach & daughter Katy

Municipal experience: None. But I possess a strong desire and willingness to acquire all necessary skills as quickly as humanly possible. Good news: I have no bad habits to unlearn.

Do you speak another language? Yes, two. Polish and Russian. (My husband speaks Spanish.) 

Why should someone vote for you to represent them as a City Councilor in District 7?

I am persistent, inquisitive, eager to learn new skills, open to new ideas as well as new approaches to solving problems, and not a quitter. My personal experiences of learning a new language, adapting to a life in a new country, and acquiring a college education as an adult (Associate Degree in Dental Laboratory Technology and Bachelor Degree in Business Administration) have taught me to use common sense and not be bashful. I ask lots of questions and expect clear answers. If you vote for me I will be your voice at the table where decisions about Framingham’s future are made. I will represent you. I do not have a hidden agenda or a political angle. Just like you I am tired of others making decisions for me. I want to improve communication between our local government and residents of Framingham, make every process transparent, create a long-term attainable and sustainable economic development plan for what Framingham needs, wants, and hopes to have. 

Political Website or Facebook page link: https://www.facebook.com/magdaforsustainableframingham

Describe District 7 in 3 words: complex, challenging, fabulous

District 7 needs : Me, with a fresh outlook on old problems.

Framingham has (too few, just the right amount, or too many) apartments. Too many in one area. 

Do you support a split tax rate for businesses and homeowners? (yes or no) 

As a homeowner my answer is: “yes”. As a potential Councilor for D7: “We may have to work on this”.

Zoom Fatigued or Zoom Happy? Neutral.

Should City offices close early on Fridays? (yes or no) No.

Report Card time for the Mayor. What letter grade would you give her? “C” – average work, needs (lots of) improvement. 

Report Card time for the City Council. What letter grade would you give the current District 7 City Councilor? I did not have a direct interaction with Ms. Shepard. I do not feel qualified to grade her work.

City Council pay is too high, too low, or just right? Too low. 

The elected Mayor should attend every City Council meeting like she attends every School Committee meeting? (yes or no) Yes

Best run department in the City is City Clerk’s Office

My favorite place in District 7 is Butterworth Park

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)? Economic Development

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?

  1. Draft a proposal to install speed monitoring devices, as well as lower the speed limit to 25MPH along entire Grant St., and present it to the Traffic Commission. 
  2. Petition for additional stop signs to make all of the intersections 4 way stops. 
  3. Inquire about an increased law enforcement presence along the entire Grant St. 
  4. Improve the communication between DPW and FPD so both departments are aware of the same number of accidents that have occurred in the area. “… discrepancies between the Framingham Police Department’s records on accidents and the DPW’S data indicate opposite findings for whether cases of crashes are up or down. The police department’s crash count for 2021 so far is much higher than the DPW’s count.
  5. Follow up with the Traffic Commission to assure appropriate steps have been taken.
  6. I don’t know if I can personally make them feel safer, but I can definitely advocate to increase all possible safety measures in the area. 

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? 

District 7 businesses (especially in the Downtown area) are in need of more parking. In order to invite more customers to our downtown shopping district, the dilapidated and borderline frightening parking garage needs to be renovated. To increase the foot traffic adequate parking is a must. Personally I would love to see our old Danforth Museum building with its amazing architecture renovated and turned into a mini shopping mall, with lots of boutique-like one-of-a-kind shops and a few small coffee shops/bakeries. A place to hang out that would attract more visitors. But most importantly safety of all who visit the area should be a priority. Having a foot patrol in Downtown could possibly make it safer and more appealing to some businesses and their patrons. It might be cost prohibitive in the long-run but in my opinion it should be tried to see if it could improve the overall safety. I base some of my observations an the information provided by Mr. Theodorakos in this article

QUESTION #3: Do you support a plan to build a justice center in downtown Framingham? Why or Why not?

I feel that this question is a double-edge-sword. On one hand, having the building occupied and potentially bringing customers to the Downtown businesses would be beneficial. On the other hand, it will not be directly contributing to the City’s tax revenue, and could possibly make the area less attractive for visitors and customers. Would it create additional traffic and could it function well without an additional off-site parking garage? I feel it is impossible to answer this question without additional and crucial big-picture information. I am at this point undecided on this issue. 

QUESTION #4: Do you support the proposed medical overlay zoning district? Why or why not?

Just like with the above question, I do not have enough information about how this would affect tax revenue for the City, especially long term. I looked for this information on Framingham’s website and watched the Planning and Zoning Committee meeting but the subject of tax revenue never came up. Wanting to have all medical services in one area is a convenience matter, not a necessity. I suspect that the City of Framingham will have many empty or under-occupied office buildings that could easily be used as medical facilities with minimal adjustments. In addition to potential long-term loss of tax revenue I have concerns with additional traffic and a lack of sufficient parking in the already overcrowded District. Without more information about this proposal I cannot at this time take a stand whether to support it or not. 

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?

I think our Downtown has always been in need of revitalization. The architecturally beautiful and abandoned Framingham Savings Bank building and the majestic, but in  desperate need of renovation, old Danforth Museum building, both should be preserved and utilized so they can bring much needed tax revenue. The dilapidated parking garage that I would not want to enter alone, needs a new owner and an overhaul. Our Downtown has a lot of potential but it lacks long-term planning and vision. If elected I would work in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office and the Framingham Business Association to create a sustainable and attainable plan to invite more customers to our District. 

QUESTION #6: The outgoing CFO said she left the City of Framingham fiscally sound. Do you agree? Why or why not? 

In order for anything to be considered financially-sound it needs to exhibit strength in three financial areas: stability, security, and progress toward a goal. Since our City currently has no specific long-term plan it cannot truly show progress toward a goal. Considering what has transpired during the pandemic with the city’s water and sewer account and how quickly all the savings were used up, and additional deficit was created, I can safely say there is no stability and security. Furthermore, the pandemic is not entirely over and its long-term financial implications are unknown due to the fact that the businesses community may shrink and City’s tax revenue may never be as it was in previous years, so to say City of Framingham is fiscally sound is somewhat wishful thinking. If I were in charge of the City’s budget, I would continuously monitor revenue and expenditures while actively looking for efficiencies and streamlining all departments. I would not want to find myself, and the entire City of Framingham, in another financial “oops”.

QUESTION 7: What is the #1 issue in District 7? Why does it exist? What 3 steps would you take to resolve it?

Framingham became a city about 4 years ago, and since then it has been growing rapidly. Our housing units number has significantly increased, our traffic is that of a large city without the streets that can accommodate the ever growing number of vehicles, and we foresee the need for an additional elementary school (on the South side of the City) to accommodate the growing number of school-age children. The list goes on. District 7 is directly affected by every one of those issues. There are other projects coming to D7: potential Juvenile Justice Center (at old Danforth Museum building), a change in zoning on Franklin and Lincoln Streets to help build a strong medical center with every imaginable ancillary facility from cancer treatments to mental health support. A noble idea and a great plan for the future, but … can the area directly adjacent to our already crowded Downtown take any more traffic? Those who travel Concord St, which transverses the entire D7 and is a major road (used by those who travel Mass Pike and then go to Ashland and Hopkinton) are stuck in slow moving traffic from 3-8 PM Monday -Friday. I suspect that some travelers who use apps to help them get home faster cut through side streets and cross Grant Street (to avoid Downtown traffic) and possibly contribute to out of control accidents happening along Grant St at its every single intersection. I do not have proof of this, but since FPD and DPW have no idea why the numbers of accidents are higher there than anywhere else in the City, I would like to study data to have a better sense of why Grant Street is an accident magnet.

Is this a #1 issue in D7? Possibly. It is definitely one of the top 3.

What 3 steps would I take to resolve it? 

  1. Get access to data from accidents.
  2. Study it and draw a conclusion based on facts.
  3. If the conclusion provided a workable fix to the problem I would contact appropriate departments with the findings and a viable solution.

QUESTION #8: Do you support the 10 cent bag fee that was created by the City of Framingham? Why or why not?

After the ordinance was implemented I have written an opinion piece (which was published in SOURCE) and I still stand by it.

 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 do not believe that we need more ordinances, at least not now. What District 7 and our entire City needs is the enforcement and monitoring of already existing ordinances and laws. For example, we need to have more police presence to enforce traffic laws, to cut down on speeding, running red lights, and driving while holding a cell phone in one’s hand. This alone would increase safety citywide. Creating and passing more ordinances without having a strong system in place to monitor and enforce any of them is counterproductive in my opinion. So maybe if I were to create a new ordinance it would be to ensure we have a proper enforcement and monitoring system, as well as a penalty for non-compliance, attached to every ordinance from now on.

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 wish there was an easy answer to this question. One would hope that all involved were mature, responsible adults focused on a task at hand, with a desire to get the job done as quickly and effectively as possible. Not always the case from what I have seen. If I were allowed to set some of the rules, I would set the expectations for everyone and everything. Time limits, deadlines, responsibilities, and consequences for not following those. Whoever did not play nice and did not get work done during the last meeting has to bring awesome snacks to the next meeting. (Just kidding.) But my all time favorite rule would be being open about everything. People who work together do not have to like each other at all times. They may even disagree on everything. But they should be honest. They should be respectful. They should be focused on the task in front of them. Hidden agendas, unresolved personal issues, personal dislikes, all those get in a way of getting anything done. This type of behaviour might have been acceptable in middle school or even high school setting, but in a world of adults, playing games is not only childish, it is disrespectful to everyone directly and indirectly involved. So if I do get an opportunity to be included in the City Council, you may hear me say: “Play nice, or there won’t be any cake for you at the end of this meeting!”. But seriously, if one cannot behave in a way that fosters cooperation and collaboration then one should look for another line of work. 

QUESTION #11: Which vote by the City Council, between January 2018 and July 2021, do you disagree with? and why?

I am not sure if there is any particular vote I disagree strongly with. I mostly have a problem with the approach to many issues that are brought to the City Council to evaluate and vote on. There appears to be as many views as there are councilors and most do not try to look for unintended consequences in any of the proposals. I would like to see more of a ‘pros and cons’ approach to evaluating the proposals. Too often votes are made in a vacuum without taking into account how the ordinance will affect all areas of our lives in Framingham: the economy, the environment, and the residents. It has to work for all 3 components to be long-term sustainable. 

QUESTION #12: The Mayor presents a proposal to the City Council. If elected, how would you evaluate whether or not the project is worthy of your vote? Be specific. 

  1. Read the proposal. Ask follow up questions. Look for unintended consequences. 
  2. Understand its impact on our entire community, economy of Framingham and its budget, and the environment.
  3. Discuss it with D7 constituents, get other City Councilors perspective, then make up my mind how to vote.

editor

email: editor@FraminghamSource.com call or text at 508-315-7176


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