Q&A With District 3 City Council Candidate Mary Kate Feeney

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Mary Kate Feeney


Which pronoun do you prefer? She/her

Occupation: self employed small business owner

Why should voters elected you for District 3 City Councilor: Framingham is my home. My love of Framingham is why I moved back after college and started my business here. It is why I volunteer to make it a better city for everyone.

We deserve a city government that embraces the values, energy, and talent of its community.
Instead, Framingham’s government is stuck in the past with little creative, forward thinking,
while drowning in needless petty arguments. It has lost its focus on what is important: You, its
residents.

As Framingham emerges in this post-pandemic recovery, we need leaders who know the
challenges we face as a community can be addressed by empowering our people, thinking
creatively and taking action.

What the pandemic has also shown is that Framingham’s traditional ways of operating no
longer serve us as a community. Framingham needs a new generation of councilors who are
ready to be innovative and take action to make our city a better community for everyone and
stop kicking the can down the road. This is why I am running for District 3 Councilor.

I am a resident of Pheasant Hill, small business owner, former public servant and pragmatic
progressive. I have spent my life in service of others, first by working for Governor Deval Patrick and more recently as a voice for change on topics such as our increasing problems with traffic, public transportation, sustainability and growing our economy.

As someone who is not a former town meeting member or a longtime member of Framingham’s politics, I bring a fresh perspective to the Council.

As District 3 Councilor, I will be your strongest advocate. You will have my energy, my passion,
my skills. I believe in Framingham and our collective future. In two years, we’re going to reflect
on what we have accomplished and refocus on the next challenges. We won’t be simply talking
about the same issues over and over again and acting like we did something.

Political Website or Facebook page link to find more information: 
www.feeneyforframingham.com
www.facebook.com/feeneyforframingham


Describe the City of Framingham in 3 words: Emerging Creative Community

Best thing about District 3 is Callahan State Park

District 3 needs safer streets.

Report Card time. What letter grade would you give the Mayor? D

Should the Mayor be required to attend every City Council meeting? (yes or no) Yes

Report Card time: What letter grade would you give the City Council this second term? C

Participation in government by the City’s 70,000-plus residents is fabulous, adequate, or
lacking (pick one)? Lacking

City of Framingham did an (amazing, adequate, or poor job) (pick one) when it came to the
Coronavirus pandemic: poor job

Should City of Framingham municipal employees be required to get a COVID vaccine? (yes or
no) Yes

City of Framingham is on (the right track, spinning its wheels, going backwards) (pick one):
Spinning its wheels


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

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

Should there be designated parking spaces for customers at the Memorial Building? (yes or
no) Yes

City of Framingham is (ahead of the curve, making progress, or behind its neighboring
communities) when it comes to environmental issues: Behind its neighboring communities

Framingham Public Schools receive (too little, just the right amount, or too much) funding. 
Too little


Rep. Jack Patrick Lewis says the proposed legislative redistricting plan which carves up the
City into four districts is “best” for the City of Framingham. Do you agree? (yes or no) No.

Do you support in-law apartments in the City of Framingham? (yes or no) Yes.

source

Route 9 is (past its prime, surviving, booming center of commerce) in Framingham (pick one)
Surviving

What City Council subcommittee do you wish to serve on ? Environmental and Economic
Development

The #1 issue I hear from residents in my district about is speeding and traffic.


QUESTION #1: In your opinion, what is the biggest issue facing YOUR District? What will you do – specific steps – to fix the issue?


I have walked through every neighborhood in D3, knocked on doors and listened to residents.
From Millwood Street to Belknap Road to Pleasant Street to Waveney Road, speeding is an
issue.

Three years ago, I wrote an op-ed encouraging the city to develop a Vision Zero plan, an
international transportation initiative embraced by Boston, Cambridge and Somerville aimed at
reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries from traffic crashes to zero. Part of the plan
was to reduce the default communitywide speed limit on local roads to 25 mph. This was
eventually adopted by the city, but it is not enough to lower the speed limit. More needs to be
done.

Here is what I pledge to do as a Councilor to address speeding in our neighborhoods:

  • Work with residents and the Traffic Commission to find solutions that will make our
    streets safer. That means I will stay on an issue until there is a resolution, speak up at
    meetings and be in constant communication with you as we work on the
    neighborhood’s concerns.
  • Champion fully funding the Traffic Commission and ensuring that the Commission is
    citizen driven, instead of driving citizens away.
  • Advocate for the creation of a Traffic Department, which was a recommendation in the
    Charter.
  • Fight for repairing our sidewalks so that everyone can use them safely and that they
    comply with the American with Disabilities Act.
  • Encourage our city planners to think about designing our streets to move people, not
    just cars. Not making this a priority is a reason why we did not get a right hand turn in
    Nobscot. It is time to stop kicking the can down the road. At some point that can is going to get run over.

QUESTION #2: Speeding and traffic are top issues for residents. What letter grade would you give the Traffic Commission? How would you make sure residents’ traffic and safety concerns are heard and resolved by the Traffic Commission?


I would give the Traffic Commission a C+; but I believe our elected leaders have not given them
the support the Commission requires. The Traffic Commission has been underfunded and has
had four chairs since its establishment.

The lack of funding is leaving residents frustrated. They go to the Traffic Commission to plead
their case and are often left disappointed. I went in front of the Commission in November 2019
asking for feedback signs on Waveney Road. I never heard another word.

I will push for fully funding the Traffic Commission. Requesting $200,000 for the work they
need to do, and only receiving barely a quarter of that request in the final budget is outrageous.

On the state level, Senate President Spilka inserted the following into the Transportation
Investment Act (Chapter 383 of 2021): “… provided further, that not less than $400,000 shall be
allocated to the Framingham Traffic Commission for downtown traffic studies in the city of
Framingham; provided further, that not less than $100,000 be expended for the purchase of
radar speed signs in the city of Framingham …”

$100,000 for feedback signs would make a huge difference in many neighborhoods. Yet, where
is this money?

A Councilor is an advocate for their district. When a neighborhood has a concern to raise with
the Traffic Commission, I am going to be right there with them ensuring their concerns are
heard and that we are working towards a resolution. Each neighborhood deserves their
Councilor to be in the trenches with them.

QUESTION #3: Businesses are still trying to recover from the pandemic. Explain how you would support businesses as they try to not only survive but thrive in Framingham. Be specific


For too long Framingham has been viewed as unfriendly for business. I am a small business
owner and a member of the Framingham Business Association (FBA) and know well about the
struggles of our small business owners. The pandemic affects everyone, especially our local
small businesses. Our economic development efforts are a mess – and now is the time to
review our efforts, seek new ideas on attracting new businesses, and finally become a serious
contender in MetroWest.


The next mayor must make economic development a focus and hire an economic development
director who is an engaging, out of the box thinker, in tune with the actual, every day needs of
businesses, and most of all, someone who is ready to roll up their sleeves and hit the ground
running.


As a Councilor, I am prepared to work with them and help bring our business community
together through my connections with the FBA. The success of Downtown Framingham is a success for all of us. It is our most vibrant center of commerce with huge potential. I’ll work to bring Downtown Framingham, Inc., the FBA and our Economic Development team together to collaboratively work on ways to bring more people Downtown and support businesses by setting up pop up shops on the Downtown Common, and public music and art programs. I love what Ashland has done with the Corner Spot. Imagine what we could do with the Downtown Common? Saturday morning yoga classes are a great example of the possibilities.

The pandemic has changed everything. Framingham cannot afford to sit on the sidelines as
other communities adapt to help their local businesses with updated permitting, support and
resources.

QUESTION #4: Which vote did the D3 City Councilor take this term that you would have voted differently on and why?


The issues around traffic and transportation are critical everywhere in Framingham. At the
beginning of 2020, it seemed like there was a horrible car accident every week, especially in
South Framingham.

On March 4, 2020, on the Council agenda was a proposal to send Mayor Spicer a letter
requesting her to provide an additional appropriation of $150,000 to the Traffic Commission. In
their FY20 budget request, the Commission requested $200,000 yet the Mayor’s budget
earmarked $25,000.

Councilor Steiner made a motion to table the request, ultimately shutting down public
comment before the public had a chance to speak. When asked by the Chair if he would
withdraw his motion to allow the public to comment, Councilor Steiner shrugged his shoulders
and said no.

The motion was tabled. And residents were left frustrated.

While to some a letter to the mayor may be a “meaningless symbolic political gesture”, it is one
tool our Councilors have to be on the record and to advocate for their residents. It shows their
values and highlights what is important. And if the Mayor does not do something about that
issue, the Councilor can refer back to the letter when asking for a progress report.

Public comment may make some elected officials uncomfortable. But it is a critical part of civic
life and needs to be encouraged. Councilors work for the public. Shutting off comment before
the public is heard sends a signal their thoughts or concerns are not wanted. We should expect
more from our Councilors.

As Councilor, I will encourage public input on all matters – I already put my cell phone number
(508-733-3153) and my email (mkfeeney@gmail.com) on all my materials – and ensure we have the resources needed to tackle traffic issues. I will use every avenue at my disposal to get that accomplished.

QUESTION #5: 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?


Having spent much of the last four months listening to D3 residents, I have quite the list of
things to tackle. But one of the first ordinances I will submit will outline the establishment of a
swap shop at the Recycling Center. Other towns, like Wellesley, have set up this program at
their Recycling Centers to encourage people to reuse items, instead of throwing them away.
Our environmental community has hosted Repair Days in the past, and this would be another
way to carry that mission out into the wider community.

Next, if the Bike, Walking and Sidewalk Committee does not pass this session, I will refile it in
January. That committee will be critical to assisting the city with planning and designing our
trails network and the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail.

QUESTION #6: The water & sewer enterprise fund is hemorrhaging money according to an
independent consultant’s report. What legislation or steps would you put forth to get that
fund on firmer financial footing?


The water and sewer enterprise fund is of great concern. The Council rubber stamped year
after year a fund that clearly had major issues. The city burnt through $18 million, and
Councilors barely asked questions or requested analysis or a solution to the problem, besides
fixing it with financial Band-Aids. The dire situation we find ourselves in will affect our schools,
our services, and our community for years to come.

Yet, I have not seen any solution or plan from either party to fix the problem – just more talk
about increasing rates. I will not support any increases in water and sewer rates until there is a
clear and actionable long term strategic plan to solve the problem and get us out of this
mess. The long term strategic plan must include a discussion with the MWRA, cuts to the
enterprise fund, restructuring of rate tiers and a clear projection of rates for residents and
businesses.

There is no excuse for further delaying this problem. It is only going to get worse.


QUESTION #7: What is your #1 priority on how to spend the ARPA funds? Why?

Looking at other communities, they are using their ARPA funds to build parks, community
centers, fix infrastructure issues. They see this money for what it is: one time cash infusion to
make things on their wish list possible.

As the Vice Chair of the Strategic Initiatives and Financial Oversight Committee, I have been
very involved with ensuring that Framingham spends ARPA funds in a transparent manner that
includes public input. We have held two summits that have brought the Mayor, Council and
School Committee together to discuss how to best use these funds.

My number one priority for these funds is to channel them into improving our infrastructure.
School roofs need to repaired and crumbling sidewalks that are not American With Disabilities
Act compliant need to be addressed. They are not simply safety issues, but every kid deserves
to be in a secure school and every person should be able to use our sidewalks.


QUESTION #8: Do you think the City of Framingham is safe? Why or why not? How will you
work with the Mayor and the police department to make sure Framingham all residents enjoy a good quality of life?


Overall, I do believe Framingham is a safe community. But I am concerned by the increase of
crime in various pockets around the city. Downtown Framingham continues have issues, and
many residents believe it is unsafe to visit. This has been discussed for years, but Framingham
should adopt a program similar to the Chelsea HUB program. This program will bring the FPD,
social services, city leadership, business owners together to help individuals Downtown who
need assistance. Mayor Spicer brought a similar group together a few years ago, and there was
temporary success. Unfortunately, it appears to be a one and done moment.

Additionally, Framingham is a pioneering community with Advocates with the Pre-Arrest Co-
Response Program, which brings mental health professionals and law enforcement together to
work on appropriate responses to the needs of individuals in the community who are in crisis. It is important part of our public safety outreach, and as a Councilor, I would ensure that program has any city resources it requires.

QUESTION #9: The City Council is responsible for approving the budget that is submitted by
the Mayor. Which city department is underfunded in your opinion? Why?


The effects of the pandemic will be with us for decades to come. Now is the time to invest in
our public health. I support expanding our Department of Public Health by adding nurses to
help with community health needs, like vaccines, and to ensure our DPH store front keeps more regular hours. Additionally, I will support new mental health programs and assistance in our schools and community, and age-friendly community initiatives for seniors, including
supporting additional resources for the Council on Aging.

QUESTION #10: What do you think is the biggest accomplishment of the D3 City Councilor this term? What 3 things do you want to accomplish if elected?

Our Youth Council was one of the first new committees established in our very early days as a
city. Councilor Steiner was the first advisor of the Youth Council. The voices of our young people are so important to our civic conversation, and it has been wonderful to learn about the kids who have stepped up to make Framingham a better place for everyone. Councilor Steiner was there to give them support as they created this new entity and gave them the space to debate, create and act on issues that were important to them.

The three things I want to accomplish if elected:

  • Establishing the Trails Committee and developing the trails masterplan
  • etting up a Swap shop at the Recycling Center
  • Making Downtown Framingham a must go destination in MetroWest. Collaborate with councilors on diversity of businesses, create Hub group, and bring more public art Downtown

QUESTION #11: There is a lot of open space still in District 3. What will you do as a City Councilor to preserve over space and make sure the district is not overdeveloped?


District 3 is one of the largest districts based on landmass due to all the open space, including
Callahan State Park. One of the great things about Framingham is the diversity of landscape,
and D3 has some of those farms, parks and open space we cherish as a community.

As Councilor, it is important to keep an eye on potential zoning changes to make sure if
anything is proposed that it makes sense for D3, and the wider community. But most of all I
would work with the Sudbury Valley Trustees, our Community Preservation Committee and
other land trust non-profits on identifying land that could be preserved. I would also like to see
an expansion of Callahan State Park.


QUESTION #12:  The outgoing CFO said she left the City of Framingham fiscally sound. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Framingham’s budget is bloated, with many line items carried over from our Town Meeting
days. No one, since we have become a city, has rethought the budget, or restructured it in a
way that keeps people in mind.

Our budget should reflect our values. Well, I am confused by what our values are looking at our
budget. Finance Chair Steiner has advocated many times for money to be kept in the budget fortrips and conferences, and memberships for the Mayor’s Office, even during a pandemic while other Mayors around Massachusetts cut those from their budget.

Last year leaf collection was reduced to one day, instead of several days throughout the fall.
This year they added an extra day, and acted like it was a treat for residents. I do not consider it
a treat. It is a service the city should be offering citizens. Treating it like it is something special is
an insult to our residents.

The pandemic has shown us that Framingham’s traditional ways of operating no longer serve us as a community. As we embark on our post-pandemic recovery, Framingham needs a new
generation of councilors who are ready to be innovative and take action to make our city a
better community for everyone, not the select few.

As Councilor I am going to look at the budget very closely, push the mayor to engage the
Council and residents more into the budget process, restructure the budget to focus on
residents, including investments into programs and initiatives that will help us grow stronger,
and keep Framingham affordable. This can be done. We do not need to keep the status quo.

QUESTION #13: City Councilors must work collaboratively to get legislation passed and to
make changes for the better of the City. Give an example of how you would work with a current Councilor to make change in the city (Pick either the at large Councilors not up for re-election or any of the four Councilors unopposed for re-election.)


While District 3 does not include Nobscot, many residents of the district shop, eat and travel in
Nobscot. I would work with Councilor Long to ensure the redevelopment of Nobscot is transparent and accomplished. Not having Councilors in tune with the plans of the reconstruction of Nobscot Center is why we won’t have a right hand turn from Edgell to Water.
It is why we were all taken by surprise with no Minute Clinic at the CVS.

For Nobscot to be successful, we need to know what is going on! Councilors need to keep their
eyes on this project, ask questions and then communicate with residents on the status. Many
people I have spoken to have no idea what is going on with the plaza. It is the role of the
Councilor to communicate. I would team up with Councilor Long to get that done.


QUESTION #14: The Mayor and the City Council had a rocky relationship during the Council’s
first term. The relationship got worse during the second term. Describe how you will work with the elected mayor if elected City Councilor. What are the keys to a good relationship between the executive and legislative branches of government? What will you do to build that relationship?

As District 3 Councilor, I am committed to bringing people together to get things done and not
hold up progress due to personality conflicts. My former boss, Governor Patrick, would always
tell us to never present a problem without a solution. This is my mantra. I never come to the
table unprepared for collaboration and creative thinking.

At the recent candidate’s debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the
Framingham Patch, Councilor Steiner spoke about his friendship with Mayor Spicer and how he
wished he “had done a better job helping her navigate better ways to connect with the
Council.”

I am glad he can admit his friendship with the Mayor clouded his work on the Council. It did not make Mayor Spicer a better Mayor, our Council more productive nor did it make Framingham a better city.

He and the Mayor’s supporters on the Council could’ve used their relationships to bring actual
change and collaboration, instead of operating in a vacuum and not holding themselves
accountable to the people of Framingham.

This is why I am running for District 3 Councilor. I will be there for you and will work for the
future of our city. The time for talking and talking is over. The time for rubber stamping what
isn’t working is over. I will ask the tough questions, regardless of friendships, and make
decisions based on what I think is best for the district and for Framingham. But you will never
find me engaging in petty arguments or grandstanding for the cameras.


I have a proven record of working with everyone in business, in my volunteer work and in my
activist work, to make the place we call home a better place for everyone. That won’t change
upon being sworn in as District 3 Councilor. My hand is always extended to my neighbors and
my colleagues to bring out the best of Framingham.

QUESTION #15: The Tech Park is in your district? What is your vision for that area? What will
you do as a City Councilor to help support that vision and economic development in that
sector?


As a resident of Pheasant Hill, I live about 3 minutes from the Tech Park and 9/90. It is a
fabulous location for business and technology right off the Pike and Route 9.


Last year we had a vice president from Sanofi present to me and my fellow members of the
Strategic Initiatives and Financial Oversight Committee. It was very informative, especially to
hear how things are changing due to the pandemic. Because of their location “over there” on
the edge of the city, there is a bit of disconnect between the Tech Park and the rest of the city.

As the Councilor for that area, I will work to bring these business leaders, the Chamber of
Commerce, the Mayor and other city leaders together

editor

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