Editor’s Note: candidates were asked to submit a photo or SOURCE would choose one. Councilor Cannon sent a photo of him reading to students pre-pandemic.
Which pronoun do you prefer? he/him/his
Occupation: Business owner
First elected to the City Council in: 2017, taking office on January 1st, 2018
Political Website or Facebook page link: https://www.facebook.com/MikeForFramingham
Describe the City of Framingham in 3 words: Vibrant, Inclusive, Robust
Best thing about District 4 is: Our people
District 4 needs Improved access to our limited open space. District 4 has the least amount of public open space of any District in Framingham. We need to improve access to Simpson Park and explore opportunities for pocket parks, etc.
Report Card time. What letter grade would you give the Mayor? Two years ago I said “incomplete;” but as the term concludes, I believe she has earned a D+.
Should the Mayor be required to attend every City Council meeting? (yes or no) No.
Report Card time: What letter grade would you give the City Council this second term? C.
Zoom happy or Zoom fatigued? I’m very happy to resume in-person meetings!
Participation in government by the City’s 70,000-plus residents is fabulous, adequate, or lacking (pick one)? Lacking
Framingham City of Framingham did an (amazing, adequate, or poor job) (pick one) when it came to the Coronavirus pandemic Adequate
Should City of Framingham municipal employees be required to get a COVID vaccine? (yes or no)No. While vaccination is strongly encouraged, elected officials shouldn’t override a doctor/patient relationship.
City of Framingham is on (the right track, spinning its wheels, going backwards)(pick one): Going backwards.
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!
Do you support the proposed justice center for the former Danforth 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 Our residents are ahead of the curve; our municipal government is woefully behind.
Framingham’s Zoning Laws are (awesome, adequate, needs fixed) In need of improvement.
Framingham Public Schools Receive (too little, just the right amount, or too much) funding. Just the right amount
What City Council subcommittee do you wish to serve on? I believe I’ve been effective as Chair of the Economic Development Subcommittee and Vice Chair of the Finance Subcommittee. While I’d like to continue there, I’m a team player, and will gladly work wherever the team feels I am most valuable.
The #1 issue I hear from residents in my district about is Neighborhood quality-of-life issues like traffic/speeding and noise
QUESTION #1: In your opinion, what is the biggest issue facing YOUR District? What have you done during this term to work to eliminate the issue?
This is a great question, and I wish the answer were as concise. The reality facing us however, is that every major issue impacting Framingham, touches District 4. From traffic and roadway safety; to caring for our seniors; to supporting our veterans; to education; to housing and development concerns; to open space and sustainability; to matters supporting our small businesses and economic development; to myriad financial issues (including the impact of skyrocketing water bills on our residents). The list is even longer and to continue making progress, we need meaningful collaboration between all stakeholders.
I’m selfishly saddened by the impending departure of Rep. Maria Duaime Robinson, as she has been an outstanding partner for me, my District 4 counterpart on the School Committee, Chairman Adam Freudberg, and our entire district. However, while we all work well together and with the public, none of us have had meaningful collaboration from the Mayor, which has hampered our efforts and the success of the District.
I’m hopeful that beginning in January, we will have that critical missing piece and together we can work to tackle these complicated issues for District 4. We have scratched the surface over the last four years, but our brightest days lie ahead.
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 solid B+. It’s a strong committee with an important mission. I remain concerned that we haven’t provided them with the tools they need to be most effective.
QUESTION #3: Businesses are still trying to recover from the pandemic. What can the City Council do to help them? Be specific.
Early in the pandemic I worked with four of my Council colleagues to urge the Mayor to take specific actions to help our local restaurants. We specifically asked the Mayor to utilize her emergency executive powers to adjust licensing terms to expand outdoor dining and pouring; we asked that enforcement of the sign bylaw be temporarily suspended to allow restaurants greater flexibility; we asked the Mayor to work swiftly with the Traffic Commission and DPW to adjust local parking regulations to assist restaurants in patrons; and finally we asked that wherever possible, the Mayor work to expedite municipal processes and waive fees to our small business community. While the Mayor didn’t cooperate as much or as quickly as we had hoped, some progress was made. The Council also worked with our Licensing Commission to waive or reduce fees for our restaurants, against the wishes of the Mayor. I was very proud of the Commission’s leadership and community stewardship during that process. The Council is currently working on long-term outdoor dining regulations.
However, over the last four years, we’ve made little progress in making Framingham a less cost-prohibitive place to operate a business. This has been exacerbated by the Mayor’s mismanagement of the Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund and increased spending. There is no recipe for making Framingham more business-friendly that does not include a reduction in municipal spending. Now, more than ever, we need a transparent, accessible budget process that will protect essential services and be free of fluff and waste. Otherwise, we will continue to see commercial parcels become apartments or tax-free non-profit entities, placing a further tax burden on our residents.
I will continue to advocate for all Framingham taxpayers and continue my work with the business community as we strive to make Framingham an easier place for businesses to succeed. A growing and thriving small business community increases the vibrancy of our neighborhoods and improves the vitality of our entire community. This must be a key priority of our local government in the years to come.
QUESTION #4: Which vote by the City Council, in this last term, has made a difference in Framingham? Why?
As we have with each of the Mayor’s budget submissions, the City Council once again made cuts to the Mayor’s proposed spending increases, saving taxpayers significant dollars. There is much more work to be done to control our spending and make Framingham a more affordable place to live. The final budget must be developed in concert with the public, not behind closed doors by insiders, only to be revealed on the last day allowed by law. It’s important to note that had the Mayor’s budget proposals moved forward as presented, the average Framingham residential taxpayer would have seen an annual increase of around $500 for each of the last four years; and that doesn’t even include water rate increases.
QUESTION #5: What ordinance would you file between 2022 and 2024 to improve your district (or city-wide)? Why?
I work extensively with Framingham’s older adults and our community of persons with disabilities. When I began hearing from residents looking for ways for a caregiver to live on-premise, or to help mom/dad “age in place” with dignified independence, or to provide greater autonomy to an adult child with a disability, I proposed re-examining in-law apartments (or “accessory dwelling units”) in Framingham during my first term. This continues to be a growing need in every community. I’ve appeared before the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals, and of course, the City Council, asking for their collective guidance and expertise, along with that of municipal staff; as the goal is to provide flexibility to families, but also protect our neighborhoods from illegal apartments. The concept has been overwhelmingly supported. I wasn’t successful the first time around, but I’m confident we can craft the right ordinance that provides freedom and flexibility for our families while protecting our neighborhoods from illegal apartments.
Framingham Source published a great article on the need recently, which can be read at https://framinghamsource.com/index.php/2021/09/05/framingham-families-at-the-center-of-the-in-law-apartment-debate/
QUESTION #6: The water & sewer enterprise fund is hemorrhaging money according to an independent consultant’s report. What legislation or step would you put forth to get that fund on firmer financial footing?
Although the City Council has successfully saved taxpayers substantial sums by cutting Mayoral budget proposals, much more work remains. There is no recipe for improving our financial footing that doesn’t include reigning in municipal spending. Our budget process must be truly transparent, accessible, and accountable; rather than the process of the last four years, where decisions were made behind closed doors with little input from the public before finally being revealed on the last day allowed by law. We have an incredible amount of work to do in the years ahead. I’m hopeful that beginning in January, there will be a concerted team effort to truly examine all municipal spending and eliminate financial waste.
While the Council has had limited success with this over the last four years, we haven’t had the cooperation of the Mayor. I’m hopeful that a new Mayor will lead a responsible budget process that both reflects our values, our priorities, and our realistic financial capacity. The final Board of Selectmen left us with a massive surplus in the water and sewer enterprise fund. The Mayor’s actions have transformed that surplus into a catastrophic deficit, only to be further compounded by Covid; this will hit the wallets of our residents and businesses in a very significant way. As everything seems to be getting more expensive, we must ensure that tax bills focus on essential services and are free of fluff. Now isn’t the time for taxpayers to bankroll networking events for elected officials, for example. Our Charter made several recommendations which would help bring further efficiency to our government. I’m hopeful that a new Mayor will finally take action on this low-hanging fruit.
QUESTION #7: What is your #1 priority on how to spend the ARPA funds? Why?
I’m open-minded, but I’m hopeful that the funds will be invested in projects identified by the community. These are not decisions that should be made by insiders behind closed doors. Technically, the City Council has no official role in determining how those dollars are spent; this is solely within the powers of the Mayor. These are once-in-a-lifetime funds which other communities are using for transformational projects; this is what we should be doing. It would be a shame if the Mayor did little more than to once again bail out her mismanagement of the water and sewer enterprise fund.
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?
While Framingham remains a very safe place to live, work, and raise a family, I’m deeply troubled by what appears to be an increase in the severity of crime throughout our community. Issues with stolen cars and automotive break-ins are plaguing the entire region.
The issues in greater Burkis Square continue unresolved. The administration needs to improve the dialogue between the City’s leadership and the many human services agencies that serve our community. I’m seeing considerable improvement under Police Chief Baker, but the Mayor needs to take an active role.
QUESTION #9: The City Council voted in June to eliminate the salary of the head of the Community, Planning, & Economic Development Department. Many of the City Councilors said the department had lost its focus and drive. What can you do as a City Councilor to help that department thrive?
There is nothing but opportunity here. As for the past, I can’t blame the department or the former director, as I truly believe the Mayor never provided meaningful goals or measurable objectives; and simply never put forth a serious effort herself to build relationships and understand the challenges of our local business community. I can’t remember the last time a member of the administration attended a monthly meeting of the Framingham Business Association. I always leave those gatherings having learned something and with a homework assignment or two. We can’t succeed if we’re not putting in the effort.
Even during COVID, based on the comments of the administration during Economic Development Subcommittee meetings, the outreach to local businesses was nearly non-existent; consisting almost exclusively of email blasts by an outside consultant. When there is talk about having “a seat at the table,” we need our local businesses to be included. Without a thriving business community, we will face serious difficulty in supporting our schools and our portfolio of public services. Most of the economic development successes I’ve been a part of began with listening.
QUESTION #10: Ever since the City vote in 2017, politics in Framingham has been very divisive. What can you do in your next term to curtail the negativity, increase collaboration, and bring new voices into government?
I work with all members of our District, not just the ones who voted for or against changing Framingham’s form of government. I truly don’t see that divisiveness when working with residents and local bossiness. Where I sometimes see that negativity is among elected officials. This has to stop. Personal feelings and agendas must be set aside. Everyone must accept and embrace that good ideas and creative solutions can come from everywhere; even those with whom we typically disagree.
QUESTION #11: The City Council is responsible for approving the budget that is submitted by the mayor. Which city department is underfunded in your opinion? Why?
Our Council on Aging and the Callahan Center. I am always impressed by how they take a dime and stretch it into a dollar, but we need to fund them appropriately.
QUESTION #12: What is YOUR biggest accomplishments during this term?
I’m proud to have been a small part of many successes since taking office. Those successes begin and end with teamwork and meaningful collaboration.
From working with our seniors to protect the Callahan Senior Center when it was under threat by a Mayor with a different plan; to working with FPS and Keefe Tech and bringing Daniel’s Table into our schools; to reducing municipal red tape for our local businesses; to taking on apartment developers seeking tax breaks; to standing up to the Mayor on irresponsible budget requests (the latter has saved the average residential taxpayer thousands of dollars).
When a dense multi-unit housing project was announced for Central Street, which would have crammed more than 70 units on a parcel currently holding fewer than 10, we brought neighborhoods together to stand up to the developers and make sure that our voices were heard by the relevant City boards and committees. Together we protected that neighborhood from over-development.
When the Mayor wanted to sell City-owned land on Old Connecticut Path (with no input from neighbors) to a party who had built on it illegally, we worked with neighbors and the Council to put a stop to the Mayor’s plan, and crafted a solution to restore the land to its original condition.
I’ve been privileged to be a small part of a lot of successes, but there is so much more to be done. While the Mayor hasn’t had an effective working relationship with the City Council, the School Committee, the State Legislative Delegation, or the public, I’ve managed to work with all key stakeholders to get things done for our District. I’m hopeful that in 2022 we’ll have a Mayor who values collaboration and team work. There is so much we can do, and so much more if we truly do it together.
QUESTION 13: What 3 things do you want to accomplish in your next term?
I’m truly humbled that District 4 has placed their trust in me for a third term. The last four years have been profoundly rewarding to me, and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve Framingham. While I’m hopeful we will celebrate meaningful achievements in many areas of our municipal government, if I had to highlight three:
We need to increase the resources we provide our Council on Aging and the Callahan Center. They do amazing work for the fastest-growing segment of our population. We should strongly consider making the Council on Aging/Elder Affairs/Callahan Center its own stand-alone division, rather than a department within Parks & Rec. Our seniors need to be in the foreground of our municipal dialogue.
We need to regain our financial strength. Despite some very misleading campaign materials saying otherwise, we are actually in a very precarious place financially. If we control our municipal spending, (basing our budget on needs and not wants); clean up the aftermath of the water/sewer enterprise fund mismanagement, and finally take action on the charter recommendations designed to bring further efficiency to our government, we’ll be in a much stronger and sustainable financial position. We will finally be able to make Framingham a more affordable place to live or operate a business.
Finally, the Mayor’s actions toward our community of persons with disabilities have been truly shameful. We must do better, immediately. I’m hopeful that with a collaborative Mayor, a committed Council, and a strong partnership with our Disability Commission, we can finally craft and execute a plan toward ADA compliance and better accessibility for everyone in Framingham.