By Mary Kate Feeney
FRAMINGHAM – A few days before Christmas during the Great Recession in 2008, I answered a call from a senior citizen who called Governor Patrick’s Office in need of assistance. I was a member of the Constituent Services team at the time. He told me his hot water heater broke days before, and he could not afford a new one. He tried to fix it – he had been able to do those sorts of things in the past – but due to age, he resigned himself to the fact he was no longer capable of solving this problem. Finding himself at his wits end, he sheepishly called our office.
I listened to him talk about his wife, how he served our country in World War II, the holidays, the struggles of the recession and his embarrassment of asking for help. I immediately got to work with our housing partners to find a solution.
On Christmas Eve a new hot water heater was installed by a local non-profit. He called me later that day to thank me for this “Christmas Miracle.”
Every holiday season I think of him. Reflecting on that time, and similar situations from my work at the State House, always remind me of the importance of real collaboration and working towards making our community better for those around us.
At the core of these goals is a need to put aside personal grudges, fiefdoms, and negativity, and instead focus on the good and the work that is required.
For as long as I have been involved in Framingham politics, which admittedly is not long, I have watched the growing nastiness and cliques tear our city apart.
People making people into villains or criticizing them for who they associate with like they are hanging out with hardened criminals. Civic meetings turning into fights, instead of productive debates.
Ordinances regulating who can and cannot do something based on whether we like certain individuals. Snarky, nasty comments in online threads written with lack of care about the person on the other side of the screen.
New people wanting to get involved are scared away by the elitist questions and aggressive tactics of the establishment.
And we wonder why no one wants to get involved in our civic life.
These attitudes and behaviors have brought Framingham to a standstill. For four years we have made little progress on the issues important to residents, like expanding public health, economic development, affordability, and sustainability, because our leaders are caught in the web of negativity.
It is a mess. It is embarrassing. It is not productive.
We must do better.
Framingham is about to start a new chapter on January 1 with a new mayor, and new members of the Council and School Committee. Our new chapter has the potential to infuse our community with new ideas, new people, and hopefully a renewed belief in civility and progress.
Framingham’s attitude and tone need a makeover.
Those caught up in its toxicity are missing the point of serving the community. It is not about them. It is about something larger than each of us: it about a community ready to help the senior citizen with the broken hot water heater, advocate for early education for all 4-year-olds regardless of where they live, fix the safety of our streets, provide mental health care for those who need it and help the small business owner.
Pushing the cynicism and negativity aside creates space to build a Framingham of our hopes and dreams. We have a choice in 2022, Framingham, either we continue to stew where we are in the status quo of fighting or we truly turn the page, reach our hands out to one another, and work together for a brighter future.
It is our choice. Let’s make the best one.
Mary Kate Feeney, a resident of Pheasant Hill, is a former aide to Governor Deval L. Patrick and candidate for the District 3 Councilor in the Special January 11 Election. She can be reached at email@example.com.