By Mary Kate Feeney
FRAMINGHAM – As 2021 winds down, it is time for us to take stock on where we are as a city and refocus our goals for 2022.
The last two years have shown that Framingham’s traditional ways of operating no longer serve us as a community. Our elected officials are at a standstill. They are bogged down by fighting, lack of creativity and town meeting mindsets. As someone who has written many opinion pieces over the last four years, I am amazed by the little progress the city has made on many issues, like traffic and economic development.
Framingham can no longer slide by with simply being adequate. Nor can we no longer mistake endless talking about an issue as action. Moving forward requires us working together to build a Framingham we are proud of for everyone.
2022 presents us the opportunity to change course.
With a new administration comes, hopefully, new energy, ideas, and focus. It is with this renewed sense of optimism I present five resolutions I believe Framingham needs to embrace in 2022:
1.) Address Water & Sewer rates: The number one priority must be addressing the Water & Sewer crisis. If the city does not get a handle on this enterprise fund, none of these other resolutions will matter. No more can the Council rubber stamp a fund that clearly has major issues and not ask questions. The mayor cannot continue to ask for a bailout.
The Mayor must develop a clear and actionable long term strategic plan to solve the Water & Sewer problem. 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.
2.) Support Small Businesses & Downtown Framingham: 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. We have wasted four years by not growing our economic base. The Council was short sighted when they – including Vice Chair Steiner – voted to eliminate the Planning and Community Development Director’s position. Now no one is at the economic helm.
Time to put the campaign rhetoric aside and get serious:
1.) Hire an Economic Development Director who is ready to make innovative changes to the ways the city supports its businesses;
2.) The success of Downtown Framingham is a success for all of us. It is our most vibrant center of commerce with huge potential. Time to bring Downtown Framingham, Inc., the Framingham Business Association (disclosure: I am a member of the FBA executive board) and our Economic Development team together to collaboratively work on ways that’ll bring more people Downtown and support businesses by setting up pop up shops on the Downtown Common, and public music and art programs.
3.) Develop program and funding opportunities to support businesses growth, especially women and BIPOC owned local businesses.
3.) Expand Our Public and Mental Health: The effects of the pandemic will be with us for decades to come. Now is the time to invest in our health. 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, partner with agencies to create 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. Investing in our community’s wellbeing and health will only make us stronger.
4.) Tackle Traffic in Our Neighborhoods: Speeding and traffic are issues in every part of Framingham. I hear this everywhere. To tackle this problem fully fund the Traffic Commission, ensure the Commission is citizen driven and create a Traffic Department. Repair our sidewalks so that everyone can walk on them safely, and design streets to move people, not just cars. Invest in alternative forms of transportation, like trails. Bring residents and elected leaders together to draft a trails masterplan, and get to work on making the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail a reality.
5.) Reduce our Carbon Footprint by 2035: Framingham is behind other communities in our efforts to tackle climate change and become a more sustainable city. With a focus on reducing our carbon footprint by 2035, the city needs to develop a clear plan for installing solar panels, introducing more electric vehicles to the city fleet, and installing charging stations around the city. Create a swap shop at the Recycling Center and a community-wide composting program.
This is not a list of “need to’s” or “wants” but action items Framingham must embrace if we want to succeed in our post-pandemic recovery. If we do not seize this moment, I am afraid we will continue to lose out on reaching our potential.
But it is up to us. As the next District 3 Councilor, I’ll work with and keep city leaders accountable, and make progress on the issues important to you. But for me to do that, I need your help and your vote on Tuesday, January 11. We’re in this together.
Are you ready for 2022?
Mary Kate Feeney is a Framingham resident, a Democrat, and a candidate for District 3 City Councilor. The special election is on Tuesday, January 11.