Town of Framingham votes to become city

[Allie Gath]

By a margin of 105 votes, Framingham residents voted in support of making the town of Framingham a city.

The vote occurred on April 4.

According to The MetroWest Daily News, 5,684 people voted in support of the change, while 5,579 voted against it.

A recount is scheduled, and if the results are confirmed, Framingham will begin the process of restructuring its governmental body.   

As explained in the summary of the new home rule charter, an elected four-year mayor and an 11-member Council made up of individuals from Framingham’s nine districts will replace the Town’s Board of Selectmen. Additionally, Representative Town Meetings will be replaced by City Council meetings, which must be held at least once per month.

President F. Javier Cevallos said, in the short term, nothing should change for students or the University’s relationship with Framingham’s government officials.

He said, however, once Framingham’s new governmental structure is established, the University could potentially streamline its interactions with the city when it comes to reviewing new University projects, such as renovating town buildings and obtaining new permits.

“The decisions that the city will make will be much faster than the decisions currently made by the town,” he said. “When you have to go to a town meeting, there are so many interests and different people in the room. That makes the conversation very complicated.”

Cevallos said he voted yes on the new charter.

“I think running a town hall meeting for 70,000 people is very complicated, and it slows it down a lot,” he said.

When speaking to his colleagues in the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce, he said one of the biggest complaints they have is “it takes forever to get things through in Framingham.”

He added, “I think Framingham can benefit from having a streamlined process, and that’s why I was in favor of it.”     

Dale Hamel, executive vice president, said the changes in Framingham’s government will have no financial impact on Framingham State. The changes should, however, make interactions with Framingham government officials more “efficient” and “effective.”

He added, “In the past, we would go to committees and have an opportunity to go into detail” about projects. “We’ll go into all these planning and finance meetings, and you have a long time to explain the project, and then it goes to the town meeting where people haven’t heard those discussions. Despite the fact that these committees get the details, the discussion starts again.”

Chair of Framingham’s Board of Selectmen Cheryl Tully Stoll said within the next 30 days, the Board will put into place a seven-member transition team to ensure Framingham’s current bylaws are implemented into the new charter.

In November, residents will vote for a mayor and city council members. They will be officially sworn in in January 2018, she said.

Tully Stoll said she doesn’t think Framingham’s relationship with FSU will change “at all.

“We have a very good relationship at the University,” she said. “Javier and Dale have been wonderful working with the community, and I don’t see that changing at all. The University is a valued partner of the town of Framingham.”

The average Framingham resident “shouldn’t see any changes” in the short term. However, she said it is hard to tell what the long-term effects will be, since Framingham has yet to vote in a mayor and city council.

Tully Stoll said she thinks residents voted in support of the government restructuring because “the town meeting has become very cumbersome.

“The world is moving much faster now,” she said. “We are living with the internet … and to have to wait to call a town meeting, to have all that notice, and then the process itself is taking a great deal of time and we are not getting the number of town members we need to fill the seats.”

According to Framingham.com, there are 216 elected Town Meeting Member positions. The town votes in 12 members from each of Framingham’s 18 precincts.

She added, “Change is always difficult. Human beings are naturally averse to change. For the voters of Framingham to come out and make a change, and such a substantial change, they clearly are looking for something.”

Framingham resident and history professor Joseph Adelman voted in support of the new home rule charter since a city form of government seems to make more sense for Framingham’s large population and size, he said.

Adelman said he hopes this change will allow for “a more consistent meeting structure” and a “city council that meets on a monthly basis or on a more regular basis.”

Taking into account early American history, Adelman noted that most town hall meetings in Boston and surrounding Massachusetts towns during the 1700s “were premised on the idea of a relevantly homogeneous population.

“They were all English. They all worshipped the same way. And they almost all were engaged in farming,” he said. “So, the town meeting in the 17th and 18th century was an opportunity for – especially in rural places like Framingham – the heads of household, the men of the town, to come together and make collaborative decisions about the town.”

Adelman said while the town hall meeting form of government still works in a lot of places in New England, Framingham is no longer “a homogeneous population of landowning farmers anymore.

“We’re a pretty heterogeneous population with a wide variety of interests and backgrounds and problems … that need to be addressed,” he said.

He added the 11-member council composed of individuals from Framingham’s nine districts will be more representative of Framingham than its current government.

Framingham resident and food and nutrition professor Susan Massad said she voted against the passing of the charter because she believes “it gives too much power to the people with business interest in this town.”

Massad, who is a former elected Framingham town meeting member, said although she believes town hall meetings are often inefficient – a result of Framingham’s size – she finds the town hall form of government to be much “more democratic.

“You have town meeting members from different precincts representing the town, so it’s much more participatory,” she said. “You have different neighbors being represented by elected town meeting members.”

Massad said although she wasn’t “100 percent against Framingham becoming a city,” she was reluctant to vote in support of the charter as she didn’t trust the Charter Commission that wrote it because it was made up “of people who have personal business interests.”   

She added, “I feel like that would then mean the decision making and the power would only be in the hands of a few people who don’t really have the best interest of the population here.”

Junior Raysam Donkoh-Halm said, “As I can tell, there were benefits for both being a city and a town, but I really haven’t informed myself since the decision has been made. … Although I’m going to be a senior, I’m curious how this will affect life on campus next semester.”

Junior Tyler Cashin said, “I think it’s good for the school. [It] might get some more business around it.”

Samantha Chandler, a junior, said, “I think that it may attract more students to come here, mostly because I think going to a university in the city is more appealing.”

Senior Kevin Krause said more people will probably be attracted to live in Framingham because it will seem like “a more metropolitan Boston area.”

    

  

  

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