(The following article is the opinion of John Stefanini, Framingham District 8 City Councilor and resident).
Our neighborhoods need a voice!
Our neighbors and neighborhoods, places of worship and activities, small businesses and schools, connect us together like a jigsaw puzzle. Our respect for our human differences is our foundation, but it is the activities, associations and places that connectus that make Framingham special. In this time of quarantine, national conflict and ugly discourse we need to remind ourselves that the things that bind us are so much stronger than those things that divide us.
From Nobscot to Coburnville, Saxonville to Pheasant Hill, Lokerville to Tripoli, each neighborhood has its own identity and history. Together, these diverse neighborhoods are pieces of our community fabric, and woven together by our common values. We need to assist each in strengthening the bonds of its neighbors, defining its unique identity, and building a sense of community.
Now more than ever we need to harness our neighbors' expertise, experience and energy to give our neighborhoods a louder voice.
Our neighbors -- former Town Meeting Members and community activists, newcomers and townies -- remain eager to work with our Council, boards and committees, and the mayor to ensure that residents' voices are heard and guarantee each neighborhood retains their unique characteristics and vitality.
Newton, Boston and other cities have effectively harnessed this by creating Neighborhood Advisory Groups (NAGs). These groups would work to preserve and promote neighborhoods, essential to a healthy, vibrant, and thriving community.
In Framingham, NAGs would:
- Represent neighborhood interests with municipal boards
- Evaluate impacts of and propose mitigation for local development projects
- Propose beautification, signage and capital projects
- Secure support and funding for annual block party, cleanup days, and crime watch
- Get advance notification of municipal-related public works or utility projects
- Evaluate municipal services
- Suggest sustainability strategies
- Access and disseminate information through city lists and website
- Establish permit parking
These groups of active neighbors would be self-selecting. Duly organized neighborhood associations would be able to petition the city for formal recognition.
The mayor would annually assess our strengths and challenges neighborhood by neighborhood and make recommendations to the Council for positive changes to our bylaws and municipal practices to create a neighborhood blueprint for Framingham. It will serve as our road map for promoting, preserving and protecting our neighborhoods. I will work with the mayor and Councilors to adopt such an ordinance.
It is in our neighborhoods where our history unfolded. In Salem End Road, those fleeing the witch trials in the 17th century found refuge, and Harmony Grove helped spawn the powerful Massachusetts Abolitionist movement. Our manufacturing neighborhoods, like Saxonville and Lokerville, helped give rise to the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, and each of our neighborhoods contributed native sons and daughters to the Greatest Generation of heroes who won World War II. In the latter half of the 20th century, neighborhoods led the way in the creation of modern commercial venues like Shoppers World and raised space age national heroes like Christa McAuliffe. These people and events have helped shape us as a community for more than 300 years.
Well organized neighborhood groups like Friends of Saxonville, have demonstrated great success in interacting with local and state government. In Coburnville and Tripoli, we have recently formed such a group and already see better communication amongst neighbors, timely action from city decision makers, and a stronger sense of community. With support, our neighborhoods will connect newcomers and townies to bring the Framingham renaissance that we desire.
Framingham is a great community with the people and ability to become even better. We need to work together, neighborhood by neighborhood, in an open, public and participatory process to create a neighborhood blueprint for Framingham that embodies our values, speaks to our dreams and meets our needs. Believe in Framingham.
Our neighborhoods are essential to a healthy, vibrant and thriving Framingham.
John Stefanini lives on Bethany Rd. in the Coburnville neighborhood with his wife and daughter and serves as the District Framingham City Councilor.