(Editor’s note: Since there is no primary for District 2 City Council or School Committee, I sent District-focused questionnaires to candidates for Mayor and At-Large City Council. King will be listed as George P. King, Jr. on the primary ballot.)
Why are you running for a City Council seat?
I ran for the Charter Commission because I believed we needed a change in our legislative branch of government in Framingham. Town Meeting had many dedicated members, but I believe as an institution it had become ineffective.
I welcome the chance to help transition our Town to a new legislative branch. I believe I have the experience, commitment and ability to help transition Framingham’s legislative function in an efficient and effective manner. Being a member of the initial city council will offer me the opportunity to meet this goal.
What would you like to tell voters about your qualifications?
I have many years of experience with administering government functions at widely different levels over multiple communities. My experience ranges from being an elected library and cemetery trustee, to Town Clerk and for seven years as Town Manager in Framingham. In addition to my experience in Framingham, I have experience as the Assistant Superintendent of a regional school district for over a decade. My experience in education allowed me to work with and observe town governments in locations other than Framingham.
I believe my professional knowledge of how a government functions, combined with my passion and love for Framingham, make me well qualified to help at the outset of our new government.
What if any are your plans to keep in touch with residents – to seek their input and communicate your votes and other activities?
I would likely continue to communicate in the manner I have tried to run my campaign. I would have a strong and interactive online presence. I welcome hearing from people with their thoughts and ideas. I like to write, so I will continue blogging about issues I think are critical to our town. In addition, I would always be available to meet with residents one on one or in a group.
District 2 has two long-vacant or near-vacant commercial areas: Nobscot Plaza and the old Saxonville Lumber. What do you think should be done about these properties?
Revitalizing our neighborhood centers are among the most challenging problems we face as a community. There is no doubt economic development opportunities are quite different in 2017 as opposed to 20-30 years ago. Retail in particular is a sector that struggles in the broader economy and the subject properties are impacted by that reality.
We have to figure a solution for Nobscot that will allow for economic viability, while at the same time meet the consensus of the neighborhood. I understand the fear of additional apartments, yet I also know residential use may be at least a part of the new economic reality. Nobscot is compounded by the lease arrangement in place with the current owner. Clearly his motivation for improvement is not as strong as would be desired. I am hopeful, even confident, with strong leadership in a city form or government we can strike the balance necessary to get this project advanced with some consensus.
Town officials have rightly complained about vacant properties in town. However, the town itself has left the old McAuliffe branch library building sitting vacant for almost a year and a half. What should be done with this building?
I cannot pinpoint a town need for the building, as I am not aware of the specific municipal needs today. However, I believe the City government must resolve this issue as one of the first orders of business. The City should not allow the building to sit vacant for any longer furthering the challenges of underutilized property and their neighborhood impacts.
There have been a number of complaints about the traffic lights installed to support expected development at the old Saxonville Lumber. Do you have any comments about this?
As a motorist utilizing the intersection, I have noticed that there are some difficult traffic movements at certain times. I am not an expert and cannot comment specifically on what improvements may be made.
What I am pleased about is that this issue (traffic in general) was a focal point of the Charter Commission. The new charter contains a traffic commission that is charged to build a traffic department that will coordinate all of these issues in one spot going forward. One function will be to allow residents to bring very specific concerns forward knowing precisely what entity is responsible and authorized to take action. Clearly, every traffic problem can’t be solved to everyone’s satisfaction, as there are many different perspectives. However, it will be an important step forward to coordinating our approach.
What are your opinions regarding Friends of Saxonville’s proposals to redesign McGrath Square? Renovate the Athenaeum?
I am not familiar with all the details, but whenever there is an activist neighborhood group involved with finding solutions it is a great start. The new City government is structured to value neighborhood input and consultation. The school committee and much of the city council are comprised of district representatives. This will make government much more accessible to neighborhood groups promoting neighborhood issues.
Do you have any thoughts to share about how to balance desire for more development with strains on transit infrastructure? The competing needs of vehicular traffic, bicyclists, and pedestrians?
Traffic is bad in Framingham for many reasons. We have many concurrent construction projects that perhaps we could manage a bit better. There are more cars per household than ever before, with little change in capacity of our roadways. Business expansion is also a contributing factor.
Referring to the traffic commission that I mentioned earlier, it is a good start to a comprehensive approach to traffic and roadway management. We certainly do not want to be in a place where it takes 30 minutes to drive across the City, and sometimes we are. We are poised to make a difference with our new approach.
How can Framingham best balance the need to serve less fortunate members of our community with the need for a viable tax base?
I am deeply concerned about the tax rate in Framingham. Framingham’s single tax rate of over $21.00 per thousand is one of the highest in the Commonwealth. The impact is muted a bit by the shift to the commercial sector, which essentially has commercial taxpayers absorbing a larger portion of the tax levy than their assessment would yield. Although this is an advantage to the homeowner it does mask the concern of the rising tax rates.
Although the Town has had a couple of recent years where it did not tax to the limits of Proposition 2½, I still think there was opportunity missed to further stabilize the tax rate. Although that window may be closing a bit, I believe our new form of government can achieve efficiencies that will produce some stabilization of the tax rate while preserving current services.
The property tax levels, combined with the rapidly escalating water and sewer rates, threaten Framingham’s affordability to many. I am committed to fighting to keep Framingham affordable, through efficient and effective administration of Framingham’s government.
If elected, how do you plan to help Framingham transition from a town to a city?
There is no question the transition will be challenging; as it is a major change in the way we do business. People will be doing things for the first time in new positions, on new timelines. I believe that my extensive experience in municipal government, both in Framingham and elsewhere, will allow me to help make this process as transparent and seamless as possible.
What’s the best way for voters to find out more about your candidacy? (Web site, Facebook page, etc.)
I have an online presence both on Facebook and the web. My website is www.georgekingframingham.com. I have many entries on the site regarding my thoughts about Framingham government and operations. I can be reached via email at email@example.com. My twitter account is @georgepkingjr. I welcome feedback through any of these channels.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell the voters of District 2?
Simply I would deeply appreciate one of their two votes for councilor at large. I believe I have the experience and passion for the task of helping us begin a new chapter in municipal government. I look forward to the opportunity to continuing to serve Framingham.