Q&A: At-Large City Council Candidate Cheryl Tully Stoll

Why are you running for a City Council seat?

I am running so that I can continue my work for the people of Framingham. I’ve just completed my first term on the Board of Selectmen, and am now in my second year as Chairman and there are things I would like to see through to completion. We’ve been a wonderful town and if we all work together we will be a great city.

Some of the issues I am concerned about include:

  • Unsustainable municipal spending rates. We need to work smarter; increasing taxes is not the solution. Our current spending levels are completely unsustainable and we are taxing our senior citizens out of town. They helped make this community great and deserve to age in-place.

  • Retaining quality schools and working with our new school administration and soon-to-be elected school committee to assure this happens. We are finally on the right path and we need to make sure that appropriate resources are dedicated to the success of all of our students.

  • Supporting responsible commercial and economic development such as the Lifetime Fitness facility and the TIF we gave to the Jack’s Abbey Brewery that has resulted in them expanding in downtown Framingham, opening a new restaurant here and opening an entirely new brewery and tasting room. Both of these projects are examples of neighborhood-friendly development.

  • Preserving open space

  • Continuing downtown revitalization

  • Mitigating our traffic and speeding issues

  • Limiting the use of apartments to strategic purposes only

I also believe that it is important to have some people on the Council who are currently involved in day-to-day town issues so that we can give residents and business owners the smoothest transition possible.

The other reason I am running is because this election is important. We will select the people who will determine how city government will work in Framingham for decades to come. Voters this fall will determine whether our new government will work for all of us, or for just a few.

The folks elected will decide which traditions to keep, new ones to be established and how the public is treated. They will determine the access the public will have to speak at meetings and whether or not we will be allowed to participate in discussions, or just sit in the audience watching others decide matters that directly affect them without their input.

Will we choose people who welcome public input into the governing of our own city or will we elect people who won’t?

What type of access will citizens have to petition their own government? Will there be multiple hurdles to jump through? Or will it be a simple participatory process where everyone has a voice?

As a Candidate for City Council At Large, I pledge to continue to work in the same collaborative and inclusive way that I have as a member of the Board of Selectmen for the past three plus years. My professional and civic experience shows me that we make better decisions when we work together. I believe public input is the only way to make decisions that actually represent the sentiments of that public.

Additionally, when I look at applicants for appointments, I don’t apply a loyalty test or a litmus test. All I ask is that the individual be the best qualified for the position, treat people with respect, and listen to differing viewpoints. Framingham is a diverse community with multiple viewpoints and I believe that the composition of our government should reflect that fact if it is truly going to represent our people.

What would you like to tell voters about your qualifications?

I am a graduate of the Framingham Public Schools; hold a B.A. in Economics from Framingham State University and an M.B.A. from Bentley University.

I have over 30 years of cross-industry and executive-level management experience including global responsibility in multi-national publicly traded companies as well as venture funded businesses.

I started my service to Framingham when I was 16 years old working on a drug education program and was also the first Chairman of the Framingham Youth Advisory Board. Since that time I have continued to work for the town and our residents in various capacities including nine years on the MetroWest Health Foundation’s Framingham Grants Panel, the Framingham Public Schools Health Advisory Committee, the Resiliency for Life Advisory Board, The Childhood Obesity Task Force, Founding Treasurer of the Framingham Public Access Corporation as well as multiple other Boards and service organizations.

Currently I’m serving my second term as Chairman of the Framingham Board of Selectmen and I sit on the MWRTA Advisory Board representing Framingham.

Including our water and sewer enterprise funds Framingham is a half a billion dollar corporation. We need to apply best practices, both business and municipal to our operations. I have the professional education, talent and experience to continue doing this for Framingham under our new form of government.

What if any are your plans to keep in touch with residents – to seek their input and communicate your votes and other activities?

As a member of the Board of Selectmen I have seen to it that my cell phone and email address are publicly available in multiple places on-line and elsewhere. As residents will attest, I personally return every phone call, email and Facebook message I receive. I also follow through on those communications and fulfill the promises I make.

Additionally, I attend as many public events and neighborhood meetings as possible so that I am readily accessible to the people I represent and have a first-hand understanding of the concerns of different neighborhoods.

Moving forward as a City with Districts, I would like to partner with other representatives from the nine districts, including School Committee members to hold regular “town meetings” to update people on city business and seek their input regarding issues and learn about their ideas and concerns regarding matters affecting our community. I don’t believe that we can effectively represent people without listening to them.

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?

Both of these situations are very frustrating. Large supermarket chains have locked up these properties with very lucrative long-term leases. The economy has also structurally changed and we have a 20% office vacancy rate in MetroWest and bricks and mortar stores are closing faster than new ones are opening. Independent restaurants are struggling despite a healthy economy; and most sit-down restaurant chains require a particular traffic dynamic that neither of these locations provides.

Unless the individual property owners voluntarily do something, there is nothing we can force them to do. Eminent domain is not a tool that would work here—it would tie us up in court for years, cost a fortune and still not get things redeveloped.

I had asked Town Counsel to investigate whether federal anti-trust laws would apply to the real estate lockups. That is something we should continue to look at. However, that to will take years to resolve.

That said, the most blighted and biggest neighborhood detraction affecting the District is the Nobscot Shopping Plaza. I grew up hanging out there. We shopped at The Big D, rode our bikes to Cobbs and Liggett Rexall and watched them press shirts at Nobscot Cleaners. I opened my first bank account at Framingham Savings Bank the day I made my First Communion at St. Jeremiah’s. It breaks my heart to see what has become of the plaza.

I do favor the much talked-about Village concept for both Nobscot and Saxonville. I want to see more walkability, bike-friendly roads, pleasing aesthetics and the resulting vibrancy that both neighborhoods deserve.

We need to keep the plaza owner and the neighbors engaged in reaching a mutually agreeable solution while the economy remains healthy. Once the economy enters its next cyclical downturn, even current options may no longer be viable.

What’s most important that whatever the solution that’s decided upon is, it should add to the vibrancy of the neighborhood and not detract.

Framingham is currently in the process of redesigning the Nobscot intersection, and that work should not impact development options of the plaza, but will help traffic flow in the neighborhood.

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?

The McAuliffe branch library building is not vacant. It has been housing the workshop for the town building and grounds department since they were forced to relocate from the Danforth Building downtown. This property should be included in a comprehensive assessment and plan for city-owned real estate. I would be more than open to learning about viable ideas for other uses.

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?

It’s unfortunate that time and money went into a project that clearly is not giving neighbors the desired results. I would support hiring a different engineering firm with a fresh viewpoint to do an evaluation of the situation to see how it can be remedied.

The solution may involve more than just that intersection, if the traffic is being fed to that vital spot in increments that don’t allow for single point control, we will need to consider a more regional approach. We will only be able to determine that with a fresh set of eyes.

The Traffic Commission briefly mentioned in the Charter will take too long to get established and set their mission and establish how they will operate to remedy this immediately. I would prefer to utilize our current methods and bring in a new traffic consultant to address this issue. We have a traffic study due to be completed before the end of the year. That data may be helpful in finding a resolution for this issue.

What are your opinions regarding Friends of Saxonville’s proposals to redesign McGrath Square? Renovate the Athenaeum?

McGrath Square Redesign: McGrath Square is the heart of Saxonville. It has been 50 years since real energy has been put into improving it. This area has the potential to be a lovely village center, but it also needs to be able to facilitate large amounts of motor traffic, be pedestrian friendly and support bicycle transportation efficiently. I like the initial plans I have seen and would welcome the opportunity to work with residents and businesses to bring this project to fruition. When doing this, we also need to look at what potential traffic patterns in the area could be in the future, to make sure that what we do works, not only today, but for the next 50 years. I have reached out to the head of the Department of Public Works and been assured that potential future traffic patterns are being taken into account. The unique challenge here is physical limitations due to many of the buildings in the square being so close to the street.

Athenaeum Renovation: Last spring I engaged with some of the leaders of Friends of Saxonville regarding the Athenaeum. Many of them agree with my opinion that we need to look at all of the town-owned parcels in that small area as potential enhancements to the functionality of the Athenaeum. Additionally, I believe that the project could garner more support and more finances from the community as a whole, if it were discussed as a town amenity instead of just a neighborhood amenity. No other neighborhood has their own facility and that has generated resistance from others in town to fund this for Saxonville. We need to think of marketing this to the community as a whole as a city-wide asset. The building is Framingham history; not just Saxonville history and we need to find a way to get buy-in for the project from Framingham as a whole.

Additionally, I requested that the surplus pump station’s disposal be taken off of the Town Meeting Warrant last spring so that we could take a holistic approach to the Athenaeum area to get the best possible results. The lack of parking is a problem and the pump station lot as well as the current fire station property could play a role in the solution if there was a consensus reached.

I have worked with the Fire Department and the School Committee to get the land at the High School transferred back to the town so that we could build the new fire station as soon as possible and close the existing antiquated structure. That parcel will be freed up when the new station is completed and could play a key role in an overall solution for the Athenaeum.

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?

This last economic recovery has resulted in an unprecedented amount of traffic throughout Framingham. This problem is damaging quality of life in our community. It also has a negative impact on our businesses which pay a disproportionate amount of our taxes. We need them to be successful if we are going to be successful.

While there is a traffic study going on, that is not a plan. We need a comprehensive plan with goals and timelines. We also need to better coordinate municipal construction projects on our roads to mitigate traffic impediments in the warmer months.

We need to be looking at all of the impacts of new development. Traffic, neighborhood quality of life, tax and expense impacts, noise pollution, light pollution, infrastructure burden and more.

I voted for our first Complete Streets plan and have worked with the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee to explore ways to make bike and walking routes safer. I will continue to support these efforts in the future.

One of the proposals I would like to explore is to change our odd-even parking to one side of the street or the other permanently so that we have easier and safer routes for our bicyclists. It could be different sides on different streets as necessary as long as they were properly marked, but it is something we should explore.

Additionally, I represent Framingham on the MWRTA Advisory Board and during my time on the Board we have increased service and ridership, installed bicycle lockers at the train station and added 150 new parking spaces at the station as well as cleaned the site up and now have a manned office keeping eyes on all activities in the area.

We need to do all we can to promote public transportation options and make them convenient to use. Multimodal transportation is the wave of the future and the communities who capitalize on the opportunity will be the ones who thrive going forward. Additionally, this is a much more environmentally friendly option than we are currently dependent upon.

There is a provision for a Traffic Commission in the Charter, but its composition and ultimate mission has yet to be determined. The Commission has up to two years after its establishment to determine whether or not to create a new city department to manage traffic issues. I believe that this timeline needs to be expedited or others need to step in before then to address what we can now.

How can Framingham best balance the need to serve less fortunate members of our community with the need for a viable tax base?

One of the keys for us to be able to serve all members of our community is having a vibrant local economy. A rising tide raises all boats. Additionally, we need to be cognizant of the potential long-term ramifications of decisions we make. Just because something is successful in a good economy does not mean that it will continue to thrive in a bad economy. We need to be deliberate in the types of projects and businesses we attract and how they function in a cyclical economy. How will we adapt to a rapidly changing world? Will we do it with our eyes open with vision for the future, or will we settle for what comes our way.

Framingham needs an aggressive economic development effort. As a city we need to determine what types of businesses we want to have here and then go out and sell ourselves to them. There are multiple ways to do this; but to date we have not been proactive enough.

Many of us who are not struggling, are only one catastrophic medical event away from finding ourselves in someone else’s shoes. We need to keep this in mind as we deal with others in our community who don’t enjoy the good fortune we do.

If elected, how do you plan to help Framingham transition from a town to a city?

As the Chief Elected Officer in Framingham, I am already working on the transition. One thing that I believe will be critical to an effective transition, will to be to include people with differing points of view in the process. Our new government needs to represent everyone if it is going to be successful.

Currently I am working to make sure that things don’t fall through the cracks while we make changes. There are a lot of projects that we are working to complete so that taxpayer dollars that have been expended to date, won’t be wasted. I don’t want projects that have already had time and money invested in them to end up on a shelf unfinished after the transition.

I also want to continue my close collaboration with the School Committee and school department that I fostered during my first year as Chairman of the Board of Selectmen as well as the outreach I have done with our senior citizens and other community. School-age children and seniors are two of the fastest growing populations in Framingham. We need to balance the unique needs of each group.

What’s the best way for voters to find out more about your candidacy? (Web site, Facebook page, etc.)

www.tullystoll.com or email me at cheryl@tullystoll.com or call me at 508-641-4884.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell the voters of District 2?

District 2 has some beautiful natural resources and walking trails that allow these gifts to be enjoyed. I am a proponent of not only maintaining these but also enhancing them. We need to get a handle on the Eurasian Water Chestnut infestation in the Sudbury River and work in the future to monitor the river as well as Lake Cochituate to assure that such a detrimental invasive species never gets this far ahead of our ability to contain it again.

The other thing I want folks to know is that I enjoy collaboration and feel that the best solutions are reached when we engage more people in the process.

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