Q&A: Mayoral Candidate John Stefanini

Why are you running for mayor?

My wife Cecilia and I chose to raise our two daughters in Framingham for the same reasons my mother and father, a stone mason and a school nurse, chose to raise their five boys here and why my grandparents did so more than a century ago: a centrally located community with endless opportunity that values integrity and hard work, family-friendly neighborhoods, a celebration of diversity and good schools. We are truly blessed to live in Framingham.

And while I firmly believe that Framingham is a great community, it has the people, resources and ability to be even better. We need to work together, neighborhood by neighborhood, in a transparent and participatory process to create a strategic master plan that embodies our values, speaks to our dreams, and meets our needs, and then work collaboratively as a team to achieve these goals.

I have a simple plan for Framingham – A P-L-A-N:

  • A is for Accountable: Your government will be accountable to you and our community. As Harry Truman said, “the buck stops here” and as your Mayor, it will always stop with me. I am committed to working together to fill our vacant shopping centers, improve our four level-three schools, preserve our open spaces and manage our growth.
  • P for Plan: Make our shared vision for Framingham a reality by better coordinating our efforts. As mayor, I pledge to empower citizens to create a community-wide vision called Framingham 2027 that will ensure the continued vitality, sustainability and prosperity of every neighborhood and thus enhance the quality of life for every Framingham resident and family.

  • L is for Listen: Actively engage and listen to everyone. Our best ideas come from listening to each other.

  • A for Affordable: We need to keep Framingham affordable. We need to review government from top to bottom to ensure that we are providing services in the most cost effective and efficient manner possible, eliminating redundancies and waste wherever they exist.
  • N is for Neighborhoods: A community is as strong as its neighborhoods. We need to strengthen ours. Strong healthy neighborhoods enrich our daily lives, enhance the overall well-being of our community, nurture our families and bring people together to share common ideals and interests.

What would you like to tell voters about your qualifications?

I am an educator and attorney and grew up in Framingham as the youngest of five sons of a stone mason and school nurse.

Framingham voters elected me five times as their State Representative and two terms as their Selectman. My decade in Framingham government was marked by collaboration, transparency and progress. Working together, we created hundreds of acres of open space, increased our commercial tax base, improved core services, and constructed new schools and municipal buildings.

Prior to this I was employed as a social studies teacher at Framingham South High School. I was an adjunct faculty member at Suffolk Law School. Today my legal practice focuses on real estate, government affairs and public administration.

I am a graduate of Framingham South High School, the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, the New England School of Law and Loyola University’s International Law Program in Rome.

(See more about Stefanini’s professional history on his LinkedIn profile.)

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

I will create Neighborhood Advisory Groups, a group of volunteer citizens who will work with their District Councilor, boards and commissions, and the Mayor to assure their neighborhood retains its unique characteristics and remains vital. The preservation, protection and promotion of our neighborhoods is essential to a healthy, vibrant, and thriving Framingham.

My best ideas have come from walking our neighborhoods and listening to residents. I believe the best way to achieve our goals is by listening to one another and working as a team. My years of public service are filled with stories of bringing folks together to improve, invest and invigorate Framingham.

I have mailed a survey to voters as I have each time I have run for office. I appreciate those who have taken the time to fill out the survey so far. Additionally, I spend every day walking around our neighborhoods and talking to residents. I answer emails, phone calls and meet with anyone who wishes to meet with me. I will continue to be this accessible as mayor. Constituent services are a top priority to me; we need to make sure our government is accessible and accountable to all. Click here to take our survey and share your thoughts: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/shareyourideaswithjohn1.

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?

Our shopping centers should reflect the needs of their surrounding neighborhoods. We need to look at activities for all ages. We need to explore ways to connect our shopping centers to our open spaces, like downtown with Farm Pond and Nobscot Plaza with our working farms. We need to find solutions that not only bring Framingham revenue for our schools, public safety and public works programs, but ones that strengthen the character, security and vitality of our neighborhoods. I am committed to convening interested parties, listening to everyone’s ideas, building consensus on a strategic plan, and then rolling up my sleeves to secure the public and private resources to finally make these goals a reality.

The naysayers will say it cannot be done, but my experience in government and in the private sector says otherwise. During my decade in Framingham government, when we needed more revenue for our schools and municipal services, we collaborated to get the long stalled 9/90 project done - generating jobs and tax revenue for Framingham.

We need to believe in our collective knowledge and power to make these parcels productive once again for the neighborhoods they serve and our wider community.

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?

If we expect vacant property owners to fill their shopping centers and buildings, then the town must do the same with its own property. Again, working with the neighborhood and municipal planning department, we should find the best use for the site in conjunction with the long-term use of the Pinefield Shopping Plaza, that works best for Saxonville and the wider community. Some potential uses for the old library are a satellite constituent services office or police substation. I would consider, given the right proposal, leasing or selling the property to a private entity, thereby making it a tax-producing property.

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

I applaud FoS’s efforts and plans regarding both McGrath Square and the Athenaeum, and pledge to work with FoS to improve the Square and restore 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?

Traffic is one of the top issues I hear from residents. We need to move our focus from the central government to neighborhoods. Our government needs to take the needs and concerns of our neighborhoods and residents into consideration when planning projects and schedules. I will work with our new citizen-driven traffic commission to address local and peak traffic concerns.

Furthermore, we need to upgrade the signals in the Square to improve the timing and better coordinate resident needs with the MWRTA schedule. I support making our roads safe, expanding bike and walking paths, and support TOD [transit-oriented] development.

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

We need to ensure Framingham remains a livable community for all its residents by growing our commercial tax base in appropriate areas while protecting our neighborhoods – we can do both. Likewise, caring for the needy and less fortunate with some careful planning need not impair our ability to provide quality municipal services to our residents. I will conduct a top-to-bottom review of government services to ensure that our tax dollars are being spent efficiently.

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

Over the past three months I have personally knocked on more than 5500 doors. Interestingly, as neighbors share their thoughts, concerns and hopes about Framingham, the subject of the recent Charter vote often come up. And whether they voted Yes or No, they more often than not did so for the same exact reasons: concern about traffic and encroachment on our neighborhoods, rising property taxes and fees, three vacant commercial centers and lack of support for local businesses, four underperforming schools, preservation of our open spaces and lack of accountability. Well, I pledge to you that I will work each and every day to ensure that the fears of those who voted NO never occur and the hopes and aspirations of those who voted YES are fully realized. Working together, neighborhood by neighborhood, in a transparent and participatory process to create a strategic master plan that embodies our values, speaks to our dreams, and meets our needs, and then work collaboratively as a team to achieve these goals.

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

To find out more about me, my ideas and how you can get involved, please visit www.johnstefanini.org.

You can also follow the campaign on social media:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/stefaniniformayor
Twitter: www.twitter.com/stefaninimayor
Instagram: www.instagram.com/stefaniniformayor

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

Framingham is a great community with the people, resources and ability to become even better. We need to work together, neighborhood by neighborhood, in an open, public and participatory process to create a strategic master plan for Framingham that embodies our values, speaks to our dreams and meets our needs.

I am excited by the opportunity to put my education, experience, energy and relationships with local, state and federal officials to work each and every day for the people of Framingham as your first full-time mayor.

More about John Stefanini:

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