Q&A: District 2 City Council Candidate Pam Richardson

(Note: I sent questionnaires to both District 2 Council candidates. Pam Richardson was the only one who responded by the Oct. 1 deadline.)

Why are you running for the District 2 City Council seat?

I am running for election for the District 2 City Council Seat (Precincts 3 & 5) so that I can work in several key areas:

  • Protect essential funding for our schools, public safety, library and senior citizen services
  • Support small businesses in Nobscot and Saxonville so that they can succeed, create jobs and provide services to our neighborhood
  • Work with our new Mayor, adjacent council members and neighborhood groups to revitalize our neighborhoods and address blight
  • Implement new policies and help establish new traditions during the transition from town to city government to ensure Framingham’s new city government is working for us

What would you like to tell voters about your qualifications?

I served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives as Framingham’s State Representative from 2006-2010, Framingham School Committee from 2003-2006 and Town Meeting from 2001-2003. In 2011 the Governor appointed me to the Mass Bay Community College Board of Trustees and I served as Chair of the Board until 2015.

A graduate of Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, Mt. Ida College and Framingham State University, I just completed my graduate degree at Northeastern University School of Law.

I have lived in Metrowest my entire life; my husband and I moved to District 2 21 years ago and our two sons are graduates of the Framingham Public Schools.

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

Previously as an elected official in Framingham I handled constituent phone calls and emails expeditiously and regularly convened interested parties to discuss solutions to local concerns. I also communicated via social media. As your City Councilor I plan to provide the same level of service. I will also plan to hold regular coffee hours at local establishments and I plan to attend and participate in meetings and events hosted by neighborhood associations which focus on Nobscot and Saxonville.
What do you think are the most important issues facing this area of Framingham?

  1. Underutilized commercial properties which have lingered for years continue to be a pressing issue.
  2. Increased traffic in the area is a concern along with a need to become a more pedestrian friendly and bicycle friendly area.
  3. Saxonville and Nobscot continue to evolve and the neighborhood roads, sidewalks, intersections and infrastructure require a thoughtful plan with input from people who live in the area.
  4. District 2 has a strong foundation of historic properties which tell our story and remind us of our past – these properties need to be respected and preserved.

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?

For years residents in both Nobscot and Saxonville have voiced their concerns about both properties and have indicated their support for a change which could include more businesses to the area such as grocery stores, restaurants and shops. Currently neither property is being utilized in a way which serves the community well despite loud demands for change. As City Councilor I will take a proactive approach towards the development of both properties and work with Framingham’s planning and economic development departments to solicit proposed development which align with neighborhood needs.

What do you think should be done with the old McAuliffe Library building?

My understanding is that Framingham is currently utilizing the building for municipal offices, which is appropriate but may or may not be the best use for the building. Some residents have noted that the building has the potential to provide additional public safety or other services to the residents of Saxonville and Nobscot. As we evolve into city government Framingham should re-evaluate all of our municipal buildings and, if feasible, re-purpose them with a focus on the needs of the neighborhood.

Does Framingham need a police substation north of downtown?

This issue came up a few times in my conversations with residents of District 2. Some residents had concerns related to public safety and the need for expanded police presence in our area. A police substation is one way to provide a solution to this issue and should be considered.

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?

I drive through the intersection every day. When the lights were first installed they were not in sync with the traffic which caused frustration for many Framingham drivers. Over time I have noticed improvements in the timing of the lights as adjustments have been made. The lights do need continual monitoring and adjustments when necessary which may be warranted now if there are still concerns.

Overall traffic through the intersection has slowed significantly with the installation of the lights and pedestrians (including students walking to Framingham High School) and bicyclists have had a much safer, easier time navigating the area.

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

The work of the Friends of Saxonville, in collaboration with municipal officials, on the redesign of McGrath Square and the preservation of the Athenaeum is impressive and the projects have had and will have a lasting impact on the neighborhood.

As we transition to city government support for these projects is critical and needs to continue as well as the other FOS priorities (Sudbury River and Lake Cochituate cleanup and preservation, management of the Rail Trail, etc. . . .). Over the years, because of the work of dedicated FOS volunteers and area residents, Saxonville has evolved into a safer, more walkable village. As city councilor I will work with the FOS to support the initiatives they have started which align with their vision for the neighborhood.

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?

Any project which will increase cars to the area (including redevelopment of underutilized properties such as State Lumber and Nobscot Plaza) will change traffic patterns and increase congestion. All projects under review will require changes to our roadways, sidewalks, traffic lights, etc. in order to best manage and alleviate the impact to the surrounding neighborhoods. The resources to make those changes need to be part of the conversation during the approval process.

Development projects need to be considered on a case by case basis based on their merit. For example; a grocery store in Nobscot Plaza would likely increase traffic, but the residents in the area may feel the amenity is worth it because of the value it would bring to the neighborhood.

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

Properties owned by non-profit organizations include religious institutions, educational institutions, museums, land preservation organizations, farms and health and human service providers. They are all important organizations in Framingham which provide services and increase the quality of life for the residents. Depending on the type of institution, a non-profit is typically contributing less to the tax base compared to a residential or commercial property. The services provided to Framingham by non-profit organizations are difficult to quantify; at the same time, a healthy robust tax base is critical as it allows the community to maintain good schools, roads, libraries and senior services. Removing a property from the tax base does have an impact which needs to be understood.

When a property is being purchased for development for any reason including use by a non-profit organization, it is important to provide an opportunity for neighborhood involvement and feedback and there needs to be a focus on anything which may impact the surrounding area. Measures to alleviate any negative impacts, such as potential increase in traffic congestion, noise, lights, etc. should be part of the conversation during the approval process.

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

As a legal professional who has experience in the legislature, I understand policy and process and believe this is where I will be able to have the most impact during the transition to our new government. As we evolve into a city there will be instances when the old way we did things won’t work under the new structure and therefore new rules (bylaws, policies, etc.) will need to be developed. My approach is to address such instances in a thoughtful way, adhering to Framingham’s core values and prioritizing the opportunity for public input and engagement.

The change to city government will make Framingham more neighborhood focused and will encourage more members of the community to get involved. This election cycle is the most engaged, neighborhood focused election in my memory! I am excited for Framingham and looking forward to more great things ahead!

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

My campaign has a Facebook page and you can contact me through the page, or email me at pamrichardson@rcn.com or call me at 508-788-9461.

I will be holding a “Campaign Gathering” at Nobscot’s Cafe (847 Edgell Rd.) on Wednesday, October 18th from 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm which will feature key speakers who will share their thoughts and perspective on Framingham’s first City Election!

Please join me! Meet me if you haven’t already! Bring a friend or two! All are welcome!

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

I appreciate that you took the time to read this questionnaire! Thank you for being involved and caring about our community! It would be an honor to serve as your District Councilor, thank you for considering me for the position.

Please remember to Vote on November 7th!

You can see more about Richardson at the League of Women Voters’ Vote411 Voter Guide as well as her Facebook page.

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