Ricky Finlay and Cesar Stewart-Morales are running for the Framingham District 2 City Council seat. Below are Finlay’s responses to a District2Framingham.com questionnaire. The election is Tuesday, November 5.
Why are you running for the City Council seat?
I take my role as a representative very seriously. I am proud of my record of collaboration with my fellow members, municipal leaders and our state delegation during my time as a School Committee member. I am not afraid to ask the tough questions and vote for what I believe is in the best interest of our community. In that spirit, I want to take my record and what I’ve learned on the School Committee to the Council.
What would you like to tell voters about your qualifications?
Since I was elected to the School Committee, I have worked hard to be an advocate for all students. I have proposed initiatives to make education more equitable, advocated to ensure our facilities are reflective of the vibrant work done by our students and faculty, and fought for changes in policies and state aid.
My achievements include:
- Worked with the School Committee and administration to provide legislators with accurate costs of unfunded mandates so they could consider changes in policies and state aid. The Massachusetts Association of School Committees used our estimate of $22 million worth of unfunded mandates to push the Legislature to reform their lawmaking process to consider the impact of unfunded mandates before passing new laws.
- Improved communication between the School Committee and the Capital Budget Subcommittee of Town Meeting, resulting in an increased budget for safety and technology, as well for projects like the parking improvements at the Barbieri parking lot. In addition, as part of the Building and Grounds subcommittee, I helped lead the process for approval of new windows for Stapleton with a 50% state reimbursement.
- Pushed for the study and possible reduction of all fees, resulting in free full day Kindergarten for all students that allowed access to quality education for all of our youngest students and elimination of athletic fees, opening the doors to any student who wishes to play a sport.
- Advocated for a new Fuller Middle School as a member of the School Building Committee.
Besides serving on the School Committee, I am a coach for Framingham Youth Football, a member of Framingham’s Disability Commission and City Seal Committee, and a member of the Board of Directors for Hoops and Homework. Last fall, I helped organize the construction of a new playground at Interfaith Terrace, bringing together city and business leaders, local unions and residents together. I am also the Cubmaster of Saxonville Pack 21. I represented Precinct 3 as a Town Meeting Member.
What if any are your plans to keep in touch with residents in the district – to seek their input and communicate your votes and other activities?
Like I have been as a School Committee member, I am always available by phone and email. I believe in listening to my neighbors and build consensus.
What do you think are the most important issues facing the city? What are you plans to address those?
- Affordability: As a member of the School Committee, I have been part of the widely praised transparent zero-based budgeting performed by the School Department. The municipal budget process needs to mirror the same level of transparency and participation found in the School process. We have to be open and honest about our finances with our taxpayers - not only is it fair, but it is the right thing to do.
- Plan and Care for Our Neighborhood Municipal Properties: Saxonville is home to many city-owned properties, such as the Pumping Station, soon-to-be-vacant fire station, Athenaeum Hall and the old McAuliffe Library. Now is the time to bring all stakeholders together, have honest conversations about what we, as a neighborhood, want for the future of Saxonville and work with city leaders to develop a plan to make these ideas a reality.
- Traffic: Traveling through Framingham, especially in Saxonville and Nobscot, is a challenge regardless of time of day. Traffic light timing, street directional changes and McGrath Square all need the focus of the Traffic Commission to make our roads safer for cars, bicycles and pedestrians alike. Each review and change must be clearly communicated to neighbors.
How is our city government working? What (if anything) do you believe needs improvement?
We have been a city for 22 months. We have had our share of growing pains, but I am optimistic about our future. I served on a School Committee that had representatives from every neighborhood. Equal representation was a promise of the Charter. It is great to see that for our schools. We have more work to do to make sure all voices are heard in our government, like in appointments or input on the budget.
What if any role does the City Council have to play in dealing with national political issues such as immigration and gun control?
My focus is on making our neighborhood and our community a better place. Our national leaders can bicker and fight, but I will work in collaboration with my colleagues in government to keep Framingham affordable, address traffic issues and deal with the four vacant municipal properties in our district.
Traffic and transportation infrastructure are among the most pressing issues facing eastern Massachusetts. Do you have any thoughts about city government’s role in dealing with traffic, transit, and pedestrian/bicyclist issues in the District 2 area specifically and Framingham in general?
You cannot drive through District 2 without facing some of the major traffic issues in Framingham. McGrath Square is always backed up during commuting times. It is time for us to get serious and look at this intersection and get resident input on how to make it better. I believe we need to staff the Traffic Commission and make sure it is properly funded so they can take citizen concerns and solve problems.
What’s the best way for voters to find out more about your candidacy? (Web site, Facebook page, etc.)
What else if anything would you like to tell the residents of District 2?
I love Saxonville.
Read the Q&A with Finlay’s opponent, Cesar Stewart-Morales.
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