Q&A: District 2 City Council Candidate Sean Silk

Silk says his experience ‘as a parent, a small business owner, a taxpayer and a resident’ has helped him identify areas where Framingham can improve. One of his key issues is strategic planning and zoning.
City Council
Government & Politics

October 22, 2023

Sean Silk
Sean Silk


Why are you the best choice to represent District 2?

Serving on the City Council is serving in a customer service position. I am running to represent my neighbors in District 2 and give them a strong voice in decisions for Framingham’s future. My experience as a parent, a small business owner, a taxpayer and a resident, like you, has helped me identify areas where Framingham can improve. As city leaders make great strides for other districts of Framingham, like efforts towards a new community center and a new elementary school, it is important to also improve the greater Saxonville area. Framingham must improve together, as a whole. I will advocate for better use of tax dollars, better traffic planning, investing in Framingham-owned properties like those on Watson Place, a caring school experience for the children, quality government services like speed checks by the police or compost pickup, a strong business center, better trails, greener spaces and walkable streets. I am asking for District 2’s endorsement so that I may raise your voice when our city’s decisions are made, building better neighborhoods in District 2.

If elected, what are the issues you’d like to focus on first?

Strategic planning and zoning. Both are important to me because they encompass all the other issues that Framingham will face in the future and provide a clear statement to residents and business owners about the community we want. City government is mostly constrained by political will and money. As someone who has built a small business with my wife, I understand difficult decisions when there are many needs but limited resources. Having a clear vision on where you want to be in a few years, an identified strategy to reach your goals, and rules which support and signal your plan, are critical to getting where you want to be.

Other issues which are important to District 2 like environmental protection, business development, traffic, a quality education for our children, housing, trails, quality services and affordability, all become easier to achieve when people understand the common vision and the plan to achieve it.

How would you work to implement your ideas on those issues?

The City Council already declares its priorities through the budget process by choosing what to fund. Attaching a few strategic priorities to the budget process and presenting the budget according to those priorities will benefit Framingham greatly. First, the choices the City Council makes become a bit easier because there is a clear path. This means less time and taxpayer dollars are wasted to achieve the goals the community clearly desires. It also signals to individuals if they need to work harder to convey to the community the importance of issues. Residents can clearly see if the government is supporting the goals through year over year funding decisions, removing some of the politics from budget decisions. As the mayor and the appointed boards play an important role in determining a path forward for the city, good relationships are critical to establishing the strategic priorities.

What can the city do about traffic in and near District 2?

Traffic has definitely gotten worse. Long term, setting population density goals and making smart decisions on housing are critical to reduce traffic. Fewer people means fewer cars which means less traffic. In the short term, the city needs to improve signage and road conditions. The city of Hoboken, NJ, started the “Vision Zero” effort and reduced traffic deaths to zero through increased signage, better sightlines, intersection daylighting, and striping improvements. Similar efforts will reduce traffic congestion. The city can also explore scheduling of construction projects to lower traffic volume hours and enforce updated parking regulations.

There is a lot of neighborhood unhappiness about Nobscot development plans on one side and a lack of development at the old Saxonville Lumber. What is anything can/should the Council do about these issues?

There are two separate issues. The Nobscot development plans were upsetting because homeowners make their biggest investment based on the current look of the neighborhood. If you want a country home, you buy land in the country. You expect the city to be your partner in protecting your home, your community. This developer came in and tried to work around the neighbors. He put profits over people. Because government doesn’t always work the way it is supposed to work, the city has not shut the door on the option to rezone. The city should stand with residents and protect their homes.

The Saxonville Lumber site is well cared for and the owner has a good relationship with the neighborhood. The property is leased and is doing exactly what the leaseholder wants, staying empty. I looked into starting a business on that location but environmental restrictions and the cost to sublease the property are barriers to new development. The city should first work with neighbors to get a clear vision for the property (I’ve seen everything from an extra parking lot for the high school to more apartments). Having a clear vision, the Economic Development department can seek relationships with businesses that work toward the same vision, then connect all parties involved. I see a business solution to activating this site with help from the city.

What are your thoughts about the current city budget? Are any changes are needed in current spending priorities?

Having spent years in the military working with budgets and years auditing businesses and nonprofits, I realize budgets are wish lists that taxpayers are forced to fund. You are not paying for actual bills. You are paying for bills that the city thinks it will have. The government departments will always ask for more, and will spend every dollar so next year the funding level isn’t lower. There is always room in the budget to save money for the taxpayer.

I have already mentioned the importance of presenting the budget according to strategic goals. It is also important to review spending to measure how well the city is reaching its goals. The city has taken a view of setting a percentage increase for the budget (from 1% to a full 2.5%). I would like to see spending decision made based on the effectiveness of programs instead. The current administration has recently started to repurpose some older, unused funds into new programs (the Fuller Field Scoreboard project is an example). The City Council should highlight these unused funds and see how they can lower the tax burden.

The City Council also needs to keep a careful watch on the tax base. The balance of residential and commercial properties is critical in keeping Framingham affordable for residents, as businesses pay higher rates to cities. Replacing businesses with apartments means higher taxes for residents.

My final concern is that the budget is mostly payroll. This means real people are impacted by some reductions in spending. I believe the city should honor the hard work of employees by protecting their salaries. This means taking extra care when adding positions. It also means thinking of ways to create a flexible workforce that can use its skills across multiple projects and goals.

Although our local elections are “non-partisan,” once again this year we have a Republican and a Democrat running for the seat. How might your party affiliation inform your work as a City Councilor?

I’m not a person who is influenced by politicians. Politicians are not really leaders but reflections of the people they represent. The people close to me, the mistakes I’ve made, some mistakes others have made, and my successes shape my decision making. I don’t care about a person’s political party. I care about how they conduct themselves, how they treat others. I listen to what they want and the reason why they want it. Being a good neighbor will inform my work more than anything else.

What if any are your plans to keep in touch with residents in the district?

Modern communication has become faster and easier to access. The difficulty is that communication is highly tailored to the individual. This means the city needs to communicate on many different platforms and many different ways to reach the citizens. Personally, I still see value in letters along with electronic pathways. I will send out letters with the quarterly tax and water bills to keep district two residents aware of big picture issues. I will also use the existing electronic pathways (the city website, Facebook, email) to send out information quickly. I also value personal conversations, so I will hold office hours in neighborhoods.

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

Website: www.silkforthecity.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/silkforthecity

Also see: Framingham District 2 City Council Candidates Q&A

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