West

On being mayor of a diverse new city

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/File
Framingham residents will head to the polls on Nov. 7 to vote for the city’s first mayor.

Framingham residents will head to the polls on Nov. 7 to vote for the city’s first mayor. This is the final in a series of questions and answers with the candidates, Yvonne Spicer and John Stefanini, about their goals for the city of Framingham. (The interviews have been edited and condensed.)

John Stefanini, 53

Occupation: Attorney

Experience: Served 10 years as a state representative; six years as a member of the Board of Selectmen. Has served on several boards including trustee for MetroWest Medical Center and the Framingham Heart Study. Was chair of the Cushing Hospital Task Force.

How do you make Framingham more desirable without pushing out lower-income residents and losing diversity?

We need to celebrate our diversity as a strength, just as many communities have in their revitalization efforts. Downtown revitalization in particular is a combination of new transportation-oriented development, anchor tenants and diverse culinary and shopping options. It is our amazingly culturally diverse shops and restaurants that are going to lead our recovery just as they have in Waltham, Hudson, Marlborough and Natick.

How will you encourage citizen participation, particularly from the immigrant population or those groups not involved in the past?

Advertisement

We need to actively engage every segment of our population to ensure they are part of the process. We do this by appointing people that represent every walk of life to every committee and board. I’ve proposed neighborhood advisory groups, like in Newton, to help facilitate conversations in every corner of our community. I’ve proposed adopting the 311 system and developing a smart phone app just for Framingham to bring government to people rather than forcing people to come to government. Our current government has failed to engage, involve and harness the resources, talents and ideas of our diverse citizenry.

What are the main differences between you and your opponent?

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

The fundament differences are that I have proudly supported reforms to make our government more transparent, accountable and efficient, and that I believe we all have a responsibility to be engaged and involved in our community. I volunteer and get involved in numerous civic organization, ran for office before, and I vote in every election. I have 30 years of experience teaching, studying, serving and working with municipal and state government. I know this community, I care deeply about my community and I have proven again and again that I can lead with integrity, ability and results.

Yvonne Spicer, 55

Occupation: Vice president of Advocacy & Educational Partnerships for the National Center for Technological Literacy division at the Museum of Science

Experience: Town Meeting member, member of Massachusetts STEM Advisory Council, the Economic Empowerment Trust Fund, and the Massachusetts Business Roundtable

How do you make Framingham more desirable without pushing out lower-income residents and losing diversity?

Framingham can learn from other communities that have gone through some changes. You want to grow and have jobs and have a vibrant downtown like Marlborough and Hudson. We can learn from them – the same thing with Natick. We need to be mindful about new growth and maintaining a good inventory of affordable housing and new home ownership. One idea I’ve heard is tiny houses. It’s something to explore and look at as an alternative form of living as we know it today.

How will you encourage citizen participation, particularly from the immigrant population or those groups not involved in the past?

Advertisement

It’s so important to look critically at our town government and recognize who hasn’t participated. I’ll actively seek and encourage and go out and draw people in to participate. I need to create avenues where people feel welcome. I would love for us to have a community barbecue where we come together around a meal. That’s one way to break a barrier and allow people to have a dialogue. We need to look around the room and see who isn’t here and what do we need to attract them here.

What are the differences between you and your opponent?

The key differences are I have had first-hand experience in many executive roles in education, non-profit and with business leaders. I’ve had a seat at the table. I’ve had to maintain budgets and look at issues around how you develop and cultivate trust and collaboration. I do that right now in a start-up program. A number of the things I do involve starting up, building strategic plans and helping grow things.

For the rest of the series, see these stories published on Oct. 5, Oct. 13, and Oct. 20.

Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at jflefferts@yahoo.com.