Jobs and economic growth:
According to the MetroWest Economic Research Center, the 13 communities in MetroWest and Greater Marlboro generate nearly 182,000 jobs and an $11.8 billion payroll. Our region, with Framingham at the center, is literally the crossroads of the Commonwealth in terms of generating the jobs and creating the workforce that are essential to a successful 21st century economy. Massachusetts currently ranks #1 in education, #2 in access to capital and #3 in technology. I will work to enhance the role Framingham plays in sustaining that ranking and I will support continued growth in high wage jobs for our workers in the life sciences, health care, building trades, information technology, services and the creative enterprises and the arts.
The MetroWest Economic Research Council (MERC) reports that the MetroWest area has the second largest economy in the State with relatively strong job retention/creation compared to other areas. MERC points out one segment of the jobs sector that is under represented relative to the rest of Massachusetts: arts and hospitality (restaurants, hotels, theaters, museums and other cultural venues).
Since we grow our economy best in areas that we have the greatest differential/potential, focusing our efforts on expanding this sector makes economic sense.
Our currently underperforming urban/village areas (Downtown, Saxonville and Nobscot) are perfect places to foster this growth by creating economic zones that have built-in incentives for these types of businesses. This should achieve several important objectives:
- Growing the economy and creating jobs that currently don’t exist here.
- Revitalize underperforming areas of town- reversing the current urban blight
- Remaking the urban/village centers as attractive places for young professionals
- Creating competition for properties raises real estate values in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Our legislators can help make this a reality in several critical areas:
- Helping the town by working with the State administration and Federal government to free up waterfront land owned by CSX for
use by the town to create the right mix of private development and public investment.
- Supporting the commitment and programs currently proposed by the Board of Selectmen to stabilize neighborhoods and create the
right conditions for revitalization.
- Demanding respect and fairness in programs and grants for the important role Framingham and the MetroWest has in keeping the Commonwealth on the leading edge, economically, educationally and technically.
Framingham MUST address the structural deficits that exist as described by the Finance Committee during the 2010 Town Meeting. As the costs of employing people and providing essential services continue to rise faster than municipalities are able to raise the funds, we will continually slip further and further into an economic hole.
The circumstances of this structural deficit are created and exacerbated by the Legislature with the passage of numerous unfunded mandates and an unwillingness of the State to live up to its economic commitments and promises.
As a State Representative I will insist that programs mandated by the State have both an economic impact assessment and a budget proposal. Promises to fund the “special education circuit breaker” or removal of the turnpike tolls must be honored or fair alternatives offered. Binding legislation such as the collective bargaining agreement (Section 19 of Chapter 32B MGL) have, over time, created unsustainable economic straitjackets in affected communities and I will work to build a level of flexibility and common sense into legislation that will allow municipalities to cope with the particular circumstances of their community.
Tax incentives for fighting blight:
Through the State and Federal designations we give certain entities tax free status because they are deemed to be “a community benefit”. It seems logical to me that something that would be a real and direct benefit to the community would be a program that created incentives for ordinary people to improve their properties much as we do for large companies like Bose or Staples with our TIF program (tax incentive financing). A program for smaller properties would typically employ small business local contactors who, in turn, would mostly buy their supplies locally- thus energizing the local economy. The program should have a cap on the assessed value of the properties… perhaps $500,000 for residences and $2,000,000 for commercial properties. The intent would be to create incentives for whole neighborhoods to improve their properties and thus bring up the value of an area as a whole. The program would work when an owner spent the money to upgrade their property causing the assessment to rise. Instead of the current system where the owner would then have to spend yet more money to cover the new higher assessment, the first year tax bill would have a credit for the amount the property assessment went up. The second year the tax bill would have a credit for ˝ the additional assessment; the third would be the original assessment. In the fourth and then fifth years the assessment would be plus ˝ and then the full new valuation. Presently there is little incentive for owners to spend to upgrade when they know the assessments will rise and many neighborhoods reflect that thinking. With incentives to “do the right thing” we will see a new attitude, because it makes economic sense as well as “community sense”.
I would, as a State Representative, work to create innovative enabling legislation such as this to build incentives into our current regressive and punitive system.
2 years ago in this space I advocated for the creating of a MetroWest Bureau of Tourism. I was irritated by taxes collected here in Framingham going to Boston and disappearing like so many of our resources do. I am thrilled by the inclusion of that idea in the new economic development legislation as crafted, supported and successfully passed into reality by Senator Karen Spilka and her team. It is an excellent law that will be an important addition to the region and I applaud the hard work that went into making the idea a reality.
Buildings are the biggest consumers of energy, among the biggest wasters of energy, extravagant water users and heavy contributors to polluting run-off into our waterways. New construction is becoming “greener” by newly enacted laws, but older buildings are more problematic. I am a strong proponent of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) environmental policies. I will bring that knowledge to bear as State Representative and promote all the ways the built environment can better serve us all.
As a State Representative I would strongly support the efforts of the Town Health Board to find and clean up contaminated sites and support the conservation commission in asking for the complete removal of all mercury contaminated soil in our waterways; covering up this contamination with a thin layer of sand is not acceptable.
I am a strong supporter of the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority and would like to see it become more active, larger and more sophisticated, with innovative programs such as route tracking by cell phone. Success of the transportation system will ease the traffic on our congested roads and help clean our air and water resources.
As a rule I am in favor of redevelopment over development. I believe that open space land is its highest and best use and that it should be valued as such. Programs and policies should be developed to aid the purchase of land or development rights for recreation, agricultural and conservation purposes.
Public right of ways (roads, railroad lands and aqueducts):
There exist in Framingham 3 overlapping infrastructure corridors: The railroad right of ways, the MWRA aqueduct system and the road system which also carries the municipal water/sewer and power/telecom systems. Two of these systems are dedicated to a single uses for no good reason; the old rail beds are often not used at all but have the huge potential for being a secondary system for moving people, by bicycle, walking and perhaps by low speed electric trolleys. The MWRA aqueduct lands, currently marked as no trespassing areas could easily be used for walking or jogging paths or even as pathways for children to safely walk to school without affecting their original purpose. The road system needs serious redesign to carry our modern communications and power grid systems while protecting our streams and rivers from toxic runoff. We are using it as we did 100 years ago and it is not working. We need model legislation to repurpose our road system into a safer, ecologically sane, less expensive and more attractive system for personal conveyance and municipal systems. I will advocate for thinking of these infrastructures as public trusts which should be used intelligently for the benefit of the community and not just for some quasi-public authority or private company.
For many years, Framingham has been a generous host to a wide range of governmental, public safety, health care, educational, religious, recreational and social service agencies, facilities and institutions, most of which are tax-exempt. Whether it is caring for the elderly and frail, providing higher education, offering support to the vulnerable among us, allowing for spiritual respite -- those activities are deeply rooted in our community. The drain from escalating costs on sustaining municipal services, though, has strained the town’s relationship with its tax-exempt institutions. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the rise of social service providers and facilities. Compounding the friction is the sense that agencies are increasingly invoking the Dover Amendment, which exempts non-profit entities from standard zoning laws, to pursue their plans but which results in anerosion of home rule and the ability of Framingham to plan for and safeguard the rights of all of its citizens.
Framingham deserves more statewide recognition and financial support than it presently receives for its powerhouse educational nucleus. Our broad spectrum of schools and services enriches not only our community but also the entire MetroWest area. Our taxpayers support education directly through the tax dollars we pay and indirectly through the income lost from valuable tax exempt property they use. Our local contribution entitles us to our place at the table when State funding and reimbursement are under consideration by the legislature and the Governor. My job as your State Representative will be to bring to Framingham our fair share of State aid and programs to maintain and strengthen our educational infrastructure and programs. Consider the particulars: Framingham is home to a successful K-12 public system as well as a strong K-12 parochial school system with St. Bridget and Marian High. Framingham hosts the internationally known Sudbury Valley School, the Christa McAuliffe Regional Charter Public School, Keefe Technical Vocational High School, the Thayer Campus of FHS, The Learning Center for the Deaf, Framingham Jewish Day School and the Summit Montessori School. Don’t overlook Framingham State College, Mass. Bay Community College and a Clark University graduate program facility. Together our community, MetroWest and the Commonwealth all benefit when these institutions are strong and successful. They attract and retain young people who contribute to our economic prosperity and desirability as a residential community. I will work to direct the attention of my legislative colleagues and the Governor to Framingham’s important contribution to those values and to the importance of their receiving significant support.
Immigration reform and illegal residents:
We are an immigrant nation and should be proud of it. We should have a vibrant and clear and not overly complicated or expensive immigration policy at our borders that welcomes people from all over the globe who are taking the same chance that our ancestors did by coming to America to start a new life.
Unfortunately our immigration policy is in disarray, inefficient and almost institutionally corrupt and unfair. This needs to be solved at the federal level working in concert with the states to devise a fair and reasonable system. Some one who has, however, crossed into this country without a visa or intentionally overstayed their tourist visa is here illegally and there is a world of difference between the two. Until the time we are prepared as a nation to have no borders and recognize no countries I will advocate for robust, fair immigration policies and equally robust enforcement of our Visa Rules.
We have a huge problem with our driver’s licenses; we want them to be an indication of minimum competency to drive and at the same time use them as a national ID card. While they have been proven time and again to be a poor ID card, there is little interest in creating a better one. As to minimum competency for driving, the numbers are both staggering and depressing – every year 40,000 people die on the roads and the numbers of injured with the attendant costs are almost not comprehendible. Based on these facts I believe that every person behind the wheel of a vehicle must be able to prove that they have competency (and insurance). I would propose that people holding a legitimate visa be allowed to take a driving test and obtain a license that clearly denotes their visa status ( and perhaps the exit date). Drivers intentionally driving with out a license should face felony endangerment charges regardless of their citizenship or birthplace.
While in office I will not seek endorsements by any special interest groups other than in-district neighborhood groups and I will work to have the legislature live by any law that it mandates for others.