Extraordinary and truly historic changes are underway in Framingham. Our 318-year-old community, until 2018 the largest town in Massachusetts, is now transforming itself into the newest and 14th largest of the 57 cities in the commonwealth.
To lead the City of Framingham, voters chose Yvonne Spicer as the very first mayor, strongly supported by an impressive 58 percent of the vote. Along with this distinction Mayor Spicer simultaneously became the first woman of color to be popularly elected as a mayor in Massachusetts, a unique and historic achievement for both the mayor and for Framingham. Voters also elected 11 members of the first City Council, and nine members of the newly formed School Committee.
These “firsts” for Framingham made history. Our new city suddenly has captured the attention of folks in communities near and far. People are poised to see how, and if, we develop to become a true model city. This high level of interest and visibility has fueled local pride and offers a major opportunity to demonstrate the great strengths of our people, our leadership, our resources, and our commitment to build a vibrant community serving all. But will this opportunity be seized, or wasted?
Obstructive politics, hidden agendas and shortsightedness could quickly close this window of opportunity leaving a regretful legacy. The people of Framingham deserve better. The right answer is very clear. Come together as one community: The mayor and City Council demonstrating effective partnership with one another, initiating and driving actions that satisfy mutually defined objectives for the common good, providing trustworthy leadership and challenging the people of Framingham to support and become engaged with the community. The actions of our elected officials, as well as all who live and work here, will determine whether Framingham becomes just another average city, or instead a vibrant new role model of a diverse community whose chief business is to serve all of its people well.
So, how is this new city doing so far?
To develop and bring to life any new and complex system of operation is a great and difficult challenge requiring strong commitment, cooperation, patience, and above all mutual respect. Our recently elected leaders have been working tirelessly to establish the new roles, practices, and processes necessary for managing city operations effectively and efficiently. Unfortunately, however, there also are early signs of an uncomfortable tension under-riding the dialogue and decision-making involving the mayor and the City Council.
In public exchanges, questions are raised and remarks made which reveal alternative agendas and differences in how best to prioritize and implement the necessary changes. In the political bubble among those focused on and engaged in the transformation the narrative is unproductively negative. Reflecting and taking a broader view provides a refreshed perspective. Decision-makers are serving in roles which are still being defined. Tenacious patience and a commitment to mutual support should be the primary tools used to build a government in its formative stage. Ultimately everyone wants to do well and be successful.
Negativity is toxic. It spreads quickly and hinders progress. Sometimes it appears to be generated intentionally but more often it seems to come from getting stuck in frustration instead of constructively and patiently working through it. Politics can easily get wrapped in that quagmire especially considering the effects of divisive local campaigns during the last three years.
We can and should do much better. Inside Framingham’s influential political bubble there has to be a wake-up call, a heightened level of awareness of this unique opportunity and the need to create a success story by supporting each other, working collaboratively, recognizing, accepting and accommodating differences and moving towards common goals.
The history books will reflect the choices made and path chosen by the city’s first elected officials. There is a lot at stake for all. If the choices made foster unity and collaboration Framingham will have a proud story to tell.
Audrey Hall’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.