FRAMINGHAM - Members of the Framingham Charter Review Committee listened to recommendations for changes related to strategic planning during their January 25 meeting.
Chair of the city’s Strategic Initiatives and Financial Oversight Committee (SIFOC) Mary Kate Feeney spoke to the committee at the Memorial Building last Thursday, presenting suggested changes to Article III and Article VI of the Framingham Home Rule Charter. Those articles are related to the city’s executive branch and its procedures for finance and fiscal matters, respectively.
Feeney explained that the recommendations made by SIFOC can help shape what the city looks like in the future.
“Framingham, traditionally, has been very reactive,” Feeney said during the meeting.
“Having a strategic plan would make us more proactive…We just do things as they come along and we’re not really thinking about: ‘What is the Framingham that we want? What is the Framingham that reflects our values, our diversity?’”
Feeney noted that projects such as the development of trails, the planned renovations for a new community center at the site of the former Marian High School, and the future of MCI-Framingham are not included in any strategic plans, as follow ups detailed in the city’s Master Plan have not been carried out.
In turn, SIFOC has recommended a number of charter changes. One would permit the group to aid in the review of the city’s overall capital improvement program, while another emphasizes that the Master Plan for the city should be referenced for land use.
A third suggestion entailed changing the name of the Long Range Strategic Plan to the Long Range Strategic Blueprint. Feeney said the blueprint would develop action items and plans to identify how the city will utilize land for projects in sectors such as local schools, health, infrastructure, commerce, sustainability, recreation, arts, and culture.
The chair continued to describe this recommendation as a way to add onto the already existing Long Range Strategic Plan while pulling together multiple facets of the municipal planning process. A draft of the blueprint would be developed during even-numbered years, according to the proposal. SIFOC would host at least a pair of public hearings while overseeing a 30-day public comment period regarding the blueprint’s development as well. The group also recommended sending the draft to the mayor for review by the start of October every other year. From there, the Mayor would present the blueprint before the City Council votes on it.
Multiple members of the committee agreed with Feeney that this system could potentially add structure and accountability, though members such as Andy Limeri suggested that SIFOC be involved in the city’s budgeting process as well via an addition to the charter.
“In my experience, that’s where the rubber hits the road,” Limeri said.
“We need somebody looking at it, saying ‘We have this blueprint, this is what’s coming up, we need to make sure we’re budgeting for that.’ If we’re not doing that, there is no accountability, there is nothing else. That’s where the accountability really is.”
The next Charter Review Committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, February 8.
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