Brendan Fitzpatrick

October 24, 2023

City Council Candidates Tackle Climate Topics

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FRAMINGHAM - Candidates for the Framingham City Council gave their thoughts on climate-related topics during a community forum on Saturday, October 21.

The volunteer group Energize Framingham hosted the event at First Parish on Vernon Street to give residents the chance to ask the candidates questions on a wide range of topics, such as transportation, green space installations, and future building developments.

While most of the City Council candidates on the November ballot are not facing any opposition, those running in contested races outlined their intentions if they are eventually elected. That included Sean Silk and Brandon Ward, who are each looking to represent District 2 following Cesar Stewart-Morales’ decision to not run for another term.

When asked how to take advantage of resources from the federal and state levels for local climate projects, Silk showed his desire to tackle multiple issues while Ward primarily focused on efforts related to transportation.

“I’m here tonight to tell you that my intention is to represent you and to bring all of your concerns and needs into the public view for consideration…I want to see a little bit of progress on all of the issues that you care about,” Silk said.

“Climate change and sustainability, it’s an existential crisis—not only for this community, but for the state and for our world,” Ward followed.

“It’s imperative that Framingham…is a part of the solution, not the problem.”

Leslie White Harvey, who’s running for the District 8 seat currently occupied by John Stefanini, echoed those sentiments on transportation by calling for an expansion of the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority and incentivizing electric vehicle development, promotion, and access—the latter being a position supported by all candidates in attendance.

White Harvey also prioritized a clean up of Farm Pond as well as the closure of the MCI-Framingham prison and the continued development of Mary Dennison Park on the city’s south side in order to provide more green spaces to the public.

“I believe that we should not only have the green space,” White Harvey told attendees, “but also access it and use it.”

Stefanini, meanwhile, commended the work done by the community group Keep Framingham Beautiful. With that, the councilor highlighted his efforts on a program to plant 600 trees along Route 135.

“We’ve got some private investors coming in—we’ve got to work through the logistics of it—but the idea is to figure out how, as part of a master plan for that area, we do create a green canopy,” Stefanini explained.

The topic of Framingham opting into the state’s Specialized Stretch Code, which aims to reduce carbon emissions by mandating that new buildings be constructed to accommodate electric utilities in the future, was a topic where some candidates differed. A total of 20 municipalities in Massachusetts, including Boston, have opted into this code.

Those in favor of joining the Stretch Code contended that it would signal Framingham taking initiative in order to reach carbon emission goals by 2030, while those hesitant to adopt the measure in its current form expressed concerns that it may leave the city on an uneven playing field when it comes to future development. District 9 City Councilor Tracey Bryant and challenger for the role Jose Ferreira each maintained that making a decision that serves the city best for the future is the proper strategy.

“How can we make it work for Framingham,” Bryant asked.

“Because it could help us get closer to net-zero (carbon emissions) if it’s done correctly…But if you dismiss it out of hand, then you never get there. You never go in that direction at all. If you say it’s a good idea, let’s look in that direction and let’s find solutions.”

“We have to think about: What are we debating here? We’re debating the future of this planet,” Ferreira told residents.

“We’re debating (attendees’) grandkids’ futures, not ours…We’re not making decisions for us, we’re making decisions for the future. So, we have to be very careful.”

The entire forum can be found on YouTube by clicking here. Election Day in Framingham is Tuesday, November 7; the deadline to register to vote is Saturday, October 28 at 5 p.m.

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