Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Re-Election Announcement

Framingham City Councilor at-Large George King has announced that he will seek re-election. He serves in the critical role of Chairman of the Council’s Finance Committee, while also serving on the Council’s Rules Committee and Planning and Zoning Committee.

“I am proud of the work done on the Finance Committee.  The Committee has overseen the development of two annual budgets.  We have reduced the City’s spending by almost $7,000,000, saving the average taxpayer over $200 a year” said King, who was previously both Framingham’s Town Manager (1999-2005) and Town Clerk (1993-1999).  “Our residents rightfully demand quality public services, and we have the responsibility to deliver those services as efficiently as possible to assure Framingham remains affordable for all.”

King is particularly concerned with the growth of water and sewer rates.  “We have done an admirable job rebuilding our system, but at an economic cost.  I have requested the administration propose a plan adopting clear and predictable capital expenditures that not only address necessary work, but limits rates to a predictable and affordable level.”

King cites his first term accomplishments to include:

·      The approval of two annual budgets minimizing the tax increase for residents.

·      Working collaboratively with residents to achieve a compromise solution for the Nobscot redevelopment.

·      Advocating for additional visitor parking and the adoption of reasonable parking regulations in downtown Framingham.

·      Providing Support for the Fuller Middle School reconstruction, while working to assure it was accomplished as economically as possible.

·      Bringing the issue of the opioid crisis to the Council, resulting in a resolution of support, that eventually turned into a fast-growing local non-profit, Framingham Force, dedicated to bringing the community together to deal with the issue. He currently serves as Force’s treasurer.

·      Successfully lobbying to extend customer service hours on Friday afternoons at City Hall.

If re-elected King intends to focus on these issues among others:

·      Advocating for a thorough review of the funded, yet unfilled vacancies at the police department, challenging our public safety service delivery.

·      Eliminating paying for salaries through our capital budget appropriations in the water and sewer departments.

·      Restructuring city government to consolidate areas of administrative duplication.

·      As an educator to continually advocate for quality public education, simultaneously holding the school administration accountable for efficient administration of the department.

George King has demonstrated an ability to offer insightful and respectful inquiries into the operations of city government.  He will continue to use his experience as a municipal and school administrator to make independent decisions and offer innovative solutions to fight to keep Framingham affordable.

King has lived in Framingham much of his life, graduating from Framingham South High School.  His two adult children also graduated from Framingham Schools. He was an active member of the PTO and school council at Dunning  and Walsh as well as a former chairperson of the Townwide PTO.  King has a J.D. from the Massachusetts School of Law, and graduate degrees from Boston College and Framingham State University.  He lives on Auburn Street with his wife Allison.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Expanding the Summer Hours

I was surprised when the City announced just before Labor Day weekend that the “summer hours” for Town services would be continued to January 1st.  Essentially those hours include an addition of two hours (5pm to 7pm) on Tuesday night and a reduction of four and a half hours (12:30 pm to 5 pm) on Friday afternoons.  Overall, City Hall will be open for 2.5 hours less per week.

There is no question it is more commonplace to see Town Halls close on Friday afternoon.  The issue of course becomes why?  First and foremost if we are being honest, many have done it for employee benefit reasons, not public service reasons  Others, have done it for budget reasons.  My concern is that it reinforces a common and convenient stereotype of public employees that is not true, namely that they have easy jobs with good hours and good pay.  Having worked as a public employee for the last 25 years I think nothing is further from the truth, but public policy decisions such as this lend unwanted credibility to the notion.

I try not to regularly use my past experience as a best practice example, because I realize things have changed a lot.  However, in this instance I think not so much.  When I was Framingham’s Town Clerk (1993-1999) and Town Manager (1999-2005) we kept the key customer service locations open one night a week with a limited crew, and the building open full time the rest of the week.  It worked great. We kept numbers at the time and found there were only three or four offices that generated any significant foot traffic in the evening.  Therefore we can serve the public one night per week without denying the public service every Friday afternoon. 

Having the City Clerk, Treasurer, Assessor and maybe Board of Health open for evening service makes sense.  Having the Accountant or Purchasing for example closed on Friday and open on Tuesday nights, makes no sense.  We are much better served having them open on Friday as they are business to business offices.  Same goes for offices with other more business orientated operations, such as Planning and Building.  Having our building and health inspectors unavailable on Friday afternoons seems inefficient at best, and possibly dangerous.  

The current hours are set by a bylaw that states the building is to be open from 8:30 to 5:00 Monday to Friday.  It does have an exception that say unless otherwise authorized by the Board of Selectmen.  However, I see the legislative intent of that bylaw to mean that exception authorization is for specific situations like snow or maybe the Friday after Thanksgiving, not a permanent change.  If it were meant to allow a permanent change, then it would not say 8:30-5:00, it would say "as determined by the BOS."   

There is not public policy reason to close on Friday afternoon.  If there is another justification that I am missing, then I would like to explore it through a public process that will help enhance public understanding.