Cesar Stewart-Morales and Ricky Finlay are running for the Framingham District 2 City Council seat. Below are Stewart-Morales’s responses to a District2Framingham.com questionnaire. The election is Tuesday, November 5.
Why are you running for the District 2 City Council seat?
I am one of the newer voices stepping up to serve on the City Council in Framingham. We need new voices and new ideas at the table. We need people who know how to work well with others even when they disagree. If we keep doing the same things with the same people who have the same abilities, we will only get the same results. I bring strong qualifications and skills to the job which will make the council more effective to better serve residents.
I am running to represent District 2, specifically, because I believe that our neighborhoods need to have an effective voice on the City Council. We need to have a councilor that will be a strong advocate and that has the people skills, the communication skills and the professional skills that it will take to make progress on the unique issues that are important to our district.
What would you like to tell voters about your qualifications?
I have critical expertise that is currently lacking on the City Council.
I know Framingham and its people. Framingham is my hometown. I grew up here and I graduated high school here. I grew up on Beaver Terrace Circle and currently live on Colby Avenue in Saxonville. Although the locations are only 5 miles apart, for me, it has been a real journey from which I have learned a great deal. I understand the diverse needs of the people of Framingham and how the needs vary from neighborhood to neighborhood.
I am a successful, educated professional. I have a Bachelor of Science in Corporate Finance and Accounting and a Minor in Modern Languages from Bentley University. I earned a Master of Science in Business Administration with an Expanded Accounting Concentration from Clark University’s Graduate School of Management. I am a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). I have close to 20 years of experience working in Finance and am currently a senior financial leader in the Renewable Energy Industry. I can communicate in 5 languages.
I am committed to my community and to helping others. I have helped Framingham residents for years through my work and many community volunteer activities. I have been a Mazie Mentor for a Framingham high school student, I serve on the Framingham Human Relations Commission and I was a Town Meeting member. I also serve on the finance board at Edwards Church in Saxonville.
What if any are your plans to keep in touch with residents in the district – to seek their input and communicate your votes and other activities?
As a first-time candidate running for political office, it has been essential to get out and meet as many District 2 neighbors as possible. It is the best way to learn about the issues that are most important to the residents.
As councilor, my contact information will always be available so that people can easily connect with me. I will reach out for feedback from the Nobscot Neighbors Group and continue to work with the Friends of Saxonville and the Saxonville Working Group. These community groups include residents and local business owners coming together to define a shared vision for our respective villages and can generate valuable feedback that will help identify and spur improvements to traffic circulation, pedestrian ways and parking. I will be sure to remain engaged in these neighborhood discussions and to educate the rest of our leaders on the issues that are important to District 2 residents.
I realize that many residents may need to reach out to their elected councilor for individual concerns or on an as needed basis. If elected, I will be sure to make myself available during regularly scheduled office hours and by appointment.
Additionally, I intend to keep up my presence on social media and to utilize the local media outlets, including District2Framingham.com to communicate important information. I will keep my campaign phone number active in case anyone needs to reach me by phone or text message. That number once again is 508-250-0503.
What do you think are the most important issues facing District 2 and the immediate surrounding areas? What are you plans to address those?
As I have walked through our neighborhoods meeting and speaking with District 2 neighbors, I have heard about many concerns, but two have stood out:
The Nobscot residents of District 2 are worried about the Nobscot Plaza development that will be coming in the near future. While people are generally pleased to know that the plaza will soon undergo quite a transformation, worries exist around the impact on traffic and parking in the area. Traffic is quite an issue at the main Nobscot intersection and the residents expect that measures to improve traffic flow and pedestrian ways be incorporated into any future changes there. Parking is also a concern as there doesn’t seem to be enough in the area and that will likely worsen as residents lose access to the parking currently available in the plaza today. As councilor, I plan to follow the development of Nobscot plaza closely in order to ensure that the community ends up with a developed Nobscot plaza that does not deviate far from what has been communicated to date by the developer. I will continue to be engaged with the District 1 and District 2 Nobscot residents through the Nobscot Neighbors group and will solicit feedback from involved citizens. I will do my best to advocate for the district in front of governmental bodies, such as the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Department of Public Works.
Traffic and parking are also a concern in Saxonville Center. Improvements to traffic flow and pedestrian ways are needed in McGrath Square. Residents are happy to have a local coffee shop available to them but find it difficult at times to patronize the establishment due to the lack of access to parking. There is a desire to create a more vibrant village feel to the Saxonville Center area and there seems to be an opportunity to do that by restoring and/or reimagining uses for the three vacant city-owned properties at Watson Place. Speeding on Central St. and Concord St. continues to be a concern as well. I have been engaged in discussions about Saxonville Center through the Saxonville Working Group and would love to continue to hear from this active group of local residents and business owners. I plan on educating others on the council and throughout our city on the needs of Saxonville as I truly believe that investments in this area will benefit the entire city. Saxonville, rich in natural resources such as the Sudbury River, is an important historic site as the first settlement location in Framingham. As District 2 Councilor, I will be an advocate for Saxonville Center.
How is our city government working? What (if anything) do you believe needs improvement?
I have been watching our new city government and I’m concerned about the budget process and the impact it has on our taxes, our ability to attract young professionals and to keep our seniors at home. We have a $300 million budget and not enough financial expertise on the council. I am a Certified Public Accountant with a bachelor’s in finance and accounting from Bentley University and an MBA from Clark University. I manage billions of dollars in the renewable energy business. I would like to serve on the Finance Subcommittee. We need to design a precedent-setting budget process for our young city, working closely with the Mayor and the CFO. I have the relationship skills and the finance skills that are needed. We need to hurry up and hire the City Council auditor and get them to work. I can help provide the guidance our auditor will need.
We also need people to work better together. I am very good at finding common ground. I know how to agree and disagree, and still get results. Working in the private sector, I have worked well with a diverse group of colleagues with differing points of view. I have seen how differing opinions and working together, can produce better results and plenty of progress for a company. The council needs to work more collaboratively with others, and I can help us do that.
Generally, I want to help people get engaged to serve and to share their ideas and concerns. I want the City Council to be more interactive with residents who want to be a part of the process. I will advocate for that and I will also help them do it because I can communicate in 5 languages. I can communicate in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian. In a community where our high schoolers speak more than 70 different languages, this ability will serve us well.
What if any role does the City Council have to play in dealing with national political issues such as immigration and gun control?
Although national political issues fall outside of the purview of the Framingham City Council, they do affect the day-to-day lives and concerns of Framingham residents. Therefore, I believe that it is important for the City Council to consider issuing resolutions as a means of expressing our community’s sentiment on important issues. As an important municipality in MetroWest, Framingham needs to show leadership. There is much more that we can do in helping to fight the Climate Crisis, being innovative in the area of Environmental Justice, and by taking a firm position on important national and state issues that our citizens care about.
Traffic and transportation infrastructure are among the most pressing issues facing eastern Massachusetts. Do you have any thoughts about city government’s role in dealing with traffic, transit, and pedestrian/bicyclist issues in the District 2 area specifically and Framingham in general?
I believe that Framingham needs to work on the following:
- Advocate for greater investment in the Framingham MBTA station as an important hub for the Worcester-Boston commuter rail line.
- Address failing intersections, in District 2, that would include the main intersections at the Nobscot and Saxonville village centers.
- MetroWest Regional Transit Authority – advocate for more funding and expanded service. We need better public transportation.
- Continuing to replace/add accessible sidewalks.
- Expanding bicycle lanes
- Bruce Freeman Trail – advocate for making this trail a reality sooner rather than later.
What’s the best way for voters to find out more about your candidacy? (Web site, Facebook page, etc.)
Please find out more about me on my website www.CesarForFramingham.com
What else if anything would you like to tell the residents of District 2?
I have enjoyed meeting so many more of my neighbors during this campaign season. I am grateful for the outpouring of support that I have received from individuals that have been active in local government for many years and from others that want to see Framingham continue to be a great city in the heart of MetroWest. I have been endorsed by the Sierra Club, the Mass Alliance Rising Stars Program and the Stonewall Democrats.
I have The Expertise We Need to:
- Improve the overall budget process to identify ways to bring more value to taxpayers
- Collaborate on important projects such as addressing our vacant city-owned buildings
- Build new relationships with local businesses to foster creative economic development
- Open the lines of communications so everyone can get involved
My priorities include:
- Strong schools and quality education
- Protecting our neighborhoods from inappropriate development
- Preserving open space and taking care of our waterways and natural resources
- Addressing traffic flow and parking issues while accommodating pedestrians and bicyclists
- Taking care of our seniors and easing the tax burden
- Working better together at all levels
We need new voices and new ideas at the table. If we keep doing the same things with the same people who have the same abilities, we will only get the same results. It’s time to vote for people who are qualified and skilled, who bring valuable perspectives to the table so the council can better serve the residents. I have The Expertise We Need on the City Council. I ask for your vote on November 5th.
Read the Q&A with Stewart-Morales’s opponent, Ricky Finlay.
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