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12/27/2022

Cobi's Corner

Hey Neighbors!

2022 was a whirlwind of a year. As we head into the holiday season, I'm excited to share all the progress we've made since we last checked in!

Feel free to explore by topic:

1. COLLABORATION - working with partners, from local to national
  • Franklin boasts amazing young leaders who continue to help out with local initiatives:
    • FHS Green Team students took the lead on calculating Franklin’s greenhouse gas emissions as a first step in reaching our Net Zero goals. After consulting local climate activists, the students presented the top-level findings to the Town Council. We'll continue working on next steps for the Town!
    • A team of AP Government students helped me research the successes of various downtown revitalization efforts across the Commonwealth. I also visited Gov classes alongside State Rep. Jeff Roy and four(!) fellow Franklin alumni working at the Massachusetts State House.
    • Students across town sought assistance on their 8th-grade civics projects. I also got to discuss local government with civics students at Mattapan’s Brooke Middle School and our own Oak Street Elementary School.
    • FHS SAGA helped organize Franklin’s first Pride celebration, and Politics Club met with me to discuss Vote 16.
  • I joined MA leaders at the 2022 YIMBYTown conference in Portland, Oregon to learn about creating fair and sustainable cities. I learned a ton from community leaders around the country and am excited to bring some of the lessons back to Franklin!
  • I became the Franklin representative on the Greater Attleboro Regional Transit Authority (GATRA) Advisory Board, where I work with neighboring municipal officials to improve the region's public transit. 
  • In addition to monthly Senior Center office hours, I held "reverse office hours" at a Farmers Market to chat with residents while they completed their weekly shopping. 
To kick off the new year, I'll be hosting COFFEE WITH COBI office hours at Intermission on January 9 (8-10am). Come through!
  • Franklin continues to support many amazing community groups, including the SAFE CoalitionFranklin Food Pantry, and Franklin Downtown Partnership.
    • I was grateful to attend the ribbon cutting for the Pantry's new location in the old Edwin's building!
    • The Think Franklin First gift cards are still a great way to ensure your dollars stay local this holiday season and beyond!
  • I helped form a Massachusetts Young Electeds network for state and local leaders under 30 to share ideas and partnership.
  • The new Dean College leadership has been great to work with and open to new ideas, as we look to better integrate the college into Town. 
    • I've chatted with Dean Student Government, the College has held monthly neighborhood meetings, and I even got to meet former Governor Dukakis on campus!
  • The Franklin Freedom Team continues to meet, proactively and retroactively promoting community love.
    • The Team responded to an incident at the high school, while poetry nights (at Escape into Fiction) and community conversations (at the Library) help maintain an ongoing dialogue.

2. CONSIDERATION - making our community stronger

  • The Town celebrated a string of successes this year, receiving recognition for our work across many departments:
    • Finance received a AAA bond rating (the highest possible rating) for the first time in Town history, a credit to our strong financial management.
    • Fire achieved ISO Class 1 status (the top rating), only the 9th community in the state and second outside large cities. Check with your home insurer for possible savings! 
    • Police achieved full accreditation for their adherence to top professional standards. 
    • Public Works won a MassDEP Public Water System Award, among three communities highlighted for their conservation efforts. Our director, meanwhile, was recognized last year as a Top Ten Public Works Leader in the country.
  • The Town Budget is perhaps the Council's most important task, as it reflects the ongoing balance of town values.
    • Schools saw the largest increase, receiving their full funding request as we seek to catch up to top communities. Major initiatives included a new superintendent, expanded DEI work, and district-wide teacher raises.
    • DPW also saw an increase to assist in infrastructure maintenance. An upcoming stormwater utility fee will relieve some of the costs.
    • We're using additional federal COVID stimulus funds to extend our successful mental health clinician Police program, invest in much-needed water/sewer maintenance. and provide bonuses to Town employees who worked through COVID.
  • The long-sought Franklin for All downtown rezoning project seeks to promote a more financially-solvent, accessible, vibrant, and healthy town center. 
    • After a long process gathering community and expert input, I'm thrilled to finally be making progress on improving Franklin's rules for development! Check out the MAPC's summary and recommendations for more info.
    • Among other pieces, we are looking to welcome downtown improvements in line with our historic footprint, meet state standards for transit-oriented development, and enact affordable housing requirements.
    • Check out my podcast appearances on Downtown and Inclusionary Zoning, this Milford Daily News article, or my posts on gentle density, housing data, town history, parking mandates, and regional rail for more of my thoughts!
    • Other downtown initiatives this year include improving our public parking policies and funding an upcoming branding & marketing study.

Our kids and elders are struggling to afford homes in Franklin.
  • 2022 saw more open space and historic preservation wins:
    • We purchased the 113-acre Schmidt Farm, as well as 16 acres of adjacent land, previously set to be a sprawling development.
    • The Southern New England Trunkline Trail received major surface and safety improvements, as well as significant funding for studying opportunities to extend the trail downtown.
    • I walked the Charles River Meadowlands with our conversation agent and regional conservationists this Fall. Look out for this and more in Open Space Master Planning next year!
    • Community Preservation funds are restoring the Red Brick Schoolhouse and Museum, among other projects.
    • The Old South Meeting House is being externally preserved and repurposed for affordable housing. We'll discuss next steps for the Davis Thayer School this year.
  • We improved street safety and accessibility
    • We're completing the Washington Street sidewalk network, a priority identified in our Complete Streets Plan
    • Grove Street received state-funded intersection and road improvements. On opening day of the new multi-use path, a few bike riders used it for their cross-country tour!
    • Additional priority improvements being discussed include the Chestnut/Pleasant intersection, traffic calming along King and Pleasant Streets, and bike lanes.
  • Franklin's arts and culture receive continued attention:
    • Franklin Cultural Council's MetroWest Arts & Culture Symposium brought the region's community leaders to Franklin to discuss local arts advocacy and expansion.
      • Keynote speaker Michael Bobbitt enumerated the economic benefits of local cultural initiatives and identified 3 keys to sustained local success: organizational planning, dedicated staff, and dedicated space. 
    • Another long-time goal of mine came to fruition! This summer, Franklin officials and stakeholders toured the downtown and cultural assets of surrounding communities
    • As a result of these conversations, look out for a townwide arts & culture planning effort in the new year!
3. CELEBRATION - finding joy through arts, culture, and recreation
  • Realizing a goal since my first election, I was thrilled to help Franklin host its first-ever Pride Month celebration! It was heart-warming to see LGBTQIA+ community members and allies of all ages join together through art, crafts, song, dance, and stories. 
    • The Council also voted to formally recognize Pride Month townwide.
    • The Franklin LGBTQ Alliance (who organized the celebration) and the Senior Center's Rainbow Cafe have continued to promote inclusion around town.
  • I connected with neighbors at both the Strawberry Stroll and Harvest Fest, where vendors from around town gathered for a day of celebration.
  • This year's Cultural Festival was back and better than ever! I'm rarely a prouder Franklinite than when seeing this incredible diversity of local artists, top talent, food trucks, cultural activities, dedicated volunteers, and local businesses. 
  • It was a great year for art in Franklin:
  • Our student athletes and activities always represent Franklin well:
  • I helped return the downtown StoryWalk this summer, promoting reading and engagement among young students in Franklin.
  • Seasonally decorating the downtown with the Garden Club and Councilor Mel Hamblen is always a highlight.
    • Councilor Hamblen and I also decorated a Town Council Christmas tree at the Senior Center!
  • I had the joy of participating in many town-wide holiday celebrations, from Hannukah to Garba, Earth Day to Memorial Day, Dawali to Juneteenth!
In personal news...
  • I passed my first major piece of legislation! Under the Committee leadership of Rep. Roy, the Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind is a landmark effort to ensure the Commonwealth remains on target to reach our ambitious climate goals.
  • My tour of the Netherlands this fall examined their world-leading approach to suburban development and mobility. Check out my photos and reflections!
  • I completed a Public Leadership Certificate from the University of San Francisco, alongside a diverse cohort of elected officials across the country. The network has proven fantastic for generating new ideas and policies.
    • The sponsoring Elected Officials to Protect America awarded me a fellowship this summer, where I collaborated with current and former elected officials on national climate advocacy and local policy initiatives.
  • I began taking Regional Planning courses from UMass Amherst to expand my technical knowledge of planning, infrastructure, and climate resilience.
Have a safe and happy holidays. As always, please reach out if you ever have any thoughts or questions!

Your Franklin neighbor,
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