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Framingham has launched an inaugural free, six-week series of interactive workshops that will cover a range of local government topics at multiple locations.
Framingham recently changed from a town to a city both in name and form of government. The city’s charter also created the citizen participation officer position within the new mayor’s office.
“There was a lack of engagement across the city and a lot of misunderstanding and misconception [about the change],” said Alaa Abusalah, Framingham’s first citizen participation officer.
Abusalah and Mayor Yvonne Spicer discussed ways the city could provide clarity.
“We created a more structured process where we can educate citizens who can learn directly from people running the city,” said Abusalah, “and make it very hands-on with small groups.
“We want everyone to walk away with a set of tools.”
The academy application launched with 20 spots available. Within 48 hours, the city had received 70 applications, Abusalah said, who added that the city still received calls inquiring about spots in the program.
The city is looking to host a spring session and is paying close attention during the inaugural session for ways to improve the program to make it more engaging, educational and fun.
The academy has held two of the six sessions so far: a “Framingham 101” and a session on funding and the budget process. Both featured high-level officials and department heads. The mayor, City Council chair, School Committee chair and superintendent attended the first session. The city’s chief financial officer, chief procurement officer, treasurer/collector, assessor and city accountant attended the second session, which featured an activity where participants worked with the numbers on a proposed tax.
“The departments I am working with are over the moon because it is an opportunity for them to share what they are working on and what they do,” Abusalah said.
“I want the residents of Framingham to feel they are informed and have the ability to make an impact on their local government,” said Mayor Spicer. “The Government Academy is designed to do just that, and hopefully the graduates will gain the knowledge they need to advance their neighborhoods, be prepared to serve on boards and commissions, and engage in the decision-making process in the city of Framingham.”