Framingham votes to become a city

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Framingham, which has been a town for 317 years, is relinquishing its title as the largest town in New England.
 
By a 108-vote margin, Framingham residents yesterday approved a charter change that will replace the town manager, Board of Selectmen and 216-member Representative Town Meeting with a full-time mayor and 11-member City Council.
 
The official vote tally was 5,690 to 5,582, with a turnout of a little more than 28 percent of registered voters.
 
The new charter will consolidate the town’s 18 precincts into nine districts and change the School Committee from seven at-large members to nine members elected by district. The City Council will have nine members elected by district and two elected citywide.
 
Voters will elect the mayor and City Council on Nov. 7, and the new government will take effect on Jan. 1, 2018. Elections will be held in November of odd-numbered years.
 
The mayor will have a four-year term, while councillors and School Committee members who win the Nov. 7 election will have two-year terms. The two at-large councillors will have four-year terms beginning with the winners of the 2019 election.
 
The mayor and at-large councillors are limited to a maximum of three consecutive terms, and district councilors are limited to six consecutive terms.
 
The mayor will have a salary equal to that of the current town manager: $187,639. Each councillor and school committee member will be paid a $5,000 stipend, with the chair of each body earning a $7,500 stipend.
 
The charter establishes procedures for voters to bring matters before the City Council and School Committee for a hearing and creates the position of citizen participation officer “to improve communication and outreach between the residents and the municipal government.”
 
The charter provides for an automatic, periodic review of the charter, with the first such review set for five years after adoption.
 
Proponents of the charter change argued that the town of roughly 70,000 had outgrown its town form of government and that a “strong mayor” form would increase accountability.
 
The process began two years ago, when a group called Framingham First collected enough signatures to put a charter question before voters. Last March, 75 percent of voters approved the creation of a charter commission, and nine charter commissioners were elected. The commission developed the proposal approved by voters on April 4.
 
Given the narrow vote margin, however, several media outlets are reporting that opponents are likely to request a recount.
 
With Framingham becoming the state’s 57th city, Brookline, with a population of roughly 59,000, will rank as the largest town in Massachusetts, followed closely by Plymouth, with a population just shy of 58,000, according to Department of Revenue population estimates. Arlington and Billerica are the only other towns with a population above 40,000.
 
Framingham ranks 14th in the state by population.