BARBARA HOWARD: Framingham is getting ready to choose its first mayor. The two candidates for Framingham mayor, Yvonne Spicer and John Stefanini, squared off for the last time ahead of Tuesday's election in a debate that was moderated by WGBH Radio's Tina Martin, and she is here with me in the studio. Hi, Tina.

TINA MARTIN: Hi there, Barbara.

BARBARA HOWARD: So how did it go?

TINA MARTIN: It actually went very well. I think that this is the last in a slew of debates between the two of them, so I think that both candidates, Yvonne Spicer and John Stefanini, have kind of gotten into a swing, you know, they've kind of gotten into a flow. Both candidates got their points in on education, taxes, and working with small and large businesses. This forum was actually co-sponsored by the Metro West Chamber of Commerce, along with MetroWest Daily News, so there was a focus on business. And for those who don't know about Framingham, they are home to large companies like Bose, Staples, TJX, but they also have many smaller mom-and-pop type companies. And so one of the questions was how are you going to spark economic development and make sure that you balance the two? Because larger companies, maybe, have different concerns than smaller ones. So let's start with John Stefanini on how he's going to spark economic development in the city:


JOHN STEFANINI: What I will do is I will convene business leaders, folks that I work with and know and have partnered with for a very long time. I’ll reach out to people I’ve worked with in the state who are part of the economic development conversation.

TINA MARTIN: And, of course, that's John Stefanini referring to his years as a state representative, he was also a town selectman. Here's Yvonne Spicer on economic development:


YVONNE SPICER: We’re going to have to change the message here in Framingham, that we're not the difficult place to do business in. We hit the reset button, on day one, to say yes we are open to business, yes we are welcoming.

BARBARA HOWARD: What are the biggest concerns for Framingham voters?

TINA MARTIN: So the biggest concerns, really it's one big concern, from what I understand from voters, it’s schools. Framingham has four underperforming schools in the city, and many parents are concerned, many teachers are concerned, many people in the business community are even concerned. So one of the questions I asked of the candidates, both candidates today, was how are they going to involve the business community in an effort to improve those schools. And here is Yvonne Spicer:


YVONNE SPICER: One of the ideas I certainly feel is a great one is to adopt a school — is to look to our businesses in the community, each one of these underperforming schools, you’re going to adopt them and have a relationship.

TINA MARTIN: And John Stefanini has a very different perspective. Let's listen to what he says:


JOHN STEFANINI: What are other communities doing in this area? High quality universal early childhood education. Look at other communities, look at education studies. We need to make sure that 4-year-olds have an equal opportunity to succeed.

BARBARA HOWARD: Well it sounds pretty civil there. In previous debates, there’s been a little heat, I understand, between the two candidates. What happened this time?

TINA MARTIN: You know what, this time was fantastic. Both of them shook hands in the beginning and the end of the forum, and they were both allowed their three minutes. No one interrupted anyone. So today was very smooth. You know, hopefully by Tuesday people will be able to make a decision on who they want as their mayor.

BARBARA HOWARD: Well it should be noted that if Yvonne Spicer were to win, there is historical significance to that.

TINA MARTIN: So Yvonne Spicer, if she's elected, she would be the second popularly elected African-American mayor in the state, only to follow Setti Warren in Newton. There is some confusion because Denise Simmons, who is also African-American, is the mayor in Cambridge, but she is elected by the city council. 

BARBARA HOWARD: An important distinction. Thanks for joining us, Tina.

TINA MARTIN: Thank you very much.