Monday, April 2, 2018

My Oldest Grandchild Is Now A Decade

My oldest grandchild completes his first decade on the planet tomorrow, something that both thrills and amazes me. As our family prepares to celebrate this momentous event, I can’t help but run the highlight reel of how he has made my life better repeatedly through my mind.
The first Gouveia of his generation was born at Falmouth Hospital on the evening of April 3, 2008. He was a bit tardy, but accelerated his arrival at the last moment. I was home in Norton, having just brought my wife home from the hospital after surgery, when we got a text from my son. It was short and to the point, saying simply “Now!”
I looked at my wife, knowing she was not well enough yet to make the hour ride. She simply smiled and said, “Go —if it was me, I would leave you here in a heartbeat.” I kissed her, jumped in the car and headed down 495.
On the way, my phone rang. It was my son. As he started infuriating small talk with me, I heard a baby crying in the background.
“Is that my grandchild?” I asked impatiently. Aaron just laughed. I quickly advised him of just how much danger he was in if he did not answer my question immediately.
At long last he said, “Dad, just hurry up and get here — your grandson is waiting for you.”
At that point I rolled down the window while driving and began screaming at the top of my lungs: “I have a grandson!” I then asked what his name was, but my son merely laughed and said he’d see me when I got there.
The next thing I recall is walking into the hospital room and seeing a bald little person peacefully sleeping. I stared mutely, then walked to the bed to embrace my daughter-in-law. Then I hugged my son and turned toward the new focus of my life.
Aaron picked him up, handed him to me, and said, “Here, hold your grandson.” As I held this miracle in my arms, he added, “By the way — his name is William.” At that point my knees buckled, and I had to sit down before we both fell.
William George Thomas Gouveia (did I mention his name is William?) has been a joy to his family ever since. Though he has been joined in the ranks of grandchildren by two brothers and two adorable female cousins, he will always be our first. The love his grandmother and I feel for him is matched only by our pride in the young man he has become.
Will is smart. He is funny. He is compassionate. He is also a wise-guy of the highest order, definitely inheriting the sarcasm gene from his father and grandfather. He acts like his dad, looks like his mom, and will always hold a special place in my heart. We are fortunate to have been able to be so close to him.
So happy birthday, Will. You cringe when I call you “a decade,” but this is just the start, buddy. Your future is bright. Watch out world — Will is on his way.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at billsinsidelook@gmail.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Blaming Victims Rather Than Guns

Blaming Victims Rather Than Guns
by Bill Gouveia for the Sun Chronicle

The obsession with guns and the “freedom” they allegedly represent has reached new heights.
The latest sick and twisted message from the NRA and other pro-gun groups is that we should blame the victims and potential victims for school shootings. You see those kids walking out in respectful protest? It’s their fault because they have not been nice enough to their fellow students.
Gun advocates believe that fact there are no standardized national background checks to buy a gun is not the problem. Nor is the fact high school students can buy an AR-15 in many states. No waiting period to buy a gun in many places? That’s not the real cause of this violence, they claim.
The problem is that students aren’t nice enough to each other. It’s their fault.
Instead of walking out to bring attention to the need for better laws and policies, those kids should seek out the bullied, the troubled, the unstable and help them fit in. That would be more effective than urging their adult counterparts in government to strengthen and standardize gun laws.
That is such a self-serving, insensitive, and stupid argument.
Hey, I’m all for kids being kind and inclusive. Bullying is wrong, and kids are key in stopping it when they can. We can all be nicer to each other.
But it is sickening to see adults who have power pass the blame for their own shortcomings to kids who don’t. Are we this desperate to avoid responsible gun regulations nationwide?
Is this the most effective way to curb gun violence in schools? Should kids make friends with the kid who is killing his/her pets and making threats towards others? Sitting at the lunch table with an overly introverted peer might make him/her more sociable and involved. Or it could make that outcast more likely to obsess over you.
Is it possible limiting access to guns for that child might keep everyone safer? Don’t adults have the responsibility of keeping guns out of the wrong hands?
Oh no – we need more guns. We need to arm teachers, place more weapons in among the children. What could possibly go wrong with that idea? A school shooting was ended this week by an armed police officer stationed in the school, but that’s a sad but reasonable reality.
Clearly, this is not an either/or situation. We can and should do both. Bringing kids together and providing stronger counseling services should be pursued.
But in addition to strengthening gun laws — not in place of that effort.
Criticizing these kids for the responsible actions they have taken is akin to blaming the victim in a rape. We should show students as much respect and honor their place in our society as we do guns. Considering it is their lives being threatened, we should be proud these kids have assumed some responsibility for their own safety.
We blame poor mental health services. We blame video games. We blame declining moral values. We blame families. And now, we blame students trying to speak out. We blame anything — except the ease with which guns can be obtained.
Thank goodness our kids seem to get what so many of us don’t.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at billsinsidelook@gmail.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Bryce's Fight Is Our Fight Too

Bryce's Fight Is Our Fight Too
by Bill Gouveia for the Sun Chronicle

Every once in a while, something strikes you right in the heart. With that in mind, I’d like to talk about the Derosiers family. More specifically, 1-year-old Bryce Derosiers, who is my new hero.
Bryce’s dad Jeremy is a police officer in Taunton where he and his family now live, but to me he will always be a Norton kid. That means his amazing wife Jamie, 2 1/2-year-old daughter Aubriella, and young son Bryce are also by extension Norton kids.
Jeremy has been a friend of my son for years. He is an extraordinary young man.
In a cruel twist of fate, both Aubriella and Bryce have a severe form of mitochondrial disease, manifesting in a wide variety of physical and neurological problems.
For Bryce, it became life-threatening last month when he started seizing uncontrollably and wound up in the ICU at Children’s Hospital in Boston.
He had to be placed into a coma to let his brain rest, his incredibly strong mother explained. Doctors have done virtually everything they can to keep Bryce alive, but the odds have not been in his favor. Still, he has thus far defied them and come out of his coma and given everyone hope.
Jamie has documented Bryce’s daily fight on Facebook, and it is nothing short of miraculous.
It turns out Bryce is perhaps the toughest kid ever, and his struggle to survive — supported by the unending and unconditional love of his parents, family and friends — has been beyond all definitions of heroic.
Despite obstacles that would simply overwhelm most kids or adults, Bryce is holding his own. Progress is measured in the smallest of steps, and the ups and downs are unbelievably difficult.
But over time, Jamie and Jeremy have allowed us to watch Bryce’s fight. He clings to life as only the very strong can. He perseveres in a manner only made possible by love, faith, good wishes and prayers of people from virtually everywhere.
Jeremy’s fellow police officers have selflessly donated over 100 shifts to help him and his family in their time of need. People have shoveled their driveway, provided meals and offered support of all types. A GoFundMe account set up by Jamie’s high school friends has raised a considerable sum thus far for the family’s expenses, but much more is needed.
While Jeremy, Jamie and Aubriella are eternally grateful for the love and support, they really want only one thing. They want their “Mighty Brycey” to come back home, to play with his sister and grow up knowing how many people have already loved him without ever actually meeting him.
Jamie spends virtually every night sleeping at the hospital with Bryce. Jeremy is the only one able to make his son laugh since he came out of the coma. These parents give new meaning to the word “family.”
Some of us live to ripe old ages, but never make the kind of impact on this world Bryce Derosiers already has. He deserves both a break and a chance, as do his loving parents and sister.
Those Norton kids are made of tough stuff.
Donations to help the Derosiers family can be made at www.gofundme.com/all-mighty-brycey.
Bill Gouveia is a localolumnist and lifelong Norton resident. He can be emailed at billsinsidelook@gmail.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Candidate's Conflict Position Inconsistent

Rep Candidate Juggling Conflict Problems
by Bill Gouveia for the Sun Chronicle
This column first appeared in the Sun Chronicle on Friday, March 16, 2018
Attleboro City Councilor Julie Hall is arguably the front-runner for the state representative seat formerly held by Mayor Paul Heroux. With that unofficial designation comes increased scrutiny, and some criticism for inconsistencies surrounding “conflicts”.
Council President Mark Cooper suggested Hall abstain from voting on approving the special election on April 3 for both the debt exclusion and the vacant legislative seat. His reasoning was it could be seen as an attempt to increase turnout and help her chances.
Hall complied with his “request” and abstained from what was a routine vote that ended up being otherwise unanimous. It did provide Hall with political cover, which may or may not have been the intent. But since councilors routinely vote on funding for elections in which they are involved, the claims of conflict were hollow at best.
Then came controversy over campaign contributions Hall received from individuals connected to entities with business before the council, past and present. Hall claims there is nothing wrong with them legally or ethically, and she may well be right.
However, the idea that voting to fund a special election is a conflict, but accepting money from people seeking your vote to aid their business is not, makes little sense. A case can easily be made that either each is a conflict, or neither is. But having it both ways seems awfully convenient.
Now the issue of whether or not Hall would keep her council seat if she wins the rep race has arisen. Voters are sensitive to that, as they were when Heroux briefly considered holding both posts before wisely deciding against it.
Hall has indicated she would keep both seats initially, particularly because the special election winner only holds office until November. Then that person must run again and win to stay in office.
When asked, Hall acknowledged she currently plans to hold both seats should she win, at least until the November election. She notes that former representatives and councilors Bill Bowles and George Ross held both positions simultaneously, thus creating a precedent. She said that did not seem to cause any problems.
Hall said she suspects that if she won both elections, in November she may find herself not being able to vote on certain issues due to possible conflicts between the two positions. She also pointed out that if she won in April, resigned from the council and then lost in November, she would be completely out of public office.
Which is a reasonable explanation of why holding both would be better for her, but not for why it would be better for the city.
If something is probably going to be a conflict in November, why would it not also be a conflict in April?
Being a councilor is not a full-time job, so this is a bit different from the mayor’s situation a few months back. No one is saying Hall would not have the time, or would be “double-dipping” for two salaries.
Hall is an excellent, well-qualified candidate for state representative. But she is already worried about conflicts. That should worry the voters.
Hall can end that worry by simply promising to resign from the council should she win the legislative seat.
No conflict there.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at billsinsidelook@gmail.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Power Goes Off, So Do We...

When The Power Goes out...
by Bill Gouveia for the Sun Chronicle
(this column appeared in the Sun Chronicle on Monday, March 12, 2018)
I was one of the fortunate few that never lost power last week, despite a couple of pretty powerful storms.
Still, I have gone without electricity for prolonged periods of time before. It is not fun. It can be costly, unhealthy and downright dangerous for seniors and those with medical issues.
Like most, I never think my power comes back fast enough. And I complain about it.
Logic tells us we can’t control Mother Nature. When trees and telephone poles are tossed around like toothpicks, wires are going to go down. Roads are going to be blocked. Crews have to wait until it is safe to start making repairs.
But logic can fade quickly. As the food in the refrigerator starts to stink, so can your attitude. The lower the temperature in the house drops, the lower your spirits sink. Before you know it, you are going through the “Three Stages of Power Loss.”
Stage 1: Adventure. You prepared and now is your time. You break out the generator. You find and light the candles. You locate that stash of “storm food” you carefully stored away. You grab the 20 pounds of batteries you bought just for this occasion. You gather the kids, toast marshmallows in the fireplace and laugh about times gone by.
Stage 2: Anger. The kids are whining. You smell and there is no hot water. You’ve watched 12 Disney movies on your phone and don’t want to go to the car to charge it again. That family you hate a few streets over got their power back three hours ago. The electric company’s website says your power won’t return until midnight tomorrow, causing you to throw a battery through the radio. A tree is resting on your garage, there is water in the basement and your blood pressure and blood sugar are competing for the highest number.
Stage 3: Blame. You power company has one lousy job, to make things work in your house. Now they can’t even do that. They should have anticipated that “bomb cyclone” thing. The four transformers that caught fire should have been replaced years ago. All those property taxes we pay and the town can’t make sure they trim trees everywhere? Why is MY town always losing power, yet that town next door always seems to be lit up? I told my spouse we should have bought the generator.
Then the lights come back on, and things slowly return to normal. The Celtics game is back on TV. The ice cream isn’t melting in the freezer.
You are back to complaining about the price of heating oil, microwaving the leftovers and not going to town meeting to support that budget increase requested by the department of public works in order to trim the trees you were just complaining about.
This past week produced some legitimate complaints concerning state supervision of utilities and their job performance. But boy, are we spoiled.
Our utility companies and communities can always do better. But wouldn’t it be a novel approach if we expressed our appreciation for them when things run well as fervently as we complain about them when they don’t?
After all — we could be in Puerto Rico.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at billsinsidelook@gmail.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Some Foxboro Selectmen Have Wrong Priorities


AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia

This column appeared in the Sun Chronicle on Monday, February 26, 2018 

            Virginia Coppola and James DeVellis are selectmen in Foxboro.  When it comes to hiring town hall clerical employees, both appear to believe qualifications are not as important as who your spouse is.

            They both made that clear this week when the town manager announced the hiring of a new “community information specialist”.  Coppola and DeVellis were outraged when they discovered the new employee is the wife of the manager of external affairs/business development for the Kraft Group.

            Selectmen (thankfully) play no role in the hiring process for this position.  That is the job of the managers, both well-paid professionals.  They fully admitted that when they hired the individual, they did not know who her spouse was or if she even had one

            That’s because employers are not allowed to ask those questions.  Candidates – at least those for non-confidential municipal clerical positions - are under no obligation to disclose marital status, religion, or favorite color.

            But Coppola and DeVellis were not satisfied with that, or the fact the new employee agreed to a confidentiality agreement out of an abundance of caution.  They said hiring this person somehow opens the town up to the risk of secret information being leaked to the Kraft Group.  They were a bit vague on just what that information might be.

DeVellis suggested the town manager should have reviewed the candidate’s Facebook page and social media accounts because she had been to meetings and functions, and thus could have been recognized.  The town’s lawyer recommended against that practice. 

They were not reassured when told the person would not be participating in confidential matters, and would not attend any executive sessions.

            There are employees in town now who recuse themselves in cases where they have relatives involved in the topic under discussion.  That is extremely common in municipalities everywhere.

            Yet DeVellis claimed this situation compromised the board and made him uncomfortable.  He tried disguising his concerns as being about the hiring process, but it was clear his objection was to the person.  He simply did not want the employee in this position to be the spouse of a Kraft Group member.

            Town Counsel and others pointed out almost all documents in town hall are public record, and any employee could distribute information.  In fact, that is what this position of “community information specialist” is supposed to do.  So DeVellis’s objection is hard to fathom.

            Coppola’s reasoning and logic was even worse.  She outrageously and publicly questioned the integrity of the individual when she wondered out loud, “Why does she want to work for the Town of Foxboro?  If she’s so qualified…certainly she could get a higher-paying job in the private sector.” 

            After hearing that awful statement from Selectman Coppola, a lot of potential and current employees may well be asking themselves the same thing.

            We can only assume Coppola and DeVellis are currently scouring town records, looking for the marital connections of every town employee.  If there is a secretary in town hall married to a manager at the local donut shop chain, they will no doubt have similar concerns.  Otherwise, their actions would smack of discrimination.

Because as they said – for them, it’s not about the Kraft Group. 

Yeah, right. 

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official.  He can be emailed at billsinsidelook@gmail.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Reform Must Come First in North

Change Must Come First In North
by Bill Gouveia for the Sun Chronicle


There is little doubt North Attleboro needs more money in its budget to properly fund the operation of the community and provide services citizens and taxpayers deserve. Selectmen have called for an override to add about $6.5 million to do exactly that, and they deserve credit for having the political will and courage to try and address the very real problems.
But voters should firmly and decidedly reject this override, despite a strong case being made by the board. The reason is simple:
Their current governmental structure is not working, and until it is changed the voters and citizens should not trust it with an increase anywhere near this magnitude.
That is not meant as an attack on any individuals currently holding office in North, but rather an indictment of the entire system. Any kind of even cursory look at the facts proves it to be true.
This is a community where the legislative body refuses to correct the obvious problems that plague it. The 135-member RTM (Representative Town Meeting) has consistently fought efforts to reduce its membership, despite the fact it has great difficulty attracting people to serve.
This year there are 61 open RTM seats available at the upcoming town election. A grand total of 38 individuals will be on the ballot seeking them. There will be 23 seats with absolutely no candidates, save for write-in opportunities.
That’s almost 38 percent of the available seats attracting zero candidates. Many of those vacancies will be filled by appointments by the RTM itself.
This is the body that ultimately decides the town’s budget, enacts the bylaws, and conducts important town business. It speaks volumes about the lack of confidence North citizens have in the RTM system.
Some will point out a charter commission is currently considering eliminating RTM, and revamping much of the rest of North Attleboro’s governmental structure. They will tell you that is a major discouragement to those considering seeking election.
That might have some truth to it — this year. But it does not explain why participation has been almost as terrible in most other recent years as well.
The people of North Attleboro need to take a firm stand. They must insist on government reform first, before any major budget increases. This government does not even have a town manager with authority and responsibility to hire, fire, and administer the budget. There is no way voters should give this disjointed system another $6.5 million. Plan first — pay later.
That may indeed seem harsh. It may also seem unfair, particularly to the students in a school system that cries out for additional funding. Or to the public safety departments that have undergone significant cuts in the recent past.
But it makes no sense to pour more money into a bad system. Demand the changes first. Make sure there is none of the political sabotage that has ended other attempts at reform. Don’t let a bad governmental format dig a deeper financial hole for what will hopefully be a new and better one.
If North Attleboro taxpayers are going to trust local government with another $6.5 million, that government should have to first show things have indeed changed.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at billsinsidelook@gmail.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Monday, February 12, 2018

I Hear You - I Really Hear You!

Yes - I Can Hear You Now!
by Bill Gouveia for the Sun Chronicle
I have often been accused of not listening. While I generally deny it, I will admit that many times I simply could not hear.
In a nod to advancing age and a rejection of useless vanity, I recently started wearing hearing aids. I’m sure that is of little interest to most, but I mention it in hopes my experience might encourage others who have been considering it but decided against it for various reasons.
I can’t tell you how relaxing it is to not strain intently just to hear people speaking. To participate in conversations in restaurants and not have to simply nod my head and pretend because I had not been able to understand. To not have to say “What?” repeatedly and irritate people (well, I still irritate people, just not by doing that).
To suddenly be hearing things you haven’t heard in years is strange. I had no idea my floorboards and cellar stairs were so creaky. Flushing the toilet now sounds a bit like standing at Niagara Falls. If you crinkle a paper bag within 100 yards of me, I am likely to jump. And while it does not “cure” the ringing in my ears, it definitely helps mask it.
While I heartily recommend these small electronic miracles, I also understand why more people don’t use them. They are expensive, and often not covered by medical insurance. Even when purchased at “discount” prices, they are still pretty costly.
It is also somewhat difficult to get used to wearing them, although the ones I have are pretty small and comfortable. I have never used the “earbuds” style of headphones because I hate the feeling of something in my ear. But these are relatively non-intrusive and I quickly forget they are even there.
I was also concerned about how they would look to others. I worried about them being visible, about looking old or infirmed. But the former turned out not to be an issue, as they fit nicely behind my ears and are covered by my glasses. The latter just didn’t seem very important once I realized how different my life was when I could hear properly.
There are a few drawbacks. A lot of the background noise I could not hear previously can now occasionally be both annoying and overwhelming. Certain voices of a particular frequency sound like a siren going off in my head. After years of talking loudly to me, my wife is having trouble lowering the volume. But the benefits far outweigh any problems.
Is it somewhat damaging to my ego? Maybe — but you get over that quickly. Preparing for bed has become more of a process. Between gathering my medications, storing my glasses, taking care of the dental work, and now properly caring for the hearing aids — it can feel like taking a car apart in the garage every night. But it ensures I won’t run out of things to complain about anytime soon.
To those who can benefit from hearing assistance and are avoiding it for non-monetary reasons, I urge you to give it try.
But hey — you don’t have to “listen” to me.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at billsinsidelook@gmail.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.