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
Bill Gouveia is a localolumnist and lifelong Norton resident. He can be emailed at 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 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 and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Some Foxboro Selectmen Have Wrong Priorities

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 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 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 and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Congressman Kennedy Earning His Way

This Isn't Your Grandfather's Kennedy...
by Bill Gouveia for the Sun Chronicle

Being a political junkie, I watched the State of the Union address last week. Then I watched the official Democratic response.
If you’ve read this space before, you can probably guess which one I liked better.
But it was interesting, informative and intriguing to see local Congressman Joseph Kennedy of the 4th District of Massachusetts deliver the response. Though not necessarily for the reasons some might think.
Much of the country tuned in to see the grandson of Robert Kennedy and the grand-nephew of President John F. Kennedy step firmly into the national political spotlight. Many did so with visions of Camelot in their heads, others with continued contempt for the Kennedy clan.
But please allow me to help explain something to the rest of the country. We here in Southeastern Massachusetts aren’t currently being represented by John, Robert, or Ted Kennedy. We didn’t elect someone to continue a dynasty, or restore one. This is not a seat to be inherited.
We elected and re-elected Joe Kennedy because he represents our ideals, our values and our work ethic. Because he is smart, knowledgeable, humble and effective. We didn’t bestow a title upon him. We hired him to do a job.
And Congressman Kennedy is doing it well.
He has earned his way. He spent time working for the Peace Corps. He toiled as a state assistant district attorney in the Cape Cod area. If you think that is a glamorous political appointment — think again. It is a tough, gritty assignment dealing with real people and real problems at a level many of our leaders never experience.
His reputation for constituent service is excellent. He is available throughout his district, and in a manner that is heavy on listening and learning, and light on showing off and politicking — though the latter part is definitely increasing after last week.
People at our end of the district are in no way “liberal elitists” catering to big-name democrats. We demand a lot from our leaders, and are pretty good at sniffing out phonies when we find them.
Joe Kennedy appears to be the real thing. His honesty and openness is striking, and he is getting better every day at something he has not always been comfortable with – speaking out strongly in public.
You can’t fake sincerity, at least not for long (present White House occupant excepted). In places like Attleboro, Fall River, Taunton, Foxboro and Norton, folks tend to get right to the point. They aren’t overly impressed by big names (unless they are Brady and Belichick).
Look, one great speech does not a leader make. It is premature to be touting Kennedy for president in 2020, or even governor or senator yet. He has more work to do, and lots more to prove.
But those who thought he was simply “another Kennedy” should now know better. Congressman Kennedy has his own record to stand on, and continues to build upon it. He’s proud of his family, as well he should be. But in political terms, he is creating his own path.
This congressman is building his own legacy, and doing it the right way. Just ask his constituents. And after last week, the rest of the country.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Golden Time For Patriot Fans

Patriots In Their Opponents Heads
by Bill Gouveia for the Sun Chronicle
This past Sunday I attended my 12th AFC Championship Game. All of them have involved the Patriots, eight of them in Foxboro. While standing in Gillette Stadium with my son and my best friend, we got into a spirited but friendly chat with a couple of Jacksonville Jaguar fans.
After the usual jousting (they claimed they were going to win, and we arrogantly told them that was cute), they started talking about how thrilling it was just to be in the game. That brought into focus for me just where the Patriots are in the minds of the rest of the country.
“We’re going to beat you, it’s our time,” the young man said while his female companion supported him. I responded with some witty remark about how if Tom Brady only had eight fingers, he would be Blake Bortles. Then after wishing each other well, the Jags fan said something that struck me.
“You know, even if we lose – we’re here,” he explained earnestly. “I mean, to play in this stadium, against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, is unbelievable. Most teams don’t even get that far. It’s really awesome.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what the New England Patriots have done to the rest of the NFL and its fans. They have made their opponents “just happy to be here.”
The Patriots are the most hated team in professional sports today. That’s largely due to the fact they are the most successful sports dynasty of the 21st century.
In less than two weeks they will play in their record 10th Super Bowl, and hopefully win for a record-tying 6th time.
Of course, they are also despised for other reasons. Spygate, Deflategate, and several other alleged “gates” have also contributed to that elite level of hatred.
Toss in a genius coach who resembles an angry Yoda, a handsome quarterback with a supermodel wife, and a spoiled Boston fan base with 10 major sports championships in the last 16 years and you’ve got the perfect villain.
The Patriots are Big Tobacco. They are health insurance companies. They are that kid who lived down the street who always got the date you wanted.
They are that family in the neighborhood who always has the better-looking lawn, no matter how much you spend or how hard you work on yours.
If you had told me back in the 1980’s this would happen, I would have thought you were nuts.
Sitting on a cold aluminum bench in the league’s worst stadium watching the league’s worst team, the idea of anyone fearing the misfits from Foxboro was laughable.
But no one is laughing now — except us.
In less than two weeks, the Patriots will once again have the chance to disappoint the rest of the country. And the City of Brotherly Love and their loyal fans could be left having little beyond the honor of losing the Super Bowl to the best franchise in the history of football — again.
We are living sports history here. Enjoy it — we may never see its like again.
Go Pats.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and a Patriot season ticket holder since 1973. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Not So Fast On Foxboro Meeting Rooms

Foxboro Citizens Own Meeting Rooms
by Bill Gouveia for the Sun Chronicle
I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting or talking to Foxboro Town Manager William Keegan, but I look forward to doing so. He has done an admirable job of steering that community back towards professionalism after a period of unruly politics and out of control politicians.
But his recent proposal to bar or restrict both “political” organizations and outside groups from using certain public meeting rooms in the town hall and other town buildings shows an insensitivity towards taxpayers and citizens. While his proposed policy is no doubt well-intentioned, it is ill-advised and sends exactly the wrong message.
Keegan’s proposal would prevent groups deemed political from using some conference and meeting rooms in the town hall, the senior center, and the public safety building. He said the rooms should not be used for politics, including groups like the Town Democratic and Republican committees.. He also suggested requiring groups that do not include a town employee to add the town to their insurance policies, and be subject to being bumped by town committees after booking.
To begin with, trying to separate politics from the Town Hall is a bit like trying to separate the Red Sox and Fenway Park. It’s physically possible, but people will still associate the two. Politics is what makes town halls possible and necessary.
And yes, there should be no political fundraising done in a municipal building. In fact, that is already illegal. Candidates for elected office should not be holding campaign meetings in the Town Hall proper. It gives the wrong appearance, if nothing else.
But groups like the Democratic or Republican town committees should be able to utilize public meeting space. So should other community organizations made up of citizens and taxpayers.
It is certainly fair to give town boards and committees preference in scheduling those meeting places, as municipal business comes first. But Foxboro taxpayers were asked to pay for a new town hall as well as the other meeting spots. If they are good enough to pay for them, they should certainly be entitled to also use them.
Selectman James DeVellis expressed concern the policy could discourage groups and individuals from participating in local affairs. “The backbone of this town is its volunteers. I think over time we’re losing the genuine want for groups to come in,” he said. That concern is a good one.
Keegan believes some type of policy is needed, though he expressed a willingness to change it. Selectmen must ultimately vote to adopt any policy, and they asked the town manager to review the proposal after including input from local citizens and non-profit groups.
“Making policy is like making sausage. You put a bunch of stuff in there and something comes up,” Keegan explained. That’s an accurate though overused cliché.
But in this case, the taxpayers of Foxboro paid for the sausage. They shouldn’t be banned from eating it just because it’s not always a pretty sight.
Here’s hoping the selectmen eventually institute a much more inclusive policy for public spaces. Now excuse me, I’m suddenly hungry.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.