Friday, July 20, 2018

Trump Is The One Taking A Knee

Trump Is The One Taking A Knee
by Bill Gouveia for the Sun Chronicle

President Trump has questioned the patriotism of players in the NFL who chose to take a knee during the playing of the National Anthem. He suggested that owners in the league just say “get that son of a bitch off the field”.
He instructed Vice President Mike Pence to walk out of an NFL game when a handful of players knelt in protest. He suggested others should leave when that happens and stop watching on television. He berated those who in his opinion showed disrespect for the flag, even after it had virtually stopped.
This week, that same “patriot President” stood on foreign soil and disrespected America and the intelligence community that risks its life to protect this country. He said he believed Vladimir Putin, a former KBG agent and Russian president, over his own people. Then he sat in front of the American people and tried to excuse his behavior in a way that was embarrassing and pathetic
Reflect on this past week. The president of the United States traveled to one of our greatest and most reliable allies and insulted their leader. He blasted our NATO friends and put forth untruths about them. He embarrassed his staff and his country to feed his own inflated ego.
Then he went to Helsinki to meet with the man responsible for the Russian attack on the last American election. The man reputed to be responsible for the murders of many journalists, politicians, and political dissidents. The man who leads the country the American intelligence community overwhelmingly agrees was responsible for direct attacks on our democracy.
And there, Trump dispelled all doubt as to where his loyalty rests — and it is not with the land represented by Old Glory.
The man who said people kneeling in protest to bring attention to the plight of citizens facing discrimination should leave America, seemed more at home with the Russian autocrat than those in his government. He respects power and ruthlessness more than compassion and leadership. This was an incredible display of arrogance, political posturing, and selfishness.
The president of the United States should never — ever — stand on foreign soil and take the side of an enemy over his or her own people. President Trump was not defending America on that podium in Helsinki, but rather playing domestic politics in a foreign land. He was putting himself first and advancing his own interests over that of the country he was elected to represent.
This behavior is treasonous. It required an apology. And not the ridiculous, disingenuous dog-and-pony show Trump performed on Tuesday, where he looked like a hostage forced by captors to read a message. In the same sentence where he said he now accepted the findings of the intelligence community, he couldn’t resist ad libbing that it could be wrong.
President Trump betrayed his country this week. He weakened his nation and threatened our national security. He didn’t just take a knee, he dropped down on both knees and humbled himself before the man who opposes everything represented by the American flag and all it represents.
Shame on our president, and those who continue to enable his behavior.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and a longtime local official. He can be emailed at billsinsidelook@gmail.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Foxboro AdCom Wrong To Duck The Public

Foxboro Committee Wrong on TV Issue
by Bill Gouveia for the Sun Chronicle

The Foxboro Advisory Committee (AdCom) doesn’t want its meetings televised. You know, the meetings where they publicly discuss and vote on their recommendations to the citizens on town meeting affairs. The town moderator, who runs town meeting and appoints the AdCom, encouraged that decision.
Shame on them. Their stance is self-serving and wrong, and an affront to the people of Foxboro.
It is hard to understand why a town committee would be encouraged to limit the public’s access to them, which is exactly what has happened here. And any AdCom member who truly believes it is in the public interest to keep their meetings off television should consider a new avenue of public service.
Moderator Frank Spillane said though it is debatable, the public may be better off if the meetings are televised. Then he added, “But that’s not my concern, about educating the community. My concern is you looking at all the warrant issues in front of you and making a recommendation to town meeting.”
Not your concern? Does a more informed public not make for a better, though not necessarily easier town meeting? Is the goal here to make government better for the people, or more convenient for those who serve on committees on their behalf?
The comments from some members were even more stunning.
Stephanie McGowan said members might be hesitant to ask certain questions. Member Larry Ooi said “in the end, I’m not saying we would rubber stamp, but it might feel like it.”
Robert Canfield had perhaps the most telling statement of all.
“As a volunteer, I’m not elected and I’m not paid. In those two situations, it’s different to put yourself out there. In the situation where I’m a volunteer, I don’t want people to be able to watch and misinterpret,” he said. “I would rather have them (the public) read notes based on the facts of the discussion.”
“I don’t want people to be able to watch” is not a phrase that should be used in local government.
If you are afraid to make decisions with people watching, you should reconsider being an AdCom member. If you aren’t willing to “put yourself out there,” you shouldn’t be volunteering for that job in the first place.
If the members of the AdCom “don’t want people to be able to watch” and would “rather have them read notes,” then the good residents of Foxboro have reason to question just what the committee is truly worried about.
It seems the moderator and AdCom are more concerned about the comfort level of individual members than the right of the public to observe their democracy in action. If the AdCom cannot work effectively with people watching, it should be disbanded.
If potential television viewers decided to show up at the meetings in person, would the AdCom become unable to function? Are the members truly that sensitive to scrutiny?
In an incredible bit of irony, the AdCom chairman — at the same meeting — asked the moderator for advice on how the committee could become more transparent. There was no TV, so we don’t know if he said this with a straight face.
Hmmm. Maybe he should have suggested televising their meetings.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and a local town moderator. He can be emailed at billsinsidelook@gmail.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Bidding Good-bye To "All Mighty Brycey"

Saying Good-bye To Bryce
by Bill Gouveia for the Sun Chronicle
Today, the news doesn’t matter. The hell with Donald Trump, the Democrats, the Supreme Court. I don’t care what the stock market did, what celebrity is cheating on their spouse, or whether my property taxes are going to rise.
Today, we celebrate the life of a young Norton boy. A baby who never wanted to be famous. His sister who will grow up without her brother. Their parents — their amazing parents — who have suffered the unthinkable while giving us all a lesson in love and devotion.
Bryce Derosier died last week. He was just 16 months old and suffered from mitochondrial disease. He spent months in the hospital, but was tough enough to return home and spend his final days with his family.
I wrote about “All Mighty Brycie” a few weeks back, recounting the story of his illness and his efforts to defeat it. Now it is time for us to stop concentrating on how he fought, and focus instead on what he taught.
The love this little man generated in his short time on earth is incredible. It speaks to the power we all possess yet seldom use — the power to love and trust unconditionally, to have hope in the face of hopelessness, and to extract what is good and important from whatever limited time we are given in this world.
Bryce brought people together with his smile, his strength, and his love of life. He never gave up, largely because his parents and family never gave up on him. I will always be in awe of how they stepped up and cared for him, advocated for him, and provided him with the very best life he could have. Despite the unimaginable pain they must now feel, they are so lucky to have had this amazing little boy in their lives.
People who never met Bryce loved him. He was symbolic of everything good and right with us as a people. Total strangers donated to help him. His father’s fellow police officers covered his shifts and gave the money to help Bryce and his family. No one asked Bryce’s politics, or his religion, or where he was born. They just fell in love with his smile, his spirit, and his family.
Bryce is survived by his heroic mother Jamie, his brave police officer dad Jeremy, and his beautiful sister Aubriella. He also leaves behind a legion of fans who came to love him, and were so inspired by his courage and determination.
But as we stop and say goodbye to Bryce, we thank him for what he has given us. We thank his parents for sharing with us both Bryce and his story. That takes a special kind of strength and character, which clearly runs deep in this amazing family.
While it is entirely appropriate to mourn, you cannot look at a picture of Bryce and not smile. That is his legacy, what he leaves for his family and friends.
How fortunate we all were to have Bryce Derosier here for a short while to shine his light, and show us all the way.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist who will hug his kids and grandchildren a little tighter next time. He can be emailed at billsinsidelook@gmail.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Friday, June 22, 2018

US Has To Be Better Than This...

By Bill Gouveia for the Sun Chronicle
What this country and administration did with regard to separating children from their parents at the U.S. border was immoral, unethical, inhumane, disgusting, and decidedly un-American. End of story.
I try and keep this space focused on local matters, with an occasional foray into national issues. But this is something that cannot be ignored. It affects us all. This strikes to the core of who we are as a people.
Punishing those suspected of committing the misdemeanor offense of crossing our borders illegally by taking their children and putting them in detention facilities is so reprehensible. These children are not a threat to national security. Many are incapable of breaking our laws by virtue of their age alone.
If their parents are arrested for serious crimes such as murder, rape or abuse, that separation is necessary. If they are simply accused of illegally crossing the border, be it to seek asylum or not, in no way does that justify taking their children. It just doesn’t, regardless of what some alleged “leaders” may say.
And don’t for a second believe those who say “but this is the law.” It is not. There is no law requiring the government to broadly prosecute all these cases with “zero tolerance”, and certainly no law requiring children be taken from their parents while their status is determined — and beyond.
No, that was a choice made by the Trump administration, the attorney general, and the president. Despite their inconsistent lying about it, this was their policy. The president could have ended it with a phone call or a stroke of his pen at any time. But he waited until public pressure forced his hand.
The president, his chief of staff, his AG and others all admitted they were using these children for leverage. They wanted to discourage more people from crossing the border, and push Congress to fund the border wall. The president says these people are “dangerous criminals” and blames Democrats for the fact children are in camps, even though that is a lie.
Former first lady Laura Bush rightfully and accurately compared this to the shameful interment of people of Japanese descent into camps during World War II. Her words were frighteningly striking and sincere.
Defenders of this policy said the kids are being well cared for, even have videos and movies. Conservative pundits called it “like summer camp.” They ignored that they are behind fences, some in cages. There are pictures of small children wearing numbers — something that should chill us all to the bone.
This was never about Democrats or Republicans, wins or losses, examples or deterrents. This is about innocent children. Those responsible for this horrible policy should be ashamed and rejected.
Let there be no doubt. President Trump created this policy. Giving him credit for now stopping it is a bit like congratulating the arsonist for putting out the fire he started.
In essence, the president has continued his “zero tolerance” policy. Now instead of detaining innocent children alone, he will detain entire families who in many cases are just trying to survive and looking for asylum in the “Land of the Free”.
We have to be better than this. Better than him.
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, June 15, 2018

Trust North Korea, But Not Canada?

by Bill Gouveia for the Sun Chronicle
Our President says he trusts the leader of North Korea, but the prime minister of Canada is dishonest and obnoxious.
We live in interesting times.
President Trump this week traveled to Singapore to hold an historic meeting with Kim Jong Un of North Korea. Trump deserves credit for having the courage to accept such a meeting, and for focusing on diplomacy rather than exchanging childish insults the way the two did just months ago. It is far better to be talking about issues rather than who has the bigger launch button.
But the juxtaposition of how Trump treats our neighbors and allies with his handling of a ruthless murdering megalomaniac is more than a little unsettling. In fact, it’s pretty weird by almost any standard.
Kim Jong Un has jailed and been responsible for the deaths of American citizens. He has threatened the Unites States with nuclear annihilation. He has executed many of his citizens and family members in order to consolidate his political power. He has insulted and threatened a wide variety of American presidents and politicians of all parties, and his representatives called Trump “a dotard”.
But after meeting him for five hours, President Trump said the North Korean dictator “loves his people” and added, “I think he trusts me and I trust him.” Trump also said the dictator has a “great personality”, a great sense of humor and is supported by his people (like they have a choice).
In contrast, Trump reneged on an agreement he initially approved at the recent G-7 summit because he didn’t like how Canadian leader Justin Trudeau spoke at a press conference. The president summed up his anger saying, “He gave out a little bit of an obnoxious thing. I actually like Justin, you know I think he’s good, I like him but he shouldn’t have done that. That was a mistake. That’s gonna cost him a lot of money,”
Trudeau’s apparent mortal sin is threatening a response to large tariffs Trump has placed on steel and aluminum. He says Canada will not be pushed around. What Trump complained about most is Canada’s 270 percent tariff on dairy products, something the president has cited as a threat to America’s national security.
Hmmm — he trusts the guy who kills Americans and threatens our country with nuclear weapons. But he goes full throttle after the leader of an allied, neighboring nation who has fought wars at our side because he thinks they are stealing our milk money.
There appears to be a bit of a consistency issue here.
Of course, Trump supporters will claim the president never gets any credit. They will point to the meeting with Kim Jong Un and remind us no other American president has ever done this. They will say he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize.
If the summit with North Korea leads to peace and denuclearization (however that is defined), then give Trump his due. Give him the prize. He will have earned it — but only if his work yields substantive results.
In the meantime, we might consider moving some troops to the Canadian border. This milk thing could get out of hand quickly.
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, June 4, 2018

North's Override Was Done Right

North's Override A Model For Others
by Bill Gouveia for the Sun Chronicle
It’s been a couple months since the surprising (to some) passage of a $6.5 million general override in North Attleboro — a town many had considered the least likely in this area ever to override the limits of Prop 2 1/2.
As the dust has settled, many outside North are asking the question — how did they do it? Some in my hometown of Norton, where two general override questions have lost in the last several years, are certainly curious. Norton has never approved a general override.
Of course, there is no “magic answer” to the question of how to pass one. You obviously need very good reasons to back up such a request. It needs the willingness of selectmen just to place it on the ballot. Then, it requires a lot of information, explanation and old-fashioned political skill and elbow grease to get the taxpayers and citizens to support it. All that goes without saying.
North had all that — but then again, they had all that before only to see previous overrides voted down. So why was this effort successful? Was it simply that the need and solutions to the problems were so clear and obvious they could no longer be ignored?
Maybe. But in the opinion of this veteran local political observer, it was much more than that. And it represents a pretty clear model for all who wish to emulate the success of those who got it done.
North Attleboro’s override passed because it was done the right way — from inside the system rather than outside it. This was not just a group of parents or concerned citizens with no local political experience gathering together and influencing those in power. It was not a town-employee led organization seeking to add staffing and salary increases.
This last override was the result of solid leadership from within — plain and simple.
Over the last several years, some veteran selectmen were replaced with younger newcomers who had a different view of the town’s problems and how to address them. They respectfully and adroitly worked from within, bolstering the credibility and reliability of the town’s executive board. They concentrated less on protecting certain political powerbases, and more on what was better for the entire community.
They certainly did not achieve this alone. Any override effort has to have a dedicated band of supporters who work behind the scenes to make it happen, including other town officials. But this time in North, they were not feeling isolated. They did not have to drag selectmen kicking and screaming to help in their efforts.
This last override was a coordinated effort by those in charge of government to make things better. They put forth their argument in a united, reasonable manner — and the people responded.
This last time, the selectmen didn’t just back the override with empty words and gestures. They maintained their responsibility to not campaign, but made it clear where they stood. And folks – that can make all the difference in the world.
The example set by North Attleboro is that overrides are passed when people believe their town government is committed. Kudos to those in North who got it done.
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, May 25, 2018

Couch And Schools, Food And Guns...

by Bill Gouveia for the Sun Chronicle

When I was a kid, my mother had one rule that got enforced more than any other: You could not sit on our living room couch with any food or drink.
I didn’t think our couch was all that great, but it was to Mom. She wanted it protected, and with three kids she knew that was a challenge. So she didn’t just have one rule, or one focus on how to get that job done.
Mom tried covering the couch. She had some cloth covers, and one time tried plastic. She had it treated with some kind of stuff (remember, this was a long time ago) that was supposed to protect it. She also tried permanently banning us from the room, but that had limited success at best.
The only thing that sort of worked was not allowing us to take food in the living room. Of course, this just made us want to bring food there even more. We told her we were responsible eaters. We had been around food our whole lives, knew how to handle it, and that the right to eat was basic to who we were.
But Mom was smarter than that. She explained to us that she wasn’t banning all food — that would be silly and unreasonable. But you simply don’t bring some food into certain areas, not because food itself was bad or evil — but because almost every time you brought food into a living room, bad things happened.
I wish those in Congress and the White House would follow Mom’s commonsense example when it comes to the issue of guns, assault-style weapons, and trying to stop school shootings.
Like the aforementioned couch, we have done a lot to protect our schools.
We are designing them with safety in mind. We are installing alarm systems, stronger glass and doors, and even placing resource officers or security guards inside.
But unlike Mom, we haven’t gotten our leaders to understand that covering up something, whether a couch or a school, is not going to stop the real problem. You have to make sure what you are protecting them from is kept away. Otherwise, you will ultimately fail.
Is this a silly comparison? Of course it is. But to be honest, I’m running out of ways to logically explain this problem. I’m not sure anymore how to get through to those who are so wrapped up in their right to have guns of all types that they can’t understand the concept of the greater good, our collective safety, and – to draw another silly comparison – keeping your couch safe for those who sit on it.
Eventually, Mom allowed us to have certain types of food in the living room.
But the foods that could cause the most damage — those that would stain and cause irreparable harm — were only to be eaten elsewhere. We were not allowed to have them outside of the kitchen or dining room.
I keep thinking that if it worked for Mom (minus the occasional renegade eater), then doesn’t it make sense when applied to guns and schools?
Sometimes the simplest solution is the best one.
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, May 18, 2018

Town Meeting Is Great - But...

Power And Responsibility - Town Meetingby Bill Gouveia for the Sun Chronicle

The institution of open town meeting (OTM) is an example of democracy in its purest and simplest form.
But in these days of multi-million dollar budgets and complicated municipal finance regulations and obligations, OTM can also serve as a dangerous threat to the long-term stability and financial planning of a local community.
That was in evidence in Norton this week when town meeting began work on the town’s $55 million proposed budget. The budget total recommended by the finance committee was ultimately approved, but there were some changes proposed and one amendment passed concerning how that budget is distributed.
Voters approved an amendment put forth by the school committee to add $143,900 to the school budget, and another to reduce the town’s health insurance account by the same amount. School committee member Deniz Savas said the figure represented the amount of health insurance saved by the committee’s decision earlier that evening to privatize the school food services and eliminate the jobs of cafeteria workers.
Because the decision was made literally minutes prior to the start of town meeting, there was no opportunity for the finance committee to review it or assess the impact.
But it was passed overwhelmingly by those in attendance at town meeting, who seemed to represent a mostly “pro-school” crowd.
That in itself is not alarming, as it is the right of town meeting to pass the budget it wants.
However, there was talk of adding even more to the school budget by transferring from various other accounts and budgets that were deemed “not as critical” by some speakers.
If school officials had been so inclined, they no doubt could have gotten the meeting to add a lot more money to their budget. To their credit, they stuck to the amount they had voted to support. But the very real possibility was there, and such a move would have caused major financial and budget problems in other areas for the town.
What’s the point? Well, voters at town meeting have complete power to change the budget numbers, but no responsibility to have studied them or be aware of the ramifications. This means the final word on crucial budget decisions is made by whoever decides to show up to just one single meeting.
You don’t have to convince a majority of councilors or selectmen or finance committee members. You don’t have to go to hearings, provide information in advance, or meet any other standards other than getting the most votes in a popularity contest after perhaps an hour of discussion.
All you have to do is turn out people who will support your efforts. It becomes a battle of political wills and organizing skills, rather than a discussion of facts before elected representatives.
Kudos and respect to all those who make the effort to be informed and show up for town meeting.
But when it comes to spending $50 million to $100 million budgets, the decisions should not be the result of a vote by whoever happens to show up.
Democracy is a wonderful thing, but it still has to be tempered with the right dose of responsibility.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist, longtime local official, and the Norton town moderator. He can be emailed at billsinsidelook@gmail.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.