Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Veggies and Bookies - the Eternal Struggle

This colum originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on April 16, 2012

The Attleboro City Council is a very busy group charged with creating and maintaining city ordinances, making important budget decisions, and ensuring the voice of the public is heard loudly and clearly inside City Hall. They are a formidable and powerful collection of citizen politicians.
The councilors must stand up to many groups. They are consistently being targeted by the police lobby, the fire lobby, the school lobby, the construction lobby and many other influential and persuasive organizations. Through it all they must be fair and forge alliances that benefit the city.

But some special interest groups are just too powerful, even for this distinguished board. This council has survived angry employees, enraged private citizens, belligerent department heads, even stubborn and determined mayors. But recently they met their match as they ran headlong into a veritable cornucopia of political pluck and power they simply could not handle.

The Attleboro City Council became the latest victim of that coalition that has shaken lawmakers from Beacon Hill to Capital Hill, from the shores of Boston Harbor to the banks of the Potomac. They came to Attleboro and planted the seeds of revolution. That’s right – the city council has been beaten into submission by the incredibly influential “Vegetable Lobby”.

The Veggies (as they are known in smoke-filled backrooms all across this country) play for keeps. They are not afraid to use the dirt they dig up for their own purposes. They have left many a soiled politician in their wake, the growth of their movement obvious as they have spouted up here in Attleboro.

The Veggies recently harvested the councilors like a good crop, monopolizing their meeting on the Attleboro Farmer’s Market for three hours and 15 votes one night and four hours and 19 votes on another. Not since deciding the weighty question of what color to paint the meeting room walls has the council been this confounded by a situation. The aroma of fertilizer seems to linger yet today like a cloud over City Hall.

In the end, the Veggies appear to have been victorious. They have earned the right to gather peacefully in a city parking lot on Saturday mornings next to the library, and seem to have weeded out any serious opposition. To do so, they had to overcome the concerns and political strength of another strong organization, known as the Bookies. The early money was on the Bookies to prevail and add yet another chapter to their long and storied success. But it appears the book has been closed on this ongoing dispute as the council has turned the page in a novel approach.

There is no doubt this has been a political hot potato for both the city and the organizations involved. During their meetings the councilors debated many half-baked proposals before whipping up the eventual solution. They designated the Police Chief to act as their shield – er, representative – when it comes to deciding if the Veggies need to hire an officer to manage traffic wishing to visit their gatherings. The Bookies are worried those gatherings may make it difficult for their clients to reach them, and sought some sort of compromise which could allow both groups to grow and flourish.

But the confused councilors could only manage a bushel full of motions, some that even the makers wound up voting against. At the end they were pretty much where they started, plowing little new ground in the long-running debate. There was many a beet red face in the chamber by the time all was said and done, but the Bookies position seems to be on borrowed time as the council made a decision that was long overdue.

That begs the question – why is it so hard for these two fine groups to get along? Given their ultimate goals, they would seem to be two peas in a pod. But whenever the bean-counters get involved, it can leave a bitter taste in many mouths. Yet it would be nice if everyone could come together and simply reflect on a higher purpose and a common goal. So let’s gather in the parking lot, join hands, and begin the healing process.

Lettuce pray…

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist who loves both vegetables and books. He can be read on these pages, fed almost anytime, and reached at

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