Monday, October 29, 2012

You Can't Run Government Like a Business

This column appeared in the Sun Chronicle on Monday, October 29, 2012.

If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times. It is often said about government at all levels. If you believe some, it is the simple answer to many of our pressing societal and financial problems. Yet it always makes me shake my head in amazement. What is this popular theory?

“We need to get businesspeople into office, and start running government like a business.” Yeah, right. Run government like a business. That’s the answer – not.

Trying to run government like a business is a bit like hiring Bill Belichick to be President. He’s got a great and useful skill set – but not for that particular process and goal. He understands the value and need for hard work in order to be successful, but has achieved that success because he controlled and dictated the rules of the organization he has so brilliantly run. Put him in a total government environment and he will have definite problems.

Imagine Coach Bill holding a press conference and having to explain virtually every aspect of what he has done. Or fielding calls from concerned citizens who have helpful suggestions on what should be done. Better yet, try and picture the Patriot coach presenting his budget to Congress and having to lobby for their approval. Like football, government takes a team approach to success. But unlike football, government does not concentrate the power and authority to make the key decisions in the hands of the professionals.

Government is not a business. It is not an entity that is supposed to make a profit. If a government worked perfectly, it would provide for the basic needs of its people and spend exactly what it brings in and not a penny more. It doesn’t try to win, it doesn’t manufacture a product, it doesn’t get handed down from generation to generation (unless of course your last name is Kennedy or Bush).

Government is something unique. It doesn’t have shareholders, it has citizens. It doesn’t have bosses, it has leaders. Government doesn’t have many of the luxuries that businesses enjoy. For the most part, governments can’t “go out of business”. They can’t just wake up one morning and decide they are no longer going to be in the education business or put forth a strong military because it is costing them too much money to do so. When businesses have a product or service they can’t produce profitably – they drop it. They operate under the principle of supply and demand.

When you operate a business, you can make difficult decisions in private. Your deliberations are between you, your staff, and your owners or shareholders. They aren’t on television, there aren’t reporters sitting in the audience ready to write down everything you say. Your every mistake isn’t broadcast to the public at large. Is it any wonder good businesspeople hesitate to commit to public service?

There is no doubt some of the principles of good business also apply to government. But when you run a business and need to buy a piece of equipment, you go out and make the best deal you can. When you need that same piece of equipment in government (at least here in Massachusetts), you have to go out to bid. You find yourself at the mercy of bidders who know they have a captive audience. Just look at the cost of constructing a public building as opposed to a private one.

We say we want government run like a business, but we really don’t. We give our government rules that prevent that from happening. Of course, the reason for those rules is that without them government often falls prey to corruption and cronyism. But the price for transparency in operation is often quite high.

When businesses have great years and do well, they often expand. They add product lines. They employ more people and increase their technological capabilities. They grow into new areas. Government expands too, sometimes to do what the private sector chooses not to do. But the reason is providing service, not making money.

If you want your leaders to treat government like a business, then we all need to act like employees rather than citizens. I don't believe that's really what we want.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Friday, October 26, 2012

My Selectmen Take on the UN

By Bill Gouveia

While reading this fine newspaper recently, I came across a riveting article.  It told how the Norton Board of Selectmen had reversed a previous vote and decided not to locally promote United Nations Day this year because, in the words of my good friend and veteran selectman Bob Kimball, “They aren’t making any effort whatsoever to protect the citizens of the world”.

Well, thank goodness we in Norton have the board of selectmen to protect us from these foolish endeavors.  I shudder to think what could have happened were not the selectmen standing ever vigilant at the gates of town, preventing ineffective organizations from gaining the huge advantage and supreme status of being specificallyrecognized in the global community that is Norton.

Having served as a Norton selectman, I know the tremendous pressure board members are under to issue these much sought-after royal proclamations honoringcauses and institutions.  There can be little doubt adding the Norton selectmen’s approval elevates them to the next level.  

I join our distinguished selectmen in saying I do not think the UN has done a great job over the last decade or so.  And as the selectmen do, I also believe the UN’sintentions are good.  But good intentions won’t get you recognized on your 67thanniversary from this Norton board, not by a long shot.  This group only pays off forresults.

Sure, we all know the UN is an organization formed for the purpose of establishing peace, protecting human rights, and saving children.  But what have they done for us lately?  They let almost anyone speak there - even those who don’t agree with us.  It’s obviously a good thing selectmen won’t fly the UN flag in recognition of their efforts (successful or not) for peace over the past seven decades.  Heck, I might not even contribute when those pesky kids come to my door on Halloween trying to collect pennies for UNICEF, the fund the UN sponsors to feed starving children across the world.

Some radicals think perhaps selectmen should have taken the larger view.  They could have recognized the tremendous goals of the United Nations, the ideals on which it was originally created, and celebrated that.  I suppose they could have urged the UN to improve on its performance while still managing to honor the fact there is a placenations can go to try and avoid wars by agreeing to communicate with each other in an orderly fashion.

They probably could have set aside a day to honor the many troops and diplomats across the globe who work hard to make the UN better, despite living in a world where most shoot first and ask questions later.  But hey – selectmen can’t beseen as saying the town supports some organization that simply isn’t getting the job done.  Norton can’t just honor every organization out there seeking world peace.  Selectmen must stand on their principles.

Let’s just hope all those Eagle Scouts the selectmen rightfully and properly recognize every year understand why they no longer get citations and proclamations.  No doubt the kids deserve it for their outstanding work and efforts.  But the Boy Scouts organization hasn’t really gotten the job done lately, and that could not have possiblyescaped the eagle-eyes of our local board members.  

Using the same sound logic and principles on which they based their decision to not promote the UN locally, selectmen will no doubt also shun the scouts.  With the recently released list of suspected sexual predators they kept secret for decades, thusexposing kids to harm that could have been prevented, the Boy Scouts must rank right up there with the UN on the selectmen’s list.  Continuing to recognize the scouting organization and not the UN would be hypocritical, political and silly.  It’s pretty clear the selectmen are way above that sort of thing.

Here’s hoping the Norton board gets all the attention they so richly deserve for their debut on the world stage.  All our local issues must be completely under control,since they have now shifted their efforts to global matters.

You think this means Town Meeting has to get involved in trade talks with China? I need to find my Mandarin/English dictionary…

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and the Norton Town Moderator. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Foxboro Officials Biggest Obstacle to Important Negotiations

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, October 22, 2012

By Bill Gouveia

In all fairness to the Town of Foxboro, negotiating with an organization like the Kraft Group is very difficult.  While the two entities share a lot of critical interests, they also have some that clearly divide them.  It is to be expected that coming to agreement on the myriad of issues facing both would take a great deal of time and effort.

But frankly, Foxboro’s biggest problem negotiating seems to be – well, Foxboro.  It’s not that the town is doing a bad job of negotiating on behalf of its good citizens.  But town officials keep acting like they can’t find the negotiating table with a map and a flashlight.  It’s not that officials are saying or doing the wrong things, but rather that they can’t decide who should say or do the right ones.

It would take more space than is available here to review the complete history of these negotiations.  To summarize, selectmen in particular have issues over the last agreement which included liquor licenses and other incentives for Patriot Place in exchange for increased revenues in general and some complicated billboard revenue sharing.  There was also the matter of $7 million promised to help the town construct a sewer plant, which it later decided not to build.  Some selectmen believe they are still due that funding.  Now the Kraft Group is seeking more help in further developing their property for their benefit and that of the town.

However, they can’t seem to find anyone who wants to talk to them.  Selectmen weren’t happy when the town negotiators consisted mostly of water/sewer folks, so this time they appointed a special committee to do the job.  They included first one, then later a second of their own members to make sure they had control of the negotiations.  They scheduled meetings with the Kraft Group, bringing them before the board in public session on several occasions.  Foxboro has now canceled the last two negotiating sessions, the first without prior notice to the Kraft Group.

Now town counsel Richard Gelerman has advised the board to dissolve the committee.   By putting two selectmen on it and controlling the appointing of the others, they in effect made it a sub-committee subject to the Open Meeting Law.  Since much of the negotiations need to be done in private due to their nature, that would involve executive sessions where minutes must be kept.  Gelerman consulted with the state attorney general’s office and based upon their advice suggested appointing one person – Town Manager Kevin Paicos – to represent Foxboro.  Paicos would then be free to negotiate in private and bring help with him as he deems necessary.

But selectmen apparently either did not like what their own attorney had to say, or did not believe him to be correct.  Selectman Brue said she would not approve moving forward without a written statement from the AG’s office.  The board then voted to delay appointing any new negotiators until at least October 30th, despite their attorney’s assertion that setting up the process “is not all that complicated.”

The bottom line is the Town Manager/Administrator of a community is the person who should be running high-level negotiations like these.  That is how it is done in most towns, with selectmen and Town Meeting ultimately having final approval.  The board usually makes clear their priorities to the town administrator, and he or she does their best to represent the interests of the entire community.

Kevin Paicos damaged his ability to do this by his very political and personal actions during the Great Casino Debate.  But as long as he holds his current position, he is the person who should be representing Foxboro in negotiations.  If his board members do not trust him to do so, they should find another town adminstrator. 

Foxboro needs professional representation at the bargaining table, not just well-intentioned volunteer officials doing the best they can.  Professional negotiations are not conducted in public.  Those who want it done that way are either trying to sabotage the efforts, or simply don’t understand the process.  This is not about “transparency” but rather about using common sense.

It takes two willing parties to come to an agreement.  Thus far these negotiations have included only one. 

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Voters in November Need to Come Out in April Too

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on Friday, October 19, 2012

by Bill Gouveia

In about three weeks, voters in our area and across the country will flock to the polls primarily to elect the next President of the United States. In the process they will decide important congressional races, choose their senators and governors, and elect their state legislators.

All indications are voters here are taking their responsibility very seriously. Town clerks throughout the area have been swamped with citizens registering to cast ballots. They are even doing so early, taking out absentee ballots and making sure they have a say in choosing their leaders. They want to make sure their vote matters.

And that is a good thing. What our leaders do and how they vote affects our lives and our futures. Those leaders need to know voters out there are willing to exercise their sacred right and participate in the electoral process.

But while as many as half of those registered may cast ballots on November 6th, they tend to take a break come spring. When our area communities hold their local elections to choose selectmen, school committee members, and other officials who directly affect their lives on a daily basis via their decisions and policies – many of these same dedicated and determined voters are nowhere to be found.

Local election turnout in most area communities has hovered between 8-15 percent in recent years. Unless there is a Proposition 2-1/2 override to be decided, this has become the norm. The huge exception was Foxboro, when the possibility of a casino pulled in voters who hadn’t bothered with town elections in decades. Other than that, getting voters to participate in local elections is like pulling the proverbial teeth.

The question is – why?

Here in Massachusetts, the issue of which presidential candidate will win the electoral votes at stake was pretty much decided long ago. There is a red-hot race for senate that has attracted national attention, and some interesting state senate and representative races. But although the old axiom of “every vote counts” remains very true, the fact is our local impact on the presidential race is negligible at best.

Most of our selectmen and school committee races are decided by a few hundred votes. The people we elect set our local bylaws and regulations, control the education of our children, and directly influence our property taxes. They answer when we call them on the phone to complain, they live in our neighborhoods, and their actions affect our lives almost every day.

Mathematically speaking, our votes in local elections have a larger effect on those contests than state or national campaigns. We become bigger fish in a smaller pond. But that pond is where we live, it is our home. If our local problems can’t be overcome and solved, our national ones sometimes become less critical.

But our local candidates don’t spend millions upon millions trying to win our support. There are no Super Pacs spending non-stop to influence how we think and act with regard to most local issues. Our national defense and the balance on the Supreme Court are not dependent on how we vote in town elections.

But it will be your selectmen who decide if you will face an override vote in your community. They will hire your town manager, who will be responsible for budgeting for things like your public safety departments, maintaining your roads, and making sure an ambulance is ready to roll when you need it.

It will be your elected school committee members who will oversee the education of your children. You will trust your most precious possessions to the system they sit atop for five days a week. They will hire the superintendent, who will hire the teachers who will shape the very lives of our young people.

So by all means, get out and vote on November 6th. Your vote is more important than ever. You can’t make a difference if you don’t vote. Your country works best when the people in it do their job.

But come spring, do it all again. Come out and vote in your local elections. Play an active role in shaping your community. Be that bigger fish in that smaller pond. After all, government – like charity – begins at home.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook

Monday, October 15, 2012

Boards of Selectmen Need More Women Members

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on Monday, October 15, 2012

By Bill Gouveia

I have a question, and I’m hoping someone out there may be able to give me a good answer:  Why are there so few female selectmen in our local area communities?

I did a rough count the other day and determined there are 41 selectmen seats in the nine Sun Chronicle area towns that have them.  Of those 41 seats, just nine – or 22 percent – are occupied by women.  Since the ratio of women to men in the general population is at least equal, it begs the question – why are so few women holding local leadership positions?

Now, there are no quota systems.  We are supposed to elect leaders without regard to their race, creed, sex or religious beliefs.  Office seekers should be judged by their qualifications and leadership abilities, not their gender.  We should be choosing the best candidates, whether men or women.

Having said that, the gender gap with regard to selectmen seats is still surprising.  Only one local community (Foxboro) has a board of selectmen where women make up the majority, and that is a recent development.  Three area towns (Mansfield, Seekonk and Norfolk) have no women serving on the town’s highest elected office.  Rehoboth has two female members, and Norton, North Attleboro, Wrentham and Plainville each have one.  Is there any particular reason for this? 

The problem is not that voters are rejecting female candidates.  Women are simply not running for the positions.  There are decidedly fewer female office-seekers than male candidates.  There are many theories as to why this is.  Their validity is very much open to debate.  Let’s look at a few.

Women don’t like local politics.  This argument is difficult to believe.  Women arguably are affected on a day-to-day basis more by local government than their male counterparts.  They still make up the majority of stay-at-home parents, and they must deal more directly with local budget issues such as school-related cuts, reductions in library hours, and public safety manpower issues.  To allege there is something gender-specific that accounts for interest in local affairs seems sexist and wrong.

Local governments tend to be mostly “good ole boy networks”.  This is a good point, although certainly attitudes have changed over the years.  Still, a much smaller percentage of voters cast ballots in local elections as compared to state and national campaigns.  This means a certain small block of voters – generally comprised mainly of longtime political activists and citizens – determine who gets elected selectman.  They tend to produce their own candidates from within their ranks, who are usually men and often difficult to defeat.

Women are more family-oriented than men and thus don’t volunteer their time in the political arena.  This was probably true for generations, but now is insulting to both men and women.  Parenting is an equal opportunity partnership today.  Men no longer automatically go off to work, leaving their domestic goddesses to tend to the household chores.  The stereotype of a working woman somehow being less of a parent has pretty much been shattered.

Local voters still have a bit of a sexist attitude towards electing women.  You would hope we are long past this also.  Nonetheless, we live in a country where women do not always get equal pay for equal work.  Prejudice and discrimination will never be totally eliminated in any area.  There are no doubt some who just somehow feel “better” being represented by a man.

Women in general are just too smart to subject themselves to the abuse that comes with local office.  This is one of my favorites.  Women are certainly influential in all facets of life.  Do they prefer being the “power behind the throne” when it comes to local affairs?  Do they generally believe they can make more of a difference behind the scenes?  Are they simply disgusted by what goes on in local politics and unwilling to put up with it?  There could be something to all that.

I’m not sure why there are not more female selectmen, or selectpersons if you will.  But I believe we all suffer as a result of having far too few.  Leadership is hardly an exclusively male trait.  Here’s hoping that 22 percent figure rises in the very near future.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Big Bird and Politics - Quite a Surprise

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on October 9, 2012

By Bill Gouveia

In my never-ending quest to bring the latest information to you good readers, I was able to secure an exclusive interview with one of the key figures in the recent Presidential debate.  After exhausting nearly every contact in my intricate political network, I managed to get the inside scoop from the famous personality who took the biggest direct hit in the televised event.

No, I didn’t interview President Obama.  I spoke to Big Bird.

That’s right, the gentle giant and I sat down (well, I sat down – he couldn’t find a big enough chair) and had a long discussion about his sudden impact on the presidential race.  Although now in his mid-40’s, I found him almost child-like in his approach to his new found political status.  Having been thrust into the primetime limelight now by candidate Mitt Romney, many want to know just where Big Bird stands on the issues of the day.

I began by asking the international celebrity if he was surprised by his new political notoriety.  “I sure am”, he replied with that wide-eyed innocent look that has made him the target of ultra-conservatives everywhere.  “I’ve pretty much been talking to kids for four decades on Sesame Street.  Now all of a sudden there are adults who seem very concerned about me.  I think it’s very nice of them.”

When told that Gov. Romney wants to eliminate the federal funding which subsidizes PBS, the public network which produces Sesame Street and many other educational programs, Mr. Bird professed surprise.  “I know Mr. Romney is a very smart man, so he must be right to worry about how much money the country needs.  I’ve spent a lifetime helping kids learn to do things like count.  I don’t know if he learned from our show or not, but someone must have done a good job of teaching him”, the eight-foot tall character said earnestly.

The TV star said he understands the need for financial security.  “I certainly have built my own nest egg over the years”, Big Bird noted.  “But it’s really hard to believe our show and our network are hurting this great big country.  If this means I have to eat a little less seed every day, I’m willing to go along.”

“Still, I have to worry about my flock”, Bird told me.  “Maybe Mr. Romney and all the smart people around him could find somewhere else to save some money?  I mean, this can’t be because they don’t like me, or Bert and Ernie, or Elmo.  Mr. Romney even said in the debate that he loved me,” the feathered character smiled proudly.

When told some think his sponsoring network has a liberal bias, Big Bird just look puzzled.  “All my friends and I do all day long is talk to kids and teach them things”, he said in a hurt tone of voice.  “I don’t teach them to distrust, or discriminate, or hate.  I’m not a member of any political party.  I don’t campaign for any candidates.  I just talk to kids every day, sometimes to kids who really have no one else to talk to.  I’m no expert, but I think that’s a pretty good way to spend money”.

The bird said he is willing to forgo his own salary if that will help save his network.  “They tell me I have deep pockets, which I don’t understand since I really don’t have any pockets at all that I can find”, he said somewhat sheepishly.  “My wardrobe budget is pretty low, I don’t need any make-up, so it’s pretty clear I’m not just trying to feather my own nest”, he exclaimed.

When told that some of his network’s programming is considered controversial by some and causes discussion throughout the country, Big Bird just shrugged.  “Isn’t that what they are supposed to do?” he questioned.  “I tell all my kid friends that talking about things is good.  If we put stuff on the air that gets kids and adults talking, how can that be a bad thing?”

In the end, the iconic yellow bird says he just wants to get back to talking only to kids.  “They tend to make a lot more sense sometimes than adults do”, he noted wryly.

A wise bird, indeed.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Town Hall Buildings Always a Tough Sell

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on October 5, 2012


By Bill Gouveia

Talk to area town officials about what capital expenditure is hardest to get voters to approve, and you will get different answers. Some will say it is getting a new school built. Others will point to improving various infrastructure projects. But one item that makes almost everyone’s list of the most difficult to get public support for is the building of a new town hall.

There are several reasons for this. First and foremost, taxpayers don’t like to spend money on things that – in their minds – do not benefit them directly. While they certainly care about the employees who work for them, they are a bit removed from the actual working conditions as well as the shape of the physical plant.

If you think about it for a moment, it makes sense. Town Hall is more a concept than an actual location for most of the voting public these days. Though town employees still have plenty to do, fewer people actually go there anymore - and with good reason.

In this highly technological world, you can perform most of your town-related business online. You can pay your taxes via your bank or your computer. Selectmen and other municipal meetings are televised on local cable access. Most town charters and bylaws are also linked to town websites. You can email departments with various questions and download forms, all while saving valuable time and gas.

So when local officials outline the problems plaguing their aging buildings, voters are skeptical to say the least. They tend to compare town buildings to issues with their own homes. They can’t afford to replace their aging and inefficient heating system? The town should make due also. Their worn carpeting has to last longer? The town should do the same.

Norton’s town hall adjacent to the fire station is a converted gymnasium built on the cheap with a federal grant (and no property tax dollars) in the 1970’s. It was a disaster when it opened, and has gotten progressively worse over the last 35 or so years despite efforts to maintain it. The use of space is terrible, the heating/cooling system a nightmare, and the air quality questionable to say the least.

In Foxboro, their 48-year-old town hall has some similar issues. The town manager there has a plan to replace the building for about $8 million, and some believe it can be renovated for about $5 million. Town Meeting may be asked to approve a transfer of about $500,000 from available funds to start the process. Officials originally planned to do this last year, but the feeling was “the timing wasn’t right”.

I’ve always loved that argument. Have you ever seen a “good” time for a town to spend millions of dollars on a municipal building? In all fairness, Foxboro voters have recently funded some other expensive projects. .But imagine taxpayers sitting around the local watering hole saying, “You know, this has been a pretty good year – let’s spend a few million bucks on a new town hall”. That just doesn’t happen in these parts.

But in communities like Foxboro and Norton, town hall (the building) has been a problem for quite some time. Poor air quality and just the passage of time have turned these edifices into gigantic headaches for both employees and officials – the former getting them literally, and the latter virtually.

Just about every time any community starts to talk about replacing or renovating their town hall, you hear some residents state they are trying to build “ a Taj Mahall”. While that may be true in some places, taxpayers in this area tend to keep their officials pretty honest on their building projects. Drive around and you don’t exactly see a lot of political castles rising majestically towards the clouds.

Still, the financial ability of any community determines whether or not they can afford to build or renovate. With millions in revenue coming from the local NFL franchise each year, Foxboro has a much better chance than Norton of securing funding. Norton has no active plans to replace or renovate their building at this time.

So take a deep breath, all you local town hall employees. Well, maybe not too deep. At least not just yet.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Writing is Great, Newspaper Writing is Better

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, October 1, 2012

By Bill Gouveia

I have a confession to make.  I like to write.  Please try to contain your shock and astonishment.

            These days, a lot of people write.  It seems nearly everyone has a blog where they express their feelings and speak to those they know as well as those they dont.  The styles vary, the formats are different, but getting your thoughts out to the world seems every bit as important today as it has always been.

            But I like the actual printed word.  I enjoy seeing the phrases I have arranged shown in ink (or whatever it is that passes for ink these days) and on paper.  Of course, I particularly like seeing them in this newspaper and my editors did not make me say that.  I guess at heart Im just a newspaper kind of guy, though I fully admit to being a slave to my computers and smartphone too.

            But writing for and in a newspaper is still special to me.  Somehow it seems more substantive, though statistics may show those who paint on the internet canvas receive a wider audience.  And in fact, most papers including the Sun Chronicle are online these days as well.  Its a sign of the times.

            I maintain writing for newspaper is an art in and of itself.  It is writing at its technical best.  It is not as sophisticated as penning poetry, or as prestigious as creating the next great American novel.  But filling the pages of a daily newspaper requires great writers who seldom get recognized for their work.  Most dont make a lot of money, dont become famous or terribly popular, and arent always the first ones invited to the big social events.  They just do their jobs and enjoy the results.

            Writing in a newspaper has a certain rhythm, a feel that is both a personal and a collaborative effort.  Whether a beat reporter or a columnist, you always understand your job is to produce something worthy of your profession and your paper. 

            Of course, there are differences in the individual responsibilities.  A reporter has the unenviable job of giving people an objective view on things that have for the most part already occurred.  They often toil in relative obscurity.  If they do their work exceptionally well, most people who read their stuff will not even remember their names.  They are seekers of truth, and get lied to and misdirected regularly.

            Columnists are a more narcissistic bunch.  By the very nature of their job they are more visible to the reading public.  They must have opinions and express them in a way that will get people to read.  Whether they are liked or not is pretty much irrelevant.  They put themselves out there.  They have less of a burden than reporters when it comes to presenting facts and being objective. 

            All of which explains why I enjoy writing a couple of times each week in this fine publication.  While all columnists who work for reputable newspapers must remain within the bounds of reason and good taste, it provides a freedom of expression that is different from all others.  You get to reason, to express yourself, to engage your audience in conversation.  And believe me, they do talk back.

            While I cant speak for all columnists, I can report this one relies heavily on the fine work of reporters just to be able to do my job.  Reading the crisp and informative writings of good scribes is one way I gather information and form my own positions.  They do the hard stuff, and I often get to enjoy the fruits of their labors.  I thank them for doing their job so well and making mine so easy.

            Writing a regular newspaper column is a personal thing.  It produces a tangible result which can be judged on its merits each and every time.  And no one is a tougher sell on its worthiness than the writer.  Each week brings a new challenge, and meeting each challenge is both exciting and satisfying.

            I enjoy sitting down, feeling the pages of a newspaper between my fingers, and reading what I have written.  It is a satisfying experience and a lot cheaper than a psychiatrist.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.