Monday, January 7, 2013
Selectmen Prey on Voter's Fear in Foxboro
This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, January 7, 2013.
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” – Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part III.
Al Pacino wasn’t talking about the Foxboro Board of Selectmen when he uttered those words in the worst of the three Godfather movies, but it might apply today. Every time you begin to believe that esteemed board can’t possibly appear any more overtly self-serving or administratively inefficient, they prove you wrong.
It has been over a year since selectmen voted 3-2 to refuse to allow the Kraft Group to present voters the option of a casino to be located near Gillette Stadium. It has been eight months since the Kraft Group announced they were no longer pursing the project after a decisive town election. It has been almost three months since a Kraft spokesman said publicly, “We are not proposing a casino. The town doesn’t want a casino. They have made that clear.”
Despite all that, selectmen Mark Sullivan and Ginny Coppola last week insisted the prospect of a Foxboro casino is still very real. Sullivan actually said he didn’t believe the situation had gone away at all.
“On either side – the ones that want it and the ones that don’t – nobody’s convinced it has gone away,” claimed the board’s vice chairman.
Apparently Bob Kraft could climb atop a 30-foot tall stack of bibles in the middle of the Town Common on national television while screaming “I’m not going to build a casino” and Selectman Sullivan would still tell people the issue was in doubt. While no one other than Sullivan knows with certainty his reasons, it is fair to conclude self-serving politics may be at the center of them.
This board needs local voters to believe the only thing standing between them and the big, bad casino is - the selectmen. They need voters and citizens to be afraid, and they need to harvest that fear into political support. After all, what other major accomplishments can they claim?
They have failed thus far to achieve a solution to the sewage plant issue. They have reversed course several times on the new town hall. They have botched negotiations with and alienated one of the town’s largest revenue sources over future development. They have done little that might convince people to support them. So they keep the casino issue alive so they can “rescue” the good citizens of Foxboro from a “threat” that in truth no longer exists.
Selectman Coppola said without the provision that allowed selectmen to prevent the casino issue from being presented to the townspeople, “we could have had a casino jammed down our throat.” That statement is completely inaccurate and untrue.
All the selectmen prevented was allowing the townspeople of Foxboro the opportunity to directly make an informed decision on a possibly lucrative development. The only way a casino could have been built is through Town Meeting action and a referendum. The only folks who jammed anything (either down a throat or up any place else) was the board of selectmen, and they did it to both the Kraft Group and the voters they claim to serve.
When Coppola talks of “local control”, it rings hollow. Pretty much her entire campaign was about denying the voters control, rather than providing it. The only thing Foxboro voters were “protected” from was the opportunity to make their own informed decision.
There are no guarantees in life, other than death and taxes. But Foxboro citizens have to ask themselves an important question: Who has been more credible over the last year, the Kraft Group or the selectmen?
Selectmen at first agreed to allow the casino issue to be presented, then reversed themselves. They threatened to take Kraft-owned property by eminent domain, and then backed down. They were successfully sued for refusing to allow Kraft representatives to speak at a public meeting. They and their manager totally messed up (twice) trying to place the infamous billboards out to bid.
By contrast, the Kraft Group said if the town showed it truly did not want a casino, they would abandon the project. And they kept their word.
The casino issue remains a topic of debate in Foxboro for only one reason – because the selectmen need it to be.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.