Monday, July 15, 2013

Mansfield Should Be Proud Of Local Businesses

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, July 15, 2013

By Bill Gouveia


            If you are a local business in Mansfield, you might not exactly be “feeling the love” from your Board of Selectmen.  And you certainly might be thinking twice about donating any money for the very worthwhile purpose of painting a mural along the blank wall on Route 106 near the MBTA station.


            The mural is being done by a professional artist with local volunteer help.  It is a collaborative effort supported by the Mansfield Music and Arts Society and other civic organizations as well as the town.


            Some selectmen were very upset to learn the organizers of the project had agreed to offer small spaces on the wall for the name and logos of eight local businesses who would contribute $5000 each.  They were concerned it was contrary to the wishes of the townspeople, and worried it would send the wrong message.


            “It degrades our town.  Mansfield isn’t for sale,” Selectman Doug Annino told the Mural Committee folks at last week’s board meeting.  He added he believed the concept of corporate sponsorship and advertising should have been brought up at Town Meeting when the project was approved there.  “I don’t think it’s right and I don’t think it’s fair to voters.  It’s not the bill of goods they were sold.”


            Selectman Kevin Moran also expressed his concerns about logos as part of the mural.  He said he was afraid it would appear “more like NASCAR”.  He and other selectmen asked the organizers to come up with a more “tasteful” way to recognize donors.


            Mr. Annino and Mr. Moran may well be correct in their belief the sponsorship issue should have been mentioned with more clarity at Town Meeting.  But it is totally unfair when anyone infers local businesses are in any way trying to buy Mansfield by participating in the beautification of what has long been a Mansfield eyesore.


            At the time of the presentation to selectmen, three sponsors had agreed to make the considerable donation that would qualify them to place their business on the wall.  One of those entities is a local bank that has been serving Mansfield and area residents for over 100 years.  Another is the area’s local hospital where many of the residents of town were born.  A third is a local fabric business with deep roots in the community.


            Wow, that sounds like just NASCAR.  Oh wait – it doesn’t.


            The mural is supposed to be representative of the history of the great Town of Mansfield.  It is in no way “selling out” the town to have local businesses represented in that depiction. 


            Businesses are a part of the town’s glorious history, not a threat to it.  Businesses contribute to the fabric of a community, they don’t make them look like NASCAR (with apologies to all you left-turn fanatics out there).  Good businesses that are loyal and involved in their community are to be celebrated, not hidden away in the attic like that crazy rich uncle everyone knows about but doesn’t want to admit they depend on.


            This is not Coca-Cola dropping a few thousand dollars to increase their worldwide corporate image.  These are local businesses, in some cases owned by Mansfield residents, who seek to do what they are continuously urged to do – support and give back to their community.


            Selectmen have in the past asked businesses to pay higher tax rates than the residential homeowner.  The town has often benefited from gifts provided by local firms both large and small.  That didn’t seem to be “degrading” to anyone.


            Tastefully done logos would recognize the generous contributions of local businesses to the town that has supported them.  It is completely different from contributing to a park for a war hero.  People looking at that wall 25 years later would know these entities were an active and integral part of the town at the time.


            To the Mansfield selectmen I say – get over yourselves.  If you don’t want the logos, that’s fine.  But don’t insult the businesses you should be thanking.  Recognizing them on a wall honoring the history of Mansfield would be far from selling out or degrading.  In fact, it would be quite proper.


            Let’s hope the mural winds up being a fitting tribute to a great town. 


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

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