Monday, September 23, 2013

Foxboro Official Needs to Stop Showing Off

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, September 23, 2013

By Bill Gouveia

            Foxboro may be “The Gem of Norfolk County” as it proudly proclaims, but the actions of some of their residents and officials concerning the proposed Plainville slot facility are making that good community look more like “The Hub of Hypocrisy”. 

            As the Plainridge Racecourse’s candidacy for the single Massachusetts slot license has risen from the ashes, so have attempts by Foxboro to either derail that effort or cash in on it.  And frankly, some of those efforts have become almost embarrassing.

            Gambling laws in Massachusetts allow for mitigation payments to communities surrounding those who host such facilities, in recognition of the impact they may experience.  This impact includes traffic, strain on infrastructure, and the “social impact” including increased compulsive gambling and various other concerns.

            This is a good idea.  Far too often we worry about such impacts after the fact, rather than planning for them.  Foxboro and other neighbors may well be entitled to some funding for problems created in this somewhat unique situation. 

            That is why Foxboro has a racino committee charged with making recommendations in this area.  Chaired by resident Michael Davison, this group seems to be taking a reasonable approach towards determining the impact and proposing fair and equitable remedies for it. 

However, the same cannot be said for at least some members of the town’s Board of Selectmen. 

Chairman Mark Sullivan was part of the majority of selectmen who refused to even give his fellow townspeople the option to vote on having a full-blown resort casino in town a while back (though he was initially in favor of negotiating, before changing his mind in the face of extreme political pressure).  Now he has become a vocal and arguably rude critic of the proposed Plainville project.

“It’s not what I signed up for as a father in Foxboro, raising children” the selectman said recently of the Plainville bid.  Then he added defiantly, “If we have to start kicking, we’ll start kicking.”

Really, Selectman Sullivan?  Do you think making this an adversarial situation is what is good for your community?  Do you believe implying Plainville citizens are welcoming something to town that is bad for children is the right approach here?  Do you think it might be a bit smarter to do more negotiating and less showing off if your true goal is to better serve your residents?

But let’s put aside the style with which the “mitigation” argument is being advanced here, and concentrate on the merits.  Frankly, it’s difficult to find much beyond the simple and obvious.  When gambling is closer to home, more people are likely to gamble.  It doesn’t take a study to figure that out.

And gambling – like drinking alcohol – can be addictive and dangerous.  Both can lead to financial woes, family problems, medical issues, and social disorders.  No one is disputing that.

But Selectman Sullivan and some others don’t seem overly concerned with the fact Foxboro has more liquor licenses within its borders than most if not all of its neighbors.  There are some 14 or so licenses in Patriot Place alone, not including the license to sell alcohol at Gillette Stadium.  Every day a whole lot of people go to those establishments to drink, and many probably live in or travel through neighboring Plainville.

Does Selectman Sullivan believe Foxboro should pay “mitigation” to Plainville for this?  Is he concerned about the impact of these businesses and the possible social ills they might cause neighbors?  Or is his concern offset by the fact his town receives the revenue they produce, while the racino will mainly benefit Plainville?

Selectmen Sullivan and his fellow town officials were all elected or appointed to represent Foxboro, not Plainville or any other community.  They owe it to Foxboro residents to protect their interests as best they can.

But in doing so they should apply the same standards to themselves and their community as they do to Plainville and the potential racino operators.  And they should quit the hypocritical drama and concentrate on the practical realities of the situation.

Selectmen Jim DeVellis suggested Foxboro “reserve our comments until we hear what they (Plainville) are going to do and hear what their proposal is.”  That’s the type of leadership worthy of “The Gem of Norfolk County”.

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

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