Friday, August 29, 2014

Feehan Driveway, Neighborhoods, and City Officials

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on Friday,


By Bill Gouveia



            Do we all have the right to decide how many cars can drive by our homes? 


            I was just wondering, because the situation in Attleboro between Bishop Feehan High School and their neighbors on Harvard Street has me a bit confused.  Some would maintain that is not an unusual state for me, but I digress.


            By now most of you probably know of this battle.  It has been the subject of many news stories and a few opinion columns.  If you don’t have a connection to the school or the Harvard Street neighborhood, you might not even care.


            But for those who missed it, the private Catholic high school has been located for many decades in a heavily residential neighborhood.  Currently the only viable entrance and exit to the school is from the parking lot to Holcott Drive, then onto busy North Main Street (Rt. 152).  Traffic jams are common when school starts and when it ends.


But there is an access gate that leads from the end of Harvard Street onto North Avenue.  That gate was last briefly used some 13 years ago before Feehan shut it down due to protests from Harvard Street neighbors and city officials.


            Now the student population has greatly increased, and the school wants to exercise its legal right to open and utilize their driveway and the public road.  They cite safety as their major concern, which is also the primary reason homeowners on the road give while seeking to prevent it.


            Not surprisingly, Bishop Feehan’s attorney says the educational institution has the right to use the gate.  A bit more surprisingly, two different lawyers for the city have agreed. 


            But the neighbors on Harvard Street (and others) seem to think they have a right to just say “no”.  They have support from Mayor Dumas and City Council Transportation and Traffic Committee Chairman Walter Thibodeau, who have threatened to pursue legal action and even abandon part of the roadway to prevent the opening.


            Feehan has offered to restrict the hours the gate is open to just ten per week, two hours per weekday during the school year.  But that has not slowed opposition one bit.


            The city council has already voted 5-3 to authorize the mayor to have plans drawn up that would discontinue the northern end of the road to keep Feehan from opening the gate – even though their own lawyers have warned this could give the school legal grounds to sue for damages.  The Mayor has threatened to use “all legal options”.  Thibodeau declared the proposal “dead on arrival” before the council even discussed it.


            For a moment, let’s forget about whether using Harvard Street is really a safety issue.  Let’s put aside whether it makes traffic around the school safer or not.  Never mind right now whether the politicians are pandering or protecting.  I have a completely different question:


            Why are the homeowners on Harvard Street more important than those on Holcott Drive?


            Seriously, what’s the deal?  There doesn’t appear to be much difference between the physical characteristics of the two roads.  One is not a wide super-highway and the other a narrow dirt country lane.  They are both streets with good, hard-working citizens and taxpayers inhabiting the homes along them.  And this is not a ban on big trucks we are talking about here.


            If the Holcott Drive neighborhood suddenly decided the traffic from Feehan made them unsafe, would the city council and the mayor back them too?  Would Bishop Feehan students have to be flown in by helicopter?


            If Holcott Drive residents planted some shrubs in front of the driveway entrance there, would that be seen as some heroic sign of protest or an illegal impediment to private property?


            The Harvard Street neighborhood wanting to protect their homes and families is perfectly understandable.  But wouldn’t removing some of the traffic from Holcott Drive make that road safer?  Is one neighborhood being sacrificed for the other here?


            I haven’t studied the traffic situation enough to know if opening the gate is the right plan.  Neither has the city council.  Maybe there should be a bit more study and conversation before decisions are made.


            And maybe city officials should explain just which neighborhoods deserve special attention, and which ones don’t.


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

Monday, August 25, 2014

And The BILLY Goes to...

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, August 25, 2014
By Bill Gouveia


            It is that season again.  Tonight the Emmy Awards will be handed out to those who achieved special status in the area of television.  Then soon the Oscar Awards will be bestowed upon those who have reached high points with regard to the motion picture industry.


            All of which led me to wonder why there are no such special awards for local politics.  Surely those who participate in this noble profession (or hobby as the case may be) deserve some special recognition for what they do, be it positive or negative.


            Since I didn’t have time to form an academy or create an organization worthy of choosing the winners or even the categories themselves, I decided to take the weighty responsibility upon my own shoulders.  So with congratulations (or apologies) to all the lucky recipients, I now present to you the winners of the First Annual Bill Gouveia Local Political Awards.


            For Best Performance in a Rerun, the “Billy” (yes, that’s what they are called) goes to:  Retiring Mansfield School Superintendent Brenda Hodges.  While no doubt saving herself hours of time it would have taken to write her own graduation address, Hodges generated tremendous publicity and got her name in all the papers by simply rerunning someone else’s work  It does leave us all wondering just what her next role will be, however.


            In the Most Consistent Performance category, the “Billy” is awarded to:  The Plainville Board of Selectmen and Town Administrator.  They have handled the whole racino situation with calm, class, and dignity.  They continue to do what they believe is best for their constituents while working in a less-than-favorable production climate.


            Moving to the Best Self-Serving Performance category, the “Billy” is unanimously given to:  Mansfield Selectman Olivier Kozlowski.  The way he took a simple employment sign at a Lowe’s store and turned it into a political statement designed to draw attention to himself clearly outdid all his would-be challengers.  He was also named as a unanimous winner of the same award in the corresponding foreign awards ceremony.


            Now Most Heralded Newcomer is the category, and here the “Billy” goes to:  North Attleboro Selectman Patrick Reynolds.  Elected to the board before he even graduated from high school, this young political leader is smooth, polished, and smart.  Now he just needs to prove he can be effective and truly make a difference.  Will future nominations be headed his way?  We’ll see.


            In the Quickest To React To Critics category, the “Billy” has been taken by:  the Attleboro City Council.  Any decision they make seems likely to be changed at the next meeting if more than three people show up to protest it.  If you like flexibility in your politicians, you’ll be pleased to know this collection approaches contortionist status.


            The category of Longest Continuing Failure To Perform also produced a clear winner, with the “Billy” going to:  The North Attleboro Board of Selectmen.  Despite several votes by their constituents to place the question of government reform before the citizens in a binding manner, they continue to delay and make excuses.  If these folks had been part of our founding fathers, we would all still be sipping English tea in the afternoons and lobbying Parliament.


             The Most Inspiring Performance category resulted in the “Billy” being handed off to:  The citizens of the Town of Wrentham.  Those good folks recognized the need and importance of having their own Home Rule Charter and voted to send a home-rule petition to the legislature to do just that.  They deserve kudos for being unafraid of change and willing to take control of their own destiny.


            When they voted on the Worst Performance By An Ensemble Cast, the judges decided the “Billy” would be awarded to:  The Town Meeting Voters in Rehoboth.  While admirably trying to properly fund their school system, many of them decided to simply make a power-grab and force officials into an override vote they knew would probably end in defeat.  They seemed not to care what this would do to the community as a whole, particularly the town side of the budget.


            Well, that will do it for this first annual award process.  To all those not chosen, I say – congratulations.  You look relieved.


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

Friday, August 22, 2014

You Really Do Need To Be "Into" Politics

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, August 22, 2014
By Bill Gouveia


            “I’m just not into politics.”


            Every time I hear that phrase I chuckle and shake my head (yes, that’s the rattling sound you hear).  So many times I want to stop and ask these people if they truly understand just what the word politics means.


            They seem to be under the impression it is something unsavory, illicit, and sneaky.  They look upon the very breadth and scope of the word as an evil to be avoided whenever possible.  They seem to consider it beneath them.


            They see politics as the act of running for office, of promoting yourself or your party, or merely gaining an unfair advantage.  Much of the reason for that is because this is the aspect that gets the most attention.  Politics in essence has given itself a bad name, with considerable help from those who utilize it more to aid themselves than others.


            But according to the dictionary I consulted, politics is at its core “the practice or study of the art and science of forming, directing, and administering states and other political units; the art and science of government.”  And that is not only a necessary practice, but a noble one.


            Politics is largely what makes our country, states, cities and towns good or bad places to live.  In areas where it results in well-managed governments, politics is what takes care of us as a people.  It is what builds our roads and schools, what brings water and electricity to our homes, and what provides and enforces laws that allow us to live in relative security.


            While politics is not and should not be the driving force in the lives of every member of society, it is not something you should readily ignore or not “be into” either.  Just as keeping our air and water clean is ultimately the responsibility of everyone, politics too requires a collective effort if it is truly going to be effective.


            I’m not into art, and I’m definitely not into science.  So why would I criticize anyone for not “being into” something described as the art and science of government?


            The answer to that question is simple.  The fact I am not a fan of fine art or the details of scientific discovery does not significantly affect the lives of those around me.  If I don’t go to a museum, my neighbors will not suffer any negative consequences.  If I don’t understand how the earth was formed, it will not lead to problems for those across town.


            But if I don’t participate in the political process, if I don’t at least make an effort to vote and be reasonably informed on the issues – it can create issues for others.  The smaller the total voting public, the easier it is for any political persuasion, party or candidate to seize control and exert their will instead of that of the public. 


            Politics is our duty.  It is essentially a right, one that is necessary if we are to provide for the common good and come together as a people and a government.


            People who are not “into” politics often suffer for their lack of interest.  When you own a home and suddenly need a zoning variance, it is overwhelming to not have any understanding of how the process works.  When your property taxes are threatening to substantially rise and you need to do something about it, politics suddenly becomes extremely important.


            There is no need for everyone to be a political expert.  You don’t have to run for office.  You don’t have to work on a campaign.  You don’t even need to put a sign on your lawn or donate to a candidate.


            But you really don’t have the luxury of not being “into” politics.  It affects your life on a daily basis, in ways you don’t even think about until it is too late.  If you consistently and deliberately allow others to dictate the rules of our society without your input or participation – then you deserve whatever result is delivered.


            Politics can be a good thing if we make it so.  The first step in doing that is to at the very least take the opportunity to cast your ballot.


Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime area town official.  He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Norton Will Miss Downtown Cafe

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, April 18, 2014

By Bill Gouveia

Down-town, things will be great when you're
Down-town, no finer place for sure
Down-town, everything's waiting for you

-       From the song “Downtown” sung by Petula Clark

In Norton, it is the end of yet another era.  Downtown Pizza, that seemingly indestructible Norton institution on Route 123, has closed its doors for good.  Here’s to you, old friend.  We had a lot of good times together.

If you aren’t familiar with Downtown, it is located right across the street from the entrance to Camp Finberg, nestled in next to the MGA Links golf course (the old Wading River Par 3 for you area townies like me).  It has stood there since at least the early 1970’s as one of Norton’s most well-know places to grab a bite and a beer – not necessarily in that order.

A beautiful piece of architecture it is not.  Although it was spruced up over the years by different owners, it was never going to look pretty.  The inside wasn’t a lot better, though low lighting helped.  But Downtown has always been a bit like the community surrounding it – you tended to like it not for how it looked, but rather for how it made you feel.

I first remember Downtown in the 70’s, when it was owned by a gentleman named Phil (my apologies for not remembering his last name).  It was pretty much a bar in those days, and that was how Phil ran it.  But aside from serving brews, Downtown knew how to make a pizza better than almost anyone.

Oh, those pizzas.  They were thin, they were hot, and they were greasy.  I’m talking about the running-down-your-arm-as-you-ate-it kind of greasy.  The kind that was no doubt bad for you, but a treat and a wonder for your taste buds. 

Eventually the establishment was sold to the McSweeney family, and they greatly improved both the business and the atmosphere.  It became a true family operation, with relatives everywhere you turned.  It was that version of Downtown that made the biggest impression on this lifelong Norton resident.

I spent countless hours enjoying myself in that small place where I had my own personalized mug hanging over the bar.  When I was a Norton selectman in the 1980’s, Downtown was our place to go after Thursday night meetings.  And believe me, after those meetings, you really needed a drink.

We would relax, joke, eat, drink, and just get to know each other better.  We had our own regular Thursday night table, and would often meet constituents we didn’t know.  I probably dropped more money into the Ms PacMan machine than I spent on my share of the bill each night, but that was okay.

When Downtown started delivery service, my house became a regular stop for decades.  My kids loved the pizza almost as much as my wife hated cooking.  When given an assignment in the first grade to record the recipe for his favorite thing Mom made for dinner, my youngest son wrote:  “Call Downtown.  Order the pizza.  When the man comes, pay him.  Eat the pizza.  Throw away the box.”

My joke with then-owner Roy McSweeney was that if I broke into one of his delivery trucks and hot-wired the ignition, it would automatically drive to my house.

Eventually Downtown was sold again, once more to a fine local family.  After many years of operation the DeVincent’s have decided to close the business.  I certainly don’t blame them, but it is a sad time for the town.

Downtown was never a fine dining place, and it was never quite Cheers either.  But it was a place you could bring your family for a relatively inexpensive dinner, then go back the next night with your buddies.  It was relaxed.  It was simple.  It was Norton.

There are still great places in town.  And Downtown had certainly seen better days.  But as those doors closed for the last time, they sealed in a lot of good times and warm memories.  I spent many hours there with great people who are no longer with us.   So many wonderful recollections of them were formed in that old building.

Thanks Downtown.  A large with extra cheese will never taste as good again.

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

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Finding it Hard to Worry About Market Basket

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chroneicle on Friday, August 15, 2014.

By Bill Gouveia

            I have a shocking confession to make, one that may well fly in the face of public opinion and brand me an uncaring excuse for a human being.  But I’m going to share it anyway:

            I really don’t care if Market Basket ever reopens.

            I care about the people who stand to lose their jobs.  I care about the families they need to support.  I care about the vendors losing money, adjacent businesses losing potential customers, and the folks who now have to travel further and pay more for their groceries.

            But I really don’t care about Market Basket as an entity.  I’m seriously tired of the sad and tawdry tale the grocery chain has become.  I have little sympathy for a business that is daily reducing its own value and constantly and consistently shooting itself in the foot.

            I confess that I did not shop at Market Basket much when it was operating.  However, I have family members and friends who love the place.  The value they provided to shoppers was unquestioned, the quality of their merchandise good, and their popularity undeniable.

            But hard as I have tried, I fail to see what the current ownership has done that is so outrageous.  I don’t understand why they are now somehow expected to give up control of their own company.

            I believe Arthur T. Demoulas is every bit the wonderful human being he has been portrayed to be by his former employees and much of the media and public.  You don’t engender the type of loyalty and support he has received without doing considerable good.  And he has built a solid and profitable business over the years.

            But I can’t see what his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas (was there no imagination with regard to naming in this family?) has done that is so bad.  He gained control of a business, made some unpopular personnel decisions, and created a marketing nightmare.  Hardly a picture-perfect example of a business plan, but ownership does have its privileges.

            At the core, this has always been a family matter.  It is an ownership battle, sort of like when a relative dies and there is a fight by the survivors over the will and the assets.  Each side has a different idea of what they are entitled to and what they deserve.

            In short, the “new” management decided to share more of their wealth with the stockholders and put less back into the financial stability of the company.  They paid extra dividends to the shareholders.  It is what the majority of the ownership team wanted.  That would seem to be their decision to make, right or wrong.

            I don’t claim to have intimate knowledge of this struggle, or any inside information on how it is structured.  But I find the role of the employees here to be nothing short of fascinating.

            They are not striking for higher wages or benefits, or really even for better working conditions.  They are fighting for the business model they have come to love, the model they believe is best for their future.  And that is admirable.

            But it’s not their company, much as they may believe it is.

            The Demoulas family has been fighting and feuding over how to run their business for several decades.  The only difference is that now Arthur T’s side lost control of the company he obviously loves.  That is sad, but there has been nothing revealed to show it is illegal or improper.

            Now the employees are threatening the viability of the company that feeds them.  They are non-union, but are virtually striking.  They have not only brought their employer to its knees, but also greatly reduced its value as an acquisition target.  Even if Arthur T buys out his relatives, the cash outlay and debt will most likely require Market Basket to be a different operation.

            Politicians have seized this opportunity to side with the workers and cash in on public sentiment.  It’s hard to blame them, and almost impossible not to sympathize with the employees. 

            However, this is a family feud.  It’s a battle between the wealthy owners of a private business.  They will ultimately decide the fate of this chain.

            I just wish they would hurry up and get it done.

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

Monday, August 11, 2014

This Liberal is Tired of the Hatred

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, August 11, 2014
By Bill Gouveia

            I’m a Liberal.  And I’m sick and tired of Liberals being blamed for things simply because of our political viewpoints or voting preferences.


            Everybody in America seems to need someone to blame for their problems these days.  Conservatives blame Liberals.  Liberals blame Conservatives.  Moderates blame the Tea Party.  The Tea Party blames Occupy Wall Street.


            Frankly, I’m sick and tired of all of it.  So many are caught up in the political game.  They worry only about scoring points and dominating the PR battle.  They must win at all costs, and have forgotten how to lose gracefully or more importantly compromise for the greater good.


            I wish this was only a national political problem, but unfortunately it is all too prevalent on state and local issues.  In Rehoboth, school supporters took care of their budget issue at the expense of the rest of the town while pretending they weren’t.  It’s the hypocrisy that bothers me the most.


            There are plenty of Liberals who behave badly and take ridiculous positions.  They need to stop.  But extremism is dangerous on both sides of the aisle.  I’m now going to call bull you-know-what on some of the ones that bother me the most.


            I’m sick and tired of hearing pious declarations from some fighting to prevent women from having access to affordable contraception, when in reality what they care about most is imposing their own beliefs and morals on others so they can feel good about themselves.


            I’m tired of those who claim religious persecution on the basis of little more than fact other religions are given the full protection of our laws, even if they are unpopular and foreign to us.


            I’m fed up with those who have to resort to personal remarks and politics because facts and logic have not proven to advance their causes.  This includes the ridiculous and stupid claims of “Birthers” and those claiming our President is a traitor and a foreigner.  Grow up.


            It is sickening to watch people oppose the spending of taxpayer money to house illegal immigrant children because “there are so many homeless and in need right here”, and then watch them oppose the spending of money to help those folks too.  Sorry, but it matters who you use to advance your selfish political agendas.


            I’ve had it with those who constantly rail against our political process, when in fact what they really want is for their party and candidates to be in control of it.  It’s funny how the voters are nothing but “mindless sheep” until and unless they agree with you.


            I can’t stand those “Professional Againsters”, or CAVE people as an old friend called them.  That’s short for “Citizens Against Virtually Everything”.  They never seem to have any answers of their own, other than putting down the solutions of others.


            It is so upsetting to watch hate and fear become the driving force in our campaigns and elections.  If you can make people afraid of something or someone, you can get them to oppose those same things.  And instead of the truth being the guiding force it should be, it becomes nothing more than an obstacle to be overcome.


            I know, I sound too much like those I am complaining about.  Maybe I have been perusing Facebook too much, reading posts from those who seek only to inflame others and incite unrest.  Or perhaps I’ve just spent too much time paying attention to the political side of people and not enough to the good others do.


            I’ve never minded strong opinions.  I love a good debate.  I have many close friends and relatives who have political philosophies in direct contradiction to my own, and are not shy about stating them.  I think that’s great.


            But I’m tired of the selfishness and hatred that has gripped so many in this rigid political climate.  I understand the automatic distrust of public officials, but I cannot excuse the personal hatred so many apparently need to spew in order to claim the alleged high ground.


            I’m a Liberal.  Maybe you’re a Conservative.  Let’s chat and disagree.  We can point out the fault in each other’s arguments.  But we don’t have to hate and ridicule each other to do it.


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

Friday, August 8, 2014

Grandfathers Just Never Stop Learning

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, August 8, 2014

By Bill Gouveia

            I thought I was getting to be an old hand at the grandfather thing.  After all, my oldest (did I mention his name is William?) is now six, and my amazing granddaughter Avery is two.  I love the relationships I have with them, and figured I pretty much knew what to expect when I was lucky enough to get another.

            Then Sammy came along.  And I discovered I still had a lot to learn, and so much more love to give.

            My youngest grandchild, Samuel Christopher Gouveia, celebrated his first birthday last week.  He had a bit of a rough first year, fighting some allergies and an unexpected medical condition that scared the living you-know-what out of all of us. 

For his first few months he was more than a little on the fussy side.  And he seemed to have a particular aversion to our house.  Every single time his parents brought him to see Grandma and Grandpa, he screamed.  Blood-curdling, terrified, “don’t make me stay here” type screams.  It was enough to give a grandfather a complex.

In fact, it did.

Even though I knew it was ridiculous, I was convinced Sam hated me.  That he was afraid of me.  That he just plain didn’t like me.  I was sure I was giving off some strange anti-Sammy vibe that only he could feel.  I loved him totally from the first moment I saw him, so the very idea my grandson didn’t want to be with me was – in short – terrifying and exceedingly depressing.

Oh, I denied it bothered me.  I pretended it was a big nothing.  Just a stage, I smiled at everyone.  He’ll get over it soon.  But in my heart I was worried sick over it.

Then Sammy wound up in the hospital with a condition that came close to requiring surgery.  I had never faced any type of even semi-serious illness with either my children or grandchildren, and it severely frightened me.  But it was hard to try and comfort a sweet little boy who screamed blue murder every time I got close to him.

So I just kept telling him how much I loved him, and kept on letting him know that my love was unconditional.  And then shortly after his procedure, things started to change.

Sammy was suddenly more comfortable at our house.  He was laughing and smiling when Grandpa held him.  He wasn’t timid or frightened, he was confident and assured.  And my blood pressure dropped back into the normal range.

I eventually realized there was nothing wrong with me and nothing wrong with Sammy.  Kids are just all different and wonderful in their own way, and it is up to us to let that way shine through.  To learn just who they really are.

Sammy took some time to adjust to us, and I realized I had taken some time to adjust to him.  And that is how it should be.  There is no magic way to be the perfect parent, grandparent, child or grandchild.  And no relationship is exactly the same, though all of them can be uniquely amazing in their own way.

I reflected on all this when young Samuel stayed with us one night this past week.  I rushed home from work to see him, and we laughed and played along with Grandma until bedtime.

I took Sammy upstairs to read a story, rock for a while, and then settle into bed.  I held him in my arms and softly sang him lullabies (like the poor kid hasn’t been through enough).  I took a few moments to just study this beautiful little person and remember how lucky I am to have him in my life.

And just as I was doing that, Sammy opened his eyes and looked up at me.  He smiled a tired smile, and reached out his stubby little hand towards my face.  He stroked my cheek lightly with his fingers, then closed his eyes and fell asleep on my chest.

Seldom have I been as much at peace as I was in that moment.

Sammy loves his Grandpa, and Grandpa is wild about him.  As if it could have possibly turned out any other way. 

Grandpas can be so silly sometimes..

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

Monday, August 4, 2014

North Attleboro Needs A New Approach

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, August 4, 2014.
By Bill Gouveia


            When you are a town manager or town administrator in a community facing serious revenue and budgetary issues, you have to be open to a wide variety of possible solutions to your municipality’s very real problems. 


And despite their huge unpopularity and dismal success rate, that has to include possible overrides of Proposition 2-1/2.  Which is why North Attleboro’s veteran town administrator and former selectman Mark Fisher keeps talking about doing just that. 


North has financial problems.  Their schools are clamoring for more funding.  Their police department has fewer officers than it did a decade ago.  They spent over $1 million from their reserve funds this year just to maintain services, a sum that most likely won’t be available next budget season.  The financial future looks bleak, to say the least.


But let’s get real.  The odds of getting a general override passed in North Attleboro next year are about equal to the odds of me starting for the Red Sox next Opening Day.  Come to think of it, I may have a better shot.


The town’s voters overwhelmingly crushed an override question just last year.  Over 7000 registered voters cast ballots, and nearly 5000 of them voted against the override.  And this was after a coordinated and dedicated effort to “educate and inform” voters as to the serious financial plight of the community, including the formation of the pro-override citizen group “Yes for North” and a series of public informational presentations by Fisher.


Compare that to the most recent town election where selectmen and others were chosen.  Barely 2000 people bothered to vote at all, which was actually an increase from the previous year.  The number of “No” votes against the override was double the total turnout from this past April.  Think that sends a message to those elected officials?


Fisher says the town will likely conduct some type of survey to better understand why voters rejected the override last year.  He says that could include emailing questions to school parents, town employees, RTM members and others.


If town officials need a survey to understand why their constituents voted against that override, then they have more than just financial problems.


Let me see if I can save them some time and keystrokes. 


First, North Attleboro voters overwhelmingly voted against the ballot question because they simply don’t want to pay more taxes.  They don’t need be “educated”, they have a pretty good understanding of how and why the town needs more money.  They just don’t want it coming from their property taxes.


Second, they don’t believe their town government is truly representing or listening to them.  They are hesitant (to put it mildly) to give more money to an entity that seems to care more about itself than them.  They are sick and tired of a local government asking their opinion on matters like government reform, and then consistently ignoring it. 


And thirdly – history tells them if they just keep turning down overrides, the town will somehow find another way to get by.  After all, it has happened time and time again.  Unexpected grants come in, reserve funds are raided, state aid increases, and the threatened severe budget cuts are miraculously avoided.  They believe officials are using scare tactics, and they are essentially calling their bluff.


Now even if you take all that as an accurate analysis (and there are plenty who disagree), the question becomes:  What can be done to address the budget woes in North Attleboro?


The answer is – give the people what they voted for.


If North Attleboro citizens decide not to provide any additional funding, town officials should give them the services that budget will allow.  If voters decline to pass an override, cut the budget in the most responsible manner possible and live with the results. 


That does not mean they should deliberately make things worse and needlessly slash important services just to make a political point.  But they do need to prove they are not just bluffing.  Taxpayers are much more likely to vote to restore cuts than avoid them.


The key to solving North’s budget problems may be as simple as listening to the voters when they speak.


In North Attleboro, that would be a new and different approach.


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