Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Costumes of Local Public Figures Revealed

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, October 31, 2014
By Bill Gouveia


            Today is Halloween, one of the uniquely American holidays that doesn’t get you a day off from work but does encourage you to knock on your neighbor’s front door.  The one night a year when you are expected to dress up in scary or amusing costumes.  A chance to express yourself in an uninhibited and unrestrained manner.


            Of course, it is supposed to be about children.  They generally dress up as the things that scare them most – or at least, they did in my day.  We dressed as ghosts, goblins, zombies, monsters, all the things that dominated our nightmares and sent shivers and tremors down our spines.  It was a way of facing and overcoming our deepest fears.


            It may be different today, when costumes tend to be superheroes and cartoon characters.  But many of us still believe our choice of Halloween costumes – particularly as adults – says a lot about what we are thinking beneath the surface of our outside personas.


            With that in mind, I set out to use the skills of my crack team of trained investigators to discover what some of our local and state officials and/or public figures were going to be for Halloween.  Using methods unknown even to the NSA and CIA, they worked tirelessly to discover what these good folks were planning on being tonight when the sun goes down.  It just might be indicative of what they fear the most.


            So without further ado, I give you the results they uncovered.  Here are what some of your favorite public figures will be dressing as this Halloween.


            The North Attleboro Board of Selectmen will be going all out tonight.  Some will dress as a modern town charter.  Others will don costumes and go as children denied a place to play in the street.  The remaining members will be disguised as an actual binding ballot question.


            The Seekonk School Committee will, as expected, dress as a school employee with actual job security.


            Gubernatorial candidates Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker are going out as their collective worst nightmares.  Both will be clothed as Plainville voters asking for a rational explanation of why the candidates support an unbuilt Springfield casino but not the half-constructed Plainville racino, should Question 3 pass.


            State Representative Betty Poirier will be in costume as a state representative from an outside district visiting Attleboro without her own approval.


            The Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts will be dressing as people who want to spend some of their money gambling in casinos rather than bingo games or church raffles.  After the Pope’s comments this week, some might also dress as cast members of “The Big Bang Theory”.


            The Rehoboth Board of Selectmen will be walking throughout the community in costume as a packed Town Meeting pretending to have the best interests of the town as a whole in mind, but really there for only one specific purpose.


            Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick will dazzle and amaze when he dresses up as a sports reporter with a legitimate question who he can’t intimidate into silence.


            Mansfield Selectmen will be varying their approach to the holiday.  Some will go as newly available liquor licenses, others as voters who say they will shop at downtown stores but actually go to the malls and shopping plazas.  And of course, one will be dressed as a bilingual help wanted sign.


            The Foxboro Selectmen will be revealing some deep-seated fears with their costumes.  Some will be dressed as Robert Kraft, some as an electronic sign, and others as a town counsel with some backbone and capable of independent thought.  Plans to dress as the Open Meeting Law were dismissed as too difficult.


            Of course, inquiring minds want to know what your intrepid Sun Chronicle Columnist will be trick-or-treating as on this Halloween night.  I was originally going to opt for the frightening look, and thus simply go as I usually appear.  But at the last minute I decided to dress up as something truly terrifying.


            So if you see someone walking around in a NY Giants football jersey and wearing a NY Yankees baseball hat, please just wake me up and send me back to my therapist’s office. 


            Happy Halloween to all you kids out there, both big and small.


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

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Time To Get Tough With Liquor Violators

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on October 17, 2014.

By Bill Gouveia


If local officials want both license holders and the public to consider the sale of alcoholic beverages to minors a really big deal, they had better start treating it as such.


Despite the growing emphasis on preventing the sale of such products to those under the legal age of 21, it continues to happen with alarming regularity throughout this area.  There is simply no excuse for it, and neither the licensing authorities nor the general public should tolerate it.


No one is disputing the difficulty bars, restaurants and liquor/package stores face in preventing increasingly sophisticated attempts by those underage to obtain alcohol.  With the ability to create realistic-looking IDs with nothing more than a laptop and printer, the job of those holding these licenses is tougher than ever.


But failure to even attempt to check and verify the age of patrons is something that must be treated harshly and severely.  For the most part, area licensing authorities have been far too lenient and forgiving when it comes to this serious issue.  That needs to stop immediately.


How many times have you read about local establishments being caught selling to minors during routine compliance checks?  These "sting" operations are hardly unusual or unexpected.  They are conducted on a regular basis, and establishment owners usually receive letters warning them they may be visited in such a manner.


The latest incidents occurred in Foxboro, where the police department sent a 19-year-old into 29 different establishments on a Thursday night.  The youth was allegedly served at nine of those businesses without an ID check, despite the avoidance of the busy weekend crowds.  If the violations are confirmed, that is an alarming percentage.


More than that, it is a slap in the face to both Foxboro police and selectmen.  It clearly and without doubt says license holders are not taking either the punishments or the problem seriously.  It is disrespectful in every way. 


This is not unique to Foxboro.  We have seen the same situations in many other communities.  But when Foxboro police conducted a similar operation last fall, three establishments were found to have served a minor.  They all agreed to accept punishments for their violations.


All three were issued letters of reprimand.  One was given a one-day suspension.  That establishment was allowed to pick the day of their punishment.


Here's hoping these businesses all managed to recover from that harsh treatment.  No doubt they learned a valuable lesson after being made to pay such a high price.  That is sarcasm, in case anyone is wondering.


To be fair, selectmen do not have complete control over handing out punishments to liquor law violators.  Their actions are subject to appeal to the ABCC (Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission) and must meet standards that state board considers fair and reasonable.


But if local officials don't start getting tough on those placing alcohol in the hands of minors, then why should the ABCC?  The punishments have to start fitting the seriousness of the act.


There is no reason why any liquor establishment found guilty of serving a minor without checking for ID should not lose their license for at least three days on a first offense.  And those days should be served at the direction of the licensing authority, not hand-picked by the violators.


Everyone understands these are trying economic times.  No one wants to hurt local businesses.  It is difficult for owners to be totally responsible for every action of every employee.  Being unable to serve or sell alcohol for three days can be an awful economic hardship.  After all, mistakes do happen.


But when your mistake is serving a minor, the result is often dead kids.  That trumps worries about keeping local businesses afloat.


The strategy of telling licensees "If you do that again, you are in big trouble" is no more effective than when parents use it.  If you want to be taken seriously, you have to act seriously.


If found guilty, there should be no sympathy for any of these nine establishments. 


Here's hoping Foxboro selectmen set a firm example for their own town and neighboring communities by treating this situation properly.  If they don't, then there is no reason to run those compliance checks again next year.


Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime area town official.  He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.
This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle op

Monday, October 6, 2014

Not Just The Pats Had a Bad Week In KC...

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, October 6, 2014

By Bill Gouveia

            If you think only the Patriots had a terrible time in Kansas City last week, think again.  I’m pretty sure my son and I had an even more stressful and painful experience visiting the hospitable Mid-West.  And almost all of it was my fault.

            It was with great enthusiasm and optimism I set out early last Monday with plans of watching my beloved Patriots battle the Chiefs.  I took a very early morning flight out of Providence to connect with my youngest son in Baltimore.  Our plan was to fly on to our destination and enjoy some time there.

            But almost immediately, things went wrong.  Or more correctly – I went wrong.

            While my son was fighting airport traffic, I was waiting at the gate – or so I thought.  Turned out I was next to the gate, but in the wrong line.  After my son arrived, we shortly thereafter realized we were about to board a plane headed to Florida.  We dashed across the aisle to try and make our intended flight.

            However, it had been overbooked.  When we did not board on time, they gave our seats to someone else.  We watched helplessly as our plane sat at the gate taunting us, then pulled away leaving us behind.

            A very helpful airline staff member proceeded to try and help us.  The first flight she offered us would have gotten into KC at 7:25 pm for a 7:30 pm game.  The alternatives slowly got better, but not enough to guarantee we could make it to the nationally televised Monday night contest.

            Eventually, we had to settle for flying into St. Louis, renting a car, and driving nearly four hours across the entire state to Kansas City.  If you have ever driven Interstate 70, you know it is a straight and flat highway through some of the most boring sights you could ever ask to see.  Picture the Mass Pike with no hills or valleys.  I’m surprised my son didn’t kill me on the ride.

            We had to drive a half-hour past our hotel when we got to Kansas City because we needed to go to the airport.  Unlike me, my bag was smart enough to get on the correct flight and was waiting there for me with a mocking attitude.

            When I reached for my driver’s license to claim my bag, I nearly passed out.  My license was no longer in my pocket.  I did get the bag, but headed to the hotel wondering how I was going to board a flight home the next day.  And hoping my son’s sense of humor was still intact.

            A search of the car failed to turn up my license, and off to the game we went.  Just as the National Anthem began to play, Avis called me to say they found my license – in St. Louis.  I knew I would not have it in time for my flight tomorrow, but sat back determined to at least enjoy the game.

            Ah yes, the game.  It was a nightmare from start to finish.  It was extremely loud, and none of that was due to us cheering.  Chief fans – always polite – were actually feeling sorry for us.

            After a delicious BBQ lunch the next day, it was off to the airport.  Fortunately I still had identification, but needed something with a photo.  I was finally saved not by my credit cards, but by a BJs Club card with a scratched up picture of me from at least 15 years ago.

            That got me into the security area, where I was thoroughly frisked by a dedicated TSA agent.  I’m pretty sure he and I are now considered legally married in several countries. 

            My son kept a close eye on me as we waited for our plane home, and insisted on walking me to the new gate when we got to Baltimore where he left me to my own devices.  He may have secretly watched from afar for a while.

            I did manage to make it back to Norton without further incident, a minor miracle in and of itself. My wife and I are now scheduled to travel to Buffalo this weekend to again watch the Pats game.

            She insists on driving.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist, longtime Patriots season-ticket holder, and terrible traveler.  He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.