Monday, December 8, 2014

Foxboro, Kraft Must Get On Same Track

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, December 8, 2014.

By Bill Gouveia

            In most places, having a commuter rail station in or around your community is considered a good thing. 

            Many people buy homes to be near train service.  Being located nearby tends to increase property values.  It is what helped open up the suburbs for those working in Boston and Providence decades ago.  It saves people time and money, and allows them flexibility in this auto-oriented age.

            Folks in New Bedford and Fall River have been fighting for commuter rail access for more than 30 years now.  Every candidate who has ever campaigned there for any state-related office has promised to help make it happen.  Yet it is no closer to political reality today than it was a quarter-century ago. 

            Now it seems Foxboro could possibly become the home of a new commuter rail station located at Gillette Stadium/Patriot Place.  Initial reports indicate there would be no cost to the town for this, no increased MBTA assessment, and limited disruption of neighborhoods since it would run on existing freight rail tracks.  Sounds like good news, right?

            But it has become a lightning rod for controversy for several reasons – chief among them the involvement of the Kraft Group and the possibility they might make a buck or two in the process.

            In all fairness, there is a long way to go before anyone can really determine if a commuter station at this location will be a good thing for Foxboro.  The route of the trains, improvements to the rail, protection for residential neighbors, the cost to the state to convert the tracks – all these things have to be carefully considered first.  And it is early in the process.

            Not helping things is the fact the state and the KG having been negotiating on this for nearly a year without letting Foxboro officials in on the plans.  Selectmen were understandably perturbed when they discovered those two parties had signed a letter of intent involving the creation of a Gillette Stadium station back in January.

            That’s just wrong.  When you are a major taxpayer and economic force in town it is important to work with town officials, seek their help and guidance, and establish a spirit of cooperation that helps you both achieve your goals and objectives.  You can’t blame Foxboro selectmen for feeling left out and ignored.

            Of course, given the track record between the selectmen and the local NFL franchise, it’s also hard to blame the KG for keeping their cards close to their vest.  They got burned on their last major project, and it can be argued the disrespect shown to them was far greater than what has been done so far in this situation.

            For those who have forgotten, Robert Kraft and Steve Wynn got together to propose a resort casino for Foxboro.  They went to selectmen first and asked for the chance to present their plans in detail to the entire town.  They followed the proper procedures and did everything as required.

            But after initially agreeing to at least hear them out, selectmen did an about face and slammed the door on the casino plan before it was ever formulated.  Selectmen refused to let Kraft even talk to them about it. 

The board would not give the town’s largest single private source of revenue the respect of allowing a presentation.  That devolved into the most contentious town election in recent memory, complete with the then-town manager publicly insulting the KG every chance he got.

            Do you think maybe Robert Kraft and his people remembered that?  Could it be perhaps they were afraid town officials would once again sink them before they even got started?  Was it really in their best interests to be completely upfront?  Probably not.

            This is a prime example of why it is important – for both sides – to maintain a civil relationship.  There should not be surprises like this.  And there probably would not be, except neither side trusts or respects the other very much.

            Foxboro officials should stop counting Robert Kraft’s money and try and reestablish a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship.  Kraft should put aside his distrust and disdain and recognize he needs these local politicians.

            Maybe if they do that, they could all take a ride on the choo-choo together.

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

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