Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My 2015 Christmas Poem - Local Style

GOUVEIA: Holiday tidings

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Posted: Sunday, December 20, 2015 9:35 pm | Updated: 12:59 pm, Mon Dec 21, 2015.
As we head into the Christmas holiday, it is always nice to look back and extend the fellowship of the season to those who made the past year such a joy.
Or in my case, to some of the very nice people who helped keep me in column material.
My meager contribution to our local Christmas traditions is my own special version of the great poem “’Twas The Night Before Christmas” by the late Clement Moore.
It is my way of thanking the dedicated and devoted public servants who give of their time and energy to make our local governments work. Having been in their place, I understand how difficult it is to work in the public eye. Especially when you have columnists and commentators scrutinizing everything you do. But hey — that’s my job.
So with apologies to the original author, I do hereby submit for your reading pain or pleasure my version of “’Twas The Night Before Christmas”
’Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the towns,
Officials were happy, and were wearing no frowns.
In Attleboro, the councilors were not there to linger,
And not one was extending a mean middle finger.
The taxpayers were settled all snug in their beds,
While nightmares of tax increases danced in their heads.
Your intrepid local columnist was working the keys,
Believing his new piece would be sure to please.

Then from outside came a noise, oh so loud,
I thought it might be an Xfinity Center crowd.
I dashed to the window, and then to the door,
What I saw nearly made me fall to the floor.

The moonlight was reflecting off the bare ground below,
(With this global warming, we hadn’t had snow.)
Then suddenly it appeared – I knew it was them.
It was a sleigh carrying North Attleboro’s full RTM.

They were all bundled up in their good winter coats,
Making sure their townspeople cast no binding votes.
They had gifts for officials from every city and village,
But none for the columnist – him they wanted to pillage.

For their own selectmen, they had special gifts,
All designed to heal any long-simmering rifts.
They were hoping to deliver a brand new turf field,
But must first get selectmen and taxpayers to yield.

For Plainville they dropped off some really nice sweaters
To keep warm all the Plainridge high rollers and bettors.
The Racino has not met those state revenue projections,
Which could cause some problems at future elections.

In Norton, they knew what to give that would work -
That town is in need of a brand new town clerk.
The Planning Board got plans for a new donut shop
With another new drive-thru they can unfairly stop.

For Mansfield selectmen, more than a just a smidgeon,
They get calendars so elections won’t offend a religion.
Also, new regulations to keep kids clear of smoke,
Then selectmen can stop treating the health board like a joke.

For Foxboro selectmen, they brought a whole lot –
Including a big bag of medical pot.
It’s hard to pick presents and try to be fair
To a board that has problems just picking its Chair.

Rehoboth was the next stop on their Christmas Eve dash,
To the town, from the cable guy, they returned all that cash.
They gave Attleboro a win on Turkey Day, which was great,
And their gift to Bishop Feehan – they can open that gate.

In Seekonk, selectmen got a big pile of coal
For not making cemeteries a priority goal.
The Town Administrator got a gift complete with conditions –
He keeps it if he stops applying for other positions.

They looked at me like I was some kind of martyr,
Or even worse – like I was holding a Charter.
They caucused, debated, and then took a vote
To ignore every column that I ever wrote.

They finished their business and emptied their sleigh,
Shook their heads one more time, and then flew away.
I heard them exclaim as they looked back with a stare -
“There’s no way we’re ever letting them vote on a Mayor!”

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, good readers.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist, town official, husband, parent, grandfather, and terrible poet. He wishes you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and can be reached at aninsidelook@aol.com and at @billinsidelook.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Trump Is Symptom Of A Bigger Problem

GOUVEIA: The fault is not in The Donald

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Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2015 9:52 pm | Updated: 10:55 pm, Thu Dec 10, 2015.
Donald Trump is not the problem. He’s merely the most visible byproduct of it.
We have freedom of speech here in America, and that’s great. We have the right to express our opinions, no matter how outrageous or controversial they may be. That’s also a good thing.
As someone who publicly states opinions here on a regular basis, I am grateful. And I have often taken full advantage of those very important rights, sometimes to the chagrin of others. So I get that it’s OK to be controversial and differ from prevailing public sentiment.
It’s not a new phenomenon. This country was built by those who challenged authority, who dared to say things previously only whispered in back rooms and small groups.
No, it is not the number of people who say ridiculous and ignorant things that has changed today, but rather the way we — the general public — react and respond to them. And that is a very serious problem.
Today we elevate stupidity, ignorance and arrogance to unprecedented and undeserved heights. We confuse bigotry with courage, bluster with bravery, and outspokenness with intelligence. We rate the style in which remarks are given more critically and carefully than we do their content.
We often seem to extend more respect to those who appeal to our frustration than those who tell us the truth. We are too easily swayed by those who give us someone to blame for our fears and our problems. And while that may be understandable, given the state of politics today, it is also dangerous.
Donald Trump has yet to voice an original thought during his comical and frightening presidential campaign. He has not come up with any intelligent plan to do anything. What he has done is directly appeal to the fears and frustrations of Americans, and made it acceptable to voice prejudices and discriminatory thoughts that are generally considered immoral and wrong.
Too much crime and not enough jobs in this country? Blame Mexicans. They are nearby, they are convenient, and most importantly — they weren’t going to vote for him anyway.
Propose to build a wall along the border. Forget that it sounds more like old Berlin than modern America. Disregard the fact immigration from Mexico — legal and otherwise — has slowed to almost nothing over the last decade or so. What you say doesn’t have to be true or make sense. It just has to strike a chord, and tap into the reservoir of anger simmering just below the surface here.
So, Trump can propose a ban on people based upon nothing more than their religion, and actually be cheered by many.
He doesn’t concern himself with the constitutionality of such matters, or the legality of them. Just by being outrageous he somehow earns respect from some for being a “straight-shooter” or someone unafraid of “speaking his mind”.
And when the inevitable criticism comes flying back at him, when he is accused of using racism and bigotry for political advantage, Trump plays the victim card. He arrogantly says he is being blamed for avoiding the political correctness that he claims has gripped this country.
Political correctness. That is such a phony term.
The phrase was made up to excuse bad behavior and make it seem more socially acceptable.
We make it easier for our public officials to be like Trump than more rational leaders. That is, until we really need them to act.
Then, the shallowness and superficiality of their arguments and reasoning leave us wondering how we ever gave them credence in the first place. Not because they aren’t smart, mind you. But because they think it is OK to elevate themselves at the expense of others.
Whether it is Donald Trump seeking to use Muslims as a political steppingstone, or North Attleboro’s Bob Nerz using immigrants in neighboring Attleboro to fight governmental change in his town, this type of behavior has become too popular and prevalent.
But it is society that has to change. We have to stop rewarding this type of behavior. It should be recognized for what it is — wrong and opportunistic.
We need to demand more from our politicians and leaders than loud and controversial speech. If we don’t — that’s our fault.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at aninsidelook@aol.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Seekonk Problem is a Grave One

GOUVEIA: A grave problem in Seekonk

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Posted: Sunday, November 22, 2015 11:02 pm | Updated: 11:33 pm, Sun Nov 22, 2015.
Just when it looked like the controversies surrounding Seekonk's government were beginning to die down, a new one has arisen.
While it still may be true that the only two certain things in this world are death and taxes, in Seekonk even death remains a bit uncertain if you plan to be interred in the Good Earth.
The town has a cemetery on Newman Avenue, but it seems folks are just dying to get in there. Fewer than 10 graves remain available at the site, according to Selectmen Chairman Dave Parker.
"We are going to be out (of graves) within three months," Parker said recently.
It is widely assumed he comes to that conclusion using the law of averages, and not from any particular inside information.
Apparently, the town has been aware of the situation for some time now, but has dug itself a hole by not doing anything about it. Selectman David Viera expressed his disappointment at the death-march pace of the cemetery search, claiming, "We are chasing our own tail."
One piece of land looked at for burial purposes is located near Pleasant Street. While that certainly sounds like a wonderful name for a final destination, there are problems preventing its use.
The level of groundwater has been discovered to be high. That might mean the grass would be very green for those visiting, but the permanent inhabitants would probably not find the setting acceptable. Not that they would complain, mind you.
When Selectman David Andrade suggested the board find out what state and health regulations require as to groundwater levels, Parker said that should have been done months ago. Clearly there was not enough planning for this final decision done by town officials.
It's always stressful when you don't take care of these arrangements ahead of time.
Another proposed spot for locating those leaving this world is Town Hall, or more accurately, land adjacent to it. Honestly - you can't make this stuff up.
While some believe ideas have been going to Town Hall to die for decades, it is unlikely they will be joined by those Seekonk citizens passing on to their reward in the future. It might continue to be a political graveyard for some, but probably not an eternal resting place.
Like the Pleasant Street site, the Town Hall parcel apparently has high levels of groundwater. High levels of a certain other substance are rumored to have been discovered there also, but that's a different problem for a different day.
Most Seekonk residents would probably be OK with the idea of going to Newman Avenue for the after-life. They could most likely also come to terms with making Pleasant Street their home after meeting with mortality.
But telling them they have to spend eternity at Town Hall would certainly fall into the category of cruel and unusual punishment. Although, come to think of it, there is probably a vault there already.
There is discussion planned with Holy Cross Church, located in Rhode Island, concerning land adjacent to a cemetery they own on Dexter Avenue. As it always is, the keys to real estate are location, location, location.
Contrary to some public opinion, there seems to be no plot here concocted by officials to deny residents a final spot within the town's borders. It's not unfair for citizens to expect their town officials to provide a place where the dearly departed can repose in respectful dignity, however.
But cryptic remarks aside, this is a serious matter. No one wants Seekonk to stand as a monument to poor planning or have loved ones forced to shop around like they are buying a condo during such a painful time in their lives.
Seekonk officials need to get their act together and bury this controversy quickly. A lack of affordable housing is one thing, and having to cut town services yet another. But this, for many, would be the final nail in the coffin.
Voters can be very sensitive to situations such as this. Let's hope town officials come up with a sensible solution to this problem very soon. And if they don't?
Well - it's their funeral.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at aninsidelook@aol.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.