AN INSIDE LOOK - Commentary and opinions on local politics and life in general in Southeastern Massachusetts! Featuring the writings of Bill Gouveia, newspaper columnist for the Sun Chronicle and local cable TV talk show host. Feel free to read, comment and enjoy!
Monday, February 9, 2015
North Attleboro RTM Needs To Do Right Thing
This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, February 9, 2015
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
to North Attleboro selectmen for doing the right thing last week and finally
sending the oft-delayed Special Charter Act to Town Meeting.It is the first of two critical steps towards
complying with the expressed desire of the town’s voters
to have this come before them for a binding ballot decision.
second critical step will come on March 23 when Representative Town Meeting
(RTM) begins deliberations on whether or not to send this question to the
legislature for placement on a future town ballot.The Special Act Charter cannot be approved
and/or instituted unless a majority of citizens at a town election vote for it.
when RTM members cast their votes next month, it will not be in opposition or
support of the charter proposal itself.They will not be giving it their stamp of approval should they send it
to Boston.Their decision will not be –
and should not be – indicative of whether or not they believe changing the form
of government is a good idea.
only question RTM members will have before them on March 23 will be:“Should the voters of North Attleboro be
allowed to decide their own future, or are we who were elected to represent
them going to once again prevent that from happening?”
amount of explaining, politicking or excuse-making can change that fact.Some will cast the upcoming process in a
different light, but North Attleboro citizens and voters should be very clear
on this.RTM will not be voting on
whether the form of government should be changed.
they will be voting on is whether or not to let their citizens cast ballots.They will either trust them with this
decision in the manner prescribed by law, or treat them like little children
and tell them to leave it all to the RTM members.
is supposed to be the voice of the people.Members are elected to carry out the town’s business.They have knowledge and experience that can
only come from getting intimately involved in overseeing a local
government.And yes, their job is to
lead and make important decisions.
it is not their job to be obstructionists.It is not their job to stop elections from happening.It is not their job to dictate.
the charter proposal is allowed on the ballot, there will be plenty of time for
RTM members to be heard on whether it should pass.There will be the opportunity for vigorous
campaigning on both sides of the issue.
you are an RTM member, you owe it to the voters to give your opinion on the
charter during a campaign. If you oppose
the government change, that is the time to say so.Stand on the rooftops and shout your position
if you are so moved.Your view on the
charter is important and needs to be aired.
there has to be the opportunity for debate.Not just within your small elected group, but amongst the people you
serve.You have an obligation to further
that debate, not prevent it from occurring.Changing the form of government should be decided by that most American
of methods – a vote of the people.
Attleboro will have a silly preliminary election this week for no good
reason.How can you allow an election to
just reduce the number of candidates, but deny one on the form of government?
selectmen did not take a position on the charter proposal because it was not
the time to do so.No doubt they will
make their feelings known if this advances.They properly recognized that at this moment, this is a simple
situation.You either let the people
vote, or you deny them that right.
over a decade now, North Attleboro voters have been asking for the right to
cast a binding ballot on their form of government.Next month their RTM will either give them
that right, or deny them once again.
RTM members fail to send this proposal forward, it would be a clear indication
they do not value the intelligence or the rights of their constituents.Here’s hoping they follow the example of their
selectmen, and do the right thing.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and
longtime local official.He can be
emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at