Friday, March 27, 2015

To Leaders Who Just Don't Seem to Lead

By Bill Gouveia

            As a columnist commenting on local affairs, you sometimes struggle to find things that might be interesting to readers.  The last few weeks has definitely not been one of those times.

There has been a lot happening on the local political scene lately.  Elections are nearing in most area communities, and there will be a few interesting races and some very important and controversial ballot questions to be decided in various municipalities.

            But it seems right now might be a good time to highlight a few situations in the surrounding area and try to put them into perspective.  Although quite frankly, it’s more than a little difficult to view some of them without shaking your head in wonderment.

            In North Attleboro, government continues to perform in a baffling and contradictory manner.  Just this week 71 members of the Representative Town Meeting voted once again to save their own political positions and deny the people they serve the right to vote on changing their own government.  If nothing else, that is consistent.

            But at least one RTM member urged the body to do so in part because the cost of changing to a mayor/council format might be excessive and a burden on the taxpayers.  Yet at the same time, the budget town officials are supporting is contingent on a $4 million tax increase they are asking voters to approve.  You know, so they can continue that super-successful and inexpensive system they currently operate. 

            RTM member Bart Steele said, “Not one person has come forward to me for the mayoral form of government.”  He seems to forget that 974 people cast ballots two years ago saying they wanted to vote on exactly that.  Apparently they didn’t realize they needed to ask Mr. Steele and other RTM members personally rather than by voting.  All that is inconsistency, not to mention hypocrisy. 

            In Foxboro, the ill-advised campaign by Town Clerk Bob Cutler to try and win tenure continues to create issues where there were previously none.  It was bad enough he claimed it was necessary to provide job security for an elected position where no incumbent has even faced a challenge in more than 30 years. 

But then it also helped create a situation where his good friend the fire chief violated campaign laws by gathering signatures in uniform from on-duty subordinates for the person who technically coordinates his ethics training.  You just can’t make this stuff up.

            But the strangest story may be in Attleboro, where city councilor Jonathan Weydt has had a fascinating month or two.  He seems to be on a desperate mission to end his own relatively brief and unspectacular political career, and might be succeeding.

            Weydt was cited by police for driving his very young daughter to a local supermarket in his truck without any type of child safety seat as required by law.  Faced with the possibility of bad publicity and a whopping $30 fine, the veteran councilor allegedly tried to use his connections to get the officer on the scene to let him off.

            According to the police report Weydt admitted he drove his daughter illegally, something he later publicly denied.  The officer who issued the citation went on to say Weydt did not cooperate.  He said the two-term councilor related he knew various people at the court house and in the police department “seemingly in order to intimidate or impress the officer and to sway the outcome of the officer's investigation” according to the statement.

            A few weeks later Weydt became an internet sensation when he was recorded “flipping the bird” to a fellow councilor during a public meeting where the topic was marijuana dispensary regulations.  He later apologized through one media outlet, saying “Somebody said a couple things I didn't like, sometimes I put my heart in my sleeve, this time my finger was dangling from the end of it."

            Hard to ignore a heartfelt apology like that one. 

            There are a lot of good and selfless leaders in the Greater Attleboro area who do their jobs in an effective and cooperative manner.  It is too bad our attention is often drawn to those who sometimes act like it is all about them rather than about the people they represent.

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

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