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!
Friday, April 17, 2015
North Officials Playing Politics With Voters
This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, April 17, 2015.
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
in North Attleboro are generally intense and spirited.But over the last several months, they have
been downright deceptive.Sorry, but
that’s an apt and proper description.
take a moment and review the situation without getting too bogged down in
a failed tax increase proposal almost two years ago, town officials conduct a
survey to figure out how to get an override passed.In the meantime, selectmen vote against a
dual tax rate, thus shifting additional burden to residential taxpayers.The town administrator begins a series of
meetings designed to explain the budgetary situation and what is needed to
maintain service levels.
the end of February, selectmen vote to place a $4 million tax increase on the
April 7 ballot, allowing less than six weeks for citizens to consider the full
impact.They do so after reaching an
understanding with the school committee to waive busing and parking fees if the
override passes, using that as a “carrot” to obtain votes for the tax increase
from affected parents.
and the school committee warn of dire cuts that will be made to schools, public
safety departments, and town government in general if the tax increase
fails.Selectmen call for cuts
“across-the-board”, translating into a huge blow to public safety staffing
levels.The school department says it
will be forced to close a school and totally disrupt the educational system.
just more than a week before the election, against the advice of their
administrator, selectmen reverse course.They decide they will not cut the school, police or fire budgets if the
override loses.The Allen School will
stay open.Four police officers and up
to six firefighters will keep their jobs.Voters go to the polls thinking this is what they get if they vote No.
a mere 48 hours after the tax increase was defeated, selectmen once again do an
about face.They vote to go back to
recommending “across-the-board” cuts.They completely change what voters thought they were getting when
you ask?Well, they claimed their
previous plan was no longer practical.How
can they say that with a straight face?Are the townspeople supposed to believe things changed that completely
in 48 hours?Exactly what did change?
is it perhaps more logical to believe selectmen were playing politics with the override
vote?Could it be this was their way of
trying to manipulate the result?Did
they sell their constituents a bill of goods, and then pull a switcheroo after
the deal was closed?
school department reacted strongly to the selectmen’s reversal.Chairman Chip Poirier called it
“shameful”.Superintendent Suzan Cullen
said after the reversal the school department was “left picking up the pieces
for our innocent victims, the children of North Attleboro”.
“innocent victims” remark is more political hype.Would those on fixed incomes have been
“innocent victims” had the tax increase passed?Please, don’t go there.
the school department was doing a pretty good job of politicking themselves
during this process.Trading fees for
yes votes was a pretty slick move.Is it
possible they were simply out-maneuvered by selectmen?
departments truly betrayed here were the police and fire.The two chiefs and their officers and
firefighters have handled the entire budget season with class and dignity while
making a strong case for funding.They
were deemed critical by selectmen before the vote, but somehow more expendable
after.They have a right to ask why.
believe North voters defeated the tax increase because they just don’t trust
their elected leaders.They might simply
not believe what they are being told.And after the past few months – can you blame them?
things are certain.North Attleboro
needs more funding for schools, police, fire and other services.Tough times are ahead.Severe cuts are indeed necessary, and “across-the-board”
may be the best way to achieve them.
this pathetic political pandering has to stop.The townspeople need real leadership, not officials constantly checking
to see which way the political winds are blowing.
RTM members will make the final budget decisions.Given recent events, who knows how it will
all turn out?
hey – at least there’s no mayor.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and
longtime local official.He can be
emailed at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at