Monday, August 24, 2015

Controversy Over Feehan Gate Ending??

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronical on Monday, August 24, 2015

GOUVEIA: Compromise should end Feehan-Gate -- or will it?

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Posted: Sunday, August 23, 2015 10:45 pm | Updated: 11:14 am, Mon Aug 24, 2015.
The Great Feehan-Gate controversy is inching closer to a final resolution - or more accurately, another long-term temporary settlement.
What erupted into a huge debate during its initial stages has slowly and much more quietly begun to return to what it always was: A dispute between neighbors in which government should never have been significantly involved.
The Attleboro City Council recently voted 9-2 to approve a written deal that calls for Bishop Feehan High School to carry forward with their plans to open a long-closed driveway that leads onto Harvard Street, a public way. In exchange for being allowed to do something they have always had the right to do anyway, city officials will agree not to take extraordinary steps and abandon city land to specifically prevent the private school from utilizing its access to the public way.
That seems fair, right?
Of course, the residents of Harvard Street have a perfect right to be concerned about increased traffic on their quiet road. They have enjoyed a virtual dead-end street for 40 years now. They quite understandably were upset at the prospect of hundreds of cars per day being funneled by their homes.
So under this tentative agreement, the driveway will be used by Feehan only on school days, and even then for only 75 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the afternoon. While Harvard Street residents have not proclaimed their approval of said plan, it certainly has to allay most of their fears concerning public safety and quality of life.
Or then again, maybe not.
This still has to be signed off on by the mayor and school officials. Mayor Dumas could still conceivably insist on changes, although that appears unlikely at this stage. Retiring Councilor Walter Thibodeau has skillfully and carefully guided both sides through the web of emotions and legal threats this situation has created, and it almost seemed inevitable all parties involved would end up where they currently sit.
Several councilors boxed themselves in with their initial overreaction to the situation. In their zeal to appease angry voters and taxpayers, they overstated their positions and thrust the city into a precarious legal predicament. The move to abandon part of the roadway - which is still being held up as a possibility at this stage - could have opened Attleboro up to a lawsuit from the private Catholic school.
In the end, many will say the city council worked out a thoughtful compromise here. And that will be at least somewhat true.
But this is also an example of how it is never a good idea for local public officials to jump into a volatile situation too soon.
Elected officials generally love to take any opportunity to help voters, especially when it potentially involves public safety and the sanctity of the home. And while Bishop Feehan is home to many Attleboro students, a large portion of the parents who pay the tab for their children's private education are not Attleboro voters. From a purely political standpoint, going hard on the side of the taxpayers is a no-brainer.
But you need to see the big picture before going too far. While councilors will no doubt say their initial strong reaction was intended to bring Bishop Feehan officials to the bargaining table, the truth is Feehan probably never needed to use the driveway for more than what is called for in the compromise.
Of course, school officials had the luxury of being able to work primarily in private. City councilors have to conduct most of their dealings under the glare of the public spotlight.
Feehan has maintained a very calm and reasonable public stance. It is possible they took a much harder line when only city officials were in the room.
The two votes against the compromise came from Council President Frank Cook of Ward 3 (which includes Harvard Street) and Jonathan Weydt, who is running in one of the few contested races as an at-large candidate after deciding not to run for re-election in his current ward. Coincidence? Perhaps.
It is good to remember that a gate has to open and close - otherwise it is just a fence. It's now time to take the rust off this gate, and close the door on the entire controversy.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Football Not A Game For Kids

GOUVEIA: Football: It’s not for kids

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Posted: Thursday, August 20, 2015 10:25 pm
I am a huge sports fan. I raised my two children to be sports fanatics. My grandchildren are still too young to officially be classified as such. But I am proud to announce that despite living several states away, my 3-year-old granddaughter Avery still knows who Bill Belichick and Rob Ninkovich are.
I love baseball, basketball, hockey, and perhaps more than anything — football. I’ve been a Patriots season ticket-holder for some 44 years, formerly held Celtic season tickets, and followed the Red Sox since I was old enough to listen to the radio. I covered high school athletics for this fine newspaper in my misguided youth.
I played all sports growing up, none of them particularly well. My kids played baseball, tennis, golf, basketball, and soccer — the latter being a game I just never came to like. But I watched them and strongly supported their efforts to play all organized sports from a young age.
Except, football.
My wife and I made the decision early on in our parenting career that we would discourage our children from playing organized football until they reached high school. It was a difficult choice for me personally, but one I am glad we made. And, I truly believe our children are better for our decision.
With all due respect to the tremendous programs out there for young children today, I have a fundamental and philosophical objection to young boys and girls playing organized tackle football. I believe kids 6 to 12 years old are just too young and too vulnerable to start playing this great game at any kind of serious level.
I don’t want to get into the injury statistics and physical safety arguments in too much depth. Numbers can always be manipulated to the advantage of those compiling them, and that is certainly the case here.
But common sense and personal experience tells me football is a violent game — much more violent than any other regularly played in this country. And while I love the idea of tossing the pigskin with my young grandchildren, I shudder at the thought of them in pads at age 7 or 8, lining up to physically take down their counterparts on the other side.
And, yes — I am the guy who goes to high school games and applauds particularly effective blocks and tackles with great enthusiasm. I love seeing those student-athletes get fired up and attack the contest with a near-maniacal attitude.
Does that make me a hypocrite when it comes to youth football? Perhaps, but I can live with that. My kids did, and so will my grandchildren (I hope their parents will share my concerns).
I know thousands of young boys and girls play in Pop Warner and other leagues every year in this area. And I am equally aware most of them enjoy it. It no doubt helps build character and teaches them valuable life lessons.
But, football is one of the ultimate team sports, and the pressure it can put on young kids in both a physical and emotional way is just too much. Despite how hard coaches work to make it fun and “for the kids,” in my opinion football is just not for this age bracket.
Sure, baseball is tough on youngsters who strike out with the bases loaded in the last inning. And missing that last-second shot in basketball can be devastating. But that is different from being physically overwhelmed at the point of attack in a football game. It is far different from having your head thumped on the ground repeatedly if you play the game the right way.
Growing up in my neighborhood, we played tackle football every fall on our own, without pads and without our parent’s knowledge and permission. That might explain a lot to those who have read this space for many years.
If not as many younger kids playing means it is harder to field good high school or college teams, so be it. Youth sports should never be looked at as a “feeder program.”
With all due respect to the wonderful parent-run youth football organizations out there, I hope more kids find something else until they are old enough to truly deal with football.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Me, My Wife, And A Treasure Chest

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on August 7, 2015.

(And the headline was wrong - only 38 years of marriage)

GOUVEIA: 42 years of marriage is a thing to be treasured

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Posted: Thursday, August 6, 2015 10:33 pm
My wife and I are the couple that proves the validity of the old saying that “opposites attract.” The fact we have now been together for over 42 years is testament to our love, her patience and my complete inability to even contemplate an existence that did not include her by my side.
But if you ask me if I understand her, the answer would be a resounding “No.” Not at all. Not even close. I don’t have a clue. And after 38 years of marriage, I’m convinced that is a key component to our survival.
Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t know what she likes and doesn’t like — somewhat. It is nearly impossible (even for a stereotypically dense husband such as myself) to spend this much time with a partner and not become vaguely familiar with their likes and dislikes.
But our brains just work on different wavelengths. That doesn’t mean either of us is smarter or better than the other — just different. Of course, I am different in a normal way. Her way of being different is on another level, entirely.
For example, she is a room-temperature eater. She waits for her hot meals to cool. She can’t eat her ice cream until it is soupy. It’s just her way.
She has an artistic mind. Very little is symmetrical in her world. Different is normal, and normal is wrong. Must be why she loves me.
But there are some things that just go beyond my limited ability to comprehend. A recent example would be my efforts to understand why there is currently a treasure chest in my dining room.
That’s right, I said a treasure chest. And I don’t mean a McDonald’s Happy Meal-size treasure chest here. I’m talking about a real, full-size, wooden, shiver-me-timbers type treasure chest. One that looks like Long John Silver could have once buried it on a deserted island.
It is made of some type of wood, has some broken leather straps on the side, and I could probably fit inside it with a few alterations (a chilling fact that did not escape my attention when I first saw it).
It showed up on my steps a week or two ago with no explanation. I asked my Beloved why it was there, and in response she asked me to please help her carry it into the dining room. The fact I did so with little questioning probably says more about me than it does her.
When I finally inquired why it was here, she looked at me strangely, and said she bought it for our church fair (she is the fair chairwoman this year, a fact I first learned when it was mentioned by someone else at a meeting).
I naively asked what she was going to do with it at the fair, and she again looked at me like I was child and said, “It’s a decoration.” I told her I had not been aware the annual holiday fair this year had a pirate theme, and she gave me a glare that suggested I quit while I was ahead.
Then I asked why, if this prize was headed for the church, was it in my dining room? Patiently, as though English were not my first language, she told me the floors in the church were being redone, and it would go there later. She wanted it in the dining room because the basement would be too far for her to carry to the car, should the need arise.
I asked if she had dug this up somewhere, and she told me she got it at a yard sale. I immediately pictured a gleeful family wearing eye patches celebrating that someone had actually paid them money and hauled away this old trunk they had not wanted to spend the effort breaking up for the trash.
And it is still there, being guarded by the dining room furniture and some of my grandchildren’s stuffed animals. I can’t wait until Santa Claus swoops down on his pirate ship and picks it up at church fair time.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go warm up some ice cream ...
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist, husband, father and grandfather. He can be emailed at aninsidelook@aol.comand followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.