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 and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Refugee Situation True Test For America

GOUVEIA: Have they no shame?

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Posted: Thursday, November 19, 2015 10:38 pm

Governor Baker — shame on you. Shame on you and other governors participating in the effort to ignore thousands of refugees — men, women and children facing death with nowhere to run. All based upon little more than their religion, heritage, and your own politics and fears.
Congratulations to governors in states like Rhode Island and Connecticut who refuse to set aside the principles upon which this country was founded. It is sad when simply doing your job is so unusual it becomes deserving of special attention and praise.

Nowhere are governors given the right to determine who can live in their state. They can flex their political muscles all they want, but they are politicking instead of leading.
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians are running for their lives. Staying in their homeland is an option only if they wish to die. Saying they are desperate is a tremendous understatement.
Yet here, many leaders — and I use that term loosely — are actively seeking to deny them refuge. They claim the reason is security. They believe some radical Islamic terrorists are using the refugee crisis to sneak agents into the United States to attack us on our homeland. And undoubtedly, some are.
They are not swayed by the fact the screening process today is the toughest it has ever been. They ignore that it takes 18 to 24 months of scrutiny before a refugee is allowed to move about freely in the United States. No, they are just focused on protecting their people.
Yeah, right.
Long before the terrible attacks in Paris, conservative leaders and citizens were fighting the potential arrival of Syrian refugees. Their primary fear is not of being attacked, but of poor foreigners moving into their communities and possibly adding to their social welfare budgets. They believe Muslims pose a threat to Christians — and that’s who this country belongs to, right?
Hold a fundraiser for these poor souls and Americans will gladly give. We’ll send a check, make a donation, feed a family for a month. We are generous that way.
But, let them come here? And possibly live among us? Maybe even next door? Whoa, that wasn’t part of the deal. Not in the America some see today.
This is a dangerous world in which we live. Terrorism is a real and serious threat. We must take strong steps to protect our security and freedom.
More than ever, we must ensure our vetting process is stronger and more stringent than before. On that, there is no argument.
But in order to protect America, must we stop being America? Do we have to abandon the principles upon which this country was founded in order to preserve it? Must we become the enemy to defeat the enemy?
On social media, you often see this popular analogy for the refugee crisis: “If you had a bag of 100 apples and you knew five were poisoned, would you eat any of the apples?”
The reply to that is this: “If you saw a boat sinking with 100 children on it, and you knew five were suicide bombers, would you let the other 95 children sink and die?”
When Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people and wounded 680 others on April 19, 1995, did we stop letting white Christians into the country?
“We should be spending money on our veterans, not refugees”, some loudly proclaim. But ignoring these refugees and allowing them to die will not result in one penny more for veterans — and those making these statements know that. Using brave veterans as pawns in a political battle is disgusting.
The Statue of Liberty has these words mounted upon it: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore ...”
That is now considered by many to be outdated, given modern day realities.
Yet the words, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” is held as absolute, despite the complete change in weaponry since they were written.
This is the same sort of flawed, fear-driven philosophy that put Japanese-Americans into internment camps.
Here’s hoping our fear and prejudice does not keep us, as a country, from doing the right thing.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Friday the 13th - the Local View

GOUVEIA: Very superstitious, writing on the wall

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Posted: Sunday, November 15, 2015 10:25 pm | Updated: 11:16 pm, Sun Nov 15, 2015.
This past weekend included Friday the 13th. That is the day tradition tells us is bad luck. It is when our superstitions and darkest fears rise to the surface, threatening to bring us down and strip us of good fortune.
That is, if you believe in that kind of stuff.
But even the most non-superstitious tread carefully around the 13th day of the month when it happens to fall on a Friday. After all, it’s one thing not to believe in bad luck. It’s yet another to unnecessarily tempt fate.
Since this space is often dedicated to the goings-on of local government in the various Sun Chronicle communities, it seemed like a good idea to remain in that mode through that dark date. So your intrepid columnist endeavored to find out just what it is local officials are most afraid of on Friday the 13th.
This required extensive research and much courage to look Triskaidekaphobia squarely in the eye without blinking. Our experienced staff of one cast aside all horseshoes, four-leaf clovers and other weapons of the weak. After exhaustive investigation, we have uncovered what was previously secret.
So, tongue once again firmly planted in cheek, here are the things town boards and officials fear most on Friday the 13th.
The Norton Planning Board is deathly afraid someone will try and open a store that sells drive-thru windows for other stores. Of course, those store owners will have to walk in to buy one because the board would deny the drive-thru store a permit for a drive-thru.
The Foxboro Board of Selectmen is secretly afraid they will be chased through town by a giant slice of Kraft cheese with a pair of dice in one hand and a bag of medical marijuana in the other.
Seekonk Town Administrator Shawn Cadime has a Friday the 13th nightmare. In it he wakes up and discovers he’s still in Seekonk and is running out of other jobs or elected positions to seek.
Mansfield Selectman Olivier Kozlowski breaks into a cold sweat because of his Friday the 13th fear. He’s in a Lowe’s store trying to shop, but all the signs are in English and Kozlowski discovers he can now only read Spanish.
Plainville officials were very wary last Friday. When you are home to the only casino in the state, you want to make sure you don’t alienate Lady Luck in any way. In Plainville’s nightmare, Foxboro selectmen win a giant jackpot and drain Plainridge of all resources, then make the Splitsville bowling alley/bar move there.
State representatives are not immune to this irrational fear of Friday the 13th. Rep. Jay Barrows, R-Mansfield, dreams of women suddenly complaining to him about making less than men while doing the same jobs. Rep. Betty Poirier, R-North Attleboro, is terrified out-of-town lawmakers might sneak into her district without her permission. And Rep. Paul Heroux, D-Attleboro, is afraid voters will finally figure out he is a Democrat.
Attleboro has also been affected by this phenomena. Mayor Dumas reportedly had a fear Friday the 13th would somehow yield an opponent who posed an actual threat. The city council shudders over the fear of councilors flipping each other off during public meetings, and of gates opening and closing without control all over the city.
And of course, North Attleboro also has some irrational fears about Friday the 13th. The town’s Representative Town Meeting seems to be considering making voters cast ballots at least 13 times before they listen to them on the matter of government reform. In the same vein, North Attleboro selectmen try not to stick to a plan on the town budget for more than 13 minutes.
So what about the columnist, you ask? What are his peculiar Friday the 13th issues?
I’m constantly afraid I am 13 words over my column limit. I never open the 13th email I get on any particular piece. And I try not to mention my oldest grandson is named William more than 13 times in any given article.
Ok, it’s 13 minutes to deadline. I’m going to walk around my desk 13 times now before sending this in. And for the record — the next Friday the 13th is in May.
Let the preparations begin.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.