Thursday, December 22, 2016

'Twas The Night Before Christmas - Local Style

GOUVEIA: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas....

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Posted: Thursday, December 22, 2016 10:31 pm
What do you get cities and towns, the officials who run them, for Christmas? It’s a yearly struggle for me.
After all, it is local municipalities and their dedicated leaders who keep me in column material throughout the year. Whether it be to sing their praises or criticize something they have done, local politicians and politics are largely what allows me to hold a regular dialogue with you readers twice each week.
So every year at this time, I try and give something back. In what has become pretty much an annual ritual, I create my own version of the most famous Christmas poem of all time.
While it may be argued that my attempts only inflict more pain upon both those I seek to honor and those who choose to read this — it’s cheaper than buying actual gifts.
So with apologies to the original author, I do once again subject you all to my version of “’Twas The Night Before Christmas...”
’Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the land,
Politicians were hiding from reporter Jim Hand.
In Attleboro, citizens dreamed about what they would do
In a mayoral race featuring Dumas and Heroux.

The taxpayers were settled all snug in their rooms,
Dreaming of incumbents being chased out with brooms.
Your beloved local columnist was writing away,
Hoping the Super Bowl would see the Patriots play.

Then from outside came a noise through the snow,
I jumped up but realized there was no place to go.
I dashed past the window, and ran quickly outside.
I looked up, gasped sharply, and then deeply sighed.

The moonlight was highlighting the snow on the ground.
And nary a working snowplow could be found.
Up high were five people with their brows in a furrow.
It was a sleigh carrying selectmen from nearby Foxboro.

They had on some gear to ward off snow or rain.
And looked around carefully, as though avoiding a train.
Their sleigh was fully loaded with wonderful gifts.
For town officials, even those with political rifts.

For themselves, they delivered what many expect.
They promised to treat each other with the proper respect.
Some want lower taxes, but others don’t find that funny.
After all, they can’t always count on old Bob Kraft’s money.

They stopped first in Plainville, at the place with the slots.
They had gifts for the gamblers who spend lots and lots.
They received many thanks, and even some offers.
They could have had that money now filling Plainville’s town coffers.

They moved quickly to Norton, and did what they ought-ta.
They gave those good residents some non-brown town water.
Next year citizens hope they’re in a better position.
Which could start with eliminating the Water Commission.

In Mansfield, in exchange for keeping the trains.
They gave the airport a school teaching how to fly planes.
Medical marijuana will soon be sold in this town.
Something Foxboro officials completely turned down.

North Attleboro selectmen got some real nice selections.
And got to keep those stupid preliminary elections.
To Wrentham they gave a law that has people talking.
On conservation land, leash your dog while you’re walking.

In Rehoboth they delivered a special condition.
That gives a former selectman a paid town position.
To Norfolk Rep. Dooley they made it quite plain.
That he has his own choo-choo, and it’s not fair to complain.

They delivered to Seekonk a gift bringing raves.
More land for cemeteries, so folks can have graves.
Their present to Attleboro was really the topper.
To LaSalette, they brought back the donkey named Clopper.

They saw me and shivered, as if feeling a draft.
And turned up their noses like my last name was Kraft.
They stared very hard, and stated with dread.
That nothing I’ve written have they ever read.

They finished their business and started to go.
Called to the reindeer and took off towards the snow.
But I heard them exclaim as they looked back with a frown.
“We know it was you who put those turkeys in town!”

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, good readers.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist, town official, husband, parent, grandfather, and terrible poet. He wishes you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and can be reached at and at @billinsidelook.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Foxboro Selectwoman Way Off Track

GOUVEIA: Foxboro's Coppola deserved scolding

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Posted: Sunday, December 18, 2016 10:02 pm
Foxboro Selectwoman Virginia “Ginny” Coppola was absolutely right when she recently told those attending a meeting in a neighboring town, “ sometimes you have to be able to sleep at night. Sometimes you have to make decisions for the right reasons.”
But if doing things for the “right reasons” induces sleep, Selectwoman Coppola should be spending a lot of her recent time wide awake.
When her board voted 4-1 to support the MBTA proposal for a pilot program to run commuter rail on the existing tracks to Patriot Place, Coppola was the lone dissenting vote. She explained her reasons in some detail and made it clear she believed opposing the train was in the best interest of the community.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. That’s her job.
Shortly thereafter, Coppola attended an informational session on the topic in neighboring Walpole. That community and their selectmen are staunchly opposed to the proposal, which would run trains through Walpole but provide little by way of service or economic development — as well as spurring some safety and traffic concerns.
Attending that meeting is also to Coppola’s credit. It is always a good idea for local elected officials to have as much information as possible on topics affecting their community. Kudos to both Coppola and Selectman Jim DeVellis for making the effort.
But once there, Coppola committed one of the cardinal sins for a local leader. She decided her opinions and positions were more important than those of the board on which she serves. She undermined the leadership she is supposed to be helping to provide.
And worst of all — she did it knowingly and deliberately.
Coppola spoke at the Walpole meeting after being introduced (quite properly) as a selectwoman from Foxboro. She condemned both the project and the MBTA. She failed to indicate her remarks represented only her personal opinion and not the position of her board — at least, until she clarified it well the fact. Video of the gathering shows this quite clearly.
At one point, she even made the following statement: “I know I’m not going to be too popular with my fellow selectmen but you know what, sometimes you have to be able to sleep at night and sometimes you have to make decisions for the right reasons ”
The clear inference — heck, it’s a statement — is her fellow selectmen are making decisions for the “wrong” reasons. That’s a cheap shot at the integrity of the board and each member.
Coppola has every right to vigorously oppose the train project. But once her board voted, she has an obligation to abide by it. That doesn’t mean suddenly changing her position or opinions. But to go into another community and undermine the actions taken on behalf of Foxboro voters is simply wrong.
Coppola is a former state representative, a former legislative aide, and her late husband was a state representative. She is no rookie — she knows her way around the world of local government.
By politically grandstanding in this manner, she puts her beliefs and opinions above her board. She draws attention to herself while making it seem she is merely sticking up for her constituents. Her actions were outrageous, and her fellow selectmen quite properly called her out on them.
This is not just being “passionate.” This appears more like a calculated political maneuver designed to continue Coppola’s long-standing fight against virtually anything related to the Kraft Organization. The examples backing up that line of reasoning are long and compelling.
Set aside for a moment the question of whether or not the commuter rail pilot project in Foxboro is good or bad for the town. The board may be right, or it may be wrong in backing the program. But there is no circumstance whatsoever where what Coppola did is right or acceptable.
Coppola was wrong to go to another town and undermine her board. Her excuses about correcting the MBTA and not intending to speak are weak and pathetic. She knew that when she decided to make her ill-advised comments.
Here is hoping the veteran politician continues to vote her conscience and speak her mind. But she should do so properly, or step down and as a private citizen — sleep as late as she wants.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Local Area, Country Must Not Accept Hate

GOUVEIA: Reject the scourge of hatred

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Posted: Monday, December 12, 2016 12:00 am

There has been a lot of talk in our local area recently about "Hate." It needs to be defined a bit, and dealt with in an intelligent and reasonable manner.
This is not hate in the way that I hate spinach, going to the dentist or listening to New York sports fans.

The kind of hate that has been displayed and revealed in a few isolated (hopefully) incidents locally is a more deeply-rooted hatred, one based upon the idea that those different from us are to blame for our problems. And the fact it is less prevalent here than in many other places is no consolation or excuse.
A few weeks ago, a racial slur against African Americans was found scrawled on a bathroom wall at Attleboro High School. More recently, a similar racist insult was written on the ground on public property in neighboring Mansfield.
Officials in both communities have taken the incidents very seriously, and insisted such actions will not be tolerated.
Let's be honest here. The sad truth is while these acts of hate have been highly visible and publicized, they sadly are not entirely unusual. They have no place in a civilized society and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. But, let's not pretend this problem just popped up recently.
The trend lately is to blame the increase in these types of reported incidents on the recent election - and more specifically, the style of the successful campaign waged by President-Elect Donald Trump. But without a doubt, it can be stated Trump did not invent racism and/or bigotry.
He might well be guilty of both, depending on your point of view and interpretation. But in my own opinion, he is not the cause of it, either locally or nationally.
But he is largely the cause of something almost as bad.
President-elect Trump has made it acceptable and somewhat normal to express "hatred" of people you really don't even know.
He has established viciousness and meanness as a practical and acceptable alternative to so-called "political correctness." While still condemning the acts themselves, he and his supporters continue to undermine that condemnation by promoting policies and behavior that leads directly to them.
You can't appoint a national security adviser who states "Islam is not a religion," and claim that is not a bigoted act. You can't propose a ban on people of one certain religion from entering the country, and claim there is no racism or bigotry involved. You can't make a general comment that people coming here from Mexico are rapists, and still claim to reject prejudice, bigotry and racism.
Like it or not, the president and those around him have a huge (yes, I said huge) impact on our society and culture.
None of our presidents have been saints, and each has had their own style and method of achieving goals and working for the people. But in general, most of them have understood they are judged not just on their actions and accomplishments, but also by what kind of standards they set for the public they serve.
It's not OK to make reckless statements and claims with no proof, and then shrug them off later. It's not OK to act like a petulant 5-year-old and call people names because they said or did something you don't like. It's not OK to suggest or incite violence, and then claim you didn't - even in the face of proof you did.
Hatred itself is not the real problem. Including hatred as an acceptable aspect of our society and making it even somewhat normal is. And that is where we appear to be headed.
Perhaps this is a backlash from all the alleged political correctness of recent years. Maybe it's a blip on the radar screen, a moment of overreaction, a leveling off of sorts.
But, let's remember that hatred, bigotry and racism all hurt people. They destroy families. They disrupt communities and divide nations.
We cannot allow this current level of hate and anger to become the new "normal." We must do what Attleboro and Mansfield officials and citizens have done, and make any such incidents involving them a really big deal.
Because it's not OK. It's just not.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.