Friday, August 26, 2016

Trump Asked A Question - I Answer

Answering Donald Trumps's Good Question

Posted: Thursday, August 25, 2016 11:15 pm | Updated: 11:59 pm, Thu Aug 25, 2016.
Donald Trump recently posed an interesting question, one that deserves a thoughtful answer. He was addressing African-Americans and other minorities, but it could well be asked of all and serve as the slogan for his fascinating and unconventional presidential campaign.
After describing how Democrats and Hillary Clinton have allegedly abandoned the African-American community, and telling them how terrible their lives and jobs and schools are, the Republican nominee for president made a pitch for their votes by asking: “What the hell do you have to lose?”
Good question, Mr. Trump. Let’s go over the answers.
We stand to lose the very meaning of our country. We could lose America’s place as a great nation. We just might lose our basic freedoms. And some of us could lose our relatives, our families and our friends.
We could lose our diverse social culture and damage our economic recovery because you want to deport 11 million people, including children — although you are flip-flopping on that, now that you are behind in the polls.
We could lose our security because you have been alienating our allies and making the world doubt America will stand by its treaties and obligations. We could lose the very soul of our nation because you want to build a giant wall as the centerpiece of your alleged foreign policy plan.
We stand to lose the integrity of our electoral system should you prevail this November. Despite your self-serving and stupid claims of the system being “rigged” against you, the truth is you have altered campaigning in America. You have personally lowered the bar and done something people didn’t think was possible — given politicians and politics an even worse name.
You have shown us all that not only is it unimportant to tell the truth while campaigning, it’s not even necessary to pretend you’re telling the truth. You have demonstrated what many already knew — that hate and anger can be bundled together with frustration to create a formidable political force.
We can lose the right to expect our candidates to mean what they say. We have watched as you have clearly said things, then had surrogates go out into the media and tell us you didn’t say it. There is more interpreting going on in your campaign than in the United Nations.
We can lose our sense of right and wrong. You criticize the morals and actions of those who oppose you — sometimes rightfully — but fail to apply those same standards to yourself.
We can lose our self-respect. Your entire campaign is centered around telling us how bad things are. You prey on desperation. You criticize others, but have no plans of your own that include any details or any basis in reality. You act like you are the only choice to lift our poor, broken lives out of the pit of despair.
We can lose our empathy and our trust. You have insulted the Gold Star family of an American hero. You have called Mexicans rapists. You have questioned the integrity of a federal judge, born in Indiana, because he has a Mexican name. You propose to ban everyone with a certain religion from entering this country based only on their faith.
We can lose our ability to deal with hate. You feed on hate. You spread it, inspire it in your supporters and urge them to spread it to others.
We can lose our perspective. You tell us how as a businessman you gave money to all candidates from all parties in order to gain influence. Then you complain about your opponent having a charitable fund and say those giving to it are gaining influence. You refuse to release your tax returns, though you had promised to do so. You are a classic example of “Do as I say, not as I do.”
You and your campaign are mean-spirited, devoid of intelligent planning for our nation and wildly unstable and inconsistent. You threaten our safety, our security, our families and perhaps our very existence.
We have everything to lose, Mr. Trump. You will get your votes, and time will tell if they will be enough to elect you. But the answer to your question is simple.
We have everything to lose.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Local Y Had Wrong Initial Response to Problem

GOUVEIA: YMCA's response to recent controversy leaves something to be desired

Posted: Sunday, August 14, 2016 11:32 pm | Updated: 11:41 pm, Sun Aug 14, 2016.
We live in a litigious society. As a result, we all need to be careful when it comes to matters involving our legal system, either criminal or civil.
But whether we talk about individuals or institutions, the one thing we have to demand is accountability. This is especially true when dealing with those who teach, lead and care for our most precious treasures - our children.
Which brings us to the disturbing, disgusting and demoralizing situation involving 40-year-old North Attleboro resident Corey Ruel, the Attleboro YMCA, and a 13-year-old girl who may well have been robbed of her youth by a party or parties who were supposed to protect her.
Ruel was recently indicted on three counts of aggravated statutory rape of a child more than 10 years younger than him, according to court records. He allegedly admitted to engaging in an eight-month relationship with a 13-year-old girl he instructed as part of a martial arts class at the Attleboro YMCA. He allegedly had sex with the girl both in the YMCA facility and at his home.
Exactly what happened is a matter for the courts to sort out. Every individual is innocent until proven guilty, so Ruel is entitled to that presumption of innocence. As the truth emerges this promises to be a painful process for all parties - his alleged victim, his wife and children, and Ruel himself.
And also for the Attleboro YMCA, a respected institution in this city and this area. The Y has been a vital part of the lives of thousands of children for generations, offering a safe and affordable place for kids to play, grow and learn. It has a proud history.
But thus far in this sordid, awful affair, the Y itself has not behaved in a manner that befits its role in the community. While it must obviously be restrained given the legalities involved and the possible civil liability that could be attached, it has done itself no favors with its initial reaction to a horrible situation.
When Ruel was arrested and the charges became public, Y officials were no doubt shocked to discover what had allegedly occurred. They promised full cooperation with authorities, and expressed their sympathy and concern for the alleged victim.
But they also quickly said that while Ruel was a member of the Y, he was not a paid staff instructor. That statement upset many people for a very good reason: It is not entirely true.
While Ruel may not have been a YMCA staff member, and may not have been paid by that organization, he most definitely was an instructor. He absolutely led a class, sometimes as the only instructor for the entire class. He was left in charge of children, often as their main supervision.
I know this because my grandson was one of those children in his class.
YMCA officials point out it is normal practice for a "black belt" in martial arts to help teach as part of their achievement and status. That is no doubt true. But when an individual teaches a class by himself, regardless of whether or not he does so on behalf of others - he is an instructor. The "paid" part may or may not be significant in a legal sense, but it is totally irrelevant to the truth of the matter.
For some parents who had children come into close contact with Ruel in his role as an instructor, this comment by a Y official was disturbing and did not inspire confidence that the Y truly was placing the interests of the children before their own. It can easily be interpreted as merely "covering their butts" legally.
In fairness, it was made in the very early stages of these sad events. But it has not been clarified, and that is worrisome for several reasons. Not the least of those is that in order to prevent something like this from happening in the future, it is essential to understand and correct any mistakes of the past.
Those entrusted with children have heavy responsibilities, and their jobs are difficult. But what is needed now is truth, facts, and results - not knee-jerk excuses. Let's hope the Y understands and demonstrates this 

Monday, August 8, 2016

State Rep Deserves Credit For "Dirty Work"

GOUVEIA: For Rep. Barrows, a dirty job well done

Posted: Sunday, August 7, 2016 11:17 pm | Updated: 11:18 pm, Sun Aug 7, 2016.
Municipal sewerage.
Now there's a topic that just rolls off the tongue and excites everyone who gets the opportunity to discuss it. Unless you are an engineer or wastewater professional of some type, sewerage issues are hardly fascinating. They combine two things most people agree are inevitable parts of life we can't escape dealing with, but stink - sewage and politics.
When it comes to economic and community development, sewerage plays a huge role in the growth of cities and towns. Communities like my hometown of Norton have long lagged behind others because they could not handle the sewerage needs of industrial concerns. It was only after Norton reluctantly joined neighboring Mansfield in operating a treatment plant that things began to change, and residential taxpayers started seeing at least a little relief.
Last week, ground was broken on an addition to the Mansfield sewerage plant (located in Norton, but that's a long story for another time). It will help serve the towns of Mansfield, Norton, Foxboro, Sharon and Easton. It will increase the plant's capacity by about one-third, and it will be the key to expanding commercial/industrial growth in this area.
And quite frankly - it never would have happened if not for the efforts of State Rep. Jay Barrows.
Not that he did this by himself, mind you. As he would be the first to say, getting to this point took tremendous effort and cooperation from a lot of groups and individuals. To say this has been a long and winding road would be a gross understatement.
But the glue that held this deal together, the force that raised it from the dead several times and guided it through the labyrinth of local and state politics, was the Republican representative from Mansfield. Make no mistake about that.
This space has criticized Rep. Barrows when it was thought to be deserved, and it praises him now with equal sincerity and energy. Only those connected to this long, local nightmare can truly appreciate what Barrows has accomplished for his district and beyond in this regard.
He inherited a mess when he came into office. Mansfield and Norton were constantly at each other's throats over this plant. The problems date back to at least the 1970's, when Mansfield was forced to go it alone after Foxboro and then Norton backed out of a joint agreement at the last moment. It became a political minefield where few dared to venture, and fewer still could navigate successfully.
The original plant was built largely with federal and state funding. The towns involved couldn't come to agreement on capacity, allotments, commitments, funding or much of anything else. Obtaining land for the project from private owners was a complex issue, especially when it had to be done on behalf of three towns that all had to officially agree to everything.
At one Town Meeting in Norton, after being assured by local officials they had an agreement to purchase the property, Barrows got up and explained the next steps to that audience. Then the property owner stood and informed those assembled he had made no such agreement.
Such is the life of a state representative.
Politicians have to get reelected first, or they can't accomplish anything. They like the glamour issues, the ones where the resolutions come quickly and they can schedule the press conference and share the credit. They are not always enamored with the "dirty work," and there is no dirtier work than this issue.
But Rep. Barrows willingly took on the responsibility. He did the complicated and time-consuming job in Boston, negotiating with legislative leaders and regulatory agencies. He got the new district formed and funded. He mediated between town officials, took the heat from disgruntled property owners and voters, and toiled on this issue that would bring him little positive publicity, but plenty of grief.
He did his job, and did it well. His patience, diligence, calm demeanor and quiet determination made him uniquely qualified for the task.
Some talk about leading. Others do it. Jay Barrows belongs in the latter group. While I strongly disagree with him on many issues, I admire and appreciate what he has done for our local communities.
Jay - the next flush is for you.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Leaders Must Stongly Reject Bigotry, Racism

This column appeared in The Sun Chronicle on August 5, 2016.

GOUVEIA: Racism and bigotry must be condemned swiftly

    Posted: Friday, August 5, 2016 12:15 am
Racism and bigotry are not new problems. They have been around since one caveperson first noticed their neighbor had a different color skin, or worshipped at a different shrine.
The spread of racism and bigotry has always been directly proportional to how much the existing society was willing to tolerate it. If the leaders of a given government or society treat it indifferently, it usually spreads and rears its ugly head higher and more often.
That brings us back to the distasteful and delicate subject of bigotry at the local level, often spread by electronic means such as Facebook and other sources. And things get even touchier when it is a local government official spreading the hatred.
It was a short time ago when a North Attleboro elected official resigned shortly after posting an anti-Muslim meme on his personal Facebook page, along with a racist post concerning Michelle Obama. The public outcry against his stupid and bigoted communications was swift and decisive. The townspeople generally condemned his actions, and he did the right thing and stepped down.
But the reaction of town leaders was a bit slower — to say the least — than the people they serve. Many officials were Facebook friends with this individual and most likely saw the offensive posts, yet remained silent initially.
Some offered the famous “free speech” argument at first, but changed their tune when it was pointed out town officials had a responsibility beyond that of a regular citizen. And voters clearly were not going to tolerate using one of our basic constitutional rights to justify bad behavior by public officials.
As Editor Mike Kirby noted recently in his column, the same type of thing happened a few weeks ago in nearby Easton. A newly appointed member of the town’s conservation commission posted three separate anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic memes, setting off a firestorm of protest and outraged discussion. It is still going on as you read this.
The official in Easton has said he has no intention of resigning. The board of selectmen that appointed him prior to the remarks, over an experienced incumbent by a 3-2 vote, has discussed instituting a “code of conduct” for appointed and elected officials when it comes to electronic media. Some individual selectmen denounced the actions strongly, others less strenuously.
But one selectman in particular initially defended the posts as “free speech.” He stated and posted on local websites that he knew the individual to not be a racist, and offered excuses for the incredibly crude and awful posts. He even criticized those who objected to them, saying many of the objections were motivated by local politics.
He later backed off when the backlash became intense, contradicting himself on the same websites by claiming he had never defended the posts. But by that time, he had added immeasurably to the damage and pain inflicted by the perpetrator of the bigoted messages.
People expect to be treated fairly by government, particularly at the local level. And government and the officials serving within it have a sacred responsibility to maintain and bolster that confidence. A government without integrity is something no one can count on.
So it is bad when an official outwardly and clearly expresses racism or bigotry. Today, any Muslim citizen appearing before the Easton Conservation Commission has valid reason to question whether they will receive fair and equal treatment.
But it is even worse when other, higher-ranking officials fail to condemn that bigotry swiftly and in the strongest possible terms. That changes the appearance of the issue from being about one misinformed individual, to a systemic and institutional problem in the government, itself.
This issue is not limited to North Attleboro and Easton. But unfortunately, these communities are serving as an example of what to do when these horrible things happen.
The official in Easton did eventually apologize — sort of — while still trying to excuse his posts. We will see what, if anything, happens as a result.
But the failure of leadership beyond him is just as important to note as the inappropriateness of the poster.
As the old saying so correctly notes: “If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Columnist Gets To Go "Home" Again

GOUVEIA: You can go home again

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Posted: Sunday, July 31, 2016 10:14 pm | Updated: 11:05 pm, Sun Jul 31, 2016.

I had a moving and emotional moment last week, one I imagine many people would love to experience as they get older.
I got to go home.

I went to see and walk through the house where I was raised. For a few brief moments I returned to my childhood, to the days my parents loved each other and our family was living the American Dream.
For 17 years I lived in the big white house on the corner of South Washington and Plain Streets in Norton. It is an older home, built some 100 years before I was born. It was a dairy when owned by the Draper family before us. And in the 1960’s, it was a fabulous place for a kid to call home.
I was 19 when my mother sold the house in 1975. I remember my final moments in it, walking around gazing at the empty rooms for what I knew might be the final time. The memories swirled around me as I walked out that door.
But last week my wife noticed there was an open house at the home. She suggested we go and walk through it. For some reason I was hesitant, but she insisted. I will be forever grateful to her for bringing me.
I found myself in my old home for the first time in 41 years.
The kitchen looked very different, and the downstairs bathroom was in the wrong place (well, “wrong” according to my memory). The old pantry was gone, the rooms didn’t connect the same way, there was a fireplace where there had only been a wall in my youth.
But the dining room where we celebrated countless holidays with 30 or more family members still seemed the same. It led to the “living room” where my father’s desk had been, covered with old-fashioned accountant pads and papers.
The stairs I climbed every night with my brother and sister were so very familiar. The bathroom at the top of the stairs still seemed to have the same tile floor and walls I remembered.
I walked into the bedroom I shared with my brother growing up, and was overcome with emotion. The old wooden floors were a different color, but still the same wood. The slanted far wall still bent towards me. I swear I heard the same squeak from the floor boards as I slowly walked in.
I saw the window my brother jumped out that time I was chasing him. I saw the old ceiling access to the attic that I stared at every night, wondering if someone was up there. I walked over and looked for the spot where my best friend Bob McKillop put a hole in the wall that time I pushed him over my bed.
Outside, the nostalgic trip continued. I saw the maple saplings my father planted 55 years ago, supported with twine and stakes to hold them up. Today they boldly reach up to the sky as full trees. I discovered the foundation from the old chicken coop, where I would gather eggs with my parents. I saw the rock we played on as kids, pushing each other off and thinking it was so big — and now seeing how small it was.
I talked with some prospective buyers, relating the history of the house. I touched the doorways, walked the yard, and stood under the huge maple tree that had provided such grand shade for the countless family cookouts held beneath it.
And for a short time — a few minutes — I was 8 years old again. Life was simple. All the neighbors knew each other, and all the kids played together from summer sunrise to sunset. My late parents and sister were together with us again, and my grandmother was calling me for dinner in that sweet, shrill voice.
I was home.
Some people still live in their original home. My home today is the house our own kids grew up in, where my wife and I still live. My sons can visit their childhood home any time they want. I can’t, and that made this so special.
So it was nice to relive some memories, however briefly. Even if the bathroom was in the wrong place.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and 58-year Norton resident. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.