Monday, November 21, 2016

Thanks On This Thanksgiving Day

GOUVEIA: Here's what I'm thankful for this year...

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Posted: Sunday, November 20, 2016 10:47 pm | Updated: 11:02 pm, Sun Nov 20, 2016.

As we head towards Thanksgiving this week, I'd like to do something I don't do enough - thank some people for all they do for me and others.
It's a little difficult to concentrate on thankfulness these days, particularly in the aftermath of a vicious, bitter election that only served to remind us all how divided this nation truly is. But perhaps this particular holiday, designed for no purpose other than giving thanks for what we have, can at least temporarily allow us to focus on the positive and ignore the deafening negativity surrounding us.

So in that spirit (with perhaps just a pinch of sarcasm occasionally tossed in), I offer you my 2016 Thanksgiving "thank you" statements and wishes.
First off, thank you to my two sons and their families for gathering all together with us this Thanksgiving Day. I am thankful any time I get my five amazing grandchildren together, especially when it is here at home. And our two boys and their spouses aren't bad either. Family is one of those few things you can never replace.
Thank you to the makers of jellied cranberry sauce. Although I partake at times other than Thanksgiving, Turkey Day is the perfect holiday for me to pig out on this favorite delicacy. But it must be made by Ocean Spray, it must not contain any of those lumpy, whole berries, and it must (this is non-negotiable) be sliced into wafers rather than scooped out with a spoon. Just ask my daughter-in-law MJ what happens when that last part is ignored.
Thank you to the Sun Chronicle for allowing me this space twice a week to express myself and have a conversation with you fine folks. To Editor Mike Kirby and everyone else who keeps us informed and gives us a local forum - I am so proud to be associated with such a robust, independent and community-centered newspaper.
Thank you to my wife Cynthia. Despite battling through a recent knee replacement surgery, she continues to be the center of our family and do the work of 10 people. She survived the last two months of me trying to "help" her, and that alone is an amazing achievement.
My deep thanks to White's Bakery & Cafe in Mansfield for your chicken pot pies. They have kept us fed at least a few times per week over the last many months. And I apologize for that angry glare I display every time I go in and find you sold out of them. My wife thanks you for the carrot cake.
My heartfelt thanks to our dear friends Ellen and Mike Thomas as they desert us and leave Norton for their well-deserved retirement down South. We will miss them with all our hearts and promise to come and visit more often than you want us to. And thank you for making me go on that cruise that was the time of our lives.
Thank you to the New England Patriots. As a season ticketholder for more than four decades, I deeply appreciate the excellence you have provided over the last 15 years. You have proven that I was not crazy sitting on those cold aluminum benches all those other seasons, dreaming that someday it might pay off.
Thank you to Donald Trump. By running a campaign designed to win at all costs, you have pushed voters who couldn't be bothered - on both sides - to suddenly become involved again. I despise almost everything you stand for, and will carefully watch how you perform. But I have to acknowledge you carved out a role for yourself in American history and put new life into politics.
Thank you to red wine for enabling me to type the words "Thank you to Donald Trump."
And thank you so much to the readers of this newspaper and particularly this column. Your notes, your emails, your comments in the grocery store and in restaurants - they mean the world to me. Even the criticisms, which you are not shy about expressing. You keep me grounded and keep me going. It is indeed a privilege to be able to occupy this spot, and I do not take it for granted.
Plus, it's cheaper than a psychiatrist.
Happy Thanksgiving to all. May all your cranberry sauce be jellied.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @BillInsideLook.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Foxboro Tax Proposal Bad for Town

GOUVEIA: Foxboro tax proposal is flawed

Suggestion that town not tax to the max is appealing but irresponsible
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Posted: Sunday, November 13, 2016 10:31 pm | Updated: 10:38 pm, Sun Nov 13, 2016.

Selectman Jim DeVellis is getting lots of positive attention for his recent suggestion that Foxboro not tax to the full limit allowed by Proposition 2 1/2 this year. That's not surprising, because almost anything reducing the burden of taxpayers is going to be initially supported.
But Foxboro officials and voters would be smart to study this very carefully before jumping to implement it. While it makes great headlines and will win over a lot of property taxpayers, it is a bad idea on a lot of levels.

To greatly oversimplify, the DeVellis plan goes something like this. He believes Foxboro could probably maintain close to level services this year by increasing the levy limit by 1 1/4 percent instead of 2 1/2 percent. He wants a budget proposal limiting the revenue increase in that manner. That way the inevitable property tax increase will be slightly lower than it would otherwise.
Sounds good, right?
Well, it's a wonderful idea politically. The problem is that it is financially unwise and fiscally irresponsible, for a number of complicated yet important reasons.
If DeVellis and others truly believe Foxboro can provide proper services to its residents with only a 1 1/4 percent increase in the levy limit this year, thus reducing capacity going forward, that's great. That means in their opinion, Foxboro currently has a perfectly fine level of police and fire protection, the schools have enough money to provide a better-than-average education and residents are content with everything else the town is currently providing.
But if Foxboro chooses this option, they never recover that 1 1/4 percent. It does not get added to the base for next year, the year after, or any year after that. And when that "level service" budget is required to jump up a bit in this still-growing town a few years from now, the taxpayers at that time will pay more for the shortsightedness of the current administration.
Selectman David Feldman joined DeVellis in suggesting the possibility of such a move. "At some point, when you have really good years, there should be the ability to give something back to the taxpayers," Feldman said. "I think we owe it to the community to at least look at it."
A good year? It would be wise to come up with a sound definition of that term before taking any more action.
Foxboro has increased revenues other than the property tax by quite a bit in recent years. In case you missed it, they have an NFL franchise and a stadium in town that provides considerable income. After several tries, they adopted a meals tax that is allowing them to take advantage of the unique opportunity that is Gillette Stadium and Patriot Place.
But they are also a community with infrastructure issues. They are building a new town hall. They will have other capital equipment and building needs in the not-too-distant future. Many of those may have to be paid through debt exclusions.
Wouldn't it be smart to bank that 1 1/4 percent in the town's reserve accounts and put it towards that spending they know is coming? Doesn't that make more sense than having taxpayers have to foot the entire bill later on even though it can be anticipated now?
And the idea of "giving something back" to the taxpayers is an interesting one. Taxpayers are not making donations to the community when they make their considerable payments.
They are funding services, important services they rely on every day. They "get back" something every time the police answer a call, the ambulance comes when they need it, the schools educate their children, the planning and conservation agents provide expert services and the roads they drive on are well-maintained.
That's not to say they don't deserve to pay as little as possible while maintaining the quality of life the community wants and needs. And if Foxboro is all set for the future - then by all means, don't tax to the limit.
But this is not a business. It can't just stop providing certain services when it is no longer cost effective to do so. And officials have to understand that.
That's not going to make them as popular. But it's better for the community in general. Not to mention a whole lot smarter.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Trump Won By Offering What Others Didn't

GOUVEIA: Trump harnessed our darker instincts

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Posted: Thursday, November 10, 2016 11:30 pm | Updated: 11:51 pm, Thu Nov 10, 2016.

Donald Trump is the president-elect. Congratulations to him on winning a hard-fought campaign, and congratulations to those supporters who stuck with him when it seemed impossible.
The time for comparing Trump and Hillary Clinton is over. It no longer matters. Election strategies and what should have been done is something best left to those pollsters now trying to figure out where they went wrong. The matter has been decided, and the result bitterly and grudgingly accepted by those on the losing side.

I want to talk about why I think Trump won. Frankly I don't believe it had all that much to do with Hillary Clinton. I believe Donald Trump won the presidency by giving America what no other legitimate candidate with means was willing or able to offer them.
That was a chance to vent their anger and let loose the dark feelings they have always been told are wrong. The opportunity to set aside reason, logic and process - and just say "Screw it, I'm going to say and do what I really want to say and do here!"
Now, that is not to discount Clinton's shortcomings as a candidate. She had a lot of weaknesses, and made an easy target for Trump. She was burdened with something Trump was not - a documented record as an elected or appointed official. She was part of the establishment, part of the system. And she has never been all that likable as a candidate.
But to use that as the main reason she lost would be to once again underestimate Trump. And I won't make that mistake again.
Trump recognized the pain a lot of Americans were feeling, and gave them something to blame it on. Illegal immigrants were a big target. Threaten to round them all up, send them back where they came from.
Don't worry about how to pay for it, or the details of how it would happen. It's OK if you make them all sound like evil people. Don't be concerned by the fact their children born here are U.S. citizens. Just make it sound fair and just, and let Americans rally around you.
Tie the woman you are running against to her husband's past infidelities, even though she was the victim in them. Blame her, because although they don't talk about it much, many people blame the woman when her husband cheats. Use her gender against her, and appeal to the misogyny that is still so prevalent in our society.
But if you think I am totally blaming Donald Trump for this - you would be wrong. He is not the cause of all this hatred and prejudice and racism. He didn't create it. It was already there, bubbling just below the surface.
Trump simply cultivated it. He farmed it. He saw it growing, fed it, and then harvested it like a crop.
Despite all our idealistic talk about America as the Home of the Free, we are a divided county in politics as well as social values. As our minority population continues to grow, our white population is feeling the loss of power. There was a tremendous reservoir of resentment that had previously not expressed itself at the ballot box. That changed with the 2016 presidential election.
I'm not talking about the KKK, or even some of the other despicable fringe hate groups. I'm talking about good old rural America - the Homeland, the Heartland, small town USA. In this election, it became OK for them to vote for someone who clearly demonstrated a lack of respect for women, minorities, immigrants and a host of others.
Donald Trump made it OK to let loose our prejudices. He allowed us to be irrational and operate on an emotional basis. Americans didn't have to believe what he said; many were just happy someone was making it acceptable again.
Most voters didn't even bother with issues this year. They didn't demand detailed plans or explanations. They just voted for the candidate who made them feel better, who let them blow off the ugly steam they had built up.
Trump didn't create racism and misogyny in America. He just harnessed the energy from it.
As Shakespeare wrote, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves ..."
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.