Monday, December 19, 2016
Foxboro Selectwoman Way Off Track
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.