Tisbury’s in a jam, an expensive jam. Favored in so many ways - a glorious, spacious, deep water harbor, sheltering ponds, a varied and dramatic North Shore, and a citizenry that cherishes all of this - Tisbury is also sorely afflicted. Small geographically, with little room to add new growth to its catalogue of taxable property, tragically confining development rules that squeeze the life out of business growth, leadership that disproportionately places the tax burden upon summer residents and business owners, and facing a steep mountain of infrastructure needs that have been neglected by a long line of nearsighted chief executives: Tisbury must change and spend astonishing sums over the next few years to do so. Big money will be needed to finance a new town hall, a new police station, a new fire station, a new emergency services building, plus other less imposing infrastructure needs, including downtown parking if business can be inspired to flourish.
When they decide next week whether to continue the incumbent selectman in office or to step off in a new direction, Tisbury voters must consider the array of advantages they enjoy and obligations they must meet going forward. Doing so successfully and economically will require fresh thinking, a commitment to a thriving business community, and a businessman’s understanding of the importance of prudent, affordable, timely capital investment, and of the need for measured, vigorous growth to help support the spending.
Jeff Kristal strikes us as a business leader with a demonstrated commitment to the health and the progress of the Tisbury community. He appears to understand all that is valuable and cherished about the town as it is today, as well as how Tisbury must change to arrange itself for a demanding future. And, one hopes, Mr. Kristal’s election may help unleash whatever impacted energy and insight may exist in Messrs. Israel and Wortman, the other two selectmen.
Yes on the park rehab
As John Thayer, a Tisbury public works commissioner, told the Tisbury town meeting, "Vet’s park is an Island treasure, used and enjoyed by all who live here. Tisbury is the keeper of the park, and it is our responsibility to continue the effort of others and renew the facility."
Mr. Thayer and his colleagues on the board of public works, along with the many varied users of War Veterans Memorial Park understand that this is exactly right. The park is unusual in Tisbury, heavily used, and immensely valuable, in the sense that downtown recreational areas in any community are irreplaceable once lost or carelessly allowed to lapse into disrepair. Tisbury voters will be asked at the polls to support funding the renovation of the park. The proposal deserves voter support.
The $500,000 proposal finances the reconstruction of the park’s softball, little league and soccer fields, and includes the regrading of regularly flooded fields with substantial crown on all the grassed areas of all three fields, and the installation of an irrigation and drainage system. Catch basins and drainage channels will be used to direct the rainwater to pumping wells. These wells will pump the water to underground leaching basins to be installed adjacent to Causeway Road, at a much higher elevation. Finally, new turf will be installed.
Users of the park, plus generous townspeople and summer residents will be asked to help defray this capital cost, and history tells us such an effort will be significantly helpful.
Tisbury faces a long list of capital projects, with daunting financing requirements, because so many years have been allowed to pass without attending to the town’s infrastructure needs. This project will certainly be one of the least expensive and, for residents and guests alike, most rewarding projects on that list.
Yes on beer and wine
On the question of allowing beer and wine sales with meals in Tisbury restaurants, all of the good sense, sound reasoning, and persuasive arguments favor supporters of the change. Tisbury voters have heard repeatedly and in a variety of forms that allowing beer and wine sales in restaurants will not transform or distort a small community. The track record of such decisions elsewhere testifies to the truth of this judgment. Indeed, permitting carefully monitored and limited alcohol sales, as defined by the rules promulgated by the Tisbury selectmen, is most likely to improve the lives of townspeople and visitors as well as the fortunes of town business owners.
But, have Tisbury voters listened?
This page is not accustomed to applauding the performance of the Tisbury selectmen. We’d like to, of course, but the challenges the selectmen present have mostly proven insurmountable. On the matter of beer and wine, however, the Tisbury selectmen have managed the issue thoughtfully and carefully, deftly exercising their executive responsibility. After agreeing to entertain the matter, the selectmen appointed a well-balanced committee to consider the alcohol question. That committee examined all sides of the issue. Its report was exhaustive and fair. The committee found no basis for forecasts of certain calamity for Tisbury if the town goes "damp," as one restaurant owner/letter writer described the strictly limited change this morning. Town leaders and safety officials also forecast no significant change in the scope of their responsibilities. At the same time, the committee found no grounds to expect an enormous upswing in business activity, just because, at last, you could buy a beer in town.
In consideration of the committee’s report and the town’s vote to move the issue forward to next week’s vote, the selectmen set out a tight set of rules for restaurant licensees. Tisbury residents can trust the rules and the selectmen’s determination to see them enforced.
The view here is that allowing limited beer and wine sales, according to rules carefully tailored to fit the kind of town Tisbury is, will be a convenience to town residents, an enhancement to town visitors, and a boost for town businesses, all without changing Tisbury significantly, except perhaps for the better.
From opponents, warnings about the tawdry fruits of beer and wine sales and outright resistance on the grounds that all change is bad, or at least it’s change and they don’t want it, are unpersuasive. Tisbury needs a bigger, heartier economic footprint, or it will languish. It won’t remain what it is, and certainly not what it was. Instead, it will decline as its business center does. In Tisbury, as elsewhere on Martha’s Vineyard, where attitudes toward business success are historically frosty, allowing beer and wine sales won’t, by itself, make an economic miracle, but it will be a modest improvement. The bet here is that thoughtful voters, who understand the issues and the possibilities, will vote yes on beer and wine sales.