Letters to the Editor
For the defense
To the Editor:
As one who has followed the charter study commission proceedings quite regularly (thanks to MVTV) and with interest, I want to rise to the defense of the fine Vineyarders who have put in a tremendous amount of time studying county government this past year. The fact that their recommendations, after many interviews with active citizens in other Massachusetts counties (and areas that gave up county government), and much thought and discussion, are that we would be wise to maintain county government, should in no way be held against them. The fact that changes recommended are slight, or appear to be, is no reason to presume they are unwise or unimportant.
As for the fact that few citizens have turned out at the meetings recently, when the hardworking committee wanted to report and receive input, well, I'd offer a few reasons to forgive people this spring. Vineyarders have been pretty good about attending town meetings recently and voting (especially in Tisbury), national politics have filled the air, weather has finally made outdoor chores more pleasant or endurable - and maybe some people have appreciated MVTV's coverage, as I have, and shared their views with commissioners individually.
Questions for Bradley Square
To the Editor:
I am a close neighbor of the Bradley Square project and have recently talked to some very disgruntled Dukes County Avenue residents.
What strikes me is that, contrary to what is often the case with 40B projects, no one seems to be rejecting the affordable housing aspect. They are merely questioning some of the designs and motives, and wondering if all options have been contemplated. This seems quite reasonable considering the significant impact this project will have on the neighborhood.
It is unfortunate that their concerns are being decried or ignored. The project's propositions are impressive (affordable housing, community space, historic preservation, African-American heritage, promotion of the arts), but just using labels to shortcut the democratic process and steamroll over legitimate inquiries and concerns is dubious at best.
Rather than boosting outright antagonism and tainting a project that could be a model of consensus and creativity, wouldn't it be preferable to allow a healthy debate in which difficult questions are permitted, real answers are provided, and alternatives are given due consideration?
Arts district. Apparently, the "Arts District" has no historical, legal or official existence and basically is a clever name coined to drive the seasonal crowd to a handful of shops on Dukes County Avenue.
Why does a public interest project like Bradley Square seem to promote what is essentially a private venture? Is it fair to let a few control the development of a street without consideration for other residents and business owners? It is stated that arts district representatives will even determine the allocation of four affordable units; on what grounds?
Scale. On less than half an acre, the Bradley Square project proposes to construct two 48 ft. by 48 ft. three-story buildings and an additional two-story community center with roughly the same footprint. This density has no equivalent in the neighborhood, leaves little room for parking, green areas, porches or common spaces, and condemns 20 of the 27 trees currently on the land.
If it is the role of the various town boards to ensure that renovations and new constructions do not unreasonably alter the character of a neighborhood, how can they justify such an obvious mismatch? Have other designs been evaluated, such as opening up the site to allow more common spaces and trees by splitting up the massive structures into several buildings? Sufficient parking is usually a primary requirement; why doesn't that seem to be important in this case? Knowing that the approval of this design will set a precedent, won't that open the door to more three-story blocks filling Dukes County Ave?
Church preservation. The historic preservation of the Bradley Memorial Church, as part of this project, has been much publicized. A closer look at the plans shows that after being moved, beheaded and gutted, the old building will be flanked and topped with new additions, leading to a result that bears little resemblance with the original church.
If only a few walls and a name will be preserved, does this really qualify as historic preservation?
Affordable housing. Bradley Square includes two market rate units and 10 affordable housing units, four of which will be allocated to artists.
Will the affordable housing units be awarded to Oak Bluffs residents? Is the decision to allocate 40 percent of the units to artists founded on an analysis of Oak Bluffs housing needs? On what basis will candidates qualify as "artists"? Will there be a special "artist lottery" for the allocation of these four units?
Retail space. The four affordable-rate, ground-floor units reserved for artists are referred to as "live/work studios." Each unit has storefront windows facing the street and is essentially one large room with a kitchen. The "studios" will be open for business during the summer months.
Doesn't that amount to subsidizing retail spaces? If the goal of affordable housing is to promote year-round communities, wouldn't it be preferable to reserve the storefronts for year-round businesses? Wouldn't it make more sense (financially and administratively) to sell the retail spaces at market rate and maintain all the apartments as affordable units?
Outraged over interrogation techniques
To the Editor:
I am writing to express my outrage regarding the recent ABC News reports indicating that President Bush's top national security advisors (including VP Dick Cheney and now Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice) held numerous meetings in the White House to approve the use of abusive interrogation techniques (including waterboarding) on detainees. Not only do these meetings reveal top administration officials orchestrating policies approving of illegal acts that constitute torture, but, as ABC News reported, the President himself admitted that he was aware of these meetings and approved of them. It is a sad revelation that our highest leaders condoned and planned the use of acts of torture.
Furthermore, it is a dangerous one to our troops and to our country. We used to have a reputation in the world as a beacon of freedom, dedicated to the rule of law. Yet, I am flabbergasted by the relatively mild response from the media and from the public to these revelations. Where is the outrage?
Instead of a hue and cry at this lapse in morality at the top, and at a revealed smugly dismissive attitude toward the rule of law (like the Geneva Accords, which Bush's soon-to-be Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez then characterized as "quaint"), both the public and the press seem to have responded with a collective yawn. I hope that the Martha's Vineyard Times will take the opportunity to editorialize against the use of torture.
According to ABC News, after one of the meetings, the then-current Attorney General John Ashcroft asked, "Why are we discussing this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly." John Ashcroft was right. History will not be kind to the top Administration officials who sanctioned the torture of detainees. If the American media and the American public do not respond to these revelations with the outcry they deserve, then history will likely judge us unkindly as well.
A beautiful gift
To the Editor:
I want very much to thank Lori Perry of Oak Bluffs for her beautiful gift to the children of a very poor school in Nicaragua. This school has over 800 students, going to school in two-hour shifts so they can all attend in the very limited space. The high school students sit on the ground outside, because there is no classroom for them to use. There were 60 students who had no chairs to sit on. They sat on the floor. The preschoolers also sat on the floor. There were three math textbooks for 800 students to share.
These students are beautiful, talented, bright, eager to learn and have hungry minds, and now every student has a desk-chair to sit in and many more books. Every pre-schooler has a little chair, and tables, each for six students to share.
Sometimes the need seems overwhelming, but if we take small steps, just a few chairs at a time, just a few books at a time, poco a poco, we can make a huge difference. The most terrible thing would be not to try at all.
We do not know what seeds we plant with our actions. Only God knows, but our job is to plant those seeds anyway. Lori Perry has helped us for years with food for the maternity clinic patients and supplies for schools. She is standing for something, and we should all be grateful for her example.
Anyone who is interested in helping to buy supplies and books in Spanish for this school, please contact me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. We buy our supplies here in Nicaragua and do not ship things anymore. Much easier.
Keep the faith.
To the Editor:
Now that we are wise no more,
And, astrologically don't
know the score,
We all wonder where
our stars align,
Do we stay at home or
go out and dine?
Do we plant our gardens,
or search for our darlin'?
Please, MV Times, bring back Arlan.
To the Editor:
There's an amazing article on global energy, pollution, and climate change in the Sunday, April 20, 2008 New York Times Magazine. It's called "Why Bother" and is written by Michael Pollan.
I encourage you and your readers, especially those participating in the Vineyard's Island Plan, to read it. It can be found at nytimes.com/2008/04/20/magazine.
All opinions deserve respect
To the Editor:
I am compelled to respond to last week's letter regarding "surprising opposition to the Bradley Square project." We are fortunate to live in a country where we can express our opinions, whether others agree or not. However, people should not be castigated if there is opposition to others' points of view.
What I was incensed about in this letter was the reference to an extremely heart-wrenching episode that occurred in Oak Bluffs more than 10 years ago to one of the finest families in our town, which has caused them, their relatives, and many friends deep anguish. Although the writer did not deliberately intend to be hurtful, or even considered that the inadvertent reference would cause such pain, the unfortunate reference used to buttress the argument for approval of this project has proven to be inappropriate, insensitive, and extremely distressful. This outstanding family has demonstrated remarkable strength and resilience since the tragedy, and they deserve thoughtful consideration and peace.
Whatever decision the Martha's Vineyard Commission makes on this project will not please everyone, but we must be reminded to be respectful of all opinions without rancor.
Marie B. Allen
Marie Allen is a member of the executive board of the Vineyard chapter of the NAACP and a former president of the organization.