Kristal for selectman, but not Cristal by the glass
The last bubbles of hope fizzled flat on May 2 for supporters of a ballot question to allow Tisbury restaurants to serve beer and wine.
Friday afternoon, Tisbury town clerk Marion Mudge and the Tisbury board of registrars conducted a much-anticipated recount of the April 15 election vote. The new total for Question 4, a measure to allow the sale of beer and wine in restaurants, is 692 against and 690 in favor.
Last month's election resulted in a tie vote, 690 to 690. The tie meant that the question failed because a majority, 50 percent of the votes cast, plus one, was not achieved. A manual recount last Friday that took into account 21 ballots counted as "blanks" by the ballot scanner increased the total of those opposed by two votes.
The recount took place in the Katharine Cornell Theatre, with Tisbury's board of registrars - Alden Besse, Catherine Mayhew, Beatrice Silvia, and town clerk Marion Mudge - seated at the front. Board chairman Kay Mayhew called the meeting to order at 2:03 pm and swore in the six counters, Joanna Jernegan, Mary McManama, Theresa Barwick, Debra Bessette, Tim McLean, and Suzanne Kennedy.
Both sides of the question had appointed six observers. Laura Barbera, who served as chairman of the Citizens to Repeal Prohibition committee, oversaw the "yes" side observers, which included Geoghan Coogan, Peter Cronig, Leslie Hewson, Howard Miller, Henry Stephenson, and Bob Wheeler.
Mary Snyder, a member of the Committee to Preserve Our Town, oversaw the "no" side observers, which included Pam Benjamin, Rob Doyle, Larry Gomez, Nancy Hall, Shirley Kennedy, and Gretchen Snyder.
Town counsel Lauren Goldberg, who served as Legal Counsel for the state's Elections Division before joining the firm of Kopelman and Paige, explained the procedure to everyone, answered questions, and monitored the event.
Town clerk Marion Mudge, Tisbury Constable Remo L. Fullin, Jr., Mr. Cronig, Ms. Snyder, and Ms. Barbera managed to squeeze into the theatre's small elevator to go downstairs to retrieve the rolling, locked case containing the ballots and all election paperwork from the town hall safe.
Photo by Ralph Stewart
On their return, Tisbury Constable Remo L. Fullin, Jr., broke the lock on the case and placed 13 envelopes containing 100 ballots and 1 containing 101 in a box marked "Uncounted" next to an empty one marked "Counted" on the registrars' table.
Starting at 2:29 pm, the ballots were counted in blocks of 50, one at a time, and the tally for each block given to election warden Barbara Silvia. The historical event took on the air of a town hall "open house" as community members drifted in and out. Occasionally, Ms. Goldberg reprimanded the audience when their whispers grew into a loud murmur.
Only one ballot was contested. Ms. Barbera made her argument to the registrars for a "yes" vote, while Ms. Synder argued for a "no." The registrars, however, voted unanimously that it was a "no."
With the recount finished at 3:34 pm, tension grew in the theatre as everyone waited for Ms. Silvia to finish the final tally, the sound of her adding machine punctuating the dead silence.
All of a sudden she stopped, with a puzzled look on her face. After adding the numbers again, she conferred with Ms. Goldberg and Ms. Mayhew. By the look on their faces, it was obvious the numbers didn't add up.
After checking the empty boxes on the registrar's table for missing ballot envelopes, Constable Fullin found one remaining in the rolling case. Everyone erupted in relieved laughter.
Mr. McLean and Ms. Kennedy went back to counting the last batch, finishing at 3:50. At 4:02 pm, Ms. Mayhew announced the new results. The single contested ballot was sealed in a separate envelope in the event it is challenged.
Few remained in the audience for the subsequent recount for the selectman's race between incumbent Tom Pachico, who received 665 votes to challenger Jeff Kristal's 679.
Starting at 4:10 pm, the same process took place again, using the same counters but with observers chosen by the two candidates. Mr. Pachico's observers included Rebeca Cass, Peter Duart, Rhonda Debettencourt, Sue Tonry, Maura Valley, and Liz Wild. Geoghan Coogan, Peter Cronig, Leslie Hewson, Jynell Kristal, Howard Miller, and Jamie Wasserloos kept an eye out for Mr. Kristal.
Although none of the ballots were contested, one write-in response, "any person with class," provided a little humor in the midst of monotony. The final tally remained the same when the recount ended about an hour later.
Despite the beer and wine question's outcome, opinions on both sides remain the same. Mr. Gomez, who owns the Greenwood Avenue Bed and Breakfast, said this week that although the issue wouldn't affect his business directly, the main reason he and many people were against the beer and wine question was because they want to preserve Tisbury's quiet atmosphere.
As an observer, Mr. Gomez said he saw the two ballots that broke the tie. "One was a circle and another a check - it was ironic those were the two that set it over," he said.
Ms. Snyder, whose daughter Gretchen served on Tisbury's beer and wine committee and was also was a vocal opponent of the issue, attributed the success of the "no" committee to its dedication. She said the experience reminded her of a quote by Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
On the other side of the issue, Jean Dupon, owner of Le Grenier Restaurant, said the defeat of the beer and wine question will definitely affect how he runs his business in the future. "I've been in business here for 30 years, and I've seen it going slowly down," he said. "I really believe that just beer and wine would have really helped the town. I lose a lot of money staying open over the winter - one of the main reasons I do that is to give work to my employees. I don't know what I'm going to do now."
Despite the outcome, Ms. Barbera, the co-owner of Nicky's Italian Café, said she remains hopeful. "I don't think a lot of the proponents of the issue are giving up," she said. "Even though it was a tie, it was very encouraging. With the vote being so close, it kind of tells me that people are ready. I'm willing to try to bring it back and see what everyone has to say."
For those wondering about the next step, Ms. Mudge said that the town could pursue the Home Rule Petition route again, starting with a town meeting warrant article, followed by a special act of the legislature, and then acceptance by the town with a ballot vote.
The other option, Ms. Mudge explained, is for a minimum of 10 percent of registered Tisbury voters to sign a petition provided by the Secretary of the Commonwealth authorizing him to place a "yes" or "no" question on the bi-annual state election ballot regarding granting licenses in Tisbury for alcohol sales. Depending on the petition submitted, the alcohol sales may or not be limited to wine and beer.
The state's general election occurs this year on Nov. 4, Ms. Mudge said, which means that the petition would have to be filed with the Massachusetts Secretary of State's Office by 5 pm on August 22 to appear on the ballot this November.
If approved by voters, the state would allow Vineyard Haven a limited number of full beer and wine licenses and an unlimited number of seasonal licenses.