Letters to the Editor
An apology and response
To the Editor:
The following is an open letter we at Sheriff's Meadow are asking the local newspapers to publish, in light of the removal of trees and bushes from two properties that are under the stewardship of the Foundation. Sod was removed, or "strip-mined," using one paper's choice of words, from another Island property that is not owned or controlled by us. Unfortunately, the decision to feature the photograph highlighting the sod removal on the front page has made that image the photographic poster child of the story.
I want to reiterate that indiscriminate strip-mining of sod was not, and has never been, permitted on Sheriff's Meadow's properties, and such a procedure is not found in any management plan overseeing activities on our properties.
All of us at Sheriff's Meadow, both directors and staff, are distressed by the obvious acts of omission that occurred. The failure to initiate an internal discussion, follow regulatory notification procedures, understand the scope of activity contemplated, and provide appropriate and adequate supervision of any removal efforts, point out weaknesses in our procedures and, in this case, an unfortunate lack of judgment. We apologize to our supporters, to those who have entrusted their properties to us, and to all the conservation minded citizens of Martha's Vineyard.
This situation arose because over the years Sheriff's Meadow, in its obligation and need to manage its properties, has had ongoing relationships with landscape contractors. The stewardship of each property is conducted in accordance with a management plan formulated after an in depth study of the property's characteristics, prior history, and any intent and directives of the owner. Plans for most properties of the foundation have been in existence for years, and we take their preparation seriously. When it is appropriate to remove trees and invasive species, and/or conduct mowing as part of the management plan, we have at times entered into handshake arrangements with contractors. Those arrangements allow the contractors to take a limited number of species that have marketable value in their business, in return for mowing and clearing on the property. We do not deal with, or normally know, the identity of landowners who may be receiving any of the trees or plants removed from our property. Regrettably, we were not prepared for the recent abuse of this arrangement.
What is now important is how Sheriff's Meadow reacts and learns from this experience. Our new executive director, Adam Moore, had already called a halt to this type of arrangement before the present incident became public, and has prepared a draft outlining new written procedures to govern our practices in stewardship matters that involve third parties. Those procedures will be presented to the board of directors for review and adoption. Adam and I have already met with Tim Simmons of the Massachusetts Heritage and Endangered Species Program. We have promised the foundation's full support in implementing and overseeing restorative efforts if they are called for. We have already mapped and photographed the affected areas and are developing a remediation plan.
As the current president of the board, I take responsibility for our shortcomings in this matter. A major concern to me is any unwarranted implications that may unfairly and indiscriminately reflect on the reputation of our staff as a whole. Each and every one of them is committed to conserving and improving the lands and habitats on this Island. It is their passion; and the professionalism and devotion they expend is unlimited and remarkable. If any one of them had even an inkling that their actions might contribute to damaging foundation lands, they would be appalled.
Having said that, I can assure you we will be implementing all the reasonable steps we can to ensure such an incident will not occur in the future. And we will redouble our efforts to make sure that your trust in Sheriff's Meadow Foundation has not been misplaced.
Let me also address one other matter that has been the topic of some discussions. We did not know where the trees and bushes removed from our properties were headed. Because they ended up on the property of a family with known means, some have implied that there had to have been a quid pro quo involved for Sheriff's Meadow, regarding this particular transaction. While the landowner has made unrelated donations to the Foundation in the past, nothing could be further from the truth. Sheriff's Meadow has not, and will not, receive payment, donations, work-in-kind, or any other type of reward or payment from the landowner for the tree and plant removal. The only exception would be if one is awarded or received because of foundation efforts to pursue damages or recover costs incurred because of the actions of others in this particular case.
If you have questions or would like to offer constructive comments or suggestions, please feel free to contact Adam Moore at our offices. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and our phone number is 508-693-5207.
Sheriff's Meadow Foundation
Suggestions for the VTA
To the Editor:
The Soundings column, on Page 17 of the Times of May 15, aptly outlines many of the successes of the Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority. Lest we be too self-congratulatory, may I invite attention to a few areas that remain ready for modification and improvement.
Intermodal public transportation becomes attractive when connections are guaranteed by timetable. Travelers look for reliability of their through trip. Separate and independent segments should so arrange their trip segments as an interconnected part of whole journeys. Connections with the SSA cannot survive on a hit-or-miss basis: each arrival must have its guaranteed connection for the completion of the entire trip. Granted, delays do occur, but these should be the exception rather than be allowed to become the norm.
Shelters should be provided at the busy stops. It is inexcusable to allow waiting passengers at the Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs terminals standing out in the rain, wind, snow, hot sun, without shelter. Simple shelters with three sides and a roof, and preferably see-through would certainly help.
Location of shelters, and stops. If this is to be a customer-oriented operation, stops, shelters and wait areas must be located where the customers on foot will be found. Too often, stops seem to be located so as to require significant walks and detailed local knowledge by passengers, rather then service being provided to where the passengers are.
Highway stops. Recent road reconstruction has gone on without the addition of lay-bys, to enable buses to make their stops without creating accordion-like congestion of other road traffic. Incidental stops notwithstanding, stops of very much use certainly should be served with lay-bys, and a shelter, too, if many use that location.
Just a few suggestions, and a few targets to reach for, as the effort continues to improve the services, and make the whole operation passenger-friendly.
Fruits of arts education
To the Editor:
As we read the exciting news that Vineyard's own Katie Mayhew has been recognized by no less then the Boston Pops Orchestra as one of the top 20 high school singers in the state, all Vineyarder's can view this with pride. Katie is not a product of distant expensive prep schools or academy training. She has pursued her art on the stages of the community centers, theater camps, churches and the schools of the Vineyard. She has refined her remarkable gift at the piano of the talented Linda Berg in Vineyard Haven. Anyone who was fortunate enough to hear Katie's solo and the pounding applause for the entire Martha's Vineyard Regional High School cast's performance of A Chorus Line was treated to a glimpse of quality that belongs on the professional stage.
Katie would be the very first to say, and I completely agree, that she is only one of a very talented group of young performers here on the Island; performers it takes a village to create. It was her high school teachers (Jan Whiteman and Dan Murphy) with Minnesinger Parent Group funding who allowed her and the Minnesingers to tour and perform in Austria, and the high school performing arts department (Kate Murray) supported with BravEncore fundraising, who have given her so many opportunities to refine her stage craft. That same high school department is still very threatened by funding cuts. Katie is only a sophomore, but her peers in senior grades will be going to some of the top performing arts schools in the country. The only way that future Island performers will have that opportunity is if the community contributes time, money and enthusiasm to support this vital part of our unique life. Come to the performances, be astonished as over 1,000 Island members were during the recent Minnesingers and "A Chorus Line" productions. Ensure that future Island generations will not just watch the arts passively on TV but will have the opportunity to excel on stage.
The Boston Pops has done a good thing for the arts and as the competition moves on we will hope for the best, in part because it reflects well on the village that helped her get there. It is time for the entire Vineyard School arts community to step back and accept some kudos for a job well done but most important, make sure that Katie is not among the last to have this opportunity.
Whether we see Katie win the Sing Off and perform on the Esplanade July 4 in front of millions, or hear that the judges prefer another's gift instead, Katie is a winner already. We can be happy knowing that next time we see an announcement for an upcoming performance at the PAC (or wherever), we should make time to be there as something special is sure to happen, but only with our continued active support of the arts education programs in this community.
Toward better quality medical care
To the Editor:
The Massachusetts House of Representatives voted 115-35 on Thursday, May 22, to approve a landmark bill to guarantee safe RN staffing in all Massachusetts hospitals. The measure calls upon the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to set safe limits on nurses' patient assignments, prohibits mandatory overtime, and includes initiatives to increase nursing faculty and nurse recruitment. The law, when enacted, will make Massachusetts only the second state in the nation to set safe staffing limits in hospitals.
The "Patient Safety Act" will now move to the Senate for consideration. The bill responds to increased concern over quality care in Massachusetts hospitals, as well as to evidence linking disease and deaths to poor patient oversight caused by nurses being forced to care for too many patients at one time. In recent years, medical errors and hospital-acquired infections have soared. Numerous studies link the rise in hospital-acquired infections and other medical complications to under-staffing of nurses. Most recently, a report published in the July issue of the journal Medical Care found that safe RN staffing levels could reduce hospital acquired infections by 68 percent.
To date, 130 of the state's leading health care and patient advocacy groups have endorsed the Patient Safety Act and have joined forces to push for its passage in both the House and Senate. Recent voter surveys indicate that more than 80 percent of the public supports establishing safe staffing limits.
The next move is to the Senate. Please call or write Senator Robert O'Leary to ask for his support for this bill. You can do this online at capwiz.com/massnurses. For more information about this legislation you can go to the Massachusetts Nurses Association website at massnurses.org/safe_care. This is your chance to make it safer for you, your family, and all Massachusetts citizens when they are hospitalized.
We need a vote before the end of this legislative session on June 30, so please act now. Your call/email/letter will make a difference.
Rick Lambos RN
Timing and taillights
To the Editor:
Time frame correction. On the front page of the May 22 issue of The Times, about March to the Sea, there is a photo in front of the Capawock in Vineyard Haven. The caption says it is from the 1940s. The car pictured is either a 1954 or 1955 Ford. Can't tell without seeing the taillights.
Fairlane tells the story
To the Editor:
In reference to Thursday's front page photo of the Memorial Day parade, the caption referred to the photograph as of 1940s vintage. Just couldn't be. The car in the background is a 1955 Ford Fairlane.
Learn your cars
To the Editor:
For lack of authentication, our history is lost.
As any automobile enthusiast would have told you, the clearly identifiable car in the Charlie Vincent family photo album shot on the front page, May 22, is a 1955 Ford.
Hence, the picture is most assuredly not from the 1940s. Nor would it be appropriate, based on this one identifying context clue, to conclude that the photo must be from the 1950s. That is, it could be, but it doesn't have to be.
Missed the court report
To the Editor:
I hope that The Times has not discontinued the court report. It was nowhere to be found in the May 22 edition. After reading the obits and the letters, I always check out the court report for another slice of Island life!
To the Editor:
Just about four years ago, I had reached a point in my life where I felt as though I needed a change. So after much thought and a great deal of uncertainty, I left my job as a teacher, a career to which I had dedicated 11 years of my life.
This very difficult decision was followed by a brief but much needed vacation, and it wasn't long before the worrisome question began: "What on earth was I going to do next?"
Thankfully, before complete and utter panic set in regarding my financial affairs, a longtime family friend offered me a position at their local seasonal take-out restaurant. As time passed, I started to miss teaching, and each week my feelings grew stronger. I was beginning to regret my decision.
In response to my despair, a friend offered these words of comfort: "Stop worrying so much. Everything happens for a reason."
As the summer's end approached, I had begun to realize that it wasn't my career that needed changing. It was the environment and the capacity in which I carried it out.
Coincidentally, at that time The Seven Hills Foundation (known here to us as V.E.O.) was looking for a community supports person for Vineyard adults with disabilities. This was right up my alley and sounded like the change I was looking for. (And what great timing as well.)
As my venture in the take-out food service got closer to its end, many people were asking me what I'd be doing next. I can recall one person in particular whose response to the news of my latest hire was: "Oh. You're gonna be with that Jardin girl. Watch out, she's wild."
I have to admit, I was very intimidated by that feisty little woman at first. In fact, for the first few weeks when I started at V.E.O., I did all I could to avoid having Sherri in my group. After all, I had heard she was quite a handful. But it wasn't long before I realized how incredibly wonderful she really was. Not only was she filled with a vibrant, "spit-fire" energy, but she was also a loving, caring, compassionate, inquisitive person with a joyous spirit, overflowing with humor and a passion for life. (Not to mention, sharp-as-a-tack.)
Very quickly, Sherri suddenly became my favorite, and I soon found myself rearranging schedules, planning activities and even making up excuses, just so we could be together. And you can be sure that she and I paid a visit to that individual who warned me that she was so wild. And I took great pleasure in telling them how truly spectacular she really was. I'm sure many people who weren't as fortunate as I was to have gotten to know her, thought that she was a handful. For it was Sherri's presence that made her so unique. How many of you found yourself speaking to her just below the level of yelling? Or perhaps answered the same question she had asked you four times in a row? Or maybe repeated yourself over and over and over because she appeared to be unable to hear or understand you? Well, the joke's on you. Because she was doing it on purpose. We called these kinds of things games. I can't tell you how many times in the course of a day that I would say, "No games, Sher." Often I would joke with my colleagues that Sherri was the master and the rest of us were the puppets.
So many times, Sherri and I would be leaving a store, and I could hear her giggling devilishly behind me, because she had just given the sales clerk a run for their money. Watching those around her jump through hoops seemed to be delightfully entertaining for her, in a mischievous way.
It's funny, because just as much as I wanted to be with her, she wanted to be with me. And it was I who was particularly tough on Sherri. I had little tolerance for the behaviors that gave so many a negative opinion of her. In fact Sherri and I had begun spending so much time with one another that I could pick up on the subtle, quirky little signs she'd demonstrate just before her games began. I wasn't so easy to play them with. Yet still, she wanted to be with me. I think it was because I was able to see past her disabilities and always tried to emphasize, praise, and appreciate the abundance of what she was truly capable of. I think she appreciated that. (Not to mention, I spoiled her rotten.)
What I wouldn't give for her to be here today, playing those games that drove me so nuts.
This world would be a better place if more people in it possessed the qualities Sherri did. I speak of this career, for it was I who was expecting to teach. I had no idea when I walked through the doors of V.E.O. that first day that instead, I would become the student.
She appreciated so much, even when she was given very little. She was thankful for the smallest of things offered. She was grateful for all the little things that many of us take for granted. We could all learn from the way she lived her life.
Most of us have experienced an unconditional love for someone, especially those of us who have children. But what about an unconditional love for life? That was my greatest lesson learned from Sherri. She was happy to just be. What a glorious way to live.
It was an honor and a privilege to have had her in my life. My friend was right: "Everything does happen for a reason." There is a bigger plan in store for all of us. It was a blessing to have known Sherri, and today I am a better person for it.
I love you, Sherri. I miss you and you will forever have a special place in my heart.
To the Editor:
A week ago we had a surprise visit from two motmots.
We have an old tree stump in the yard, and we dug a deep, wide hole around the stump in the hopes of pulling it out. No way. So periodically, the neighbor, who cooks with wood, comes over with his axe and chops off a few chunks.
Back to the motmots, the national bird of Nicaragua, the most exquisite bird I have ever seen. About 17 inches long and with feathers that shimmer brilliant turquoise blue, lime green, yellow, orange and black. The tail is like a long black pipe cleaner with a tuft of turquoise blue feathers at the end.
The motmots, two of them, both looking identical, have been sitting in the avocado tree, looking down into this hole with the tree stump, day after day. I looked into the hole too and could not see anything remotely interesting down there. Then I noticed two tiny caves up in the sides of the hole. I am assuming that they put their eggs there, but what is keeping them warm. I am hoping that something happens soon, because it is the rainy season now, and those poor motmots just sit there keeping the faith.
I will keep you posted. All you school children look up motmot on the Internet. Hugs.