Editorial: Yes on beer and wine sales

Editorial: Yes on beer and wine sales

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The debate rages unabated over whether Tisbury will allow sale of beer and wine with meals in restaurants. The voters will once again decide the question at the polls April 27.

The two sides of the question have not departed from their legacy arguments. Certainly, the national and Island economic conditions have increased the temperature on the question, but no new facts have been adduced. What facts there are for voters to rely on as they make their decisions were contained in the report of the excellent committee to consider the alcohol question, wisely established by Tisbury selectmen years ago, when the first effort to allow beer and wine sales was mounted.

The committee reported no calamitous forecasts from town leaders or safety officials. Indeed, there is no factual basis or widely held opinion, only sentiment, that supports the notion that this is a dangerous choice for the town to make.

The only challenges to the conclusions reached by the committee have been unsupported allegations that the committee members were beer and wine sales enthusiasts to begin with. Then there are the suggestions that because one current selectman has a financial interest in an Edgartown restaurant and another is in the lodging business in town, they cannot be trusted to make disinterested, responsible decisions about the beer/wine question or the licensing of restaurants should the question pass.

And finally, there is the similarly unsupported suspicion, advanced as conclusive, that the selectmen will not, in their administration of the licensing, should beer/wine sales be allowed, act in the best interests of the town as a whole. These are slurs, not serious arguments.

Tisbury selectmen may bungle from time to time, as all public officials do, but there is no reason to question their devotion to the town they lead. Besides, they know that if beer and wine sales are allowed, their constituents will be vigilant to be sure there is careful management of the licensing.

The view here remains that allowing limited beer and wine sales, according to rules carefully tailored by the selectmen to fit the kind of town Tisbury is, will be a convenience to town residents, an enhancement to town visitors, and a modest boost for town businesses, all without changing Tisbury significantly, except perhaps for the better.

Bill Rossi in Chilmark

Chilmark voters cannot be described as capricious. They like the tried and true. But, neither are they unaware that time has its way with even their small, simple, rural, and history minded. The electorate has changed. Older voters, and settled ideas have given way to young people and fresh approaches. One has only to examine the voters assembled in the Community Center for town meetings to understand that new, younger Chilmarkers are taking their place among town decision makers.

Selectman candidate Bill Rossi makes the point this way.

“I would encourage more residents to become more involved in community service,” he says in an interview published this morning. “I see an aging group of volunteers serving on town boards that would be willing to step down and relinquish their duties to the next generation, but it’s difficult to convince some younger people to get involved, for whatever reason. I will start asking younger people to share their time and talents with our town.”

Departing selectman J. B. Riggs Parker, the elder on the three-person board, has not sought re-election, creating the vacancy that Chilmark voters must fill. Mr. Parker’s career-long devotion to Chilmark began in the 1970s, writing the town’s first zoning bylaw, and he ends his tenure as town executive after six years of service. It’s a remarkably durable and productive 40-year record of thoughtful, resourceful contributions to the welfare of his town. One doubts there will be successors who build such a remarkable record of municipal devotion.

But one hopes that Chilmarkers will find in Mr. Rossi a leader who will bring new faces and fresh ideas that build on the record of careful stewardship that Mr. Parker and his notable predecessors have compiled on behalf of the town.

Bruce Lewellyn in Tisbury

The thing about politicians – also true of houseguests – is that they never know when to go. A wise and beloved visitor once said the time to go is when they ask you to stay on.

The Tisbury board of selectmen has seen significant change over the past decade. Two of the three selectmen are relative newcomers. Bruce Lewellyn, a lawyer and experienced finance committee member, is a clear and disciplined thinker, with a modest but determined approach to needed change. Tisbury voters would be wise to install Mr. Lewellyn as the latest fresh face on the board.

With the addition of Mr. Lewellyn, Tisbury voters will have built an executive with greater independence – for planning, budgeting, and employee management purposes – than ever before. They will have created a useful mix of leaders, each mindful of a different natural constituency. They will have added a voice for efficient management and better use of the town resources than is now the case.

Tisbury voters will be wise to rely on Mr. Lewellyn’s earnest pledge, made in an interview published this morning.

“While we should surely increase the town’s capacity to seek and be awarded federal and state grants,” he said, “our most realistic hope is to eliminate duplications of expenditures among our Island governments and make town government more efficient, so that we get the most we can for every dollar we spend. I will strive in every way I know how to make penny-pinching thrift the town standard.”

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