Hope and change in West Tisbury


There is every reason to complain that West Tisbury is going about this dogs, no dogs thing on Lambert’s Cove Beach all wrong. The sequence of municipal events leading to the June 5 special town meeting debate on the several questions related to walking the dogs on the beach reflect a lot of neighborly to-ing and fro-ing.

Dogs have been invited for years, and they have enjoyed their romps and done just what dogs do at the beach, some of which can be irksome.

Dog owners, unlike their extremely responsible pets — doing what dogs ought to, all the time — have not been scrupulous in doing what dog owners ought to, all the time.

The town, like the pet owners, hasn’t been scrupulous about doing what it ought to, considering that town rules have allowed dog visits to the beach. If the dog owners shirked their responsibilities, well the town needed to pick up the slack, pick up the other stuff on the beach, and enforce general neighborliness. It hasn’t.

Positions have hardened. The pro-dogs on the beach folk are looking for a compromise that will prolong their enjoyment. The opposition is looking for the town to recognize the horror of the problem and allow some dog visits but not all, or at least not morning and night. After all, that’s what the voters decided earlier in the spring.

But the debate continues, and after all, that’s what small towns, democracy, and voters gathering to decide is all about. After all, West Tisbury can have it exactly the way it wants. Not necessarily the way everyone in West Tisbury wants, but the way voters decide they jolly well will have it.

Onlookers ask, Can’t they decide and then stick with it? The answer is that West Tisbury voters don’t have to. They can puzzle over the problem, give a little, take a little, spend some more money, increase the fines, change the times when dogs are invited, and they can revisit all of these matters again until, right or wrong, they settle it.

In a few days, voters will decide whether to fund a new assistant animal control officer who will be posted at Lambert’s Cove Beach in the morning to make sure the dog owners do the right thing and to ward off the dog owners who will lay siege to the beach parking lot during the evening hours when dog visitors are not welcome.

This page hopes that West Tisbury will make a change — appropriate the money for the two new employees and make stricter rules for dog owners, who have behaved badly and apparently need new rules. There’s a neighborly compromise to be made here, employing a little give and take and a little treasure from the taxpayers. It sounds like the hope, change, and bipartisanship we’ve all been talking about.