Editorial: No way to run county government

Editorial: No way to run county government

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This page is not a fan of Cape Wind, northeast of the Vineyard, nor of the federal-state effort to plant a large scale wind farm southwest of the Island. Industrializing wild ocean waters for the sake of expensive, inefficient electric power generation that will exert only limited useful effects on the nation’s growing need for ample, low cost, reliable power is a very bad deal.

At the same time, this page has been a frequent critic of Dukes County government, which has exhausted its reason for being, every year doing less and less and doing that poorly. A stark example of county government’s carelessness and ineptitude, and comprehensive misunderstanding of its obligations to its constituents — not merely one interest group or another — is the subject of a report this morning.

The Martha’s Vineyard/Dukes County Fishermen’s Association (MVDCFA), created under the auspices of the county government, has ended its federal lawsuit against Cape Wind and entered into a settlement agreement with the turbine farm’s developer. The deal that ended the lawsuit calls for the wind farm builder to pay the association some amount of money. The county says it does not know, doesn’t care to know, how much. The association says it cannot reveal the value of its capitulation, because of a confidentiality agreement with the wind farm builder. This means we cannot know how much money it was that persuaded the fishermen’s nonprofit organization, a creature of the county, to transfer their allegiance from the wild Horseshoe Shoals waters that are the Cape Wind target to the developer instead. The details of the deal, apart from its value, remain secret too.

In June 2010, MVDCFA filed suit to stop the Cape Wind project on Horseshoe Shoals in Nantucket Sound.

They argued that the Cape Wind energy project would effectively end all commercial fishing on Horseshoe Shoals — prime, historic fishing grounds for Vineyard fishermen.

The county created the Fishermen’s Association on February 25, 2009. The county has provided the MVDCFA with administrative support and helped to administer grant money.

Although the Fishermen’s Association operates under the umbrella of Dukes County government, the commissioners signed off on the agreement without any request that its leader, selectman Warren Doty of Chilmark, reveal the settlement amount or other details.

The association abandoned its opposition to the wind farm plan, because, Mr. Doty said, it could not support the cost of the litigation.

The Dukes County commissioners have not discharged their obligation for responsible oversight of entities it sponsors under the umbrella of county government. They have not discharged their responsibilities to the broad constituency they so badly serve by not inviting discussion and examination of the effects of this county-sponsored association’s decision to give up the fight. They have not discharged their responsibility to that same broad constituency to manage the affairs of county government with clarity and transparency. And they’ve underwritten a decision in which the narrow interests of a few have implicated — but left unaddressed — the wider interests of the Vineyard community. And they’ve done so cavalierly, as Dukes County commission chairman Melinda Loberg makes clear when she says about the secret details of the fisherman-Cape Wind deal, “I am not concerned as a commissioner.”