Editorial: Dukes County, once again, intrudes on airport affairs

Editorial: Dukes County, once again, intrudes on airport affairs

For the umpteenth time in recent history, the Dukes County commissioners have demonstrated their latent but persistent determination to get their mitts on county airport management.

The commissioners declined the reappointment of two airport commissioners, using the fireworks over the dismissal of an airport employee as the pretext.

Airport management and its union employees have been feuding, and the airport commissioners and the Dukes County commissioners have a decades-old history of feuding. Here was an imagined opportunity for the county commissioners to enlarge their influence over the airport, which after all is the largest, indeed the only significant county asset.  So, the county commissioners spurned the re-appointment request from two of their former appointments to the airport commission. They did so against a backdrop of repeated chastisements – federal, state, and judicial – over attempts by the county to exercise authority over the airport, apart from the strictly limited authority to appoint airport commission members.

The county commissioners tossed two airport commissioners, one of them a county commissioner himself, and replaced them with a fresh county commissioner, perhaps unacquainted with the knotty history of airport-county relations, and with a former airport employee, a frequent and vocal critic of airport management, now on disability retirement and an organizer of airport employees to form a bargaining unit. He also served as shop steward.

You name the landmark county attributes — the criminal, civil, and probate courts, the registry of deeds, the sheriff’s department, the county-owned beaches, the airport — and none of them falls to the county to manage. Sometimes, toward Dukes County voters, God is good.

The Martha’s Vineyard Airport, which by statute is under the control of the appointed airport commission and its professional airport manager, accounts for more than half of the county budget. The county commissioners slaver over that solid financial enterprise, and they’d like to have a piece of it.

The sheriff’s office is now under state control. The registry of deeds and the office of the county treasurer are county departments headed by elected county officials who do not answer to the county manager. Each has direct control over their employees.

In terms of day-to-day supervision and responsibilities, the county manager oversees a total of just two people in three departments — her office, veterans affairs, and a fragment of  integrated pest management.

Until 1993, three elected, paid county commissioners presided over county government. In 1994, voters created a new form of county government that delegated general legislative powers to a seven-member board of unpaid commissioners and gave a county manager full control over the county administration. This enlargement of county administration anticipated an enlargement of the appetites of the six Island towns for more and better county government.

As it happened, what actually occurred was the amputation of county responsibilities, in part because of the county’s demonstrated inability to get things done rationally — the airport expansion fiasco, for example — and the state’s need to streamline its own budget relationship with county governments that were crumbling across the state — the sheriff’s department, for another. Plus, the towns, in their clear-eyed wisdom, asked for nothing from the county. Indeed, over time the county has shifted more and more of the costs of some of the shards of its legacy responsibilities to the towns.

Here is the latest moment offered to the towns and the voters to take steps to sunset this government charade and not to countenance county’s ham-handed intrusion in the business of the only dependably functioning and financially successful county enterprise.


  1. And once again, the MV Times has issued an attack on people doing a service for free, (the dukes county commissioners). I know for a fact the county does a lot more than the Times will ever give credit for. The county commissioners were very careful not to interfere with the railroading happening up at the airport. How can you call them a professional manager when you obliviously do not know the facts? I see the Times is staying true to form with these shallow comments. Shame on you, a reporter should be unbiased but apparently there is no professional management happening there either.

    1. To be fair, this was an editorial and therefore can have an opinion. Other than that I agree with you totally. Anyone who watched the Airport Commission hearings in the past few months could see there was at least one much needed change that needed to happen and now it has. It’s also obvious something is going on with the airport manager that should worry us all.

  2. Is the Times on the airports payroll? Sometimes I wonder. How many positive articles have u ever written about the County? Trust me we get it that you hate the County, because you say it over and over and over…

  3. No need to worry about the county commissioners ‘getting a piece of the money’. Due to federal grant assurances, the airport must abide by federal law that requires all funds generated at the airport REMAIN AT the airport. The airport business park is a great example of how the non-aviation side of the business benefits from these laws.

  4. WHY No more visible down votes????

    (( How voting works — Recent Updates to Voting — Downvotes are still counted but will no longer display the total number of votes. — This action will still be denoted by the voting arrow turning red. ))

  5. Anybody know when the “County Review Commission” comes back? Questionable on-goings with these recent commissioners are once again getting out of hand. Gee, they were doing so good for quite a while now they are going back to the C. Borer,R. Sawyer days, not good. Seems like they have to once again be publicly shamed to knock them down a few notches before we call for a full disband of county government as we know it!

    2 Thumbs up to the MV Times Editorial. This is your fair warning county commissioners we are watching you!!

    1. I think the County Commissioners should close their curtains at night with certain people “watching them”. Too weird to even say more. Perhaps you should watch the airport commissioners too. Think you can do better? Run and make a difference. When the details of this case are released, somebody will be eating a healthy helping of CROW. Course I’m sure you will find a way to blame it on the County. With all this and Mr. Flynn takes a month off, suspicious timing to be sure.

      1. When the details of this case are released, somebody will be eating a healthy helping of CROW —- I hope you will eat it raw on MVTV harry!

        1. You are a sick birdie, get it? Eating raw birds on mvtv? Wow. You speak of God yet you are full of so much hate, I feel sorry for you. God bless you.

        2. Why does the Times allow Pamala to say such gross things maybe because she’s anti-county? Be fair and delete her gross comment.

    2. if you were watching anything you ignorant guest writer, you’d realize that you need glasses. The County did the right thing by replacing these two. Period, end of story. This is not even close to Borer and Sawyer. Grow up and stay current. Times have changed and so should your repertoire of late night viewing. Watch the Airport Commissioners meetings when they heard Ms. Tessemer’s complaint. They should be ashamed of themselves.

  6. The current and immediate past editors of the Times illustrate a very narrow breadth of knowledge when it comes to the affairs of public agencies. Therefore, your continual repeating (cut & paste) of past articles regarding the airport and the county is tiresome. You are VERY stale. You would serve your readers better if you updated and corrected your information. Responsible reporting requires some effort. Interviewing both sides of an issue is mandatory, otherwise it is just gossip.
    Talk to tenants of the business park. By the way, who could NOT be successful and make money if given a business park and fuel farm to generate millions of dollars?
    Talk to employees. What about complaints the airport management has had filed against them? By the way, the discharged employee was not union.
    Watch the meetings on MVTV where the airport commissioners and management wrote their procedures for grievances after the employee complained. They were holding the hearings with DRAFT policies.
    The County Commissioners have only exercised their right of appointment to protect county assets.
    Full disclosure reporting regarding another public agency is not in the MV Times playbook. However in this case, the Times gives continual kudos to the MV Land Bank by reporting that the Land Bank Buys its properties with the 2% collected on real estate sales. How about adding “and borrowed money”? Take a look at their balance sheet….they owe about $70 million!! How many people know that?
    The Times shows total disdain to many of those who donate their time for the benefit of all. Who needs to be slammed by the press? I believe the lack of gratitude and respect people get for giving up their free (and work) time is a major reason there are fewer people interested in serving. Why don’t you try it sometime? You might learn something.

    1. Who needs to be slammed by the press, MV Reader??? Thats what I have been saying about the main stream media slamming conservatives & Fox news and Oh Yea & GOD!!!

  7. “[A]nd replaced them with… a former airport employee, a frequent and vocal critic of airport management, now on disability retirement and an organizer of airport employees to form a bargaining unit. He also served as shop steward.” For shame, MV Times. You say those things as though they’re slurs.

    1. GET A LIFE!!! You saying the Times is Racist? You left wingers always make matters worst!
      Just because he is on the dole and is a disgruntled ex-employee that was a community type organizer “What does it Matter”?
      Let them report.

  8. “Dukes County, once again, intrudes on airport affairs”…no, the DCC didn’t like what their appointed members to the airport commission were doing, so they canned them. That isn’t intruding, that is being responsible elected officials who represent all of us, not just a select few. Are you of the thought that the DCC has no business in appointing members to the Airport Commission that represent us? What transpired in that hearing with Ms. Tessmer was totally unprofessional to say the least and most likely will end up costing the taxpayers millions.

    1. Read Ms. Tessmer’s MCAD suit and you’ll sing a different Tune, she did and said nothing wrong. The airport will be paying her money in the long run not that Vineyard Taxpayer.

      1. Coach, you seem to have misinterpreted my comment regarding, in my opinion, the unprofessional conduct of certain airport commissioners, management and their attorney, not Ms. Tessmer’s. Btw, just where do you think all that “airport money” comes from?

        1. my apologies. I know the airport money does not come from me “joe taxpayer”. It comes from tenants of the airport park, users of the airport including passengers flying in, fuel sales, car rental sales (licensing) along with taxi applications and licensing. Specific projects, redo runway etc would come from grants from FAA, MDOT, AIP grants and some from elsewhere too. Yes, I know that’s my taxpayer money but it’s money that wouldn’t be available to pay Ms. Tessemer her payout that she WILL win.