Important first step

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“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.”

Whenever we get an email from Paddy Moore, the dedicated leader of Healthy Aging MV, we see those words from Margaret Mead just below her signature.

On Tuesday, as dozens of Martha’s Vineyard leaders, business owners, and private citizens lined up at the microphones inside the Performing Arts Center at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, we saw Mead’s words come to life.

Just a week ago, this meeting of the Steamship Authority board was going to be on Nantucket. Had it been on that island, the meeting might as well have been in Hawaii, because there is no easy or affordable way to get there from the Vineyard.

But under intense pressure from Marc Hanover, the Vineyard’s representative on the board, and a fledgling group known as Save Our Steamship Authority (SOSA), a campaign was launched to move the meeting to the Vineyard.

J.B. Blau, who owns several restaurants on the Island and who is justifiably  concerned with the perception that visitors now have of the SSA, deserves credit for rallying the troops on social media for Tuesday’s meeting.

MacAleer Schilcher of Tisbury was correct, of course, when he called the board out for not wanting to come to the Vineyard without that pressure. “We made you come here,” he said.

And while it’s difficult to find something on which leaders from the six towns on the Vineyard can agree, Hanover was able to get many of the Island boards of selectmen to back him up with letters and by attending Tuesday’s session.

It was an impressive show of unity.

Most of the speakers were thoughtful, although a few let their emotions get the better of them.

To their credit, the SSA board, general manager Robert Davis, and the rest of the SSA brass took their medicine, and demonstrated that they understood the frustration, with Davis finally dropping any pretense that his administration could do part of the much-needed review on its own.

In an email to The Times after the meeting, Rob Ranney, chairman of the board and Nantucket’s representative — who just a month earlier seemed to turn a deaf ear to the pleas of Hanover and a smaller contingent of Vineyard residents who showed up for the April meeting — was more reflective this time around.

“The board heard the Vineyard loud and clear last night, and I am confident that SSA management did as well,” Ranney wrote. “I understand that Martha’s Vineyard has lost confidence in its lifeline, and moving forward there will need to be many improvements and many efforts made on many levels to earn that back. Ultimately, we are all in the same boat. I was impressed by the attendance at the meeting, and I appreciated all the comments and feedback, and I thank everyone who was able to attend.”

Don’t let up, SOSA and Vineyarders. Don’t get complacent. The board has only agreed to seek bids.

Tuesday was an important first step, but it will take time, reflection, and, ultimately, changes by the board and Davis to restore confidence in the Island’s lifeline.

Stay thoughtful, committed, and never doubt the changes you can force.