Tisbury voters go to the polls Tuesday. Topping the election ballot is a contest to fill one seat on the three-member board of selectmen.
Frank Brunelle, a Tisbury businessman, will face off against Larry Gomez, owner of Greenwood House inn and longtime chairman of the finance and advisory committee.
Larry Gomez first arrived on Martha’s Vineyard when he and his late wife Kathy Stinson visited Boston so he
could run the Marathon, and decided to take a side trip to the Island. It was 1981. They continued to visit each year, and purchased their first house in 1986. They purchased the Greenwood House B and B and moved to the Island full-time in 1994.
Mr. Gomez said he first became interested in town government as an opponent to the community preservation act. He later ran for a seat on the Finance and Advisory Committee. He has served on the FinCom for 15 years, eight as chairman, and served as a member of many other committees.
Frank Brunelle and his wife Vasha, both artists, have lived in Tisbury for 35 years, and at one time or another
have owned businesses in all three down-Island towns. Mr. Brunelle is a past president of the Tisbury Business Association, and helped organize the business community to defeat the town’s proposal to use the West Chop Woods as a waste disposal site. A past president of the Nathan Mayhew Seminars, he lives with his wife on Beach Road, and he owns and maintains several old wooden boats.
The Times posed a series of questions to each candidate, and asked that they respond in writing in not more than 400 words. The questions and their responses follow.
Q and A
Why did you decide to run for election to the board of selectmen?
Mr. Brunelle: I decided to run for the board of selectmen for the same reason that I decided to run for planning board. The only way to influence our boards is to be a member of one of those boards.
Mr. Gomez: I am running for selectman to bring another voice to the town, a voice that shows fiscal responsibility and is not afraid to go against conventional wisdom. I am a listener. I don’t have an agenda, and I want what’s best for Tisbury. I want to give back to the town what it’s given me, a strong sense of pride in my community. Being selectman means listening before you speak, being conscious of your constituents, and working toward a solution with facts, not emotions.
What would you suggest can be done to reduce the pressure on Tisbury taxpayers?
Mr. Brunelle: One way to reduce the pressure on Tisbury taxpayers is to set limits. It would be similar to Proposition 2.5, but directed specifically to non-town finance questions, such as from nonprofits. From attending this year’s town meeting, I was amazed at the amount of articles and subarticles that dealt with spending on various issues. Many of these are extraneous to the town, and involve nonprofits or other entities, and there are no limits to the amounts that the town can conceivably spend on these. But fundamentally, it depends on the voters. However, it is difficult for voters to resist appeals which have good purposes.
The selectmen are not equipped as presently organized to examine costs of town building projects, nor should they be, but rely upon the finance committee to recommend whether or not costs are in line, and what should and should not be spent.
Mr. Gomez: As I stated at town meeting, the answer to reducing the pressure on taxpayers is to just say no. When confronted with town meeting warrant articles, we all need to research, get the facts, and then decide if a money article is best for each of us and the community. If not, just say no.
Voters set the tax rate by what we vote at town meeting, not the assessors, FinCom, or board of selectmen. They work with a formula that sets the tax rate based on the vote on town meeting floor.
Our town budget is approaching $24 million. Someone may think this is high. It is not. Sixty-seven percent of the budget represents union-negotiated salaries and benefits related to Tisbury School, along with federal and state mandated programs.
Yes, we should examine the town’s overall budget carefully. But we also need to make sure we are not being held back in our ability to provide daily needed services. We all want to have a safe environment and a rich vibrant harbor, to allow Islanders and guests to get the best out of Tisbury and the Vineyard.
Please describe the state of Tisbury.
Mr. Brunelle: The state of Tisbury is very complex.
Housing can be affordable, if land and building costs are low. But the real problem in new construction is land. When dealing with existing housing, it is another matter.
Another problem is the Tisbury School. Education is a great concern of mine. I spoke to a teacher who talked of warped floors, of terrible conditions where the heating was so hot that the windows needed to be open in order to let out heat in the winter so that she could teach, of an old and crumbling building.
The influx of illegal labor operating on a basis that drives down the wages of local workers: Tisbury, like all of the towns, has to deal with this. It is fundamental, and undermines everything.
There is the continued growth of the Steamship Authority, which focuses on tourism rather than year-round needs. It is something that we can not control, and which controls us, and is an intractable problem. The selectmen have had some input into this, including what I consider a misguided attempt to move the SSA to Beach Road. Unlimited vehicular tourism access, large bus tours, all very profitable — and very damaging.
Tisbury has changed over the past 20 years, is about to change again radically, and this process is going on often in secrecy; without brakes, we will end up very much worse off than we are now. Lack of transparency, lack of stakeholder participation, concentration of power, undue influence characterize the Tisbury process at this time.
Mr. Gomez: Tisbury has been through several lean years, and now we must catch up. This means increasing some budgets. In doing this, the voters should continue to be mindful of capital expenditures, exploding social programs, and the appearance of the county’s need to grow.
I think the town is in pretty good financial shape. Overall, the town’s infrastructure and appearance could be improved, for example by placing utilities underground. We tend to plan, but find it difficult to follow through, as with the DPW barn, which was torn down but has yet to be replaced.