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In a six-month period in 2014 he was arrested five times on multiple driving violations.

Leandro Miranda is currently in the Dukes County Jail and House of Correction.

Saturday night, acting on information provided by Oak Bluffs Detective Jeffrey LaBell, Edgartown Police arrested Leandro Miranda, 24, a Brazilian national last seen in March leaving the Dukes County House of Correction in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. He was deported on May 27 to Brazil, according to ICE.

Leandro Miranda shown in his booking photo taken at the Dukes County Jail following his arrest Saturday.
Leandro Miranda shown in his booking photo taken at the Dukes County Jail following his arrest Saturday.

His arraignment Monday was a reunion of sorts for Oak Bluffs and Edgartown police and court officials. Last year, between March 2 and August 28, Mr. Miranda amassed a long record of serious driving offenses resulting in five separate arrests. In three of those incidents, Mr. Miranda tried to flee or evade police, according to court records, including twice when he fled in his vehicle at high speeds.

One of those arrests occurred on July 4, at 1:30 pm. Oak Bluffs was packed with tourists, walking, biking, and driving on downtown streets. Detective LaBell, patrolling in a marked police cruiser with Officer Michael Cotrone, spotted Mr. Miranda driving the same Chrysler 300 he had previously been arrested driving on Dukes County Avenue. He activated his blue lights. Mr. Miranda failed to stop, and sped away. In his effort to elude police, Mr. LaBell said in his report, Mr. Miranda drove in the oncoming lane and passed a line of vehicles waiting at a stop sign. He eventually stopped his car and fled on foot into the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association campgrounds, where Officer Cotrone eventually caught up with him and tackled him.

Police seized two nips of alcohol from his pockets, and part of a 12-pack of beer, still cold, in his vehicle.

Last October, in a series of plea deals related to his earlier arrests, Mr. Miranda pleaded guilty to drunk driving, failing to stop for police, and resisting arrest. Edgartown District Court Justice H. Gregory Williams sentenced Mr. Miranda to 2.5 years in a house of correction, with nine months to serve, and the balance suspended for two years of probation.

Although ICE was notified shortly after Mr. Miranda’s first arrest on March 2, 2014, federal immigration authorities took no action until August 28, following his fifth arrest, according to court documents. ICE then issued a detainee order, requiring local authorities to hold Mr. Miranda in custody for 48 hours once his jail sentence and any other court proceedings were finished. According to the detainee order, ICE had “determined that there is reason to believe the individual is an alien subject to removal from the United States.”

In March, ICE agents arrived at the Dukes County House of Correction to take custody of Mr. Miranda, Dukes County Sheriff Mike McCormack confirmed.

Shawn Neudauer, ICE press officer, told The Times that Mr. Miranda was booked into Bristol County Jail in March and ordered removed by a federal immigration judge on May “and he was deported on May 27 to Brazil.”

Mr. Neudauer said that reentering the country after being legally deported is a federal felony. It will be up to a U.S. attorney, he said, if Mr. Miranda will be prosecuted on the felony charge.

“He’s obviously shown complete disregard for U.S. law,” Mr. Neudauer said.  

Mr. Neudauer said that going forward, once in ICE custody Mr. Miranda will not be afforded another hearing before an immigration judge. “As far as federal due process is concerned,” he said, “from our perspective we may present him to the U.S. Attorney’s office for federal prosecution for criminal violation, but if they decline that for whatever reason, we would reinstate his prior order. He would not go back in front of a U.S. immigration judge, because he’s already been there.”

Tip and an arrest

At about 8 pm on Saturday, August 15, Edgartown police officers, acting on a tip Detective LaBell provided that Mr. Miranda had just been dropped off, knocked on the door of a house at 25 Morgan Way in the Morgan Woods housing complex. A female resident gave police permission to search the house, according to the police report.

Officer Curtis Chandler and Sergeant Craig Edwards opened a locked bedroom door and found Mr. Miranda hiding in a closet. He was arrested on an outstanding warrant in connection with his earlier court case.

Mr. Miranda is currently held without bail in the Dukes County Jail. ICE has issued a detainee order, jail officials confirmed.

Island police said Mr. Miranda’s reappearance is frustrating but not surprising. “It’s frustrating for us to see him reappear,” Oak Bluffs Police Lieutenant Tim Williamson said.

An unsuccessful grant application has spawned a creative dialogue about what is needed to replace the aging facility and who might help.

The MV Arena is adjacent to the Y. – Photo by Michael Cummo

In February, stakeholders in the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena applied to MVYouth (MVY) for funding for a major overhaul to the ice rink. The newly formed nonprofit had $1 million to give away but set a high standard of organizational performance.

The arena stakeholders came up empty. But their presentation sparked interest among MVYouth board members who suggested ways in which the arena organization might proceed.  

“Their presentation put the arena on our radar,” Lindsey Scott, executive director of MVY told The Times. “The prospect has motivated some very productive conversations.”

Arena leaders presented the MVYouth board with a study completed in November, 2014, by Stevens, a specialized ice rink consulting and design firm based in Wisconsin. The top-to-bottom evaluation of the arena pointed out numerous deficiencies and outdated equipment, some of which has to be phased out by 2020 due to “adverse environmental effects.” The study concluded that a roughly $2.7 million investment, possibly more depending on the extent of the renovations, was needed to squeeze another 30 years out of the aging facility.

As the conversations continued, the objective for arena leaders shifted from renovating the existing arena to building a new one, with the current arena being repurposed for other sports, such as indoor track and indoor soccer.

“They are moving forward with exploring possibilities,” arena stalwart Bob Mone, who was present at the presentation, told The Times. “Not specifically MVYouth but some of the people involved with them. They were very impressed with our presentation. They told us they’d prefer to build a new rink than try to fix the old one.”

Mr. Mone agrees with the assessment.  “It’s 30 years old or more and it’s tired,” he said. ”The list of repairs is a mile long. It would take at least $3 million to fix. A brand-new building with solar roof would be fabulous. We’ve been kicking the idea around forever, but they contacted us and said they’d like to explore the possibility and seem very committed to it.”

“They were very clear about what they wanted from us and they were very encouraging,” attorney and arena board vice president Geoghan Coogan told The Times. Mr. Coogan said the current estimate on a new ice arena is at least $4 million but the final figure will most likely be higher.

 

YMCA involvement

As a result of the MVY application process last year, a series of ongoing exploratory conversations between the arena and the YMCA was also set in motion, according to Mr. Coogan. “We’ve basically laid out a schedule over the next six months to keep meeting and discussing the various parts of what it would take to move forward,” he said.

The Martha’s Vineyard YMCA sets a high bar for organizational strength and a business-like approach to nonprofit operations, he added. “You’ve got a paid executive director, you’ve got paid fundraising people, you’ve got paid programming people,” he said.  “The rink basically has one full-time employee who’s been trying to do all that. The rink has always sustained on volunteering. Moving forward, there aren’t as many volunteers as there used to be. So you need to make sure this thing is there for the next 30 years.

“The stability that the Y brings could be huge. The donor base that’s investing a sizeable amount of money in a project wants to see the kind of management that the Y can bring. Giving $4 million to an all volunteer organization isn’t exactly fiscally responsible.”

Mr. Coogan said that while there are examples around the country of a YMCA running an ice rink, that would not be the case here.

“It would never be the case when you had to belong to the Y to use the rink,” he said. “Like Alex’s Place, you don’t have to be a member of the Y to go there. It would remain a community, nonprofit rink.”

Mr. Coogan said the conversion of the old arena would dramatically expand winter activity offerings. “It’s not just a rink, not just a Y, it would be for all kinds of sports in a campus setting.”

Mr. Mone agrees with the concept. “The Y has the land, they have the technology, and they have architects that have done rinks,” Mr. Mone said. “Working together can produce all kinds of benefits, not just administratively. Making ice creates a lot of heat. That heat could be transferred into the Y’s swimming pool.”

“We serve a lot of the same people, there’s a lot of overlap,” Martha’s Vineyard executive director Jill Robie told The Times. “The mission of each YMCA is to serve the specific needs of the community, whatever the needs may to be and the arena seems like a place where a collaboration of resources could really benefit our community.”

Mr. Coogan has deep ties to the Island hockey community. “I grew up playing hockey when there were no sides on the rink and snow was blowing across the ice,” he said. “I’m very personally invested in this.” In addition to serving as vice president on the arena board, he is director of the Island youth hockey program where his son now plays.

 

Ice aged

The arena opened in January 1980 as an outdoor rink. It was built by a group of dedicated volunteers who patched it together with grassroots funding and donated labor and materials. It was fully enclosed in 1992. The facility has spawned a long tradition of youth and adult hockey programs, and successful travel teams and Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School boys and girls programs. Today, 180 children play youth hockey alone. The arena also hosts seniors skating programs, the Martha’s Vineyard Figure Skating Club, recreational skating, and a wide range of clinics for all ages.

The Arena is a cornerstone of the recreational community on the Island. But despite best efforts, it’s falling apart. It’s an energy sieve: the cost to make and maintain ice in the leaky building is enormous, and going up.

The new arena would appear to fit the MVY criteria as an investment in a capital project that benefits the community, in particular the youth population, which does not compete with another Island non-profit organization.

Organizational strength is equally important. Ms. Scott said that MVYouth looks to provide “last dollar in” financing, so a large capital project, such as a new ice arena, needs to be well underway to qualify for MVYouth funding. “It needs to have great leadership, it needs to have a very clear plan, it needs to have been endorsed by the community on many levels already,” she said. “MVYouth is very sympathetic to the needs of the arena, for sure. We’re watching carefully to see how they mobilize and get community momentum.”

MVY co-founders Jim Swartz and Dan Stanton are Edgartown summer residents who have long histories of supporting causes that help young people. Both men have also been extraordinarily successful in business. Mr. Stanton is a retired partner from Goldman, Sachs & Company. Mr. Swartz founded Accel Partners, a global venture capital firm. Mr. Swartz was also a strong supporter of the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard and served as co-chairman of its capital campaign.

 

Martha's Vineyard gas prices remained about $1 higher than the $2.48 Massachusetts average this week. Photo by Michael Cummo

Massachusetts drivers have the benefit of gas prices 19 cents lower than the national average, and at the lowest mid-August level in a decade. A gallon of self-serve, regular unleaded gas costs an average of $2.48 in Massachusetts, AAA announced Monday. That average price is down four cents from last week, and 18 cents from a month ago, the organization said. “You have to go all the way back to 2004 to find prices this low in the middle of August,” Mary Maguire, AAA Northeast’s director of public and legislative affairs, said in a statement. “Continued economic woes in the Far East, plus a global crude oil oversupply, are sending oil prices to new daily lows, translating into lower pump prices for motorists.”

On Martha’s Vineyard this week, the price of a gallon of regular was $3.50 at the Citgo in Vineyard Haven and $3.59 at the Airport Mobil in Edgartown.

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A total of $1 million was awarded to youth programs and students.

Lindsey Scott, MVYouth Executive Director and Julie Fay, Martha's Vineyard Community Services Executive Director cut the ribbon on the new Island Wide Youth Collaborative building. Photo courtesy of MV Community Services

In its first year of tent-free fundraising, the new Island non-profit MVYouth (MVY) hit the ground running. A total of $1 million was used to help fund construction of the Island Wide Youth Collaborative building, a baseball field for Little Leaguers, and five four-year scholarships of varying amounts.

The MVY’s mission is to provide capital for exceptional Island organizations serving children, teens and young adults, and college scholarships for deserving students.

In keeping with that mission, MVY awarded about $800,000 to Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS) and Martha’s Vineyard (MV) Little League. Another $75,000 was awarded to five high school seniors for renewable college scholarships that will total nearly $300,000 over four years.

MVY founders and co-chairmen Dan Stanton and Jim Swartz provided an update on the organization’s first year in a meeting with The Times last week. MVY executive director Lindsey Scott and Attorney Ronald Rappaport, a trustee and the advisory board’s chairman, also attended.

Summer residents of Edgartown, Mr. Stanton and Mr. Swartz are friends who share backgrounds in banking and finance, as well as long histories of supporting causes that help young people. Mr. Stanton, a retired partner from Goldman, Sachs & Company, was a founder of The Boathouse in Edgartown and currently serves as its president. He also is on the board of the Vineyard Golf Club.

Mr. Swartz is the founder of Accel Partners, a global venture capital firm, and Impact Partners, a financing and advisory firm advancing independent cinema. He has been a strong supporter of the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard and served as co-chairman of its capital campaign.

Mr. Stanton said they were prompted to create a new non-profit organization in part by a shared past experience in sponsoring a party for an off-Island group.

“It was a really nice event, and at the end of it, we raised almost to the dollar what the event cost,” Mr. Stanton recalled. “And I went to Jim and I said, you know, this is like the definition of running in place, and we’re just not getting anywhere. I said I want us to think about a different approach, that would really would do more than add to operating budgets and could really move the needle, and to use a word Jim uses, have impact.”

“One of the driving objectives that Dan and I thought about was we wanted to help smaller groups on the Island get out of the perpetual fundraising cycle,” Mr. Swartz added. “I call it eliminating the chicken dinners, the pancake breakfasts.”

In a unique departure from many of the Island’s non-profit organizations, he and Mr. Stanton proposed that MVY would operate on a flow-through model that eliminates the usual tent type of summer fundraising events. Instead, they asked founding donors to pledge to contribute $25,000 annually for a minimum of four years, with $1 million to be disbursed annually. The contributions flow directly to the causes, similar to the Robin Hood Foundation in New York City and Tipping Point Community in San Francisco.

Administrative, overhead, and operating expenses are divided up and paid for separately by the donors, which amounted to about $1,000 each this year, Mr. Swartz said. Ms. Scott, the only paid employee, works part-time from her home in Chilmark.

“People know they’re writing a check once a year, and they know exactly what the organization is costing them; they know where it’s going,” Mr. Swartz said.

As a result, he added, MVY seemed to hit a responsive chord with younger people with resources, most of them seasonal residents, who cared about the Island and wanted to give to local causes, but who hadn’t gotten connected with any yet.

“We wanted to provide a convenient, easy, low-friction way for them to engage with what the needs of the Island are,” Mr. Swartz said.

MVY, launched last summer, went from no founders last summer to over forty in six weeks, Mr. Stanton said. In the interest of sustainability, he added, “We’re trying to bring in five to ten new founders every year. We finished last year with 46, and brought in about five this year.”

MVY awarded its capital grants in the fall and early winter, and scholarships in late winter and spring. The board of trustees voted unanimously to award $177,810 to the MV Little League to complete the construction of Penn Field in the spring in time to serve as home field this season.

MVY also awarded MVCS $620,780 to build a facility for the Island Wide Youth collaborative, which will integrate services for youth people struggling with mental health issues and substance abuse. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held last week at the completed new facility, built on the MVCS campus across from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

“The people who came up to talk to me, you could feel the emotion in their voices,” Mr. Stanton said of the event. “You could see it, that this was really something that accomplished a dream some of them have had and they felt very strongly about.”

Mr. Stanton said that last year MVY received 30-plus scholarship grant applications, which local advisory board members vetted and narrowed down to 12 students.

Five finalists were selected based on merit and need. The MVY scholarships filled the void between the financial packages their colleges of choice offered and what their families could afford to pay, Mr. Stanton said, and the money is already in the bank in escrow.

Recipients and the colleges they will attend are Lee Faraca, California Polytechnic State University; Anne Ollen, Barnard College; Charles Parkhurst, UCLA; Gayla Walt, Tufts University; and Madeleine Moore, University of Chicago.

MVY also presented the other seven scholarship semi-finalists with a backpack, an iPad, and a $1,000 gift certificate for the bookstore of their college of choice at the high school’s class night on June 12.

Mr. Stanton said MVY worked hand in glove with high school administrators to avoid duplication in awarding scholarships. “Once the school knew who the MVYouth recipients were, it took them out of the competition for other monies and freed it up for other students,” he said.

Mr. Rappaport is a founding director of Reynolds, Rappaport, Kaplan and Hackney law firm in Edgartown. As town counsel for Aquinnah, Chilmark, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and West Tisbury, he has been involved with many Vineyard civic organizations, and he is familiar with the Island’s non-profit scene.  

In addition to seeking new donors who are not committed to other causes, Mr. Rappaport pointed out that MVY also has made it a goal not to compete with other Island charities, which have enough difficulty raising money as it is.  “I’ve done the best I could to make calls to different organizations to see if they’ve had any drop-off as a result of this,” he said.

The deadline for MVY’s next grant cycle is October 15, Ms. Scott said. The local advisory board will then review the applications and narrow them down to semi-finalists to recommend to the board of trustees, which will make the final decisions.

Detailed information about MVY, including a list of donors, grant and scholarship criteria, and its application processes, is available online at www.mvyouth.com.

The Fire department has overcome bad weather and financial setbacks to keep the summer spectacular going.

Oak Bluffs firemen install one of 250 "No Parking" signs on a steamy Monday afternoon. From left: Lieutenant John O’Donnell, firefighter Kevin O’Donnell and firefighter Tad Medeiros. Photo by Barry Stringfellow

Friday night, Island visitors and year-round residents will head to Oak Bluffs in anticipation of a spectacular display of pyrotechnics. But the Oak Bluffs fireworks is never a sure thing. It takes hours of meticulous planning, months of fundraising, and hundreds of volunteer hours to pull off the dazzling display.

“We start planning in January,” Oak Bluffs fire chief John Rose told The Times. “We start work on the contract with the fireworks company. The permitting process is very involved. We have to get the state permit to close [Seaview Ave.], we have to get the Coast Guard permit because we’re using a barge, and we need the permit from the state fire marshall.”

Mr. Rose said there are also regular meetings involving state police, the Coast Guard, the Steamship Authority, and Edgartown and Tisbury fire department and police department. “Then there’s the little things like the [fundraising] tee-shirts,” he said. “Every year we have a new design, then we put the tee-shirts out to bid.”  

 

Buck for the bang

Fundraising by the nonprofit Oak Bluffs Firemens Civic Association is an important component to the fireworks, which Mr. Rose said can cost up to $50,000. This year the task gained even more urgency after longtime sponsor Black Entertainment Television (BET) said it was ending its annual $10,000 donation.

“Coming into summer we were trying to come up with fundraising ideas so we can keep this tradition going in Oak Bluffs,” the chief said. “This is something we’re really proud of, and we’ll fight tooth and nail to make sure we raise the money to keep the fireworks going.”

This year, firemen took a new approach, hitting the streets with an empty boot for donations. “The guys have been busting their backs to raise extra money,” Mr. Rose said. “They’ve been working extra nights, they’ve been working the harbor, which they’ve never done before. They’ve been standing on the corners in their turnout gear asking for donations. We had a competition between our trucks to see who could raise the most money. The boot really worked. One guy made $1,000 in July.”

Volunteers have been so active “passing the boot” that someone filed a complaint saying the fundraisers were a traffic hazard. After Mr. Rose assured selectmen at their last meeting that fundraising activities of the Oak Bluffs Firemen’s Civic Association would not pose any traffic hazards, selectmen voted unanimously to let the boot campaign continue.  

Countdown to launch

As the date approaches, meetings are held with representatives from pyrotechnic company American Thunder. Contingency plans for different weather conditions are evaluated as the weather forecast comes more clear. Mr. Rose said he has had several meetings with Ralph Packer, who donates the barge from which the fireworks are launched, which saves the firemen a considerable sum of money.

“Ralph’s checked the tides, he has new anchor chains and preparations will start at his dock this Wednesday,” he said.  Without Mr. Packer’s participation at last year’s fireworks, the 40-year streak could well have been broken. A northeast wind blowing 20 miles an hour and six to eight-foot seas caused two anchor lines on the barge to break hours before the show. Mr. Packer brought in two tug boats to hold the barge in place during the show. But, there was still doubt that the show would go on.

Warren Pearce, president of American Thunder Fireworks, was considering cancelling because of the high winds. Mr. Pearce told The Times that a phone call to Ralph Packer convinced him to proceed. “He told me the tide was going to change in an hour and the current will switch and the wind will drop and we’d be all set. He was right. That man knows what he’s doing.”

Mr. Rose said arrangements are also made to bring four ambulances from off Island, which supplement the additional engine and ambulances from Tisbury and Edgartown.

On Monday, 30 firemen and EMTs braved the heat and humidity to install 250 new “No Parking” signs made by fire department volunteers last winter.

“We’re already getting calls to see when the fireworks are next year,” Mr. Rose said. “Nobody has a venue like we do, with a big park right on the ocean. It really makes for an amazing show.”

Donations for next year’s fireworks can be sent to the nonprofit Oak Bluffs Firemens Civic Association, P.O. Box 213, Oak Bluffs MA 02557.

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Proving that people can never get enough Gingerbread.

The last three houses on the tour faced the harbor. One of them was bought in 1916 for a dollar. Photo by Larisa Stinga

Have you ever wondered what those dollhouse cottages look like inside — over 300 of them clustered together, like a village for upscale hobbits? Perhaps you’ve had the good fortune to know Campground chums who invited you to dinner, and you found yourself thinking, “This is far grander than I thought it would be. You can even stand up straight.”

But still you wonder about the other itty-bitty homes, with their cheek-by-jowl porches, and nighttime glimpses into interiors that reveal a tiny front parlor and no more.

Your curiosity may be satisfied: Each summer you can purchase a ticket to see a hand-picked six of these charmers during the annual August Cottage Tour of the Campmeeting Association, proceeds to benefit the Tabernacle Restoration Fund. Guests gather at the entrance to the steel-beamed Tabernacle, where part of the team of 50 volunteers — led by co-chairs Hazel Allen, Lynn Freeman, and Trish Hahn — are on hand to pass out guides, and to wave you toward the cottages.

The tour was accompanied by goodies. Photo by Larisa Stinga
The tour was accompanied by goodies. Photo by Larisa Stinga

First, however, you’ll be happily waylaid by a table of munchies, coordinated by Diane Lowe. Make no mistake about it, this is Church Lady Food. You can muscle aside the Anthony Bourdains and Ben deForests when Church Lady Food is on offer. And it doesn’t mean only ladies had a hand in it: Someone’s husband may have whipped up a tray of cunning little sandwiches. The woman who expressed caramel nougat into strawberry meringue cookies may be the CEO of a large tractor plant. Point is, it’s still Church Lady edibles through and through: an array of cookies, tiny cakes, and chocolate chip “crunchies” for which managers of fast-food companies lie awake at night wondering how they can discover the secret ingredients.

Once you finally pry yourself away from the treats, you follow the arrows toward the chosen cottages.

No. 2 Wesleyan Grove has fancy gingerbread, and a love story. Photo by Larisa Stinga
No. 2 Wesleyan Grove has fancy gingerbread, and a love story. Photo by Larisa Stinga

At 2 Wesleyan Grove, built in 1871, white walls and Victorian filigree lend neutral background to pink and lavender trim around railings and windows, and a cat painting that reads “Please wipe your paws.” And something else marks the cottage: a love story. In 2004, a single woman bought the house — actually two cottages welded together — and she hired a contractor to help her spiff it up. The two fell in love, and found the spirit of adventure to marry, so now the cottage belongs to Lorna and Brian Welch.

Across the quiet oval park of Wesleyan Grove sits No. 11. Built in 1869, in 1931 the cottage was purchased by the Capello family, and it’s been in their safekeeping ever since. Through the double Romanesque (rounded instead of sharply pointed like the Gothic lines) doors, you recall that the great pleasure of cottage ownership is that no amount of cuteness is ever deemed too much. So whereas, for instance, the Welches at No. 2 have bright floral curtains and paintings of cats under their upstairs sloping walls, the Capellos have pillows with their dueling zip codes, on- and off-Island. They’ve also picked up such treasures as an ancient dark blue wood cabinet from an early Vineyard jail, a tin ceiling in the kitchen and, where a dishwasher might conceivably be popped in, a fetching wine cooler in its place.

The joke here is that back in the original days, when Methodists took their neo-Puritan rules rather seriously, if a neighbor was caught red-handed with a bottle of white, out he would go, although he was allowed to take everything with him, including his cottage. Whenever you spy an empty lot on Campground property, it’s a safe bet a churchgoer was found with a stein of beer or a snifter of brandy.

Next is a short march to Montgomery Circle (behind Sharkey’s and the Locker Room), once the business plaza of the Campground. Now the sole retail outlet is the art studio of the late William Blakesley, illustrator of many children’s books, whose paintings are still for sale today. “Look for the Open sign,” says his widow, retired teacher Liz Cornell. Elegant living quarters, with an industrial-motif kitchen, are situated behind and above the studio.

The final three cottages on this summer’s tour face the Oak Bluffs Harbor. 22 Rock was newly purchased by Erin and Thomas Underwood. They’ve made it a mission to restore the home to its original Victorian luster and to recover furniture true to the period, searching for it high and low in Vineyard flea markets and estate sales. Unlike most of the cottages, the lower porch remains uncovered, and the upper balcony with its wooden gingerbread looks the way it did when it was first constructed in 1866.

Next door, and side by side, are two cottages owned by three generations of the Duffy family. Although No. 38 was built in the post–Civil War period that saw a flurry of Campground cottages arising on the platforms of the original tents, this particular abode was purchased in 1916 by Grandfather Duffy. His Boston tenant was in arrears on his rent, and offered his seaside cottage as payment. The price? $1. In the 1980s, the much-enlarged family bought No. 40 next door, and since then the family of one grandfather, three brothers — Jimmy, Marshall, Dennis — and their wives and kids has enjoyed successive summers, along the way buying some, but not all, new furniture — hanging needlepoint objets d’art crafted by Grandma Duffy, knocking out ventilation holes to cool the upstairs in the summer, and reveling in the upstairs and downstairs sets of porches with their views of the ever-changing light and motion of boats in the harbor.

If there’s any particular Campground decorating ethic, it’s this: Paint in a wide palette of colors, buy adorable tchotchkes, but otherwise keep the beautiful old bones of the original cottage. Sit on the porch or out back on the patio, and let the magic soak into your pores.

 

Danny Glover, Alan Jenkins, and other influencers address how the stories of the black community are told in the media.

From left, Alan Jenkins, Issa Rae, Patrisse Cullors, and Danny Glover speak on a panel Monday afternoon. – Photo by Michael Cummo

On Monday afternoon, a distinguished panel addressed what they described as institutional violence against young black citizens and the galvanized response from the black community and activist groups that has propelled the issue to center stage of the already befuddling 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

The event, billed as “Changing the Script: Media, Culture and Black Lives,” provided an attentive packed house with some perspective on the fast-paced chain of events from a four-star panel at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown.  Alan Jenkins, executive director of the Opportunity Agenda (TOA) moderated the two-hour conversation. Panelists included Danny Glover, an actor and humanitarian; Patrisse Cullors, artist and co-founder of Black Lives Matter (BLM); and Issa Rae, an author, producer, and writer with a specialty in social media and web-based communications. The event was co-sponsored by the Open Society Foundation and produced by Black Robin Media (the entire event was videotaped, and will be available at opensocietyfoundations.org and opportunityagenda.org).

The discussion and conversations with participants spotlighted a rapidly changing American societal landscape, in which traditional attitudes and media are no longer the information drivers.

For Ms. Cullors, the BLM agenda is straightforward: to make violence against black youth a central part of the national discussion by disruption of political events. In contrast with her widely broadcasted firebrand presence at presidential political events, Ms. Cullors in person is a thoughtful, reserved, and focused woman who has been involved in protest against racial injustice for half of her 32 years.

In reference to her presence on the dais of an address by Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, Ms. Cullors promised equal opportunity for obstruction for all the candidates. “I have nothing against Bernie Sanders. We are not going after Bernie Sanders, we are going after the people who are systematically killing black Americans,” she told the audience. “We will obstruct every candidate. We shut down Jeb Bush in Las Vegas. Hillary [Clinton] avoided obstruction by limiting access at an event, and [Donald] Trump simply canceled his event [that BLM had targeted],” she said.

Then there was Mr. Jenkins, who in a different life might have been an Ivy League don. He is a polished think tank professional with a goal of changing the cultural conversation around racial justice. A tall order, certainly, but like Mr. Glover and Ms. Rae, who are storytellers in their respective crafts, Mr. Jenkins uses the tools of his trade to advance racial justice. The Opportunity Agenda, which he leads, uses polling, for example, to take the measure and impact of social attitudes about race and justice.

“This is the first presidential election in which the killing of black folks will be a central issue, and it will determine the outcome of the election,” he told The Times before the panel event, noting that concerns about racial justice have erased racial and demographic differences and the stereotypes that surround them. “The [2016 presidential] election will be the first to be determined by people of color, by unmarried women, and by millennials, all of whom have a high level of concern for racial justice,” he said. As an example of stereotypes undergoing debunking today, Mr. Jenkins told the panel audience that white, evangelical Christian millennials are among the demographics most concerned with racial justice.

Mr. Glover is also at work on several projects related to changing the black narrative in America (Read here for an in-depth interview with Mr. Glover). He is developing a movie script about the role of a black man in abolitionist John Brown’s raid on a federal arsenal at Martin’s Ferry in Maryland, a tipping point prior to the Civil War. Meanwhile he’s working on a movie about the late 18th century slave revolution that created a free Republic of Haiti, the only successful slave revolution in history. He is also currently reading a script for a new four-part “Roots” miniseries.

Mr. Glover used the new “Roots” script as an example of the impact of new black narrative. “I was struck by how much this script was informed by [the book and movie] “Twelve Years a Slave,” he said.

“I want it all,” Ms. Rae said of new narratives about black participation in national and international history. “I want to hear all those stories. I’m sick of just seeing the stories of our people being trampled on,” she said.

Much of the discussion and audience exchange related to ways in which people on the margins can affect change. Ms. Rae creates websites about making a difference. Her successful web series, “Misadventures of Awkward Black Girls,” will shoot a television pilot this fall, an example of the need “to take the reins of our own narrative and to circumvent the traditional media industry,” she said.

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Island tribal opponents of a gaming hall in Aquinnah, outnumbered by mainland members, failed Sunday to stop the project.

Off-Island members of the Wampanoag tribe boarded a bus at the Vineyard Haven Steamship Authority terminal Sunday for the trip to the general membership meeting. Photo by Nelson Sigelman.

Updated 5:30 pm, Monday

Meeting Sunday afternoon just a short distance from their long-unfinished community center building, members of the Wampanoag tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) split evenly and rejected a petition request that the tribe give up its efforts to build a gaming facility on tribal lands in the smallest town on Martha’s Vineyard.

The vote was 110 to 110, with 8 votes disqualified due to “nonconformity,” Tobias Vanderhoop, chairman of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, said in an email to The Times received at 6:45 pm Sunday following a recount of the day’s tally.

Mr. Vanderhoop said voters were asked to take action on the question, “Do you vote to repeal tribal council enacted resolutions on change of use of the unfinished community center building on tribal lands?”

“According to the tribal constitution, a referendum requires a two-thirds majority to pass,” Mr. Vanderhoop said, “and this initiative did not attain the required number of votes to become binding on the tribe. The will of our citizens, based on the result of today’s vote, is that there will be no change in the present course of the tribe.”

“The referendum did not pass, so we continue to pursue gaming on our tribal lands,” Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, chairman of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Gaming Corporation (AWGC), said in an email to The Times just after 6 pm Sunday.

The Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association (AGHCA) has stood with the town and tribal members in opposition to gaming, and is a party to the suit now in federal court that will ultimately decide if the gaming hall will be built.

In an email to The Times, retired lawyer and longtime AGHCA president Larry Hohlt said, “We extend our appreciation to those tribal members who worked so hard to try to curb the tribal leadership’s efforts to establish a casino in Aquinnah. It is difficult to think of many locales less suited, on so many levels, for a casino.”

 

Call for openness

Beverly Wright, a former five-time chairman of the Wampanoag Tribe from 1991 to 2004, and an opponent of building a gaming facility in town, told The Times following the vote that she was disappointed that the referendum effort did not succeed. “I guess it shows that the tribe is split evenly,” she said. “I’m thankful that the Vineyard population really turned out for us.”

Going forward, Ms. Wright said, it is time for the gaming corporation to be more transparent and inform tribal members of its plans. “It’s been cloak and dagger; we don’t even know who the backers are,” she said. “I certainly was not pleased with the slick and glitzy informational packages sent out to the tribal members.”

Ms. Wright said the packets implied that the tribe’s sovereignty was on the line. “That’s not true,” she said.

On Monday morning, Julianne Vanderhoop, an Aquinnah selectman and tribal member at the forefront of the referendum effort, could not hide her disappointment at the outcome and the fact that not all Island tribal members eligible to vote did so.

She attributed the loss to the voting power of mainland members of the tribe who no longer have any connection to Aquinnah, “this place, this beautiful place, the place where we all came from.”

The notion that anyone would connect any sense of spirituality to the gaming effort, she said, is infuriating. “They don’t see that they shouldn’t do this,” she said.

Ms. Vanderhoop said the campaign to sway voters was personal and at times bitter. She said one individual who lives on the mainland, whom she did not identify, sent a letter to tribal members warning them that future monthly gaming dividends would be at risk if they did not vote in favor of a gaming hall, and he said he would do his best to see that those who signed the referendum did not receive a monthly check.

“We don’t even know who’s financing this,” Ms. Vanderhoop said with respect to any future checks. “We don’t know anything. How can you say that? It’s just a huge leap.”

Ms. Vanderhoop said the general membership remains in the dark with respect to the tribe’s gaming plans and who is behind them. it is time now to dig deeper with respect to the business plan.

“I tried my hardest to get people to come around, to come out for the vote, that’s all I can say — I really did,” she said.

 

Good for the tribe and Aquinnah

A petition circulated last month and signed by 73 members of the tribe set the stage for the Sunday general membership vote on whether to proceed with the bingo hall. The petition stated in part, “We the undersigned, being eligible voters, believe that gaming on ancestral lands will dramatically impact our culture, and believe that the social costs will far outweigh the uncertain economic benefits.”

Opponents faced a high bar in the needed two-thirds majority. The tribe’s membership currently stands at 1,289, according to recent court filings. Of those, 315 live on Martha’s Vineyard, while the majority live in high concentrations within Suffolk, Norfolk, Bristol, Plymouth, Barnstable, and Worcester counties.

Backers of the gaming effort mounted a strenuous and professional lobbying effort in the days leading up to the vote. Buses and vans were available Sunday to transport members to the Steamship Authority terminal in Woods Hole.

On Sunday morning, as tourists arrived and departed in the summer heat, tribal members walked from the 11:30 am ferry to a waiting tour bus hired to transport them to the general membership meeting in Aquinnah. The bus with a capacity of 44 passengers departed nearly full.

A man who identified himself by the name Beating Drum, wearing a red baseball cap that said “Native Pride” and a T shirt with the caption “Honoring Mother Earth,” from Bourne, declined to say how he intended to vote. “I will say one thing,” he said; “if it does come about, it will open up a lot of jobs for people, for nontribal members and tribal members.”

Father and son Wes James, 68, and Jared James, 34, traveled from Plymouth for the vote.

As they waited to board the bus that would take them to Aquinnah, Wampanoag tribal members Wes James, left, and Jared james said a bingo hall in Aquinnah would benefit the tribe. Photo by Nelson Sigelman.
As they waited to board the bus that would take them to Aquinnah, Wampanoag tribal members Wes James, left, and Jared james said a bingo hall in Aquinnah would benefit the tribe. Photo by Nelson Sigelman.

The younger Mr. James did not hesitate to state his opinion. “It’s good for the tribe,” he said of the proposed bingo hall, citing the money it would provide for a variety of social programs.

Mr. James did not share the view of Island tribal members that the Island’s smallest town was the wrong location for a gaming facility. The tribe’s land was the right place and the only place, he said.

“Of course Aquinnah is the right place for it; where else do you have it?” he said. “There’s nowhere else out here. People are going to gamble no matter where it is. You can’t stop people from gambling; they’re going to gamble. Just because you put a building up doesn’t mean you’re going to make them do it … They’re going to leave the Island to go somewhere else to gamble if they want, so why not have it here? Bring some money into the tribe.”

Mr. James disputed the notion that changing the community center to a bingo hall would affect the town. He said it is not a casino and will change “nothing.”

 

Community center languished

The building slated to become a bingo hall was originally intended to be a community center. The 6,500-square-foot building was erected at taxpayer expense just off the entrance road to the tribal lands by two teams of Air Force reservists in 2004 and 2005, as a civil engineering community project. The shell has sat dormant and unfinished since the citizen-soldiers departed.

The Wampanoag tribe's never-completed community center and would-be bingo hall was the subject of a hearing in federal court last Wednesday. Photo by Michael Cummo.
The Wampanoag tribe’s never-completed community center and would-be bingo hall was the subject of a hearing in federal court last Wednesday. Photo by Michael Cummo.

In the past, tribal leaders said they did not have the funds to complete the building. If the community center is not built, the tribe must repay a $1.2 million federal grant.

It was not until Gov. Deval Patrick signed the state’s 2011 expanded gaming law, which authorized up to three licenses for resort casinos in Massachusetts, that the tribe turned its full attention to the unfinished building. Spurned in its quest for a piece of the mainland gaming pie in favor of the Mashpee Wampanoags, in May 2011 the Gay Head tribal membership narrowly voted to turn its unfinished community center into a Class 2 gaming facility.

The gaming vote was unannounced, and revealed a clear split between tribal members who live on the mainland and Island residents. The vote was 21-10 with 7 abstentions. A second vote followed in May 2012 that affirmed the earlier vote, but by a narrower margin.

In December 2013, Governor Patrick filed suit in state court to block the tribe from moving forward with a gaming facility on Martha’s Vineyard. The case was later moved to federal court, and the commonwealth was joined by the town of Aquinnah and the AGHCA.

Class 2 gaming of the type envisioned for Aquinnah encompasses high-stakes bingo, poker, pull-tab cards, and associated electronic games that do not require coin slots. Unlike class 3 gaming, which encompasses all types of gaming and requires a tribe-state agreement, tribes may regulate Class II gaming on their own lands without state authority, as long as the state in which the tribe is located permits that type of gaming.

The heart of the issue is the extent to which the settlement agreement limits the tribe’s ability to build a casino, either in southeastern Massachusetts or on tribal lands on Martha’s Vineyard. Signed by tribal leadership in 1983 and ratified by the state legislature in 1985 and by Congress in 1987, the settlement agreement stipulated that the tribe was subject to local and state laws and zoning regulations in effect at the time.

The legal question still to be settled is whether the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) signed in 1988 trumps the settlement act Congress approved in 1987.

 

Awaiting a ruling

The battle now moves back to federal court. On August 12, U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV held a hearing on cross-motions for summary judgement.

Judge Saylor complimented all parties on their arguments, and said he would come to a decision “as quickly as I can.”

Appearing before Judge Saylor at the Moakley Courthouse, attorneys for the state, the tribe, the Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association, and the town argued for more than an hour about the extent of the tribe’s governance on its land, the intentions of federal lawmakers nearly three decades ago, and whether case law applies to the Aquinnah case.

Judge Saylor said for opponents of tribal gaming to prevail, they would need to distinguish the situation on Martha’s Vineyard from a 20-year-old case where a federal appeals court required that the state of Rhode Island enter into “good faith negotiations” on a gaming compact with the Narragansett Indian Tribe.

The Wampanoag tribe is represented by Scott Crowell, who heads the Crowell Law Office Tribal Advocacy Group, a firm “committed to tribal advocacy and the preservation and furtherance of tribal sovereignty,” according to the group’s website.

Mr. Crowell said Congress’s passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act “implied repeal” of any special restrictions on gaming in the special act.

Aquinnah town counsel Ronald Rappaport argued it would be nonsensical for Congress to supersede a law it passed only a year earlier. Mr. Rappaport also said the town prohibits gaming on the land in question.

In his written arguments, Mr. Rappaport included as a fact that before Congress passed the federal act, the chairman of the Wampanoag Tribal Corporation at the time, who was Gladys Widdiss, testified at a Senate hearing that, “We recognize and accept that no gaming on our lands is now or will in the future be possible.”

Assistant Attorney General Juliana Rice noted the tribe’s agreement with the town stems from a 1974 lawsuit the tribe brought against the town. Ms. Rice said the omnibus Indian gaming law “did nothing to disturb” the agreement that gives the state jurisdiction over the land that was granted to the tribe in the settlement.

Mr. Crowell said the state “refuses” to negotiate a gaming compact in good faith with the Aquinnah Wampanoags, and said Massachusetts has “turned its back on the very opportunity to have a voice” in its gaming plans.

On July 28, Judge Saylor enjoined the tribe from any further construction on the facility.

Tobias Vanderhoop, tribal chairman, told the News Service the tribe could seek to expand beyond an electronic bingo hall, depending how the current project proceeds.

“This is a temporary project,” Mr. Vanderhoop told the State House News Service, following the hearing.

Earlier decisions have not favored the tribe. In a 33-page decision, dated Feb. 27, 2015, Judge Saylor leaned heavily on a decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in December 2004, which found that the tribe was required to seek a building permit in the winter of 2001 when it erected a small shed next to the shellfish hatchery on one of its ancestral lands, known as the Cook property, without a town building permit. The state’s highest court ruled that the tribe, then the only federally recognized tribe in Massachusetts, was not immune from zoning enforcement despite its federal recognition and its claim of sovereign immunity.

 

Pot of gold

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) said it expects to reap almost $400,000 per month — $4.5 million in the first year of operation — from its planned gaming hall, money that is sorely needed to fund a variety of tribal programs, according to court documents.

Tribal Chairman Tobias Vanderhoop said the tribe “currently has no economic base of its own” and is “almost entirely dependent on federal funds to support all governmental operations.”

In a meeting last month called to discuss opposition to the gaming hall, members of the Wampanoag tribe, including two former chairmen of the tribe, Beverly Wright and Donald Widdiss, Aquinnah selectman and tribal member Julianne Vanderhoop, and Kristina Hook, a former member of the tribal council, decried the lack of any information or openness within the tribe about its business plan.

Speakers said that an Aquinnah-based bingo parlor would be an economic and cultural folly.

In previous comments, Clyde W. Barrow, a director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and a national expert on gaming, said the location makes it unlikely that a casino in Aquinnah would be very successful, were it even able to overcome significant legal hurdles.

Mr. Barrow, director of the Northeastern Gaming Research Project, which studies casino gaming in the Northeast, said, “People who are already there and already traveling in that direction might choose to spend some time at the facility, but my perception is that people don’t go to Martha’s Vineyard to gamble.”

 

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Planning board members past and present said it’s necessary to look at how the downtown area functions as a whole.

Navigating the Water Street parking lot in Tisbury can be a challenge. Photo by Michael Cummo.

More than a year ago, Tisbury planners envisioned making significant changes to the Tisbury Water Street parking lot, in conjunction with a proposal by Stop and Shop to rebuild its moribund market building. Opposition to the Stop and Shop proposal and the company’s decision to withdraw from the permitting process left parking lot plans wilting on the shelf.

Despite a 2007 reconfiguration, the lot, sandwiched between the Stop and Shop and police department, continues to suffer from serious traffic congestion, especially during the summer months when ferry traffic is heavy. Cars pull in and out of the upwardly slanted parking spaces, while drivers search for an open space. Many stop and wait at the slightest sign of an opening, causing cars to back up in a line.

Add to the mix heavy pedestrian and bicycle traffic, a public bathroom in the “comfort area” at the far end of the parking lot, and a bicycle rack wedged between a sign and a telephone pole near the lot exit next to the Stop and Shop entrance.

The parking lot was reconfigured in 2007 based on a design by former planning board co-chairman Henry Stephenson. Critics point to tight turning radiuses, particularly for pickup trucks, and confusing two-way traffic patterns. Eight years after the redesign, Mr. Stephenson said he thinks it was a “partial success.”

“It improved it visually, and it improved it functionally in a lot of ways, but it didn’t add to the parking; in fact it reduced it somewhat,” Mr. Stephenson said in a telephone conversation. “So that was sort of the tradeoff. Also I think the final design was a little different from the original plans. The parking got a little more constricted than it was intended to be. There were problems with it ultimately, the way the pieces came together. We could have done better on that.”

He said the main issue with the parking lot is the overlay of of interests, from Stop and Shop to downtown businesses and the ferry. He thinks at this point the issue lies with how the downtown area as a whole functions, rather than one parking lot. He pointed out that all the streets from downtown run toward the ferry.

“It’s essentially a roach motel,” he said. “You can get in but you can’t get out.”

Mr. Stephenson would like to see better use made of the park and ride lot. Reversing the direction of Union Street, now a one-way toward the ferry terminal, would allow for a more efficient shuttle service between the park and ride and downtown, he said.

“If you could make that work, you can add to the total count without overcrowding an already overcrowded situation,” Mr. Stephenson said. “Or if you’re a senior citizen and you want to go to the senior center and ride in and out of town without having to drive and look for a parking spot, it’s convenient to do that.”

He would also like to see better use of the former fire station lot. “What you really want is some more bike and pedestrian and park-like space that connects you to the Veterans Park, but that wouldn’t stop you from having a smaller parking area there for about 20 cars or so,” he said. “Right now it’s kind of just nothing, it’s just a big raw space left over from when they tore the firehouse down.”

He thinks paid parking would also ease congestion and deter people from parking for days while they travel off-Island. “How you do that is a hard question; not everybody wants that,” he said.

At this point, he can see the necessity to revisit the 2007 design.

“I think an update to the parking lot is necessary, but I think that there are an array of considerations, so when you update it you want to have an understanding of how the parking in and out of downtown overall is supposed to work,” Mr. Stephenson said. “Whether or not some of these things can actually work — can you really redirect Union Street, can you really put in a shuttle bus, can you charge for parking downtown or not — then you can decide, you know, maybe we should redo the parking lot this way instead of that way, and take into account bikes and pedestrians while you’re at it.”

 

Union Street redirected

In January 2014 Tisbury was considering a new design of the Water Street parking lot to include more vegetation, wider lanes, safer access for bicyclists and pedestrians, and more parking spaces as key elements. At that time, Stop and Shop proposed consolidating three abutting properties and building a new two-story market, and agreed to include the parking lot redesign and foot the bill as part of the project.

The supermarket proposed a new two-story, 30,000-square-foot market, nearly doubling the size of the current store. It would have included a 42-spot parking lot in an enclosed 16,500-square-foot garage on the ground level, and a loading area at the rear, fronting on the town parking lot. Stop and Shop offered to build a restroom in its building in exchange for removing the town comfort station as a way to free up space for delivery trucks in the municipal lot. The proposal was withdrawn due to concerns over the size, scope, and design of the project, among other issues. The nine-member town parking lot planning and design committee and the Water Street parking lot redesign went down with it.

Tisbury town administrator Jay Grande said the 2014 redesign was contingent on funding from Stop and Shop, which was lost when the market-expansion project fell through. He said the current focus is on better maintaining the existing lot.

“There is a demand for parking, and we created parking to alleviate some of that demand,” he said. “It’s temporary parking and it’s leased parking over at the old fire station site. It’s a traditional village development pattern, so we don’t have any real additional room to create parking in the downtown.”

He said Union Street will be redirected to run away from the ferry and toward Main Street on a trial basis, likely for the last two weeks of September. The trial will be implemented to see if the redirection can improve traffic flow in the downtown area and relieve congestion at the Five Corners intersection, as proposed by the Tisbury traffic safety committee (Police Lt. Eerik Meisner, selectman Tristan Israel, and planning board chairman Dan Seidman).

Mr. Grande added, “The only thing we’re looking at as a permanent improvement is the old fire station site and the prospect of creating connectivity from Cromwell Lane to the fire station site across to the bike trail path.”

 

Seasonal effect

Tisbury planning board chairman Dan Seidman said that there is the possibility the Water Street parking lot design will be revisited sometime in the future. He said issues with traffic and parking downtown depend on seasonality and time of day.

“There’s times of the day when you can go right through Five Corners and it’s not a problem,” he said. That changes when a ferry arrives, he said, and traffic backs up as drivers arriving and departing clog the roadway.

He said that in some ways the town is playing catch-up. “We’re working with, for lack of a better word, an antiquated town setup,” Mr. Seidman said. “This town was set up in the 1800s. It’s not going to function like a brand new town starting from scratch.”

He said the redesign of the steamship parking area and improved policing have helped with traffic in that area this summer.

“I believe by adding that second booth and manning it during peak hours, and taking out that little front section, which was used more by people going to Stop and Shop than by people getting picked up and dropped off, that it does seem to help with the traffic,” he said. “And also the police seem to be more on top of the situation both at where the boats come in and also at Five Corners, and that seems to be helpful.”

He’s not sure if redirecting Union Street will be helpful or harmful.

“Until we do it, I don’t know what the unintended consequences are,” Mr. Seidman said. “Traffic has to go somewhere, right? Whether or not dividing up that traffic works or not, I just don’t know.”

Mr. Seidman said that ultimately if a sufficient number of people thought traffic or parking was something to pursue, the planning board could revisit designs, and see if there is town support.

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The second annual writer’s conference was a memorable day of inspiration.

A packed audience attends the Writing for Laughs panel featuring Nancy Aronie, Fred Barron, Jenny Allen and Arnie Reisman. – Photo by Bella Bennett

The desire to write, and to learn about writing, continues to be a welcome and growing phenomenon here.

As a testament to this fact, several hundred wordsmiths and wannabes packed the Grange Hall in West Tisbury for more than nine hours on Monday at the second Islanders Write (IW) conference, sponsored by Martha’s Vineyard Arts & Ideas magazine and the MVTimes. The event was co-sponsored by the Noepe Center for Literary Arts in Edgartown, Cape and Islands public radio station WCAI (90.1 FM) based in Woods Hole, and Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Vineyard Haven. Rosewater Market had breakfast treats and sandwiches, while Chilmark Coffee Co. donated coffee to a grateful early-morning crowd.

Attendees took full advantage of eight interactive panels and five workshops designed to provide learnings on the art and the craft of writing, in genres ranging from fiction and screenwriting to writing humor and music. Several of the panels offered informed looks at the strategic and business side of getting published, and every session included a question and answer period that often extended beyond the allotted time, as participants were eager for more.

Justen Ahren of Noepe Center for Literary Arts hosted a workshop on establishing a daily writing practice. – Photo by Bella Bennett
Justen Ahren of Noepe Center for Literary Arts hosted a workshop on establishing a daily writing practice. – Photo by Bella Bennett

The Noepe Center sponsored four workshops, including one with Noepe founder Justin Ahren on establishing a daily writing practice; a session with Niki Patton on her Writers Read project, in which authors read their work aloud to others; and workshops with Susan Klein on organizing and writing memoirs and with author Michael West on finding inspiration.

Attendee Laura Reiter had to take a breather around noon. “Tired? I’m exhausted. There is so much here. I have so many questions,” said Ms. Reiter, who traveled from Falmouth for IW 2015. Fortunately, she was standing by the main hall in which authors and panelists were gathered, talking with attendees and answering questions. About half the authors were signing and selling newly published books.

Inside the hall was Terah Young, an emergency room seasonal intern at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. Ms. Young, a Phoenix, Ariz., native, brought her parents and sister to IW 2015. They watched Ms. Young in an animated conversation with panelist John Sundman, an author and old hand at the intricacies of self-publishing.

Ms. Young’s passion for writing includes an ongoing blog and plans for a book. “I write three times a week, and always on Friday. I call it Fabulous Friday,” she said. Writing is personal for Ms. Young, who is battling ovarian cancer for the second time.

“I want to share and to inform people, and it’s great therapy,” she smiled. “What have I learned? First, I have to get an agent. Second, I need to write every day. This is an amazing opportunity to learn. I’m coming back to the Island next summer, and I’m coming back to this [event],” she said.

Ms. Young’s story offers an insight into the commitment many attendees brought to the event. For some, there is a desire to write a memoir to help themselves and others understand the people and life events that are important to them. Others are committed, finally, to scratching a decades-old writing itch. For the people we talked to, the urge to write is based on a need to communicate and understand, and their attendance at IW was part of the process of obtaining the necessary tools to help them get there.

And the help was there. IW 2015 was all about face-to-face interaction with the professionals. Speechifying and pretension were virtually nonexistent, no mean feat considering the high-powered cast. Panel moderators were in sync with their audiences. (You can find nuggets from each panel session below.)

For example, the opening panel was about self-publishing, long the red-headed stepchild of publishing. But moderator Michael West opened with an intonation of self-published authors: Proust, Hemingway, Twain, Hawthorne — a dozen legendary names who did it, including Stephen King and John Grisham, who have left conventional publishing to do it themselves.

Panelists John Sundman, Katherine Scheidler, and Amy Reece provided a bucketful of tips and resources for self-publishing novices, including the need to manage technology and social platforms and to involve professionals in the making of a book. “Martha’s Vineyard is a mecca for resources,” Ms. Scheidler said. She and Ms. Reece observed that illustrators like Heather Goff, writing coaches like Holly Nadler and website auditor Laurie Jones have sharpened author focus on the creative and business side of publishing. Ms. Scheidler noted that writers must develop an aggressive attitude to nurture their creative foundlings. “Be obnoxious, persistent,” she said.

Panelists agreed that self-publishing online resources have come of age, touting Smashwords, Ibook, Xpress, and Book Architecture as good learning sites. Mr. West recommended a read through “Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook” by Helen Sedwick to understand the business side of publishing. Self-published books can be up and marketed on Amazon in one day, he said, noting that books should always be priced at $2.99 or higher, “You get 70 percent on prices at $2.99 and 30 percent below that,” he said.

Additional publishing nuts-and-bolts advice came from a panel on the business of publishing. Successful agent Rosemary Stimola; Dawn Davis, a vice president at Simon and Schuster and at Random House; and Jamie Raab, CEO of Grand Central Publishing, a Hachette Books imprint; joined A-list author Tony Horwitz to contribute bottom-line advice.

From left, Nancy Aronie, Fred Barron, Jenny Allen and Arnie Reisman kept the audience laughing. – Photo by Bella Bennett
From left, Nancy Aronie, Fred Barron, Jenny Allen and Arnie Reisman kept the audience laughing. – Photo by Bella Bennett

Panels presented distinct and different personalities, nowhere more evident than in the back-to-back sessions on Writing for Laughs and Writing a Screenplay. The humor session was a nonstop hoot, sort of managed by moderator Arnie Reisman, charged with herding madcaps like the New Yorker’s Jenny Allen, Seinfeld executive producer Fred Barron, and Chilmark wag and writing coach Nancy Aronie.

The Writing a Screenplay panel might have been subtitled How to Swim With Sharks, as successful survivors Sarah Kernochan, Lucy Dahl, and Amy Holden Jones joined moderator Lawrence Blume for a primer on navigating the often-shifting sands of Hollywood and television screenwriting. The panelists, particularly Amy Holden Jones, did not pull their punches in describing the cinema noir of screenwriting.

Among the more interesting comparisons between genres are the similarities between writing poetry and writing music. It makes sense when you think about it, but our perceptions are that poets are ascetic and angstful and music writers are hard-drinking public performers. Turns out there’s angst for all in both camps, and their creative methodologies are strikingly similar.

Chilmark resident Connie Williams hadn’t planned to attend IW 2015, but had a eureka moment, and was glad her guest Roz Anderson-Flood talked her into it. Ms. Williams emerged from the Developing Character and Voice panel rhapsodizing about her new knowledge.

“Reading old court documents is a tremendous way to give voices to history,” she said, “a way to approach history in personal terms. I want to hear their voices. The [panel] was like a menu of your favorite desserts, all those tastes and flavors.”

Ms. Williams referred to the comments offered by author and moderator Geraldine Brooks, Nicole Gallant, and LaShonda Katrice Barnett, all writers of historical fiction who use ancient court records and correspondence as a way to bring life to characters from antiquity.

Mr. Ahren’s workshop had doubled in participants from the 2014 event, and he was in awe. “I still can’t get over it. The intensity. How passionate people are about writing. It hasn’t diminished at all from last year,” he said.

A refreshed Ms. Reiter pronounced the event a success, and it seemed the sentiment was shared by many. “It should be two days next year. There’s so much here,” said Ms. Reiter.

 

A look at the panels

As promised here are some nuggets of wisdom and comments overheard at IW 2015 that may be helpful, cautionary, or amusing. The entries are listed by event topic.

 

Self-Publishing

(Panel included John Sundman, Katherine Scheidler, and Amy Reece, moderated by Michael West.)

 

“Reviews are important. I got one, and outsold Tom Clancy on Amazon (for a few days).” — John Sundman

 

“Having a dry cellar is important. Your books will live there for years.” — Michael West

 

“Finding your market is difficult. I wrote a book for middle schoolers, but it was set in the Sixties, and 50-year-olds bought it.” — Amy Reece

 

“You have to be aggressive and obnoxious. Can’t be discouraged. Take the grains of positivity.” — Katherine Scheidler

 

“The publishing marketplace tells you how they want to be approached. Find a book like yours, and go to that publisher.” — Amy Reece

 

Writing Poetry

(Panel included Rich Michelson, Jennifer Tseng, and Donald Nitchie, moderated by Justen Ahren.)

 

“There is no such thing as writer’s block. Just lower your standards.” — Richard Michelson

 

“Inspiration finds you when you are working.” — Justen Ahren

 

“It’s important to get a first line; sometimes that opens up the entire poem for me. I know I have a poem when that happens.” — Don Nitchie

 

“The beauty and the sadness of the world is always here. We don’t always notice.” — Jennifer Tseng

 

“When you can’t get started, steal a line from a poem you like. All poets do it because it works.” — several poets

 

Writing for Laughs

(Panel included Fred Barron, Nancy Aronie, and Jenny Allen, moderated by Arnie Reisman.)

 

“A lot of things are funny when the stakes are high. Humor and suffering are so very close.” — Jenny Allen

 

“There’s a connection between humor and tragedy. You have a choice to see it as humorous.” — Arnie Reisman

 

“If you decide early in life that you are not a victim, [humor] is a way to control fear. Funny is a coping mechanism, not a tool to pull out when you need it.” — Fred Barron

 

“You can’t teach funny.” — Nancy Aronie

 

The Business of Publishing

(Panel included Rosemary Stimola, Jamie Raab, and Dawn Davis, moderated by Tony Horwitz.)

 

“Seventy percent of books that are published lose money.” — Dawn Davis

 

“I want to know book editors as people. Where they grew up, their hobbies. I know what books they will relate to, who to bring a book to.” — Rosemary Stimola

 

“[Book marketing] used to be straightforward. Then social media happened. You need to have your ducks in a row before you meet with publishers.” — Jamie Raab

 

“You need an editor to fight for your book. I find I have to sell a book in-house first. If everyone’s on board, the chances for success are greater.” — Jamie Raab

 

“You never know what book will overcome you.” — Dawn Davis

 

“I like the eternal optimism of this group.” — Tony Horwitz

 

Developing Character and Voice

(Panel included Geraldine Brooks, Nicole Galland, and LaShonda Katrice Bennett.)

 

“In the end, you have to trust yourself.” — LaShonda Katrice Barnett

 

“Researching historical fiction is time travel.” — Geraldine Brooks

 

“It’s like entering a dream state. I loved being in 1894.” — LaShonda Katrice Barnett

 

“I wanted the Prophet Nathan to be my narrator character. He wasn’t having it.” — Geraldine Brooks

 

“Writing a novel about your relationship involves managed negotiations.” — Nicole Galland

 

“I guess I wasn’t that sensitive, or I would have picked a different character.” — Nicole Galland

 

“The trend is to short books. “Moby Dick” would never be published today.” — LaShonda Katrice Barnett

 

“Cut the whales!” — Geraldine Brooks

 

Dialogue Writing Workshop

(Quotes by John Hough Jr.)

 

“Interior dialogue is important, but never, ever use ‘I can’t believe this is happening to me.”’

 

“People use contractions in real life, so they belong. Exceptions are foreign speakers, who tend not to use contractions, or for emphasis, as in “I do not know.”’

 

“Use dialogue tags to identify who’s speaking. You can read an entire page of dialogue and always know who is speaking.”

 

“Dialogue is supple. It conveys facial expression and body language. ‘I despise you’ requires neither an exclamation point nor a description of a glare or eyes widening.”

 

“George V. Higgins said, ‘Dialogue IS character.”’

 

“Watching movies won’t help you write fiction. Actors can convey meaning to words, like Marlon Brando saying “Wow” in “On the Waterfront.” Don’t ever use “wow” in a novel. Ever.”

 

Writing Lyrics that Sing

(Panel included Jemima James, Willy Mason, and Shawn Barber, moderated by Matthew Siffert.)

 

“I can’t convince songs to come, but when I write regularly, I’m fully prepared when they show up.” — Willy Mason.

 

“Music is different, because it can get people up and moving. In church, music raises people to the spiritual realm.” — Jemima James

 

“Melody and rhythm have a sharper point than novels and poems. We have more tools.” — Shawn Barber

 

“Happiness and joy can be as good motivators for us as angsty and sad, but we are conditioned to think that sad produces better songs. If I write truthfully, happy is just as fulfilling.” — Matthew Sifford

 

Censorship, Free Speech, and Journalism

(Panel included Christi Parsons, Jon Randal, and Peter Oberfest, moderated by Lucinda Franks.)

 

“Since the 1970s, I never was censored. It’s changed in the past 10 years. Some say we live in a post-Constitutional world. In 2007, I wrote a book about my father, a spy in the American OSS during World War II. I was followed and approached by two men in preppy clothes who wanted to talk about my book.” — Lucinda Franks

 

“I always worked overseas, always dealt with censorship. It was a cat and mouse game. Egypt probably had censorship in Cleopatra’s time. Censorship is a way to keep track of things.” — Jon Randal

 

“If you get a DUI on Martha’s Vineyard, it will not be kept out of the paper.” — Peter Oberfest

“I don’t think in terms of censorship, but how hard it is to do the job. The hardest thing is to get information out of government. They are image-obsessed on Capitol Hill. Many have staff and PR whose job is to make the boss look good.” — Christi Parsons

 

“Effectively, the Freedom of Information Act no longer exists.” — Lucinda Franks

 

“Why are we falling back into antiespionage acts of World War I? Since 9/11, we live in a climate of professional fear. When societies get scared, they do things that aren’t very wise.” — Jon Randal

 

“Self-censorship becomes an issue when privacy is involved. We don’t compromise children or helpless people. No advertiser or public agency is large enough to pressure us. They just stop talking to us.” — Peter Oberfest


“Many things we worry about today didn’t exist 15 years ago. Newspaper [work] led to reform. I get that’s a quaint idea today.” — Jon Randal