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The JV team had better luck and defeated their counterparts 54 to 46.

Senior captain Tim Roberts drives down the baseline past a Sandwich defender.

Updated, 7 pm, January 7

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School boys varsity basketball team dug themselves a deep first-quarter hole from which they could not recover, and lost to a quality Sandwich High School team on Friday night at Pacheco Gym in Oak Bluffs by a score of 72-57.

Cole Houston rounds a defender and dribbles towards the hoop. – Photo by Michael Cummo
Cole Houston rounds a defender and dribbles towards the hoop. – Photo by Michael Cummo

Aided by Vineyard turnovers on the team’s first four possessions, the Blue Knights rained generally wide-open three-pointers early — 6 of 13 treys in the first half — building leads of 7-0, 10-2, and 15-4 before the Vineyarders settled down. The teams were even the rest of the way, with the Knights picking up extra buckets in garbage time over the final minute.

The Vineyarders fell to 2-3, and the Blue Knights improved to 4-1 on the season, led by guards Joey Downes (30 points, 19 in the first half) and Scotty Reels, whose hands-y defense frustrated the Purple offensively. Vineyarder captain Tim Roberts drew special attention, limiting his opportunities to drive to the bucket. Tim was the leading Vineyarder scorer with 14 points, converting several drives into three-point plays by drawing fouls on his drive.

Boys-BBall_Alex-GordonBeck-1.jpgSenior center Mac Sashin was next, with 10 points from the low post. The slimmed-down seven-footer also hauled down 14 rebounds, including several critical offensive boards.

The 2014-’15 Vineyard team appears to be finding its identity. There is a new look for fans acclimated to the 2013-’14 multiple-scoring threat of Deshawn James, Tim Roberts, and Kane Araujo, with Alex Gordon-Beck and Navardo Anderson making big contributions.

Coach Mike Joyce is faced with replacing the offense of 2014 graduates James, Araujo, and Anderson, and limiting opponents’ inside opportunities on defense.

Seniors Roberts and Gordon-Beck are back doing their thing, and Coach Joyce has integrated Mac Sashin’s low-post talent more on offense. Perhaps notably, freshman guard Cole Houston was on the court in crunch time on Friday night, and contributed via outside shots and a willingness to drive to the basket.

And a benefit of a senior-heavy squad is that this is a talented, tournament-tested group, including captains Matt Stone and Mikey Musell and seniors Ben Poole, Jack Yuen, and David Macias.

“No question that the team we’ll be at the end of the year will be very different from the one we’re starting with. We have to play defense,” Coach Joyce said following the game. “We gave up 45 points in the first half. Can’t have that. We played them strong in the second half. And Sandwich is a good team.

“We’re going to depend on Tim, Alex, and Mac for scoring, and we have a couple of freshmen [Cole Houston and Ricardo Andrade] who are earning minutes and can help the more experienced core of players. So it’s going to be an interesting season,” he said.

Earlier in the afternoon on Friday, the Vineyarder junior varsity squad (2-1) defeated the Sandwich JVs (3-2) by a 54-46 score. The Vineyarders erupted with 21-point fourth quarter that snapped a 33-33 tie after three periods.

The Vineyarders play next at Weston High School (Jan. 6) before traveling to Coyle & Cassidy (Jan. 13) for a key Eastern Athletic Conference matchup.

 

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified senior Ricardo Andrade as Jack Yuen in a photo caption.

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About 60 people stepped off in a New Year's Day march organized by the NAACP of Martha's Vineyard. Richard Shephard and Joyce Rickson hold a sign, one of many, that proclaimed "All Life Matters." — Photo by Michael Cummo

Some people held signs that read “Black Lives Matter,” some held signs that said “All Lives Matter,” and three people, that included Oak Bluffs police chief Erik Blake, carried a large sign that said “Police Lives Matter.”

As a group of about 60 people gathered at Five Corners in Vineyard Haven in preparation for a march through downtown Vineyard Haven on New Year’s Day, Chief Blake, president of the NAACP of Martha’s Vineyard, sponsor of the march, asked rhetorically, “Isn’t that a mixed message?”

Chief Blake answered his own question. “Absolutely not. We celebrate the fact that we’re all different. That’s a real clear message.”

From left, Colleen Morris, Laurie Perry, ML Terrelonge and Mrs. Stewart hold  signs up to passing cars.
From left, Colleen Morris, Laurie Perry, ML Terrelonge and Ardelia Stewart hold signs up to passing cars.

The march was organized against the background of the controversy and protests surrounding the high profile deaths of two unarmed black men by police officers, one in Ferguson, Missouri, and the other on Staten Island, New York, and the decision of grand juries not to indict either officer.

Shortly after noon the marchers stepped off walking behind a Tisbury police cruiser. Several police officers were on hand to redirect traffic, and another cruiser followed the marchers. Under sunny skies the bundled up group walked up State Road, onto Main Street and ended at Union Street. The wind chill factor was 20 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

Chief Blake said he was pleased at the turnout on such a chilly day. He said the idea for the march came during a discussion at a recent NAACP meeting.

“We certainly don’t have our heads in the sand,” Chief Blake said. “The protests (elsewhere) have gotten ugly, I think the messages got skewed. We want to highlight that the silent majority of protestors is just that, it’s silent, but we want change. We want to see real progress.”

Chief Blake said he was surprised when a grand jury did not indict New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo for manslaughter in the case of Eric Garner who police arrested for selling loose cigarettes on a Staten Island street corner. The grand jury evidence included a widely circulated video of Officer Pantaleo and several other police officers arresting Mr. Garner.

“I actually thought they would come down with an indictment of manslaughter,” Chief Blake said. “Just looking at it, I thought for sure they would. The fact that he used a choke hold and the guy ended up dying, I figured they would at least let it go to trial.”

In Ferguson, police officer Darren Wilson scuffled with, and then fatally shot Michael Brown, an 18-year-old robbery suspect. A grand jury decided not to indict the police officer. Both cases sparked massive protests across the nation under the rallying cry, “black lives matter.”

Asked if the Ferguson police officer should have been indicted, Chief Blake said it was the grand jury’s job to make that decision.

“The questions are being raised, what was the relationship like between the law enforcement community and the minority community in that city that made this spark so out of control so fast,” Chief Blake said. “Hopefully, our relationships between law enforcement and the community here, that if something like that happens, we would put the brakes on it. I use the word legitimacy. People follow the law because they believe its legitimate. They trust in their police department and their government because they believe it’s legitimate. If they don’t believe that, then you’re going to have what you have in Ferguson.”

Tensions in New York City and elsewhere escalated on December 20, when a man with a history of mental illness and gun crimes ambushed and killed two New York City police officers sitting in a cruiser. Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who later took his own life, cited the deaths of Mr. Garner and Mr. Brown in social media messages prior to the shootings, as a motive for his actions.

Chief Blake said the deaths of the two officers spurred him to help organize the march. On Friday, Chief Blake helped carry a banner that said, “Police lives matter.”

Bren Grandizio holds a sign that reads, "Police Lives Matter." — Photo by Michael Cummo
Bren Grandizio holds a sign that reads, “Police Lives Matter.” — Photo by Michael Cummo

 

As she waited to step off at the head of the march Thursday, NAACP vice president Carrie Tankard of Oak Bluffs said she would march in solidarity with protestors across the nation.

“Ours is going to be smooth, quiet, and peaceful,” Ms. Tankard said. “It has happened so much, I’m just tired of it. Like Dr. King said, this is what happens when you feel as though you’re not being heard. You protest. What else can you do.”

The marchers represented a diverse group, and included people from several Island towns, permanent, as well as seasonal residents, children, older residents who marched the route with the help of canes, and most every age in between.

“It’s such great diversity here,” said Bill Adams, a longtime seasonal resident of Edgartown who will move to the Island permanently soon. “It’s not a bunch of crazy people, it’s a bunch of concerned people, out to say somebody’s got to pay attention.”

I think it’s great that it’s coming from the chief of police and the NAACP together, because the solution is together,” said Peter Palches of Oak Bluffs.

Like many of the marchers, Ardelia Stewart, a seasonal resident of Vineyard Haven, has had experiences which shaped her view of community relationships with police officers, and prompted her to turn out for Thursday’s march. While she said she has never experienced harassment on Martha’s Vineyard, a long ago incident near her Pennsylvania home still bothers her.

“I can remember my husband got promoted to vice-president of an international pharmaceutical company,” Ms. Stewart, an African American, said. “In celebration, we bought a new car. We went up (to Princeton University) to take our son out to dinner, and as we’re going up the highway, we’re pulled over. For no reason, the policeman had the nerve to ask us, ‘What do you do for a living?’ It had nothing to do with the car being pulled over. He said, ‘I just wanted to know what you did to afford a car like this.’ It left a sour taste in your mouth. No matter how insignificant some might think it is, I still remember it.”

She said she was glad to see people marching, with the support and cooperation of local police officers. “When you look at the diversity on this Island, you understand what it means, all lives do matter. To come out on a cold day like today, layered, hardly able to move, it’s great. Police policy, law enforcement policy has to change. It just cannot go on. This thing that racism is over, or it’s being handled, no it’s not. Until we change attitudes in the home, where it starts, nothing will change, it will just be bubbling to the surface every once in a while. I’m no less than anybody else, and my children aren’t, and we’ve all been subject to some harassment. It’s not fair. We’re taxpayers, we’re citizens. But I felt good about coming out here.”

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Participants in the Polar Plunge enjoy a dry moment before charging into the water.
It was a mad dash into Nantucket Sound.
It was a mad dash into Nantucket Sound.

On New Year’s day, a hardy group of more than a dozen men, women and young people dove into the icy waters of Nantucket Sound off State Beach in Oak Bluffs. It was not an example of mass insanity but was the fourth annual Woodland Polar Plunge, and it was all for a good cause.

The event, organized by Rob Baker, owner of the Woodland Grill in Vineyard Haven, raises money for the Wounded Warrior Project. Family and friends sponsor each participant. Last year, the group raised just under $400 and this year the Plunge raised more than $800 for the charity that helps returning soldiers recover from their wounds.

It was no swim for the faint hearted.
It was no swim for the faint hearted.

Most of those who ran down the beach sprinted into the surf and sped right back out into the warm embrace of towels. Only a few participants stayed in the water for longer than 20 seconds.

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that this year’s plunge raised almost $500. In fact, the swim raised more than $800.

Deputy Josh Little stands beside a calibrated breathalyzer machine at the Dukes County Jail and House of Correction in Edgartown.

A glance at the court report published weekly in The Times reveals that arrests for operating a vehicle under the influence (OUI) are commonplace on Martha’s Vineyard. Although the list of arraignments and dispositions appear as brief snippets in a list on a page, the consequences to the people whose names appear are far-reaching.

There is personal embarrassment for individuals who in many cases have never been arrested, significant financial cost, and the inconvenience of a loss of license to drive.

“A simple OUI is a year in hell,” Island attorney Jennifer Marcus told The Times.

Ms. Marcus is a court-appointed defense attorney and she also maintains a private practice on the Island. She estimates that 75 percent of her caseload is OUI arrests, and the vast majority of the people arrested had no prior criminal record.

“They don’t see themselves as a criminal, they’re just regular people who made a bad choice,” she said. “So many of them say they knew they were on the edge, but they drove anyway.”

Ms. Marcus said her clients endure consuming regret and shame when they appear in court and see their name in the paper. Over the long term, consequences lead to considerable complications. “Losing the ability to drive in a rural community like the Vineyard is life-changing,” she said. “What do you do when you drive kids to school and you live down a dirt road? There’s also a message it sends to the children you’re raising, and to their friends, and the parents who raise them.”

“The license ramifications are gigantic,” Robert Moriarty, an attorney at Edgartown firm of McCarron, Murphy, Vukota, told The Times. “It could easily cost you 10 grand and it’s a huge pain,” he said.“I try to make it as quick and as painless as possible, but it’s the district attorney’s job to prosecute and they do it well.”
According to Massachusetts law, “The maximum legal concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream (BAC) for an adult operating a motor vehicle is 0.08. For a minor under the age of 21, this limit is 0.02.

Hoping that their OUI arrests might spare others from making the same mistake, three Islanders arrested for OUI told their stories to The Times on the condition they not be identified by their real names.

A date ends badly
“I was on a date in Oak Bluffs and I drank more than usual because I was nervous,” Margaret of Tisbury said. A successful professional in her late 20s with a penchant for preppy, Margaret looks more like an L.L. Bean model than a lawbreaking citizen who until last month, was assigned to a probation officer. “I knew I was probably over the limit, but you do it enough times, you see friends and co-workers do it, you forget,” she said, shaking her head at her flawed logic. “You also think it’s safer on the Island because you know the roads so well, you’re not going very far and you can’t go very fast.

“I was doing about 40 [miles per hour] going over the [Lagoon Pond] bridge, when I saw the police car, sitting where they always are on Beach Road. I slammed on the brakes because there’s that short stretch where it’s 20 miles an hour. Then he pulled out behind me…” she said, her voice trailing off. “He asked if I’d been drinking, I said yes and started crying. I can’t lie.”

Margaret quickly found herself handcuffed and sitting on the rock-hard plastic seat in the back of a police cruiser. The breathalyzer machine at the Dukes County jail malfunctioned so she was taken to the hospital for a blood test. She failed. After a night in jail, she used her one phone call to get a taxi. “I was too ashamed to call anyone,” she said.

Margaret didn’t hire an attorney. “It didn’t make financial sense to hire a lawyer to try to beat the system. I was guilty. I’m not a liar,” she said.

Even though her probation officer reminded her that jail time was a possibility and strongly suggested she hire a lawyer, Margaret went before the judge on her own.

“I’ve never been so nervous in my life,” she said. “I don’t even remember what the judge said.”

In addition to a suspended license, Margaret had to take, at her own expense, a 16-week OUI offender class at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. She had 19 classmates.

“Most of the people said they were very close to home, and that though they had been drinking, they didn’t think they were legally drunk,” she said. There are no hearing officers on the Island, which meant repeated trips to the Cape, without a car. “My aunt met me at the boat and drove me to South Yarmouth,” she said.

“The first time I went on a Friday and they were closed. The second time I went in the afternoon and couldn’t get in to see him because the line was so long. The third time I got there early in the morning and waited all day to see him. I missed three days of work to talk to someone for five minutes.”

Because she also had a marked lane violation, common in OUI arrests, Margaret had to go to an eight-hour driver retraining course off Island as well. “It was so dumb and it could have been much worse,” she said. “I figured for the amount of money I spent, I could have gone out five nights a week for the past year, taken a taxi home, and still had money left over.”

An evening of music ends on a bad note
Like Margaret, Paul, a semi-retired carpenter from West Tisbury in his mid-60s, had never been in trouble with the law before his OUI arrest this summer. Like Margaret, Paul was pulled over on Beach Road, just after crossing the Lagoon Pond drawbridge around 1 am. Like Margaret, Paul had just come from Oak Bluffs, where he listened to a band at the Ritz cafe. But the similarities end there.

Paul said he was not over the legal limit, and that his consumption totaled three beers over the course of five hours. On the advice of a lawyer friend who was in the car when he was pulled over, Paul refused to take the breathalyzer test administered at the jail. By law, a refusal is an automatic six-month license suspension.

“One of the things I’ve discovered is the court system is incredibly inefficient,” Paul told The Times. “Since the arrest, I’ve been to court four times. Each time I had to wait five to six hours, and each time my time in front of a judge was about 30 seconds and so far the only thing I have to show is a trial date in February.”

Paul said he’s fortunate that he’s semi-retired, but he had to give up work he’d secured before the arrest. “I can’t take all my tools on the bus,” he said. The loss of license is also going to affect a long-planned vacation. “My wife and I were going to fly to Oregon and drive down the coast all the way to Los Angeles,” he said. “I’m not sure what we’ll do now.”

Paul doesn’t regret the snap decision to refuse the breathalyzer, but the shame of going to jail in handcuffs sent him into a spiral. “I’m not a depressive person, but I went into a deep funk for a while after spending the night in jail,” he said. “I replayed every negative thing I’ve ever done since elementary school.”

Paul said despite the enormous inconveniences, and the cost of the OUI, which he estimates to be $4,000 so far, some positives have come out of the experience. “My wife and I spend a lot more time together than we used to. She’s been great about all this. Even when I called her from jail at three in the morning.”

While Paul’s spirits have lifted, his future is still fraught with uncertainty. “I don’t know what to expect,” he said. “Hopefully this will all be over in February.”

Twice bitten
When Chilmarker James, 50, got his first OUI charge, he was certain he was under the limit. “We were at a wedding up-Island and I had maybe four beers over three hours,” he said. “There had been some noise complaints so the police were just waiting for people to leave. They pulled me over, said they detected a strong odor of alcohol, and asked if I had been drinking. I said I had, and they arrested me.”

Fast forward 20 years. James is known for his cautious driving. “People joked that I drove like a grandmother,” he said.

“He did drive like a grandmother,” his ex-wife of 11 years told The Times. “The whole time we were married, I never saw James drink irresponsibly and drive.”

But recently, after a night of dancing and four glasses of wine at an Edgartown establishment, James chose to drive home. He’d passed a cab stand on the way to his car, but dismissed the idea, reasoning the fare to his Chilmark home would be at least $40.

“I did a rolling stop, the cop pulled me over, then my life began to unravel,” he said.

The consequences of a second OUI are considerably more onerous, not the least of which is 30 days mandatory jail time, unless a judge grants an alternative disposition which commutes the sentence to a two week stint at an inpatient rehab facility. The second OUI carries a fine of up to $10,000 and loss of license for two years.

“Because I refused the breathalyzer, my license will be suspended for anywhere from six months to three years,” James said. “I’ve already spent $3,000 dollars on a lawyer, there’s another $1,000 for drunk driving school and I’ll spend my two weeks of vacation time at inpatient rehab, which I also pay for. And when I get my license back, I’ll have to pay three grand for a breath monitor,” he said, referring to the ignition interlock that requires the driver blow into a breathalyzer to start their car.

James implored Islanders to make the choice he dearly wishes he’d made. “I can’t stress  this enough, if you’re looking at your car and wondering if you’re over the limit, don’t mess around, get your ass in a taxi. Beg, borrow or steal the fare to get home. If you live up-Island, they’ll charge you top dollar but at the end of the day, that cab will cost less than one percent of what you pay for an OUI.”

Serve and protect
“I’d like to think people are a little smarter than they were 10 years ago,” Oak Bluffs Police Lieutenant Tim Williamson told The Times. “More people are using designated drivers and cabs, and the safe rides program at the high school does a good job.”

Mr. Williamson said the majority of the OUI arrests in Oak Bluffs are people who are well above the .08 limit. Many are repeat offenders. “It doesn’t take a lot to reach .08,” he said.

Rather than use checkpoints, Mr. Williamson said his department does targeted enforcement. “We send officers out every night specifically looking for impaired drivers. None of my officers take pleasure in arresting people, but we have our job to do. It can be tough in a small community when you know the person or you have mutual friends. Years ago, police could decide to give someone a ride home but that all changed when police in Ware gave a guy a ride home and he went back to his car and had a head-on collision that killed three people. There’s no discretion anymore. If you’re over .08, we have to arrest you. But it’s better to be arrested than to hurt someone in an accident, or worse.”

By the numbers
Island police departments reported the following number of OUI arrests to date in 2014: Oak Bluffs, 56 OUI arrests ( 41 in 2013); Edgartown, 37 OUI alcohol arrests, 1 for drugs; (33 in 2013) Tisbury, 50 OUI arrests (28 in 2013); West Tisbury, 6 (19 in 2013); Chilmark, 4 OUI arrests; Aquinnah, no arrests in 2014 to date and none in 2013.

“Our numbers are going down because people are taking cabs, unlike years in the past,” West Tisbury police chief Dan Rossi said.

 

five Islanders shared their thoughts on the last day of 2014. – Photo by Michael Cummo

Goodbye to 2014, with a glance at the year about to end and a look ahead to the fresh one.

Again this year, The Martha’s Vineyard Times invited several Island leaders and community members — Mark London, Daniel J. Seidman, Patricia “Paddy” Moore, Janet Hefler, and Nathaniel Horwitz — to consider some of the accomplishments and challenges of 2014, and to look at what may lie ahead in 2015.

Mark London

Here’s a year-end review for my last full year at the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, before I retire next summer.

Mark London will retire from the MVC. —Photo by Michael Cummo
Mark London will retire from the MVC. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Since the Commission’s regulatory role generates the most newspaper ink and coffee shop discussions, let’s start with Stop and Shop’s proposed new store on Water Street in Vineyard Haven. The review of this complex, controversial project extended over many months, with delays from the town’s efforts to design the adjacent municipal parking lot and traffic consultants attempting to resolve the traffic analysis.

Public opinion polarized, with some lauding it as a great project with no problems, and others suggesting it boded disaster for the Island. The reality was perhaps in between; the final proposal resolved many issues, though others remained outstanding. At the last public hearing in May, most Tisbury selectmen and planning board members came out against the project, and Stop and Shop withdrew. Had they not withdrawn, half the Island would probably have been upset with whatever decision the Commission made.

There is often some misunderstanding about the MVC’s project reviews. Before some public hearings have even closed, I read complaints about “the MVC” being “against” a project when actually it was citizens testifying or, occasionally, a single Commissioner asking for clarification or making an aside. The Commission only makes decisions after hearings close and members deliberate. I invite people to read final decisions; I think they’ll find them well reasoned.

The MVC’s regulatory authority serves the Island well, despite the odd misunderstanding or hiccup. The Commission rarely denies a project. But whether it’s a bowling alley in a downtown neighborhood or a subdivision in significant habitat, the Commission’s review and setting of conditions make projects much better, minimizing impacts on neighbors, the community, and the environment to an extent not otherwise possible.

The MVC’s extraordinary regulatory authority has been tremendously important in preserving the Island’s character and environment, something most of us just take for granted. Simply knowing they might be subject to MVC review leads most development professionals to carefully deal with issues like water quality, traffic, scenic values, neighborhood scale, affordable housing, habitat, and noise.

But most of the Commission’s eight professionals’ work is in their wide-ranging planning efforts, usually in collaboration with or in support of towns.

For example, the Commission recently completed a study of zoning tools towns can use to promote production of affordable housing and other housing types unmet by the market, including housing for young families and the elderly. This year, the MVC completed an update of the Island’s Hazard Mitigation Plan, which identifies public infrastructure, community facilities, and private property at risk from potential natural disasters from major storms to wildfire, including sea-level rise and other effects of climate change; it identifies ways to reduce these risks and makes towns eligible for FEMA funding for mitigation projects. Also this year, the Commission began an effort to protect scenic roads, and continues to do extensive water quality testing and planning.

What’s ahead? The two biggest challenges are likely to be water quality in coastal ponds and sea-level rise.

The MVC is already working with town committees to strategize the best way to deal with the huge challenge of how to deal with excessive nitrogen, mostly from wastewater, which is polluting our coastal ponds. This could end up costing hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming generation. We are coordinating with our sister agency the Cape Cod Commission to take best advantage of their recent well-financed research.

For climate change, thanks to the MVC’s 1976 designation of the Coastal District of Planning Concern, the Vineyard doesn’t have the rows of high-rises along the water’s edge, typical of other communities, to be threatened by sea-level rise. However, we’ll have to figure out how to deal with older low-lying streets and buildings, such as Water Street in Vineyard Haven and Dock Street in Edgartown.

The Commission should also continue to help the community address a host of other issues such as unmet housing needs, our aging population, scenic roads, traffic, on- and off-road bicycle accommodations, and the need to strengthen and balance the economy.

It is impossible for the Commission and executive director to meet everyone’s expectations about what to do, or about whether the MVC should take a strong leadership role or wait to be asked for help by towns. The Commissioners are your elected and appointed friends and neighbors, making the best decisions they can. Aristotle said, “To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”

We should all be grateful for the enormous effort of the Commissioners who subject themselves to criticism and put in so many volunteer hours, all for the benefit of our community. After working nonstop for 50 years, I’m looking forward to having my evenings free.

Mark London has been at the helm of the Island’s powerful regional permitting and planning agency since 2002. A former city planner for Montreal, Canada, in October Mr. London announced he would retire at the end of the summer. The search for his replacement has begun.

Daniel J. Seidman

Dan Seidman
Dan Seidman

We live in a unique place. Being on an Island insulates and separates us from the mainland of America. Our days are filled with the usual assortment of activities, but in our own microcosm. Life takes on a rhythm. Hours pass, seasons change, and another year has ended. An adage comes to mind: Life is what happens while we plan. And on this Island, we love to debate, study, and plan. After this happens, a report is generated. Much commotion ensues, and a new piece of shelfware is created. If you are not familiar with the term, it is a study/report that sits on a shelf; more precisely, after all the analysis and work, generally at substantial cost, it takes up space and never gets implemented.

Sometimes, it seems, studies are simply an exercise in “cover your derriѐre.” Then, it can be said, we did something, when actually nothing has been done. It is frustrating. Time is a valuable commodity. Asking individuals to serve and volunteer their hours and days for repeat purposes is not productive. For instance, the towns are evaluating what needs to be done about nitrogen loading on our ponds and waters around Martha’s Vineyard. We already know. A report from the early 1980s outlined the problem and solutions. Each town taking a whack at it is nonsensical and an inefficient use of scarce resources. Solutions are expensive, but an all-Island response makes a daunting task manageable.

In Tisbury, a traffic committee was formed to study Five Corners, probably the most studied area on the Island, to come up with recommendations and solutions for the congestion. Again, a narrative had been generated in 1991, and prior to that as well. Of course, most of the committee members had no knowledge of the prior reports! Here’s a shocker: There is nothing new under the sun for suggestions and/or remedies. You have a confined area with a massive volume being deposited hourly due to the ferry. Further constraining issues are the post office and Cumby’s, both busy locations. We want to solve a seasonal and time-dependent problem with broad and universal strokes, a difficult task at best. Reasonable options with existing infrastructure are few. But they do exist. Solutions have been expressed in the past, only to die as shelfware, choking on the accumulated dust of decades!

On a positive note for all Islanders and tourists alike, the Steamship Authority is working with Tisbury to come up with options for circulation on their property. We are hopeful this will assist with the issues at Five Corners. But whatever the report states, it takes the will of the people to implement ideas beyond the Steamship location.

While enviable in its mission, the Island Plan, written in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, was much talked-about, but little was accomplished.  We did get the Vineyard Transit Authority, that was a benefit; but the vast majority of the plan remains incomplete. We all know the problems and issues. How to solve them is also known. It all revolves or devolves around dollars. From there, it takes time, work, and money. Someone once said, “It is not a problem if money can solve it!” And this rings true.

Another step toward working together is the establishment of an all-Island planning board. Tisbury initiated the process. Chilmark, West Tisbury, and Edgartown have expressed interest in meeting. Oak Bluffs and Aquinnah have upcoming presentations. The hope is to meet quarterly starting in January 2015. All towns have similar planning issues. Using all the expertise available benefits the island. Perhaps this is the first baby step and a model for all towns to work together.

You have all heard the joke, “The only thing Islanders hate more than the Martha’s Vineyard Commission is one another’s towns!” Some problems are individual town issues, but most are interrelated. Cooperation between town governments and boards is an idea some fear. Yet working together beats working alone. You cannot remove the character of a town. Oak Bluffs has the Tabernacle and the painted cottages, Aquinnah the cliffs, Edgartown the stately captains’ houses, Tisbury the working waterfront, West Tisbury the Agriculture Fair, and Chilmark Lucy Vincent Beach and the quaint fishing village of Menemsha. Each town is unique. Combining our efforts to work together does not negate a town’s specialness.

Choosing to live here does impose some harsher conditions than other places. An enormous expenditure of effort is required each day. We all do the best we can to be happy and healthy. Rents are high; gas is precious; home ownership is pricey. Who wants to advocate for change, or, even if they do, has the energy? Life is all-consuming at times. But if we marshal our forces and work together toward common goals, we can continue to live in our own piece of paradise, sharing available resources to the benefit of all.

Daniel J. Seidman is chairman of the Tisbury planning board and is deeply involved in affordable/workforce housing solutions. He is treasurer of the Dukes County Regional Housing Trust and the Island Housing Trust, and a board member of Vineyard Power. He has run his own business, Seidman Investment Portfolios, a money-management and financial-planning firm, since 1987. He first came to the Island as a child in the 1960s. He lives here with his wife Bethany, and they raised their two children, Jessica and David, on the Island.

Patricia “Paddy” Moore

Paddy Moore. – Photo by Michael Cummo
Paddy Moore. – Photo by Michael Cummo

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus was the god of beginnings and transitions, of passages and ending; he is shown with two faces, looking to the past and to the future. Today, as co-chairman of the Healthy Aging Task Force, I do the same and describe some of the challenges that Island elders faced last year and those they will face in 2015. How we respond is important to the whole Island community.

The Healthy Aging Task Force was originally formed as a sub-committee of the Dukes County Health Council. In 2014, with the strong support of the MV Donors Collaborative, we became a vibrant coalition involving over 75 individuals and 36 organizations who came together to research and analyze what the elder population explosion means for the Vineyard, to identify potential solutions, and to develop plans and engage partners to meet the challenges.

The biggest — and least visible — challenge of 2014 was a demographic phenomenon that started on January 1, 2011, when 10,000 Americans began turning 65 every day. This will continue for 19 years. This extraordinary growth of elders 65 and over — the baby boomers — will impact our island community much more than the rest of Massachusetts or the country as a whole. The 65-plus population of the Vineyard is predicted to grow 134 percent by 2030, while the state grows only 61 percent and the county as a whole grows 81 percent. In 2010, one in six Vineyarders was 65 or older; in 2030 — just 15 years away — that ratio will be one in three.

What we saw in 2013

Analyzing figures and past events, we can easily see some disturbing trends that we must begin to address.

In Dukes County as in the rest of America many elders live close to the bone. In 2012, nearly 50 percent of householders 65 or older had incomes of less than $35,000 which in terms of the Dukes County Housing Authority would qualify them as very low income and eligible for rental support. This pattern will not change.

There is a shortage of affordable housing for elders and the waiting list for Island Elderly Housing is already long. This challenge is also an opportunity, but forward thinking and planning are urgent.

It is expected that 70 percent of people who reach age 65 will need long-term care at some time in their longer lives, usually for an average of three years. This means the Vineyard must strengthen home care services to enable elders to age in their homes, and establish more assisted living facilities, and more nursing home beds. It also gives us an opportunity to explore and develop new models of nursing homes, such as the much praised Green House model of small cottages with private rooms, private baths, mixed funding and unusual staffing.

Statistics show that 43 percent of people over 85 will develop Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, straining caregivers’ health, family ties, and finances.

Falls are the fourth highest cause of death among seniors, and the three down-Island towns have fall rates higher than the state average.

Depression and substance abuse, particularly due to alcohol and misused prescriptions, is a well-documented and a still unaddressed health challenge.

Islanders cherish our privacy, our small back roads, our hidden coves. But when elders can no longer safely drive, isolation can threaten health and diminish life expectancy, challenging us to seek new transportation options.

Loss of the island-based Visiting Nurse Service created a major disruption in the Vineyard network of health care and support services. While not directly attributable to population growth, it is still proving problematic.

Picking up the challenge

All of us, and particularly key Island institutions and Island leaders, have a role to play moving forward.

Vineyarders, those who live here now or are seasonal residents or visitors who hope to retire here some day, must face the full dimensions of these challenges and put their skills and ideas and experience to work with others in finding and building solutions.

The MV Times and Vineyard Gazette, as well as MVTV, should educate Islanders to these challenges, putting a personal face to the experiences of caregivers, or young workers unable to find affordable housing, or isolated elders needing some adaptation of zoning or transportation to remain at home.

The six towns and the county should create new ways to collaborate in funding services needed on an Island-wide basis, such as the proposed information and resource website and staff, currently called First Stop, or the expanded Supportive Day program currently run by the Center for Living. They should also seek state and federal funds together for the Island as a whole, not just for individual towns. And Councils on Aging should plan collaboratively, preserving their unique strengths, limiting duplication, and expanding their services to all Island elders.

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission should expand its focus on land use planning to include social planning, providing in-depth analysis of needs and models in housing, transportation, and safe streets.

The Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and physicians, along with Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, should reach out to Island Health Inc., Elder Services, the VNA, Center for Living, and home care agencies, to create a patient-centered network system, using new technologies and responses to the desires of elders to age and even die at home.

The national context

Issues of importance to seniors, their families, and everyone in our community will be at the forefront of state and national conversations In 2015. The decennial White House Conference on Aging will be held, showcasing many of the best answers to these problems. We can also expect to see a major political discussion about the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, which currently expresses the federal role in funding a host of services such as Meals-on-Wheels and Councils on Aging. There will be continuing battles over the role of the federal government in financing Medicare and Social Security — both of which have been the underpinning of health care for seniors for the last 40 years.

In it together

As Pogo famously remarked, “We’ve met the enemy and he is us.” We are all growing older, at least if we’re lucky, and we’re already in this together. Many middle-aged and younger residents are already taking care of an aging parent or even spouse, often while still raising their own children. Dozens of Islanders volunteer at Windemere or for Vineyard Village At Home, or deliver meals-on-wheels, or as volunteer firemen, EMTs or other emergency service workers, and they observe and experience the challenges I’ve noted. They want to help.

When the chips are down, we’re a caring Island-wide community. I believe that, together, we will rise to these challenges in 2015, making it a very Happy New Year!

Paddy Moore has lived on Island with her husband, Ben, an architect, since 1975. During most of this time she has worked off Island as a mediator, specializing in health care disputes within physician practices and hospitals. She is a founder and co-chairman of the Dukes County Healthy Aging Task Force, teaches mediation at the Center for Dispute Resolution at Quinnipiac University Law School and tries to learn enough social media techniques to keep up with 13 grandchildren.

Janet Hefler

Janet Hefler. – Photo by Michael cummo
Janet Hefler. – Photo by Michael Cummo

The start of the New Year marked the close of an almost decade-long chapter in my journalism career. On December 3, I worked my last day at The Times where I began as a news reporter in April 2005.

Although I made the decision to retire from my role as a staff member, my byline may still appear on occasion, as I’ve been invited to continue to contribute articles to The Times. My husband, Pete, is retired but works summers at the Vineyard Transit Authority, so my new arrangement will allow us more time together and flexibility to travel. Depending on how that increased togetherness goes, we’ve agreed to give ourselves the option to head to separate destinations from time to time.

For almost 10 years I covered all news related to the town of Tisbury and education Island-wide, along with whatever else editor Nelson Sigelman assigned to me. That grew to include Island wild turkey stories and other oddball animal tales.

It wasn’t easy getting started as a reporter in this close-knit community. Everyone used first names only at meetings, so I resorted to identifying people in my notes with descriptions such as “man in plaid flannel shirt” and asking sympathetic town employees to help me with names later. I had to refine my system when I showed up to cover my first town meeting and looked out at a sea of plaid flannel.

Pete and I owned our home in Tisbury for about 26 years before we moved here year-round. Although I was already familiar with the Island, working a beat quickly immersed me in all its charms, quirks, annoyances, colorful characters, and intricate politics.

I soon discovered there is no anonymity for Island reporters. I’ve been alerted to typos in the paper by grocery store clerks, listened to rants about The Times’s political endorsements in line at the post office, and endured insults at a summer party from a man who referred to the paper in unkindly terms.

People have asked me what I like about being a reporter and I tell them, “No two days are ever the same.” The down side of that, however, was never knowing when my well-ordered week and nearly completed assignments would be thrown completely off-kilter by an unexpected phone call about a new story to chase, sometimes late in the afternoon on deadline day.

On the plus side, many of those calls resulted in some of the most fun and unusual articles I wrote, including ones about a man that rode a bike designed to travel on water from Falmouth to Vineyard Haven, a Siamese cat that got stuck under the dashboard of its owners’ car as they drove off the ferry, and a man dressed in a cowboy hat, briefs and boots, who strode into the Harbor View Hotel to ask if the restaurant’s chef would cook the live lobster he was carrying.

My favorite assignments were covering homecoming celebrations for Island soldiers returning to Martha’s Vineyard after deployment overseas. No matter what time of day or what kind of weather, groups of local veterans, first responders, and community members unfailingly turned out to show their appreciation and say thanks. I felt privileged to speak to the soldiers themselves and write their stories, a poignant reminder of the sacrifices they make for us all.

A few observations gained over the years: It is possible for a reporter who grew up using a rotary dial phone to make the technological leap from using a pen and steno pad to a laptop and a smart phone. Some public officials think it is none of a reporter’s business to question their actions or ask how they spend taxpayer money. Key sources in a news story will likely return your calls at the absolute last minute on deadline day. Many people want reporters to print the dirt on everybody except their family members or friends. Not everyone wants their name in the paper, especially men shopping on Christmas Eve for gifts for their wives and girlfriends.

I will miss reporting and being “in the know” immediately about what’s going on Island-wide. Now, I’ll have to read the news when it goes online or comes out in the print edition on Thursday, like the rest of you.

In making that transition, I hope to take my cue from people in the community that I think of as the “watchdogs of democracy.” They make an effort to keep informed and attend meetings associated with town business, and  occasionally ask questions about how their tax dollars are being spent.

My thanks to everyone who provided me with information and their expertise through the years, and to the Island community for inspiring me every week and letting me tell your stories.

Janet Hefler, a reporter for The Times, retired last month after ten years of working a beat that ran the gamut from a turkey shooting in Chilmark to school budgets to Tisbury selectmen. The wife of a career Air Force veteran, she never missed an opportunity to report on the return of an Island member of the military, or update readers on those serving overseas.

Nathaniel Horwitz

Nathaniel Horwitz.
Nathaniel Horwitz.

Being a second-semester senior on Martha’s Vineyard is a strange time. You know where you’re going after high school and you’re ready to move on. At the same time, every moment you have left as an Island kid becomes a treasure. Wandering South Beach while the wind whispers change; cutting class to “take laps” through the hallways with the best mates you’ve ever had; driving too fast on Barnes Road because you’ve never felt loss and the cop is probably your friend’s dad. Partying after graduation, laughing over shared memories until the sun rises over East Chop and your childhood is over. This year, I learned about true friendship.

Summer arrives, and friends leave. Cross-country treks, European trips, off-Island jobs, college athletics preseason, and those of us who are left see one another less between long hours at summer jobs. I became a full-time intern at The Times, thanks to an editor willing to take a chance on a high school reporter. Nelson Sigelman has what he calls a “fondness for shooting tasty mammals,” and an even greater taste for hunting down poor writing. My first articles were so heavily edited I wondered why he didn’t just write them himself. But by the end of the summer I’d learned enough to become an editor myself at my college newspaper. This year, I learned how to work.

Suddenly, at summer’s end, it was my turn to leave. A last game of chess with my father on the ferry, then the bus to my new home in Cambridge, and meals in the dining hall with students from an astounding range of backgrounds: a European prince, a Rwandan orphan. A hyper-polyglot who speaks 20 languages; an Olympic figure skater who played violin and piano at Carnegie Hall. This year, I learned about ambition.

In a genetics lecture, the professor wheeled out the original wire model of DNA made by James Watson and Francis Crick. My classics professor recited passages from Dante’s Inferno in flawless Italian. Classes were so exciting that I forgot I had 200 pages of reading and hours of the aptly named “problem sets” each night. This year, I learned to study.

Missing Vineyard football, I joined the rugby team. I also paid homage to my dad’s college poker career by starting a weekly game that quickly grew from four players to 40, and I’ll admit there’s been some partying. This year, I learned to play.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t wait to get back to Martha’s Vineyard and see everyone. I was worried a semester of college or full-time jobs might have changed people, or me; that we wouldn’t click the way we used to. But as soon as I saw my friends, it was as if graduation happened yesterday. My little brother had stolen my desk, but we still fell asleep talking through the wall, and the dogs missed me. Kind of.

The biggest difference coming home was truly realizing how lucky we are — most of the time — on Martha’s Vineyard. At college, crossing the street from my dorm to Starbucks means locking the door, giving a dollar to one of the homeless guys, dodging multiple lanes of traffic, and recently, joining a protest against police violence. We have a housing crisis on the Island, prescription drug abuse, and financial hardship. But our food pantry never goes bare, I don’t have to explain to my adopted Ethiopian brother how to act around police, and we don’t have bomb threats or muggings. This year, I learned to be grateful.

Being a second-semester freshman in college will be different. You know where you’ll be for the next three years — although Zuckerberg and Gates say dropping out pays — and you’re excited to be there. Each moment is once again a treasure, but you have a multitude of moments rolled before you like a carpet.

Next semester, I’ll learn organic chemistry, multivariable calculus, Chinese philosophy, and macroeconomics. I’m applying for summer internships in D.C. and Cambridge. I’m also tempted to come home, to spend one more summer here before adult life truly arrives and “summer vacation” becomes a week, or, as a working Islander, disappears entirely. Either way, by next fall I’ll be back to the books.

I hope I will learn as much as I did this year, that more great friendships and adventures await. I’m also nervous about choosing the right path, knowing that the next few years will shape the next few decades. But my Island home will always be a ferry ride away. Happy New Year.

Nathaniel Horwitz of West Tisbury graduated from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in June 2014. He worked as an intern in the newsroom at The Times beginning in his senior term, and is midway through his freshman year at Harvard University.

The yellow markers show the approximate area off Eastville Beach where brothers Dan and Greg Martino plan to farm oysters. — Courtesy of Dan Martino

Seasonal Oak Bluffs resident Jacob H. Ludwig III has filed a lawsuit in Suffolk County superior court to overturn a decision by town selectmen that grants brothers Dan and Greg Martino an aquaculture license for a two-acre oyster farm off Eastville Beach.
The complaint dated, October 15, alleges that the selectmen failed to conduct a comprehensive review of the project. Additionally, it maintains that the selectmen denied the Eastville opponents the right to proper legal representation.
In his response dated December 9, Oak Bluffs town counsel Michael Goldsmith said that the abutters did not sustain substantial injury to their legal rights and asked the court to dismiss the case outright.

“A series of appellate decisions, several of which arose on the Vineyard, set a relatively high bar for an abutter in a lawsuit of this type to demonstrate an ‘injury’ different from the public at large,” he told The Times. “I think it is important to point out that the applicants secured an approval from the Deputy Director of the Division of Marine Fisheries, which is the only required state approval by statute, and that both the conservation commission’s order of conditions and the selectmen’s license are valid for only three years. Plus, the shellfish warden has broad authority to oversee this operation on a day-to-day basis.”

If the court doesn’t dismiss the case, Mr. Goldsmith requested the matter be adjudicated in Dukes County Superior Court. “We were surprised that the case was brought in Suffolk County, given that the only plaintiff alleged that he ‘resides’ in Dukes County, and given that the project and the town are obviously here.” Mr. Goldsmith said in an email to The Times. “The town raised an improper venue defense in its motion to dismiss as well, and a judge may or may not rule on that issue depending on how the standing question is resolved.”

Long standing feud
A group of Eastville residents has opposed the oyster farm proposal since selectmen granted preliminary approval to the Martinos in March.
They have cited concerns about safety for swimmers, boaters, and windsurfers. They also claim that the farm location is vulnerable to northeaster storms, which could mar the beach with debris. In addition they contend that the associated machinery noise and 100 white buoys will damage the aesthetic quality of the shore.
The Ludwig family lawsuit was filed in superior court on October 15, as a response to the final approval the selectmen granted the project on September 16 with a 4 to 1 vote. The day before the meeting, attorneys from the Boston law firm of Sloane and Walsh submitted a 10-page position statement to the selectmen detailing their client’s objections. A feisty contingent of Eastville Beach residents also attended the meeting, voicing their opposition so strongly that chairman Greg Coogan had to twice use his gavel to restore order.
The day after the meeting, Mr. Ludwig hinted at the suit. He told The Times, “The selectmen decided to take away a public use for a lot of people for a private use for two people. I think the Martino brothers are well-meaning, and aquaculture is almost certainly the future of shellfishing, but we think the location is wrong.” He added that he would confer with his family and the 10 other objecting families and decide whether to seek a temporary restraining order.
The Ludwig complaint also alleges that the Martino brothers did not give residents the required 10-day notice before the first public hearing. When this objection was raised at the September meeting, chairman of the selectmen Greg Coogan dismissed it out of hand. “There were Eastville residents at the first meeting,” he said. “The Martinos sent letters to Eastville residents, and 99 percent were signed for. There are a lot of other Eastville homeowners who haven’t come forward. Clearly it bothers some people. But at the end of the day, I think we listened to all sides.”
Citing the ongoing litigation, Dan Martino declined to comment to The Times.

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Paula Sullivan looks forward to more time on the beach with a fishing rod in hand. Joe Massua just wants to relax.

West Tisbury postmistress Paula Sullivan will retire on the last day of 2014. –Photo by Michael Cummo

West Tisbury postmaster Paula Sullivan and Chilmark postmaster Joe Massua will each retire from the U.S. Postal Service on New Year’s Eve after a combined total of 58 years of moving the mail. The timing is purely coincidental.

Deb Little of Vineyard Haven, a clerk at the Edgartown post office, will take charge of the West Tisbury post office until the Postal Service selects a permanent replacement.

“I’m very pleased to transfer the office to her,” Ms. Sullivan said in an email to The Times; “it will be in good hands.”

Leigh Vanderhoop, who now works at the Chilmark post office, will take over for Mr. Massua.

A native of Natick, Ms. Sullivan began her postal career at the Medfield post office on April Fool’s Day in 1986. President Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office, and a first-class stamp cost 22 cents. She worked for 16 years as a retail clerk, a financial clerk, a bulk-mail tech, and a customer and delivery supervisor before she arrived on Martha’s Vineyard in 2001 to take the job of Chilmark postmaster. In 2005 she transferred to West Tisbury.

Chilmark Postmaster Joe Massua is retiring.
Chilmark Postmaster Joe Massua is retiring.

Mr. Massua, a native of Everett, began working for the post office in Randolph in 1986 as a letter carrier. In 1993, he moved to Hyannis, where he began working in management. In 1998 the postal service asked him to move to Martha’s Vineyard to take the helm of the Vineyard Haven post office.

Mr. Massua said he arrived at the end of October, and the Island was very, very quiet. “Back then it was dead here, and I wondered what I got myself into,” he told The Times in a telephone conversation Monday. “But I fell in love with the place. I stayed, and here I am.”

Mr. Massua moved to the Chilmark post office last year. Compared with the pace in Vineyard Haven, it was something of a rest.

Mr. Massua said he has no immediate plans for his retirement beyond relaxing and staying busy. “It’s been a great experience, and I’m glad I’ve met so many great people,” he said.

Ms. Sullivan looks forward to spending more time with her granddaughter, bicycling, reading, and walking her dogs. Beachgoing and fishing top her list of retirement activities.

“I’m fortunate to have been a part of the MV Surfcasters since I moved here by myself,  knowing no one here at the time,” she said. “I’m now on the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby committee, and have met wonderful friends.”

Postal privacy rules keep Ms. Sullivan from recounting the details of many of the memorable moments from her years on the job, but not her sense of gratitude to the community.

“The memory I will carry with me when I leave is the pleasure I’ve had this holiday season with my customers, the sweet sendoff Skipper [Manter] gave me at the West Tisbury town Christmas party with Shari and Diane, my co-workers,” she said in an email to The Times. “Community means everything, and you all have shared that with me. Thank you and see you on the beach. Tight lines!”

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John Early accepts the 2014 Spirit of the Vineyard Award from Hospice of Martha's Vineyard executive director Terre Young.

John Early of West Tisbury has worn many hats over a long career of public service. On Friday afternoon, friends, colleagues, and well-wishers packed the West Tisbury library community room to honor Mr. Early and present him with the Spirit of the Vineyard Award.

Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard presents the award annually “to a person who has served for one or more nonprofit organizations on the island, and whose work has made a difference to individuals and the community as a whole.”

Well known Island lawyer Ron Rappaport of Chilmark praised John Early's sense of public service. — Photo by Rich Saltzberg
Well known Island lawyer Ron Rappaport of Chilmark praised John Early’s sense of public service. — Photo by Rich Saltzberg

In his remarks, well-known Island lawyer and West Tisbury town counsel Ron Rappaport, a fellow recipient of the Spirit of the Vineyard Award, described Mr. Early’s community service résumé.

The long list included 30 years on the West Tisbury board of selectmen; 20 years as a member of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, often serving as chairman; 40 years as a member of the West Tisbury Fire Department; one of the founders of Vineyard House; president of Island Elderly Housing; and a member at various times of the town hall building committee, school building committee, bicycle path committee, and library building committee.

Mr. Rappaport described Mr. Early, president of the highly respected  John G. Early construction company, as an excellent employer. Reciting lines he wrote as a tribute to Mr. Early in a West Tisbury town report, Mr. Rappaport said, “John Early’s tenure as a selectman was marked by decency, common sense, and respect for his fellow citizens.”

Mr. Rappaport said Mr. Early had contributed greatly to the town’s growth and modernization, and followed in the path of other respected Island leaders that included Herbert Hancock of Chilmark and Ted Morgan of Edgartown.

“When John was involved, things just didn’t get talked about; they got done,” Mr. Rappaport said. “In his quiet way John was able to forge consensus because of the sense of trust and decency he brought to everything that he did.”

Speaking on behalf of Island Elderly Housing, Simone DeSorcy, whose family is also in the construction business, added a humorous twist to the praise.

Ms. DeSorcy recounted a mishap on a job site after Mr. Early returned from the Peace Corps and upended an Olsen Brothers dump truck.

“He never, ever again forgot to unhitch the tailgate when emptying a load of gravel,” she said.

Ms. DeSorcy added, “All who have served on boards with John Early know that he is a man of few words. And those he utters are pithy, to the point, and paragraphs ahead of what most others at the table are contemplating. He truly sees the bigger picture. His depth of commitment is unmatched.”

Beth Toomey, West Tisbury police chief from 1994 to 2010, fondly recalled Mr. Early, a member of the board of selectmen, when she was hired for the job.

“He was very invested in the process of finding a new chief, as all the selectmen were,” said Chief Toomey. “At first John was in the background sizing things up. I later learned this was not unusual for him.”

She recalled her first impressions of Mr. Early. “Who is this man that wore shorts in the cold weather and interesting animal pins on his shirts every day?” she said. “He turned out to be a down-to-earth, tell-it-like-it-is, calm, quiet-mannered kind of guy.”

Terre Young, executive director of Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard, raised a plaque set with engraved brass nameplates of past award winners. Ms. Young pointed to the blank brass plate where Mr. Early’s name would be engraved. She said his name would hang alongside the others in a place of honor inside the New Agricultural Hall.

True to form, Mr. Early, soft-spoken, attributed his willingness to always wear another hat to his failure to realize that “no” could be a complete sentence.

He received a standing ovation.

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Local artists reflect on inspirations in the year about to end.

"Sushi" by Daisy Lifton.

It’s typical for individuals with a creative bent to continually recreate and redefine themselves. A few Vineyard artists did just that in 2014 and they describe the notable changes in the work they’ve created in the past year.

"Migration" by Donna Straw.
“Migration” by Donna Straw.

Painter Donna Straw is perhaps known best for her linear based depictions of houses and bird houses. But just two years ago she started working in a more fluid and organic style. She moved away from her former architectural subjects which lent themselves to the striated color block style and more towards Vineyard landscapes with curves and depth. More recently she has combined the two styles, which she refers to as modeling and taping (for the method used to render the straight lines).

“With the modeling I felt like I could articulate what I wanted to say with the landscapes,” Ms. Straw says. “Then lo and behold, I was in Chilmark and I looked at this amazing stone wall. It was so architectural and sculpted. It lent itself to the inner way that I express myself with color and line.”

Ms. Straw completed a series of 10 paintings of stone walls using both linear and modeled elements. “Because I had done landscapes for the past three years, I combined the two. I like that you can work with the fragments and the way the stones curve spatially. There are a lot of elements in a stone wall. You can play one element against another.”

The new series retains much of the stylistic, somewhat flattened quality of Ms. Straw’s classic style which focuses the attention on her use of color and light — often enhanced with touches of metallic paint to represent glints of sunlight. “I’m much more comfortable with the hard edged style,” Ms. Straw says. “I think it gives me the opportunity to work more graphically and to distinguish myself from other artists. I still get to represent the Vineyard, but I’m doing it my own way, in my voice.”

Ms. Straw will still continue to experiment with different styles. “It’s exciting to go into another passageway and discover something different,” she says. “I don’t like to be pigeonholed. I want people to realize that I have more breadth than one series.”

"Heath Hen" by Daisy Lifton.
“Heath Hen” by Daisy Lifton.

Artist Daisy Lifton focuses solely on traditional Asian techniques, including origami and brush painting. She is always dabbling in new things. In the past couple of years, she’s been experimenting with a collage technique called chigiri-e which involves creating images with pieces of torn colored handmade Japanese paper. Ms. Lifton has used the process to create beautiful Vineyard landscapes including depictions of the Gay Head cliffs and Menemsha harbor. These small works have a wonderful delicacy and almost an abstract quality that is quite charming.

More recently, Ms. Lifton has begun creating designs on black tee-shirts using bleach on black fabric. Although the method is not a traditional one, she works with typical Asian subjects like horses, monkeys, birds, and chrysanthemums. It’s amazing how much detail Ms. Lifton can extract with the bleach using subtle shadings of brown to created detail and depth.

Ms. Lifton is always refining and experimenting with her techniques. She recently managed to solve one problem with the mounting of the homemade hemp and mulberry papers on which she executes her brushstroke paintings.

“For years I have been mounting my paintings to another piece of similar paper with a cornstarch based glue,” says Ms. Lifton. “It’s a method that I learned from Sensei Koho in New York, but I always had problems due to changes in weather and humidity on the Island.”

This past year, Ms. Lifton started mounting the delicate papers directly onto canvases which have allowed her to create larger pieces while keeping her work very affordable. “It’s sort of like a collage combination. I tear the paper. People like the rough, ragged look.”

Always an innovator, Ms. Lifton has managed to combine ancient techniques with modern practices, creating stunning art at the intersection.

Ed Shulman painting.
Ed Shulman painting.

Painter Ed Schulman has a very distinctive, primitive style which relies on evoking his subjects with simple fluid lines and the use of a muted palette. This past fall Mr. Schulman spent a good deal of time in his native New York City where he drew inspiration from the people and energy of the city.

“I was born and raised in New York,” he says. “I feel very comfortable in New York. My work, I think, has an urban chic. I’m inspired by the city. There’s a heartbeat to New York that’s constant that is very sympathetic to an artist.”

This past year, Mr. Schulman has also been working on refining his skills and extending his vision. “My confidence is building,” he says. “I’m starting to use larger formats and increasing the amount of texture that I add to a painting. I’m a little more interested in composition. I realize that I’m developing my own style. I’m not going back historically quite as much as I was before. I’m trying to develop and enhance my own style.”

New works by Mr. Schulman demonstrate the unique qualities of his two homes. He does both simple, crude, impressionistic seascapes as well as cityscapes that highlight the colors and vibrancy of New York. His work has a very appealing contemporary feel that also harkens back to painters of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s — a time when artists were interested in depicting real life with passion and emotion.

Dave Schwoch is the operator of the Island Water Source well rig.

Sinking a fence post or planting a shrub often pits Islanders against layers of clay that can make such relatively simple tasks frustrating. Moreover, many parts of the Island are so stricken with hardpan that pickaxes don’t bite the earth, they ricochet off it. With that in mind, imagine having to regularly dig down through Vineyard strata not three feet or so, but, say, to a minimum of 20 feet? Nearly impossible by hand and no mean feat even for a piece of excavation equipment like a backhoe. But for Island Water Source’s drilling rig, cutting through 20 feet of Island is merely a geologic appetizer.

The rig at work drilling another well. — Michael Cummo
The rig at work drilling another well. — Michael Cummo

Encountered on the road with its mast down and its drill rods packed in their carousel, the rig looks more like a piece of mobile artillery than a truck hefting drilling machinery. But seen on site braced by its four outriggers, its mast aloft, and a great column of rods whirring into the earth, its true purpose is clear. Mounted on an International Harvester (now Navistar Harvester) 4400 twin rear axle truck, the rig was made by Iowa drilling manufacturer Gus Pech and can be fitted out to both drill and auger into the earth. On average, the rig bores down to a depth of about 100 feet in order to tap potable water on Martha’s Vineyard. In some of the more elevated areas on the Island, it can cut a shaft much deeper.  “We have drilled seven wells on this Island that approach or exceed 400 feet,” said John Clarke, the company’s owner.

The tremendous torque the rig generates enables roller bit technology that was pioneered by Howard Hughes Sr. during the days of early 20th century oil extraction, meaning it can carve its way down through the worst stone and clay of the Island. Improved upon by his tycoon son, Howard Hughes, as well as several subsequent people and firms, the tricone rock bit is an industry standard. Affixed to the end of a length of Island Water Source drill rods, it will buzz through boulders with relative ease. In fact, only fine sand takes a real a toll on this type of bit, by dulling it prematurely. A new rock bit has approximately 12,000 to 15,000 feet of drilling life to it.

Water happens to be the key to drilling for water. This is why Island Water Source fields a separate truck — another International — customized with a low-profile 1,500 gallon tank to work in tandem with the drilling rig. A portable centrifugal pump sends water from the tank truck to the rig. Aside from reducing friction, water is “used for mixing drilling mud, backwashing the mud out of the hole and for developing the well to remove fine materials from the well screen and increase yield,” said Dave Schwoch, Island Water Source’s longtime driller. The mud, a viscous soup of bentonite (a type of clay commonly used in cat litter) and occasionally polymers, is mixed to different consistencies, depending on the strata being drilled through, in the rig’s mud tub. Then it’s fed into the expanding borehole where its weight and density creates hydrostatic pressure that helps keep sides of the borehole from falling apart before a well casing can be inserted.

The control panel of the Pech rig looks like it would take some getting used to.
The control panel of the Pech rig looks like it would take some getting used to.

In places on the Vineyard where the ground isn’t especially tough and the water isn’t especially deep (80 feet or less), the drill rig can be reconfigured with spiral auger stems as opposed to the pipe-like drill stems. The auger stems look somewhat similar to the post-digging attachments sometimes seen on the rear of Island tractors, albeit much longer.

“This method is often used in the outwash plains in areas we know do not consist of heavy clays or large rocks,” Mr. Clarke said.

“I may auger 25 percent of the wells in a given year,” Mr. Schwoch said.

Whether employing drill or auger, the rig sees a good deal of its action up Island, where there is no municipal water. Despite its public water system, Edgartown’s municipal water isn’t connected to all its taxpayers, so the rig is used to drill quite a few wells in Edgartown, including Chappaquiddick, where its size and weight (more than 20 tons) gives the Chappy ferry a decent stress test. Of the other two down-Island towns, the rig sees action in roughly 10 percent of Tisbury and virtually zero in Oak Bluffs, according to Mr. Clarke.

“Being made up of unconsolidated glacial till [the Island is] not your typical cookie-cutter drilling environment,” Mr. Clarke said. He is appreciative of the Gus Pech rig’s ability to consistently deliver in tough and varied ground.

With 26 years of experience and over 2,300 wells under his belt, Mr. Schwoch continues to test that consistency, drilling through whatever the Island can muster. “Sometimes I run into plant matter or trees down over 300 feet and I have hit layers of shells down 180 to 200 feet, near the shore in Edgartown a few times,” he said.

For more information about Island Water Source and their rig visit their Facebook page: facebook.com/pages/Island-Water-Source-Inc/162447697136360.