Opinion

The Oak Bluffs Planning Board may be biting off more than it can chew in seeking to take another bite — a very large bite — out of the permit the board issued in 2004 for the 26-lot subdivision that formed the cornerstone of an agreement that ended years of bitter and costly battle over the Down Island Golf Club.

As reporter Barry Stringfellow reports this week, the planning board wants to renegotiate and amend the terms of the development permit to extract a larger affordable housing contribution, and has threatened to void the permit, based on the advice of its lawyer Daniel Perry that it has the authority to do so, on the grounds that the permit conditions have not been met.

The seller, National Land Partners (NLP), a subsidiary of Patten Companies, a family-owned network of companies based in Williamstown with a long history and national track record of successfully financing, selling, developing, and marketing recreational and residential properties in rural locations across the country, disagrees with that view. The permit is valid, NLP insists, and it promises a legal tidal wave should the planning board carry out its threat.

Mark London, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), no pushover when it comes to extracting affordable housing contributions from developers, takes the view that the permit remains valid.

Some members of the planning board, and their passengers who have hopped on the bandwagon with additional demands, ignore the context for a subdivision that may rightly be viewed as 26 houses on 270 acres.

Fairness requires retracing some history. Beginning in 2000, for four years Corey Kupersmith of Connecticut tried unsuccessfully to build a championship 18-hole golf course and club on a portion of property he had acquired that we now refer to as the Southern Woodlands. After three separate golf proposals failed to to win the approval of the MVC, despite wide support in Oak Bluffs, he proposed to build a massive housing development, exempt from local regulations under the state’s 40B affordable housing statute, as a way to strike back at his opponents. And he sued — eight lawsuits in all.

All eyes turned to the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank to help end the battle.

Then Oak Bluffs Selectman Todd Rebello initially put together a deal under which the Land Bank was to purchase the entire 270 acres for approximately $26 million. That fell through when private donors proved unwilling to contribute $5 million in needed funds.

A “mixed use” plan that included both conservation and some development was the solution. In March 2004 the Land Bank reached an agreement with Mr. Kupersmith to buy 190 acres Mr. Kupersmith owned for $18.63 million.

That deal went hand in hand with a 26-unit luxury housing development, dubbed the Preserve at the Woodlands, intended to bridge the financial gap between what the Land Bank was willing to pay, that is approximately $100,000 per acre, and Mr. Kupersmith’s asking price of $26 million.

The five Oak Bluffs selectmen at the time voted unanimously to support the deal.

The MVC unanimously approved the deal with less than a dozen conditions, all offered by Mr. Kupersmith. Affordable housing groups asked for more money from the developer for affordable housing efforts. However, MVC members said the proposal provided adequate funding for affordable housing.

In January 2005 the Oak Bluffs planning board voted unanimously to approve the subdivision plan for the Preserve at the Woodlands, along with a list of conditions and small changes.

“It was time to bring harmony back to Oak Bluffs,” Mr. Kupersmith said at the time the deal was announced.

As part of the deal, the Land Bank agreed to a land swap with the town of Oak Bluffs for a 24-acre lot without access for a “more convenient acreage located elsewhere in the southern woodlands.”

Ten years later, the swap has yet to be consummated. There has been no shortage of finger-pointing as to the cause.

Rather than stumbling into a lawsuit, the planning board ought to devote energy and taxpayer dollars to completing the swap and finding the right developer to build much-needed multiunit affordable rental housing, and allow an upscale development to proceed that will provide tax dollars to the town and a continuing source of jobs for Island residents, in the construction, maintenance, and upkeep of those homes.

Certainly, any additional contributions the planning board seeks to wring out of the seller and buyer of a property that has languished far too long would soon be dwarfed by the legal bills taxpayers would be expected to pay to defend the planning board’s actions.

Like many year-round and destination resort communities, Martha’s Vineyard depends on and is immeasurably enriched by its not-for-profit organizations. Significant private philanthropy underwrites a substantial infrastructure of services, facilities, and land-use initiatives across the Island. These private nonprofits supplement tax-supported programs and predominate across many categories — arts and culture, human services and health care, recreation, conservation, historic preservation, housing, civic and educational programming, and agriculture and locally grown food come to mind. Some have a strong bias toward the basic needs and interests of the year-round community, some toward entertaining seasonal residents and visitors; all combine to make life on the Island richer.

As a general rule, community philanthropy is raised locally and stays local, except where scale might dictate a larger regional service area. Wealthier communities have more extensive nonprofit resources available than poorer ones. In each case a relative balance is struck among demographic, business, and economic variables and the privately supported infrastructure we can enjoy.

On the Vineyard, though, as in many other small destination resort communities, there’s a disconnect between the extent of community enrichment we’ve come to expect and the resources our limited local economy can make available on its own.

That’s because our aspirations are sophisticated, and many of our seasonal residents have great and visible affection for the Vineyard, ties to the year-round community beyond typical service and customer relationships, and deep pockets as well as generous natures. The results are apparent in ways large and small, from major new buildings to funds which pay for human service and cultural programs.

As the costs of Island program needs ascend the capital and facility ladder, and as ongoing programs receive less and less tax support, it’s no surprise that Vineyard organizations, in almost perpetual fundraising mode, develop a list of potential interested supporters and then indulge in the “we just need one or two” fantasy. Those on the angel shortlist get hammered pretty hard. Experience shows that this strategy can work, but counting on the relative few for a neverending flow of goodwill and big checks may not reflect good planning in the face of heightened competition for funds and inevitable donor fatigue. We already see a rising generation of philanthropists bringing new focus and models of funding to major, large-scale projects, as MVYouth is actively doing now in the areas of child health and social services.

Amid a philanthropic landscape of a great many boards, a great many missions, comparatively few big donors, and very substantial fundraising needs, Barry Stringfellow’s story in last week’s Times (YMCA and MV Ice Arena discuss possible merger), reporting on early discussions between leaders of the two private organizations potentially leading to consolidation, may anticipate the next step in the evolving relationship between private funding and Vineyard organization roles.

Mergers and consolidations are a common for-profit corporate strategy; they can expand markets, reduce operating costs, increase scale and leverage, and they can rationalize and improve allocation of financial and nonfinancial assets. In some instances, significant strategic advantages can be realized, and in others, failing organizations can be secured.

All of these benefits can exist on the community nonprofit side as well, but the considerations expand to include several other factors: a strictly financial and strategic scorecard is replaced by a complex calculus including strong identities and history, board and staff talents and personalities, and the interests of founders and donors. Dating to the mid-1970s, the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena has been a triumph of community participation and support, providing a facility in many steps, beginning as an outdoor rink; many Island families and seasonal residents have made big contributions, and have brought along their friends as well, in support of a major Vineyard asset.

The arena’s needs, though, may now be exceeding the likely levels of community support available. Geoghan Coogan, the arena board’s vice president, cites the rink’s declining physical plant and need for eventual replacement as motivation for conversations with the Y.

And the much newer and larger YMCA might indeed represent a significant opportunity to preserve and stabilize the arena, should its own resources and appetite for expansion make sense to its board.

The conversations between these two groups are said to be very preliminary, the respective motivations and institutional interests are still private, and there’s a long way to go before a plan might emerge, but now, before specific deals are arrived at, is a good time for the community to pay attention and weigh the potential effects. Perhaps the Y has a role on behalf of the arena, but it isn’t yet clear how, or why. If consolidation would mean a realignment of resources, programs, and dollars and public fees, or if donor-driven concerns bring a new dimension to the infrastructure we’ve come to count on, all of us have a stake in it.

 

Jan Pogue threw her own goodbye party last Friday evening, closing down the Vineyard Stories publishing business she and her late husband John Walter began in 2005. If they were initially fraught with anxiety about their startup, it turned out that Jan and John’s idea — working closely with Vineyard authors to help them put their cherished projects in print and on public view — made an admirable success of their imprint from the outset. Some 46 beautifully crafted and lovingly written, illustrated, and edited books, reflecting all manner of Island life and Island living, came out of this rare collaboration with Vineyard writers. Jan has decided to end Vineyard Stories’ run on her own terms, and move on to her next life, as she has put it.

For books to live, they need to be read, and to be read they need to be published, a heroic challenge in today’s chaotic and hostile commercial publishing environment. Vineyard Stories brought skill, experience, rigor, and also love to local authors and projects, and turned manuscripts (or cartons of unorganized material) into beautiful objects. It must have seemed a miracle for authors to find the talent and passion, and perhaps most of all the abundant class, that Jan and John brought to Vineyard Stories.

Last week’s Times story on tiny houses (Valerie Sonnenthal, The Local, “A Visit With Kathy Rose”) prompted an unusually substantive flurry of thoughtful, enthusiastic support for an innovative approach to expanding the Island’s supply of housing, expressed in online comments and direct correspondence with Times staff. That’s a good thing, because our unnatural and unhealthy undersupply of housing for Island families is a major community failure needing redress, and it won’t be fixed by housing-policy-as-usual on Martha’s Vineyard.

Whatever the merits and limitations of the currently fashionable idea of tiny houses, Ms. Rose’s cause and the broader case for encouraging tertiary dwellings go directly to the supply, variety, and affordability needed if we’re to get ahead of our housing problem. Tertiary dwellings need to be added to other design and land-use approaches that will have to be part of the mix, and public policy changes are needed to encourage implementation. The enthusiasm of our readers — citizens and housing and zoning experts alike — suggests that this is an issue where public interest is way out in front of local government.

 

The busy season on Martha’s Vineyard usually takes off in earnest around the last week of June, when schools finish up for the year and families become more mobile. Although possibly a bit later this year owing to the need to make up more snow days than usual, there’s no doubt that the crowds are arriving, and have merged in with the steady boat traffic generated by year-round Islanders and local workers.

More than any other bond, ferry travel is our great shared experience. Whatever our station, and regardless of the urgency of our respective missions off-Island, we all worry about schedules, reservations, last boats, standby lines, and the always awkward moment when we realize we’re headed for Oak Bluffs when we expected to arrive in Vineyard Haven.

In general, the Steamship Authority (SSA) does a good job of managing and meeting customer expectations. It maintains reliable schedules in the face of complex demand, and it improves amenities, such as the recent successful and speedily executed facelift of the Vineyard Haven passenger drop-off areas and planned attempts at better Wi-Fi connections aboard the boats. It may even confront its baffling crisis of the moment and join the rest of polite society (including SSA customers) by barring employees from smoking outside designated nonpublic areas.

At the same time as the Authority honors its obligation to maintain sound finances by watching its numbers — capital projects, borrowing, labor costs, fares, and fees rigorously in balance — it needs to be reminded that fiscal stability is an operating imperative but not a mission. Once the swap in mindset occurs, strategy and service become the variables, and all that the Authority controls about Island life happens to us rather than through us.

And so we see fares and fees increased because it “seems prudent,” turning aside a serious petition-backed effort to get a sympathetic hearing for restraint (although the SSA argument rests uncomfortably on the idea that one way or another, they’ll need the operating revenue). And we see strong and well-reasoned Vineyard-centric boat design preferences stiff-armed, decided by efficiencies realized elsewhere. Perhaps most alarming, we are on the hook for the Authority’s plans for enormous capital expenditures and accompanying bond indebtedness, which commit us to an implicit strategic plan for the Island while limiting long-term flexibility and controlling investments in passenger and freight service for the next 30 years.

The risk of strategic disconnect doesn’t stem from intellectual failure or venality. It’s natural that the Authority sees the future through a bureaucratic and fiscally conservative lens. And the professionalism of SSA management means that the Authority will be clear in making and defending its policies. For example, as we reported last summer (August 20, 2014), Wayne Lamson, SSA general manager, put the single-ender decision this way: “After many months, we concluded that what the Authority needs at this time [italics added] is an improved single-ended freight boat …” The “we” here sounds awfully imperial and paternalistic.

In a way, the SSA’s bureaucratic self-assuredness and turn of mind shouldn’t be surprising: The state’s 1960 enabling legislation grants a near monopoly to the Authority, in return for a pretty low standard, actually charging the Authority to provide “adequate” service — not exactly heady stuff nor high expectations. And since the Authority’s finances depend first and foremost on revenue from its near-monopoly hold on ferry services, rather than on tax support, it insulates the Authority from customer and market forces while reducing Vineyard government interest.

Here’s a modest proposition: If we expect to increase Vineyard influence over defining the Authority’s “adequacy,” we need to show up. The Authority holds two regular business meetings each year on the Island, with the next one scheduled for 9:30 am on July 21 at the Katharine Cornell Theater in Vineyard Haven. Take the time to read the meeting materials in advance (posted at steamshipauthority.com) and attend the meeting, and make sure your selectmen hear from you that you expect them to be there to articulate our collective interests. If we’re not making the Vineyard case, who will?

 

 

 

Not content to wait for U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV to decide if the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act trumps the settlement that all parties signed in good faith 32 years ago, and which has hobbled their efforts to reap gaming gold, the leaders of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) revealed that they have taken steps to forge ahead with plans to develop a long-unbuilt community center into a bingo parlor.

It is hard to know if the tribe intends to press ahead with plans to place rows and rows of blinking electronic bingo devices in its living room and invite gamblers in, or if this is some type of bluff designed to advance mainland aspirations.

Whatever the hard-to-fathom strategic purpose, the tribal leadership has certainly proceeded in a clumsy fashion.

The tribe has every right to test the legal limits of the settlement act in the face of significant changes to the state’s gaming landscape. Perhaps the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act does supersede the settlement act. That is for the lawyers to argue, and for a judge — or the nation’s highest court — to decide.

And it is understandable that members of the Wampanoag tribe who live on the mainland and formed the voting bloc in favor of turning the community center into a gaming hall might not give a hoot about what happens in the town of Aquinnah, as long as there is money to be made.

What is not understandable or acceptable is the tribal leadership’s indifference to its neighbors, the residents of Aquinnah, and the Martha’s Vineyard community at large.

The first inkling residents had that the tribe planned to proceed with plans for a gaming hall came in a news report published last week in the Vineyard Gazette, which reported that the tribe placed an online classified ad seeking licensed electricians and helpers for a 10-plus-week casino project, an ad it withdrew after two days.

Much was revealed in a deposition given last week in connection with the case now before Judge Saylor. Tribal Chairman Tobias Vanderhoop told Aquinnah Town Counsel Ron Rappaport that the tribe did not notify the town about this change of use, that the tribe would not permit town inspections, and that the tribe has retained a contractor and an architect. Mr. Vanderhoop said that the tribe had transferred control of the building to its gaming corporation for use as a casino, and has the authority to proceed under the IGRA.

Common courtesy demanded that Mr. Vanderhoop meet with the Aquinnah board of selectmen, two of whom are members of the tribe, and let them know that the tribe was not content to wait for the judge and would move forward with its plans. Doing so would not have changed the tribe or the town’s course of action, but would have been consistent with the pattern of cooperation and communication evidenced in other matters.

In an interview with The Times, Mr. Vanderhoop bobbed and weaved when asked for his personal view on the question of gaming.

“It is my responsibility as the elected chairman of the tribe to represent the interests of all the tribal citizens. My point of view is that I stand with the actions that the membership takes, and I carry out my duty.”

Mr. Vanderhoop is correct that he has a responsibility to carry out the will of the tribal membership. But as a leader, he also has an obligation to speak out when he thinks the tribe is moving in the wrong direction. At the moment, it is hard to discern what he thinks.

Chairman Vanderhoop would have us believe that a bingo parlor will provide jobs and benefits. And what might those be? Emptying the coin boxes? Filling the concession machines? Sweeping the aisles between the rows of flashing machines? And what will be left in profits after the tribe’s financial backers take their cut?

The tribe has certainly had opportunities to generate jobs and benefit the Island economy in a manner more in keeping with the Island environment.

We find more clarity in the unequivocal statements of Julianne Vanderhoop, an Aquinnah selectman and tribal member, who understands her leadership role.

Selectman Vanderhoop said the notion of creating a gaming hall in the Island’s smallest town is “far-fetched.”

The selectmen are united. They have issued a cease-and-desist order and appear willing to follow up, should the tribe ignore the order. Hopefully, that will not be necessary.

 

In gatherings large and small on Martha’s Vineyard, at beaches, in backyards, and along Main Street, Edgartown, this Saturday Islanders will join Americans across the United States and celebrate the Fourth of July, and the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” embedded in the Declaration of Independence.

The celebration will take place against a backdrop of heightened security brought on by increased fear of a terrorist attack. The threat is real, security experts say. The stakes are high. The enemy is unflinching in its disregard for the freedoms that are at the core of our society, and seeks to inflict terror for terror’s sake.

As we join family and friends, we may take some comfort knowing that even as we enjoy this national holiday, there are men and women who will, and must, remain vigilant and at their posts, whether on a local street corner or on patrol in a dangerous corner of the globe.

On the Fourth, if even for a moment between ribs and fireworks, we who reap the benefits of this free society ought to take a moment to think about the future, and reflect on the past, and draw confidence from our history. Our nation has prevailed over threats in the past. But nothing is ever certain.

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and West Tisbury resident David McCullough made that point in an address on Sept. 27, 2005, to a large Marriott Center audience at Brigham Young University soon after publication of “1776,” his engrossing description of the perilous year that followed the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Mr. McCullough told the audience that “nothing ever had to happen the way it happened. Any great past event could have gone off in any number of different directions for any number of different reasons. We should understand that history was never on a track. It was never preordained that it would turn out as it did.

“Very often we are taught history as if it were predetermined, and if that way of teaching begins early enough and is sustained through our education, we begin to think that it had to have happened as it did. We think that there had to have been a Revolutionary War, that there had to have been a Declaration of Independence, that there had to have been a Constitution, but never was that so. In history, chance plays a part again and again. Character counts over and over. Personality is often the determining factor in why things turn out the way they do.”

In this age of the sound bite, tweet, and shared YouTube gaffe, it would be easy to arrive at the conclusion that men and women of character are missing from the political landscape. That is just as false today as it was in 1776. It is up to voters to look past the electronic chaff and recognize character when we see it.

Mr. McCullough reminds us that George Washington made mistakes, but he learned from them, and retained the confidence of the men under his leadership.

In his address, Mr. McCullough quoted Abigail Adams. In one of her many letters to her husband, John, who was off in Philadelphia working to put the Declaration of Independence through Congress, she wrote, “Posterity who are to reap the blessings, will scarcely be able to conceive the hardships and sufferings of their ancestors.”

Saturday is a day for celebration. There is still work to be done, but as we cheer the fireworks, we ought not to forget what it is we celebrate and the hard work it took.

For periodically taking the measure of the community, few opportunities are better than the few weeks surrounding the end of the school year.

The ebullience of this year’s Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School graduation met all our expectations, from the unique setting of the Tabernacle to the showcasing of articulate, enthusiastic, and proud graduates and families, who happily are expanding to include members of the Vineyard’s Brazilian community (June 17, “Saudade: It doesn’t always translate”). And the triumphs of the state champion girls varsity tennis team add hard-earned icing to the end-of-school-year cake.

That many of us share in the pride high school graduation generates is evident in the astonishing $1.2 million in scholarships and prizes awarded to new and recent graduates by Island organizations, trusts, and individuals (a complete list of all awards, accompanying class photos, and essays, was published June 18 as a special Class of 2015 section).

Beyond its intrinsic value, a college degree remains a fixture among markers predicting economic mobility and employment opportunity. College price tags, though, have soared so high that the burden on all but a tiny number of Island families is increasingly difficult if not altogether disqualifying. So the gifts of the community make a direct difference — in fact, they could make all the difference. In that context, consider the impact the generosity of former Island residents George and Martha Yates will have on our youngsters — a new scholarship fund of $1 million administered by the Permanent Endowment Fund of Martha’s Vineyard.

If our significant commitment of tax support for public education on Martha’s Vineyard and accompanying direction of philanthropic resources is seen as a purposeful investment in the mobility and ultimate success and satisfaction achieved by our college-bound children, however, the celebrations of students, families, and our schools themselves are well-earned, but don’t tell the entire story.

As recent research on American communities and economic mobility describes (David Leonhardt, et al., nytimes.com, May 4, 2015), economic mobility can in many ways be seen as an artifact of location. In a very large-scale study designed to evaluate the effectiveness of relocation to higher-income communities as a means of improving economic mobility, the study’s authors (Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren, Harvard University) examined millions of records to show the effect of location on earning capacity.

A very useful interactive tool included in the Leonhardt article makes it easy to search the database by virtually any county in the country, and to see comparative rankings nationally and within each state. Mobility rankings within each county can be sorted by income quartile and by gender, so a pretty full picture emerges.

What we see is definitely not what most of us would expect. On average, Dukes County is next to last among Massachusetts counties in expected mobility. For our poorest children (the 25th income percentile), the outlook is better than only 31 percent of counties nationally.

It might be tempting if ungenerous to attribute this problem to the victims, and to see the statistics as validation of the rewards of hard work, strong values, and long-term residence on the Vineyard. Tempting, but substantially if not altogether simply wrong. Because even more striking, the disadvantage of Vineyard children actually grows substantially with improved family economic circumstances: For average-income Vineyard children, the outlook is better than for only 7 percent of all U.S. counties. And for wealthy Island children (the 75th and 99th income percentiles), Martha’s Vineyard actually measures worse than 99 percent of all counties in the country.

In other words, data expected to illuminate the relative mobility disadvantage of poorer and more recently arrived children among the Martha’s Vineyard community confirms that expectation, but then goes on to show how much things worsen for wealthier Island children.

It’s fair to ask why. One explanation might lie in the extent of severe problems not primarily rooted in income. The study, for instance, doesn’t isolate for rates of substance abuse among a community’s population of different ages, reportedly alarmingly high on Martha’s Vineyard for everything ranging from heroin to party drugs to prescription medications. It doesn’t easily isolate for incidence of single-parent families, or for limited economic opportunity back home after college.

If economic mobility isn’t the measure of opportunity and potential quality of life we Islanders want for our children, it raises the question of why we trail so many other so-called lifestyle communities, who seem to offer much of the same environment we do and still provide both values we favor and mobility opportunities for their children. And if we’re right about what our children want and need, maybe our enormous levels of support for local education and futures unlocked by college aren’t the only important investments we should be making.

If we want the best investment strategy possible for our children, we need to be transparent and thoughtful about our goals — about the opportunities and the safety net we want to provide for all our children, what part the community needs to take, and what individual families are responsible for. And quite likely, we need to look beyond our schools and traditional college-tuition assistance to support our goals.

Martha’s Vineyard Community Services and its many family-centered programs would seem a perfect vehicle, and MVCS has shown itself to be both well-run and a good partner to new, innovative approaches to philanthropy, such as the Island Wide Youth Collaborative. Much the same could be said for the Martha’s Vineyard YMCA. Perhaps the season of well-earned satisfaction and congratulation is also a good time to take on some serious thinking about our investment strategy.

 

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The weather smiled on the Martha’s Regional High School Class of 2015 Sunday. It was as perfect a Vineyard day as one could wish. Life for the 160 graduates who marched up on stage to receive their diplomas will not always be sunny, but on that day, surrounded by proud family members, friends, and teachers, the outlook was bright.

The wider Martha’s Vineyard community can also take pride in the accomplishments of the class of 2015. Island taxpayers invest heavily in education — close to $50 million in the fiscal year about to close, on a system that employs 550 employees and educates more than 2,100 students, according to outgoing Superintendent James Weiss — and we may hope that the start in life provided these students will pay dividends in the future.

Many will seek higher education. Others will join the job market. Some will enter the military. They will move forward in their endeavors with a sense of community that is becoming rarer and rarer in society, one which some in this class may not fully appreciate until later in life, when they look back on the bonds they formed growing up on a small Island.

One can learn much about this latest crop of students and the experience of growing up on the Vineyard from the remarks they delivered Sunday. Those speeches are included in a special graduation section published in today’s issue of The Times.

The common themes were parental and community involvement.

“I wouldn’t be here without the support and compassion of my teachers, community members, and most importantly my parents,” Valedictorian Samantha Potter said. “Even amidst their own hectic schedules, my parents were a constant presence that I could rely on, and even if they couldn’t help me with my BC Calculus homework, at least they tried.”

How reassuring to hear that parents still count. Irrespective of all the studies and government programs spent devising new methods of education, the basic ingredient is an involved mom, a dad, or a teacher.

Josie Iadicicco, student council president, highlighted the class of 2015’s accomplishments:  “We have left our legacy in the form of broken athletic records in sports like track and tennis, Gold Keys for award-winning art, and national and regional recognition for the literary magazine, Seabreezes, and the school newspaper, The High School View.

“We connected with our community through outreach programs at Windemere, and events like the CROP Walk and the Relay for Life. Some of us will be traveling to Washington, D.C., this summer to accept an award for the MVironment Club, in recognition of its outreach program at Island middle schools. Lastly, the actors of the class of 2015 have given stunning performances at this year’s productions of Into the Woods and Twelfth Night.

Josie recognized the groundwork that nurtured her class, including those residents who regularly turn out to cheer on student athletes and attend school performances, and in doing so provided her classmates with a springboard into the future: “We have not done this in isolation. The support of a community that values education has allowed us to flourish and realize our potential. From elementary school teachers who guided us in our early years to members of the community who have shown their support by attending our games and performances, we have felt your devotion, and are deeply grateful.”

Class essayist Charlotte Potter spoke about the experience of learning and maturing as she made the transition from middle school to high school.

“The past four years held a lot for us. It was the first time we fell in love, and got our hearts broken. We discovered that the friends we made in middle school would change, and the new ones we made would last far longer than the tan lines we sustained in our final summer together. We struggled to find who we are, and hoped that by some desperate chance we would make it out of this mess alive.

“Now look at us. They told me high school would go by fast, but I never knew how true this warning was. It seems like just moments ago, we walked into the high school terrified of the change, but eager to face the new challenges. Today we have the same expressions as we look toward being a first-year again, in whichever path we choose: the first year in college, in the workforce, or as a world traveler.”

Our new graduates head out into the world. The rushing river of life that started out as a small Island brook will continue to speed them along into the future. We wish them all the best.

In an 18-page decision handed down Monday, June 8, Superior Court Justice Cornelius J. Moriarty II made mincemeat out of the Dukes County Commission and its most recent lamebrained and costly efforts to meddle in the affairs of the Martha’s Vineyard Airport.

No, the county manager cannot sit on the airport commission as a nonvoting member — the county’s ham-handed effort to oversee airport commission decision-making.

No, the county commission cannot willy-nilly expand the airport commission from seven to nine members — a bumbling county effort last fall to alter the voting makeup of its appointed airport commission, which included one of their own self-appointed members, because the commissioners were too impatient to wait until the terms of the recalcitrant members of the airport commission expired in January and they could boot them off.

No, the county treasurer cannot refuse to pay invoices approved by the airport commission — as she did time and again to exert county authority that does not exist.

No, the county treasurer cannot ask to see invoices from airport attorneys to determine what legal services were provided and then pass that private information on to third parties — as she passed them on to a former disgruntled airport employee and union representative, since appointed to the airport commission, where he can wage war against airport management from the inside.

It was clear from the first sentence of the decision that Judge Moriarty understood what this battle was all about.

“This case stands as another chapter in the long-running power struggle between the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission and the County Commission for Duke County over the control of the Martha’s Vineyard Airport,” Judge Moriarty said.

The ruling was handed down as a summary judgement, meaning both sides agreed on the facts and left it to the judge to decide based on the law.

For those of you who have long since given up trying to understand this battle, it goes, punctuated by lots of dollar signs, something like this:

By state statute, the airport commission is solely responsible for the county-owned airport.

The county commission is responsible for appointing members of the airport commission.

More than a decade ago, appalled by county meddling in airport affairs, state aviation officials asked the county commissioners to sign grant assurances which provided millions of dollars in state and federal grants to the airport under the condition the county agree not to reorganize the airport commission or “in any way interfere with the autonomy and authority” of the airport commission.

Irrespective, the county commission has consistently argued that the county charter superseded the state statute known as the Airport Act, which vested authority for the airport in the airport commission, and meddled in airport affairs.

Judge Moriarty said on one hand the county claims that the provisions of the county charter trump the Airport Act, yet on the other hand it agrees that the grant assurances are a binding contract.

“It appears that the County seeks to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds,” Judge Moriarty said. “It may not do so. Here the County has forfeited its right to manage the airport through the execution of the grant assurances and the acceptance of state and federal funds.”

For those of you keeping score, the County Commissioners are now 0-2 in Superior Court.

In July 2005, Superior Court Judge Robert Bohn Jr. ruled that the airport commission had the statutory authority to set the salaries of its professional managers, and that the county lacked the legal authority to interfere with the payment of those salaries. The legal issues were the same.

Judge Bohn also slapped the county with a hefty bill. In total — including back wages, triple damages, and legal fees for all involved — the defeat totaled more than $800,000. The award of treble damages was later rescinded on appeal.

That’s two knockouts. There were multiple jabs landed that ought to have told the county how this fight was going to end. Yet it persisted.

Judge Moriarty’s decision is a lively piece of writing, even humorous until one considers the colossal waste of time and resources spent fighting a fight that had its roots in the arrogance and thickheadedness of the county commissioners, whose actions compelled the now-ousted airport commissioners to file the lawsuit decided on Monday.

In March, the county commissioners used their appointing authority to finish the purge of the airport commission that began last year. County Commissioner David Holway’s clumsy questioning of the candidates left little doubt that a willingness to stand behind the airport’s litigation against the county was a litmus test.

The next test will be how the newly appointed members of the airport commission react to this legal victory, and whether they assert the principles of law on which the judge based his decision. They are the beneficiaries of a battle that began years ago, when airport commission chairman Marc Villa of Chilmark, a pilot and businessman, and his fellow commission members opposed county efforts to meddle in airport affairs. Mr. Villa was duly tossed off the airport commission, but not before he had overseen the transformation of the airport from a ramshackle collection of buildings to a new modern facility and the straightening out of airport finances.

Last June, County Commission Chairman Leonard Jason Jr. called for the outright resignation of the seven airport commissioners. The longtime county commissioner later modified his call in a letter addressed to the airport commission, in which he suggested that the commissioners find something else to do.

Perhaps it is time for the seven county commissioners — Leon Brathwaite, John Alley, Tristan Israel, Christine Todd (also an airport commissioner), Leonard Jason Jr., Gretchen Tucker Underwood, and David Holway — to find something else to do.