Opinion

Tisbury is about to embark on an ambitious project to imagine what it might look like in the future and how it might get there. Over the next two weeks, town planners will hold three community workshops where, according to organizers, “participants will discover values upon which to base a vision plan and guide future actions.”

It is an important and worthwhile effort that deserves broad support from town residents, property owners, and business leaders. How to achieve that level of involvement and extend the conversation beyond the usual participants in municipal affairs is one of the biggest challenges organizers face.

Vineyarders have a debilitating habit of not paying much attention to design projects until they are under construction or complete. Let’s call it the pergola syndrome, in memory of the Greek columns and pergola that in 2000 graced the entrance to the new Tisbury Library and were then quickly removed following a storm of protest that the design was not “unobtrusive and quiet.”

A flyer distributed to Tisbury residents in this week’s issue of The Times explains, “The town will face a number of important issues in the coming years. A Vision Plan created with broad community participation will establish a framework to guide town decisions and enable us to take advantage of future development and funding opportunities.”

By the standards of most seaside vacation destinations, Vineyard Haven, the year-round gateway to Martha’s Vineyard, presents a dour picture to visitors arriving by the Steamship Authority. The number of commercial properties poised for development presents one of the town’s biggest challenges and opportunities.

The Stop & Shop property, which comprises three buildings, two parcels on either side of Five Corners and the Boch property, offers a unique and rare canvas. The challenge for town leaders will be how to forge cooperative development partnerships with property owners that provide benefits for all participants.

Those who are willing to invest in the community deserve a fair process and some expectation of a timely decision — one way or the other. Unfortunately, even 20-20 vision planning is no cure for town boards that turn municipal process into a form of bureaucratic purgatory.

This week, Janet Hefler reports on the planned sale of Saltwater restaurant in the Tisbury Marketplace by owner Reid “Sam” Dunn to Mary and Jackson Kenworth, owners of State Road restaurant in West Tisbury. It took Mr. Dunn four months to obtain a special permit so he could close the deal. The issue was a lovely screened porch and additional seats that did not suddenly appear. They have been there for more than five years. Any adverse effect ought to be well-known by now.

We can certainly expect that the Kenworths will bring the same level of excellence to Tisbury that they have brought to State Road, and before that to the Sweet Life Cafe in Oak Bluffs.

Also this week, we report that the Island Housing Trust project to create six apartments on the site of a decrepit house at 6 Water Street is mired in the zoning board of appeals, which is concerned that the inhabitants  might not be able to live without cars, or parking, and would suffer from pollution and roadway vibration, being so close to Five Corners.

Presumably, a tenant would be thrilled to have an affordable roof over his or her head, ride the bus or walk to work, and generally be happy to live like millions of others do, in apartments on Main Streets in small towns and cities across America.

This project has undergone thorough review. Any holdups tied to whimsical concerns by ZBA members only threaten state and federal funding timelines.

A public health achievement

Tonight, pressed by one of its members, the Oak Bluffs board of health will revisit the issue of fluoridation of its municipal water supply. The town has been adding fluoride since April 1991, with no documented ill effects to its residents.

As with most town boards, the board of health is made up of citizens who contribute their time. There is no requirement that any of its members have some expertise in public health, only the expectation that they will do their best to become informed and use their good judgement to render decisions in the best interests of the community.

Experts in the field of public health, Island dentists, and state and federal public health agencies endorse fluoridation as a means to reduce tooth decay, particularly in young children.

In comments to reporter Barry Stringfellow, Dr. Garrett Orazem, a well-respected dentist who has practiced on the Island for 33 years, said he has seen the benefits of fluoridation. A board decision to discontinue fluoride, he said, would be “a huge mistake.”

Dr. Orazem feels so strongly about the issue that he has been encouraging patients and other dentists to attend the Thursday-night meeting that begins at 7 pm in the Oak Bluffs library meeting room.

This is not about cost. Oak Bluffs spends about $15,000 per year to add fluoride to town water. Compared to the cost of one visit to the dentist, that represents a bargain for taxpayers, who have likely benefited from fluoridation whether or not they had the discipline to brush and floss after every meal.

This is an issue that needs to be rooted in good science and sound public health policy. The board members will not have to search to find the information they need to make an informed decision.

“For 65 years, community water fluoridation has been a safe and healthy way to effectively prevent tooth decay,” according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

One benefit of community water fluoridation, the CDC said, is that a person’s income level or ability to receive routine dental care are not barriers to receiving its health benefits.

The CDC has recognized water fluoridation “as one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.”

After careful thought and consideration, the Oak Bluffs board of health ought to reach the same conclusion

If all goes well with permitting and funding, this spring Martha’s Vineyard Community Services will begin operating a community crisis stabilization program (CCSP) in a building located on the grounds of the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. The program as designed would address the immediate needs of individuals in crisis related to substance abuse and/or mental health issues.

Currently those individuals often spend long hours in the hospital emergency room, sometimes accompanied by a police officer, tieing up medical and public-safety resources. The crisis stabilization program is a much-needed and welcome alternative that will better address this growing problem.

In a story published June 4, “Battling addiction on Martha’s Vineyard,” Dr. Jeffrey Zack, director of emergency medicine at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, spoke about the big rise in cases related to opiates and heroin.

Dr. Zack said that people often arrived at the emergency room for services the hospital doesn’t provide, which can take up valuable beds, sometimes for days.

“We’re the backstop on the Island, and we won’t turn anyone away,” he told reporter Barry Stringfellow. “That said, we’re not a detox facility or a psychiatric facility.”

As Barry Stringfellow reports this week (“Community Services will open the Island’s first crisis-intervention center”), the new treatment facility is the result of a collaborative effort by Martha’s Vineyard Hospital chief executive officer Tim Walsh and Martha’s Vineyard Community Services executive director Julie Fay to meet an identified community health need.

The hospital will give a house, now used by its billing department and known by its distinctive siding as the red house, to Community Services. Once renovations are complete, the house will include individual therapy rooms, a group therapy room, and crisis-stabilization beds. More important, it will provide an intermediate step that could be the difference between an individual remaining on-Island or being sent to an off-Island facility by ambulance, a costly proposition.

The announcement of a CCSP on the hospital campus dovetails nicely with the news last week that the hospital is constructing a walk-in clinic that will provide an alternative for people not in need of emergency care who now utilize the ER. The hospital and Community Services are on the right track.

The CCSP will not address the needs of every individual. Some will still need to be sent to mainland facilities better equipped to provide long-term care in a closely supervised environment. But it is an example of how the Island’s largest health-care provider and its largest social services agency can work together to benefit the community as a whole.

It will be up to generous Islanders to help Community Services meet its CCSP funding goal.

Commercial fishermen are an independent, self-reliant lot. Men and women who make a living from the sea are familiar with waking early and long hours hauling gear with no one to rely on but themselves. They keep a tight grip on the wheel and on hard-learned fishing information, but are quick to lend a hand when a fisherman is in need, because anyone who spends time on the water knows that one day, he or she could be in the same boat.

The desire for independence that pushes men and women to embrace the life of a commercial fisherman can get in the way of joint efforts by fishermen to protect their livelihood. From time to time, fishermen have banded together to form an organization to represent their interests, but it takes a skilled navigator to steer a course through the political and personal currents when there are more than ten Island fishermen in one room.

The most recent effort came in 2009 with the formation of the Martha’s Vineyard/Dukes County Fishermen’s Association under the framework of Dukes County government. Warren Doty, longtime Chilmark selectman and former Island fish wholesaler, took the helm of the fledgling group and moved it forward.

In June 2010, attorneys with the law firm of Kelley Drye & Warren filed suit on behalf of the Martha’s Vineyard/Dukes County Fishermen’s Association in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Cape Wind project on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound.

In a 16-page complaint, attorneys David Frulla and Shaun Gehan said the Cape Wind energy project would effectively end all commercial fishing on Horseshoe Shoal — prime, historic fishing grounds for Vineyard fishermen.

Two years later, in June 2012, Mr. Doty announced that the Fishermen’s Association had reversed its position, and agreed to support the Cape Wind project “as a sustainable source of clean energy for the future” in exchange for a payout, the amount of which was shielded by a confidentiality agreement.

In a story published Sept. 4, “Island fishermen’s groups steer different courses,” Steve Myrick was able to slightly pry the lid off the confidentiality agreement and report that the settlement deal calls for Cape Wind to pay the Menemsha Fishermen’s Preservation Trust Inc., renamed the Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust (MVFPT), in order to handle the proceeds of the settlement, $250,000 when project financing is in place, and an additional $1 million once permitting for the wind farm is complete.

Mr. Doty told Mr. Myrick the organization had run up $125,000 in legal bills and had no choice but to settle. He said he had signed a nondisclosure settlement that prohibited parties to the deal from talking about it. Mr. Doty, citing the confidentiality agreement, refused to describe the financial arrangement with Cape Wind to Mr. Myrick.

The MVFPT’s stated and laudable goal is to use the money to create a permiting bank that can be used to help and sustain the Island fishing industry.

Confidentiality agreements may be standard tools for private individuals and companies that want to shield information from the public. But Mr. Doty, a selectman, operating under the umbrella of Dukes County at the time, made a bad decision. It was wrong not to reveal the details of the agreement. The fishermen and members of the public that supported the Fishermen’s Association in the lawsuit ought to have been told the details of the payout.

The Dukes County Commissioners, who lent the county imprimatur to the Fishermen’s Association, ought to have insisted on disclosure but ignored their responsibility and chose to say nothing on the topic at the time.

The notion that the Association had no choice but to capitulate and settle because they had racked up significant legal bills is hard to understand. The time to have thought about how they were going to pay those legal bills was before they signed on to a lawsuit engineered by a Washington law office.

The deal created hard feelings around the Island waterfront — that part of it that extends beyond Menemsha to Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, and Edgartown harbors. That is unfortunate. The MVFPT was created to support Island commercial fishing interests. It is time for MVFPT leaders to cast a wider net and gain the trust and support of fishermen who feel left out.

Those who cheer for the little guy should not be comforted at the thought that a small Island group of fishermen tapped Cape Wind for $1.25 million. Whatever the actual payout amount, it is the ratepayers of Massachusetts that will underwrite the costs of this settlement and of a deal Cape Wind cut with the Department of the Interior that will enrich the Mashpee and Wampanoag tribes, who claimed that the wind farm would interfere with their view of the rising sun, an important element in tribal ceremonies.

The Massachusetts primary election is Tuesday, September 9. If past practice provides any indication of future behavior, only a small percentage of eligible Martha’s Vineyard voters will take the time to cast a vote in next week’s election, which features seven contests and will set the stage for important races at the state level that include the offices of governor, treasurer, and attorney general.

That lack of participation is unfortunate. Election day is the one day every citizen stands equal with the next, irrespective of his or her station in life, and walks into the polling place and casts only one vote.

Excuses abound. In Massachusetts, a state dominated by career politicians, voters may say that one vote does not matter. It is a view that guarantees more of the same.

The same citizen who rails at his or her flat-screen television screen during a news broadcast finds it too much trouble to go to the polls once every two years and fulfill an exercise in civic responsibility that takes less time than he or she is willing to spend to pick up a pizza on a Friday night. Walk in, provide your name, take a ballot and make your choices. It is that easy.

Yet, judging by the number of voters that participated in the 2010 primary, about three out of four registered Island voters thought it was too much trouble to go to the polls.

By town, the numbers looked like this: Chilmark (26.4 percent); West Tisbury (22.2); Tisbury (21.2); Oak Bluffs (19.3); Edgartown (17.9); and Aquinnah (16.6 percent).

In the 2012 election the percentage of voters who went to the polls ranged from a low of 11.9 percent of voters in Edgartown to a high of 19 percent in Chilmark.

Islanders tend to be a self-satisfied bunch. The word “special” gets tossed around a lot by publicists of everything Vineyard. Well, a voter turnout of less than 25 percent is not so special among a pretty well educated electorate. In fact, it is cause for embarrassment, particularly when set against the world stage where the struggle for basic human liberties continues, and the simple act of walking into a polling station takes courage in many countries

While the outcome of next week’s election is important, irrespective of the nature of the contest, each citizen’s willingness to exercise his or her right to vote is a statement.

Our right as U.S. citizens to vote was hard won, paid for in blood and treasure. It remains the bedrock of our democracy and we owe it those who have defended that right to exercise it, and to vote Tuesday, if for no other reason than to honor their sacrifice and do our civic duty.

Back to school

The new school year begins this week with a total K-12 enrollment of 2,278 students. In this week’s issue, at the invitation of The Times, Island school principals briefly describe the changes students and parents can expect and their goals for the school year. The essays differ but all share a sense of optimism and energy.

Once again, school buses are a familiar sight on Island roads. Children, often accompanied by parents are walking or biking to school. It is time to exercise caution driving and enjoy the sound of kids playing in school yards that lay dormant all summer.

Summer doesn’t officially end until September 23. For many, the upcoming Labor Day weekend is the dividing line. Close observers of Island roadways and intersections are more inclined to name Ag Fair weekend as our summer visitor solstice, the peak after which the number of SUVs with New York and Connecticut plates begins to diminish.

Martha’s Vineyard is a seasonal balloon. The week of Illumination Night, the Oak Bluffs fireworks and the four-day Ag Fair is when it appears it might burst. The week that follows is when it begins to slowly deflate. About February, that balloon will be flat.

This week, summer visitors, including President Obama and his entourage and their security details, headed back to work and their off-Island routines. Students who had not already done so returned to college. The lessening of traffic, people, and frenetic activity was noticeable everywhere but at the Steamship Authority where boatline employees did their best to accommodate the departing passengers and vehicles.

So this is a fitting time in the rhythm of Island life to take notice of those Islanders who mostly remain unnoticed behind the scenes until they are needed, and who, happily, do not figure in the vacation experiences of most summer visitors— the Island’s volunteer EMTs and firefighters, police, dispatchers, nurses, and doctors.

Travelers who arrive and depart from the Island by air on scheduled and private airplanes likely take little notice when they pass by an unprepossessing building located not far from the Martha’s Vineyard Airport terminal. Inside that building, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the men and women that staff the Dukes County Sheriff’s Department Communications Center calmly and professionally knit together the Island’s emergency response system.

Over the course of the past eight weeks the radio scanner in The Times newsroom rarely remained silent for very long. Most visitors might be surprised to learn how much goes on behind the scenes of their lovely vacation spot.

The calls run the gamut: An elderly person is ill and complaining of shortness of breath; there is a bike accident in the state forest and an individual is bleeding from the head; there is a three-car motor vehicle accident with “unknown injuries,” a woman can be heard screaming for help from a house; there are sheep in the road; a suspected shoplifter on Main Street; a caller has reported a driver swerving all over State Road headed up Island; a swimmer in trouble off State Beach; a driver is locked out of her car in the Stop & Shop parking lot; and on and on it goes: a smell of gas in a house elicits a visit from the fire department; a burglar alarm summons the police.

Every call is a precursor. Medical emergencies bring a quick response from the Island’s corps of dedicated, volunteer EMTs. Police rush from emergency call to emergency call. Several times over the course of the summer dive teams have mobilized and rushed to answer calls of swimmers and boaters in distress. Often, even before they arrive there is a happy ending. The call comes over the scanner: “swimmers on the beach, you can slow your response.” Nevertheless, every call is answered with the same vigor as the one before it.

One particularly busy summer day, ambulances were racing from town to town to provide mutual aid, the term used when one town summons help from another. Of course, mutual aid is the lifeblood of any small community. Although our population swells from about 17,000 in the winter to about 105,000 in the summer, our instincts are still that of a small community where neighbors look out for neighbors, even if they are only our neighbors for a week or two.

The end of the summer will not bring an end to emergency calls, only a let up in the volume. Hopefully, the men and women who have manned the front lines of the Island’s emergency response systems with be able to catch their collective breaths and find time to go to the beach. A tip of the hat to them all.

Farewell Mr. Obama

President Obama and his family have departed Martha’s Vineyard for Washington, D.C. He returns to many challenges. We trust that his time on the Vineyard provided him with a welcome respite and time to reflect on the course he must steer.

It appears he enjoyed his Island vacation. But it is hard to know. Mr. Obama remained well out of the public eye and showed little appetite for meeting the Island public, if even for a fleeting moment. Americans like their elected leaders to be personable, but unfortunately it may be a sign of the times. See you next year, Mr. President.

Although last winter was particularly severe both in its cold and snow cover, many Vineyarders complained early this summer that there were more ticks than ever. This is intriguing because the proliferation of these pests in earlier years was often ascribed to relatively mild winters. There may be other examples of such dubious assumptions, which have led to flawed proposals for controlling ticks.

The apparent contradiction of received wisdom about the arachnids reminded me of a campaign last year to reduce their number by slashing the Vineyard’s deer population (MV Times,  Aug. 29, 2013, “Sam Telford from Tufts talks tough on ticks”; Vineyard Gazette, Jan. 31, 2013). Although the main advocate for drastically reducing or extirpating deer, Sam Telford, has made a strong argument for re-approving the vaccine against the disease, which became yet another victim of our litigious culture when it was withdrawn from the market after lawsuits, my experience suggests that his direct linkage between the number of deer and cases of Lyme disease is weaker, and is based on a failure to compare different eco-systems.

Here’s the current doctrine: the main vector for Lyme disease is deer ticks — that much is certainly true — as Mr. Telford says, up to 94 percent of female ticks have fed on deer. This is where I become suspicious for a couple of reasons. First, because of the words “up to,” which indicate that there is a range. The second is because the specific numbers of both ticks and deer in such diverse environments as wetland forests and grasslands, and most importantly the ratio between them, is essential to understanding the true significance of any numbers, and the factors behind them. Ninety-four percent of 100 ticks per acre with two deer would be utterly different, to take an extreme example, in its impact on humans, than 94 percent of 10,000 ticks per acre with one deer.

My reasons for suspecting that Mr. Telford’s conclusions are based on an incomplete analysis are founded on decades of life outdoors on the Vineyard. Here’s what I’ve noticed. When my family and I walk along mown paths in oak forests between Menemsha and the Brickyard in June and July, we almost invariably pick up a few deer ticks, despite the fact that we can see for considerable distances under the trees, and deer are usually absent or sparse. But after 20 years and tens of thousands of hours of yard work and thrashing through brush in a sassafras, beech, maple and tupelo (Beetlebung) forest in Aquinnah during the same months, we have yet to pick up a single tick, although deer are visible all day long in an area with far more places to hide.

Mr. Telford might be tempted to respond that these observations are just the anecdotal experiences of one man and his family, but I’d suggest that the difference has been too great and consistent over decades to be easily dismissed. It would be wiser to find the reasons behind the observations than to dismiss them. Here’s my hypothesis.

The abundance of deer and near absence of ticks in Aquinnah’s lush wetland forest, and abundance of ticks despite a lower number of deer in Chilmark’s dry oak forest suggest that the differences go deeper than the relationship between deer and their parasites. In fact, it suggests that it has something to do with the types of forest. One of the chief differences between them is that oak forests produce more starch in the form of acorns that squirrels can hoard, leaving plenty for other rodents such as white-footed mice, which serve as the hosts for immature deer ticks. The mice are a crucial carrier of the ticks, which thrive, even when there aren’t many deer, if the rodents are plentiful.

The evidence from our forest in Aquinnah also suggests that the contrary is true — that the ticks nearly disappear when there are plenty of deer, but few mice. This difference has been so flagrant in my experience that I think the common term for Ixodes scapularis, “deer tick”, is a misnomer, which misdirects attention towards the wrong animal, just because it is a bigger and more obvious target. The ticks should probably be renamed the “white-footed mouse tick,” “oak tick,” or “acorn tick.”

This brings me to the question of good versus bad solutions. Mr. Telford “makes no bones that his primary short-term objective is to significantly reduce the deer population on the Island” by killing them. Perhaps he should watch a TED talk by Alan Savory in which Mr. Savory says that his greatest regret is that he told African governments to cull ten of thousands of elephants in order to manage their reserves, causing the extermination of 40,000 elephants, although his analysis turned out to be backwards.

There are two better ways to reduce the number of Ixodes scapularis on the Island than unleashing a shooting-fest, one of which is so well-known that I was surprised that Mr. Telford did not mention it. It involves the use of tickicide-treated rollers at passive feeding stations for white-tailed deer. According to Cornell University, study after study (Carroll et al 2002, Pound et al 2000, Pound et al 2000b, Solberg et al 2003) has shown large reductions in tick populations following the use of such devices.

Another entirely compatible solution would be to favor vegetation that does not produce surplus starch for mice. I imagine that this solution would be preferable to people who would rather see a few trees removed from their views, than the disappearance of deer, which provide the countryside with much of its charm.

If I were a hunter, and I am indirectly, in the sense that I have allowed specific hunters to hunt on my land, I would also be opposed to Mr. Telford’s plan, since it would result in the rapid reduction of the very deer hunters enjoy stalking. It might be fun at first, but would end up destroying a pastime that many people enjoy.

One thing I agree on with Mr. Telford is that the problem of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases is huge and must be addressed. The question is simply, how? The answer is probably to attack the problem in several ways at once. One way is to continue encouraging sustainable hunting, since it plays a positive role in maintaining the Island’s ecological balance. Another way that should be implemented simultaneously is to install feeding stations or salt licks with tickicide-treated rollers in oak forests and other infested environments. A third one is to favor vegetation that does not encourage the proliferation of mice and their ticks. The fourth way, which Mr. Telford and I agree on whole-heartedly, is to push for the re-approval or improvement of the vaccine.

In the meantime, we should be wary of listening to any calls to manage nature through destructive intervention or violence, since such approaches have caused enormous unintended consequences in the past.

Duncan Caldwell is a Fellow at theMarine and Paleobiological Research Institute of Vineyard Haven and a Lecturer in prehistory, Doctoral module, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris.

If you are a Dukes County taxpayer you might ask yourself this question: what has the county done for me lately? If you answered not a thing, you are partially incorrect.

The county commissioners, through their meddling in airport affairs, have embroiled you in a senseless legal struggle that has already cost county taxpayers $19,000, directly in the form of county legal bills, and indirectly, more than $62,000 and rising, in the form of airport monies diverted from better aviation uses. And there is no indication that it will end soon.

The county commissioners appoint the seven members of the airport commission who by state statute are responsible for the “care and custody” of the airport. The county’s overriding responsibility is to appoint the most qualified individuals. Its authority over the airport begins and ends with its appointment power. But the county commissioners seem to have not gotten that message.

They did not get it in 1997 when the director of the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission (MAC) told county commissioners that, despite the provisions of the Dukes County charter, managerial oversight of the airport by the county manager and any reorganization plan which might eliminate the independent airport commission would be unlawful and could jeopardize $8 million in grants that would eventually transform the old ramshackle airport terminal into a new modern facility.

They did not get it when state and federal airport officials, as a condition of future funding, required the county commissioners to sign “grant assurances,” which curtailed the authority of the county commissioners and the county manager over all airport affairs and put it squarely with the airport commission.

And not in 2002 when the MAC chairman warned that the refusal of the county manager and county treasurer to pay newly hired airport manager Bill Weibrecht his agreed upon salary could end up costing the Island one of the most respected airport managers in New England, and upset a “remarkable turnaround” at the county-owned airport.

And they did not get it in 2005 when Superior Court Judge Robert H. Bohn ruled that the legislation establishing the airport commission trumped the county charter, and the airport commission alone is responsible for the custody, control, and management of the airport, and is empowered to expend its own funds to pay salaries. By the way, that legal lesson cost county taxpayers $525,000.

Why, a taxpayer might ask, doesn’t the county get it? For some insight we refer you to a Letter to the Editor published July 2, from county commissioner Tristan Israel, who took The Times to task for continually referencing the Bohn decision in its reporting.

“The Times seems stuck back in 2006,” Mr. Israel wrote. “That is the year the Italians won the World Cup and George Bush was still president and Barry Bonds broke Ruth’s all-time home run record and the Wii was introduced by Nintendo and the movie Pirates of the Caribbean was released and Cold Play was big on the charts and reality TV was hitting its stride. And, ah yes, the County Commissioners were in litigation with the Airport Commissioners. We are reminded almost weekly by the Times of this fact. A fact that holds no bearing or basis for comparison with current issues even though they would have you think so by repeating the 2006 story over and over again, in story after story, and editorials as well.”

No bearing or basis? Fast forward to 2014. County commissioners unhappy with the airport commission’s bungling performance in its recent discipline of an employee pressed to have their county manager sit on the airport commission as a nonvoting member. The county treasurer attempted to exert control over the payment of airport bills. To defend its statutory authority, the airport commission, with the support of the Mass Aeronautics Commission, sought relief from the court. The county countersued.

As Steve Myrick reports this week, in an 11-page decision dated August 7, Superior Court Associate Justice Richard J. Chin ruled in favor of the airport commission on every point in its request for a preliminary injunction based on his view that the airport commission has shown “a likelihood of success on the merits.”

In his decision, Judge Chin continually cited Judge Bohn. He denied an airport commission request to dismiss the county commission’s counterclaim, but it should not take a legal scholar to digest the meaning of a “likelihood of success.” The smart course, the responsible course, would be for the county commission to call it a day.

The resignation last week of Peter Bettencourt of West Tisbury from the airport commission leaves an opening on the seven-member board. Discussing the appointment process, and with no hint of irony, county commissioner and self-appointed airport commissioner Christine Todd of Oak Bluffs said, “We’ve got some pretty big issues on the table at the airport, and I think it’s critical to get some new blood in there.”

The Island is rich in talent. The county needs to meet its responsibility to appoint the best person for the job and step out of the way.

Sunday night, Oak Bluffs police arrested Leandro Miranda for speeding and driving without a license. The only apparent difference between his arrest Sunday night and a previous arrest on July 4, according to the charges read in court, is that this time Mr. Miranda was not drunk.

Oak Bluffs and Edgartown police have arrested Mr. Miranda, 23,  four times since March for driving violations. The only positive thing we can say about Mr. Miranda’s history of operating a motor vehicle on Martha’s Vineyard without regard to the details that law-abiding residents fret about — insurance, registration, license, sobriety — is that he has not killed or injured anyone.

It is hard to say whether that is a matter of luck or just a matter of time. What is clear is that Mr. Miranda provides a stark example of a law breaker who is unafraid of the consequences of his actions because there have been few consequences.

In a story published in this week’s issue, Times reporter Steve Myrick describes Mr. Miranda’s recent arrest history.

He was arrested on March 2, after police clocked him speeding on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road at over 80 miles per hour. He was charged with operating under the influence (OUI) of alcohol, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, marked lanes violation, speeding, failure to stop for police, and wanton destruction of property under $250 (He ran over bushes).

He was arraigned March 3 in Edgartown District Court, and released after posting $100 bail.

On May 1, police arrested him on a charge of operating a motor vehicle after a suspension for OUI. Mr. Miranda was arraigned May 2 and released on $400 bail.

On the afternoon of July 4, police spotted Mr. Miranda driving on Dukes County Avenue. Mr. Miranda sped down the road passing cars in an effort to elude police, according to police reports. Police apprehended him after a car and foot chase.

He was arraigned on July 7 for operating a motor vehicle with a suspended registration, OUI-liquor, marked lanes violation, operation of a motor vehicle with suspended license, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, failure to stop for police, wanton destruction of property under $250, and resisting arrest. The court revoked bail on the previous two charges, and set bail at $5,000 on the newest charge.

On July 10, Mr. Miranda appeared before Edgartown District Court Presiding Justice H. Gregory Williams and pled guilty to the charges from his first two arrests as part of a plea deal in which he agreed to pay fines and court costs of $825 along with restitution.

Judge Williams, through the court interpreter told Mr. Miranda, a Brazilian national, “If you even think of driving a car without a valid license, which you won’t get for a quite a while, you’re going to jail.”

Perhaps the Portuguese interpreter missed a few words. More than likely Mr. Miranda was not even listening. Mr. Miranda posted $5,000 bail and walked out of the courthouse.

On Sunday, August 10 Oak Bluffs police arrested Mr. Miranda again. He was charged with speeding and operating a motor vehicle without a license. Ho hum. He posted $600 cashbail and walked out of jail.

Mr. Miranda may have needed an interpreter to speak to Judge Williams, but he clearly got part of the message because he did not show up for his scheduled arraignment on Monday.

Police are understandably frustrated. The owner of the bushes Mr. Miranda destroyed is likely frustrated. And Mr. Miranda is free to continue on his way putting everyone on the road at risk until prosecutors show more enthusiasm for taking him off the streets and a judge decides to put him in jail.

by -
4

After they’ve greeted us at the front desk, many savvy patrons of the Edgartown Library head straight for the shelves we keep stocked with books, videos, and music disks newly added to the collection. One of the joys of libraries across the Island is that you can read a review of a movie just released on DVD, or a new book or music album, and find it on your next visit to the library.

Now, buying this wonderful new material costs money, and all the Island libraries do belong to CLAMS, the regional network of libraries whose total collection amounts to some two million items. So if one town were to hit a tight budgetary year, wouldn’t it be tempting to trim the acquisitions budget and just let townspeople borrow new materials from other libraries in the network?

Here’s why doing this is a bad idea: just think what would happen if everybody did.

And since 1890, the commonwealth has set standards for libraries to ensure that they play nicely together. To keep its certification, each town library must meet standards for the purchasing of new materials, for staffing and open hours, and for total operating budget. When the state decertifies a town library for, say, skimping on new materials, that library’s patrons lose the right to borrow materials from other libraries across Massachusetts.

The state’s library standards are a classic example of rules we need to keep the game fair and square. These rules are healthy for everyone for the same reasons we place a minimum size on harvested scallops and lobsters, the same reasons we restrict the pollution that factories can release into our air.

As a society, we agree on rules like these when the rational choices of one individual or enterprise might run contrary to the best interests of the group. In his seminal essay, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” published in the journal Science in 1968, the ecologist Garrett Hardin concluded that the only solution to this conflict between individual and group is what he called “mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon.” In other words, rules — and consequences for breaking them.

I know this might seem an unlikely leap, but I’ve been thinking about Hardin’s essay and the rules of library certification since reading Nathaniel Horwitz’s excellent piece (April 16, “Martha’s Vineyard students lag in required vaccination”), published in this newspaper in April, on the disturbingly high numbers of children in our up-Island public schools whose parents have chosen not to have them vaccinated against such diseases as mumps, measles, and whooping cough.

In the three public schools up-Island (Chilmark, West Tisbury, and Charter), The Times found, the parents of 105 students signed and submitted papers declaring that the vaccination of their children conflicts with their “sincere religious beliefs.” In addition to being an abuse of the word “sincere,” I’d suggest that this also insults the people of faith across the Island who actually do try to live by a religious creed.

I’m afraid that no amount of scientific evidence — and it is already overwhelming — will persuade those parents who have decided vaccination poses some slight statistical danger to their children. This is a subject much like global warming, where deniers of the scientific consensus will always be able to find an anecdote to support their view, an outlier scientist or afringe group’s website whose work they can cite.

As with climate change, although the deniers will always be with us, the science is settled and the consensus is strong that vaccination is a cornerstone of sound public health. It’s time for our community to consider the alarming numbers of unvaccinated children attending our schools — as many as one-third of the enrollment in Chilmark — and to apply some mutual coercion here.

For a parent to weigh the small risks of vaccinations against the serious epidemiological consequences if everyone opted out, and to opt out anyway, is a gesture of selfishness that borders on the antisocial. It’s a sort of parasitism, really, taking advantage of the healthy practices of others.

Ironically, it’s the very success of vaccination as a public health practice that enables the exempters in our community to make these wrong-headed decisions. We’ve had such success suppressing diseases like measles and whooping cough that most parents haven’t seen them, and can fixate on the imagined risks of a vaccine rather than on the real dangers of the illness it helps to prevent.

A fisherman who illegally harvests short lobsters or undersized scallops is banking on the hope that everyone else doesn’t do the same and destroy the shared resource. A parent who doesn’t immunize a child had better hope that enough other people immunize their children so that nasty and sometimes fatal childhood diseases can’t attack their community.

Right now, too many up-Island families aren’t thinking this through properly, and a real public health threat is the result. It’s time for us to agree that while parents may have the right to refuse vaccinations for their children, the community has the right to tell them that if they do, they give up the right to enroll their children in our public schools.

On Saturday, Martha’s Vineyard will welcome President Barack Obama and his family back to the Island for what has become, save for one election year during his presidency, an annual summer vacation ritual. The Obamas could chose any number of vacation spots to visit, each with its own political calculus. Islanders may take pride that the first family has returned year after year, and see in their return visits an endorsement of the many qualities of Island living those who live here year-round, and seasonally, work so hard in a variety of different ways to preserve.

In that sense, the Obamas are no different from the thousands of other families Islanders welcome back in August. They return for the natural beauty of the shoreline and landscape and the sense of community that still prevails, whether it is a small gathering on an Oak Bluffs porch or taking in the Ag Fair and Illumination Night.

With Martha’s Vineyard once again the scenic backdrop for a presidential vacation we can expect that some members of the media will once again trot out all the well worn references to wealth, celebrity and power. It is so much more fun to sell the Vineyard to the rest of the world as an enclave of the elite.

Yes, there is no Motel 6, no Happy Meals. And it costs plenty to rent a house with a waterview in Chilmark for two weeks. Or buy a key to a private up-Island beach.

But if past visits provide any indication of how they will spend their time, Mr. Obama and his family will pretty much enjoy vacation on the Vineyard the same way other families do, although with much less fanfare and attention. There will be visits to the beach and golf courses, bike rides, and shopping, and dinners with friends at Island restaurants and in the intimate surroundings of Island homes.

And that Chilmark waterview of Vineyard Sound? It is accessible to anyone who wants to take a hike through the Menemsha Hills Reservation, owned and managed by The Trustees of Reservations. And the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank welcomes the public to swim, shellfish, hike, bike and horseback ride on many of its more than 70 properties comprising more than 3,000 acres. No key needed.

And if August visitors, including President Obama, members of his coterie, and the visiting media want to take a vacation detour, they could catch a glimpse of the other Martha’s Vineyard, the one more recognizable to the majority of Americans than the celebrity media tripe.

At the offices of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority in Vineyard Haven, executive director David Vigneault could describe the plight of some of the more than 270 people currently on his waitlist for an affordable rental.

In the adjacent office of the Island Housing Trust, executive director Phillip Jordi can describe the challenge to provide homeownership opportunities on an Island where the average median income for homeowners is $64,000 and the median cost of a house is more than $500,000.

More than one waitress or waiter would likely be able to describe what it is like to work several jobs and shuffle between affordable winter and excessive summer rentals just to survive.

Sarah Kuh, director of the Vineyard Health Care Access Programs, could describe the effort to provide quality health care on an island where many people are self-employed.

On Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs or Main Street in Vineyard Haven, Island business owners are just as concerned about many of the things business owners on Main Streets across America worry about, and that includes the costs to provide health insurance to employees in Massachusetts, and subsidize those who do not provide it.

Martha’s Vineyard Community Services in Oak Bluffs, the Island’s umbrella social services agency, provides a glimpse of the other side of the summer postcard — the not-so-pretty picture of Islanders set against a backdrop of substance and domestic abuse. As a recent series of six reports by reporter Barry Stringfellow described, Martha’s Vineyard is not immune to the ravages of opiate abuse and addiction.

Six Islanders have died of opiate overdose since August 2013, according to Dr. Charles Silberstein, psychiatrist and addiction specialist at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. Island-wide, there was one heroin arrest in 2012 and 10 heroin arrests in 2013; in 2012 there were 13 arrests for oxycodone and percocet pills, in 2013 there were 15 arrests.

The national political debate about drug policy and punishment has real meaning to Island families affected by this scourge. A day spent in Edgartown District Court speaking to those on the front lines of the battle would provide some perspective.

No need to travel to the border to confront the immigration debate. Brazilian workers, some legal — their actual number is a cause of speculation — fill a considerable number of jobs on Martha’s Vineyard. Their contribution is unmistakable, but it comes with a cost.

We welcome our August visitors to Martha’s Vineyard. It is a great place to live, not as elite as some make it out to be, and for those who call it home, not every day is a day at the beach.