Editorial

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This Fourth of July, in spite of deep and unsettling differences, most of us should put aside political differences and complaints to celebrate the existence of a nation that at its birth had little chance of survival. That it was born, and endured a cataclysmic civil war to remain 238 years later, an example — not perfect or without flaws — of hope for people around the world is a feat that deserves a national birthday party.

On Friday, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, edifices that honor George Washington, our first president, and Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president, will provide the backdrop for a spectacular fireworks display in our nation’s capitol. The mood will be festive, as it should be.

Throughout the year, a visit to the Lincoln Memorial provides a particularly sobering experience for any American. The immediate observation for one visitor was the number of people speaking in a variety of different languages, all in hushed tones which lent to the sense of reverence the memorial commands.

Today, Islanders will prepare with the rest of our country to celebrate the birth of a nation blessed by providence. It is easy to forget that our country once stood on the precipice of failure. When the issue was in doubt, there was a George Washington, there was an Abraham Lincoln, men of high-minded character who helped guide us forward.

Elsewhere today, we watch as Iraq disintegrates, Ukraine fractures, and cobbled together nations led by mendacious leaders across the globe spiral out of control. We can only pray that one day other people will be as fortunate as we are, and that our fortune will continue.

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This morning, Oak Bluffs town leaders and representatives of several state agencies, including the Office of Fishing and Boating Access and the Division of Marine Fisheries, are scheduled to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Oak Bluffs fishing pier. Islanders and visitors have already begun to make good use of the handsome structure, which expands on the town’s already inviting waterfront boardwalk and strolling opportunities.

The state picked up the cost of construction, about $1 million, using a combination of funding sources that included Mass saltwater license revenues and federal Wallop-Breaux Trust funds, money generated through excise taxes levied on sport fishing and boating equipment.

Under the terms of its agreement with the state, Oak Bluffs is responsible for day-to-day maintenance, public safety, and policing.

The idea for a fishing pier began with the rebuilding of the Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority terminal. The original idea was to incorporate a fishing platform into the pier. That plan disappeared after 9/11, due to security concerns, but not the idea.

For several years, a group of fishermen led by David Nash of Edgartown quietly pressed for a fishing pier. They found support among Oak Bluffs town leaders and in the Office of Fishing and Boating Access, led by longtime director Jack Sheppard, a man who has worked mightily over the years to provide public access to the state’s waterways for all citizens.

The fishing pier project ties in with efforts by Oak Bluffs leaders to revitalize the downtown area and generally enhance the town’s welcoming atmosphere. Work will soon begin on a multi-million dollar plan to rebuild the entire seawall and add a boardwalk at North Bluff.

In the years to come, Island fishermen will take advantage of the pier to introduce kids to the fun of catching a scup, lovers will stroll along its length in quiet conversation, and visitors will be able to sit on one of the many wooden benches and admire the view.

Today’s ceremony marks the end of a long navigation through a series of local, state, and federal permitting agencies. In all, the project took more than a decade, but the end result was well worth the effort. Oak Bluffs can take pride in the latest addition to its public projects and the entire Island will be the beneficiary.

A salute to Edson Rodgers

Islanders who attended the Flag Day concert by the members of the Navy Band Northeast from Newport, R.I., at the Tabernacle on Saturday night enjoyed quite a treat. The band performed a medley of tunes to the great delight of the audience, many of whom waved small American flags, purchased prior to the concert from entrepreneurial Boy Scouts.

American Legion Post 257 in Vineyard Haven organized the free concert as part of a celebration earlier in the day to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Veterans Memorial Park. The evening began with neighbors greeting neighbors and the excited chatter of children. It was a quintessential Island event that reflected the spirit and patriotism of our small community.

Wielding a conductor’s baton and smiling broadly, Lt. Commander Carl J. Gerhard stood erect in a finely tailored, white dress jacket and led the Navy band through its paces with the precision of an aircraft carrier takeoff. But the star of the show was retired Navy chief Edson Rodgers of Edgartown, who conceived of and organized the band’s Island visit.

It was no small task, given the logistics and paperwork involved. Navy Band Northeast is attached to the Naval War College at Naval Station Newport. The group performs over 500 engagements annually in an 11-state area. Band members travel in four 15-passenger vans and carry their equipment in a 26-foot truck.

Mr. Rodgers served with the Navy Band Northeast before he retired in 1987. Lt. Cdr. Gerhard, who will retire in two months, worked with Mr. Rodgers when he was one of the senior instructors at the Naval School of Music in Virginia. His affection for his former teacher was obvious when he invited Mr. Rodgers to bring his trumpet on stage and perform with the band.

At the conclusion of the performance of “My Way” — done “The Navy way,” Edson Rodgers said —  Mr. Rodgers received a standing ovation from the crowd and a salute from his former pupil. Both were well deserved.

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What do the main streets in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Vineyard Haven have in common? If you answered eyesores in prime business locations owned by the Hall family, you would be correct.

Let’s take inventory.

There is the “yellow house” on the corner of Main and Summer streets in Edgartown, a location in the heart of town that would quicken the pulse of any high-end retailer looking for a spot to catch the attention of the summer crowd. Instead of welcoming shoppers, it is inviting only to termites.

The house, built in 1850 and currently assessed at more than $2 million, has sat vacant since 2003, when a wrangle between the Halls and the town over the removal of a grand, old shade tree began. The Halls wanted to cut the tree. The town said no. We will spare you the details of the court case — which the Halls lost in July 2013 — and the expressions of good faith and a desire to work together and the names of architects engaged. One decade later and there it sits, neglected in one of the state’s wealthiest towns.

How is that possible?

In Vineyard Haven, moviegoers no longer regularly line up outside the Capawock Theater on Main Street to see the almost latest release. For years, in summer and winter, Islanders treasured the neighborhood experience of meeting friends in line and catching up on local news before the lights dimmed. The Capawock is a labor of love for Benjamin “Buzzy” Hall, projectionist, ticket-taker and family patriarch. His efforts to keep it alive deserve our gratitude. For now, it is mostly unused. A sign on the front advertises it as space for hire.

Tisbury selectmen would do well to question what is to become of this crumbling Main Street linchpin.

Then there are the Strand and Island theaters in Oak Bluffs. Islanders with fond summer memories of a movie and a stroll along Circuit Avenue with an ice cream in hand must cringe at the sight of these buildings.

There is no question that changes in technology and the business model have altered the neighborhood movie business for good. It would be unfair to fault the Hall family for closing the doors on a money-losing operation. But it is fair to ask, what next?

Oak Bluffs leaders have embarked on an effort to revitalize their downtown. The state of these buildings and the lack of action by the Hall family have given way to frustration.

“I’m fed up; we’re all fed up,” Oak Bluffs selectman Walter Vail said at the conclusion of the May 27 meeting of the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen, as Barry Stringfellow reports in this week’s issue.

The Hall family assures town leaders that they are doing their best to address structural and cosmetic issues with both buildings but continue to encounter unforeseen problems. Plans are in the works, engineers consulted, but there they sit, two sizeable buildings in the Island’s most vibrant tourist town left to crumble. Instead of anchoring the business district, they drag it down.

A consultant’s report titled Circuit Avenue Business District Peer Review and dated December 3, 2013, described part of the problem in Oak Bluffs. “Private investor cooperation is also part of the economic downturn in the Circuit Avenue village business district. New investments, such as the new ballroom, stand side-by-side with vacant movie theaters. These two vacant structures also grace the entry to the village. Dead space detracts from shoppers desires to walk any further. These two structures, located at the end of a rather empty walk from the ferry terminals, deter people from walking into the village. A major public/private partnership is needed to re-energize these structures. Oak Bluffs may even want to consider creation of a redevelopment entity with adequate financial resources to quickly act to ensure vacant structures do not become a drain on nearby merchants.”

In terms of the number of properties, the Hall family may well be the single largest owners of commercial property on the Vineyard. Certainly, they own some of the Island’s most significant properties. The consultant’s recommendation is applicable to all three towns.

It is time to look down the road past the lawsuits and the acrimony and the excuses and accusations on both sides. We want to believe that the Halls want what is best for their family and the Island’s interests. Now is the time for leaders in each town and the Halls to sit down and work to forge a public-private partnership that will benefit the community as a whole.

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As a war-weary America contemplates the end of major combat in Afghanistan and a conflict with no certain victory lap, just a political off ramp, we recall a day 70 years ago when the nation was united in purpose and American soldiers led the invasion of Normandy that would ultimately free Europe from the horrors of Nazi tyranny and end the ambitions of Adolf Hitler.

Americans are familiar with the grainy, black-and-white newsreel images of D-Day, June 6, 1944. More than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline. By the end of the day, more than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded. The archival footage provides only a glimpse of an experience that few could have contemplated that day without hesitation about the task that lay ahead.

For Nelson Bryant of West Tisbury, a member of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, now 91, and Fred “Ted” Morgan of Edgartown, a member of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, now 92, the sights, sounds, and memories of that day so long ago remain strong.

Mr. Bryant, longtime outdoor writer for the New York Times, said that as the years go by his memories of the war consume a larger part of his thoughts. In his memoirs, a draft of which he provided to The Times, he writes, “A month or so before D-Day, I was surprised, delighted and deeply touched to be visited by a fellow paratrooper from the Vineyard, Fred B. (Ted) Morgan, Jr. of Edgartown. Ted, against whom I had played high school football on the Vineyard, had already — with the 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment — been in Sicily and Salerno. He was there to wish me well and to give me an idea of what lay ahead.”

Nelson Bryant lunged out the door of a shuddering C-47 at about 2:30 am on D-Day. As he described it, “Curving skeins of tracer bullets were hurtling past and after my ‘chute yanked me upright I heard for the first time the tearing snarl of fully automatic German machine pistols, so unlike the slower thumping of our B.A.R.s (Browning automatic rifles) or other automatic weapons.”

His third day in Normandy, while on patrol, he was shot through the chest with a 52-caliber machine gun bullet. Another member of his patrol was killed. After lying wounded for three days in a hedgerow he was transported to a hospital in the Wales countryside. While healing he learned that his unit had returned to Nottingham, and was soon going to make another jump.

In a telephone conversation Tuesday, Mr. Bryant said, “I never thought I would want to pick up a gun or shoot a gun again. But I couldn’t bear the thought of my buddies going into Holland without me.” Without permission, he left the hospital and joined his unit.

It was a young man steeped in what his notion of patriotism was.”

Nelson Bryant would make the jump in Holland and later fight in the Battle of the Bulge.

Asked about his wartime experience, he said, “I feel that at least once in my life I measured up as a man.”

In a telephone conversation Tuesday, Mr. Morgan, retired from a long and distinguished career in public service, said the events of 70 years ago remain vivid in his memory.

Mr. Morgan, who served as a medic, made four combat jumps, experiencing the horrors of war firsthand. “I saw anything and everything that could possibly happen to the human body and did the best I could to take care of people,” he said. “Many of them, of course, couldn’t live but many of them, I figure, medics like myself, saved their lives.”

Medics carried bandages and medicine, not weapons. “Being on the front lines is an experience very few people in a country like ours experience,” Mr. Morgan said. “The thoughts and the accomplishments and the deeds, they stay with you.”

The sheer number of wounded was sometimes overwhelming, he said, “but you had to do the best you could for each one.”

On Friday, Mr. Morgan will spend D-Day with his wife and daughter at The National World War II Museum, formerly known as the National D-Day Museum, in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is a frequent volunteer and will spend part of the day speaking to museum visitors and showing them around.

“I am a proud veteran of World War II,” Mr. Morgan said, “and I am fortunate to be alive and to do what I am doing.”

Martha’s Vineyard is fortunate to have Mr. Bryant and Mr. Morgan. Anyone who has the opportunity to speak to either gentleman on D-Day, or any day, may count themselves fortunate as well.

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It is that time of the year when we ask, what do we get for our county tax dollars? Reporting on the annual county spending plan can be yawn inspiring, but it is wise to ask the Dukes County commissioners and the Dukes County advisory board that question. It lets them know we are interested.

The problem is too few taxpayers ask the question. The county budget has become the spindly rhododendron in the yard that you water, and not because it generates many flowers, or is even attractive. It is in the yard and you don’t want to dig it up and move it, or cut it, so you water it.

Dukes County taxpayers will chip in $500,000 to fund the $1.5 million county budget that begins with the new fiscal year on July 1. Their sizeable contribution will come in the form of individual town assessments.

Unlike a town budget that appears on an annual town meeting warrant and is reviewed on town meeting floor where interested voters (too few, we think) may question department spending, the county budget process occurs pretty much out of sight, and far from the consciousness of most taxpayers. County money comes right off the top of the tax dollar pot.

As Steve Myrick reports in this week’s issue, on May 21 the county advisory board (CAB) approved the county budget. The CAB, made up of one selectman from each town, rejected a hike in the assessment each town pays to the county and requested the county return $150,000 to the towns from surplus county funds. It was a good start.

Under the equalized valuation formula, Edgartown taxpayers this year paid $179,374. Chilmark, with the next highest assessment, paid $89,687, followed by Oak Bluffs ($69,825), Tisbury ($69,331), West Tisbury ($64,644) and Aquinnah ($18,998). That’s a lot of dough.

The need to reference county as opposed to Island taxpayers rests on the town of Gosnold, which includes Cuttyhunk, the one portion of the Elizabeth Islands that is inhabited year-round. It is part of Dukes County.

If Island taxpayers ought to question what they get for their money, how about the residents of Gosnold, who will be asked — no, strike that — told to chip in $6,908. It is not a lot of money, but it is likely that the fewer than 100 people who live on the islands year round would prefer to take that money and send out for pizza several times over the long winter months. That would at least provide something for their tax dollars they could bite into.

Longtime Edgartown selectman and finance board chairman Art Smadbeck has worked hard over the years to pare the county budget. Smart and ever optimistic, Mr. Smadbeck sees the county glass as half full.

Asked by Mr. Myrick what taxpayers will receive from the $1.5 million county spending plan, Mr. Smadbeck described the need to water the plant.

“We have a political entity that we’ve all inherited, that costs money to operate,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “It costs less money today than it used to cost. We’ve been getting the cost down. The value of the political entity is just that, it’s a political entity that can be used for rescuing the MSPCA if that’s necessary. It’s a regional entity that can be used for regional purposes such as finding a home for the Center for Living. Statutorily, we have to have the county, we have to pay for the county.”

Of the fourteen counties in Massachusetts that made it to the administration of Governor William Weld (1991-1997), four county governments were abolished outright. Five transformed into regional councils of government. Only Bristol, Dukes, Nantucket, Norfolk and Plymouth county governments remained substantially unchanged.

Asked the same question as Mr. Smadbeck, Melinda Loberg, newly elected Tisbury selectman and former county commissioner, ticked off veterans services, the county treasurer’s accounting services, and the parking clerk. And initiatives, nominally under the county umbrella. She also emphasized the benefit of the county structure which, she said, “will provide an opportunity for towns when they choose to do so, to work together like we’re hoping to do with the Center for Living.”

Of course, Island towns are capable of providing regional services and funding regional programs and even crafting inter-municipal agreements outside the county umbrella.

In recent weeks, determined to do what no county manager before her has done before and show the county has a useful purpose, county manager Martina Thornton has been making the rounds of selectmen meetings to seek support for special legislation that would allow the county to organize the regional purchase, funded with town dollars, of the former Vineyard Nursing Association building, now on the market for $1.6 million, for use by the Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living.

The Center for Living is an Island-wide organization that offers care and services for residents aged 55 and over, including a supportive day program for frail elders, as well as Alzheimers and dementia patients. The building is too large for their needs, but there is the thought that excess space could be rented out to help pay the freight.

There is no question that the center should have a permanent home. There is a question whether the VNA building is the right building and whether the county, or an Island social service organization should organize a purchase. It is not too early to ask questions.

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Five years ago, Yvonne (Berube) Sylvia of Edgartown walked into the office of The Martha’s Vineyard Times carrying a large blue scrapbook. On the cover was a piece of tape, on which she had written: “Brother Edmund J. Berube. Born August 18, 1918. Killed March 3, 1945.”

The book, its pages frail and yellowed over time, contained photos, letters, documents and clippings Mrs. Sylvia had assembled to preserve the memory of her brother and to document his accomplishments.

By all accounts, Edmund Berube was a gifted athlete who excelled at track and basketball. He co-captained Edgartown High School’s 1935-36 championship basketball team and was president of his senior class. He worked at the Colonial Drug Store, owned by Len Henrickson.

He entered the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in the spring of 1941. Just as in high school, Mr. Berube was very popular with his classmates and was elected president of his senior class. He expected to finish college and to return to Edgartown to work at the Colonial Drug Store.

As the fighting on all the war’s fronts grew in intensity, there was a dire need for men with the type of medical training provided by the College of Pharmacy. In 1943, Mr. Berube and the 72 other members of the class of 1944 learned that there would be no break, but that they would attend classes and graduate on October 27 as part of an accelerated wartime program.

Lewis Lappas of Boston, valedictorian of the first class of 1943, described the disruption the war had created in the professional and personal plans of his classmates as part of his graduation oration delivered that February. “We must lay aside our plans for further study, our hopes for marriage, for homes, for professional careers,” he said to his fellow graduates. “Undoubtedly these things will come to most of us in time, but not immediately; and they will come to none unless we gladly postpone them now in order to do our share in the re-creation of the kind of American world in which such things will again be possible.”

Two months after he received a bachelor of science degree in pharmacy, Mr. Berube joined the Navy.

The scrapbook contained 15 letters Mr. Berube sent to his sister between the time he arrived in the Pacific and landed on Iwo Jima with the Third Marine Division. The first envelope was dated October 7, 1944, the last, February 15, 1945.

Mr. Berube was with Marines who had already had experience fighting the Japanese. If he was worried or concerned because of what he had learned and consequently what he might expect, he never shared such anxious thoughts with his sister.

On February 13, five days before the first wave of Marines landed on the black volcanic soil of Iwo Jima, Mr. Berube sent his last letter to his sister. He criticized some of the movies shown to the troops but wrote not a word of the upcoming battle or non-stop bombardment of the island that he witnessed. He wrote about photos he recently received. “I really like your picture and also the one with Albert [her husband]. They really made me feel wonderful all over, it took me back to the days when you were in school in Boston and all the fun we had. That of course is one of the things we have to help us though blue days. I do not like to look back, but rather ahead to the future when everything can be done as you want and have your good times as normal humans. I hope some day I can walk into someplace out here and meet someone from Edgartown.”

Mr. Berube’s unit landed on Iwo Jima, on February 22. On March 3, a Japanese sniper shot Edmund Berube as he was crawling over a stone to help a wounded Marine. He was 26 years old and one of the 6,800 servicemen killed in a battle defined by its unrestrained ferocity.

At the request of his mother, his body was returned from Iwo Jima, in April 1948.

Edmund Berube is buried in Edgartown cemetery next to members of his family.

Last Tuesday, in Texas, Command Sgt. Maj. Martin R. Barreras, 49, of Tucson, Ariz., died at San Antonio Military Medical Center from wounds sustained when enemy forces opened fire on his unit May 6 in Herat province, Afghanistan.

Mr. Barreras was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas. He had completed several combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. In March 2013, Mr. Barreras was assigned as the senior enlisted adviser for the 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, and deployed to Afghanistan in December 2013.

Command Sgt. Maj. Barreras is survived by a wife, two daughters and a son.

His was the most recent combat death in a 13-year-old war that began in 2001 and has now claimed 2,322 lives and added to the sad weight of scrapbooks in homes across America.

Memorial Day is set aside for the nation to honor men and women who died in the military service of the country. On Monday most of us will go about the business of enjoying holiday activities but it would be well, if even for a moment, to remember the sacrifice Memorial Day is meant to commemorate.

On Thursday last week, in an email to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), Stop & Shop withdrew its application to construct a new two-story, 30,500-square-foot market in place of the cramped, stale building it now occupies in Vineyard Haven. It is likely that Stop & Shop executives read the tea leaves and decided that the MVC’s scheduled June 5 vote, always expected to be close, might not go their way.

But why withdraw? Wait one more month and you get to call and see the other fellow’s cards. A withdrawal earns no MVC bonus points next time, if there is a next time.

After eight months in the Island’s salad spinner of a public permitting process it is understandable that Stop & Shop might wilt. Once upon a time they probably thought their willingness to invest in a moribund block of buildings, provide parking, jobs and contribute $1.1 million in various municipal enticements would be welcomed.

Whatever prompted the decision to withdraw it was not because Stop & Shop’s Dutch corporate bosses looked at Five Corners on Google Earth, or were moved by the comments of petitioners late to the fight. There was a corporate calculus in their decision. Whether it holds any benefit for Vineyard residents is still unknown.

Last week, opponents celebrated. Supporters groaned. And Stop & Shop resisted the urge to tell Vineyard Haven leaders their port entrance would remain as is with all the architectural charm of a Soviet-era block construction site for the next decade.

In a prepared statement, Joe Kelly, President of Stop & Shop New England, said, “Following the close of the public hearing on May 1, 2014, Stop & Shop has decided to request a withdrawal of the current proposal from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission to digest all of the comments, questions and concerns related to the project. Stop & Shop is a vested partner of this community, and will remain committed to evaluating alternatives to bring back life, vitality and character to the gateway of Martha’s Vineyard and to be the true anchor for the downtown area of the Town of Tisbury.”

Now is a good time to take stock. The MVC began the process of considering Stop & Shop as a development of regional impact (DRI) in July 2013. The review included eight public hearings (which consumed about 36 hours), six land use planning committee meetings (another 8 hours) and staff time (more than 800 hours). Tisbury selectmen spent many hours discussing the project and drawing up a memorandum of agreement that turned out to be no agreement. The planning board spent hours deciding it could not support the plan and the parking lot redesign committee came up with another parking lot redesign.

Ten months, hours upon hours of meetings and planning, additional pounds of studies, letters to the editor upon letters and what do we have to show for it today? Not much. A plan that failed to win the support of most Tisbury leaders and generated little enthusiasm among commission members. Lots of process, but not much of a result.

Tisbury and Island residents will benefit from a vibrant, new Stop & Shop and the additional jobs, competitive grocery pricing, and contributions to the community it could provide. Locating a parking and truck delivery lot on the bottom level remains a good idea.

Stop & Shop and the Water Street neighborhood is vital to the Tisbury community. Expecting Stop & Shop to solve every planning and traffic issue within a half-mile radius, and help fund those solutions and build a new market is an unfair burden to impose.

Now is not the time for town leaders to sit on the sidelines and wait for Stop & Shop to make the next move, whenever that might be. The Tisbury selectmen and planning board ought to take the lead and invite Stop & Shop representatives to sit down and work together to find a redesign that will win support. After 10 months, the status quo offers nothing.

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For many Islanders and certainly their seasonal neighbors, spring and the approach of the summer season, with its prospect of shedding the gray, wet, cold winter mantle — also known on the Vineyard as early spring — is a relief. It is exciting to imagine warm, sunny days and everything else the summer months offer.

But for one segment of the Vineyard population, this is the anxious season, as the weeks tick away and winter leases expire. It is the familiar Vineyard shuffle that individuals, couples, and families all too routinely make between affordable off-season rentals and high-priced summer housing, or no housing at all. And, as Jack Shea reports this week, a meeting Saturday at the Oak Bluffs Library, attended by many of those in the eye of the shuffle storm, explained that a strengthening economy has made finding summer housing much more difficult.

Jason Claypool and Mellisa Zaccaria organized the meeting. In a letter posted on social media, Ms. Zaccaria described the situation: “We have been homeless since Friday of last week and have been religiously searching through Facebook housing groups, both Vineyard newspapers, Craigslist, and word of mouth since before Christmas of last year. This is not due to a lack of money, but to a lack of housing opportunities.”

Mr. Shea reports that the group of attendees included many longtime Islanders, people with roots in the community, who now find themselves on the brink of seasonal homelessness.

Dukes County Regional Housing Authority executive director David Vigneault said that for several years the slowdown in the housing market added 50 to 60 rental units to the Vineyard stock. With the real estate market back, he said, many of those rental properties are off the market.

The solution is to create more year-round rentals. And not just for those who fall under median income thresholds. There is a need for quality year-round rental housing for members of this community who may exceed those income limits, but may, for a variety of reasons, be unable or not inclined to buy a house.

In a Letter to the Editor that appears on this page, Chelsea Counsell of Oak Bluffs, administrator of a social media group called “MV Home Solutions,” asks, “Why is Island housing so difficult to find?”

The answer lies in our resort economy. Land prices are high, construction costs are high and property owners, who have their own bills to pay, take advantage of summer to realize the most return on their investment.

Philippe Jordi, executive director of the Island Housing Trust, tells The Times he has been hearing about the rental shortage for months. “Now it is crunch time,” Mr. Jordi said, “and people are getting desperate.”

It is hard to imagine that the best efforts of the Island’s hard-working affordable housing advocates and nonprofit agencies would be able to meet the need any time in the near future. Increased taxpayer subsidies paid to landlords to bridge the affordability gap will not be enough and offer no long-term solution.

Mr. Jordi rightly points out that agencies like the Housing Authority target a specific problem. “The question really is,” Mr. Jordi said, “why don’t we have more market rate rentals, year-round? Why are we having such a problem with people who can pay, not being able to find rental units.”

Mr. Jordi suggest it is the marketplace at work. The numbers do not work. And few developers want to take on the added burdens of property management.

Island planning and housing leaders along with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission ought to invite private developers to sit down and describe what towns and the Island’s powerful regulatory agency might do — incentives, zoning changes, streamlined permitting —  to create an environment in which builders would create market-rate, year-round rental housing. The building trades are pillars of the Vineyard’s year-round and seasonal economy. Many of the members of that community may relish the opportunity to create housing they or their children might one day occupy.

In memoriam

At 11 am, this Saturday, Megan Leland, a member of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School class of 2005, will help dedicate a black granite bench, bought with the help and support of the Island community. It will be set on the high school campus, between two flowering crabapple trees. It bears the inscription, “In loving memory of David Furino and Kevin H. Johnson, Class of 2005.”

With this effort, Ms. Leland will make good on a promise she made 10 years ago, following the deaths of her classmates in an auto accident, and she will affirm the tight bonds among members of the Vineyard community, in good times and bad. As students prepare for the prom this weekend, we are sadly reminded of the message printed on bumper stickers that appear on vehicles around the Island, a message that does not expire with the passage of time: “Buckle up for K.J. and Deebo.”

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Let’s put aside — just briefly, because that’s the best we can hope for — the hubbub of broadly and furiously expressed but narrowly based opposition to the Stop & Shop expansion proposal. Instead, this page believes that Islanders will be better served by an earnest, common sense struggle to consider the good and the not so good of this undeniably substantial and highly visible project.

It seems grandly unrealistic to argue that the new Stop & Shop will alter the character of the Vineyard or of Vineyard Haven. Like the Roundabout, which was deplored in the years leading to its construction as a death blow to Island-ness, the new grocery store will look very different from what is there today. The building will be much bigger than the dilapidated market it will replace. It will stand out by virtue of its scope and height by comparison with the buildings it will replace. But, it is not designed as a big box store like Cronig’s State Road Market. Rather the architectural effort has been to mute the building’s visual impact, and the designers have generally succeeded. What Stop & Shop will build to replace the current market, the restaurant next door, and the house — a rundown apartment building that has been exalted in this debate to historic registry status — will be better looking than anything else that now exists along the short stretch of Water Street on which it fronts. And, Island-ness will survive the alteration.

A bigger, better market will attract more customers, and certainly most of those new customers will drive to the store. Still, traffic studies do not suggest that the added auto traffic will crush the circulation of traffic along that jammed road, whose congestion is primarily the responsibility of Steamship Authority service at one end of Water Street and the mess that is Five Corners at the other — neither the responsibility of Stop & Shop. Stop & Shop plans to add more than 40 parking spots beneath the grocery store, an important plus in a neighborhood where parking is miserably difficult and scarce. The removal of big truck deliveries from the north side of the building will be an important improvement, making possible walking paths along the side of the building and landscaping to improve the appearance. The revision of the town parking lot will make it better looking and more efficient, welcoming, and useful for drivers, walkers, and cyclists than it is now.

The financial contributions Tisbury officials negotiated with Stop & Shop will help the town better manage parking and traffic in the neighborhood, and although $2 million would be better than $1 million, the agreed upon contributions will do some good, and the project as a whole — market expansion and parking lot revision, taken together — ought to stimulate Tisbury planners to take a hard-eyed look at what their zoning regulation has wrought along the corridor from the Steamship Authority terminal to the Lagoon Pond Drawbridge. That strip of devastation is a creature of town and regional planning. If the Stop & Shop project spurs a rethinking of Water Street-Beach Road development rules, with an eye to attracting business investment and creating an environment that pleases Islanders and their visitors, it will have done the town a great service. And if the town and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission would only undertake the planning and political effort to get the Steamship Authority out of town — because Stop & Shop makes sense in downtown Vineyard Haven, but the ferry terminal does not — well, that would be a bit of God’s work.

In sum, this is a good plan — not perfect, not perfectly in tune with every Islander’s world view, not a solution to every existing problem in the Water Street neighborhood, and certainly not a solution to every imaginable problem — but it will do some good for shoppers who will benefit from competition and choice, for businesses in the neighborhood who will consider fresh investment in an area that is rejuvenated, and for a town that has tolerated, and even enforced an attitude of dilapidation, but may recognize an opportunity for healthy change.

24

For the umpteenth time in recent history, the Dukes County commissioners have demonstrated their latent but persistent determination to get their mitts on county airport management.

The commissioners declined the reappointment of two airport commissioners, using the fireworks over the dismissal of an airport employee as the pretext.

Airport management and its union employees have been feuding, and the airport commissioners and the Dukes County commissioners have a decades-old history of feuding. Here was an imagined opportunity for the county commissioners to enlarge their influence over the airport, which after all is the largest, indeed the only significant county asset.  So, the county commissioners spurned the re-appointment request from two of their former appointments to the airport commission. They did so against a backdrop of repeated chastisements – federal, state, and judicial – over attempts by the county to exercise authority over the airport, apart from the strictly limited authority to appoint airport commission members.

The county commissioners tossed two airport commissioners, one of them a county commissioner himself, and replaced them with a fresh county commissioner, perhaps unacquainted with the knotty history of airport-county relations, and with a former airport employee, a frequent and vocal critic of airport management, now on disability retirement and an organizer of airport employees to form a bargaining unit. He also served as shop steward.

You name the landmark county attributes — the criminal, civil, and probate courts, the registry of deeds, the sheriff’s department, the county-owned beaches, the airport — and none of them falls to the county to manage. Sometimes, toward Dukes County voters, God is good.

The Martha’s Vineyard Airport, which by statute is under the control of the appointed airport commission and its professional airport manager, accounts for more than half of the county budget. The county commissioners slaver over that solid financial enterprise, and they’d like to have a piece of it.

The sheriff’s office is now under state control. The registry of deeds and the office of the county treasurer are county departments headed by elected county officials who do not answer to the county manager. Each has direct control over their employees.

In terms of day-to-day supervision and responsibilities, the county manager oversees a total of just two people in three departments — her office, veterans affairs, and a fragment of  integrated pest management.

Until 1993, three elected, paid county commissioners presided over county government. In 1994, voters created a new form of county government that delegated general legislative powers to a seven-member board of unpaid commissioners and gave a county manager full control over the county administration. This enlargement of county administration anticipated an enlargement of the appetites of the six Island towns for more and better county government.

As it happened, what actually occurred was the amputation of county responsibilities, in part because of the county’s demonstrated inability to get things done rationally — the airport expansion fiasco, for example — and the state’s need to streamline its own budget relationship with county governments that were crumbling across the state — the sheriff’s department, for another. Plus, the towns, in their clear-eyed wisdom, asked for nothing from the county. Indeed, over time the county has shifted more and more of the costs of some of the shards of its legacy responsibilities to the towns.

Here is the latest moment offered to the towns and the voters to take steps to sunset this government charade and not to countenance county’s ham-handed intrusion in the business of the only dependably functioning and financially successful county enterprise.