Editorial

Many newspapers and web sites around the world are grappling, as we are, with the challenge to personal privacy posed by search engine access to the content we publish. Beginning with the week of Thursday, October 16th’s Martha’s Vineyard Times, we’re taking steps to discourage the ubiquitous Google search engine from discovering and linking to our weekly Martha’s Vineyard District Court report. Readers of our print and online publications will continue to find this material exactly as before (with in fact some helpful simplification of the archive search on our web site), but casual Google surfers will not easily find links to our pages.

In publishing the court reports each week we make conscious choices balancing community interest against personal privacy. We understand that publishing individual names within the court reports can be embarrassing or have serious adverse personal consequences, and that publication in The Martha’s Vineyard Times’ pages is in itself part of the penalty faced by those named in District Court records. In the end we’re satisfied that the public record needs to be maintained, and we intend to continue our publication policy within the context of our overall sense of community responsibility.

Web publishing and search engine technology, however, have permanently challenged the balance we’ve struck. Google (and its few competitors, such as Bing) make finding an individual appearing in our published court reports a simple matter of micro-seconds for anyone with access to a computer and an Internet connection.

These search results create a new kind of permanent record, eternally accessible to anyone, including college admissions staff, prospective employers, curious friends, and digital voyeurs.

We understand that in a post-web world each of us lives with rapidly expanding consequences for our actions, but each of our punishable acts is not equally vile; the readily accessible and immortal personal data base search engines create has no capacity for modulation, and a teenager at an unauthorized party at one extreme and a violent repeat drug dealer at the other each appears on Google’s pages in the same way.

Search engines like Google take no responsibility for their own role in this new dynamic, and try hard to disassociate themselves from the effect they may have on something as basic as getting a job or securing housing. It’s almost always their position that they are simply finding and linking to material that’s been published elsewhere (in the U.S. at least; the so-called “right to be forgotten” concept is taking hold quickly in Europe).

A request to be “taken down” from Google’s pages in America is almost always redirected to the source of the web post. For newspapers, this idea of “unpublishing” a web story is inapt and disingenuous, and it is unrelated to our professional obligations, let alone to the reality of our already-existing printed products.

The Martha’s Vineyard Times will continue publishing our community’s news in a responsible fashion, but we won’t contribute to the transfer of our responsibility to Google or other search engines any more than we have to. We don’t expect to influence international trends in technology and social behavior, but we can do our best to match our actions to our beliefs. So, we’re using tools Google itself provides to block search indexing of our court reports. You’ll still see the reports in our newspaper pages, and you’ll find current reports and links to past reports at mvtimes.com. You shouldn’t, though, find our court reports through Google searches.

Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) executive director Mark London announced last week that he plans to retire after 12 years at the helm of the Island’s powerful regional permitting and planning agency. The commissioners have yet to decide whether the commission will direct the search for his successor, or rely on the services of a professional search firm.

To his credit, Mr. London has provided ample time, almost a full year, for the commission to search for a new executive director. This presents an opportunity for commission members to meet with selectmen and discuss what qualities the Island’s elected leaders would like to see in the next person chosen to take the MVC helm.

The towns have a considerable stake in the administrative leadership of the MVC, an agency that has considerable influence over Island development and planning.

The MVC operating budget is $1.5 million. The bulk of the MVC’s income comes from Dukes County taxpayers through town assessments based on property tax valuation. All seven towns in Dukes County, which includes Gosnold, share the cost of planning, according to their relative property valuation.

In fiscal year 2015, Edgartown once again paid the lion’s share, $384,043. Chilmark paid $176,600; Aquinnah paid $40,840; Oak Bluffs shelled out $149,526; Tisbury fell just short of Oak Bluffs at $148,604; West Tisbury came in at $138,250. Gosnold chipped in $9,615.

Putting aside the cost, the MVC exercises, through its permitting authority, considerable influence over projects small and large designated as developments of regional impact (DRIs). It is a definition that is as elastic as the mood of the individual commissioners, and capable of encompassing a Girl Scout camp off Middle Road in Chilmark, a pizza place, and a major renovation of an Island supermarket in Tisbury.

Mr. London was a longtime seasonal Island visitor and city planner in Montreal, Canada, when he was hired. Immediately after he started in October 2002, he reviewed MVC operations, interviewing past and present commissioners, town officials, board representatives, and MVC applicants.

In March 2003, he released a 43-page report, “Looking at the Commission, Review of the Operations of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and Recommendations for Improvement,” in which he proposed numerous recommendations designed to revitalize the commission and significantly change the way the regional land use planning agency operates and interacts with the public, elected officials, and Island towns.

The report contained 11 general recommendations, 38 specific recommendations, and 131 concrete actions to achieve them. More than 11 years later, the report makes interesting reading. Many of his observations continue to ring true.

Among the key recommendations Mr. London made was that the commission must be more selective in accepting projects as DRIs, and streamline the process to make more effective use of time; refocus the MVC so more time is spent on planning; create a better working partnership with Island towns; and create smaller working committees where the commissioners can make better use of their time.

Among his findings he said, “There is a perception that the MVC improvises the process as it moves along, that it micro-manages projects, and that its decisions are inconsistent.”

Looking at recent DRI hearings, and a discussion of the type of shrubbery that must be used to screen the new bowling alley in Oak Bluffs, and the dimensions of green space in front of a proposed affordable housing apartment building in Tisbury, it would be difficult to make the case that much has changed.

Back then, Mr. London recommended that the DRI process be “thoroughly renewed” to become more clear and predictable — and also to make better use of everyone’s time, including the applicants’, publics’, and commissioners’.”

It would be hard to argue that the year-long review of the Tisbury Stop & Shop proposal, which ended with nothing to show for it, was anything but.

Mr. London said that “with respect to the way meetings were conducted, many interviewees criticized what they felt was excessive repetition, speechifying, lack of self-discipline (‘not everyone has to weigh in on every issue’), disorganization, getting side-tracked and getting bogged down in detail that is not of real regional impact.”

Sound familiar?

Mr. London also recommended that commissioners should read the material provided to them before the meeting, and “they should exercise self-discipline — speaking less often, ‘not thinking out loud’ and not repeating what has already been said by others.

“They should attempt to choose their words carefully,” he continued, “knowing that their words may be repeated in newspapers or in court.”

If he could have foreseen the future and a toss-off remark made by a veteran commissioner at a bowling alley public hearing, he would have added, “or caught on a microphone.”

The MVC commissioners might benefit by rereading Mr. London’s assessment of the commission, made when he was fresh on the job.

With almost ten months to go before he departs, and the benefit of 12 years experience under his belt, Mr. London might also consider revisiting his review. An exit assessment of MVC operations would make for equally interesting reading.

The latest skirmish in the seemingly never-ending dogfight between the Dukes County commission and its appointed airport commission played out last week when the county commissioners voted 6 to 0, with one abstention, to increase the size of the airport commission from seven to nine members.

County leaders said they wanted to take advantage of the many good candidates who had applied to fill one vacancy on the airport commission due to an unexpected resignation. Hogwash.

Stung by a decision by Dukes County Superior Court Associate Justice Richard J. Chin on August 7 in favor of the airport commission on every point in its request for a preliminary injunction against the county commission, county treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders, and county manager Martina Thornton, the county commissioners decided to strike back and use the only oversight authority it has ever legally had over the county-owned airport to try and reshuffle the deck in their favor — assuming of course that the newly appointed airport commissioners will ignore their statutory authority and two judicial decisions that support it, and begin to toe the county line.

It was unnecessary. The county commissioners have an opportunity every year on a rotating basis to appoint qualified candidates to the airport commission. Appointments are generally made in February. Their vote to expand outside that cycle was the latest move in a long and well-documented effort by the county commission to bring its appointed board to heel.

It is ironic that one of the two candidates appointed to fill a seat on the newly expanded airport commission, Myron Garfinkle of West Tisbury, a pilot and businessman with an interest in aviation, first applied, unsuccessfully, for an appointment in January 2003. Then, as now, the county commission exercised its appointing authority to bring the airport commission under its thumb.

In a story published Jan. 15, 2003, The Times reported, “The commissioners bypassed two experienced members of the airport commission seeking reappointment, as well as individuals with extensive business backgrounds and in some cases aviation experience, in favor of the appointment of two fellow county commissioners, John Alley of West Tisbury and Nelson Smith of Edgartown, and a county employee, T.J. Hegarty of West Tisbury, the county rodent-control officer.”

Eleven years and many appointments later, Mr. Garfinkle, who continued to seek appointment, suddenly made the cut, as did Robert Rosenbaum, a seasonal resident of Chilmark, former businessman, and pilot.

Their experience, expertise, and willingness to serve on an airport commission that has bungled its recent handling of a labor dispute is welcome, but not at the expense of subverting the appointment process, or to allow the county commissioners to count coup in their battle with the airport leadership.

The first time the county created a nine-member airport commission was soon after a change in the county charter, when in August 1995 the newly elected seven county commissioners self-appointed themselves to the airport commission. Barnstable Municipal Airport operates with a seven-member commission. Nantucket Memorial Airport, one of the state’s busiest airports, makes do with five.

Last week, in arguing for an expansion, county commission chairman Leonard Jason, Jr., of Chilmark said, “I had a tough choice between three candidates for one slot. If we can get good candidates on there sooner rather than later, it’s a benefit to the entire community.”

“I think an injection of new people with fresh ideas, for me that’s important,” said commissioner and 19 year veteran of the Tisbury board of selectman, Tristan Israel. “It seems to be within our rights as an appointing authority.”

Maybe so, but that does not make it right. It does make it clumsy.

In January 1997, Stephen R. Muench, executive director of the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission (MAC), made it clear to the county commissioners in no uncertain terms that authority for the airport rested with the airport commission and airport manager, and that any effort to subvert that arrangement, including by reorganization, would jeopardize millions of dollars in state and federal funding for a new terminal.

The county commissioners signed grant assurances stating that they got MAC’s message. But they did not, and once again state aeronautics officials have taken notice.

Last week Christopher Willenborg, administrator of the MassDOT Aeronautics Division, MAC’s successor agency, in a letter to county commission Chairman Jason, asked the chairman for the “rationale for the increase in membership, the qualifications of the two appointees, and how the appointments benefit or improve the functioning of the airport commission beyond that of what was a seven-member board.”

Perhaps state attention will help bring an end to this senseless and costly legal quarrel. The fact that MassDOT decided to step in should be an indication that something is amiss in the county approach to the airport commission. Of course, one might have reached the same conclusion from two judicial decisions in favor of the airport commission’s statutory authority.

The county commissioners have all the authority they need to influence airport affairs with good appointments, made with due consideration and not out of spite. It is time they acknowledge that fact and seek an end to the ongoing legal battle that Superior Court Associate Justice Richard Chin has already said is unlikely to go their way.

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.

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.