Opinion

This map prepared 24 years ago labeled "Design Concept for Vineyard Haven Port Redevelopment and Transportation Hub" shows a new terminal on Beach Road and a town park and marina where the present terminal is located.

Having lived for better than 80 years (40 full-time on this Island) I know climate changes. I was here for the blizzard of ’78, and plenty of hot humid days since. And I was also here when the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) began. So I am a little put off by last week’s commentary (“A weighty choice awaits the MVC”) by the directors of 350 Martha’s Vineyard Island (350MVI) that the most important thing for the next director of the MVC to deal with is “climate change/global warming.”

The MVC is a regional organization. Can our Island region change climates? Or cool the earth?

According to Steamship Authority (SSA) traffic reports, we are toting about 1 percent more people to this Island every year — people you can count — not just computer-modeled temperatures. Now that seems to me to be a regional issue. What are we going to do with all those people?

The answer is simple; we will crowd them on to ever smaller lots. But how will we feed them? Not with local farms alone. How will we heat all those houses? Fuel all those cars and pickups and SUVs? The SSA will just have to do it — more boats — bigger boats — more trips per day.

I am sure that Stop & Shop, UPS, and all the other transporters can make bigger trucks, longer trucks, and plenty more of them. The problem is, what will we do with them when they arrive? Will we remove the Vineyard Haven Post Office so a wide curve can be made at Five Corners for the ever-longer trucks (or the articulated truck trains) to make the turn up the hill?

Will we be stuck in ever-longer lines to get up the hill or down Beach Road ourselves, in ever more cars or shuttle buses? Since these turns must be negotiated before we can eat, I think we have come upon a real “regional” issue. It perhaps is not as sexy as climate, but it is a damn sight more realistic an issue for the MVC.

So what is the answer? Move the Steamship terminal, of course. Where? Down Beach Road past Packer’s terminal, where traffic can exit both ways on the straightaway. Will it be easy? Of course not, but compared to slowing climate change it will be a slam dunk. Cost? Have you seen the national budget lately? It’s full of local projects like this.

And once the SSA has vacated that area, Vineyard Haven would have an opportunity to create a charming, income-producing town marina that incorporates eateries and shops along the waterfront, which would draw residents and visitors alike to shop, to stroll, to enjoy the area, while some of the land becomes available for badly needed parking. Is that a natural, or what?

This is not a new idea. Almost 24 years ago the MVC produced a drawing of a design concept of the move by John Schilling Sr., a member of the planning staff at the time who also served on the Tisbury board of selectmen. Will the Commission noodle around for another 24 years talking about changing the climate, while something doable here at home deteriorates further into deleterious fuel-spewing gridlock? Why not prioritize finding a new director who will work with Tisbury’s visioning effort and assist the Commission in worthy work which will win accolades from Islanders and visitors for decades to come?

J.B. Riggs Parker of Chilmark is a former Martha’s Vineyard member of the Steamship Authority, Chilmark selectman and planning board member.

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The founding goal of 350 Martha’s Vineyard Island is to facilitate collaboration to address climate change. We recognize that the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) holds a unique position of opportunity and responsibility for how the challenges posed by climate change are handled. Therefore, understanding the unique history and potential of the commission, we regard the search for an executive director as a pivotal milestone in determining the future of our Island.

In this spirit, we offer the following input and urge the selection of an individual who is ready and equipped to lead the MVC with the implementation of its already existing Island Plan to combat the climate changes resulting from global warming.

To quote Oak Bluffs conservation agent Elizabeth Durkee, “Climate change is the most critical issue facing the Island. And, as our regional planning agency, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission has a responsibility to aggressively address its short and long-term impacts. Just about every issue facing the commission is affected by climate change.”

We believe this to be an important and accurate assessment. As stated in the MVC’s Island Plan, “It is now clear that the Earth has entered a period of considerable climate change, threatening our coastline, ponds, farmland, wildlife habitats, buildings, and economy.”

As 350MVI, we are also very much aware that destructive, chaotic, climate change is arriving much faster than any of the science has predicted. Virtually every week there are new findings that give more cause for grave concern on an Island in these waters. In the words of David Vallee (Hydrologist-in-Charge at NE National Weather Service, June 2014), “We are a tremendously vulnerable region. Planning is of the utmost importance. It must reflect storm events that will undoubtedly far exceed the damage from Irene and Sandy.”

Before those storms, five years ago, the Island Plan had the foresight to state, “The potential sea rise is much greater for Martha’s Vineyard. The Cape and Islands are among many areas around the world where the earth continues to subside relative to sea level.… It is reasonable to assume that local sea level rise may be significantly higher than worldwide projections, meaning that significant public infrastructure as well as private properties on the Vineyard are at risk and will be inundated at some point.” The document also states, “the Island Plan is both a blueprint and a call to action.”

In our waters, the average rise in the past 100 years stands at about 1 foot, mostly since 1950 and accelerating now. Also, in the five years since the Island Plan was launched the suspected threat to our lucrative shellfish industry and our fisheries is ever more real. Many local scientists, including Scott Doney (WHOI Chair of Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry), have warned of the threat posed by nearly one-third of our extra atmospheric CO2 dissolving in and acidifying our oceans is happening to such an extent that shellfish will no longer be able to form their shells efficiently. To quote Doney, “The process of ocean acidification is well documented in field data, and the rate will accelerate over this century unless future CO2 emissions are curbed dramatically.”

Included in the Island Plan’s overall goals is an intent to “Protect the distinct and diverse character of the Island’s six towns, while forging a stronger regional perspective for dealing with Island-wide issues.” Further, the Plan states, “Achieving greater diversity and balance will make a stronger, more resilient community, economy, and natural environment, better able to withstand whatever surprises come our way, from a global financial crisis to global warming. Resolving apparent conflicts often comes down to making sure we do the right thing in the right place.”

Thus, we feel it imperative that fresh MVC leadership will need to make this coming together an urgent priority — to help nurture our towns, our inter-town and inter-agency relationships, and our local collaborations between year-round, seasonal residents and businesses — and to foster intimate cooperation and communication. Surely, on this island “the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.”

We consider that a commitment to “do the right thing” as part of a united community is crucial if Martha’s Vineyard has any chance to continue as a viable, thriving place to live.

We recognize that the new executive director for whom we are searching needs the skills and character required to handle all the responsibilities entailed in the work of the MVC — but it is clearly essential that she/he have the knowledge, skills, experience and drive necessary to help navigate a course through the climate crisis that is already crashing in on our beaches, bluffs, coastal infrastructure, estuaries, freshwater supply, marine biology, terrestrial ecosystems and human economy.

We look forward to supporting the MVC’s search for a new executive director in any way we can.

Nicola Blake, Mas Kimball, Chris Riger, Antigone Rosenkranz

350MVI directors

Thomas and Mary Folliard, the recent target of some very unwarranted public mudslinging over their plans to build a two-car garage close by Edgartown’s 177-year-old pagoda tree, told the Edgartown conservation commission and the historic district commission last week that they have shelved plans for a new two-story, two-car carriage house style garage as part of an extensive home restoration project taking place on their quarter-acre South Water Street harborside lot. Instead, according to their architect, Patrick Ahearn, they will build a one-car garage on an existing garage foundation that will not impinge on the tree.

Critics of the original garage plan worried that construction, no matter how carefully orchestrated, might damage the root system of the tree. That stress, they said, might prove fatal to the tree. These were reasonable concerns, but they only emerged following an extensive public process that ended with board approvals of the original plan.

The Edgartown conservation commission held four separate public meetings. No member of the public spoke in opposition to the garage or expressed concern for the tree.

Mr. Ahearn’s design left the root system open to the air. And Mark DiBiase, an arborist, devised a plan to water the tree, provide nutrients, and aerate the compacted soil.

The conservation commission unanimously approved the plan on October 29.

There is nothing in the public record to suggest the Folliards were unwilling to take every precaution to protect the tree. Or had any inkling that the garage plan would stir controversy. They had every reason to think their plan would be beneficial, even appreciated.

David Hawkins, a consulting arborist hired to advise town tree warden Stuart Fuller, reviewed the plan and determined that it would adequately protect the tree. “Both the cultivation/aeration process and the fertilizer application will help improve the soil and the tree’s ability to counteract any negative effects of the construction and encourage root growth in the area,” Mr. Hawkins wrote in his review for the town.

Vineyarders have a long history of coming on board to protest late in the approval process. The Folliards had followed all the rules, survived the approval process, and had every expectation and right to proceed with their plans with no further delays or expense.

News stories, first in the Vineyard Gazette and then The Times generated significant criticism, much of it rooted in emotion rather than botanical science. Edgartown selectmen expressed concern. Online commenters treated the Folliards to lectures on Vineyard taste, aesthetics, manners, class and architecture, and expressed a familiar Vineyard sense of petty resentment toward the wealthy that is absent when the wealthy are being asked to fund community endeavors. The condemnation was unfair and unwarranted.

The wish to construct a grand house on Edgartown harbor is not a new phenomenon. More than a century and a half ago, Thomas Milton of Edgartown took time on one of his worldly voyages to preserve a cutting from a pagoda tree, and carry it back from China in a flower pot to South Water Street where he was building a stately home befitting his status as a successful sea captain.

The Folliards have demonstrated a sense of neighborliness that many of their critics did not.

About that front page photo

Some readers of The Times were unhappy and even offended by the photo of a dead deer on the front page of the issue of December 4.
Each week, The Times staff chooses a front page photo that illustrates life on Martha’s Vineyard. There are many elements that affect that decision-making process, including the quality and strength of the image, photographic elements (framing, color, focus), the news value of the image, and its timeliness. There are basic newspaper rules. People clearly shown must be identified by name in the caption and the photo must not be altered without informing the reader.
The news last week was the shotgun deer hunting season. Hundreds of hunters took to the woods of Martha’s Vineyard. Shots echoed. In a larger context, efforts to control the burgeoning deer herd is part of a public health initiative to reduce tick-borne diseases. State Division of Fisheries and Wildlife biologists staffed a check station in the state forest where they inspected and weighed deer taken during the first week of shotgun season. The information gathered on the health of the Island deer herd factors into future management.
A community newspaper tells and illustrates the community’s stories as clearly and powerfully as possible. The excellent photograph on the front page last week accurately and dramatically captured the reality of the weigh station and the hunting experience.

The year-round community of Martha’s Vineyard is by and large a self-selective one. Most of us have chosen, at some cost and inconvenience, a life a bit removed, a bit more deliberate, a bit less competitive and we believe a bit more nourishing than off-Island living generally allows. We don’t mean to be smug, but we are in fact pretty happy that we can pull it off.

In exchange we give up easy access to the resources that the more densely populated mainland offers. Everything from schools and specialty health care to recreation and cultural institutions and big-scale shopping can be an ordeal to reach. We readily enough make the bargain, though; many of us even embrace the moat-effect the ferries embody, perhaps as a symbol of the modest control over our daily lives we hope for.

We understand that complete control in most things — especially something as complex and dynamic as the cohesiveness of a community — is an illusion. Instead, we’ve arrived at a formula, a series of conventions relying on fundamental mutual respect and generosity among neighbors, as well as on the broad set of similar interests and perspectives we bring with us, to keep community life on the Island within bounds that we can more or less happily live with.

That we prize what we have is made clear because the outside world can intrude with a vengeance. Michael Brown’s killing by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and its aftermath are a reminder of how complex and disappointing the larger world can be. Quite apart from the pointless death of a young man and the inconsistencies and serial failures on the part of the public officials and police officers responsible in the aftermath, the broader subtext of racism, fear, frustration and anger in Ferguson seems as alien to our lives on the Vineyard as an American community could be.

There are two Fergusons, just as there are dozens of parallel and unequal communities in towns and cities across the country. We can’t bridge the gap without talking about race and crime and fear, but our conversations are stillborn because of the dissimilarities of our realities, what Charles M. Blow, in an Op Ed piece in The New York Times, calls “a canyon of disparity.” As Blow says, we can’t have the conversation until we fill in the canyon.

Because most of us can’t easily relate to Ferguson and because we don’t know how to bring about the changes we wish for, we avert our eyes and move along, disengaged if not untouched. When we look away, though, we put national shame and personal tragedy to waste.

Systemic change is needed, focusing on structure and oversight for local police, on training and education, on transparency and public accountability and, ultimately, on confronting the root causes of racism in America. One can be pardoned for skepticism, though, as we wait for the honest conversation and brave leadership we need; we’ve learned that it’s almost impossible to underestimate the will or the courage of most American politicians and legislators to do the right thing.

Here on Martha’s Vineyard our amity owes much to the great good fortune of largely shared outlooks and a similarity of expectation. Our chasms are small, and more of our own making than not. Our self-interest lies in investing in the structures and enterprises and conversations that sustain a diverse but inclusive community.

Intent on action, President Barack Obama last week bypassed Congress to initiate major changes in how the nation’s immigration laws are administered. Republican reaction to Mr. Obama’s unilateral action, which left even a few Democrats queasy, was immediate and predictably critical, portending months of legislative trench warfare as the president heads into the final two years of his term with a Republican majority in both houses of Congress.

The effects of Mr. Obama’s “Immigration Accountability Executive Actions,” as they are known, will reverberate across the country and ripple over Martha’s Vineyard, home to hundreds, thousands — there is no accurate way to know — of undocumented immigrants, many, but not all, natives of Brazil.

The White House said the President’s executive actions “crack down on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay their fair share of taxes as they register to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation.”

Of course, the details are what will matter at the local level, where policies meet reality. Just what these changes will mean and how they will affect the daily interactions and relationships that affect our Island community remain uncertain.

Mr. Obama’s new policy allows applications for work authorization and relief from deportation for unauthorized immigrants who have been in the country for more than five years and have children that are either citizens or legal residents. The president also expanded the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan, which allows people who entered the country illegally as children to work without fear of deportation.

It is long past time to allow business owners who need hard-working employees and undocumented immigrants who only want to work hard to emerge from the Island’s shadow economy and abide by the same rules as everyone else.

Mr. Obama said the federal government would simultaneously heighten border security and focus on deporting criminals. In the past, under the Secure Communities program, Dukes County Sheriff Mike McCormack shared information including fingerprints of individuals arrested and held at the Dukes County Jail with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“Effectively identifying and removing criminals in state and local jails is a critical goal, but it must be done in a way that sustains the community’s trust,” the White House said. The executive order replaces the Secure Communities program with a new Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) intended to remove those convicted of criminal offenses.

Whatever the name of the program, repeat drunk drivers, thieves and those guilty of violent crimes ought to be sent packing and not allowed to spend time in the relative comfort, when compared with other facilities, of the Dukes County House of Correction.

Take the case of Jose Matos, also known as Wilson Matos, formerly of Tisbury. The Times reported that at the time of his arraignment in June 2012 on three sexual assault charges in Edgartown District Court (rape of a child by force, indecent assault and battery on a child under 14, and assault and battery) he had already been ordered deported.

According to the police report, the child’s parent told police “that Matos is well known in the Brazilian community because in the late 1990s he was arrested for counterfeiting money and jailed for several months before he was deported to Brazil.” The parent said “that Matos then came back into the U.S. via Mexico, and the Brazilian community was well aware that he was back on Martha’s Vineyard as if nothing ever happened.”

At the time of his arrest, Mr. Matos had a Social Security number, a valid Massachusetts driver’s license, and a legally registered vehicle.

If Mr. Obama’s executive order ensures that the likes of Mr. Matos do not return to our community then it will prove its worth.

In a story published October 5, “Martha’s Vineyard welcomes soldier home from Afghanistan,” reporter Janet Hefler described the warm Island welcome home for Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Wender Ramos upon his return from a nine-month tour to Afghanistan as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot with the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

He and his sister arrived on Martha’s Vineyard from Brazil in 1994 to join their mother, who moved to the Island a year earlier. He didn’t speak English when he first arrived, but that changed quickly.

He graduated from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in 1999, attended Bridgewater State College and earned his private pilot’s license. He graduated with a degree in aviation sciences in 2006, and went to work for a company that ran tradeshows.

Pursuing his dream of becoming a pilot and a U.S. citizen, he enlisted in the Army in 2010 and applied for U.S. citizenship. He wanted to become a citizen in the country where he had spent most of his life because, he said, “It just completed living here.”

Whatever emerges from the expected legislative and Constitutional tussle over immigration reform, Wender Ramos offers an example of all that is good about a policy that creates a pathway to citizenship for those who have behaved responsibly.

Many of us capped off an orgy of national election coverage by watching, in solitude or in the company of friends, results trickle and then cascade in to eager newsreaders with dazzling maps and tote boards. Pleased by the actual results we saw or not, one can’t help but be thankful that this expensive, nasty, polarizing sideshow of national and statewide elections has passed for another season. And by contrast, we should all take a moment to thank our lucky stars for the humble, sincere fashion in which local candidacies are carried out.

National mud wrestling

There’s something deeply disturbing about recent national elections where the mood of the voters is most often characterized as anger accompanied by hugely low regard for politicians of all stripes and the political process they control. Daily breathless media coverage sealed the deal: another expensive election cycle of carefully packaged empty calories, much heat, and precious little light.

One might have hoped that collective disenchantment would bring us together — steely-eyed populists in huge numbers, making common cause to take government back from the ideologues and hacks and their cynical moneyed handlers. Instead, we remain pliant and adjust our expectations downward yet again.

These bitterly frustrating campaigns invariably result from the politics of choreographed gridlock — politician- and media-speak for the strategy of cheerfully keeping anything from happening if we don’t get our way. The result is a congressional approval rating of 9 percent, with no plan to do better for the country in sight. Our lack of engagement shows, too. Voter turnout, at around 37 percent, was the worst it’s been since 1942. As a national electorate, we may just be giving up.

Contrary to our self-mythology, this style of American politics is deeply ingrained in our democracy. A recent review by Nicholas Lemann (professor and former Dean of the Columbia School of Journalism) of historian Richard Hofstadter’s 50-year-old book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (Columbia Journalism Review, September 2014) helps put our national political spectacle in fascinating historic context.

Whatever one surmises from his title, Hofstadter isn’t proposing that we’re locked in political struggles between smart elites and vulgar commoners; he’s identifying a permanent tension in American democracy between those who see “the continuing process of compromise” as the prize, and those who are “comfortable in the complete self-assurance …of ideologically driven politics” and an insistence on total victory. Those who “shun ultimate showdowns and look upon the ideal of total partisan victory as unattainable” have rarely held sway for very long.

Our political history is one of long periods of strident polarization punctuated by occasional (and grudging) breakthroughs of compromise. As long as we allow it, the politics of ideology and absolute right will trump compromise and leadership every time.

Vineyard dignity

By contrast, consider that contests for Island-wide office on Martha’s Vineyard proceed with a quiet dignity worth celebrating. For the most part we actually experience governance without politics.

Doing the people’s business is of course very labor-intensive, dependent on unpaid, pragmatic volunteers without regard for political prospects to fill positions on several dozen elected and appointed boards and bodies. Given the tasks they take on and the scrutiny they are subject to, it seems miraculous that folks show up to stand for office at all.

Our candidates strike a modest bargain with us: for tasks mostly mundane and often frustrating and conflicting, we neighbors will do our best to find consensus and craft compromise, because these chores need doing and we think we can help. And because we make rules and reach decisions literally in front of one another, we will do our best to remember our commitment to represent the entire community and not narrow ideas.

Performance, of course, matters, and we as a community newspaper — along with lots of interested citizens — assure close critical observation. We can all be thankful, though, because the prevailing modesty of the candidacies and the campaigns we see, and the inclusive and balanced policies and plans we expect, are important measures of a healthy civic culture. We may not always get it right, or get it quickly enough, but we try to favor compromise and inclusivity over simply winning. It’s a happy respite from the larger partisan culture that surrounds us.

In the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the sailor cursed because he shot a friendly albatross that had brought his crew good luck describes the plight he and his shipmates faced becalmed under the broiling sun on a breathless sea: “Water, water, every where, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.”

Future generations of Islanders may not find themselves quite in the predicament of the Ancient Mariner, but there is no question that the decisions Vineyarders make today will help determine the quality of water everywhere — the coastal ponds that provide abundant shellfish, the aquifer that supplies all our drinking water, and the ocean waters that sustain our local fisheries.

In an OpEd published in this week’s issue, “Smart wastewater management needed,” Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) executive director Mark London pinpoints the problem as nitrogen pollution.

Mr. London writes, “Most of the so-called manageable portion of the excess nitrogen — that is, the part that doesn’t come from air pollution — is caused by wastewater, or to be more specific, urine being flushed down tens of thousands of toilets, getting into the groundwater, and flowing into the ponds.”

It is not a pretty picture, but it is not one we can easily flush away. Mr. London, head of the Island’s regional permitting and planning agency, sketches out the problem and hints at some remedies, all expensive, like new technologies, restrictions on development, possible limits on bedrooms.

Next Thursday, November 20, the MVC will host a presentation by Paul Niedzwiecki, executive director of the Cape Cod Commission, on his agency’s planning efforts to protect the quality of Cape water systems. “This will give us a head start in our discussions about how best to proceed, from extending sewers and using alternative technologies, to regulatory reforms and monitoring,” Mr. London said. “How can we minimize costs, and what are potential sources of financing?”

Mr. London is correct that now is the time to begin grappling with the problem. The MVC deserves credit for taking a leadership role.

The challenge will be how to engage all stakeholders: businesspeople who rely on Island tourism, members of the construction trades, and young people increasingly priced out of a rapidly aging Island need to buy into the process.

There is nothing glamorous about the language of wastewater management. The issue has its aficionados, but for most of us, the terminology is mind-numbing. Taxpayers, who will pay the bills, and voters, who will approve the options, will need to understand the issues.

The history of the Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Tisbury wastewater treatment plants is instructive. In each case, quicker action and less foot-dragging would have meant lower capital costs in the long run.

The fear that sewering would open the door to unchecked growth and development has also led to some poor decision-making. In Tisbury, in order to appease opposition to a town sewer system from some community members, the town built a smaller version with a limited capacity to handle only a certain number of downtown properties, so that it would be “growth-neutral.”

Choking growth is not practical and it is not a solution. Many in Tisbury now think it was a mistake not to build more capacity into its system as the town looks for ways to reduce nitrogen loading into Tashmoo and the Lagoon. Oak Bluffs is also faced with too little capacity for too big a problem.

In his introduction to the 21-page executive summary of the The Cape Cod Commission’s updated Water Quality Plan, Mr. Niedzwiecki wrote, “But as one community we are at the crossroads of our environment and our economy. The cost of doing nothing is economically devastating to every Cape homeowner. The window is closing on our opportunity to solve this problem on our terms, sensitive to the diverse villages and neighborhoods that populate this peninsula.”

Next Thursday, Islanders and town leaders have an opportunity to hear how their Cape neighbors are approaching the problem of protecting water quality.

Strike three

Last week, yet again, a Superior Court judge told the Dukes County commissioners they are wrong. Is the third time the charm? We will see, but there is little reason to be optimistic that they will stop doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different result.

In 2005, Superior Court Judge Robert H. Bohn ruled that the legislation establishing the airport commission trumped the county charter, and the airport commission alone is empowered to expend its own funds to pay salaries.

In August, Associate Justice Richard J. Chin said the county could not place the county manager on the airport commission as a non-voting member. He also told the county treasurer to pay the airport bills and not to meddle in airport affairs.

Last week, Judge Chin told the county commissioners they could not increase the size of the airport commission from seven to nine members. In each case, Judge Chin issued temporary restraining orders but told the county that while they were free to proceed to trial they would most likely lose.

The county wants to mediate. Mediate what?

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Farm Pond. – Alison Shaw
Farm Pond. – Alison Shaw

Sooner or later, the nitrogen pollution threatening the health of Martha’s Vineyard coastal ponds will affect us all. Some, because we swim, fish, kayak, or sail in the Island’s 27 saltwater or brackish ponds, or are lucky enough to live along the Island’s 290 miles of shoreline. Others, because our jobs are dependent on our visitor-based economy, and the ponds are an important part of what makes the Vineyard attractive. And all of us because we pay taxes and are, or should be, concerned about the hundreds of millions of dollars it could cost to solve this challenge and meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act.

In the next couple of years, discussion about this issue will be transitioning from concern and analysis, to making some pretty momentous decisions about what to do.

Fortunately for us, the Cape Cod Commission just completed the first phase of a multi-million dollar Water Quality Initiative, and next week CCC Executive Director Paul Niedzwiecki is coming to Martha’s Vineyard to share the results. This will give us a head start in our discussions about how best to proceed, from extending sewers and using alternative technologies, to regulatory reforms and monitoring. How can we minimize costs, and what are potential sources of financing?

Most of the so-called “manageable” portion of the excess nitrogen — that is, the part that doesn’t come from air pollution — is caused by wastewater, or to be more specific, urine being flushed down tens of thousands of toilets, getting into the groundwater, and flowing into the ponds.

About 64 percent of the Vineyard’s land area is made up of watersheds that drain into nitrogen-sensitive coastal ponds, either through runoff or groundwater flow. Excessive nitrogen over-fertilizes aquatic plants, resulting in odorous, unattractive ponds devoid of eelgrass, fish, and shellfish, adversely affecting the valuable tourist industry and coastal property values.

So what can we do to prevent excessive nitrogen from ruining the ecology of our coastal ponds? How can we prevent the nitrogen-laden wastewater from individual on-site residential septic systems in the watersheds of each pond from flowing through groundwater into our coastal waters? There are a variety of techniques available, but almost all are very costly.

Last year, the Island towns endorsed the lowest-hanging fruit, namely limits on the use of nitrogen fertilizer. That is just a small start. For some ponds, we can dilute the nitrogen by improving tidal flushing to the sea with widened inlets or more pond openings. And growing oysters and other shellfish can reduce nitrogen somewhat, though this is not yet recognized by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

But the main solution will have to be treating the wastewater before the nitrogen reaches the pond. Nitrogen can be reduced at the source with techniques such as composting or urine-separating toilets, but it isn’t clear whether they would get broad public acceptance. Sewering and centralized treatment remove about 95 percent of the nitrogen, and have the advantage of being able to deal with pharmaceuticals and other newly emerging contaminants, but are only cost effective in high-density areas. On-site innovative alternative septic systems remove about 40-50 percent of the nitrogen compared to standard Title 5 systems, but this may not be enough for many watersheds. Both methods are costly to install and maintain.

We have enough of a problem dealing with the impacts of already existing development, but future growth will only exacerbate the problem. It might also make sense to consider board of health and zoning regulations that limit the number of bedrooms in a house, set limits on how much nitrogen a new project can generate, or require that the nitrogen generated by a development project in a critical watershed be offset with nitrogen reduction elsewhere in the watershed. The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) does this when it reviews Developments of Regional Impact (DRIs). Land acquisition for open space also reduces the generation of nitrogen.

The MVC has been working with Island towns for over a decade to do extensive water testing and land use modeling, which was used in the Commonwealth’s Massachusetts Estuaries Project (MEP), which is in the process of preparing comprehensive reports for each of our watersheds. Some have been released and more are on the way. Town officials, committees with representatives of the towns in a watershed, and pond associations are now grappling with how to use the MEP reports to come up with solutions.

As part of its Water Quality Plan, the Cape Cod Commission developed a number of tools that allow technical experts and the general public to compare various wastewater treatment options for each neighborhood or watershed, and to track the parcel-specific wastewater loads. They also had two teams working on alternative approaches. One focused on traditional collection systems of sewers and centralized treatment plants. The other looked at non-traditional or enhanced natural systems, starting with the premise that collection systems should be avoided or minimized to the greatest extent possible.

Given the enormous future financial burden of dealing with this problem, we need to find the most cost-effective techniques. Many of the techniques and conclusions of the Cape’s Water Quality Study are likely to be applicable to Martha’s Vineyard, so we should take full advantage of the work that was done by our neighbors on the Cape.

The public meeting on Smart Wastewater Management will be held on Thursday, November 20, at 5:30 pm at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven. Information about the Cape’s Water Quality Plan can be found at www.capecodcommission.org.

Mark London is executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.

Art Smadbeck, Edgartown selectman and chairman of the County Advisory Board (CAB), which is responsible for overseeing the county budget, summed up the issue of the county-airport legal battle succinctly at a meeting held last week to discuss a county request for more money to throw after bad to pay the county’s lawyer.

“This was an airstrike the county called in on itself,” Mr. Smadbeck said of the lawsuit that continues to consume taxpayer dollars. How perfectly Mr. Smadbeck described it.

Of course, what Mr. Smadbeck meant is that the county commissioners could and should have easily foreseen that their actions to bring the county-appointed airport commission to heel would precipitate a lawsuit.

Instead, the county commissioners chose to ignore the terms of the funding guarantees that provided the airport with millions in state and federal dollars; they chose to ignore a 2005 decision by Superior Court Judge Robert H. Bohn that upheld the statutory authority of the airport commission; and they chose to ignore an August 7 decision by Associate Justice Richard Chin in which he ruled for 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.

And if that was not enough, for good measure, on September 24 the county commission added another bull’s-eye when it expanded its appointed airport commission from seven to nine members. The bald-faced expansion, intended to tip the scales, attracted the attention of the Massachusetts Division of Transportation Aeronautics Division, which demanded an immediate explanation from the county commission chairman of the rationale behind the vote.

Following the county vote to expand, county commission chairman Lenny Jason Jr. declared that he expected to be sued. To no one’s surprise, the airport commission promptly sued the county commission to stop the expansion.

Last week, Mr. Jason, who has been in the thick of the county-airport fight, expressed astonishment at Mr. Smadbeck’s analogy. Mr. Smadbeck was uncowed. “When you make certain decisions, Lenny, that you know are going to get you into court, you are going to have legal bills.”

Edgartown, which pays the largest share of the county budget assessment, $179,386, has every reason to take an interest in county expenditures.

The CAB, made up of one selectman from each town, met last Wednesday because the county needs more money in its legal budget to shore up its legal defense and fight the challenge to its expansion of the airport commission. The meeting between the CAB and county commission, available for viewing on MVTV, the Island’s public access cable television channel, provided some reassuring moments for taxpayers who may despair at the sheer waste of their hard-earned dollars. The CAB rose to its fiduciary responsibility and quizzed the county commissioners on the details of the legal spending.

CAB member Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter, a West Tisbury selectman who watches tax dollars as though he was spending his own money, a welcome trait in an elected official, said he did not “believe in spending any more taxpayer dollars on this issue,” nor did he think it makes any difference to the people “which side wins or loses.”

But it does to Mr. Jason and his wingman, county commissioner Tristan Israel, who asked the CAB to keep funding the county defense, at least until the next ruling from Judge Chin. That would be the same Judge Chin who said in August that he granted the preliminary injunction based on his view that the airport commission has shown “a likelihood of success on the merits.”

CAB member Bill Rossi, a Chilmark selectman, added another voice of reason, rightly pointing out that in three months the county commissioners would have the opportunity, when airport commission terms expire, to make appointments. “You don’t have to spend any money if you appoint the right people,” Mr. Rossi said. Good advice for a government body that in the past has spurned well-qualified people in favor of those it imagined would toe the county line.

But do not look for the soap opera to end soon. One brief exchange promised more to come. Dukes County treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders, whose refusal to pay airport invoices in a timely manner and without interfering in airport affairs, and who was the subject of one of Judge Chin’s preliminary injunctions, told Mr. Smadbeck that she would need to spend money to defend her authority. If the CAB refused to spend the money, she said, “there will be another lawsuit.”

At one point in the meeting, Mr. Manter reminded the county commissioners that the CAB had said it would only authorize payment of legal bills incurred prior to October 7.

“Do you believe the county should just walk away from the lawsuit?” Mr. Jason asked.

The obvious answer is yes. But if this issue rested on the obvious, the county commissioners would not be embroiled in this battle.

Daniel Wolf for State Senate

Daniel A. Wolf (D) of Harwich, the founder and CEO of Cape Air, has proven to be a responsive and accessible state senator for the Cape and islands.

Michael O’Keefe for District Attorney

District attorney for the Cape and Islands Michael D. O’Keefe of Sandwich, a Republican, was first elected in 2002. A former front line prosecutor with experience gained in the Dukes County Courthouse, he understands the issues that concern Islanders.

Dukes County Commission

With only four names on the ballot for seven open seats on the Dukes County Commission, and two declared write-in candidates, there is plenty of room for imagination. Former Gov. William F. Weld, who did his best to eliminate county government, would make an ideal write-in candidate.

Short of that, this page endorses the four declared candidates (John S. Alley of West Tisbury, Leon Brathwaite II of West Tisbury, Tristan Israel of Tisbury, and David Holway of Edgartown) and two write-in candidates (Christine Todd of Oak Bluffs, and Gretchen Tucker Underwood of Oak Bluffs) with the fervent hope that they will stop meddling in airport affairs, which is at the heart of a current lawsuit by the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission, and recognize that their ability to influence airport management begins and ends with their power to appoint the best candidates to the airport commission.

Martha’s Vineyard Commission

Unfortunately, for a regional government body that could benefit from some fresh perspectives — evidenced by the recent grueling hour-long discussion over a state request to place solar lights on the new Oak Bluffs fishing pier — there is no contest here. Nine candidates appear on the official ballot, which instructs voters to vote for not more than nine candidates. There are only two new names, Abraham Seiman of Oak Bluffs, and Robert Doyle of Chilmark, on the ballot.

Up-Island Regional School District school committee

The Up-Island Regional School district is comprised of the West Tisbury School, which has an operating budget of $5,912,187 and 290 students, and the Chilmark School, which has an operating budget $1,210,038 and enrollment of 61 students. Total spending this year will total $7,122,225.

That money represents a considerable taxpayer investment in education, in large part by seasonal residents with no children in the school system.

On Tuesday, voters in Aquinnah, Chilmark, and West Tisbury will elect five people to four-year terms on the Up-Island school committee which is responsible for overseeing school spending.

The three candidates, one from each town, who receive the highest vote totals in Tuesday’s balloting will each represent his or her town. The two candidates who receive the next highest vote totals will be elected as at-large members, regardless of where they live.

Only the names of incumbents Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter and Michael Marcus, both of West Tisbury, appear on the ballot. Each deserves to be reelected.

Mr. Manter is a fiscal watchdog who looks out for the interests of the taxpayer.

Mr. Marcus, a businessman, has an understanding of the district’s often complicated affairs. He has three children in the up-Island district and a vested interest in its success.

Additionally, this page endorses the elections of the following write-in candidates.

Kate DeVane of West Tisbury, the mother of nine-year-old twins, is a former elementary school teacher and the president and co-founder of the Island Autism Group.

Robert Lionette of Chilmark is on the personnel subcommittees of the regional high school and all-Island school committees. His son attends Chilmark School.

Theresa Manning of Aquinnah is a co-coordinator for the Dukes County Youth Task Force, a coalition of over 50 community members that promotes community-wide health and wellness for youth and families to reduce substance use and other risky behaviors. Her son attends West Tisbury School.

Yes onQuestion 1

With a yes vote, voters have an opportunity to eliminate the requirement that the state’s gasoline tax, which was 24 cents per gallon as of September 2013, be adjusted every year by the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index over the preceding year, but not be adjusted below 21.5 cents per gallon. In other words, it could go up but not go down.

Islanders already pay approximately $1 more per gallon than their mainland counterparts. The argument that a yes vote would jeopardize bridge and road repair is without merit. Lawmakers need to spend our money wisely. And if lawmakers need more money they should be required to ask for it and vote on it.

No on Question 2

There is no good reason to extend the bottle deposit law to cover all liquid drinks except milk, alcohol, baby formula, and medicines. The proposed law would increase the minimum handling fee and be subject to adjustment to reflect changes in the consumer price index. It would also set up a state Clean Environment Fund subject to appropriation by the Legislature, “to support programs such as the proper management of solid waste, water resource protection, parkland, urban forestry, air quality and climate protection.” It would be another cookie jar. Massachusetts must grapple with ways to increase recycling in a comprehensive manner.

No onQuestion 3

In 2011, Massachusetts lawmakers opened the door to casino gambling to bolster their tax coffers because they were incapable of finding new, creative ways to revive the state’s economy. Casinos were low-hanging fruit. Yes, casinos will create construction jobs in the short term, and yes they will create service jobs. Casinos will also create many problems. Legalized casino gambling is a form of pie-in-the-sky taxation on the most vulnerable. But it is unrealistic to expect that people will not gamble. The two current locations in Springfield and Everett seem well suited to casinos. Hopefully, the economic incentive to build a third casino in southeastern Massachusetts as allowed by law will disappear.

No onQuestion 4

The existing law is sufficient to protect workers. This law would create another layer of regulation and costs for small businesses in Massachusetts.