Martha’s Vineyard residents were understandably shocked to learn that new Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Principal Gil Traverso had resigned only one year into a three-year contract, and just one month before the start of the new school year.

The news generated a range of comments on mvtimes.com. Some readers complimented, and others disparaged, Mr. Traverso’s short tenure. Whatever he may or may not have done, it is water under the bridge. It will be up to the next school principal — interim or permanent — working with faculty members and school leaders to review last year, and map out future policies and procedures.

On Tuesday, Superintendent of School Matt D’Andrea announced that retired high school principal Margaret “Peg” Regan had agreed to step into the breach for the 2005-16 school year. Ms. Regan, who retired in 2008, is a well respected member of the community and will be a steady hand on the helm.

Predictably, whenever an off-Island hire does not work out, there is a tendency to fault the search process and suggest that we would all be better off if we looked within and favored Island candidates over individuals with no local ties.

Island living is not for everyone, we are told. True enough. Living and working on Martha’s Vineyard carries its own set of challenges, but none is insurmountable, and it would be wrong to suggest that professionals cannot adapt to our small community any differently than they do in small communities across the country. Sometimes, in an employment situation, for whatever reason, personally or professionally, things just don’t work out. When that happens, it is better to recognize reality and move on, which is what Mr. Traverso appears to have done.

It would be a mistake to let his departure affect future hiring decisions. Martha’s Vineyard benefits when school leaders cast a wide net in an effort to seek out individuals with good ideas and fresh perspectives. Doing so does not preclude looking to draw from the Island’s pool of bright, talented, committed individuals who live and work within our community, but the notion that because someone already lives and works here, he or she may be a better candidate than someone who does not is shortsighted.

One issue Mr. Traverso raised and which ought not to be overlooked is the effect the Vineyard’s high cost of housing will have on the ability of the school system to continue to attract qualified candidates to apply for teaching and administrative positions.

Taxpayers in the six Island towns provide generous support — about $50 million total — for a school system comprised of about 550 employees and more than 2,100 students.

Mr. Traverso earned $140,000 annually, a handsome salary by most Island standards, and nearly double the average wage of most teachers. Yet he cited the Vineyard’s high cost of living and housing as factors in his decision to leave. His new job in the New Haven school system will pay him just as much, but his cost of living will be less, he said.

Mr. Traverso said that after he was hired he was pretty much left to his own devices when it came to finding a place to live. He quickly learned it can be pretty tough, even on a good salary, to find year-round housing to rent.

There is a shortage of high-quality, moderately priced rental housing, and condos of the sort that would appeal to professional administrators and teachers, individuals who do not necessarily plan to make the Vineyard their home but may move here as part of a career and personal trajectory that will lead them elsewhere in the future.

The Dukes County Regional Housing Authority manages more than 70 apartments. The upper limit a single person may earn to qualify for one of these apartments is $46,000, or 80 percent of the median income in Dukes County. A new teacher with a bachelor’s degree starting at step one earns $48,383.

School leaders, working in tandem with Oak Bluffs officials, have an opportunity to help address the shortage of housing for Island professionals, and those who for better or worse might be termed the Island’s middle class.

Oak Bluffs owns a seven-acre parcel just opposite the high school next to the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena. A long-unconsummated land swap between the town and the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank could add an additional 24-acre parcel of developable land in the same general location. How might a development that includes condos and rentals benefit the town and Island?

There is plenty of room for creativity. It might start with a conversation among town leaders, school administrators, Island housing officials, and developers capable of taking on big projects.

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Roy Vagelos and his family at the completion of the race. Front row: Andrew Vagelos, Randy Vagelos, Julie Wissink, Olivia Vagelos, Ellen Masseur, Matt Masseur, Bill Roberts, Cynthia Roberts; middle row: Alexa Masseur, Lydia Roberts, Diana Vagelos, Roy Vagelos, Cara Roberts, Emma Vagelos; back row: Nicola Masseur, Alex Vagelos, Diana Vagelos, Evan Vagelos. Photo by Michael Cummo

By Roy Vagelos

My story begins with our son Randy, who while on a family bike trip in Holland in 1972, decided to abandon his bike and run along with the bikers. I noted his ability to run with apparent ease and even enjoyment. On returning to our home in St. Louis, I thought, “Heck, if Randy can run so easily, I should be able to run,” although I had never been a runner. So at 43 I started jogging in our neighborhood what seemed an exhausting distance of about one mile. In time my training became more regular and the distances longer. I had the impression that running improved my tennis, probably an illusion since I was not very good at tennis either.

During our early days on the Vineyard in 1975, we rented at Mattakesett in Edgartown, where the principal activity for our family was tennis, though we also loved to swim, fish, and jog in the mornings. It was there that I, along with our son Andrew, entered my first organized road race, covering a distance of four miles. The impetus was the enthusiasm of the crowd at Mattakesett, who were into all sorts of athletics at that time, and our children, who wanted to run. So I ran, and it was fun, especially finishing. I liked the feeling of satisfied fatigue and accomplishment at the end.

When the family first learned about the Chilmark Road Race, which is quite a drive from Edgartown, our daughter, Ellen, wanted to run in that race. By then I was still slow, but hooked on running. We decided to run the race together, since Ellen was young and we did not know the territory. I was panting and struggling to keep up with her with about a half-mile to go when I noticed that she was smiling and looked very relaxed. I said, “Take off, Ellen, don’t wait for me,” and she took off like a shot.

It was not surprising that when we began our regular summer vacations in Chilmark in 1996 I, along with my wife Diana and our children, and later grandchildren, joined the annual frenzy on Middle Road in Chilmark on a Saturday morning in August. Running had become a regular part of life, and the Chilmark Road Race was an important part of our holiday. The race events became ritualized: We trained seriously after arriving on the Vineyard, and had a special spaghetti dinner the evening before, followed by a grand dinner party after the race.

As time passed, I ran less frequently at our home in New Jersey, then not at all, having substituted less demanding activities, such as elliptical running and a rowing machine. Of course, my performance in the Chilmark Road Race began to deteriorate as the years passed beyond 70.

Remember, the oldest age group was “70 and older.” As my age approached 80, the gap between me and the younger 70-year-olds made the race increasingly daunting for me. Enter Sam Feldman, who was in a similar age situation, but much more capable of orchestrating change. Sam had the rules changed so that a new age category was added: “80 and older.” Sam and I immediately jumped ahead, being the youngest in our age group, and looked great for a few years.

This year, at age 85, I had decided to forgo the race. I was done! But

Diana laced on her running shoes shortly after we arrived on the Vineyard, and said she was going to train for the race. I was dumbfounded for a few minutes, then I pulled on my New Balance 993 shoes and joined her again. Same old routine — jogging regularly for a month in preparation, spaghetti dinner the night before, then the race — which I hopefully will finish. Then the post-race dinner with family (18 members will run this year) and friends.

So why do I run this race — and do so many other things in life? I try to keep up with our children and Diana.

Editor’s note: Roy Vagelos finished fifth in his age group, 1,285th overall, crossing the finish line with a time of 45:03.05 (edging out rival Sam Feldman, who finished sixth in his age group with a time of 56:14.13).

Roy Vagelos began his career as a physician, then did biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health and Washington University School of Medicine. He is the former chairman and CEO of Merck & Co., and is currently chairman of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and the advisory board of Columbia University Medical Center. He is on the boards of the Nature Conservancy and the National Math and Science Initiative. His current interests focus on biomedical sciences and efforts to combat climate change.

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Image courtesy of Martha's Vineyard Hospital

“How’s your summer going?” It’s the question we all ask or hear when we run into someone we haven’t seen since the silly season started. The common response, “Busy,” is often punctuated by a resigned shrug, and maybe followed by a plea that September hurry up and get here.

This year, my one-word response, “Great,” has prompted a quizzical expression until I explain that I got a new knee in early June, and that I’ve been laid up since then, doctor’s orders. “Great?” Well yes, actually, considering how well my recovery has gone.

For several years I’ve known I’d need new knees if I wanted to stay active. I wrecked my originals by running too much in my 30s and 40s, oblivious of long-term implications. And now the payment was due. Or was it?

I could still walk, after all, and maybe that’s all that I should expect at 71, no longer even a summer chicken. I appreciated it when people told me that 70 is only a number, that you’re only as old as you feel and all that, but body don’t lie, after all, and too many of my contemporaries hold onto the fantasy that we’re forever young, sometimes with a death grip. I’d read, and appreciated, “Being Mortal,” Atul Gawande’s 2014 book about being open and honest and curious about aging and disease.

Fine…except that nowadays replacement parts are available, parts that indefinitely forestall the inevitable decline into the recliner. Incredible. Ineffable!

I’d had arthroscopic surgery on both knees and on my right shoulder (twice), and various other “procedures,” so I knew about IVs and being knocked out, but I’d never spent a night in a hospital.

Until June 8, when Dr. Mark Scheffer replaced my right knee at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. The first night was a breeze, thanks to a right-leg block and spinal anesthesia. By noon on the second day, the pain declared itself, in spades, and for the next 24 hours I was pretty miserable, even scared at times, wondering what I’d gotten myself into. By the third night I’d gotten used to the pain, thanks to morphine and oxycodone, and was staying ahead of it, as advised. My care in the hospital was exceptional, from a blend of familiar and fresh faces. I’d hit the lull between the arrival of extra staff for the summer and the onslaught of the seasonal swarm.

My recovery from total knee replacement (TKR) has been remarkable, according to Dr. Scheffer, physical therapists Aubyn Veno and Susan White, and several acquaintances who’ve gotten new knees recently. Sent home with a walker and a commode, I used the former for two days and the other not at all. I stopped using a cane after eight days, started driving after 12 — stick-shift at 18. I walked 1.8 miles along Lambert’s Cove Road on day 20, and four weeks out I walked for a full hour down at Sepiessa.

Before June 8, I couldn’t walk for 20 minutes without pain in both knees so sharp it would queer the rest of my day and, especially, the following night. I’d never known intense, insistent pain like that, discoloring my everything. By comparison, the post-op pain was mild.

Being mobile and mostly pain-free so soon seduced me into forgetting that I’d just had major surgery, as Patty French, Dr. Scheffer’s sharp, upbeat nurse, reminded me more than once.

Major surgery: After I’d been numbed completely from the waist down, Dr. Scheffer opened up my right leg with an eight-inch incision, dismantled my knee, and then rebuilt it with new parts, way after-market. First, he sawed off 10 millimeters (about 3/8 of an inch) of the bottom of my femur and the top of my tibia. And it wasn’t gentle: I heard what sounded like a Sawzall through the haze. After another 10 mm was removed from the inside of my kneecap, three replacement parts were cemented into place, and then I was cleaned up, sewn up, and glued up — all in an hour. My femur and tibia needed size 8 replacement components, while my patella called for a size 41. OK,…

Reading the good doctor’s Operative Report took some of the mystery out of the process, thanks to terms like lughole and Dermabond glue, but none of the magic. Not so long ago, I would have been sentenced to an increasingly sedentary, homebound existence, getting flabbier and grumpier by the day, probably drinking more — for the boredom if not the pain — and then I’d die.

Instead, I’m already romping in the surf in Chilmark again,  and I’ll be able to skate around Duarte’s until my lungs feel like they’ll explode, and chase stripers off Gay Head in my 20-foot SeaCraft. I can dream of hiking across England next to Hadrian’s Wall, tromping around Istanbul, climbing a pyramid in the Yucatan. Maybe I’d been too quick to snicker when an old friend sent me a copy of his new bible, Younger Next Year, sub-titled “Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy — Until You’re 80 and Beyond,” and then broke several bones and concussed himself when he crashed his motorcycle on a mountain road six months before his 70th birthday.

Lucky, lucky me: I haven’t been this excited since I was 12 years old and just got a new baseball glove. At times I’ve felt almost giddy, and I’ve even pampered myself a bit. I’ve napped when I felt weary, and I’ve followed a whim when I felt like it, including a spree of random reading, from “Bleak House” to “Breakfast of Champions,” “Zorba the Greek,” and “The Wind in the Willows.”

Too often driven by obligations and expectations, I’m just listening to myself, I think that’s what it is, and I’m moving at my own pace, not to the beat of someone else’s drum. And I can’t get enough of it: this is what I can muster right now, and it’s plenty.

It’s a bit early to know if my new knee has given me a new lease on life, as TKR veterans had forecast, but I’m off to a heck of a start. Facing a flood tide of degeneration, I feel so darn lucky. Who knows, maybe I can be younger next year.

Luck has played a part, and thanks for that, but I know a team effort when I see one. The captain, of course, is Mark (“The Knife”) Scheffer, who’s so so good at what he does — providing a hustle-free explanation of my options up front, preparing me (with a giant assist from Patty French) for the “procedure” itself, and then performing it. Just behind him is Karen Cullinan, a body alignment expert who, in five months of demanding training, taught me how to stand up straight and strengthen my knees (but not chew gum) at the same time. And Aubyn and Susan have kept me on task with the grunt work — the tedious, painful, but critical physical therapy.

Finally, I have to admit that I played a big part in the process. Both ahead of time and since June 8, I paid attention and worked my ass off.

And the rewards? Long-term, who knows, but at least I’ve given myself the gift of hope. Short-term, I’ve been tickled by the kudos from the professionals who treated me. Dr. Scheffer told me at five weeks out that I was a remarkable healer, a compliment that I tried to deflect by reminding him that he did it, which he, in turn, tried to re-deflect back to me. P.T.s Veno and White constantly told me how well I was doing, how far ahead of schedule.

Before I left Dr. Scheffer’s office for the last time, Patty French called out Brenda Mullins and another colleague to admire my knee. After a chorus of oohs and aahs, they started to tease me about my nice legs, a sure sign of their delight. I hadn’t had such a fuss made over me since the middle of the last century, it didn’t seem, and I loved it: I’ve been showing off my scar whenever I can since then.

And so, on with summer! Bring on August, here and now and hectic. Forget about dreams of Maine and points north.  With my recuper-vacation behind me, it’s time to get busy again. Soon enough I’ll have to start prepping for my left TKR, coming up on October 19.


Whit Griswold lives in West Tisbury is a former charter captain, editor and most recently, proofreader for The Times.


Martha’s Vineyard has its rites of passage. These include navigating Five Corners and securing a Steamship Authority (SSA) vehicle reservation in August.

We hold out little hope that navigating the Island’s most notorious traffic labyrinth will become easier anytime soon. But year-round Islanders can take some comfort in the fact that the preferred-reservation system, while not perfect, does work, and it works pretty well thanks to the efforts of the reservation clerks.

For those new to the intricacies of year-round life on Martha’s Vineyard, each day the SSA sets aside a specific number of reservations on each trip and reserves those spaces for qualified Island residents who have registered their addresses and vehicles with the boatline.

Currently, the boatline sets aside 120 vehicle spaces per day during the summer and 80 spaces per day during the off-season. Of those reserved in the summer, 91 are designated for the seven-day advance reservation program. The remainder are designated for one-day advance sale.

Seven-day in advance preferred space reservations remain available for booking up to two days in advance of the day of sailing before they are released to the general public.

Preferred spaces go on sale daily at exactly 7:30 am. Islanders have three choices: Call the main reservation office number; go to the SSA website (steamshipauthority.com); or go to the SSA terminal at the airport or Vineyard Haven and make a reservation in person.

Securing a coveted weekend reservation in August can be a daunting prospect. Those not content to dial or put their fate in a computer rise early and head to the Vineyard Haven terminal. So what keeps the terminal lobby from becoming the scene of a reservation scrum? Judging from the scene last Saturday in the Vineyard Haven terminal, Islanders do.

The first person had arrived about 6:30 am, anxious to get a reservation the following Saturday so that he and his wife could leave on a camping trip. As other reservation seekers arrived, he or she acknowledged who they followed. Several of those waiting knew each other, reinforcing the sense of community we value as the Island experience.

As the 7:30 reservation kickoff approached, Debby Mahoney, one of the reservation clerks on duty, stepped out from behind the counter and asked everyone waiting for a preferred reservation to have all their information ready — profile numbers, times, and dates — so that when the computers opened she and the other clerks could do their best to get everyone a reservation and keep the line moving.

At 7:20 am, the Islanders formed a line, self-adjusting it based on order of arrival that morning. At 7:25 am, it was all hands on deck. Terminal manager Kathleen Parsons joined Debby, Joey Nascimento and Derrick Rogers on the computer bank. At precisely 7:30 am they began processing preferred reservations as quickly as possible.

Islanders helping Islanders: That’s how we get through a busy summer.


Welcome back, President Obama

Mid-August is about that time of the year when Islanders begin to grouse. We grouse about crowds, about traffic and about drivers — we always assume they are off-island drivers, but that is not always the case — seemingly oblivious to the basic rules of the road. Is the Vineyard busier than ever? It is hard to say.

President Obama and his family arrive Saturday for a two-week vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. By most accounts, the arrival of the presidential entourage will be the icing on the cake of what is shaping up to be a very busy summer.

Invariably, visiting members of the national media will speculate on what the arrival of the president means for Martha’s Vineyard. Probably not much, we think.

There are only so many rooms at Island inns and hotels, tables in restaurants, and spaces on ferries. The capacity is finite. At some point, the Island is full, and that point will come over the next two weeks, irrespective of the arrival of President Obama.

If the president follows past practice, he will stay out of the limelight and stick to the types of activities that attract so many families to Martha’s Vineyard — dining out with friends, small social gatherings, swimming, bike riding, and golfing, lots of golfing.

Welcome to the Obamas and all our August visitors. And for those who look forward to a respite from the crowds, September is just three weeks away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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