Letters to the Editor
Getting true affordable housing done
To the Editor:
I was so pleased to read last week's editorial praising IEH and Morgan Woods. As an IEH founder and its 25-year executive director, whose job was to develop these projects, I thank you! I am pleased and humbled at the same time as I'm sure Ted Morgan and Alan Gowell and the other developers of these successful projects are. Both of these organizations had a vision and then took full advantage of state and federal funds, through its development teams, to help subsidize rents for some 250 people on limited or fixed incomes. Sure there are trade-offs, and sometimes the feds don't get how we do things on the Vineyard, but the housing gets built and subsidized, the tenants get real affordable year-round, secure housing, and the local community is spared the huge burden of paying for it.
IEH and Edgartown's Morgan Woods were successful because we began by determining need, not the other way around.
I agree with your editorial view that there is a problem with how the DCRHA, IAHF, and IHT are going about developing their so called "affordable housing." The question has always been and still remains, affordable for whom?
Our buildings may not meet the high and expensive standards of the John Abrams and John Earlys of Martha's Vineyard, but the renters or the homeowners who live in our buildings aren't complaining. And personally, I think that all of the projects look good.
However, I am really writing to remind you that you neglected to include one other important effort - the Self Help Housing Program - that built 14 houses in the mid-1980s, coordinated jointly by IEH and Housing Assistance Corp., funded with administrative grants to these nonprofits from USDA, and through subsidized mortgages to the homeowners. It's a barn raising concept where everyone builds everyone else's house, and the sweat equity really counts. It's not a flashy program - the point is that these houses fit in and become invisible. There are self-help houses in five out of our six towns. Only 15 of us know exactly where they are and who the homeowners are. Under this program, two groups of low to moderate income Islanders worked as teams to build each other's houses and in exchange got affordable, low-interest mortgages from USDA which eventually got refinanced through local banks. It sounds easy, but believe me, it wasn't. Of those 14 houses, one burned down, one or two were sold when owners left Martha's Vineyard, but the rest are still owned and inhabited by the people who built them.
These were young people and young families who got to own houses here 20 years ago, thanks to the federal government, each other, and a couple of non-profit organizations. They are individuals, single parents, families, realtors, office workers, town employees, a selectman, and tradesmen, including our own "Joe the Plumber." These Islanders have generally added additions over the years to the original simple Capes or saltboxes they built.
The crime is that there has been money available to us under this program every year for the past 20 years, and it often is returned to the national pool of funds because no one from our region, our Island, applies for it. I can't believe that there aren't people out there who would want to participate, and that there aren't resident homesite committees who would donate or sell land cheaply, and that there isn't an organization like IEH or HAC who would coordinate it again.
The Vineyard Housing Office has never followed through on their initial attempts to jump-start this program. My sense is that they have chosen not to accept the restrictions of a federal program like this one and prefer to raise money locally, thus avoiding the regulations that come with federal funding. It will take a nonprofit or a town - some group not affiliated with the affordable housing groups - to re-activate this program. It's time.
With regard to the deficiencies of the current resident homesite program, I was fortunate to have won the land on which we built our house at Pilot Hill Farm through the Vineyard Open Land Foundation's "youth lot program" in 1977. The equity in my house/land, which I understand the current resident and affordable housing homesite lot owners may not have, enabled me to borrow enough money to pay for my daughter's Yale education, allowing her to graduate without debt, and will now have to subsidize my retirement so that I can stay on the Vineyard and, God willing, I will still have a house/land without much debt with plenty of equity to leave to my daughter. She will have the choice, which most Vineyard kids don't, of whether or not to live on the Vineyard. And the VOLF is in my will, so that at least some money will go back to them to be used for future affordable housing lots through their organization's efforts. I never felt like a second-class citizen. I was grateful to give back to the community that gave me a home, and eventually I hope to give something back to the nonprofit organization that made it possible.
Now, if someone would just take on the gigantic need for subsidized rental housing for the disabled. There is funding from HUD and DHCD for development, construction and rent subsidies going unawarded. There is an IEH lot at Woodside Village ready for development. NOW, a leader in this effort needs to come forward.
Carol E. Lashnits
A shocking lapse
To the Editor:
This letter was sent to the Vineyard Nursing Association.
When I scheduled my hip replacement surgery three months ago, I felt very comfortable about coming home for my recuperation because I expected I would have a week to 10 days of VNA at-home nursing, physical therapy and home health aide services to help me get back on my feet. Imagine my shock, followed by fear, when the hospital called VNA to schedule services (four days before my arrival home last Tuesday) only to be told that I would have to wait seven to 10 days after arrival home for physical therapy, as there were staffing shortages. I then also learned that if I used outpatient physical therapy, I would not be eligible for nursing or home health aid services, because of insurance mandates preventing any home services if outpatient services have been used.
What to do? I was in a panic and unsure I would be safe coming home.
I could not go 10 days without physical therapy, as that is the key to recuperation with orthopedic surgery. Fortunately I have been able to rely on the kindness of many friends for my needs - food, nursing help, overnight care, personal care, and rides to the hospital for my outpatient physical therapy and blood work. Not everyone would be so fortunate.
I write you because I feel this is an appalling situation. What prevents VNA from contracting with other Island physical therapists when they have their own staffing shortages? Is this a funding problem? Or a staffing/operational problem? How can the situation be fixed? I would like to help you remedy this situation, so no one else has to fear to return home after hospitalization because they would have no home health services.
To the Editor:
In response to the letter recently published regarding the success of carbon taxes in Denmark, the writer left out some very important facts. Firstly, Denmark was only one of several countries to establish these taxes over the last 15 years or so. Of these countries, Denmark is the only country to have seen a large decline in CO2 emissions between 1990 and 2005. Interestingly, all of the other Scandinavian countries, as well as France, actually did worse at controlling CO2 than the U.S., with the worst case being Norway, which saw a 43-percent increase in its per capita CO2 emissions over this period. Denmark's success in reducing emissions was primarily due to industry switching from coal to natural gas, not renewable energy as the letter writer suggested. Also the Danish were able to offset the negative effects of taxation on the economy, because the green tax was part of a tax reform that reduced marginal tax rates and corporate tax rates and financed this by increasing the number of taxpayers and by lowering the exemptions on the green taxes. This was part of an overall turn to the right in Danish politics that included some privatizations and welfare reform.
To suggest that the U.S. can adopt an economic scenario based upon the experiences of a country with a far different economic and social model is sophomoric at best. Considering that 95 percent of earth's carbon dioxide levels are the result of natural organic processes and that the earth's atmosphere has been cooling for the last decade, do we really need to impose additional taxes that would ultimately negatively impact the poorest members of our society?
To the Editor:
On behalf of the entire Vineyard school community, please accept sincere thanks for organizing and co-sponsoring our recent Internet Safety Program, featuring Katie LeClerc. The Martha's Vineyard Times and Comcast- Southeastern Region were excellent partners in this endeavor. Both the daytime student presentations for seventh- and eighth-graders and the evening session for parents were very well received.
It is my hope that activities such as this not only help our students but also work to build an even stronger sense of community resulting in additional cooperative ventures.
Again, thanks to you and the entire Martha's Vineyard Times management and staff for making this important event possible.
James H. Weiss
Superintendent of Schools
To the Editor:
A few weeks ago a woman called the Windemere recreation department to inquire about her daughter doing her internship as an art therapist with us. I asked her to look into what therapy license her daughter would need to work under while doing her internship.
Unfortunately, I never got the woman's phone number or name. I am hoping that she sees this letter and gives me a call.
We have a therapist who will work with her, and we would love to meet with her and discuss an internship at Windemere. Please call, 508-696-6465 Ext:722
And, there's more
To the Editor:
It is always good to read about Bill Brown. I was disappointed that you didn't mention the massive amount of volunteer service Bill gives to various organizations here on Martha's Vineyard.
To the Editor:
Just a quick note of thanks and appreciation to David Grunden and the Oak Bluffs shellfish department for all their hard work and effort - which has resulted in a truly outstanding recreational bay scallop harvest this year. I'm sure every dipper and diver who has spent time in Sengekontacket or the Lagoon this past month would agree. Year after year, David and his team have done an outstanding job managing this very special Oak Bluffs resource.
Note that I am not trying to wrangle an extra basket of shellfish by writing this letter.
Bedford, N.H., and Oak Bluffs
Our best selves
To the Editor:
Within a period of eight days, I have witnessed America at its very best. First, on Tuesday, November 4, the most significant - and moving - political event since I started voting, in 1956. And then, on Tuesday, November 11, a visit to the high school for a flu shot, an enormously impressive - and moving - example of American organization, efficiency, volunteerism, and sense of community: smiling, helpful fellow citizens showing us where to park, helping with the forms, guiding us through the corridors to the gym, giving us our shots, and then back out again - all in 15 minutes.