Letters to the Editor
Rethink affordable housing
To the Editor:
This is a copy of a letter sent to the Chilmark selectmen.
This letter is in response to an article in the paper regarding your discussions about the long-term uses of affordable housing. I hope you will think about it while you review the proposed restrictions before you this week.
The young people who grew up here and want to live in Chilmark need homes; if they cannot find homes here, eventually they will go elsewhere, which may or may not be good for the young, but it will surely be bad for Chilmark.
We have tried several different ways to use housing incentives to achieve a better community. By far the most effective has been the earliest and simplest, the youth lot. If our goal is to maintain a community, then we need to be very clear about what that means to us as a town. Maintaining the poverty level of the occupants of a particular house is not my goal nor should it be yours. Nurturing our community is a difficult and complex job, but it can be done.
As they were originally conceived, one of the ways youth lots could be used was as a sort of scholarship, awarded to a few of our local kids to help them achieve full citizenship in their community. It worked. Many of our most valued citizens have benefited from those scholarships. We did not ask them to stay poor forever or to keep their children poor. Just the opposite. We hoped they would prosper and most of them have, but let us be very clear, no one has gotten rich off a youth lot.
When we talk of permanent restrictions on affordable lots, we are talking about maintaining a part of our community in second class citizenship forever. Why would we want to do that? I have heard the arguments about running out of affordable housing, and how we need to keep all affordable housing in the pool forever. Such discussions make sense when we are talking about community-owned rental housing, but if we want to keep at least a few of the best and the brightest of our children in their community they need to be able to see their way toward equal citizenship.
The selectmen as a board have an opportunity to either help build a better community, by giving the scholarship assistance that will make the difference and help a few of our young people to achieve full citizenship, or, as a board, you can use your influence to make it so onerous to live here that all the best and the brightest will move off in search of a real community. That would be a great loss for Chilmark.
Excitement and cash
To the Editor:
I read with interest all the negative comments concerning another film crew visiting the Vineyard. I personally do not see what all the fuss is about. Martha's Vineyard has been on the map for a long time and over the course of years has been mentioned many times on TV sitcoms. Jaws brought excitement to the Vineyard as well as an influx of cash into many pockets. The buzz at the time was about how much damage would be done to our economy, road tie-ups, interruption in the business districts, damage to the environment, etc. In the end, it was a fun time, the movie crews were a great group to know, and the naysayers were lost in the excitement.
I grew up on the Vineyard and remember when George Metalious became the guidance counselor at Martha's Vineyard Regional. To those of you who may not remember, he was the husband of Grace Metalious, the author of Peyton Place, a 1956 blockbuster story that took place in New England. Island residents were all up in arms, concerned that the spouse of such a controversial author would be working in our school system and influencing our young minds. Then there was Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow's visit back around 1960, a major news story, a story with flair and big yachts, limousines. I remember the hoopla as they drove up to Monroe's on Circuit Avenue - celebrities dressed to the nines, crowds of gawkers. In the more recent past, there have been Jaws, Princess Diana, Bill and Hillary Clinton - and I'm sure many more I forgot to mention.
Again, the point here is Martha's Vineyard is on the map and is not the quiet, unknown isolated Island it was back in the 1950s.
In retrospect, the other point I would like to make is about growing up on the Vineyard. In many ways, our lives could easily have fit into the scenarios as seen in film today. As teenagers, we struggled through the winter months waiting intensely for the summer excitement to begin - the beach, the parties, cruising around town, Nick's Lighthouse, submarine races, the anticipation of meeting and making new friends.
In the 1950s, Martha's Vineyard was mostly separated by the locals and summer residents, with not as many tourists or daytrippers visiting our Island. The class differences generally kept us apart. The wealthy on the Vineyard mostly kept to themselves in those areas that are still defined today. This group could be found frequenting the beach clubs, tennis courts, and such. That is not to say that as teenagers we did not intermingle. Young with exploring minds, we were all looking for ways to enjoy the short summer season. Friendships and love affairs were short-lived as the fall season grew near and summer ended. When the season finally came to an end, we returned to school and renewed our old Island friendships. In the end, we all played out our relationships as the seasons changed.
As I mentioned before, there was much that could have fit into a modern day film, so I am suggesting that negative comments toward another film crew on the Vineyard are unwarranted. It will be good for the economy, will not damage our little Island and should be enjoyed for the notoriety, if any.
Martha's Vineyard has changed a lot in the last 60 years, and it will continue to change, as will the rest of the world. In my mind, the 1950s were the best of times, though I would guess the stories and seasonal relationships today are all similar to those I remember.
Islander's condition raises questions about SSA maintenance
To the Editor:
The story of the auction of the Islander on eBay was quite interesting (Page 7, Martha's Vineyard Times, Feb. 26). However, the 37-page document entitled, "Report of Conditions Found MV Islander" posted on eBay should give us all pause. It was done at great expense by Seaworthy Systems Inc. and is complete with photos, audiogauge (hull thickness) tables, and hull and machinery conditions.
In their conclusion, Seaworthy Systems stated that "the Islander is in very poor condition. The previous owners had used the vessel well beyond its usable service life to the point were it was no longer able to serve as a viable passenger/vehicle ferry without investing millions of dollars on repairs and upgrades to keep it in service." The photographs in the report provide graphic evidence of the deteriorated critical structure of the boat.
On page three of the survey, most readers will find the summary assessment of great interest:
"The Islander was found to be in a generally poor and worn out condition, consistent with a service life of 57 years in salt water and with lax maintenance in her later years. Extensive active corrosion and coating failure were found throughout the vessel from the bilges to the main vehicle deck and up to the top of the superstructure and deck houses. Inside the hull, there is clear evidence of severe coating failure and steel corrosion with many sections of frames, floors, and girders wasted completely through. Some of the main watertight bulkheads are buckled and severely corroded in their lower portions. There is ample evidence of repaired bottom damage from groundings throughout the vessel including some remaining unrepaired damage. An external inspection of the hull in dry dock may reveal further unrepaired damage. The whole main deck plating is heavily corroded and has no intact coatings. Most of the main deck plating is deformed downward between transverse frames due to vehicle wheel loading. There are many weld fractures between the main deck plating and the transverse beams. There is a portion of the main deck framing and plating near amidships that is severely buckled upwards from a grounding incident. The mezzanine deck and mezzanine longitudinal bulkheads show obvious signs of buckling and wasted steel. There are many cracked welds between the mezzanine longitudinal bulkheads and the frames. The mezzanine deck is corroded completely through in way of wet spaces like the bathrooms and door sills. The boat deck and house tops show significant coating failure and corroded plating. The superstructure sides show evidence of heavy pitting between all of the mezzanine deck windows."
Maintenance is critical on steel boats and cannot be put off. Passengers, crew, and the Islander herself deserved much better from the Steamship Authority than "lax maintenance in her later years." Wasted frames, floors and buckled plates are not trivial matters. We always felt safe on the Islander, but it is obvious from this report that we weren't safe in the last years of operation. The Islander had run aground in the past including a partial sinking in the late 1970s. If a similar incident had occurred in its later years, it's doubtful that the Islander, in the condition documented in this report, would have had the structural strength to withstand the impact. There is a very real possibility that the watertight bulkheads would have failed, due to their deteriorated condition.
These conditions took years to develop, which leads me to wonder about the condition of the other boats in the fleet. Do we need to have an independent survey group check the boats each year? The Island Home hull and engines were submerged during hurricane Katrina, an unfortunate occurrence which will undoubtedly lead to unwanted and ongoing maintenance problems.
The issue of Steamship Authority vessel maintenance and safety should be investigated by the appropriate authorities, including the Coast Guard and town selectmen. It is important that we have a safe fleet and that the practice of neglecting maintenance to cut costs never be allowed to occur again.
It is my understanding that a copy of the complete survey is available at mvtimes.com. I hope that this letter is seen as a positive step and that it sparks a discussion of the critical issue of vessel maintenance and safety.
But, what can you do?
To the Editor:
I went to high school in Amherst, and my dad taught at Stockbridge School of Agriculture. Many of the landscape companies were started by his students, and he had 100 percent job placement for his graduates.
During the recession of the 1970s, a fellow classmate of mine came to the house to see my dad. He asked my dad if he could get him a job too. My dad asked: "What can you do?"
The young man replied that he had gone to an Ivy League college and had majored in Russian literature, but was now pumping gas, well below his education level.
My father asked: "But what can you do? What can you produce? If there are no jobs speaking or teaching Russian, what can you do that someone is willing to pay you for?"
He looked at the young man's soft hands and asked him: "What can you do?"
That, for me, was a life lesson. I see so many young people majoring in things like art history, classic literature, psychology, sociology, etc., all of which are wonderful things to study, and during good times when money flows, there may be jobs available. But when bad times hit and people withdraw to survival issues, these degrees will have so few jobs to offer, leaving young grads with huge student loans, great expectations, and no work.
The skills that have always been in demand are the basics of our existence. Everyone wants their toilet to flush, car to run, lights to go on, water to flow, health and safety and school teachers. And recessions occur on a very regular basis. This current one is nothing new. So why are so many unprepared?
Graduating from college is a great thing, a noble goal. Just be sure, in exchange for all your hard-earned money, you demand an education that qualifies you to do something. And in addition to your degree, learn some of those skills that may make your hands dirty. They are noble too.
Keep the faith.
To the Editor:
The people of Oak Bluffs should know why I asked the selectmen to place a nonbinding question on the election ballot in April.
There are two ways to get to vote by ballot on an issue at town meeting. The first is for people to make and approve a motion to vote on an issue by ballot. It needs a majority to pass.
The second is for the moderator to call for a ballot vote. In that case, he acts alone in his discretion.
You should realize that the first way of getting to a ballot vote offers only illusory anonymity. After a voice vote on a motion to vote by ballot, any seven people may stand to question my call of that vote, and then I have to take a standing vote. It can be just as awkward and revealing to stand up for a ballot vote as to stand up and vote on the issue itself. Each sends the same signal, and anyone can see it.
Although ballot votes can be taken very simply and quickly, I have called for only one such vote in my 10 years in Oak Bluffs. A change in settled voting procedures should be made - if at all - only after a clear signal is given by the people.
Lately, I've heard more interest in ballot voting in our town than ever before. Many do not like to stand up and vote publicly - under observation - on major, sensitive issues. Some say they don't attend or vote at town meetings, because they don't like the way we take such votes now. No one needs to know how anyone votes at an open town meeting.
The most anonymous and respectful voting at town meeting would be by ballot, called for by the moderator, as I did some years ago on the Southern Woodlands. Given the power to call for ballot voting - which should be exercised rarely and only on substantial, highly sensitive issues - I should know how people feel about this change. Do they favor it, oppose it, or not care? Why not ask them? And why not see if it would improve attendance?
The selectmen can put the question on the ballot in April. What harm is there in finding out how people really feel about it? A moderator serves the people - why not let the people tell him how to act on their behalf?
It will not cost a single dime to put the question on the ballot. It can be approved by the selectmen on March 10, and you can answer it on the ballot on April 16. The result will be a signal to me. That is democracy. Give it a chance.
Lately, we've had advisory ballot questions on summer ferry service, shark tournaments, and the town building campus. Why not on a change to private and respectful voting on certain issues at town meetings? Important? I think so.
To the Editor:
Several recent letters have suggested it is time to dissolve the Martha's Vineyard Commission. I disagree.
The writers appear to support the notion that Martha's Vineyard is fully developed, so that, accordingly, there is declining need for a body like the commission. Just as we will never reach the end of technological progress, we will never reach the end of planning and land use issues. Indeed, whenever the Vineyard does become fully developed, the next stage will be its redevelopment according to the felt necessities of a time we won't be around to share. If that were not the case, and we dismantled the tools to deal with it, we would be compelled to acknowledge that the Vineyard is some kind of museum, fixed in time. The writers forget what Jefferson wrote to Madison so long ago: "The land belongs to the living...." We are but stewards of it for our own lifetime.
At the risk of committing a social faux pas, it seems to me that the history of our individual towns in dealing with critical development issues has been poor. This is a small place; the interests tend to be parochial. And, because communities have been much more reactive (McDonald's anyone?) to development that is not wanted rather than proactive in shaping development that is inevitable, a supra-agency like the Martha's Vineyard Commission is needed. For example, the Martha's Vineyard Commission is the only agency that has jurisdiction over developments of regional impact, that is, development that affects Martha's Vineyard as a whole.
I do not claim that the Martha's Vineyard Commission is perfect. It is large, unwieldy, and slow. But I do maintain that having it is much better for the future of Martha's Vineyard than dissolving it. To do that would be a retrograde step that would strip us of essential tools and re-launch the kind of development battles that bedeviled the towns 30 years ago.
Nicholas W. Puner
The banks already took the money
To the Editor:
As a retired realtor, businessman, and investor, I have a different view of our financial crisis. Here it is. For many years our banking big shots saw fit to take corporate money - millions upon millions, even tens of millions, money that shareholders probably never knew were siphoned off - and passed this cash over to lobbyists who in turn passed it on to our elected representatives and senators. The cash was aimed directly at Senate and House banking and finance committee members, under the guise of campaign contributions. For instance, if a senator or rep had no influence - say he was a new guy or sat on some offbeat board - he'd get nothing. The banks' money went directly to the banking system overseers. It's all on the record as to who got what.
After several years, the banks got what they wanted: minimal oversight, deregulation, and a lowering of bank reserves from 16 percent to just over two percent. They could now lend out nearly eight times what they previously could lend - all with the same deposits, and with many restrictions removed. Then, as the global economy took off, countries like China, Japan, and South Korea, to name a few, invested gigantic amounts of their trade surplus right here in what they thought was the safest investment arena in the world, the U.S.A. So many hundreds of billions came in. The banks could lend almost without limit - and that's exactly what they did. You name it - yachts, Jeeps, jets, developments, Harleys, cars, homes, third homes, businesses, huge credit card limits, college loans, and so much more. There was no end. You could get a new car with nothing down, no payments for a year, and no interest after that. You could buy a house with nothing down. You could then borrow more and more against those home(s), using the cash to buy anything you like.
Banks wrote up and sold off hundreds of billions in bundled loan clumps to investors worldwide. They didn't have to be careful because they weren't holding these notes. They'd simply collect big fees for setting everything up - then they'd sell off these clouded clusters and rake in huge profits even on small, long-term loan spreads. Home prices skyrocketed, and people paid those prices because rates were so cheap, and large loans were so easy. Because of this artificially created distortion, people were clearly over-paying. After going along with this for many years, Fed chairman Alan Greenspan had enough. He and his banking governors raised rates 17 times over 18 months. Folks with variable rate mortgages got squeezed. Some failed, some bailed. With little or none of their own money invested, and with disproportionately large payments - it was an easy decision. They saved their skin and moved on.
With high rates curtailing others from buying, and with more and more people flopping on loans, things headed downhill. With next to nothing held in reserve, the banks soon became insolvent as their puny little cash holdings proved inadequate. These top-shelf, professional, highly paid executives had overextended their banks' depositors and their shareholders, just exactly as they had allowed their over-leveraged borrowers to do. They were as reckless for those who entrusted their money to them, as they were with Joe Six Pack, Joe the Plumber, and millions of other Joes. Home values dropped lower and lower, and faster and faster, as more and more buyers backed away. Everything died.
So many of us are going broke. Folks with lifelong perfect credit, good assets, and great income. Folks who have held on, paying all their oversized loans for the past few years. But now their expensive homes (or boiled-off businesses, chopped-up charter fleets, dying dealerships, (un)relaxing resorts, gobbled-up golf communities, and ravished real estate firms etc., etc.) in which they had large equity positions are worth even less than their crumpled up stock portfolios. Out of business signs are all over this country.
We were all screwed when we couldn't sell anything because, even after hundreds of billions in taxpayer subsidized low-interest loans last spring and summer, and even after hundreds of billions in bailout money this past winter and fall, banks are still hoarding the cash. They have done next to nothing to get things rolling. These uppity folks who caused all of this with their clear-cut (but seemingly legal) bribery, simply grabbed the money and held on as tight as they could as things continue to deteriorate.
Today we have the same publicly elected officials, the very senators and representatives who got those huge campaign contributions that gave the banks the freedom they bought and paid for, questioning these banking CEOs in our Capitol. So let's ask this: How pointed can their questioning be, when they were the ones who took those contributions and in turn, bushwhacked our age-old banking regulations, cheating all of us in the process? After having passed out hundreds of billions of taxpayer money to their previous contributors, how deep can their questioning go? And why were these legislative questioners so much harder on our automakers - big shots who were asking for a tiny fraction of what the banks had already gotten - big shots who presumably didn't hand over the large contributions the banker had. You pay to play.
This is a perfect case study of one hand washing the other. Since our citizens have unwittingly gotten stuck with the gigantic tab, including in many cases their homes, livelihoods, and accumulated life's assets, as well as the embarrassment of ruined credit and what that will cost them in the future as they try to move on, I have this suggestion; it's simple, it will immediately work, and it will punish the industry that caused this. Everyone gets six months without having to make a loan payment. The banks already took the money - Now, let us get back on our feet.
To the Editor:
Why would you use the phrase "Breakfast Nazi" in a soufflé of an article like "Starting the day over easy," by Jack Shea (February 26)? And did describing this Nazi, lovingly depicted in the accompanying cartoon, as "having my best interests at heart" help you reach your goal, unattained I'm afraid, of offering up a humorous piece (kinda like dropping a dirty bomb on a koi pond)? I think not. Here are two suggestions for changes in your publishing standards. First, only print well-written articles. And, second, remember that unnecessarily mean and violent language causes pain in others.
Oak Bluffs and Cambridge
Respect your elders
To the Editor:
I understand the spirit of competition that exists between the two Island newspapers, and generally that competition is a healthy thing, but I object to your advertisement on Page 32 in the February 26 edition mocking the term paper of record. No newspaper in America is functionally a newspaper of record, a term originated when newspapers felt the need to print items simply to have them on the record. But for quite some years it served the public well before other media sources were developed, and to mock the Gazette or any paper that has a long history covering the period when indeed those publications were the newspaper of record is completely disrespectful and particularly disturbing from another newspaper.
Those publications plowed the way for your very existence, and while you may believe that your advertisement is effectively elevating your publication, in fact is has the opposite effect. It reflects poorly on you and your judgment, similar to that of a teenager who has no respect for his grandparents.
Hall of fame helpers
To the Editor:
I tend to a Windemere resident on a regular basis. One of the many activities she enjoys is the recreation department's music program. I, too, laud this program and all the musicians of talent and good heart. It is truly uplifting to see the effect of music on each person there - the foot-tapping, harmony singing, dancing in the aisle, the smiles and applause, the repartee. I commend (with other Islanders as well) Dorothy Bangs, Phil Diettrich, Mark Lovewell, Rick and Franklin O'Gorman, Taffy McCarthy with Bob Johnston and Edson Rodgers, and Arthur Silvia to what should be a musical hallway of fame and compassion.
Let the firefighters swim
To the Editor:
I read in last week's Times how Martha's Vineyard fire departments will come to the assistance of the other towns in case of an emergency. What a fine example of a community coming together for the benefit of all. On the other end of the spectrum is the town of West Tisbury's exclusionary policies denying public walk-on access to Lambert's Cove Beach, a town park. Imagine a firefighter from Edgartown who went to West Tisbury to help in an emergency, later being denied a day at Lambert's Cove beach with his or her family. Another way to look at it is that the citizens of the individual towns pay for the firefighting vehicles and equipment that are available to West Tisbury when needed.
I hope The Martha's Vineyard Times will take notice of all the online comments my letters seem to generate and write a little article about it. And, as always, end beach apartheid.
To the Editor:
On behalf of the Toys for Tots campaign, and the officers under my command, I would like to express our thanks to the staff of The Martha's Vineyard Times for your generous contribution to the effort.
Even though it was certainly a bad year for the economy, the response that was generated was really hard to believe. Most of the toys that were received were understandably for younger children. However, the little ones have older siblings who are generally forgotten. But, thanks to people like you, who contributed monetarily, it allowed for the organizers to purchase gifts for the older kids too.
Christmas is for children of all ages, and I'm sure that last year's Christmas morning saw a lot of happy kids.
Bruce P. Gordon
Major, Commanding Troop D
Massachusetts State Police
To the Editor:
In our lives we get both pleasant and dreadful surprises. Things can happen in just a blink of an eye and alter your outlook on life forever. On Monday, February 23, I left my house to go to church, just as I have numerous times in the past. I never expected a call from my friend, Elizabeth Francis, telling me that my house was on fire. This certainly was the most dreadful surprise I have ever endured. People always think disasters won't happen to them, and that's what I always thought. I guess you never really realize that it can happen to you, until it does.
On behalf of my mother, Dineia De Oliveira, father, Tarcisio De Oliveira, and sister, Brenda, I wish to thank everyone who has helped our family and continues to help us through this most challenging experience. We are most thankful to God for the fact that no one was hurt in the fire or in the efforts of putting it out.
We would like to thank our Pastor, Valci Carvalho, for his continued support and advice. We are grateful to Erinelda Pereira for noticing the fire and immediately calling my father to tell him that the house was on fire and for making the first call to 911.
We appreciate the remarkable effort put forth by the Edgartown and Oak Bluffs fire departments and their EMTs. Particularly, Jake Silvia for not giving up the search for our beloved dog, Katie; she is a very important member of our family who is now recovering from her most recent trauma. Two years ago, she was mauled by a much larger dog, leaving her with multiple broken and dislocated bones. There had been some miscommunication which led people to believe that she had been hit by a car, when in fact she was attacked by a dog. Thank you very much, Jake.
Our neighbor Tom Hiller and his daughter, Beth, came to the aid of my parents immediately and stayed with them throughout the ordeal, providing coats, shoes, water, and comfort. Their thoughtfulness and support made a lasting impression on my parents. Elizabeth Francis and her mom, Wendy Francis, managed to calm my terrified little sister before safely bringing her to our mom. Kara Shemeth and Joan Condlin were especially helpful and kind in helping Elizabeth and Wendy locate my mother so they could bring Brenda to her.
We continue to be thankful for the generosity and hospitality of my loving aunt, Neuza Tate, who has welcomed us into her home while we search for a place to live until our house is rebuilt. Our family appreciates the generous assistance and kindness shown by the Red Cross, Trader Fred, the Edgartown School, and the First Baptist Church. Others that we are thankful for include Laudiceia Guimaraes, Sarah Francis, Jessica and Edivalda Santana, Ana Paula, Jennifer Rosada, Renata Larcerda, Millena, Samantha, and Marlla for giving us clothing and well wishes.
If I have accidentally forgotten to mention anyone who has helped us, I apologize. We are truly grateful for all the help and support we have received from everyone in our lives. God bless each and every one of you.
Diana De Oliveira