Letters to the Editor
Samaritan when needed
To the Editor:
Accounts of acts of kindness abound on this wonderful Island. I was the recipient of one on December 8, when my car developed a flat tire along Middle Road in Chilmark. While waiting for a repair truck, along came Samaritan Steve Norberg, in his red truck. After asking about the problem, he insisted on driving to the house of a nearby friend for an air pump to temporarily fix the tire for the short trip to Mid-Island Repair. Not only that, but he followed me there to make sure there was no other mishap.
Once again, I've been reminded of why this is such a special place to live. Thank you, thank you, Steve.
Merry Christmas to all.
Give us information we can use
To the Editor:
The Steamship Authority, like any company, should deliver information in ways that are easy to understand and make customers happy and bottom lines improve.
A prime example of unhelpful information and a system which is both frustrating and a waste of time is the current Steamship Authority's standby system and "number of cars in line" advisory. This tells us is how long the line is, but that is misleading at best. It implies that there is no space available, especially to people unfamiliar with the system.
What we really want to know is: "Can I or will my friends get on the next boat?" Off-Islanders looking to come here will assume that if cars are waiting, then there is no chance they can get on the boat. This information is misleading and deters visits. The solution is simple.
Change it from "Current number of cars in standby" to "Current number of spaces available" and update this information in "real time."
Knowing the "number of spaces available" will encourage me to come and to make a reservation right now. For those of us trying to make a last-minute departure or return on an earlier boat, it tells us exactly what we need to know.
Furthermore, why must I even wait in a standby line? Currently in standby, I don't know if I have a chance of getting on, which ensures that everyone involved is unable to make plans. This is more than annoying, it is a huge waste of time and money. Over the course of a year, think of the thousands of hours wasted, the thousands of people inconvenienced, and the missed opportunities to shop, eat, or simply enjoy ourselves here or on the mainland. This is unnecessary and can be easily resolved.
If there is room on the boat, don't put me in a standby line.
When I try to get on an earlier boat, the minute they call up my reservation at the drive-up booth, they know the size of my car and whether there is room for me on the boat. If there is room, why can't they just put me in line? Then, the moment they put me in line for an earlier boat their computer should update the space available for the boat I was originally booked on, opening up more space and opportunities for reservations.
The programming to do this in real time is not complicated. They know the amount of space/cars each boat can carry. They know the size of the car for every reservation. They can set aside spaces for emergency vehicles (or if an emergency arises, follow the airlines' example and bump someone who can afford to wait). They should know instantly if there is room or not on any given boat, and I should be able to know as well.
If we took it to the next logical step, we could easily check availability from our cell phones and move reservations around as needed. The 95 percent of customers with computer access can do this easily online and/or via smart phones. We should be able to reserve last-minute spots. We should be able to know what boat we will be on. We should not have to waste time waiting in line and wondering unnecessarily.
It may be that during summer months this may be impossible, though why it would be is beyond me. I am confident that at least during the slow months, it is very doable. I welcome any dialog which describes why this is not possible.
But what about the no-shows?
There must be a small percentage of customers who miss their boat. If we push the Steamship to a real time system, then the only spaces which become available at the last minute are no-shows. I suspect that this amounts to 5-10 at the most per boat, but I don't know. Let's allow no-shows to change their reservations at no cost (or at minimal cost to fund this project), up to 30 minutes prior to departure. To avoid double bookings the system would not allow a car to be booked more than one roundtrip per day.
If I knew that the boat was full but still wanted to wait to take a chance on a no-show in the last 30 minutes, I would be permitted to wait in a line but, if I see that the line is more than five cars, I know that it is very unlikely that I will make the boat, so I have the information I need to make alternate plans. Providing a live web cam on this alternate line would give those with web or smart phone instant information. If there is room, then I know right away I can get on the boat.
Our wish list, all of which is possible, in order of importance (to me):
1. We need a website and/or automated phone service which tells us, in real time, what space is currently available on any boat 24/7.
2. If there is space available put us in line to get on the boat.
3. We need, for Islanders at least, to be able to change or make reservations easily and instantly for any open space on any boat. The exception is for people with confirmed reservations one half hour before departure, who would have to pay a penalty for late changes.
4. We need the freight boats to be included in this information so we have access to all planned departures, and truckers can have the same information.
5. Lastly, I don't think we should have to pay for these modest changes; fining no shows or charging an extra dollar or two for last-minute reservations would quickly pay for these changes.
Let's take advantage of the simple technology already widely in use to make our lives easier and probably improve revenue for the Steamship Authority.
Do the right thing on cell service
To the Editor:
I simply can't understand why this issue keeps going round and round without ever being resolved. It's amazing how many people live here and just don't read the paper, or get involved with what's happening here. Then, when it does catch their attention they are upset about it and form opinions without prior research.
I have been following this issue since 2005, when my fiance and I first came to the Aquinnah selectmen and planning board with a new (at the time) concept called DAS (Distributed Antenna Service). It was in response to the legal battles over proposed building of a cell tower in the Aquinnah church - which happens to be a historical site - the oldest Baptist Church in North America. Now, zapping the local indians with RFs while they pray just didn't sit right with us. They, being ill informed, had no idea of the ramifications of such a project at the time and were in favor of it, because of the projected income.
Then, at about the same time, a proposal was entered for a cell tower to be built at the Aquinnah landfill. Since we live next door to that property, we naturally were opposed to that. Cell towers are not only "ugly," but they are also "dangerously outmoded." They emit more health hazardous RF's than the DAS. We don't want to be un-healthy, but the FCC says we can't even use health as a valid concern. (Do the research). We personally don't use cell phones, but we wouldn't not want others to use them if they have to or want to. For fire, police and medical personal, it is a good idea. It might save a life, maybe your life some day.
So, after some rather fast but extensive research, we discovered that Nantucket had had a similar problem that was solved by planning board amendments, and a swiftly built DAS project by ATC (American Tower Corp). Alex Gamoda was the top man on the gig. He later claimed that ATC made their name and fame by being one of the first to build such a system. After all, Nantucket is a famous place.
We had it in mind to simply do what Nantucket did. But simply and Vineyard are oxymorons. Especially when the straight facts are just not understood. There have been numerous meetings to explain it all, questions and answers, and charts and facts. All the planning has been done already, the negotiations mostly in place. We have an interested cellular service provider, which was the last piece of the puzzle we needed.
At this point, every article about DAS has begun to sound redundant. There's simply nothing new to say except, who's being stupid now? All towns were originally in agreement, so why now the confusion and division? Are we just stalling? Why?
This article lays out the straight facts - to sum them up in one easy-to-understand statement: "There will be cell service up-Island, you can choose either cell towers that are 150 feet in height and emitting 250 watts of unregulated RFs or.... the DAS that are each 12 inches taller than a telephone pole and emitting only 20 watts of regulated RF's (a much safer alternative!). (Okay, do the math: all the proposed cell towers in each town do indeed emit more RFs than the proposed DAS nodes in each town.) And, if you fail to choose, a decision will be made for you by ATC, and it will choose cell towers due to the fact that they are simply easier and cheaper to build (one can be easily installed in one day.)
It's up to us, Aquinnah-Chilmark-West Tisbury. Stop acting stupid and do the right thing. And, uh, do it now.
Aquinnah and DAS
To the Editor:
The Aquinnah planning board has an obligation/duty to pass the DAS for the following reasons:
1). The majority of Aquinnah residents voted to have the DAS, instead of cellular towers. Not approving the DAS will cause two cell towers to be erected in Aquinnah - one on the sacred Moshup Trail and the other in the area of the Town Hall.
Not only do Cell Towers cause grave visual impact, as seen in Edgartown and all across the American landscape (i.e.; in fields, on mountaintops, and every few miles along highways). Just look over at the mainland at night and you will see these cell towers all along the coast, blinking.
Cell towers also raise the rate of cases of leukemia and other cancers, nerve damage, sleep deprivation, and numerous other side effects detrimental to health.
Thousands or perhaps millions of people do not want to see cell towers in Aquinnah or Chilmark. It is a pristine rural landscape that people wish to see here.
2). Aquinnah sued a cellular company once - using thousands of taxpayers' dollars, not to mention the time, energy and stress - to keep cell towers out of our town. Not approving the DAS, our only alternative, would cause these cell towers that the town sued against, to go in. Therefore, it is only logical for the DAS to be approved.
3). Right now America is in two wars, fighting for Democracy and majority rule. Our Constitution defends this right. The people in Aquinnah want the DAS, not cell towers. It is therefore your duty to approve the DAS. Not for yourselves or special interests, but for the people.
Aquinnah Residents for the DAS
To the Editor:
As I sit at my kitchen table, working late, surrounded by quiet, darkened homes with sleeping residents, I am hearing popping sounds that are carrying on the wind from the not-so-distant distance for the second night in a row. If I didn't know better, I would think that someone was shooting off fireworks. These are not the sounds of fireworks, but of firearms. It is hunting season on Martha's Vineyard, and it is 12:39 am.
I've already called the sheriff's office and reported it; an officer came to the door and stood in the freezing cold, clear night with me and listened for sounds, and then drove off in the direction of the old Edgartown dump to investigate. And since he drove away, I've heard at least 10 more shots.
Perhaps I would be less upset if I were already asleep, or if this were not the fourth night I've heard these sounds, or if I had not encountered three men in my back yard early last Monday morning in blaze orange hats and vests with shotguns over their shoulders, 10 feet from the edge of my property. My property is bordered by woods on one side, and by a busy paved road on the other. When I reported the three hunters to the police on Monday and made a stop at the station, I reviewed the map of Edgartown on the station wall with the officer I spoke to and showed him that those woods are bordered on three sides by houses. I'm not a hunter, but I do believe that the law states a) you must be 500 feet from a domicile and b) the hours of hunting are one half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset. I was taught to tell time by the age of five. Enough said.
This has been quite an unfortunate season for hunting here on the Vineyard, with at least two shooting accidents and a Chilmark house and an MVTA bus being hit since the start of shotgun season. Ironic that my comment to the officer last week during my visit to the police station was, "Why don't they just go hunt in the State Forest?" only to open the newspaper three days later and read about the unfortunate accident there.
I am not opposed to hunting. I am opposed to the hunters who disregard the laws and go out wherever, whenever. They are probably the same hunters who dumped the deer carcass on the path in the woods that goes behind my house last year, yet another violation of hunting laws.
I hope the officer who went out into the cold night finds the offenders and that they are penalized appropriately and according to the laws that they have so blatantly ignored. I also hope that the residents of the Vineyard are aware of the liberties being taken by these same offenders, that the responsible hunting community will become concerned enough to govern their own loose cannons, and that stricter regulations are imposed for the community's protection next season. And one more thing: in the time it's taken to write this letter, another dozen shots have been fired.
Deer hunters don't reduce ticks
To the Editor:
The archery season for deer has ended on Martha's Vineyard and, due to the changes in policy at Sheriff's Meadow, bow hunters had access to two Sheriff's Meadow properties this year. ("Essay : Bowhunting on Sheriff's Meadow Foundation properties, MV Times, Oct. 22, 2009)
While Sheriff's Meadow attempted to justify this change in policy due to a concern about Lyme disease and ticks, blaming deer is inaccurate. Increased hunting opportunities do not address Lyme disease threats in the most effective way. Reducing the number of deer in an area will not reduce the number of ticks or tick-borne diseases; it will only result in more ticks per deer. To reduce the number of tick borne diseases, efforts should focus on reducing the number of nymph black-legged ticks, which usually feed on mice, small mammals and birds, not deer.
There are many ways to address tick-borne diseases. One is the use of a "4-poster" device to treat deer with a chemical that kills ticks. Another option, at least in small areas such as back yards, is the use of "tick tubes" to treat mice with a chemical that kills ticks. Both of these devices kill a high proportion of ticks, addressing the problem at its source, since ticks transmit the disease to people, not deer or mice.
Deer populations are controlled by available food, rather than predation. It may seem counter-intuitive, but killing some deer can increase the deer population because it decreases the competition for food. When female deer have more to eat, their reproductive capacity increases, and they bear twins and triplets. The result, ironically, is a rebound in the deer population despite an attempt to reduce the population. This effect may be seen on the Sheriff's Meadow properties if bow hunting is allowed to continue there.
Bow hunting has a very high wound rate. It is much harder for hunters to get a clean shot on a deer with a bow and arrow, increasing the possibility of injuring, but not killing, the animals. I hope that Sheriff's Meadow will reconsider their decision to allow bow hunting on their properties in 2010 and will instead consider using "4-poster" devices to control black legged ticks. No doubt that Henry Beetle Hough would approve of such a policy.
The MSPCA recognizes the community's concern about Lyme disease, but believes that the public deserves practical, effective solutions to tick-borne illnesses, not increased hunting opportunities that are touted as being in the public's best interest. Reducing the deer herd is merely a BandAid solution that will do nothing to really address this issue. For more information contact the MSPCA at www.mspca.org/wildlife or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eat shellfish for the planet's sake
To the Editor:
The Copenhagen climate summit is much in the news, and the media is full of stories about rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, increasing acidity of the oceans, drastic changes in weather patterns, the warmest decade on record, melting glaciers, rising sea water levels, and coastal communities in imminent danger of inundation. And that's just the tip of the melting iceberg.
Excess nitrogen from fossil fuel burning power plants, leachate from our septic systems, and runoff from lawn fertilizers are wreaking havoc on our coastal ponds, over stimulating algal production that in turn suffocates the life in marine ecosystems.
If the scientists are correct, the outlook for our crowded, fouled, biosphere is far from rosy. Faced with such overwhelming doomsday scenarios, an anxious public considers its options.
Sorry, turning up the air conditioning or speeding away in a Hummer to an unspoiled paradise far from the problem is no longer one of the options. The problems are of such a global nature that even Martha's Vineyard is no longer a safe haven.
Audacious hope, however, springs eternal and "yes we can" must be our optimistic mantra.
We pretty much created this mess, and we alone can solve it. Small changes in our lifestyles have bit by bit created these monumental problems, and small, but elemental, changes in our individual behaviors multiplied millions of times over can reverse them. The problems, too, are elemental. Carbon is at the heart of the climate/ocean acidity dilemma. Nitrogen is the focus of coastal ecosystem demise. The concepts of personal carbon and nitrogen footprints remind us of our individual roles in both the problems and the solutions. Now is the time for all good citizens to come to the aid of their planet and reduce their individual impacts.
There are a myriad of factors that influence the size of our pollution footprints and a multitude of actions we can take to lower our negative impacts. Believe it or not, shellfish (you knew this was coming) offer one means to reduce our carbon and nitrogen footprints.
With respect to carbon, it is known that shellfish, as they grow, naturally absorb carbon from the oceans to create their shells of calcium carbonate. Very simply, this bio-sequestration, or uptake, of carbon reduces the amount of CO2 dissolved in the oceans allowing the oceans to absorb more CO2 from the atmosphere and, thus, lowers the levels of greenhouse gases implicated in global warming. Although the carbon removal by a shellfish bed may not quite compare with the carbon uptake occurring in rainforest vegetation, we can assuredly say that shellfish do sequester large amounts of carbon and their populations are beneficial to rectifying our climate dilemma.
When it comes to nitrogen pollution, the positive impacts of shellfish are even clearer. So much so that they are under serious consideration as a component in nitrogen pollution credit systems. There is good scientific evidence that the harvest of 10,000 oysters can mitigate the nitrogen pollution from one coastal household. As in the case of sequestering carbon, growing shellfish incorporate the nitrogen absorbed in the algae they consume into the protein in their tissues. When they are harvested, excess nitrogen is removed to the benefit of the entire local ecosystem. In addition, they remove nitrogen from the water column and deposit it in underlying sediments where denitrifying bacteria facilitate its removal as nitrogen gas.
Bottom line - the more shellfish on the planet, the better our chances of bringing our world back into balance.
So, then, what can you personally do to increase the numbers of shellfish and lower your carbon and nitrogen footprints? One easy behavioral change is to eat shellfish more often. Consider changing your menu. Substitute a shellfish meal over beef or pork once or twice a week. You will be discouraging the production of inefficient, methane (another greenhouse gas) generating animals high on the food chain and encouraging the production of one of the most energy efficient sources of protein from planet saving shellfish.
We at the Shellfish Group are committed to increasing the Island's shellfish resources. In our solar-assisted shellfish hatchery in 2009, we produced over 10.5 million seed quahogs, over 10 million seed scallops, over six million eyed oyster larvae, and almost 400,000 seed oysters. Working with the Island's shellfish constables, these seed shellfish were planted in the Island's ponds in an ongoing effort to restore our shellfish populations and perhaps in the process do our small part to save the planet.
Please consider joining us in our efforts.
Richard C. Karney
Shellfish Biologist and Director
M.V. Shellfish Group
Heaven and the gay community
To the Editor:
Remember that song, "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so?" Well if you're lesbian, gay or transgender, apparently Jesus doesn't love you enough to grant you life after death in heaven.
Recently Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan from Mexico stated in an interview with Pontifex "Transsexuals and homosexuals will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven." Interestingly enough, later on in the same interview the Cardinal continues to say that "this does not justify any form of discrimination [against them]."
Well, if that is the case, I wonder why the Roman Catholic Church, in concert with other Christian jihadists actively and routinely dump millions of dollars into political campaigns designed to harm and disfranchise a number of God's LGBT children? Sounds like active politicking for discrimination to me.
Perhaps Jesus just told them that feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless really aren't worthy enough causes to donate more money to.
In any event, I do think that someone needs to rewrite that song "Jesus loves me." I would hate to see the Roman Catholic Church caught up in yet another lie.
Maybe the church could collaborate with Buju Banton on a modern remix of the song. Banton has written and performed many reggae songs, where he affectionately sings about how gay people should be shot in the face. On numerous occasions, Banton has stated, "There is no end to the war between me and faggots."
I wonder if he heard that from the pulpit? Nevertheless, sounds like a match made in heaven.
Bryan D. Freehling
Kind and helpful
To the Editor:
My husband had been taken to a Boston hospital on Saturday. On Sunday morning, I was told I could bring him home. The Steamship Authority people were so kind and helpful to arrange reservations, so that I was able to go to the hospital right then, almost before the hospital had him discharged.
To the Editor:
Thank you to Jan Wightman and the MVRHS Minnesingers for getting us all in the holiday spirit with three magnificent concerts at the Old Whaling Church over the weekend. Thanks to Janet Heath, the M.V. Preservation Trust, Peter Boak, Bob Nute for his guest performance - and to Santa himself for stopping by. The Minnesingers are an amazingly talented group. They have been generously donating their time around the Island, performing at the senior centers, and we'll have one more chance to hear them sing songs of the season this Thursday at 6 pm on Main Street, Vineyard Haven. Don't miss it - you will leave smiling and singing!
To the Editor:
Carving out truth can be difficult. It comes to us in different forms. The sheer beauty of the natural world, the stillness of self-importance, the danger of unchecked materialism, the priority of self-improvement, the necessity for gratitude, the hunger for relationship and the desire for a less fearful life. Regardless of priority, one must trade mental and emotional baggage for clear thinking. The good life is there for the asking.
So many to thank
To the Editor:
I would like to thank the Oak Bluffs police/ambulance, Martha's Vineyard Hospital emergency room staff and the members of Boston Med Flight, who took excellent care of my daughter, Amanda.
On November 20, 2009, while practicing with the M.V. Regional High School cheerleading squad, Amanda was involved in an accident that resulted in her breaking her C-1 vertebra and fracturing her C-2. After her critical condition was evaluated at the M.V. Hospital, she was airlifted to Mass General. Thanks to the caring personnel at the Steamship Authority for holding the boat for me, after learning I was not able to fly with Amanda.
The doctors determined that it wasn't necessary at this time for surgery. Amanda was sent home in hopes that her vertebrae would heal on their own. Amanda has strict orders to wear her collar at all times, to be very careful in not moving her neck, and to not make any sudden body movements. (These are not easy doctor's orders to follow.) We also need to return to Mass General once a week for the next several months. We do not know when Amanda will be able to return to school.
Thanks to Scott McArthur, who broke his neck a few years ago, for coming by my apartment the next day with the recliner that he used during his recovery. And for talking with Amanda about her injury and for his understanding of what she is going through. Scott also met with the chairman of "You've Got a Friend" and has set up a fund at any Martha's Vineyard Savings Bank to help with Amanda's expenses.
Thanks to all our family and friends for the phone calls, visits, and support. Amanda is not out of danger yet, but this whole incident could have turned out to be much worse. Please feel free to send any notes or cards to Amanda Gonsalves, P.O. Box 4382, Vineyard Haven MA 02568.