Letters to the Editor
The power of yes on affordable housing
To the Editor:
Last week's editorial is titled "They are just houses" and they will be their homes. Your central point is right on - that ordinary families with modest incomes also need to be able to find affordable homes on this Island. And the powers that be - in this case, the Martha's Vineyard Commission — need to be more about the power of yes to all of the needs of the Island.
Indeed, if we rely only on the governmental agencies, the big developers, and the dedicated community-based organizations who can afford to set out, supported by consultants and studies, on the long, arduous, and very expensive path of gaining all the approvals needed to build affordable housing, then we will never get there.
We also need innovation and creativity like William Bennett is showing in his effort to help achieve affordable housing, and we need these characteristics to be rewarded — not to be burdened by excessive and minute scrutiny.
Affordable housing is about families of modest means. A family of four at 120 percent of the Dukes County median family income will earn about $80,000. They can afford to buy a house costing about $350,000 using the standard formula that a maximum of 35 percent of their income should go towards housing. There is nothing available at this price on the Island today, but ordinary working families - the lifeblood of the Island - need to be able to buy homes.
William Bennett is an individual who has worked to address affordable housing needs. Two years ago, he provided the complete electrical service and wiring for a Habitat for Humanity home - one of the two built on Bennett Way in Edgartown - at no cost.
We need to meet individuals like Mr. Bennett at least half way - to provide and empower a reasonable process and path for individuals like Mr. Bennett to address the housing needs of those that need to call the Vineyard home.
To the Editor:
I was distressed to read of the suggestion from a Tisbury selectman that Marc Hanover might influence Steamship boat schedules for his personal benefit. The Island is fortunate to have an individual of Marc Hanover's proven business experience and integrity as its Steamship member. He must represent the entire Island and not just respond to the wants and worries of the current Tisbury selectmen, which seem to come and go like the tide - again and again and again. The Steamship is a complex operation, and Marc must work closely with management and his other board members to achieve the best service for the best price for all Islanders. Island officials should do all they can to support that effort and not mount baseless personal attacks to further parochial agendas. So far as the Steamship is concerned, we are one Island. We need to act that way.
J.B. Riggs Parker
Editor's Note: The writer, a Chilmark selectman, is a former Vineyard member of the Steamship Authority.
AIDS Alliance is gone, but not HIV
To the Editor:
With the closing of AIDS Alliance of MV (AAMV), you may be led to believe that the Island community has done all it can do and that we no longer have to worry about HIV on Martha's Vineyard. Wrong.
AAMV is closing its doors because there are no longer enough concerned members of the community to keep the doors open. I guess there are just too many other causes and concerns and HIV/AIDS has slipped to a rather insignificant level in our list of priorities.
One of the first services to go due to waning community interest and involvement — and diminishing contributions — were the exceedingly critical education/ prevention and outreach services. Now, case management for clients living with HIV/AIDS and the counseling and testing services must move to the purview of lead agencies on the Cape. Allow me to share some facts that may help inform your opinion about the status of HIV/AIDS in this state and country.
In 2003, there was an estimated cumulative total of more than one million people who had become infected with HIV (about 40,000/year) of which about 25 percent were undiagnosed and unaware of their HIV infection. (Anonymity in testing facilitates case-finding and prevention but complicates accurate individual testing statistics.) The number of those infected with HIV continues to grow, particularly when there are near or at epidemic rates of genital herpes, genital warts (HPV), gonorrhea, and chlamydia. Any one of these STDs increases the potential for HIV transmission. Hepatitis C infection, which is about four times more prevalent than HIV, also increases the risk of HIV transmission when associated with substance abuse.
Most people with AIDS are males who are infected by males who have sex with males (MSM); by intravenous drug use (IDU); then thirdly, from a combination of the two; and fourth, from heterosexual contact. For females, it's heterosexual contact first, then IDU. Rates of AIDS are highest in 35- to 44-year olds. Realize that it can take 8-10 years and even longer before signs and symptoms occur. HIV/AIDS continues to be most prevalent in New York, California, and Florida. HIV infection can be as high as 15 percent in retirement communities. When I was doing testing and counseling, I would "guestimate" at least one out of 10 clients being tested reported having one of the STDs above (increasing the risk of HIV transmission).
So, my neighbors, HIV/AIDS has not gone away. There are still people living on this Island with HIV/AIDS. There are a number of others with Hepatitis C. What's gone is the only Island-based HIV/AIDS service organization. So what can we do? Keep yourself informed and talk about risks, testing, prevention to those about whom you care. Our youth continue to be sexually active — with multiple partners and engage in related high risk behavior, e.g., substance abuse. Let them know that sex is no substitute for affection, approval, intimacy, or acceptance. We can no longer think of sex as something people just do but don't talk about. Encourage and support abstinence. Encourage preventive measures. Testing is the only way to find out if someone has HIV. Anyone who is sexually active should know their HIV status unless they have a monogamous relationship with someone whose status is known.
The MV Times article on the AAMV closing has important information about the change in services that will continue to be available to Island residents. If you haven't read the article of September 29, I encourage you to do so. You are also encouraged to get to know the agencies that will be involved in continuing services — and to support them.
For information on client services, call AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod (ASGCC) at 508-778-1954 or toll-free at 866-990-2437. For information on testing, call Infectious Disease Consulting Service (IDCS) at 508-862-5650 or toll-free at 888-711-0117.
Editor's Note: The writer was the director of the AIDS Alliance until 2003.
Are we being gouged?
To the Editor:
My frustration with gas prices on the Vineyard has finally reached a peak. So many of us quietly (and sometimes loudly) complain each time we go the pump, but simply stop there. I took a first step, did a little research, and thought I'd share it with others. Maybe we can do something, if we all can be informed and can bring our collective frustrations together.
It has been reported that there have been past state attorney investigations, town meeting discussions, and numerous attempts to deal with the gas pricing on the Island. Yet the simple fact remains, gas prices on our Island continue to be the approximately 20 - 25 percent more than the Massachusetts and US averages. See chart below.
Based on this data, it can be calculated that for every tanker truck (capacity 9,000 gallons) delivered to and pumped into cars on the Island, there is a $5,665 additional gross profit versus the average Massachusetts station. This profit is reduced by the cost of transport of the gas to the Island and the higher cost of wages on-Island. However, these costs clearly do not justify the higher retail price we are charged. If any station owner disagrees, please present your argument with a cost breakdown, so that we all might better understand your position.
To all Island residents who may be frustrated with our gas prices, a simple call to action:
First, on a local level - buy the cheaper gas on-Island (Up Island Auto) and boycott the remaining stations. Let the simple economic laws of supply and demand work. That is, if the more expensive stations see their gas sales (and profits) decreasing, they'll need to lower their prices, to try to win customers back.
Let's raise the awareness of gas prices on-Island. By way of this letter, might we request that the MV Times take a weekly poll of each Island gas station and publish the prices in the paper.
Let's raise the awareness of our exorbitant gas prices off-Island. Gas prices can be reported on the web site: http://www.massachusettsgasprices.com. There were no reports published on the day that I found the web site. In addition, you can monitor gas prices of other Massachusetts locations on this site or across the US on the AAA site: http://aaa.opisnet.com .
If you feel that a complaint is warranted to the state attorney general, do so. If enough of us do, we may get some state-level support. As the web site outlines,
"AG Reilly's hotline is available to consumers with concerns about escalating gas prices and potential incidents of price gouging."
AG Reilly's Consumer Complaint Hotline
www.mass.gov/ago, or call 617-727-8400.
In addition, the federal Department of Energy is seeking out complaints from consumers with concerns about price gouging at the pumps and can be found at http://gaswatch.energy.gov.
Olympic swimmers, go elsewhere
To the Editor:
Three cheers for Chilmark. This town knows how. At their recent special meeting they shot down the ridiculous scheme of building an Olympic swimming pool at Peaked Hill. This is something that belongs in the suburbs of New York or Boston — not Martha's Vineyard.
We have been coming here for 50 years, and our kids learned to swim at Menemsha Beach and some of the surrounding ponds. This was a real experience, not a manufactured one. As Steve Gallas succinctly put it, "The ocean experience is more beneficial than learning how to swim in a concrete hole in the ground."
The town now offers recreational use at Peaked Hill every Sunday. Some 30-odd softball players of all ages, sizes, and sexes come out to play a doubleheader (at little cost to the town). Then the whole family goes swimming at Lucy Vincent, Squibnocket, or Menemsha Beach after the game. Let's keep this Island spirit alive and send the Olympic swimmers elsewhere.
Yes, Chilmark got it right again.
To the Editor:
Edgartown will hold a special town meeting on Thursday, October 13 at 7:30 pm in the Old Whaling Church.
Two articles proposed for the special town meeting warrant are requests to affirm votes taken at annual town meeting in 2003. The first article endorses the creation of a short road crossing from Metcalf Drive to the Pennywise Path affordable housing development. The second allows the town to petition the state legislature for approval of a conservation restriction on the proposed road.
In conversations with Representative Eric Turkington, he has a greed to submit this request to the legislature, and we are grateful for his support. Let us also lend our supporting votes.
The conservation easement is key to safe and sensible access to the project.
To the Editor:
The Island Blue Pages: A Guide to Protecting Martha's Vineyard Waters, just published by the MV Shellfish Group, is an essential reference booklet that should be read, discussed and followed by everyone who cares about the future of our beloved island. We congratulate the authors on the creation of this marvelous monograph.
As the publication says, you should "use the suggestions in the booklet to change your behavior and protect our ponds." If your behavior is already compatible with recommended conservation methods, then you can use this work to educate others. So much about the quality of the water at which we look, in which we swim and bathe, and that we drink is dependent on the habits of homeowners and residents. And not just those who live on our lakes, ponds, streams, and ocean shores but all of us because everyone everywhere lives in a watershed. How we use water, how we landscape our property, what we do with hazardous waste, what we put down our sinks, whether we recycle or not — all help determine the health of our water resources.
In an engaging and clearly written way, the Blue Pages guides us through the various steps necessary to becoming better watershed citizens. If you did not get a copy in the newspaper please contact the MV Shellfish Group at 508-693-0391 or log on to www.islandbluepages.org.
April Vahle Hamel
Sheriff's Meadow Foundation
To the Editor:
It is with a sense of deep frustration and powerlessness that I address this letter to you, the current parents, parent board, board chairman, William Cleary and director K. Hyde of the Vineyard Montessori School.
When our home was purchased 30 some years ago, we abutted the former Tashmoo Inn, which was at that time the Sandpiper Restaurant, open only for dinners during July and August. So our lovely neighborhood enjoyed the tranquility normally associated with residential districts.
About 10 years ago, the owner of the tennis courts property behind them, the parking lot you utilize just off Main on Tashmoo, and the Sandpiper property, opted to divide the latter into two parcels. The one closer to West Chop he sold and two small dwellings were placed upon it with a rather large frontage of about 150 ft. The remaining much reduced section he sold to you as a school despite the fact that your parking lot is still owned by the seller according to town maps.
As a former teacher of 30 years through all grades, I initially found it to be delightful and somewhat amusing to be able to continue to enjoy the sounds of young children at play as I had been myself an early childhood specialist with the Toronto board of education for several years.
Because of the minimum requirements for lot size for a school, and because you now had no access to the original sized lot, all play equipment and sandbox were located alongside my home no more than 15 feet away from my north side windows, and that of my tenant whose bedroom as do two of mine, lie alongside the play equipment.
Initially the sounds of children at play was tolerable since small children make small sounds except for the occasional shrieks, shouts, cries and screams. I also sense that attendance was lower in those first years.
However increasingly our ears have been assaulted by louder and more disruptive noises escalating we believe because of inclusion of students up to and including third grade and the creation of a summer camp during July and August., when activities are mostly outdoors and all windows are open. So we are blessed with no respite, unlike that which the public schools provide to their abutters who enjoy, according to my own investigations, much larger play areas and without equipment right next to private residences.
My longtime tenant last summer and this had to seek refuge and still is encamped at a friend's as he can neither work nor sleep in his apartment. With the parking lot behind my home disgorging children, parents and car or van doors slamming, it became unbearable.
While their school insists they require the additional income from their summer program, they are diminishing my own with the loss of a tenant , and non-use of bedrooms during high season when I operate my home as a guesthouse through the chamber of commerce.
Over the years I have planted Douglas firs along the property line separating us, and this spring I was compelled to add several cedars at the rear of my home in an attempt to regain some privacy and to muffle early morning sounds. I had asked several years ago for us to share the cost of the firs but was told that the school is a non-profit organization. I am not, pay taxes and had wished to enjoy in my retirement the peace and tranquility which normally accompanies one's older years.
Desperate this summer for resolution to my dilemma, I appealed to our building inspector, Ken Barwick, who arranged a meeting with Mr. Cleary, the head of the parent board, and myself. It was quite congenial and Mr. Barwick offered a practical suggestion for staggering entrance to eliminate the early am noise in the parking area, and moving the play equipment and sandbox from our bedroom windows' location. His suggestions to date have gone unheeded.
I then appealed to our selectmen at the August 8 meeting in town hall, which was shown on local T.V. They suggested neighborly co-operation, and Tom Pachico also suggested that the play equipment be moved elsewhere. Again nothing appears to have been done.
A discussion with the abutters of the small house on the other side of the school, led to their generous offer to have the equipment moved next to them as they are summer people and therefore much less affected than myself as a year-rounder. I quickly sent a letter to the school officials, the selectmen and Mr. Barwick to tell them of this generous offer. Again, I was met with silence.
Finally yesterday, having been rudely awakened just after eight am in my bedroom on the opposite side of the school, l opened my kitchen window and shouted for less noise, only to be told by a parent that I was frightening the children on the swings. Imagine my consternation when a half hour later a kind police officer arrived who had been sent by the school to talk to me re harassment, I have now attempted to engage the services of an Island mediation team to intervene and listen to both sides of this unsavory saga of 10 years. Whether the school will choose to participate is as yet unknown. Apparently churches and schools enjoy the privilege of being able to locate in residential areas and with that privilege should come responsibility to its neighbors. Most do attempt to do so. Unfortunately over the years, such has not been the case in my experience to date. However in less significant matters such as oiling of squeaky swings, obtaining the service of private garbage collection instead of having their refuse scattered abroad, and by repairing my grape arbor when snow was piled against it to clear the parking lot, they have been obliging.
The fact that my home is here and I have a 10-year history with the school places me at a distinct disadvantage. The parents and staff come and go after a few years, so my history with them has to be retold and my complaints re-heard, seemingly with the same result that there is little effort made to deal with the noise issue and invasion of my privacy, and that of my long-suffering tenant. Some days the noise level is so high I am unable to make myself heard on the phone in my own kitchen. After 10 years of enduring, I am compelled to bring this issue reluctantly to public attention as otherwise fear I will continue to be ignored. This despite the suggestions made by both the building inspector and the town selectmen. I am loath to be considered a crotchety old woman, but fear that is how the current parents view me.
I fully expected after leading a full and productive life in education and as a mother of four to at least find repose within the confines of my own home as a law- abiding citizen and taxpayer. Instead I find myself an unwitting victim of noise pollution year-round. I would inquire of the Montessori parents how they would respond if their own homes were bombarded with a parking lot behind their houses disturbing their slumber and intermittent noises alongside their windows every day of the week save Saturdays and Sundays year-round. Thank you.
New traffic plan needed in Tisbury
To the Editor:
At its most recent meeting, the Steamship Authority members considered how to respond to "reported traffic congestion" around its terminal in Tisbury. The only response mentioned, increasing the usual diversion of boats to Oak Bluffs, will be solidified for the foreseeable future by the $10 million refurbishing of that seasonal wharf. Circuit Avenue merchants and traffic-burdened Tisburians (except for some merchants) are both pleased.
The residents of New Orleans were probably equally pleased some time ago, when the reported possible flooding of their city was discounted because its levees could repel a Category Three hurricane. Katrina proved that if emergency preparations are inadequate, catastrophe results.
Rapid and unobstructed transportation is the key to meeting any major emergency, for movement of those trained to deal with it, and evacuation of those threatened by it. The vital transportation point on this Island is the SSA's Tisbury terminal, where a mere warning of a hurricane can turn Water Street's normal level of congestion into total chaos, as happened before Bob and before a Labor Day storm threat that fortunately faded. While the Vineyard is more likely to experience Ophelias, it is not magically immune, and the shambles a Katrina would create on Water Street (and everywhere else) is ugly to think on. There are other kinds of emergencies as well, for which our year-round port should be much better prepared than it is.
There needs to be a Tisbury street lay-out that will permit easy access and exit of the SSA terminal for large numbers of vehicles. This is the responsibility of town planners, who have the legacy of a century of unplanned or misplanned road work to correct. Such correction is expensive, and should be paid for in large part by the SSA and those who use it ($10 million would be a nice start). Even in non-emergency times Five Corners is a year-round traffic hazard and cause for frustration to Vineyard residents and visitors alike. Its reconfiguration would be an unalloyed blessing, and worth every penny. If the town and the boatline cannot get together on this, then in the next big emergency we can call on FEMA to save us — they just might put Mr. Brown in charge.
W. R. Deeble
To the Editor:
Last Thursday night my cat came home from wandering on the Boulevard in Ocean Heights, as he always does. However this time he was hurt, and I speculated that he may have been hit by a car. Upon emergency examination at the MSPCA, it was discovered that he was shot with a pellet gun and that the pellet was still lodged in him. There was also extensive trauma to his face and jaw. He is in good care at the vet's office, but the pellet will not be removed until he improves.
I have reported this to the police and the Edgartown Animal Control Officer with the intention to prosecute the vicious person or persons that could do this to a family pet. I hope my neighbors who own pets never have to experience this cruel attack upon a family member.
Jack, Judy, & Zac Klumick