Mr. Turkington at the trough
For months now, the Tisbury selectmen have prosecuted a bitter campaign against the Steamship Authority, demanding $40,000 in tribute for police assistance with traffic arriving at and leaving the SSA terminal in town. The selectmen have insisted, wrongly, that the state legislature's imposition of a surcharge on SSA travelers, payable to the town for public safety costs incurred as a result of the SSA presence, was not intended to relieve the SSA of an obligation to go on paying the $40,000 annually. The selectmen want the nearly $300,000 anticipated in receipts from the embarkation fee, and they want the $40,000 also.
By their blockheadedness on this issue, the selectmen have made fools of themselves. They have damaged their relationship with the SSA, abused the Island SSA member, and inconvenienced every Steamship traveler, as well as every Islander with business at or around the SSA terminal. And, not incidentally, they have done so irresponsibly, without regard for the unsafe conditions that resulted from their refusal to supply appropriate police services. The selectmen's behavior has been shameful.
Now, we learn that Rep. Eric Turkington has inserted language in an appropriations bill to require the taxpayers of Massachusetts to pick up the undeserved $40,000 tab the selectmen have been whining about. That's shameless.
Although he appears likely to support the measure in the Senate, even Senator Rob O'Leary, Mr. Turkington's ever faithful junior colleague in the upper house, knows in his heart of hearts that this Turkington move is meritless.
Let us count the ways in which Mr. Turkington has embarrassed himself. Well, first there's the pork business. Don't we deplore pork at the federal level - that Alaskan bridge, for example - and who would be surprised to learn that Mr. Turkington himself has criticized such narrow-focus indulgences, paid for with hard-earned tax dollars filched from the family treasuries of unwitting Americans who don't plan to migrate to Alaska or visit Martha's Vineyard.
Then, there's the wholly undeserved nature of the Tisbury demand. The town has got $40,000 or so annually for years from the SSA to defray the cost of public safety services to the SSA terminal. With the imposition of the embarkation surcharge, which Mr. Turkington supported, the town gets about $300,000 from the pockets of travelers to defray the cost of public safety services. But despite the seven-fold improvement in the town's fortunes, the three selectmen are holding their collective breath and stomping their collective feet for more? Is that a cause Mr. Turkington wants to get behind? Apparently, it is.
Then, there's the deceptive nature of it. After all, suppose Mr. Turkington's amendment were to pass this year, what about next year? Will he put a Post It note on every budget bill henceforth, or is this one of those transparent political sops to win a few re-election atta-boys, while hoping the whole sorry mess will be forgotten next year?
If Mr. Turkington's amendment makes it to his desk, Gov. Mitt Romney will certainly recognize this for the cynical foolishness it is, and strike it from the bill. He should, and Islanders should alert him to the delicious opportunity headed his way. Here's an unambiguous chance to make a point about porkers.