Letters to the Editor
Needy? Who's needy?
To the Editor:
I am confused. No, this is nothing new, but this time I feel compelled to address the issue. How is it that on one of the most exclusive and affluent places on our planet, we have decided that affordable housing for the homeless is a monumental problem? Are we that starved for a cause and that desperate to fit in with the rest of the country, that we are willing to walk around in some sort of philanthropic trance acting as though boats of Sudanese refugees have just been dumped on our shores? And are we all so afraid of being blacklisted from next summers up-Island potlucks that we cower from reality and shuffle around like charitable zombies from Night of the Living Dead muttering things like, "Trophy houses bad, affordable housing good!-ohhhh,ahhh" No, I can no longer remain silent and roam our streets like the Marquis de Mertuil in my own dangerous liaison.
I just have one simple question. How serious is our poverty problem here, and how seriously do we actually take it? I mean, look, the closest thing we have to a soup kitchen here is the nightly special at Zephrus. The new Island Discount Club is helpful, since now we only pay double the going rate for things instead of triple. In fairness, I will agree that like larger cities, we do have an overabundance of people with mental problems wandering around, but most of them have homes and make up the bulk of our winter residents.
But don't most of us live here because of the fact that most people can't live here? Don't we cherish our low crime rates and the small town feeling we have preserved? Are we not comfy in our isolation from the rest of the world's problems and dilemmas? Do we not lock down the beaches like Baghdad's Green Zone as soon as June arrives, just in case one of said needy people accidentally wanders onto it? You just can't have it both ways.
And how concerned can we possibly be about a rush to build affordable homes when we've single-handedly destroyed the tradition of Habitat for Humanity, which used to be known for putting up a house in just one weekend, until we insisted on jumping on the bandwagon. Now, our project has become like the famed Winchester mansion to which the nutty widow Winchester just kept building and building and building for decades. In fairness, though, I cant really attest to the progress of the new home on Edgartown/Vineyard Haven Road, since the gaggle of huge signs representing the altruistic contributors have completely blocked all view of it, like the concrete barriers in front of the White House or Israel's wall.
And why do we feel the need to announce to everyone that this house is affordable, as though it is our most recent tourist attraction? Why don't we just put up billboards as drivers approach stating "3 miles to poor people" or "Needy on the left in 2 miles." What about anonymous giving?
Now there are plans to build affordable housing units on a Tisbury landfill. What, was the toxic chemical dump unavailable? And why do we want to build them all in one place as though it is a new subdivision aptly named "Affordable Acres".
Look, I am not pointing fingers at anyone, as I am one of the worst offenders. I won't even let my relatives visit me. I just can't get passionate about our Island's needy and homeless. And what is needy on Martha's Vineyard? Non-waterfront? Down-Island? No street named after the family? As a relative newcomer to Martha's Vineyard, I very often feel discriminated against and have simply learned to live with it. Last year, I didn't win the Ag-Fair poster contest, because I am convinced I didn't have a celebrity farm animal in my painting. I simply don't know any yet, due to my recent relocation here. Yes, I've met a few remarkable cows and one or two exceptional goats, but none that garner the kind of influence as the cow in the winning entry.
My point is that we all chose to live here and on an island like ours, a lot of us fall short in the affluence category when compared to some of the world's wealthiest people. I think it is unfair to blame them for this problem because of their enormous homes and vast swaths of land. Are they not the same people who keep our economy strong as well as the demand for four-dollar peaches? If people were freezing to death or starving, I know we would solve that problem in a second. But, the Island needy? The simple reason it has not been solved already is, truthfully, most people don't really care that much. Most have a very hard time wrapping their arms around a cause that exists only in our convoluted hierarchy. Not to mention that rich people only have so much guilt to go around and need to pick their causes carefully.
But, to be fair, the axe has two sides to it. It looks like this cause has been hijacked by the socially correct as another venue for congratulating each other on our generosity. No opportunity for altruism is overlooked. Given a stage and a silent auction, we could turn liposuction into a God-given right worthy of our tears and attention. This cause just doesn't seem to be gaining much real traction. Look, even our jail is considered posh by royal standards.
So, for all those who have decided to never speak to me again (and trust me you are not alone), here is a litmus test for you. Would you open up an affordable guest room in your home to solve the problem? How about a tent city on Lambert's Cove beach? Or a FEMA trailer camp on Squibnocket? In the end are we not judged by our actions and not our intentions?
Don't misunderstand. No one loves living on the fringes of reality as much as I do. I adore everything about Martha's Vineyard - even this particular movement. As I reflect back on my unproductive life, I can't imagine a better place to have lived it. It is just that the more I hear the debate, the more compelled I am to pull back the drapes.
To the Editor:
The recent debate about the value of county government for Dukes County reminds me of election day, 1992. Feelings ran high. Signs all over the Island read "Vote Yes on 5". And by a 3-2 margin, Islanders did.
It is important to remember why we supported county government in 1992, when most other counties in Massachusetts were being abolished, and county functions were being taken over by the state. Voters saw value in the county charter for two important reasons:
-The Island secured home rule. By keeping county government, Islanders could make decisions right here, not have legislators in Boston determining the outcome of local issues.
-The Island obtained an Island-wide mechanism for problem solving. Often issues cross town lines and need to be considered with the possibility of Island-wide solutions.
The Martha's Vineyard Times editorial of Oct. 22, 1992 said, "The (proposed Charter) is an acknowledgement of the increasing demands imposed by a growing and changing Island community, which must begin to anticipate and consider solutions for tomorrow's problems."
And the Vineyard Gazette of October 30, 1992 read, "Vineyard voters will not get a second chance to improve county government, let alone save it, should this initiative fail."
Before we jettison a means of coordinating town-to-town cooperation, let's seriously think about how we could make the county government work the way it was envisioned. Before we abandon or disband county government, let's think about the resources we would lose. For one, we now receive more than $1,200,000 in county deeds excise taxes, which would most likely be swept up by the Commonwealth given the opportunity.
The county has never lived up to the potential that the Charter Study Commission foresaw. But that should not be cause to throw out this important resource.
Now, more than ever, we need a form of government that, without infringing on the powers and the duties of the towns, can coordinate their common needs and responsibilities and that can merit the trust and respect we deserve.
A rational, informed, Island-wide discussion is essential, if we are to find the best way to proceed. If you agree, I urge you to speak out.
Selectman should vote his conscience
To the Editor:
The following letter was sent to Linda Hearn, wife of West Tisbury selectman Glen Hearn:
As you rightly point out, I supported Glen wholeheartedly in his campaign for West Tisbury selectman in 2002. I had served on the Open Space Committee with Glen and supported him because of his decency and integrity.
In his campaign, Glen ran on a platform of openness in town government. Before he was appointed the selectmen's representative to the Land Bank, he deplored unnecessary secrecy in Land Bank negotiations and pledged to work towards more openness in that body. There are still questions about the legality of the Land Bank strategy of disguising its Ice House Pond and South Beach preserves purchases.
You mention that Glen has "had to go along with the other selectmen" even though he doesn't always agree. A selectman who disagrees with the majority does not need to vote against his conscience. This is why we have an uneven number of selectmen. In a democracy, dissension allows the minority a voice.
Your letter emphasizes the very point I had hoped to make in my letter. Selectmen should not serve on multiple Island boards and committees, which often have conflicting aims. Glen and other selectmen who serve on multiple boards and committees are in the untenable position of going along with decisions that are not in the best interests of their primary job as West Tisbury's chief executive officers who are committed to make our town run smoothly.
To the Editor:
I have been watching with great interest the issues that are before the town of West Tisbury, and I have a modest proposal that would solve three pressing issues of great concern to all: William Graham and his tax issue, the need for a new town hall, and the need for moderate housing.
As Mr. Graham has gone to much trouble to prove his property is only worth about $20 million, the town can let him prove that.
1. Then the town can use eminent domain to purchase his property for the $20 million that he has so carefully established as the value.
2. The houses on the property would serve as the new offices for the town, and thus $3.8 million would not be spent on that project.
3. Lastly, the remaining portion of Mr. Graham's former property would be divided into 150 house sites (each being 1.5 acres), to be rented (not sold) on a long-term basis to those who really need it. The beauty of leasing the land is that the town would control the future use of those lots. And would control the future transfer of the tenant-built houses.
The economics could be as follows:
Expenses: $20 million bond @ five percent interest, $1,000,000; lost taxes on Former Graham property (assuming that Mr. Graham gets the assessed value he wants), $200,000. Total cost, $1,200,000.
Income: 150 lots renting at $1,000 per month, $1,800,000. Total earnings, $1,800,000.
Annual profit to the town, $600,000.
Thus with one stroke of the pen, the town could solve its present and future major problems, do good service to its citizens and profit in the bargain.
And we can thank Mr. Graham for making such a nice property available at such a fair price.
Good news needed
To the Editor:
I am shocked. I live in Kentucky. I have not traveled any. Ever since I was a little girl I have heard about Martha's Vineyard. I always pictured it as the next best place to heaven. All I know is what I heard on the news and going online on the Internet. Today, I was online and found your newspaper. I thought I would read the Letters to the Editor. I could not believe my eyes.
Letters about someone's dog getting killed. Someone had written a letter apparently saying they didn't keep their dog tied up. Then some other people responded to her letter.
They should not have even shown any response to someone like that, and I can't believe you are letting this go on in your paper. It is childish. The first lady was upset with these people to begin with over something, and it is very sad she got pleasure out of this.
My first thought was, Where is the love of God in these people? I know this does not represent all the people of Martha's Vineyard, but to a person on the outside, way out, it looks bad. I feel for the little boy and for the family. Children remember these things for the rest of their life. And I hope he can find it in his heart to forgive her.
But my point is for the paper to be at a higher standard than this. Rise above it. Be of the high standard Martha's Vineyard has always been. I read something in your paper about 300 people moved out. I know things are changing everywhere. But if you want to be a very expensive place for people to visit, let alone live, live up to the reputation. And that includes your paper.
All my life I have wanted to come there, but now I think it is not different than Eminence, Kentucky. I thought is was a wonderful place on earth: lots of small antique shops, bakeries, and stores, wonderful, sweet people that were full of love for each other and loved God. Please quit printing the negative and print some good, uplifting news. We need somewhere to be uplifted, show God is still in control, and he is. Let it start with you.
Favors new jail
To the Editor:
In regards to the letter titled "No new jail" on Dec. 1, we most certainly do need a new jail. The one we have is a disgrace. It is a matchstick waiting to go up. Personally, I do not have family or friends residing there, but I do have family and friends who work in that death trap we call a House of Correction. What does it matter who comes here to serve their sentence? We have sent worse off to other prisons in someone else's neighborhood. Is that okay? Besides, a new jail will create more jobs and maybe the Islanders who have friends and family serving their sentences off the Island can have them brought back here so they can see them more than once or twice a year. I am fully in favor of a new House of Corrections being built.
To the Editor:
Mirabile dictu! The Vineyard has made the big time once more with the arrival at our own little Graybar Hotel, a.k.a. Dukes County House of Correction, of a royal personage, albeit a drunken driver convicted killer and, not the least, a convicted pederast! My, my, would a stretch of the political imagination possibly connect such accommodations with the coincidental huge increase in the High Sheriff's salary?
Can one also imagine the seepage from the State Dept., maybe via the White House, to a certain Massachusetts Senator's office and thence to our "Criminal Justice" system and ultimately to our High Sheriff which has allowed this Saudi "Prince," a convicted killer and drunk driver, to choose to spend his minor sentence in our "escape proof" jail which also boasts a gourmet chef? Indeed. Justice has once more, nay twice more, been served and we can all sleep in peace knowing that our Vineyard world is safe.
Mirabile dictu, I say.
William L. Boggess
To the Editor:
While we are fast approaching the holiday season on this beautiful Island, we are also moving very quickly into the school and town budget season. Staff in all our programs and at all our schools have worked diligently to put forth financial plans that provide adequate resources for the students with whom we work and at the same time acknowledge the realities of living on an Island where the cost of living is significant.
As the new superintendent, I began the budget process with the intention of delivering to the members of the All-Island School Committee a budget that provided level services to our "customers" and kept the overall budget increase as small as possible. Even with an overall reduction in non-salary accounts, the budget for the superintendent's office rose by 4.7 percent. This growth is due in large part to contractual salary increases and the increased cost of benefits as our budget is almost 81 percent people costs. It was my pleasure to meet with members of the Island finance committees to explain this budget and seek their input.
At the individual district level, principals also worked very hard to keep their proposed budgets for FY07 as "tight" as possible, taking into consideration the realities of declining enrollments and the increasing costs for salaries and benefits. We anticipate that the cost of health benefits will increase approximately 12 percent, and dental benefits almost 5 percent. The uncertainties around the cost of oil and other utilities have caused schools, like everyone, a great deal of difficulty. Thankfully, we have realized some savings around the cost of transportation due to bringing the management of that service in house.
I would like to offer a very special thanks to all of the dedicated staff members who worked so hard to draft our budget proposals. This includes the members of the administrative cabinet, assistant to the superintendent for business affairs Amy Tierney, high school administrative assistant/accountant Margaret Serpa, and the entire business and secretarial staff at the superintendent's office and at the individual schools.
I look forward to working with the various finance committees to review these budget proposals and then attending my first round of annual town meetings. As always, please feel free to contact me by phone at 508-693-2007 or by e-mail at email@example.com should you have questions.
James H. Weiss, EdD
Superintendent of Schools
Save a BTU
To the Editor:
Welcome to the 21st Century energy crisis (with its declining fossil fuel supplies and skyrocketing costs).
Unlike that of the 1970s, this energy crisis isn't going away. This time we need to accurately assess the situation, take responsibility for the mess we're in, assemble a sensible energy plan, and then implement it.
Our analysis will include the British Thermal Unit - the unit that we use to measure our energy consumption. (One BTU equals the amount of energy required to heat one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit.)
We consume a lot of BTUs of energy every day and pay dearly for them. For example, a large house on a cold winter day can consume one million BTUs. If it has electric heat, that day's worth of heat will cost an outrageous $58 (at the new rate of $.20/kwh). If it has a heat pump, the cost will be about $29. An oil-fired boiler will cost $30 (at $2.69/gal), propane $34 (at $2.39/gal), and if heated with a wood-burning stove, the fuel cost will be about $23 (at $230/cord).
Interesting numbers, right? They explain why so many people are fuel-switching - removing the electric heaters and installing oil, LP, and wood-fired systems.
But there are numbers that are even more impressive - those relating to improvements in energy efficiency. You know the old saying, a penny saved is a penny earned? Well the same is true for a BTU. If you turn off unneeded electric devices (lights etc.), set the thermostat to 60 at night and when at work, and organize your errands to drive less, you can "earn" millions BTUs without spending a dime.
For more information on the best ways to survive our (inescapable) energy crisis, visit aceee.org/consumerguide/mostenef.htm, or order "Energy Savers", a free booklet at 1-877-337-3463.
Sad realities of AIDS
To the Editor:
Once again, the world will take a moment to observe World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. Once again, we must stop and reflect upon the sad realities that this important issue raises for all members of the world community.
According to newest estimates from UNAIDS and the World Health Organization there are in excess of 40 million known (tested) cases of HIV infection worldwide. It's conservatively estimated that, of those who haven't been tested, there could be an additional 20 million people living with the virus who aren't aware they have it. Since early HIV infection presents no symptoms, this is especially concerning.
In my work with the community of people living with HIV as well as with many young people and adults from the U.S. and now Ghana, one idea looms larger than most in people's understanding of this pandemic. Many assume that it's easy to determine if a person is HIV positive or not. Many make behavioral decisions based upon what their eyes can see, and place their trust in a person's opinion about whether they are HIV positive or not. Please understand that most often one cannot tell if a person lives with the virus simply by looking at them or taking their opinion. The only way to know for sure is to have an HIV test.
I am honored to have worked for over 12 years in support of those living with HIV, especially young people. I have seen a moving outpouring of support from our Island community and a huge commitment from our high school to provide accurate, clear information to all freshmen and seniors. I believe that our students understand the ramifications of risk, and are deeply interested in helping to stem the tide of new infections. I am grateful to Peg Regan, Lisa Knight, Anne Lemenager, and the many faculty members who are so willing to include important HIV information into their curriculum. I believe that through this effort, we are creating people who move on into the world with awareness, compassion and confidence about the choices they must make around their sexual health. It is this that will ultimately bring an end to this devastating pandemic. Waiting for a scientific cure will not be the answer. Only awareness, and correct choices will make the difference.
Once again this April, The Safe Haven Project will host our annual camp on the Island for young people with HIV and AIDS. The camp has become an island institution since its creation 12 years ago. We are so deeply grateful for the continued support and involvement of literally hundreds of Islanders and businesses in this effort. The impact has been immeasurable and significant. I hope that, as we work to raise funds for this year's camp, and to begin the planning process, we will hear from you with your ideas about how you can help.
We need not live in fear of people with HIV. We must simply be aware, compassionate, and determined to make a difference in their lives, and to assure that those who are not infected, especially our young who cross our path, know clearly how to remain that way.
On behalf of the many young people (especially those who are no longer with us) who have visited and fallen in love with our Island, thank you again for your commitment, understanding, and love. I am so proud to be a part of this Island community.
The Safe Haven Project Inc.
To the Editor:
A little late, but you and writer Jo Ann Murphy should be thanked and commended for the Nov. 10 feature "Women Also Serve" in connection with Veterans Day.
It was lovely to see the photos of, and read about, the eight Vineyard women who enlisted in years past. They deserve our appreciation, and awareness of their service.
To the Editor:
No, it's not a new Mastercard advertisement, on location at the Oak Bluffs School. It's the latest idea in auction donations provided by the eighth grade class from the teaching staff at their recent annual auction.
As if countless hours of before and after school time are not enough of a contribution, the gift of special excursions and adventures are truly priceless. Donation items from teachers and staff included sleepovers, shopping trips, birthday parties, bowling outings, and even a trip to a Patriots pre-season game, and were just some of the "Priceless Gifts" donated. This new addition to the annual auction offerings drew many a delight on the auction floor and most likely many happy memories to the lucky recipients.
Thanks to the many local businesses as well as local craftsmen who donated almost two hundred auction items to make for a tremendously successful event.
A special note of thanks goes out to our auctioneer, Trip Barnes, along with our own auctioneer "newbie" Vice Principal Carlin Hart. If these new "priceless" items donated by the staff continue, the Oak Bluffs School may need to contact Sotheby's for professional assistance.
Again the Oak Bluffs Class of 2006 students and families would like to thank all of their supporters for the recent auction, especially the dedicated staff of the Oak Bluffs School.
2005-06 Auction Committee
To the Editor:
Torrential rains could not dampen the wonderful community spirit at the Annual Tree Lighting last Wednesday night in Oak Bluffs. Young and old were young at heart and ready to celebrate the beginning of this special holiday season - weather or not.
Our gratitude and appreciation to the Vineyard Brass Ensemble for their talent and exemplary fortitude and selectman chairman Greg Coogan for lighting the tree. Thanks once again to Paul Mahoney for donating the tree, the highway department, the Friends of Oak Bluffs and the Oak Bluffs Association for the town-wide decorations, including the tree, the bandstand, the lampposts and all the trees on the avenue.
A great big thanks to Mike Santoro and the AC elves for a warm and welcoming place, plenty of hot chocolate, and beautiful decorations. Thanks too for the talented band of musicians led by Brian Weiland, music teacher at the Oak Bluffs School and to the PTO moms who contributed cookies.
A very special thanks to the Oak Bluffs Fire Department for bringing Santa and his elves. The excitement was overwhelming. And last, but certainly not least, thanks to everyone who helped to fill the baskets with food for the Island Food Pantry. Happy holidays to all!
Oak Bluffs Association
To the Editor:
This is just a note of appreciation for Drew Kelly. Over the past few years, Drew has been running the Dad's Playgroup at the Family Center (MVHS) Tuesdays 5:30-7 pm, and been doing an outstanding job. It is a great opportunity for dads to bond with their kids and the kids look forward to it all week. Drew has donated his time and energy to helping bring dads and their kids closer together and making sure that everyone has a good time. On behalf of all the dads and their children, thank you for your generous service to the community.
To the Editor:
Last Tuesday afternoon the Vanderhoop Homestead Restoration Committee was dutifully stuffing envelopes for our year-end fundraising appeal while the following letter lay waiting in our mailbox:
In honor of Thanksgiving, here is our donation of $16.
There are two of us - James, nine years old and Caroline, six years old. Our mother gave us each $100 to give to charities of our choice. With our mother, we sat down at the dining room table last night and looked through all of the solicitations that had come in the mail during the past year. And then we each divided our $100 among the charities that we thought most worthy. We hope that you will do the most good that can be done with our money and we wish you and those you serve much joy and peace this holiday season.
James and Caroline Buessem
Los Angeles, Calif.