Letters to the Editor
Keep on writing
To the Editor:
I have read with interest Mark Martin's Op-Ed piece on affordable housing and the flurry of letters responding to his statements. While I disagree with many of the points in Mr. Martin's piece, I find his writing humorous and pointed. I think most of his opinions are categorically wrong, and it comes as no surprise that the responses from the readership have been emotional, since affordable housing is the closest thing to a unifying cause on this Island, with nearly everyone in agreement that it's a critical issue that requires a concerted effort from all levels of our community to resolve.
Nothing less than the future of the community is at stake. However, I fully respect Mr. Martin's right to express his opinion, and I see his views as just that, one man's opinion. Not a policy statement or official pronouncement, just an opinion. I find his writing refreshing, especially compared to the officious windbags whose overbearing letters often waft across this page like epistolary flatulence. Mr. Martin's previous letter to the editor about local ordinance laws is one of the funniest things I've read all year, and no matter how strongly I may disagree with his opinions, I hope he keeps on writing.
To the Editor:
Wow! Has the proverbial "can of worms" just popped its lid? Or perhaps more Vineyardly apropos, did somebody just kick over a bucket of bad clams? Either way, it's getting a bit slimy.
In his letter to the editor ("Needy, Who's Needy"), Mark Martin most certainly arrived with the bucket, and yes, indeed, opened a few of those clams up right there on the spot! But in the ensuing week, that little bucket has been dive-bombed so fast and furiously by some of us that the gulls have gone hungry. Clam after clam; Stinky! Poisonous! Outrageous! Baaaaad!
Did anybody find a good one? I came up with one of the best darn clams I've swallowed in a long, long time.
Having lived on some of the more mortifying and desperate fringes of "shelter needy" myself from time to time, this is a topic dear to my heart. However, because I finally have year-round housing, I've become complacent on this subject and naturally (albeit selfishly) focused elsewhere. If it weren't for Mr. Martin's provocative queries and thoughts on "affordable housing" (and the predominately vituperous responding letters!), I most likely wouldn't have spent a good part of this past week pondering (in solitaire, and with others) the ramifications of this "dialogue."
His letter had me both hitting the ceiling (how can you?) and splitting my gut at the same time!
The first six years I lived here, I moved 26 times, six of them with a 90-year-old woman whose children had sold her Chilmark home out from under her. When you don't have a place to call home, seeking shelter becomes your life. This place, that place, the next place; will I find another "next place"? It pretty well drains the life force right out of you.
At one point my storage bin began looking like a viable option. After all, my furniture was there. I set up a little space up front with my sofa and a chair and a couple of big flashlights. I decided I'd better rehearse a night or two before I actually moved in (on the sly, of course). So I gathered my little doggie, stuck some batteries in my 6-inch TV, made sure I had a jar with a lid on it, and pulled down that big banging storage bin door.
Sure, it was a little spooky. And I fixated on, "What if somebody comes around and locks the outside padlock. I don't want to die in my storage bin." But other than that, it was pretty okay. It was private, and it was mine. Well, sort of. The next day when I asked a friend of mine if I could borrow her port-a-potty for the summer, she got a funny took on her face and offered me a room in her home.
Now, thanks to Mark Martin's letter, indeed his provocation, I'm going to roll up my sleeves and get involved again in some (hopefully) useful manner!
But they may not want me. I'm not a native here, nor have I produced any "native children." I also have not married one of your "native men" (they can all sigh a communal sigh of relief, believe me). And at this point in my life, I could not afford "affordable." I found the sense of entitlement reflected in some of the letters in response quite astonishing in their own elitisms, and pretty lacking in compassion for those of us from "the wild blue yonders."
I wonder if my home town would give me some kind of native-daughter deal - say, 50 percent. Probably not.
Thank you, Mr. Martin, for this dubious pleasure.
Censorship in a strange land
To the Editor:
I thought your readers might like this fictional tale. It has a wonderful message hidden between the lines.
Once upon a time there was a simple boy from an island kingdom far, far away. Actually, it wasn't that far away but the residents insisted that it was, nonetheless. It was a very opinionated island and vehement debate of obscure issues was one of its cherished traditions. Legend told of a time when the kingdom almost collapsed during the "Great Library Pillar" conflict that drained the treasury and almost led to civil war. However, it was only a legend, and most historians thought it too ludicrous to be taken seriously.
The kingdom's ruler was said to be related to the former Princess Anastasia of Russia, daughter of Czar Nicholas. She was crowned Princess Unna-stable after coming to power in a questionable coup years before. The Princess would stop at nothing to protect her power and her paranoia was legendary.
Princess Unna-stable was very content with these constant arguments amongst her subjects as they served to keep their focus off of the real problems plaguing the kingdom. Real problems like the nosey little boy who was trying to upset everyone with his treasonous writings and inflammatory prose, especially concerning the lack of affordable castles around the kingdom. What if, the Princess feared, he started to poke around at NeoPravda, the kingdom's official newspaper? What if he convinced her subjects that the 24-part series on indigenous moss wasn't really that exciting or earth shattering? Or that she sanctioned the silencing of those who dared to suggest that 13 stories on "the changing face of littlenecks" was overkill? No, this could not be tolerated, and the princess decided that she must act immediately to stop the annoying little twit from spreading his silly "ideas" any longer.
So Princess Unna-stable sent a message to the annoying little boy while he was at home watching "The Anna Nicole Show". The Princess ordered him to cease his writings immediately and that, effective at once, his work was banned from the kingdom and especially from NeoPravda, the sanctioned royal newspaper. Furthermore, Princess Unna-stable told the boy that he couldn't really write very well anyway and that if he wanted to see great writing, he should read her latest article titled "Wampum, Wampum, Where art thou Wampum." This, she insisted, was real literary talent. At the very least her writings had played a significant part in curing the Insomnia Outbreak a year earlier.
Frantic and growing increasingly paranoid , Princess Unna-stable, in a last ditch effort at covering up her true intentions of suppression, accused the boy of not understanding the seriousness or complexity of "alternative lifestyles" in the Kingdom (which he'd been known to natter on about occasionally in his writings) and that he was insensitive and clueless to this tragic and un-funny topic. No, it was she, Princess Unna-stable, (who was straight, white and in her 50s), who knew much better than the boy the depth of these sensitive issues and that he should therefore leave these things to the experts. The boy didn't have the heart to tell her he'd been light in the lederhosen for many years.
So, the provocative youth wandered aimlessly in silence for days. He was very troubled but didn't want to anger the Princess since apparently her name reflected her fragile mental state and he just couldn't get up the courage. Shouldn't his fellows know the truth about their ruler? That their paper really wasn't that "Fair and Balanced"? Did they know about the sanctioned blacklisting of those who dare to speak in opposition of the Princess? Were they aware that Liberace had nothing on Unna-stable when it came to understanding alternative lifestyles?
Then one day, a vision of Charles Nelson Reilly appeared to the boy while he was wandering the land in thought. The vision spoke. "Let the people decide for themselves," the voice bellowed.
"But they are so preoccupied with the whole affordable castle thing, and...." the boy interrupted.
"Oh, right....well....after that then. Ahem. Let the people...."
"Yeah, yeah, I got it already Chuck, jeez..." the boy answered as he rolled his eyes.
"Well, then,...err.... what about the outfit? Does it work?" the vision inquired of the boy as he spun around to give a full view of the glittery moo-moo.
"I think the sequins are a bit much."
So the boy, inspired by the vision, went forth and told his story about having been blacklisted by NeoPravda (and also what a wealth of information on alternative life Princess Unna-stable was), and let the people decide for themselves what they thought of it. He felt relieved afterwards and very grateful another groovier publication on the island kept printing his stories with courage, thus giving the people real representation in letting their voices be heard.
Unfortunately, that is where the story ends. The ending was destroyed during the kingdom's Great Fire and so remains incomplete. The people had never been able to agree where to house the kingdom's fire truck and eventually just gave up on the whole issue in frustration. The fire had caught them all by surprise, especially Unna-stable who had crowned herself Grand Marshall of that years Pride parade.
It has been said that sometimes late at night, you can still see the boy wandering the land in search of the incinerated pages and an ending to this fable. You can add your own ending if you want. It has been said that the Princess and her cherished paper NeoPravda did.
Kingdom of Tisbury
To the Editor:
The recently concluded legislative year in the House of Representatives began slowly, but by the end, a lot had been accomplished. Let me take this opportunity to let you know what your legislature did - and didn't do - in 2005.
The main reason for the slow start was something that many people (including me) welcomed - the election of a new House Speaker. I got to know Sal DiMasi when he was chairman of the Judiciary Committee and I was vice-chairman. He is a man who rose from humble beginnings to reach success in the law and in politics, but who always remembers where he came from. He will make a fine Speaker.
With his speakership came a once-in-a-generation reorganization of the legislature's committee structure, which included abolishing some obsolete committees and creating some new ones. Of particular interest to this area was the creation of a Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development. I was honored to be named House chairman of this committee - the first chairmanship for any member from the Cape and Islands in nearly a decade.
My committee has already gone on the road to hold a "listening tour" in various corners of the Commonwealth. Salem, Boston, Plymouth, Stockbridge, and Provincetown were our first stops. Our purpose was to hear the people who actually create the arts and culture that our state is so famous for, and the people who work in the tourism business - the state's second largest industry.
One of our earliest legislative accomplishments was to restore state spending on attracting international tourists. Before 9/11, the state spent nearly $4 million a year on this effort. For the past three years, because of budget constraints, we spent nothing. This year, Massachusetts is back, wooing foreign visitors in a big way.
Another major win was House and Senate passage of a first-in-the-nation cultural facilities fund, which will provide up to $25 million in matching funds each year for maintenance and repair of museums, historic buildings and theatres across the Commonwealth. And we passed a tax credit to entice the film industry to return to Massachusetts. Other states that have done this have seen hundreds of millions of dollars in film production, while Massachusetts has not seen a major motion picture filmed here since "Mystic River" in 2002.
Meanwhile, the legislature passed in May the annual budget for fiscal year 2006. It was balanced and passed on time (which has not always been the case in recent years.) Also unlike in past years, there were no major legislative initiatives in the budget. These would come later, because under the new Speaker they would come the old fashioned way - through the committee system of public hearings and open votes, not sprung on people through so-called "outside sections" in the budget.
Included in the budget were many items I specifically advocated for, including $140,000 for shellfish propagation on the Cape and the Islands; $100,000 for Lyme disease prevention on the Cape and Islands; $50,000 for the Cape Cod Free Clinic; $50,000 for Falmouth Family Planning; $750,000 for Cape Cod and Falmouth Hospitals; and $40,000 for the Vineyard's Alternative Dispute Resolution office.
Following the passage of the budget, the legislature returned to act on a steady stream of bills, including the following major pieces of legislation:
- allowing stem cell research in Massachusetts
- expanding senior real estate tax relief
- providing financial incentives for "smart growth;"
- rejecting the gay marriage ballot question from 2004;
- increasing drunk driving penalties
- once again, rejection of the death penalty
- new benefits for our Guard members and military personnel;
- energy conservation and efficiency measures;
- help and tax credits for winter fuel costs
- a plan to provide universal health coverage in the state;
- financial support for families of volunteer firefighters killed in action
While state revenues are up, they are still barely above what they were four years ago, and state appropriations are well below the 2001 level in areas that you and I care about, like local aid, education aid, higher education, state parks and the environment. We still have a lot of catching up to do.
In this coming year, I look forward to working on reforms and improvements in those areas, as well as in the biggest and most difficult of all the problems facing our Commonwealth-finding a way to provide adequate, affordable health care to all of our people.
And I also look forward to making progress on such important local issues as the so-called "Busby bill," extending the statute of limitations for assault with intent to murder a police officer; the Island's unique proposals for funding affordable housing initiatives; and addressing our region's beach erosion and beach nourishment needs.
Affordable housing on the Vineyard got a big boost this past spring when the voters in all six island towns adopted the Community Preservation Act. They also adopted a proposal to create a deeds excise tax, like the Land Bank tax, for island affordable housing. Senator Robert O'Leary and I filed the bill the voters asked for this October, and it was admitted as a late filed bill, approved by the Joint Committee on Housing, and referred to the Committee on Revenue. We hope for further movement when the legislature returns in January.
Another Vineyard bill that is moving along in the legislative process is on giving the YMCA a long-term lease on property across from the high school, for the purpose of building a "Y" on the site. This bill was voted out favorably by the Joint Committee on Education in December, and should move in January when the legislature reconvenes.
Thank you for all your support, your assistance, and most of all your input this past year. Best wishes for a happy holiday season and a great New Year!
Barnstable Dukes and
Politics and money may trump wind farm
To the Editor:
The Friday, Dec. 16 edition of the New York Times carried an article on the OpEd page written by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Robert Kennedy Jr. is an environmental lawyer and professor at Pace University Law School. He is the son of the late NY Senator Robert Kennedy and the nephew of Edward Kennedy, senior Senator from Massachusetts.
Mr. Robert Kennedy Jr. must also be a graduate of the Baron Munchausen school of journalism based upon his OpEd article opposing the construction of the proposed Wind farm on Nantucket shoals. According to Mr. Kennedy, the devastation wrought by the proposed wind farm would be total. The local economy would be ruined, the slaughter of birds would be massive, the fishing industry would suffer a lethal blow, potential oil spills would destroy the beaches, marine life as a whole would become extinct, panoramic landscape views would be obliterated, and passing aircraft would be endangered. Mr. Kennedy says that he is an environmentalist and supports wind power, including wind power on the high seas. He says, he is also involved in "siting wind farms in appropriate landscapes" except those located in his and his uncle's backyard.
At the same time, we learn that a Coast Guard budget bill now working its way through Congress has just had a proposed amendment attached to the bill. The amendment would prohibit new offshore wind facilities within 1.5 nautical miles of a shipping lane or a ferry route, which would effectively doom the Nantucket project. This amendment has been offered by Rep. Don Young, Republican from Alaska. Could it possibly be that some horse trading has occurred between some of our Massachusetts representatives in the House or Senate with Representative Young. After all, our senior Senator is on the record as being in strong opposition to the Nantucket Sound wind farm. It is also interesting to speculate as to whether Senator Kennedy might have suggested that his nephew drop the Times a line. And of course Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of John Kerry, Massachusetts' junior Senator, has a large estate on Nantucket, and who knows, she may also have some misgivings about the project. Once more, the possibility looms large that the voices of the electorate will be stifled by their elected officials.