John Early, the longtime West Tisbury selectman, writing across the way, expresses confidence that his constituents, meeting in a special town meeting Tuesday will act responsibly and agree to pay the charges incurred on the town's behalf by the assessors in the Graham tax case.
Mr. Early may be regarded as an expert in the matter. He has watched West Tisbury voters decide many questions over the years, thoughtfully, generously, compassionately, deliberately. William Graham's appeal of the assessed value of his Mohu real estate to the state Appellate Tax Board and the town assessors' very reasonable decision to defend the town's interests have engulfed the community in a mire of expense, political debate, recrimination, and even sheer nastiness. One trusts, as Mr. Early does, that wise community decisions on Jan. 17 will put all that aside.
After reviewing 29 years worth of change, as it has confronted West Tisburyites during his tenure, Mr. Early writes, "In the midst of and in spite of this climate of rapid change, there have been several significant constants of which I have been acutely aware. One has been the willingness of the town to work together for the good of the community. Another has been the ability of West Tisbury to consistently do the right thing."
It must be immensely satisfying for a public official to lead a community for which he has such high regard and in which he has such confidence. But will his faith be rewarded?
"Some are of the opinion that the town should refuse to pay these bills because, due to the defective process, there is no legal obligation to do so," Mr. Early writes. "While this may be technically correct, it would, in my opinion, be a morally indefensible position for the town. Those who provide services to the town should be entitled to fair and timely compensation for their work.... I am confident that the town of West Tisbury will come together on Tuesday night and do the right thing by voting to meet its obligations. We have made enough mistakes in this matter. Let's not make another."
This page believes West Tisbury voters will take Mr. Early's words to heart. These charges, now reduced after negotiations between the selectmen and the creditors, were incurred in good faith by the assessors, although the protocols that ought to have governed the engagement of a lawyer and consultants in the town's defense were not observed. There is no question that the work done on the town's behalf was honestly and capably done. The assessors have the authority and the responsibility to decide whether to defend their assessment of Mr. Graham's property against his appeal. Appropriate protocols for this sort of thing have now been put in place. The time has come for West Tisbury voters to step up.