MVC reports provide updated snapshot of changing Island
The latest snapshot of our changing Vineyard population - and a tantalizing look at the crunch coming in years ahead - is offered in one of five data reports newly issued by the Martha's Vineyard Commission.
For many years, the MVC has maintained a staff report that compiled a large amount of data on the Vineyard. This document, filled with charts, tables, and accompanying text, has traditionally been updated as a whole once every two years. But the new reports - posted on the commission's web site between March 15 and 20 - represent a departure in the way the agency presents important data to its community, according to Mark London, executive director of the MVC.
In an interview at his agency's Oak Bluffs offices, Mr. London explained, "We figured we should have a format that is more easily updated, and that is available on the Internet. The intention now is that we will update these documents whenever new information becomes available."
This first batch of five staff reports presents data on Island housing, population, and economics. In the case of population data, much of the best information available still dates from the 2000 federal Census. In the case of housing, employment, and economic data, more current information is available, and this is reflected in the reports.
A central goal in designing these reports, Mr. London said, has been to make them accessible to a broader Island public, in a simpler format that highlights the most important facts about the Vineyard and avoids the sort of language he calls "planner-ese."
"The detailed tables of our old data report will still be available here at the office," Mr. London said. "But frankly, very few people have needed that level of detail - usually they're looking for the big-picture stuff."
Indeed, the "Economic Profile" report takes the big-picture approach to such an extreme that its five central points read almost like a caricature of a planning document:
1. The Vineyard has a highly seasonal, visitor-based economy.
2. The Vineyard has experienced rapid growth over the past generation.
3. Business is concentrated in the down-Island towns.
4. The number of business establishments is growing, especially in West Tisbury.
5. The majority of people work in service and retail jobs.
Mr. London acknowledged that none of this will come as shocking news to Vineyard policy wonks. But he said, "We want to draw people into the Island planning process who aren't just the usual couple dozen experts. I hope we've done this in a format that is accessible enough that people can go to their computers, click on these reports for ten minutes and look at the charts."
More is on the way
Of the five reports issued last week, Mr. London said, "This is only the beginning." More reports will be forthcoming in the weeks and months ahead, on topics ranging from water quality to traffic and open space.
Three of the new reports are designed as PowerPoint presentations, which can be read as documents or presented publicly in community forums. One reason for this approach, Mr. London said, is that a 20-member steering committee at the MVC has been working through the winter to craft a public process for preparing the first major update since 1990 of the Island Regional Plan. "We are gearing up now to do the Island planning process," Mr. London said. "We needed to go through this data and pull out the most important things in an understandable way, so participants in the planning process can find the key information."
The process of developing the new Island Regional Plan will open with public announcements in the next few weeks, Mr. London said. According to an internal MVC document, the goal of this process is "to prepare a new Island plan that will chart, in simple but compelling ways, a course for the kind of future that the Vineyard community wants, and that prescribes a series of actions that help us navigate that course."