West Tisbury elections: Former selectman James Alley runs again
Former selectman James Alley will oppose incumbent Jeffrey "Skipper" Manter for West Tisbury selectman in the April town elections. Mr. Alley, 73, was a selectmen from 1962 to 1964, but left the position when he was appointed United States postmaster for the West Tisbury office, which at that time was in Alley's store. Federal regulations, Mr. Alley explained, prohibited postmasters from participating in local politics.
Mr. Alley's brother, county commissioner John Alley, was a West Tisbury selectman from 1979 to 2003, when Mr. Manter defeated his bid for a ninth term.
The Times asked James Alley why he has chosen to return to the political struggles after more than 40 years on the sidelines.
James Alley. Photo by Brian Jolley
"I guess the safest thing to say is I'm worried about West Tisbury," he responded. "It's my town, my home town. I love the town, maybe I can help.... I'm just worried that we're off in too many directions and nobody seems to be riding the horse. Scares the hell out of me."
Mr. Alley said that he would run on a platform of reducing town expenses. "We spend, spend, spend," he said. "I think right now we need some fiscal responsibility.... The town is a big business now, and you've got to run it like a big business."
The former selectman said that he is in favor of the town-manager system of government. "I think the town really needs a town manager. The executive secretary is good, but she really can't make any decisions."
However, Mr. Alley went on to say that he thinks the present system can be improved and made less wasteful: "The other thing I see that's important is communication between the town departments. There should be a monthly meeting of all the town department heads - or at least an e-mail - so that everybody knows what everybody's doing. Oftentimes there's duplication of effort."
In general, he thinks town government should be more responsive to the residents. "We need to be a kinder, gentler town than we are now." To that end, he promised that if elected, he would make himself available at the town hall for an hour or two every other day, so that people could easily find him.
Mr. Alley said that he thinks the town has wasted money by failing to maintain town properties, but he is against the expensive renovations proposed for the town hall. "I think town employees should have a nice place to work, but I don't think five million dollars makes any sense for West Tisbury. [The town hall] is a lovely old building and it's located in a good spot, but I wouldn't want to pour a lot of money into it."
He would favor a less expensive building. "There are other spots in town. You could get a nice, weather-tight, one-story building without an elevator.... People are upset by the thought of the Preservation Trust taking over the town hall, but... they're the ones that can do the maintenance. It's better to have it restored and standing there than falling down. They've done a good job with the other buildings in town."
Asked about the Graham case, Mr. Alley, who has read the transcripts of the hearings, said that there is nothing more to say until the Appellate Tax Board decides the matter. However, he added that if Mr. Graham should prevail, "there'll be a line from the town hall down to Alley's store wanting to get appellate papers."
As to the conduct of the assessors, he commented, "No system for assessing is perfect... but I think over the years they've
done fairly well. That is really the assessors' department, but I'd
be happy to help them or do whatever I could."
Mr. Alley plans an informal, personal campaign. "I'm not planning any public meetings, but I'm available if people want to call me. I'll do interviews with the papers. I may have an ad or two, but I'm not going to have a lot of signs tacked to trees. The way to get elected is to go around and pound on doors, but that probably isn't going to happen. I'll be meeting [voters] at the post office and Conroy's and around there, and I'll try to get around to see as many people as I can."
If voters have questions about his views, he urges them to call him. "I take a position on most all things eventually, and I stick to it," he concluded.