Letters to the Editor
Land Bank goals should change
To the Editor:
The latest vote by the Land Bank regarding the possibility of providing land for the construction of a new hospital was very disappointing. I think the comment that when the Land Bank buys land they keep it, is very selfish and shortsighted. Richard Coutinho should be commended for his efforts to get the Land Bank to provide property, not vilified for not following procedure.
I think the Land Bank fails to recognize that the people of the Island are the real owners of the Land Bank properties, not a group of six or seven individuals. If property is needed for the public good, then I say that they should work to provide it. Affordable housing and the needs of a new hospital would be a good place to start. Maybe the Land Bank has bought enough property for conservation and needs to diversify its long-term goals for the Vineyard.
Swap a bad deal
To the Editor:
At the Oak Bluffs town meeting April 11, we will be asked to allow the selectmen to negotiate a land-building trade.
1) We give up the "old library" building on Circuit Avenue. (This property is B1 zoned, unrestricted business.) It abuts the historic Copeland residential neighborhood, and faces an entry to the Martha's Vineyard Methodist campground, also "historic" - a national treasure. The value of this property will undoubtedly increase.
2) We would gain the land on Pacific Avenue (near the new library), and illegally used for more than 20 years as a business (trucking and maintenance for large trucks including B.F.I. garbage trucks, cleaning engines, etc.). The owner of this property has cost the town tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend its zoning status.
3. Is this a fair, financially sound, trade? Will we again regret the loss of an important town property? Let's look at the numbers.
The "BFI site" is assessed at $544,200, not considering previously spent legal fees.
Meanwhile the old library side of the deal is assessed at $876,400, considered by the real estate community as a low-ball figure.
Even with these questionable figures, this is an immediate loss of $322,200. Is this in the best interests of our town, now or in the future?
Wallace and Pat White
John and Anne Cummings
A public service
To the Editor:
As a former weekly editor, I was disappointed in superintendent of schools James Weiss's reaction to publication of The Times report on the extraordinary participation in myspace.com by Vineyard teenagers.
He said the report on this online chat phenomenon might have breached "the accepted norms of our close-knit Island community."
Dr. Weiss implied a different standard for community journalism than for metropolitan journalism.
I always thought journalists of any stripe, protected by the First Amendment, were free to seek the truth.
Except for police stories, I think Dr. Weiss is wrong. A community editor will often play down a police story in recognition of the close ties which bind a community.
Dr. Weiss asked for a "more circumspect press." Such a request is way off base.
The dictionary definition of circumspect is "to look around, to be cautious." Don't all public officials wish the press would be circumspect. The truth is not circumspect.
The Times performed a public service by publishing the article on myspace.com by Nis Kildegaard, an accomplished journalist. Some parents learned for the first time that their children were so active in cyberspace.
To the Editor:
It was interesting to read the Australian film staff comment on the beauty and "picture perfect postcard" scenery during their recent stay. Obviously, they must have avoided driving down the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road and Barnes Road areas on their tour. I am embarrassed as a resident to even drive down those roads.
The garbage and trash bags that litter these areas certainly don't make for inviting vistas.
Plastic wrapped around branches, flying out the back of uncovered pickups, garbage bags thrown to spew their contents everywhere in the wind, construction debris on the roadsides. There is nothing picturesque here unless you are used to living in a landfill.
I hope I'm not the only person that's offended by this mess. Can't the towns that use the transfer station appropriate some funds to pay for cleanup? What happened to the details from the county jail that used to walk along the road and pick up trash. Why doesn't the state highway staff get out there like the Edgartown Highway Department does and pick up some of this mess. A few months ago the boys' hockey team picked up about 1,000 pounds of trash from the roadsides. Maybe some of the high school students in detention class or the war protesters would be interested in community service work. Or maybe there is no solution, and we just have to get used to it.
Common sense is free - if you take a load of trash to the transfer station, please cover it. If something blows out of your truck, stop and pick it up.
To the Editor:
The liberal, left-biased news media, TV stations, and press are constantly comparing the war in Iraq with the Vietnam War, and stating we're in a quagmire. All the liberal news channels that are anti-Bush and his administration, mainly show just the negative side, they never show the good that's being done. They claim showing vehicles blown up by roadside bombs, the innocent civilians that are killed, (they fail to mention most are killed by the insurgents not our troops), buildings and mosques that are blown up is the news. And they're right. But rebuilding schools, hospitals, orphanages, businesses that are flourishing, our troops receiving their medals, our wounded that return to the states that say they wish they could return to Iraq to finish the job they started, is also news.
Our liberal left politicians are constantly criticizing this administration on everything they do. I understand corrective criticism, but criticism that is based on hatred and lies, is ignorant and only serves the opposing politicians inflated egos, and tend to embolden the terrorist around the world. Some politicians are calling for immediately withdrawing, or setting a date for troop withdrawal. This will only give the terrorist time to build up, and plan for a major offense. The biggest lies told are: the war was started over Iraq's oil, no Iraqi ties to bin Laden, no WMD.
I still haven't seen any of that cheap gas at the pumps yet. During interviews with Saddam's top leaders, it was stated Saddam had a limited supply of chemical and biological weapons. It was also said out of fear for theirs and their families' lives they lied and deceived Saddam about WMD. And some of the latest documents to be released, show there were ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. According to NewsMax.com Saturday, March 18, 2006, new "Saddam Docs Hint at 9/11 Link."
"While the 9/11 Commission insisted that any relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda was not 'operational,' others weren't so sure. In May 2003, U.S. District Judge Harold Baer, a Carter appointee, awarded two 9/11 victim families $104 million based on their claim that Iraq played a material role in the attacks. Evidence introduced at the trial included testimony from former CIA director James Woolsey, along with accounts from Iraqi defectors who claimed they were trained to hijack U.S. airliners at Saddam's terrorist training camp, Salman Pak."
Among those who believe that Iraq had a hand in 9/11 was Saddam Hussein's replacement, former interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Reacting to a document uncovered by the London Telegraph in Dec. 2003 detailing a link between the Mukhabarrat and lead hijacker Mohamed Atta, Allawi said, we are uncovering evidence all the time of Saddam's involvement with al-Qaeda.
"This is the most compelling piece of evidence that we have found so far. It shows that not only did Saddam have contacts with al-Qaeda, he had contact with those responsible for the September 11 attacks," he added.
Below is a breakdown from WWI to the present war in Iraq.
(1) Total American war dead in WWI was 136,516. On April 6, 1917, the U.S. entered the war. Germany formally surrendered on November 11, 1918. One year and seven months. That was 7,185 killed each month.
(2) America entered WWII, December 8 , 1941, one day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It ended with the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers. Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945, and the surrender of Japan that was signed on Sept. 2, 1945, aboard the battleship U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Approximately 302,000 U.S. military personnel were killed in action. This number includes about 9,000 merchant marine, but does not include about 130,000 non-combat military deaths. The war lasted three years and nine months. That was 9,581 killed each month. This includes the non-combat military deaths.
(3) President Harry S. Truman ordered American troops to Korea on June 27 , 1950. The war ended with the signing of the armistice, on July 27 , 1953. In Korea, 33,741 U.S. troops lost their lives in battles to defend freedom; another 2,835 died of non battle causes, bringing the total dead to 36,576. Three years and one month. That was 989 killed each month.
(4) The Vietnam War claimed the lives of more than 58,168 Americans, with another 304,000 wounded. In March of 1965, Lyndon Johnson sent the Marines into SVN, which began our military part of the war. On March 29, 1973, the United States officially withdrew the last American troops from Vietnam. Eight years. That was 606 killed each month.
(5) The Persian Gulf War of 1991, from January 16 to February 28 was fought to expel Iraq from Kuwait and restore Kuwait's independence. The United States suffered 148 killed in action, 458 wounded, 145 killed in non-hostile actions, with 11 female combat deaths. In 44 days we lost 293 troops.
(6) More than 2,319 American troops have been killed in Iraq since the war started on March 19, 2003. There have been a total of 1,862 combat deaths, and 457 non-combat, through March 18, this year. That's three years. That was 64 per month.
I'm not trying to make light of the death toll for this war, only making the point that it is lower than any of the previous ones. Every American death is tragic, especially for the families and loved ones. But, it is not another Vietnam.
I have a great deal of respect and admiration for the men and women of our armed forces, past, present, and future, there's none better. I believe I will forever owe them for the freedoms I have. It wasn't the protester standing on the corner waving their protest signs, burning the American flag, and it wasn't the liberal college professor, or liberal teacher pushing their liberal agenda. It was our armed forces that went and fought, some wounded, and some paying the ultimate price, so those that don't believe, can march in dissent, condemn America, and burn our flag, the same flag nearly three quarter of a million Americans gave their lives to defend. That's what I call a mockery.
One in opposition
To the Editor:
Regarding the March 23 letter from John H. Bunker Sr. captioned "on the other side," and his observation that "I could almost guarantee that there were no vets on the 'feel good' side," I am a vet (U.S. Army 1962-64, Reserves 68). I was there speaking out against this war that should not have been. I do not feel good about this preemptive sludge for oil under the flag-waving guise of bringing democracy to Iraq. I have opposed our militant solution since its neoconservative, corporate, imperialist inception. Need I remind you of Joel Chandler Harris's "Tales of Uncle Remus" and his moral fable of "Br'er Rabbit and the Tar Baby"?
By the way, contrary to the Martha's Vineyard Times report, there were 45 or so attendees "opposing U.S. involvement and demanding end to the war." I counted them, myself included.
Peter H. Luce
We miss him
To the Editor:
The recent, tragic death of Tisbury police officer Frank Williams leaves Tisbury a lesser place. It will take a good, long while to fill the cavern created by his sudden absence.
Frank was Tisbury's senior patrolman, with 19 years on the job. Other officers deferred to him on a wide range of matters. He was undoubtedly Tisbury's best-known cop because of his preference for leaving his cruiser, and walking the beat downtown.
Frank enjoyed "getting into trouble," which is what he called the parking tickets, warnings, and citations he frequently issued. His idea of enjoyable reading was the Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Code. He took plenty of bad guys to jail, like the construction worker who bullied an older traffic officer.
About 5 feet 10 and 150 pounds if you weighed him with his gunbelt, and with horn-rimmed glasses, he was not physically imposing when relaxed. But, faced with a belligerent lawbreaker, he suddenly gained about four inches in stature and 70 pounds in bulk. When needed, he possessed in abundance what police officers call "command presence."
Frank was one of the Island's first EMTs, and his arrival at the scene of a medical emergency was always reassuring.
Chatting with townspeople on Main Street (most people just called him "Frank"), he had the confidence to slouch on a park bench when he felt like it, a move a rookie cop would risk only with a sharp eye out for his supervisor. During the two years I served as a Tisbury special police officer, I had no better mentor or role model than Frank Williams. He was also a steadfast friend for whom I grieve.
Frank's unexpected death was a tragedy to the three people he talked about the most - his son Frankie and daughters Maria and Gina. A father could not have been more proud of his children than Frank was. Why bad things happen to good people like Frank is a mystery to which only God holds the key. Sometimes negative forces beyond our control intervene in our lives. If the outcome is death, it doesn't necessarily mean a man loved his family and friends any less.
I'm sure he misses them as we miss him.
To the Editor:
At the request of many people who attended my brother Frank Williams's very honorable funeral, I was asked to print in the paper the letter I wrote and read at his grave.
I am Frank's oldest brother, so I figured I would share with you a couple things about Frank. Back in our younger days when I was in Vietnam with the Marines, I received a letter from Frank. He said that he wanted to join the Marines and come to Vietnam. I almost flipped out. As soon as I was able to write back, I basically said, "Frank, I am here so none of you guys have to come here." I was afraid because I had no clue how long this war was going to last.
I said to Frank, "If you want to do something for your country, please, either become a fireman or become a police officer. Those are both very honorable jobs where you can do a lot of good for people. Frank obliviously took my advice, and next I knew he applied to work at the Edgartown jail. I was so relieved and so proud of him. As you all know, Frank later became a patrolman and a fireman. He was with the Tisbury police department for almost 20 years. Frank was a professional. He was the kind of cop that had a positive impact on people. Frank loved his job so much that he had months of vacation time that he never used. He took his job to heart, and he always went the extra mile. He just did what he always did, serving the community without ever expecting anything in return.
Frank is being buried on my father's birthday right next to him and my other brother Richard. We didn't really have a father. Dad left when we were quite young. I think that because of this Frank's main objective was the kids. He wanted to raise kids right and break that chain. He wanted this for all children, not just his own. Elementary school kids, troubled teens, kids without parents, all of them. He reached out to children beyond his job. He went that extra mile. Children at the Tisbury School have even demonstrated their gratitude by making cards and letters and some even baked cookies. Frank lived for his family and his job. He loved his family and the people of our Island.
I was very fortunate to have spent the last five weeks being very close to Frank. I saw and talked to him daily. In fact we even spent a number of days off-Island in a neat hotel.
One story I would like to share is about Frank's Falcon. A few years ago, Frank asked me if I would go to Boston with him for the day. The next morning, he said, "You might want to grab a blanket because my heater just blew."
Wonderful, I thought. We head to Boston, I'm wrapped in a down blanket, and I'm looking at every road marker that we go by. Before we get to the first rotary the whole car shuts down. No lights, no radio, and no heat. I said to Frank, "You got a triple A card?" He reaches for his wallet and said "Oh no, I forgot my wallet. Wonderful, I thought. I told him I have one, "Here Frank, call triple A." Frank says "Woody, I forgot my phone." I said, "Outstanding Frank, I got mine." I call triple A and tell them we are stuck. We are at road sign 47 and please tow us to O'Hara Motors, my off-Island dealership. The tow truck driver says, "No problem, I'll be there in 20 minutes. What are you driving?"
I didn't know what to say. He said "Are you there, sir"? I said "We have a Ford Falcon, sort of, and I have no clue what year. It is kinda like grey or purplish, and the trunk is ripped out. The other thing is, the body of the car is sitting on the frame of a big truck with four wheel drive. There are two of us here, and I am wrapped up in a Marine Corps camouflage blanket. I didn't hear a word. I said, "Are you there, sir"? He said, "Are the police there?" I said "No, but my brother is a cop, why?"
He said, "Mister, you are either totally slammed or this is a prank call." I said, "Frank, you talk to this guy."
Somehow, Frank straightened things out like he always did. Twenty minutes later, this guy pulls up. I am now freezing to death on the side of the road. Frank and this tow truck guy are talking excitedly about how in God's name he made this Ford Falcon like this. They were having a blast. He finally takes us to O'Hara Motors, and I go next door to rent a car. I said to the lady, "I want the nicest car you have and make sure the heater works."
We made it to Boston in time for his appointment. The problem with his Falcon was a slightly loose battery cable. This is my brother Frank, who I love so much and will miss dearly for the rest of my life.
Woodrow (Woody) Williams
MCAS a political tool
To the Editor:
MCAS, Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, the state-wide test responsible for the assessment of our educators. What is this test about, really? In my opinion, at the elementary level, it is not a test that focuses on addressing deficiencies in a child's learning curve, but focuses more on the political standing of the school within that community. It is a tool of political leverage for administrators in scoring high to make themselves the successors. High scores influence tax assessment, thereby lending to an increase in real estate. This in turn attracts people to the area, causing growth and development, and is worthy of praise from town officials. Is this goal so critical here on Martha's Vineyard, where the teachers at Tisbury Elementary feel it necessary to lay on the pressure so much, kids are crying, sick to their stomachs, having difficulty sleeping, and discriminated against if they exercise their right to not participate with the support of a parent? My next question is, is this the fault of the teachers or is it coming from the one in charge?
And what about the teachers? Why is it teachers can no longer teach empowered by their own passion and innate mentoring qualities they bring to the classroom? The answer is, now they must teach according to the standards of MCAS, disregarding each child's individual abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Teachers are direct advocates toward promoting positive atmospheres for learning. Is it MCAS that has distorted this environment? I believe the system at large is responsible. However, how that test is presented, and approached, is the direct responsibility of the leader of that school. While I believe it is necessary to have an evaluation system, is it necessary to place the burden of the results so heavily on the students? Are they not the ones ultimately having to carry this incredible load on their still growing shoulders? If they are suffering physically from the stress, and being yelled at when exercising their constitutional right to not participate, who is responsible for this at the student and teacher level? Who is ultimately responsible for downsizing the political enormity of this test within the school, so that everyone will participate, be less anxious, and perform better? Whose responsibility is it to protect and advocate for the well-being of our children when they are at school each and every day?
Now picture another scenario. Let's say the leader of an elementary school fully supports the staff, having confidence they'll do the best job possible with all their students, and conducts staff meetings on the importance of teaching MCAS material, but [does] not allow it to be the focus of day to day teaching with verbal repeats of the word, "MCAS," "MCAS," "MCAS." The leader, or principal, encourages teachers to protect kids against pending outcomes. The principal is responsible toward reflecting MCAS to help the children as opposed to using the outcome to better improve political standing in the community.
This week I have protested MCAS wearing a T-shirt saying "Say No to MCAS." I spoke with one man who told me of his nine-year-old having been tested for six hours during one day. Teachers have commented in front of students with regard to my shirt, "I could just punch her." Teachers have yelled at my daughter, "You're going to lower our scores if you don't take this test." Now I have to ask, is this behavior professional? And is that correctly setting an example for the no bullying policy? And with the trouble of our country on a whole, what about setting the example and giving support to the one person not afraid to make a difference? And isn't all of this just simply a warped version of adult peer pressure? On Monday, after exempting my daughter from the test, I received a phone message, that I have saved and copied, from the principal at Tisbury Elementary stating, "The only other option for her is to not come to school for the next two weeks." The following day I received a phone message from the counselor remarking, "We will be filing a CHINS on her if she doesn't come to school regularly." Now I ask, is this discrimination, or is this bullying? I know how I feel, and I know how my daughter feels. We feel it is both bullying and discriminating. And now I fear how she will be treated and taught after not participating.
I want it publicly known I would encourage my daughter to take MCAS. I would do so if I felt she was treated equally and fairly all year long, without the bullying of having to test, without the political interference entering her world, and without the guilt of "but the teacher needs her to take it, she'll do well." Someone is accountable for this pattern. This pattern has left me and my daughter feeling like victims; victims of bullying and discrimination for simply exercising our constitutional rights to not take a test that has clearly lost its focus of helping children learn in a comfortable and safe environment. Now what do I do?
This test will remain a political tool if we as parents do not assert ourselves. I want to inform all parents of their right to decline participation of MCAS for your child at the elementary level. Put it in writing to the school. You do not have to list any reason why, just that you formally request nonparticipation for your child in the exam.
Kelly Wheeler and Laney Ledford
Kindness in focus
To the Editor:
As a part of the high school's "random acts of kindness week," I am collecting prescription glasses to donate to New Eyes for the Needy Inc. From there, they will be sent to visually impaired people in almost 30 countries. If you have a pair that you would like to donate, I will pick them up. My phone number is 508-693-7301. My goal is to collect 100 pairs. Please help.
10th grade, MVRHS
To the Editor:
This letter is addressed to the great people of Martha's Vineyard.
You should all be very proud of your Martha´s Vineyard Little League. This will show you what a small world this is and what an impact you are having on this corner of Nicaragua.
Last year the M.V. Little League contacted me to say that they were replacing some old baseball equipment, and would I want the old for Nicaragua. Baseball rules down here. It is not a sport, it is a passion, and the children know all the stats for the players in the states and are very proud of the Latino players who have become successes in the states.
Omar and I have helped a schoolteacher in Masaya work with street kids in organized baseball. We have three teams of children, all rag tag, some without shoes, no uniforms, no equipment, one baseball of sorts. They play in a dusty field, filled with trash and a torn-up chain link fence.
Over the course of three trips, we managed to get the M.V. Little League bats, balls, catchers' equipment, gloves and some uniforms down and through customs without paying tax. We had several uniform tops that said Vineyard on them, and I told the children I was from there. I also told them I loved the Boston Red Sox and the children found both Boston and M.V. on the map.
Because of the generosity and thoughtfulness of the M.V. Little League, and because of a kind and wonderful donor, all three of our teams now have matching uniforms and caps and your equipment.
One of the three teams is now called Boston. The two teams are the Giants and St. Louis.
With official uniforms in place, the teacher-coach decided to do something not done here before - international competition. This would not have occurred without the donations from the M.V. Little League.
To date, our teams have played in Panama, Venezuela, and in Cuba, and one of our players won the golden glove award.
Today, a big bus filled with three little league teams from El Salvador came to Masaya to play against our Masaya teams. El Salvador is nine hours away from Masaya, nine hours on a bus with 60 kids and coaches.
The government of El Salvador subsidizes their teams, provides the buses for travel, has allowances for food and lodging and has invested money into well-maintained playing fields. The children from El Salvador, same ages as our players, were many inches taller and many pounds heavier. Each player is given a vitamin and a good healthy diet.
Many of our Nicaraguan children have only bread and coffee for breakfast, if they are lucky. Side by side, you could see what a difference good nutrition makes.
We have documented our three teams, from shoeless and uniform-less waifs to happy, proud organized teams with beautiful uniforms and big smiles. Next week our three teams will go to El Salvador to reciprocate. Omar and I will quietly make sure no child is left behind because he cannot afford the bus fare. Who knows, but in this crew of little boys, there is another Sammy Sosa. They are filled with dreams.
Thank you so much M.V. Little League. I will bring you a photo album of our pictures of these teams and players next trip home.