Letters to the Editor
Oak Bluffs building officials defended
To the Editor:
I have sent the following letter to the editor of the Vineyard Gazette in response to an editorial they wrote about our project. I would appreciate it if you could include it in your paper:
I applaud your attempt at reporting about the project on Kennebec Avenue along with your concerns about the "old boys club" mentality. Given what has happened in the past in Oak Bluffs, these are legitimate concerns. Nevertheless, I feel that the public should have the facts as they are and not how your newspaper perceives them.
This was the permitting process over the last two years. We first met with the board of selectmen to present the project and listen to their concerns. We then met with the planning board; they conducted a public hearing and we received a special permit accordingly. Upon the request of the selectmen, we voluntarily agreed to go before the historic commission and we worked with them on the design. After several meetings with the historic commission, changes were made in order to get approval for the roof. We agreed to go before the zoning board of appeals for another special permit so that our design would more closely reflect the Victorian character of the town. We then applied for a building permit and received a letter from the Martha's Vineyard Commission that cleared us from further approval.
If there were any mistakes made in this extensive and thorough permitting process, it was not a result of some sinister motives as you have suggested, but only from a lack of communication between the MVC and the town. It is very clear to me and others who have had to work with the Oak Bluffs building department recently, that Jerry Weiner and his staff are professional, respectful, and conduct their daily operations in a fair and unbiased manner. They uphold the building codes and zoning bylaws. We should be proud of these people and give them the respect they deserve.
I would suggest that if you want to criticize the way people are doing their jobs, you look no further than your own newspaper. Your reporting on the Kennebec project stands as a direct insult to all of the Oak Bluffs boards, especially the Historic District Commission, that worked harmoniously together on this project.
Maurice O'Connor, RA
Sullivan O'Connor Architect
We can do better than slogans
To the Editor:
Words should communicate ideas. However, when words become political shorthand, they can have the opposite effect, obscuring complicated concepts with emotional slogans. For instance:
The War on Terrorism.
Democrats use this emotive phrase as often as Republicans these days. It is nearly meaningless. "Terrorism" is a method, not an enemy. A war on terrorism makes no more sense than a war on espionage or a war on logistics. It is not possible to fight a war on terrorism itself any more than it is possible to fight a war on poverty or a war on drugs.
Calling the enemy "terrorism" leaves the flesh-and-blood enemy unnamed. It is the political equivalent of a blank check. When the United States invaded Iraq as a part of the war on terrorism, we attacked a brutal regime, but a regime unrelated to the brutal religious fanaticism of Osama Bin Laden, and a regime often at war with the Islamic theocracy in Iran.
There has been a shift, made possible by the vagueness of the war's object. "Terrorist" now also applies to Iraqi insurgents who attack our soldiers with roadside bombs and ambushes. Remember Afghanistan? When the Taliban mujahadim were fighting Russian occupation in Afghanistan, we called them freedom fighters and gave them arms. Now that we are the occupiers, we call the insurgents terrorists, and no doubt the Russians call them freedom fighters. The difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist may only be whose side he's on.
Anyone can be a terrorist, even us. Terrorism is deadly force (often killing innocent civilians) intended to make large groups of people afraid. Terrorism as a weapon is as old as the Peloponnesian War. Basque separatists and the IRA are two modern groups that have used terrorism as a weapon.
When we bombed Baghdad at the start of the present war, Vice-President Cheney called the operation "Shock and Awe." We shocked the Iraqis by destroying Baghdad's infrastructure, to make the people "in awe" of our military might. There was, unavoidably, "collateral damage" (i.e. civilian deaths). We were using terrorism as a method to advance our military conquest of the government then in power. It worked quite well. We didn't call it terrorism, because we had defined terrorism as "the enemy," but if using deadly force (including killing innocent civilians) to terrorize an entire city population isn't terrorism, then the word has no meaning at all.
This is not to say that our enemies do not use terrorism. Certainly suicide bombings and decapitations are also terrorism. One can only dispute whether their terrorism is worse than our terrorism. I concede that theirs is worse. I am writing about the use of the word, not about comparative ethics. Let's describe the enemy with a word that says who he is, not what he uses to fight us.
Stay the Course, and
Cut and Run.
These are currently Republican slogans, though Republicans didn't invent either one. The first is shorthand for "keep on doing what we've been doing." The second is a pejorative label for anyone who doesn't want to do the first. Both slogans have more emotional content than ideas. "Cut and Run" strongly suggests cowardice, but not every withdrawal is cowardly. Military leaders all through history have decided to retreat to more defensible positions. If the redeployment turned out to be a good move, the general was a hero. (If not, the general might have been called home, say to ancient Athens, and executed.)
"Stay the Course" strongly suggests stability and strength. Fear not, the present path is the right one. But staying the course is a good idea only if a sober assessment determines that the benefits outweigh the risks. Success is never a sure thing, and there have been generals who stayed the course and were called home and executed. The point about the phrase is that staying the course is not always a good thing in itself any more than cutting and running is always a bad thing.
Fight them there so that we don't have to fight them here.
As a statement of policy, this sentence is another blank check; you can fill in any name you like. "Here" means the United States, but "there" can mean anywhere else. "Them" means whoever you think might attack us.
This slogan is especially misleading because it implies that Al Qaeda is a movement that can be contained by a front. In the 1960s, the Kennedy and Johnson administrations thought that we should fight world communism in Viet Nam so that we wouldn't have to fight a communist invasion of California. The "domino theory" turned out not to be true (the rest of Asia did not become communist after the fall of Saigon), but Viet Nam could be thought of as a kind of western front in the Cold War. However, there is no front in Al Qaeda's war against America.
If Islamic terrorists were few in Iraq before the invasion, they are plentiful now, but by no stretch of the imagination are they "there" only. It is true that President Bush created a battleground by invading Iraq, but the guerilla war going on now is a war of the guerillas' choosing. We're there because of the dangerous political vacuum we created when we got rid of Saddam. Islamic extremists are drawn into this vacuum to fight us, because they are smart enough to know that an occupying force is at a tactical disadvantage despite superior firepower. We're stuck there, like Custer on his hill, and they know it.
But Al Qaeda (and others like them) are everywhere in the world. There is no particular "there." They are even in Canada - and already here, as the arrests in the last year have shown. Fighting in Iraq does not mean that we won't also have to fight here. It's even possible that the invasion of Iraq has made attacks here more likely rather than less.
The debate goes on, and it should. Iraq is now a terrible problem with no clear solution that can be expressed in any politician's slogan. There is danger no matter what we do about Iraq - and also about Iran and Afghanistan and Pakistan and Indonesia and Chechnya and elsewhere. If the enemy is Al Qaeda, we should call the war "The War on Al Qaeda." If it is a war against militant Islam, we should say that. If it is something broader, we should carefully define what we mean. Before we decide what to do, we should at least agree on whom we need to be fighting, and why.
Politicians will always make emotional, rather than rational, appeals - they have to win elections, not wars. But statesmen can do better.
Editor's Note: Dan Cabot is a contributing editor to The Times.
What would Al think?
To the Editor:
If I see one more truckload of hewn tree trunks go by my house, I think I am going to scream.
I just watched the excellent movie, "An Inconvenient Truth". I hope everyone, including the producers of that film, recognizes that tootling around town in a Prius does not undo the damage to the environment caused by those who obsessively build out-sized, showplace houses, barns, and all the accouterments. Cutting down 25 truckloads of trees and gouging from the earth 50 truckloads of boulders in order to put in acres of flat, thirsty, fertilizer-needing lawn is destructive to our environment.
Here, as in Sun Valley, Pacific Palisades, and everywhere else on earth, excessive, compulsive building is more than a bad habit or a mere annoyance to the year-round neighbors, even though the noisy, smelly, dirty, air-polluting trucks that zoom by my house all year, each and every day, produce lots of inconveniences. Those who tear apart our landscape, year after year, building more and more and never seeming to have enough for themselves, are doing damage to all of us.
What would Al Gore think of all this consumptive building? What will our grandchildren think?
I hope those of us who watch "An Inconvenient Truth" pay particular attention to the instructive graphics at the end of the film. Bad habits can be broken. I know it's a struggle everyday for all of us. I, like most Islanders, do drive cars, use plastic, and have to compromise constantly. However, not recognizing our bad habits or denying them will continue to damage the earth. Obscene hypocrisy on the subject of global warming is downright irresponsible.
To the Editor:
The Outerland was the site for a successful and enjoyable fundraising party for the Vineyard Committee on Hunger (VCOH). Fund goals were met and the community had a great time. Everyone had a wonderful time, thanks to our supportive community.
The money raised is to help alleviate hunger, not only on the Island, but a portion of it is contributed to help feed those in need around the world.
All were happy with the items to be bid on in the silent auction, where enthusiasm helped to boost bids and provided smiles from those whose bids won out. Tickets from Cape Air, artists, service producers, stores and restaurants were among generous donors.
Barry Rosenthal owner of Outerland generously donated the premises and DJ Jeff Pratt had the dance floor shaking and dancers flying all evening.
Anyone who would care to help this worthy cause by becoming a volunteer or making a donation may call Carole Early, VCOH chair at 508/693-7914. Checks may be mailed to VCOH, Post Office Box 1874, V.H.
Vineyard Committee on Hunger
Keep the interim chief
To the Editor:
I was pleased to read your story on Tim Stobie. As a resident of Tisbury I, like many others, hold him in the highest regard. We know him for his dedication, fairness, and his unbending loyalty to the welfare of Tisbury.
However, I find it highly offensive that our selectmen support a "glass ceiling" of requirements for the position of chief that serve only to keep a local public servant with 16 years of service to the town of Tisbury from ever having been promoted. A person raising a family who decided to stay on the Island and contribute to its future and safety and whose children are thirteenth generation Islanders is now being punished for it. In fact, he is being told he isn't qualified for the position of permanent chief because he doesn't have a degree. Sixteen years on the force and the respect and trust of Tisbury's residents are being trumped by a piece of paper.
Many may not know that these degree requirements are set by the selectmen and are not law. They could easily be waived. Do all three of Tisbury's selectmen have bachelor degrees?
Personally, I find it unacceptable that local applicants were not offered the option of obtaining the degree while serving in the position. In my opinion this is discrimination against local people who had a much more difficult task when it came to obtaining a college degree due to the geographic obstacles, extended time requirements for travel and the high cost of commuting. It was a different world before the Internet. That was when raising your family and working meant something, I guess.
We have a chief, Tim Stobie, and saying he is qualified to be interim chief but not the permanent chief is an insult to every Island family who worked here and stayed here so that we all have a beautiful and safe place to call home; a place where we don't lock our doors and everyone knows you by name. It is a treasure trove of history kept alive by multiple generations still carrying on family traditions and sharing them with new arrivals like myself, so we know more about our home than how much our property has appreciated.
I am truly embarrassed for Tisbury today and ashamed of myself for not objecting to this problem before. My sentiments are shared by countless others as well. It is shameful what has been allowed to go unchallenged.
It is not the huge homes or the fancy parties that form the foundation to the Island. It is the promise of those who sacrificed other experiences and their own dreams out of love and loyalty to Martha's Vineyard. Many of their children have followed in their footsteps and kept this foundation strongly anchored in the soil. I urge all Tisbury residents to demand more of their town government than this ridiculous and highly insulting process that serves to keep a local like Mr. Stobie from advancing. If I can't stand up for what is right here then I don't deserve to live here at all.
Tisbury needs a chief who understands our town, has the respect of its residents and a history of fairness and competence. We need someone we can talk to and someone we know is listening. What we do not need is a mystery appointment who doesn't understand Island residents and who leaves after a couple years but has a degree. This isn't American Idol, and we don't need an elimination round with finalists and judges. We don't need teasers about the final five and the anticipation of the last two. We need a police chief that we are comfortable with, that we trust and who knows our town as well as anyone can. Oh wait, that is exactly who is sitting in the chief's office right now. To now remove such a qualified candidate would be a new low for the town of Tisbury, and I vehemently object to it.
The reason I feel so strongly about this is that this is our safety we are talking about. It is about our very way of life. To protect our way of life, don't you think it helps if the chief has lived it? With the looming possibility of alcohol sales in Tisbury, I want to know that our chief is well established in the position quickly and isn't going to go through a year of being shell-shocked like outsiders usually do. We need a seamless transition and guess what? We already have one. I don't want our lives to be another experiment in complicated thinking.
Do not be complacent regarding this decision. To do so will set in motion a precedent that will slowly infect the very fabric of Martha's Vineyard and that promotes the belief that far away consultants and experts know best what we need and that those who form the islands backbone can be overlooked and dismissed on an elitist whim. Don't be swayed by talk of fairness or protocol from our officials. When and if a crisis ever knocks at your door, protocol isn't going to help you. Mr. Stobie will. He has been there for us for 16 years.
Finally, if our selectmen think that having a degree is so critical, such a crucial prerequisite for important positions, I suggest they start by trying their theory out on themselves. I don't remember ever applying for the job of guinea pig, and if our needs are not reconsidered or if our opinions are dismissed, then come election day I believe Tisbury may have an experiment of its own. We call it competence.
To the Editor:
Hats off to the Chilmark selectmen for referring the Girl Scouts' new camp building to the MVC as a development of regional impact. The residents of Chilmark have suffered the scourge of campfire-gathering, s'more-eating, Kumbaya-singing young girls for more than 50 years. How much can they be expected to endure?
I am confident that the MVC will spend several months developing numerous restrictions on the project. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if the commission tried to control what type of cookies the scouts sell next year. I look forward to buying organic, sugar-free, nut-free, free-trade, bland tasteless cookies made in a solar-powered factory in Peru. Ultimately, as is often the case when dealing with the MVC, the Girl Scouts will have to withdraw their plans. With any luck, they will sell the property to some Hollywood type, and the Land Bank will receive a hefty sum that will be wisely spent on conservation land, thereby increasing the property value of wealthy Chilmark residents and reducing the availability of buildable lots, ensuring we retain the status quo of I have mine and you never will.
Meeting the challenge
To the Editor:
I hope that all Vineyarders will have a chance to see An Inconvenient Truth. Al Gore combines a presentation of the seriousness of Global Warming with pictures of the Earth, his own personal story and humor. He manages to make what can be an overwhelmingly frightening and sad topic palatable if not compelling.
I apologize to those of you who came to the Island Theatre to see the short about the Vineyard Energy Project before the film on Monday night. It did not show due to other difficulties that night with the theater.
I invite all of you who are inspired by this film to come to the Vineyard Energy Project office in West Tisbury, just past the Grange going up-Island, to see what steps we can take to lessen climate change and learn how you can join our efforts. Our office is open Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, 10 am-12 noon.
It is our belief that together we can make a difference, meet the energy challenge, and preserve this Island for generations to come.
The Vineyard Energy Project
A matter of participation
To the Editor:
This reminds me of that line that Chris Rock uses in his act, "Just another example of the man tryin' to keep me down!" Go figure. On June 21, 2006, the Republican-controlled Senate crushed a proposed election year increase in the minimum wage, rejecting Democratic claims that it was way past time to boost the $5.15 hourly pay floor that has been in effect for nearly a decade. This Senate vote marked the ninth time since 1997 that Democrats have proposed an increase to minimum wage, and Republicans have blocked the same. The vote, big surprise, went along all too predictable party lines.
This vote drew support from 43 Democrats, eight Republicans and one Independent. Funny thing about four of the eight Republicans that voted for the increase to minimum wage; they are also, coincidentally, seeking re-election in the fall.
I find it hard to believe, in the same time period these same lawmakers have declined to increase the minimum wage, they coincidentally voted themselves pay raises of roughly $30,000 annually. Apparently inflation only affects highly paid lawmakers and not those living under the poverty level.
$10,712, that's it people! That's what someone working full-time making minimum wage makes. That's $6,000 below the poverty level for a family of three. $10,712 barely covers the cost of a two-bedroom, $850 a month apartment rental. Of course, after paying the rent you haven't eaten, driven to work, paid for medication, turned on a light or watched a single news report on a TV yet.
The theory on the way the vote came out is that while Democrats depend on organized labor to win elections, Republicans depend on business interests that always oppose any increase in the minimum wage or any changes at all in the current system. Our political representatives know full well that poor people traditionally don't vote. These same career politicians that voted against the wage increase absolutely count on that fact. Come on, if they felt poor people voted, do you really think for a single second that they would have rejected this recent legislation? Not if they wanted to get re-elected. Unfortunately, this political machine keeps on grinding out similar policy because people won't register to vote or vote at all. So, anytime legislation that could benefit the poor happens to slip through the cracks and muster a vote by the people, the people that vote currently are likely to vote against it if it raises their taxes.
How do we fix things? Vote. Don't tell me you don't vote because nothing ever changes or it doesn't matter. People that don't vote are part of the problem and could very easily become part of the solution, if they'd only vote.
San Diego, California
are all wrong
To the Editor:
I am writing this letter to dispute the libelous statements made by Julia Wells in her editorial in the June 23 issue of the Vineyard Gazette. These same libelous statements are inferred by the Oak Bluffs selectman Kerry Scott and the executive director of the Martha's Vineyard Commission in the June 20 Gazette article by Ian Fein, regarding the building project on Kennebec Avenue. All of these people incorrectly state as fact that, under the standards and criteria administrative checklist for developments of regional impact, this project was required to be referred as a DRI to the MVC by the acting Oak Bluffs building inspector, Lenny Jason, and the new building inspector Jerry Weiner. Unfortunately this is not an isolated example of how the Gazette never lets the truth or the English language get in the way of misrepresenting the facts. Apparently Mr. London doesn't speak English any better than Ms. Wells or Ms. Scott. The fact that words have definition is often inconvenient to those who would rather smear a person's job performance than open a dictionary.
The first section of the Checklist for DRI referral in question reads as follows:
"3.4 Other Developments
3.401 Any development, including the expansion of an existing development, which proposes to create or accommodate:
A] ten or more dwelling units; or
B] ten or more rooms for lease or rent; or
C] four or more business, office, and/or industrial premises; or
D] four or more premises which mix residential with business, office or industrial uses."
The definition of Premises is: "Land including houses or tenements." See New Webster's Dictionary, or "a piece of real estate; house or building and its land, [keep off the premises]." See Webster's New World Dictionary of American English. I am sure that the Oxford Dictionary would concur. Thus one "premises" can have many units. The Kennebec building is one "premises" that contains two commercial units and four dwelling units. The other section of the checklist in question reads as follows:
"3.3 Commercial Business and Industrial Development.
3.301 Any development of commercial, storage, office and\/or industrial lands or building[s], or any private educational facility that has:
A] new construction totaling 2,000 square feet or more of floor area in one or more buildings; or..." and it continues to h] but the rest is not relevant or in dispute.
From my understanding, the Kennebec building has two 700-square-foot commercial units on the ground floor. The balance of the floor area is stairwells to the dwelling units and maybe some storage area for the commercial units. Storage area is exempt from the floor area calculation, but even if it is included the two commercial units combined equal around 1,770 square feet of floor area. Ms. Scott and Mr. London seem to think that the gross floor area of all floors is commercial. To this I point out that under section 3.401 a] and b] you can build nine dwelling units or nine rooms for lease or rent and not be mandated for referral. Proof of the intent and logic of these regulations is to realize that if you build nine units and stay under the 2,000-foot trigger they are going to be rather small. Example: 1,999 square feet divided by 9 units equals 222.1 square feet and that equals an 11-foot by 20-foot unit. Not much of a dwelling. Ya think...
The people who wrote the criteria checklist knew and properly used the words unit and premises. Maybe it's ignorance. It may be asking a lot of people, who don't know the difference between words like resident and transient, which are opposites, and how they relate to residential and commercial premises, to know the difference between unit and premises.
This is nothing short of a power grab by Mr. London on behalf of the MVC. Remember, "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely."
Another fact that Ms. Wells fails to tell her readers is the fact that under section 3.101, which refers to the ability of any municipal agency in the town to request a referral of any project which does not otherwise qualify under the Standards and Criteria Checklist. According to the June 20 Gazette Article by Ian Fein, this project had input from the Oak Bluffs ZBA, the board of health and the Cottage City Historical Commission who requested and achieved the additional height to improve the Victorian look of the building. It is obvious that this dynamic trio views all of these boards as incompetent or corrupt. If that is the consensus and you consider the costs, why don't we get rid of all of these town boards and for that matter town government? We then can bow to, as Ms. Wells so brilliantly advises in her libelous editorial rant, "the blunt advice from the executive director Mark London."
It is time to sink the commission before it invades every aspect of our lives.
By the way, where is Webb's Campground? It's the least we could get for $18 million.
Donald N. Muckerheide
past and present
To the Editor:
C.K. Wolfson (Father and Sons, 6/15/06) has taken us from Father's Days in the past to the present in her own delightful way. Each dad of today is to be celebrated individually. Styles have changed, but Father's Day will remain timeless. Thanks for sharing your family with us, C.K.
Bad old boys
To The Editor:
The latest Oak Bluffs debacle only reinforces the fact that the "good old boy (girl)" system is still alive and well in Cottage City.
The majority of those elected and appointed officials whose duty is to serve and protect the voters and taxpayers have used their power to feather their own nests, thus betraying the trust bestowed upon them. One might question how they sleep at night, and the answer may very well be, quite well. These individuals have no conscience and no sense of decency. Are they so ignorant or arrogant that they feel they can make their own rules?
Oak Bluffs was my home for almost 30 years, but I can honestly say I am so very glad I got out.
The Vineyard may be a beautiful place, but its beauty is marred by the not-so-dirty little secrets of Oak Bluffs.
The Fourth and the flag
To the Editor:
The Fourth of July is fast approaching, and I would like to take a moment to speak to those who attend the parade.
Every year the veterans marching in the parade enjoy the response from the spectators viewing the parade. One thing we have noticed is that the spectators are not showing respect for our national symbol, the American flag.
Did you know that when the American flag passes you are supposed to bring yourself to a standing position and put your right hand over your heart? Did you know that if you are wearing a hat you are supposed to remove your hat and place it over your left shoulder, so that your right hand is over your heart? If you have children holding American flags, please do not let them take the flag and drag the flags on the ground. Why not use the Fourth of July to teach your children proper flag etiquette? I know when I read over proper flag etiquette rules I can't believe how much I have forgotten. Have a happy and safe Fourth.
Peter Herrmann PPC
VFW Post 9261
The little things
To the Editor:
Hooray for Pam Cassel for pointing out in her letter that the essence of life on the Vineyard is contact with people and mutual respect. Her example of the way we treat each other from our cars speaks to the importance of our daily interactions. A wave at the post office, a short exchange at the market, a conversation along the street are what makes our lives here so rich.
We share plants from our gardens and recipes from our kitchens. We go to meetings to deal with problems and challenges in our town government, or to help out an Islander who has had a run of bad luck. We recognize that we are all part of one fabric and what happens to one affects us all.
But the fabric is eroding. Greed and self-interest are powerful. The MacMansion replaces the cottage in an old neighborhood of small homes. Fences go up and signs that say Private. Without regard for the taxpayer, the Tisbury Water Department gives salaries and perks to certain employees, which are out of line with town guidelines. Is this a lack of respect for other town employees who work very hard, too? Or for the taxpayers who will inevitably find their taxes going up to deal with this inequity? Or is it just greed? It certainly doesn't show any respect for the community of which they are a part.
So, please smile when you pass on the street and honk a little when our cars pass. The little acts of our daily life are precious. Let's not lose them.
Mary H. Snyder