Call the question
Very sensibly, the Tisbury selectmen charged a committee of town residents with gauging the likely impact of allowing the sale of beer and wine in dining establishments. Tisbury businesses, especially those in the hospitality industry, would like to offer beer and wine to their patrons, and as a first step, these business owners would like the question put to Tisbury voters. Of course, having in mind the results of the beer and wine committee's study, business owners would like town officials to endorse the change, but with or without such an endorsement, these business people would like the opportunity to make their arguments to voters.
Members of the selectmen's committee, working diligently and determined to deliver an even-handed judgment, reported this week that allowing beer and wine sales, while it may improve the fortunes of some businesses, will have only a very limited effect on the community as a whole. As to the question of whether allowing beer and wine sales will alter the town's character, the committee took no position, acknowledging that the answer to this puzzle will be delivered by voters at the polls, if the question of beer and wine sales is put to them.
That question ought to be put before voters. Indeed, there is no good reason why it should not. The selectmen's committee has examined carefully and fairly the material questions of costs and benefits to taxpayers. They have considered the experiences of towns elsewhere in the state that have gone from dry to wet. They have quantified the impact on the town's business community of a possible change. What's left is for the voters to decide.
Since the calamitously expensive loss of the legal fight over whether to pay airport employees what the airport commission had agreed to pay them, one might have expected the county commissioners and their ambitious county manager to carefully walk the strait and narrow. Alas, no. The seven commissioners and their professional leader cannot help themselves. Two weeks ago we learned that the county engineer, an otherwise well-trained, competent, useful, and just slightly visible professional employee of the county, had been deputized to write parking tickets along State Beach. Not only that, but the tickets Steve Berlucchi wrote began appearing in September on cars parked, not on the sand or beach grass, over which the county worries, but on the pavement facing east when they ought to have been facing west. The tickets, labeled Oak Bluffs, and signed Berlucchi, suggested that an Oak Bluffs officer had written them. Mr. Berlucchi is not an Oak Bluffs officer, as inquiries by irritated ticket recipients revealed. The tickets were dismissed.
The question is, why. Why the clumsiness? Why deputize the engineer, whose value in his real job has been questioned repeatedly in the past few years during budget discussions? Why not ask Oak Bluffs and Edgartown officers, or practiced sheriff's deputies, to pay additional attention to parking along State Beach? Why not publicize the county's concern about the beach and warn Islanders to park heading west, and keep off the beach sand? Why bumble this way and give voters yet another reason to question the future of county government?