Question Four would establish a Dukes County Charter Study Commission
During the administration of Gov. William F. Weld, county governments across the state were eliminated by state lawmakers who argued that county government, with its historical roots in Colonial times, was old-fashioned and had outlived its usefulness. Despite the abolition of most county government across the state, Dukes County, the Island's only form of regional government, managed to survive, by adopting a specially written charter, adopted by Island-wide vote.
Question Four gives the voters of Dukes County the opportunity to launch a new, formal process to re-examine and possibly change or abolish county government, by establishing a charter study commission.
At the same time, the election ballot asks voters to elect 15 people to serve on a charter study commission that would include the seven county commissioners and the chairman of the county advisory board, which is made up of one selectmen from each town, and which is responsible for approving county budgets.
With only 12 names on the ballot it would appear there is no contest. However, five candidates who were unable to get their names on the ballot are running as a write-in slate. Steve Bernier of Chilmark, Tad Crawford of West Tisbury, Jeff Kristal of Tisbury, Tom Rancich of West Tisbury, and Holly Stephenson of Tisbury hope to overcome the ballot hurdle in order to help reinvent county government.
The move to create a charter study commission came in the wake of widespread dissatisfaction with county government. In particular, there was a costly and long-running battle between the county commissioners and their appointed Martha's Vineyard Airport Commission, which ended with a Superior Court ruling in favor of the independent authority of the airport commissioners, the loss of a respected airport manager, and the resignation of two veteran airport commissioners.