In big turnout, Islanders want county charter review
Two newcomers elected county commissioners; Bob Sawyer ousted
Ellen Orleans, left, and Ruth Stiller greeted voters in Tisbury, where 70 percent of registered voters went to the polls. Photos by Susan Safford
Island voters, 64 percent of 12,001 eligible, matched statewide decisions on federal and state offices. They created, by a 4795-1659 vote, a new Dukes County Charter Study Commission to reconsider the county charter or maybe abolish county government altogether. And they elected 15 Islanders to the new commission, which will have the next 18 months to do its work.
In statewide races Islanders joined other Massachusetts voters preferring Democrat Deval Patrick for governor by a more than two-to-one margin over Republican Lt. Governor Kerry Healy, who found her strongest support in Edgartown.
Constable Remo Fullin counts absentee ballots in Tisbury, alongside town clerk Marion Mudge.
By a wide margin, Island voters agreed with their mainland counterparts rejecting Question One, which would have allowed wine to be sold in grocery stores. A vote to allow alcohol sales in Aquinnah, a ballot question presented only to Aquinnah voters and one that was a surprise to many, failed by just two votes.
In a particularly hard fought contest, voters reelected Joe Sollitto of Chilmark to the clerk of courts job he's held for 30 years by a 4640-2679 margin over challenger Dan Larkosh of West Tisbury.
There were 10 candidates on the November ballot for four four-year terms on the seven-member Dukes County commission. Under the county charter, there cannot be more than two county commissioners elected from each town, but there is no requirement that each town have a county commissioner.
Les Leland of West Tisbury and Paul Strauss of Oak Bluffs were re-elected to seats on the county commission, along with newcomers Carlene Gatting of Edgartown and Tristan Israel of Tisbury. Ms. Gatting is an attorney and Edgartown's appointed member of the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC). Mr. Israel is a Tisbury selectman and a strenuous critic of county government. Ms. Gatting and Mr. Israel were the top votegetters in the county commission race.
Jack Street and Edward Larkosh politic in Tisbury.
Not reelected was Robert Sawyer of Tisbury.
There were 11 candidates, six of them seeking re-election, for nine seats on the MVC, the Island's powerful regional land use planning agency.
Although MVC members are chosen at large, at least one commissioner must be seated from each town, and no more than two may be elected from any one town.
Mimi Davisson and Richard Toole, both of Oak Bluffs won seats on the Martha's Vineyard Commission. Ms. Davisson is an incumbent, and Mr. Toole is a former MVC member.
Incumbents James Athearn and Christina Brown of Edgartown were reelected to the MVC, along with incumbents Douglas Sederholm of Chilmark, and Linda Sibley and Andrew Woodruff of West Tisbury.
Kathy Newman of Aquinnah, wife of the Aquinnah selectman Jim Newman who now serves on the MVC as a town appointee, and newcomer Peter Cabana of Tisbury were also elected.
At the same time that the ballot asked voters in Question Four to launch a new, formal process to re-examine and possibly change or abolish county government, by establishing a charter study commission, it also asked voters to elect 15 Islanders to serve on a charter study commission that would include the seven elected county commissioners and the chairman of the county advisory board.
Julie Robinson decorates her ballot in West Tisbury.
There were 12 names on the ballot. Five candidates who were unable to get their names on the ballot ran as a write-in slate.
Voters chose Timothy Connelly, Ms. Davisson, Art Flathers, Dan Flynn, Richard Knabel, Patricia Moore, Nora Nevin, Mr. Newman, William O'Brien, Ms. Sibley, Ted Stanley, Woodrow Williams, and write-ins Tad Crawford, Jeff Kristal, and Holly Stephenson to serve on the charter study commission.
Aquinnah, a town known for its quirky political currents and insular issues, flowed true to form. The liquor question on the Aquinnah ballot caught voters by surprise. While voters in five of the Island towns faced four ballot questions. In Aquinnah there was a fifth that asked if licenses should be granted for the sale of all alcoholic beverages.
Hugh Taylor, owner of the Outermost Inn, gathered the required number of signatures on an initiative petition to place the question on the ballot, according to the town clerk. The petition and a letter distributed to some town voters appear to have been the entire campaign by Mr. Taylor, who could not be reached for comment.
Neither Island newspaper was aware of the question's presence on the ballot, and Chilmark town officials reached by The Times said they knew nothing about it. According to the Aquinnah town clerk, the question also came as a polling place surprise to some town voters.
Island voters agreed with their mainland counterparts, rejecting Question Two, which would have allowed candidates for political office to be listed several times on a ballot. And, Island voters rejected Question Three, which would allow collective bargaining for daycare workers.