Letters to the Editor
West Tisbury assessors describe appeals process
To the Editor:
We write in response to the article in last week's paper entitled "West Tisbury assessment appealed to county," in an attempt to provide further clarification of the appeal process and some additional information that we hope is of interest to West Tisbury taxpayers.
We recognize that the legislature, through Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 59, Section 64, gives a taxpayer the right to appeal the assessors' decision on his abatement application to either the county commissioners or the Appellate Tax Board. The same section also gives the assessors the "final word"? on which body will hear the appeal. That is, the assessors have the right to have the case transferred from the county commissioners to the Appellate Tax Board.
Two key points about the appeal process in general and the current cases filed by Ms. Ames and Mr. Revere:
Travel to Boston is not required. The Appellate Tax Board conducts hearings not only in Boston but also in select cities and towns for the specific purpose of saving taxpayers the time and cost of traveling to Boston. For a number of years now, the board has been hearing Island and Cape Cod cases in Falmouth. We would expect that if we transfer the Ames and Revere cases to the Appellate Tax Board, these matters would be heard in Falmouth.
Legal representation is not required. An appeal made to the Appellate Tax Board does not require that either party be represented by a lawyer, regardless of whether the case is a formal or informal one. Whether or not to have an attorney is always the choice of both the taxpayer and the assessors.
It is noteworthy that appeals filed with the Appellate Tax Board from across the state number in the thousands each year, while the number of appeals filed with county commissioners statewide is generally less than 25 per year. Moreover, we don't know of any assessors in any city or town who opt to have the county commissioners hear an appeal filed against them. We suggest that it is, for all intents and purposes, "standard operating procedure"? for a board of assessors to have a case filed with county commissioners transferred to the Appellate Tax Board.
This practice makes sense to us. The Appellate Tax Board is specifically charged with handling real estate valuation matters. The ATB commissioners include lawyers with backgrounds in valuation and taxation law, as well as an experienced real estate appraiser. Moreover, the two highest courts in Massachusetts, the Supreme Judicial Court and the Appeals Court, have repeatedly recognized the Appellate Tax Board's expertise in real estate valuation and taxation.
We respectfully contrast that to the inexperience of the county commissioners in handling property valuation matters. Winn Davis, Dukes County manager, indirectly highlighted this difference when he said that the appeal process "will be a learning experience for all of us, since we haven't dealt with it in 20 years."
As we have always said, our duty is to all West Tisbury taxpayers; our role as Assessors must be to act in the best interest of all taxpayers. An abatement given to one taxpayer is ultimately paid for by all West Tisbury taxpayers. We believe that it is in the best interest of Ms. Ames, Mr. Revere and all of our taxpayers to have their issues heard and decided by the Appellate Tax Board - the board with the most knowledge and greatest experience in real estate valuation and taxation matters.
Regarding the Guiney case, we are unaware of any lawyer hired by the Guineys to represent them. We understand that Mrs. Guiney's brother, William N. Carroll, is a New York licensed attorney, but is appearing solely in his capacity as the trustee of the trust that owns one of the subject properties. Additionally, we would point out that we made two offers to the Guineys to settle their cases. These offers were rejected; the Guineys expressed their decision not to enter into negotiations to settle the matter. Given their choice, and given our obligation to West Tisbury taxpayers, we are proceeding to defend the properties' assessed values.
Finally, to be clear about pending cases, as Cynthia Mitchell reported to the selectmen, one FY2005 case has been settled, there are a few other FY2005 cases which have been continued until next spring (several parcels, two taxpayers), and there are some recently filed FY2006 cases (several parcels, four taxpayers).
Stanton C. Richards
Cynthia E. Mitchell
West Tisbury Board of Assessors
Math and history against
To the Editor:
Not a very hard question, if you examine the math and a little history.
First, the history. Rotaries or roundabouts have been with us for some time. They worked well when traffic was lighter and speeds lower. As both increased they became places for accidents. Changes have occurred with the design. The rotary at Marstons Mills is still okay. Traffic is light all day, and the narrow roads coming in keep the speeds down. The one in Dedham has been cut across the middle and traffic lights added due to heavy traffic. The one on Route 28, east of Falmouth, is quite large and is okay in the winter but scary in the summer.
I go to England on occasion, and they drive on the wrong side of the road, as we Americans say. Takes a while to get accustomed to. The roundabouts are something else. I have gone around some about six times just trying to figure a way to get off in the direction I want to go. Since they only work with light, low-speed traffic, new ones are not being built because with growth and speeds increasing, they very quickly become obsolete. Traffic lights are being added to the busy ones.
The math. The problem at the four-way stop is only in July and August when traffic is heavy. Since rotaries don't work in heavy traffic, installing one does not make sense. It would become obsolete at the time when it is needed. This problem lasts for 80 hours a year. I am calculating driving hours from 7 am to 10 pm, 15 hours daily, Saturdays and Sunday not included. This driving year has 3,900 hours. The traffic back-up only happens between 4 and 6 pm and only occurs in the Vineyard Haven to Edgartown direction. This calculates out to 10 hours a week times eight weeks to be an 80-hour-a-year problem. Or, only 1.85 percent of the driving year.
Summary. Drivers going home for their supper in the difficult 4 to 6 pm summer time period have to wait about 12-15 minutes in the Vineyard Haven to Edgartown direction. The alternating movement system in use, at the four-way stop, has worked well. The system did away with some nasty accidents. A rotary filled with cars would do away with the courtesy that now exists. It will be every man and woman for himself. You will have a back-up in all directions. The unseen mopeds will be in the mix waiting to get squished. Our older population will not have a chance. It will become a game of who dares to put his fender in front of someone else. Imagine going from Vineyard Haven and wanting to go left on Barnes Road. You will have to go all the way around the rotary, in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Tempers will flare. I am asking the drivers who have to wait 12 to 15 minutes daily for eight weeks, five days a week in the summer, going from Vineyard Haven to Edgartown to make "this time contribution" to our community. In our go-go society this may be the only time in the day that you get to relax. To help the problem, add a 50-yard lane back from the intersection in the Vineyard Haven to Edgartown direction. This will expedite the flow of cars turning right on to Barnes Road. This may reduce the wait time in that direction.
I gladly provide this information free of charge. I hope the $ 30,000 they were using for a study has not been spent.
To The Editor:
There were lots of kids out Halloween night in all sorts of costumes but there were those who, regardless of how they were dressed, were out that night as thieves.
I have always loved Halloween. Many happy memories as a child and a renewal of those joys as a father. For the last six years or so I would take my daughters out Trick or Treating, and we would always leave a bowl of candy for those who came to our door while we were out.
We would get home and the bowl would be empty, and I would think, "Wow, we must of had a lot of kids stop by."
This Halloween my daughters went Trick or Treating with their mother, which gave me an evening alone. No children had come to my door as yet and I heard the washing machine finish, so I went downstairs to load the dryer. I had left the bowl as in years past out on the deck as I attended to the laundry.
As I was downstairs I heard footsteps up on my deck. I came upstairs a few minutes later and there was my empty stone ware bowl, newly cracked with a trail of candy wrappers leading out of my driveway.
I bet there was close to $30 worth of candy in that bowl. It was all meant to be given out but not in this manner. It has me now thinking that in years past when I was out with my own children, the bowl would be emptied by the first kid to the door, first come takes it all.
I had to turn away kids afterwards because the cupboard was bare. It turns out that a number of homes here in my neighborhood had similar experiences. One household even had the bowl taken along with the candy.
I'm somewhat angered but mainly saddened and greatly disappointed at the conduct of the children that did this. It's just candy, but what's next?
To the Editor:
Mirabile dictu, Massachusetts's (not mine) part-time senator, full-time gigolo does it again by insulting America's armed service members, equating them with unambitious, uneducated drones who can do no better than to enlist in the military.
When are the people going to turn this wretched pretender out of office? Sure, Iraq has become a curse, and we need to end it, but those who have fought and died with bravery and loyalty need not be dishonored and blasphemed by such lowlifes as John Francois Kerry. I only hope all the troops in Iraq hear about Mr. Kerry.
While I'm on a roll, can any decent person tolerate Christy Mihos's recent TV vulgarity which was supposed to be a political campaign ad? We can hope that we've seen and heard the very last from him.
To the Editor:
Senator Kerry said that students who do poorly wind up stuck in Iraq.
Republicans shout "Kerry says if you're a soldier in Iraq you're a dummy who did poorly in school."
Senator Kerry spoke the truth. A kid who did poorly in school has few work choices. And the US military is stuck indeed in Iraq.
Suppose he had said "Students who do well in school wind up better off." By this logic, the Republican rejoinder must then be "George Bush is well off, therefore he did well in school." Right.
We should recognize this as rhetorical nonsense. We will surely see more of it over the next two years. Senator Kerry should continue on the offensive, and his fellow Democrats should back him up instead of backing away.
Restaurant closing spurs critics
To the Editor:
I never expected the number of phone calls and accolades from people on the streets and businesses in response to my letter last week. The closure of the Thai restaurant affected and was noticed by a great many people.
Some of the people spoke of problems they had in the past with Shirley Fauteux, but the one common trivia was the closing of the snack bar at the football field just prior to the start of the MV vs. Nantucket football game.
People mentioned a health board that has members that are personal friends of Shirley's and are resistant to sanctions or to make changes. As we all know in the Oak Bluffs political scene, if you back a certain candidate or vote a certain way, your group of friends will decrease or increase, sometimes to the point of being shunned or ostracized.
To sum up the closure of the restaurant, I will quote a local woman who talked of the problem: Authority corrupts, absolute authority corrupts absolutely.
Thanks again for hearing me out.
Power from the state
To the Editor:
Since the authority to perform a marriage or wedding comes from the state whether one is a Protestant minister, a city or town clerk, a rabbi, a justice of the peace, a civil Judge, an Orthodox priest, an Episcopal priest, or a Roman Catholic priest, all marriages or weddings are civil unions. While at a Roman Catholic wedding, the marriage or civil union is performed during the Mass, it is done separately from it. The words "wedding" and "marriage" are not in the canonical Mass text. As recently as the 1950s, if a Catholic were to marry a non-Catholic, the wedding or civil union would take place in the rectory and not in the church during a Mass.
Instead of my bishops lobbying to amend the Massachusetts Constitution, drafted by John Adams, the first among the states and still considered the greatest in our world, they should follow the lead of the Episcopal and Anglican bishops by not performing marriages, weddings, or civil unions, thereby not having to discriminate as to which couples they will or will not marry. They do intend, however, to bless the couple at a religious ceremony after their marriage or civil union.
Joseph Sequeira Vera
Cambridge and Oak Bluffs
To the Editor:
Since I will be unable to come to either of the final hearings on the new hospital, I hope that a letter can take my place.
I urge you to make the new hospital construction very "green." If solar energy is built into the initial construction of a building, the costs nowadays are just about the same as for standard construction.
The hospital has an opportunity and also a responsibility to make their new building as energy-efficient as possible. There will not be another chance like this for many years. This new hospital will be state-of-the-art as far as medical facilities are concerned, and should be state-of-the-art in energy efficiency.
I am proud of the Steamship Authority, Cronig's, the schools, and other public places and what they have done to help the Island become less dependent on off-Island fuels. The hospital is particularly important, as it is a high user of fossil fuels and is a very public place.
Having just installed solar hot water, I am very impressed with what solar power can do. Since the Martha's Vineyard Commission is considering some way of encouraging people building new houses to use alternative energy, it behooves you to do the same in one of the largest and most conspicuous buildings on the Island. Thank you for considering this matter. It will affect the entire Island, set an example and become something we can all be proud of.
Edith W. Potter
To the Editor:
What appears to be an untenable and potentially disastrous plan for the Tashmoo Ave., Main St., Locust Lane, N. William St., and Owen Little Way area is currently unfolding.
Mr. Roger Seasonwein was the owner of the former Tashmoo Inn, on Main Street at Tashmoo. He now wishes to sell off as housing lots the former tennis courts, Montessori Parking lot, etc. for four houses, one of which has already been sold and put in a narrower-than-code roadway for access to three of the four proposed house lots.
He already, several years ago, subdivided the Tashmoo Inn's original lot in two parcels, one of which has two houses on it, and the other has been the location of the Montessori School for many years. The school has enjoyed permission to utilize the area behind, still owned by Mr. Seasonwein for staff parking and drop-off area for children by parents.
The current plan now under discussion would turn the parking lot into a narrow roadway for entrance and exit to the three proposed house lots, thus depriving the school of their much needed car space.
Since Tashmoo Ave. is the only two-way street between Franklin and Main streets, for our entire town, already overburdened with all manner of cars, trucks, buses, etc. plus school traffic, there will be created, even greater mayhem than we neighbors already daily endure. The Greenough House, located at the comer of Main and Tashmoo and formerly a private home, was converted into apartments which increased traffic in the neighborhood in that already busy area of the town.
What becomes of the school's traffic? Will parents and staff, now deprived of their parking lot, be compelled to line both Main and Tashmoo with cars? What of hazardous conditions for the children? Or will the alternative scenario unfold.
The school, caught in an untenable position, will be compelled to seek Mr. Seasonwein's compassion by being granted purchase rights to a portion of his land, which they could then justifiably convert into two building lots, as would have the sufficient minimum space. With the subsequent funds, they could then relocate, adding two more home sites to the four under discussion at present. We neighbors would then find ourselves with the possibility of six, not just four, homes in this small but potentially densely packed area, plus new road and increased traffic problems. It becomes a nightmarish scenario in both cases.
Years ago Mr. Seasonwein wished to build condos in this area but the wave of protests from the neighbors and Vineyard Haven Yacht Club caused him to abandon his efforts. Sewage problems formerly plagued Owen Little Way as drainage from Main Street area flowed directly into the harbor and swimming area of the club plus the small adjacent town beach. Sewage odors also were frequent. There is also a drain-off pipe at the Locust Lane section on the rear of the Seasonwein property that will remain in place, even when sold as a building lot! What of the sewage ramifications? That area now has excessively dense growth owing to this pipe's water discharge.
The next meeting to discuss this proposal is to be held on Wednesday, Nov. 15. I urge all affected area townsfolk to come to the Tisbury Town Annex at approximately 8:30 pm to voice their concerns and questions concerning this proposal, which in my opinion will destroy forever what remains of a lovely section of Vineyard Haven.
Explore the WiFi options
To the Editor:
"WiFi coverage without towers," by Dan Cabot, in the Oct. 26 Times compels me to share a reminder that wireless networks are meant to be what they are, community-based infrastructure. It costs between $3 and $7 to build an antenna that connects to your neighbor's house. That's a one-time fee. It costs something like $30 to outfit a desktop computer to connect to a wireless network. That's a one-time fee. The expertise to maintain and expand and improve a community-based wireless network is valued in terms of time and effort, not money. Before the powers-that-be make a decision about phone, TV, radio, and Internet communications in your community, you should insist they explore the full range of options available, not just those that are controlled by corporate special interests. Hate mail can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles City, Iowa
To the Editor:
In our ongoing efforts to enhance support services for our students, the MVRHS Guidance Department has implemented a Peer Outreach Program.
It is common knowledge that when young people need help they typically seek out their friends for advice and support. Although friends do the best they can to help, many young people do not have the skills to recognize the potential seriousness of an issue or they might simply have incorrect information.
The goal of the Peer Outreach Program is to tap into the informal helping network that already exists among students. In September we passed out a survey in homeroom asking students to list 3 peers and 2 adults in the school, they feel they can talk with about issues they might be having. This gave us a broad list of students across different social circles.
On Sunday, Oct. 29 and Monday, Oct. 30, 44 students between grades nine through 12, along with eight faculty members were invited to participate in the first Peer Outreach training retreat. This extensive 14-hour training provided these students who are already serving as helpers with current and accurate information about the issues that most concern them; taught them the appropriate skills that will help them help their friends more effectively; and encouraged their involvement with their friends, their school, their families, and their community.
In addition to the retreat training, each Peer Outreach worker will participate in ongoing trainings throughout the school year. For these trainings, we will invite professionals from the community to educate these students in recognizing and addressing issues such as chemical abuse/dependency, depression and suicide, eating disorders, teen dating violence and sexual assault.
We would like to express our sincere thanks to the Alexandra MM Gagnon Foundation, which generously awarded us a grant to support this retreat and our ongoing training. We would also like to commend all 44 students and the faculty that participated in the retreat training. The combination of information they received, skills they developed and their overall involvement will allow the Peer Outreach Program to provide a comprehensive approach to help young people grow up healthy.
School Adjustment Counselor
Martha's Vineyard Regional High School
9th Grade: Sarah Hall, Brianna Buchanan, Thora-lee Tharin, Heather Welch, Alexandra Ferland, Marta Azzollini, Patrick Hart, Alex Dorr, Justin Mercier, Max Bradshaw, Cole Maciel Wingate.
10th Grade: Ana Carvallo, Kyle Mercaldo, Alexia Schroeder, Mallory Wyse, Holly Robinson, Jaime-Lynn Billings, Billy Reagan, Daniel Cuff, Alex Poole, Tye Stein, Beau Monast.
11th Grade: Lydia Fischer, Sophie Willey, Marcella Andrews, Julie Perry, Tessa Wall, Ramon Novias, Kenny Watkins, Jaoa Oliveria, Truman French, Matt Lucier.
12th Grade: Lainy Aristide, Amira Madison, Nina Butler, Kate Medieros, Evan Kavanaugh, Anna Markwica, Adam Herman, Taylor Pierce, Jon Nelson, Matt Scott, Sean Gilpin, Joe Jones.
Faculty: Mike McCarthy, Amy Lilavois, Shauna Nute, John Fiorito, Ena Thulin, Michelle Hogan, Jon Nelson, Jim Powell.
Delve more deeply
To the Editor:
It is so frustrating to see you all continually point in the direction of an interesting story, then fail to bring any depth to it. Chris Brokaw, who has fascinating business ties to the Island and whose music merges so many layers and themes, never becomes more than a laundry list of facts - and any insight into his creative process or journey would've made your coverage more meaningful. Obviously, space limitations are a factor, but if you're going to cover an artist, especially one trying to sell tickets on the Island, it helps the reader to have a sense of who and why. Maybe that's old-school, but I think that added dimension is the reason to read local, and hope that in the off-season, perhaps your writing talent could be given the room to delve into their pieces. I know I would've loved to have had that opportunity to know a bit more about the man and what drives his music.
Honoring our differences
To the Editor:
On Oct. 24, I was privileged to attend the opening ceremonies of the Edgartown School's annual United Nations Day. The entire school turned out on the front lawn, where students displayed flags they'd made to celebrate countries from all over the world.
School librarian Donna Lowell-Bettencourt introduced fifth grader Julia Cooper, whose classroom project on heredity motivated her to share some of what she had learned about her family heritage, her mom's family hailing from Greece and Ireland and her dad's from Italy and Sweden.
Julia was followed by Marilza Loubach, a native of Brazil and resident of Vineyard Haven, with three children in Island schools. Ms. Loubach, a frequent volunteer in our schools, was a teacher and school principal in Brazil. She said that her move here had been motivated by her desire to provide her children with an excellent education, an expanded world view and increased opportunities. She also shared the desperate circumstances faced by many of her countrymen before leaving Brazil, where they struggled to find work and to provide for their families. Ms. Loubach reminded us that we all have much to learn from each other and how in our mutual connections, we enrich all our lives.
I was especially moved by the reading by all assembled of the United Nations' "Declaration of the Rights of the Child" and the singing, led by music teacher Beth Carr, of "Peace in Twelve Languages".
This brief ceremony was an example to me of the strength of our Island's school community, of its commitment to the education and well-being of all our children and of the power and beauty of recognizing and honoring our differences.
Thank you and congratulations to the Edgartown School and its community.
English Language Learner Programs
Blog, no matter what
To the Editor:
Last month, we saw a big, new, shiny SUV in Managua with the bright yellow license plates of an NGO. It was a USAID vehicle. We asked the two men inside, what were the current projects for the USAID in Nicaragua. They said they were doing a study on poverty. Studying poverty from their new SUV!
Then we saw a Peace Corp vehicle, another big shiny new SUV. With hope, I asked what was the Peace Corp doing for projects in Nicaragua, and the two girls answered: studying poverty. Whew. Two more studies on poverty being made from new SUVs at the cost to you taxpayers of I believe about $44 million a year - to study poverty. USAID and Peace Corp share the same office in Managua.
That to me is the biggest flaw the United States has: all our millions go to support corruption and then the poor hate us. We turn a blind eye to this, which gives the illusion that we really do not care.
The United States gives billions in aid, does not monitor where it goes and then has to spend billions more putting down revolutions in the very countries that we thought we were helping. If we could just change this throwing away of our money, then things would be so much better. After decades of bad policy, I thought our leaders had figured this out by now.
It is all so simple. When we send money, we need to expect accountability for where every dime goes. That is much more cost-effective then trying to stop a revolution.
This year is election year in Nicaragua and there is much excitement, and a bit of chaos. Elections in a third world country are interesting. No matter what the outcome, I will not leave Nicaragua. I lived through Aleman and Bolanos and will live through whoever is elected next.
Maybe it is the same all over the world, but it amazes me that in a country filled with good people with so much to offer, only the incompetent or corrupt rise to be elected. I am talking about Nicaragua.
I have started a blog to keep anyone interested in what we are doing and what a former Islander in Nicaragua is going through.
I want to thank Al Devito of West Tisbury for his kindness in introducing me to the art of blogging. Hugs to all.
A vaccine warning
To the Editor:
This is a warning for all cat lovers who have or might have opted for the three-year rabies vaccine for their cats. Please note this applies only to the three-year vaccine.
My cat has just undergone major surgery at the injection sight for removal of a cancerous tumor. This vaccine causes cancer. I understand that this vaccine is still being administered even though it is known to cause this cancer.
I was not warned about the dangers and thought, sure, I'll save myself a few trips to the vet by getting a shot that's good for three years. If your cat has been injected with this vaccine, feel the hips or wherever they were injected for any lumps. My current vet warned me about the dangers, and fortunately I found a tiny pencil eraser sized lump very early. We have great hope that it will not recur, although I have been warned this is a very aggressive cancer.
My hope is that this vaccine will be taken off the market. If even only a few cats develop the cancer, it is too many!
A test for Edgartown
To the Editor:
The Edgargtown zoning Board hearing on the Good Co.'s Field Club application is now scheduled for Nov. 15 at 7:30 at Edgartown Town Hall. If you are concerned about this very significant project, plan to attend this hearing and let the zoning board know how you feel. Seasonal residents who may not be able to attend are encouraged to send in their written comments to the zoning board. Do we want this to be the future of Edgartown? Does a 500-membership exclusive club with its inevitable demands on services and its impact on traffic belong in the residential surroundings of Katama? Must the zoning board issue a special permit simply because the applicant can meet the much reduced standards which apply to non-profit applicants?
As a private club, the proposed project need only demonstrate that it won't adversely impact the neighborhood - vague and non-specific standards, to be sure. Could the authors of the zoning bylaws have anticipated development of this magnitude or did they anticipate clubs more like the Mattakessett Tennis Club or the American Legion hall on Katama Road? Let's be honest here. This will be an intrusive facility completely out of character with the surrounding neighborhoods, a facility that would be subject to much more demanding zoning standards had the applicant not filed as a nonprofit, despite the huge amounts of capital which this project will generate.
This application will test Edgartown's zoning laws and will determine the future of our town. Attend the hearing and be heard.
To the Editor:
As a recent transplant from New York to this breathtaking Island, I must say that my encounters with the local residents have been nothing short of outstanding and receptive. On Saturday, I attended an auction at the Portuguese-American Club for the benefit of the Minnesingers. To my dismay, in my excitement at the evening activities, I misplaced my cell-phone - my lifeline to work and home. Well, much to my delight, the finder contacted my family to inform them that I could retrieve the phone at the Oak Bluffs Police Department, which I did the following day. I wish to thank the finder who went out of their way to help me, and I sincerely appreciate such kindness. I also thank the Oak Buffs Police Department for their courteousness.
I would like to state that any trepidation that I may have had about relocating to this wonderful Island was certainly put to rest that day. Thank you all for welcoming me into your warmhearted community.
Barbara Morgan, R.N.
Martha's Vineyard Hospital
To the Editor:
Why have they taken trash receptacles from Oak Bluffs Ocean Park bus stops on both sides?