Can we be saved?
Your spirits, like mine, will be up this morning. We may be able to save this place. Things are happening, good things. And I don't mean the Martha's Vineyard Commission's Island planning process. Fortunately, life goes on here, blissfully unplanned in most important respects.
I have thought for a while that zoning rules, health rules, subdivision rules, conservation rules, Martha's Vineyard Commission rules, endangered species rules, water conservation rules, setback rules, parking rules, pesticide rules, herbicide rules, smoking rules, Jet Ski rules, low-fat rules, moped rules, and other rules I've not the space to mention have not, acting in concert, been sufficient to turn back the tide of life itself. We, the people, continue to do things, and to make our homely little plans, our sensible, carefully budgeted plans, our determined, profit-making plans, our careful, family-centered plans to do other things that evade or outrun or overrun the rules and the rule-makers.
Witness the news this morning about Martha's Vineyard Hospital. Not only have its leaders led it to financial soundness - admittedly precarious, but give credit where it's due - but they've figured out how much they might spend for a needed new hospital, designed it carefully, figured what it would cost, raised the money to build it, and weathered the Martha's Vineyard Commission's nattering, meandering, time-consuming, ultimately profit-less, indulgent, predatory development of regional impact review ordeal. Now, the hospital can build and pay for its new building.
And, the other news today, that the hospital has also agreed to affiliate itself corporately and medically with Partners HealthCare and its Massachusetts General Hospital unit. Thankfully, this decision did not require MVC review, but it awaits state approval, possibly next week.
It may be that the combination of hard-working, forward-looking people who get a break now and then, as the hospital has (and us into the bargain), may yet be able to save ourselves from an ugly descent into the quicksand of rules and regional plans. As long as we, the unpredictable people, keep at it. As long as we outnumber the rule-makers and out-think them, leaving them a league or two in our wakes, we may win in the end.
What we have to guard against is the possibility that the planners may, in extremis, resort to bad news.
I know that everyone says he hopes for good news. That's why the newspaper business is always under fire for publishing too much bad news. Critics say newspaper people like bad news because its sells newspapers. Well, sure, but by that logic, and proven by scientific study whose results were recently made public, it's the readers who gobble up the bad news, isn't it? Anyway, the anti-bad news movement in the newspaper business has gone so far as to suggest that newspapers should publish stories that encourage good things to happen, so that good news will result, and then stories about the good news will fill the gaping columns in each week's edition. You could argue that that's what happened this week.
But, perversely, you could also argue and lament, as some inexplicably do, that good news attracts, inspires, encourages. That could be bad. Better that we tout the bad news. That could be good. I mean, in the planning sense, you understand, not in any particular, individual human sense.
For instance, for years we've counted on ticks to do the job of discouraging tourism. The mere nuisance of them, never mind the medical complications, is enough to put almost anyone off. But it's clear that it hasn't worked. Visitors persist. They move in. We, who ought to know better, persist.
We might have thought the diseases associated with ticks - Lyme, babesiosis - would have discouraged some of the braver ones who said, in effect, to hell with these pesky ticks. But, no.
The Island's rodents have pitched in with tularemia, and you would have thought news of the threat of that sort of infection would have spoiled the place a bit for the visiting, and even the dwelling, hordes. Nope.
Not that anyone hoped that visitors would contract these diseases. Not a bit. And now, wouldn't you know it, we'll have a new, large hospital, impeccably connected, to treat the victims. But some folks, enamored of even the nastiest of God's critters, have taken note of the, well, reverse publicity value they offer as semi-hidden dissuaders. Wouldn't want to harm such valuable pests.
Plus, what about West Nile virus, or that great white shark of a few years ago. All bad news, I suppose. You don't want to think about disease-ridden ticks, rodents, and insects, or hungry great white sharks browsing for a meal in Vineyard Sound. No, indeed, you don't.
Maybe one of them could become a sort of perverse Martha's Vineyard mascot, the symbol of what's awaiting visitors or new residents of the Island where the stars vacation. Besides high prices, I mean.
Depending on your point of view, this hospital good news may be bad news, and all that tick-rodent-shark news may be good. It defies common sense, I know, but don't dismiss it.