Letters to the Editor
Is it too late?
To the Editor:
Your editor has frequently noted the disconnect between Vineyarder's abstract appreciation for the needs of working class members of this community, and the often vociferous opposition from local citizens to specific efforts to address those needs. In his most recent editorial, your editor decries actions of some Chappaquiddick residents to thwart town-approved efforts to address the housing needs of a handful of deserving citizens. Recent news articles have enumerated opposition to other housing projects in Edgartown, Chilmark and Vineyard Haven; and we have every reason to expect that such reports will continue in the future.
Individual attitudes and community appreciation for the needs of less wealthy Islanders must be in agreement before the difficult problem of sustaining a diverse year-round community can be addressed concretely. Your editor notes that "[t]he champions of affordable housing...must become the champions of changes in zoning regulation...." Would that these words were published 30 years ago, and that forward-looking activists had heeded them.
At that time, the Vineyard community was still largely organized around several modestly autonomous towns. A large percentage of the citizenry lived quite close to a town center, and these centers boasted businesses and services which could meet much of the day-to-day needs of the residents. For many, trips to the grocery store, dry goods store, hardware store, lumber yard, laundromat, post office, places of work and worship, were short. For quite a few, these trips could be completed on foot or bicycle. Many of the properties were small and relatively inexpensive to maintain. The Vineyard featured a few densely populated areas amid a larger, largely undeveloped landscape.
Today the picture is very different. Roads, driveways and paths snake like vine tendrils across the Island land. There are precious few areas where roads public and private do not cut, bisect and disjoint the land into bitty parcels. Meanwhile, the useful town centers have dissolved as businesses catering to basic needs dispersed or disappeared. Reflecting attitudes of the day, zoning rules supported the increased reliance on automotive transportation, and development of disconnected large private properties, which contribute to the expense of contemporary life. Today, ever upward pressure on land development ensures that low-cost housing will remain elusive. Had thinkers of the time sought to retain the town centers, particularly focusing on the needs and contributions of lower income residents, the Vineyard of today might be much more favorably arranged for those individuals and families, and by extension, better arranged for the wealthiest folk as well,
Is it too late to effect meaningful changes that will support a diverse, multi-tiered society on Martha's Vineyard? Probably. The strength with which lawsuits are brought against even the most modest efforts to ensure a viable working class community here give us little confidence that the necessary far-reaching changes could ever be successful. Zoning regs must change, yes.
But first, individual expectations must change to support the grand, abstract ideas we so often hear expressed by well-intentioned community members.
There are, scattered around this country, a handful of community development thinkers, politicians, sociologists and so forth, who are reconsidering the notion of community centers, supplying the basic needs of residents in a confined but healthy environment. Some of these folk are looking at ways to redevelop some of the strip shopping malls that so blight the U.S. landscape. This approach seeks to turn such places into miniature villages, providing homes, shops, recreation areas, even schools and work centers, in a concentrated area. With thoughtful redesigning, these old malls could re-utilize the vast cavernous buildings and "open space" (parking lots!), creating zones which could be largely autonomous. Here, large private land holdings and personal automobiles are not absolutely necessary to ensure the welfare and happiness of residents. Local businesses and shops could provide much of the daily requirements of families; while easy access to roadways still makes access to the greater world easy. This approach arises from and extends the expectation that our homes are a wholesome center from which to reach out into the world; not a private holding from which we must sally forth almost hourly to satisfy our daily needs and wants.
True, the Vineyard does not yet sport strip-malls, exactly. But some thought will point up several areas where the notion of a mini-community might yet be put to practice. These areas could never house a large percentage of the Island's summertime population; but they might support the diversity of community that is so in danger here. High-density housing need not be a bad thing, if done tastefully, and with real thought given to multi-modal transportation. The devil is in the details, yes. But who will entertain the notion long enough to seriously consider the details?
Meanwhile, the pursuit of individual property rights will push land values higher and higher; while increasing costs of materials, fuels and labour will make life on this Island paradise ever more expensive. With no real attempt to limit such things as house and property size, non-resident ownership and material consumption, the Island community will continue to be sold to the highest bidders. Today, such attempts will be seen as an effrontery to personal freedom and the pursuit of happiness. Unless we as individuals come to see that our well-being is based on something other than market forces and the need to extract the highest monetary value from our personal holdings, even modest efforts to support the struggle of our middle class neighbors will fail. As for the sweeping changes needed to really make a difference, R.I.P.
To the Editor:
I take exception to Jacqueline Mendez-Diez's libelous attack on Land Bank director James Lengyel in her latest letter to the editor. In it, Ms. Mendez-Diez accuses Mr. Lengyel of deceitful conduct and insinuates all sorts of nefarious methods on his part. Her accusations are ridiculous.
I have represented the great town of Tisbury for 13-plus years on the Land Bank Commission, and I can say that James has had more to do with the Land Bank's success over those years than anyone has. He has been the utmost professional, and his superior administration makes our job easy. Furthermore, when negotiating purchases, he is always following the commission's direction. Not once has James ever exceeded those parameters.
If Ms. Mendez-Diez has a problem with the Land Bank, her criticism of staff is misdirected. The commissioners are the ones that make the decisions.
I would like to add that the commission as a whole very much enjoyed and appreciated The Times' New Year's editorial praising the Land Bank and its mission. Praise should also go to Martha's Vineyard voters who had the foresight to create the Land Bank years ago.
Happy New Year.
M.V. Land Bank Commission
To the Editor:
My sincere thanks to all who consider the needs of the hungry on Martha's Vineyard and respond by giving food or money to the Island Food Pantry. As best we can, we send thank-you notes. There are, however, many givers we cannot identify: the givers who place food in boxes at libraries, at markets, and at houses of worship, and the givers who place money in collection jars. To all the quiet, caring people who support our efforts, I express my deepest gratitude.
Island Food Pantry
To the Editor:
I was privileged to ring the Salvation Army bell on Saturdays in December.
The owner of Mardell's offered us the front of his store to stand because he said it was too windy and cold across the street. How about that for kindness.
Saturday, Dec. 23 was one of those wonderful days when everyone was so friendly toward each other. When people heard the bell ringing they would stop, smile and give a donation. People would tell me their experiences with the Salvation Army. Many would thank me for being there.
Youngsters coming down the street would dig deep in their pockets coming up with dimes, nickels and pennies. Many men would smile and open their wallets. Again people would thank me for being there. One man said that his sister told him not to buy presents and he put a roll of bills into the kettle. Everyone would smile and wish each other a Merry Christmas. There were times when people were bumping into each other to get to the kettle - again thanking me for being there. I will never forget this moment in time.
Oh yes, when I went back to my car I found a tin of homemade cookies my daughter had left me. It doesn't get any better than - this moment in time.
Casting call for kids
To the Editor:
Apprentice Players is a great acting program. You play games and put on shows. I went to it last fall, but only two other people showed up, so we had to cancel it. So, if you are a kid, and you like acting, maybe you can sign up.
Maddy Alley, Age 8
One too many
To the Editor:
Laura Wainwright had a humorous story in last week's Times about how she came to accept the fact that she needed glasses. After seeing the proofreader's mangling of my letter in the same issue, I think it may not be just Laura whose eyes are in need of assistance. The word "goose" was printed instead of good, "Fire" Corners in place of Five Corners, and "normal" instead of national. You can imagine how I cringed when I read the thing. I hope the other letter writers didn't fare as badly. Seeing how a few ill-placed typos can alter the intent and quality of a letter with no way of correcting it once it's in print is enough to make me dread writing another one.
However, since I submitted my letter just after New Year's, the problem might not have been the lack of glasses but perhaps a few too many of them.
No shelter. Why?
To the Editor:
Apparently my last letter to Oak Bluffs park commission fell on deaf ears. Nothing has been done about putting bus shelters by Ocean Park and across the street. Why?
Edwin (Ted) Dewing
To the Editor:
While searching for a local service in my neighboring village of Tisbury, the dreaded Google search brought up West Tisbury and Martha's Vineyard. I also saw that Chilmark was noted. You may be interested to know that I was brought up in the village of Teffont, 1.5 miles from Chilmark and two miles from Tisbury. Teffont was originally a Roman settlement (Teffont - "divided into two by a boundary stream") probably dating from the late third century AD, and the famous biographer and antiquarian John Aubrey (1626-97), as in "Aubrey's Brief Lives," commented upon the situation and fruitfulness of the Vineyards in Teffont - global warming indeed.
The Romans quarried stone in both Tisbury and Chilmark, and Tisbury was originally an Iron Age Hill Fort of 24 acres (c. 2,000 BC), although occupation is dated further back. In c. 704 AD the Synod of the Nadder (the local river where I used to play) was held at Tisbury and a young man who attended later became St. Boniface. The Saxon name Tisseburi means "Tisse's burh" (settlement). The stone from the Purbeck quarries between Chilmark and Teffont supplied all the stone for the Early English Salisbury Cathedral which at 404 feet is the second tallest spire in Europe, completed in 1380. I hope that this snippet may interest the readers in the "new" villages. Kind regards,
To the Editor:
How horribly selfish of the plaintiffs in the Chappy case of affordable housing lots. As I understand it, some of the plaintiffs involved have had the opportunity to build on the same type of substandard lots that were involved here. The Vineyard that we knew as kids is dead. Overrun by the very rich and greedy that we used to be able to escape from when we stepped off the Islander. Soon there will be no true "Islanders" left here, just the filthy rich who will be forced to bring their support staff with them.
Certainly, congratulations are in order for the "sub-standard lot" builders who have managed to get theirs built and prevent deserving young folks who want to raise their families and live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, from attaining their dream, all at the same time. What a wonderful thing it must be to have enough power to be able to crush someone's dreams by "legaling" them to death with your incredible wealth, lawyers, and a court system that caters to people with the means to drag it all out until the good people have no more financial means to fight back. You got yours and obviously that is all that matters to you. You apparently do not get the spirit of the Island. And last, but not least, shame to the seller of the land out from under the rightful new buyers for adhering to "it's all about the money."
Columbus, Ohio and Tisbury
So many helpers
To the Editor:
There are good reasons why the Tisbury Ambulance Association is the major sponsor of Last Night First Day. Primarily, we know how important it is for families to have healthy, safe and fun filled activities, and we want to support those opportunities on New Year's Eve. And, after putting aside the seed money to ensure that next year's celebration will happen, funds raised by this event will help our Ambulance Service be the best possible through enhanced training and equipment for its personnel and volunteers. We would like to thank button-buyers, fireworks cruise attendees and raffle entrants for their support of the Last Night First Day 2006/7 celebration.
We especially would like to recognize the numerous individuals and loyal local businesses that gave generous cash donations helping to underwrite this great family event. Our local businesses and citizens are asked to support many worthy causes and organizations. We recognize that and thank you for supporting Tisbury EMTs. We thank CR Pyro for the stunning fireworks show, entirely underwritten by Ernie Boch Jr. Thanks to the O.B. Fire Department and Chief Alley for keeping a close watch and to Steve Perlman of the Hanover House for housing the fireworks team. Thanks to New England Fast Ferry, the Tisbury Stop and Shop and its manager Sam Koohy, Sandy Pratt and Jeff Kristal for making the fireworks cruise so spectacular. Thanks to our button outlets - Bunch of Grapes, Mocha Mott's O.B. and V.H., Island Entertainment, Alley's, Cumberland Farms, The Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, MVOL, and Island Mini-Golf - for their assistance. Thanks to Richard Paradise and the Silver Screen Society for assisting us with our film showings. And a big welcome goes out to Outerland who joined us as a new venue this year.
Did you buy a raffle ticket? Well, Paul Watts bought the one that sends him and a friend courtesy of Cape Air to Boston to stay at the Hyatt Harborside Hotel and dine out at Troquet, right in the heart of Beantown.
We are indebted to Amy Williams at the MV Times for her support in compiling all our information in a clear and accurate manner for the Times Calendar section, as well as commissioning the artwork for our "Grease"? poster.
Our great partners at the Chamber of Commerce were totally supportive and professional in countless ways. MVOL carried all Last Night First Day information on its website. All of these organizations were supportive co-sponsors. Information was also carried by Adelphia, Plum TV, WMVY, and MVTV.
And last, but certainly not the least, a big hurrah for our talented entertainers: Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, JC Jazz, Maynard Silva, IMPers and IMPact, Mark Lovewell, Tristan Israel, the Belly Dance Review, Corinne de Langavant and friends, Nancy Jephcote and the Flying Elbows, and Lucy Vincent. They were made to feel at home at our host venues - the Katharine Cornell Theater, the Unitarian-Universalist Church, Vineyard Market and Deli, Sail MV, the New England Fast Ferry and our Welcome Center in the old Murray's Building.
And a final very special thank you to Tisbury businessman Jeff Kristal, a tireless fund-raiser and funnyman whose devotion to the Ambulance Association appears to be infinite. We love you, Jeff. 2007 is off to a great start. The Tisbury Volunteer Ambulance Service is too. Thanks to all of you.
Melinda Loberg and Jeffrey Pratt
To the Editor:
I opposed the invasion of Iraq, back in 2003. I'm against the occupation to impose democracy or resolve a civil war. Enough Iraqi civilians and American soldiers have died in this senseless conflict. Now President Bush intends to escalate the war with an increase of our military presence in Iraq.
I plan to march in the mobilization in Washington on Jan. 27. Will you join me?
Surprised and confused
To the Editor:
I was surprised to discover this New Year's that Oak Bluffs establishments were allowed to remain open, but were not allowed to sell alcohol, food, or have entertainment past the usual 12:30 am. This was unlike past years, where a one-hour waiver was in place. At 12:30 am, a flood of revelers quickly made their way to Edgartown, where service continued until 1:30 am.
I found it confusing that Oak Bluffs would not allow the bars and restaurants to stay open with the ability to serve alcohol, as in Edgartown. Who could expect patrons to stay in Oak Bluffs establishments with no food, drink or entertainment, when the party continued elsewhere? While I wished to stay in
Oak Bluffs, I was tempted into a treacherous late night cab ride amongst the numerous vehicles heading to Edgartown on Beach Road.
The right thing to do is to ensure consistency of policy among Island towns. If such a disparity in policy exists in future years, myself and many others will simply take our business out of Oak Bluffs.
Upgrade, with help
To the Editor:
To all whom this may concern, there is a wonderful grant offered to Cape and Islands residents called T.R.I. that can help people to upgrade their homes to code when they cannot afford to upgrade them themselves. Call your town government and ask about the T.R.I. grant. They have helped me so much and can help others. All it takes is a phone call, and application is at no cost to you. This is a wonderful grant.
June L. Leon
Learning, not testing
To the Editor:
Hurray for the work of Dr. Mel Levine, an expert on children's learning through the neurological framework of the human brain and current research that says we come into this world with our own individual "tool kit" of neurological receptors that are designed to promote learning.
At his conference Saturday at the Regional High School, it seemed that all the Island's educators were there listening to Dr. Levine's insights on how to help children learn by recognizing and utilizing their neurological "tools." He pointed out that some neural pathways are flexible and changeable in the years between 16 and 35 and that children who don't do well in certain areas of learning may become masters at it in their later years. While children who are labeled high academic learners now may have great difficulty when they find themselves needing other knowledge to function successfully in the workplace later on.
Dr. Levine emphasized that teachers can learn to see that a child's behavior and apparent learning struggles reveal what is in his/her "tool box." Teachers can then strengthen the child's learning of school material through allowing him/her to use what's in his/her "tool box" to learn it. This goes beyond the superficial outlook of allowing children to do "fun" projects.
Now think about how in this age of MCAS, where there is a focus on creating high academic achievers and frequent, generalized testing to monitor it, causing the time constraints allotted in the hours of school to be beyond maxed out. Schools seem to have responded with more homework and after-school homework clubs. Many upper class families also want their children to be high achievers and sacrifice family leisure, as well as religious activities in order to meet the demands of homework. While the lower class strive to meet these demands and increased pressure to enroll kids in extra-curricular after-school activities.
I think it's time schools re-assess their system of class work and homework and their goals for learning, and prioritize what they should be teaching. Also include the parents in some creative problem solving addressing these issues of time. I am very proud of the Tisbury school for taking the first steps to do such as that; by taking a look at improving the school handbook. Also in creating a school health committee, and the principal's willingness to stand by academic goals while at the same time listening to the concerns of parents clarifying a team responsibility between school and home. I feel that all schools should consider assigning some kind of a task force to access the negative affects to scheduling that MCAS is having on their school.
I believe it's time for teachers and parents to take an honest look at what's at stake and take back control of our children's education and well-being. Testing is taking away from learning time.
Embrace the arts
To the Editor:
I recently returned to the Island to enjoy the First Night celebrations and visit with some old friends. During my visit I happened to pick up a copy of the MV Times and stumbled upon an article concerning Edgartown School. I have to say, that for someone who taught in Edgartown for 19 years and who built the choral and general music programs, I was very disturbed by what I read.
I am truly baffled as to how the education community could allow the overreaction to a few percentage points on a standardized mathematics test to completely disrupt every curriculum that the school has to offer. It is my understanding that the school's mission is to serve the whole child. Has that changed? It also bothers me to hear a professional educator refer to other subject areas, music in particular, as "frills."
So, in response, I offer the following. This information can be accessed on the MENC (Music Educators National Conference) web site. Arts education leads to cognitive and basic skills development, which in turn leads to an increase in academic learning. Careful research has shown that music students hold higher grade point averages, achieving higher scores on their SATs. Students who study music develop faster physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. In one particular study, children who had received school keyboard music lessons scored higher in mathematics and history than students not in the program, although their IQ scores were no higher than the other students' (ESEA 1969).
Brain research shows that music and arts activities develop the intellect. Did you know that music majors have the highest rate of admittance to medical school, higher than any other subject area including biochemistry, chemistry and physics? Another report disclosed the fact that the foremost technical designers and engineers in Silicon Valley are almost all practicing musicians. A third report reveals that the schools who produced the highest academic achievement in the United States today are spending 20 to 30 percent of the day on the arts, with special emphasis on music. A study in Rhode Island published in the May 23, 1996, issue of Nature reported that first-graders who participated in special music classes as part of an arts study saw their reading skills and math proficiency increase dramatically. Students who studied music appreciation scored 46 points higher on the math portion of the SAT in 1995, and 39 points higher if they had music performance experiences, than those without music education.
When I taught at Edgartown, I once did some research on the students who were consistently involved in my choral programs. Close to 90 percent of those students had achieved and maintained honor role status. In the New Hampshire high school where I am working today, the same percentages hold true. My students are members of the National Honor Society, student council, the recipients of numerous academic awards, are consistently accepted into some of the top colleges and universities in the country; they are strong peer leaders, and are deeply involved in community service. This is no coincidence. I always shake my head in disbelief whenever I hear of a school system that is cutting the arts in order to raise test scores.
To the educators at Edgartown School, I would advise, if you truly want to raise the academic achievement of your students, then you may want to reconsider your decision. Embrace the arts. They play a critical role in a child's development.
David M. Wilson
Bless you all
To the Editor:
Thank you, paramedic Tony White and EMT Stephanie Andrade. My dear family and also my dear friends, for cards, prayers and help. God bless.