Two vie for Tisbury selectman's seat
The contest for a seat on the Tisbury board of selectmen is between incumbent Tristan Israel and Jeff Kristal. Voters will go to the polls on Tuesday, April 24, at the American Legion Hall in Vineyard Haven from noon to 8 pm.
Both candidates are self-employed businessmen. Mr. Israel is a landscaper, Mr. Kristal an innkeeper.
Mr. Israel has served on the board of selectmen for 12 years and on various town boards. He is also an elected member of the Dukes County commissioner and the Dukes County Charter Study Commission, a formal body asked to examine and possibly change or abolish county government.
Tristan Israel. Photos by Ralph Stewart
Mr. Kristal also brings a history of involvement in town affairs and government to his candidacy. He is a former president of the Tisbury Business Association and serves on the Dukes County Charter Study Commission.
This week the Times asked both candidates to respond by e-mail to a series of questions in no more than 500 words.
1. Why did you decide to run?
Mr. Kristal: Along with my wife, Jynell, and our two children, Evan and Emma, we own and manage the Crocker House Inn off of Main Street. For several years, I was the president of the Tisbury Business Association and became active in town affairs with a focus towards making a better life for our family. I have remained active in town affairs and within the business community and have often fostered relationships and ultimately partnerships to benefit the town. We moved to this island because of the unique characteristics that are present in an island community and wish to retain that character while enhancing our way of life.
I believe it's important for people to step forward in any way that they can.
In the past I have stepped up in various roles within the town. I have sat on the revenue enhancement board, the police chief search committee, the police advisory board, and the Main Street review committee. I currently serve as the chairman of the zoning board of appeals and an elected member of the Dukes County Charter Study Commission. Change is needed to foster and promote new ideas as we face some tough challenges ahead of us and I believe I am the right candidate to assist the board in these times.
Mr. Israel: I am running for reelection because I still have the same passion and energy to serve that I had when I first ran for the Board of Selectmen and I have the experience and practical knowledge to get things done.
2. What skills do you bring to the office of selectman?
Mr. Kristal: I would bring the same leadership skills I have brought to the Zoning Board of Appeals, to the business I co-own with my spouse and to my every day thinking. That is a well-informed, educated decisiveness, one that understands the synergy needed between the private and public sector along with planning and effective communication.
Mr. Israel: I have a good understanding of how our government works and how to coordinate intra-departmental efforts having served on many boards and committees. I have a working knowledge of the issues that affect Tisbury's citizens. I run my own business. I listen to the concerns that are voiced and encourage viable solutions.
3. How would you improve town government? Please provide two examples.
Mr. Kristal: Improving town government should always be a transparent process. Improving on the process of appointments, specifically self-appointments, and bringing new people to the table for possible appointments would be essential in improving town government. Ideas, energy, and good positive change should come from the people and not just brought to the people. I'm all about the vision and not the view. Looking ahead, making the tough thought-out decisions that benefit the town, and being proactive and not reactive.
Mr. Israel: I would like an in-depth self-evaluation by the town to see if we are managing our government and our resources in the best way possible. We had a Blue Ribbon Committee, which did this in the early '90s, and there is much we can still glean from their reports, but we are a decade down the road and a fresh look would be fruitful.
Tisbury's governmental entities are spread out over a wide area of town and that has been an impediment to doing municipal business efficiently. This layout makes it unwieldy for the public and in particular the elderly as well as for town employees to conduct daily commerce. We need to look at the physical infrastructure and plan for a more consolidated approach. This also must include a modern communications network that connects all the phone and computer systems seamlessly.
4. The election ballot includes a proposition 2.5 override. What ideas do you have for easing the upward pressure on property
Mr. Kristal: While spending on critical services, EMS, police, fire, schools, etc., is paramount in maintaining a high quality of life in Tisbury, the necessary money should come from our town's future economic growth, not from tax increases.
Higher taxes are one of the biggest barriers to expanding jobs. A strategic economic development plan should be initiated to keep Tisbury competitive while managing Tisbury's physical growth, thus enhancing our tax base.
Mr. Israel: Tisbury's bond rating has just been increased. Our town is solvent, but we need to put the brakes on some of our spending habits. That is why the Board of Selectmen worked with the Finance Committee to develop this year's policy of putting most items over $10,000 on an override ballot. This allows the voters a chance to make value judgments and decide what they want or don't want to invest their dollars in.
The Embarkation Fee has been a welcome source of revenue as is the financial contributions we are receiving from Stop and Shop to help fund the renovation and maintenance of the Water Street Parking Lot. I was involved in the efforts to garner both of these.
Looking at creative ways to cut health insurance costs while not skimping on care can have a substantial impact on our town's finances. We are already offering a new plan that will save money and not reduce services.
Improving our ability to bring in grant money is vital. Looking at our fee structures and offering more amenities to the boating public are some other revenue-generating avenues. Cooperating regionally on primary services where it makes sense and where we can equitably share the costs incurred also has major savings potential as well as operational benefits. Most important is to encourage the participation of the public so that creative ideas can be put on the table by them and implemented when feasible.