The duke would approve
At the bottom of the poster that the king and the duke created to lure a crowd to the swindle they had planned for some riverfront folk, the duke wrote, "Ladies and children not admitted."
"There," he said, surveying his handiwork, "if that line don't fetch them, I don't know Arkansaw!" This is all as reported by Huck.
If Huck were here today, he might recognize the handiwork of the duke in the efforts of Winn Davis, the Dukes County manager, to put the bite on FEMA to the tune of $511,000 to fill the breach in the Norton Point Beach caused by the nasty, week-long easterly storm earlier this month. Or, if filling it isn't the answer, maybe build a bridge over the new opening; or install a culvert in the opening, then fill over it; or something. But, here was a catastrophe that ought to be corrected.
To prick the interest of the FEMA folks, Mr. Davis, a proven mountebank though not on the scale of epic fiction, described in his preliminary FAXed appeal the new opening torn in the narrow neck of beach sand connecting Chappy and Edgartown as an "emergency exit for the 375 homeowners on Chappaquiddick in the event of fire ..."
Then, he said, "There if that line don't fetch them, I don't know FEMA."
Actually, Mr. Davis did not say this. But, he might as well have.
What Mr. Davis did was to move quickly on his own, without genuine or extensive consultation with people in a position to know better, to launch a silly idea. He did it without consulting his bosses, the Dukes County commissioners, who've had plenty over the years to be embarrassed about and don't need anything more. He passed off the limited consultation he did do as more extensive and supportive than it really was. And, when confronted by Trustees manager Chris Kennedy with the embroidery Mr. Davis had worked on his informational e-mail to county officials, Mr. Davis skirted the issue and emphasized the preliminary and hurried nature of the FEMA application. Plus, he said, FEMA and its Massachusetts counterpart MEMA might have no interest, might not even come to look.
No more than residents in any town or city in the nation, Islanders are not bashful about asking for grants in aid from federal and state authorities. But, common sense tells us that before asking, we ought to know what we're asking. Common sense and history tell us that Chappy is Chappy, and most folks use the ferry; that cuts through the beach east of Katama have happened before; that openings like this migrate; that they stay open for indefinite and unpredictable periods; that they do some good for the harbor; that they are exciting to see and talk about; that it's thrilling to watch nature modify the landscape; that doing anything about it is almost certainly fruitless. Just plain honesty might also tell us that FEMA's $511,000 might be better used elsewhere.