Letters to the Editor
The book itself
To the Editor:
I am writing in regards to the July 19 article entitled "There's Something About Harry." Although the article provided sufficient information about the local fanfare for the release of the final Harry Potter novel, I found it disconcerting to read such a lame comparison of the two main book release parties held by bookstores in Vineyard Haven (Riley's Reads and Bunch of Grapes).
Instead of writing about the difference in 'atmosphere' of the parties, the writer should have made a greater effort to discuss the significance of the book itself as a part of a national literary phenomenon. To inspire unnecessary tension between two honest venues of book selling seems trivial and unprofessional in my opinion. In reality, more effort should be placed into addressing a desire to read among the youth, which is a far more meaningful quest for finding "all the news that's fit to print," as suggested by the infamous NY Times byline.
In particular, it would be best to remark on the positive qualities that all local bookstores have to offer, as opposed to catering to larger corporate interests, who tend to care less about what material your children are reading and more time on how to market products to them. In the future, please make a stronger stance on promoting all events equally, so that your readers can be ensured that all truths being placed forth by this newspaper are truly evident and consistent.
To the Editor:
As a member of the Oak Bluffs Finance and Advisory committee I am very interested in how assessments are divvied up and sent to the towns by the various Island-wide agencies such as the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority, the Vineyard Transit Authority, Dukes County, and the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School. So my interest perked up when I read your news brief, "Public asked to weigh in on Dukes County Budget" in last week's Times.
The article says, "Taxpayers may be interested in a revised state formula under which Aquinnah and Chilmark taxpayers will pay less for county government in fiscal 2008. Their counterparts in West Tisbury, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Tisbury will pay more."
I wondered, "Why has the formula for distributing the county assessments been revised? Who changed it? What changes did they make? And why didn't we know about it before? Were Representative Eric Turkington and Senator Robert O'Leary asleep at the switch?"
The formula in question is very fair and simple and has been durable, perhaps because it is so fair and simple. Each town, including Gosnold, gets an assessment bill from the county based on that town's proportion of total property value in the county. If your town's proportion goes up or down from year to year, your town's assessment goes up or down. That's the formula.
As the taxing and accounting processes work out, this formula means that all property owners in the county contribute to county government at the same rate. Wherever you live, however much property you have, you support the county using the same tax rate. It does not matter whether, in a particular budget cycle, you had a bigger or smaller need for county services. The assumption is that the county is there for all of us, and we contribute according to our ability to pay. My experience is that people are willing to pay taxes raised this way, providing, of course, that they are used wisely.
So I wondered again about the revisions and where they came from. What was going on? I called County Commissioner Paul Strauss. He didn't know of any formula revision. I called Noreen Flanders, County Treasurer. She assured me that there was no formula change. The formula was simply responding to fluctuations in equalized evaluation among the towns - as it was designed to do.
For the record
To the editor:
Recently both Island newspapers carried news stories referencing the Tisbury selectmen's July 24 decision not to re appoint Daniel Seidman to a one year term on the zoning board of appeals (ZBA). Mr. Seidman was an associate member of the Tisbury ZBA and, coincidentally, in his capacity as a private citizen, he had also appealed a Tisbury ZBA decision (in which he did not participate as a member) that denied his request for a special permit to keep his daughter's pet rooster, Chickie, on his property.
Upon reading the two news stories last week (and subsequently viewing the MVTV broadcast of the selectmen's July 24 meeting), I was surprised to find the representation made and repeated several times that ZBA members have hard feelings because Mr. Seidman identified both the Tisbury ZBA and its individual members as parties in his appeal. While it is true as a technical matter that Mr. Seidman's appeal does name the ZBA and its members, the allegation that Mr. Seidman is suing these individuals is a misleading characterization of the sum and substance of his appeal. In fact, Massachusetts law provides for the formality of naming the ZBA and all of its individual members as defendants in judicial appeals of ZBA decisions. But the naming of the members in addition to the ZBA is merely a formality, and as Mr. Seidman's appeal expressly states in his complaint, these individuals were named solely in their capacity as members of the ZBA. Mr. Seidman is not suing them in any way as individual citizens.
In fact, Mr. Seidman's appeal has just one purpose, and that is to challenge the ZBA's decision to deny his special permit application to keep his daughter's pet rooster on his property. When the ZBA voted in January 2007 to deny Mr. Seidman's special permit application, a significant part of the rationale expressed by the ZBA members at that time was their incorrect belief that the Tisbury ZBA had never previously granted a special permit to keep roosters on property zoned for residential use. Upon subsequent review of the ZBA records, however, it became evident that the exact opposite was true, and that the ZBA granted a special permit each of the three previous times an application for a special permit to keep roosters had been submitted (i.e., once each in 1987, 2000 and 2001), and had never previously denied a special permit application to keep roosters. As there was no reason to treat Mr. Seidman's application differently than those other applications, and as it appears the ZBA's January 2007 decision was substantially based on an incorrect belief about its previous rulings and precedent, Mr. Seidman's appeal simply seeks to have his application treated fairly and in a manner consistent with all of the ZBA's previous rulings.
What lies at the heart of the friction now surfacing, and the resultant effort to oust Mr. Seidman from the ZBA, seems to be an effort to punish him for exercising his right to appeal the ZBA decision. While Mr. Seidman had hoped that any disagreement with fellow ZBA members about the merits of his appeal would be dispassionate and not lead to disagreeable interactions, he now finds that he has been mischaracterized as someone who sued them personally, and that the mischaracterization of his appeal was used to argue that he should not be re appointed to serve on the ZBA. As the attorney handling Mr. Seidman's appeal, I think it is important to set the record straight.
T. George Davis
To the Editor:
Here we are already solidly in August. The kids have come and gone and summer is running past. For those of us living the Heaven on Earth life - defined as Social Security, Medicare, and the senior discount at Shirley's - this is a time for thinking on what we have seen in our lifetime, what we may never live to see, and what are the world's major problems.
We have seen the wheel go from one of two on a one-speed bike to a computer controlled, anti-skid, run-flat device capable of working together with its three companions to parallel park. Fire has gone from being created by the two sticks a boy scout rubbed together to something that appears by remote control in a $7,500 stainless steel barbecue grill with built-in wine cooler.
I was reminded of the things we might never see when I overheard one WWII vet comment recently. He said, "Good thing General Patton wasn't depending on the Mass Highway Department to get his tanks across the Rhine River or the war would still be going on." According to my encyclopedia the Brooklyn Bridge was built in 14 years with a center span of over 1,500 feet. Bridge building technology has certainly not improved. Yes, I doubt many of us will see the new drawbridge. Probably won't see any of the other new bridges either. Odds probably favor being around for the new Hospital as they are going right to work on that.
As one Island newspaper discovered recently one of the world's major problems is the high cost of living on Martha's Vineyard. While in Seattle a few months ago at my son's wedding I had my new Seattle area in-laws rolling on the floor as I tried to explain the Steamship Authority to them and prices and reservation policies. They said they hadn't heard such stories since Paul Bunyan fables when they were growing up.
Clearly the high living cost here is attributable to the ferry prices. I have to spend several hundred dollars off-Island to save the ferry ticket price. If the prices were lower everything on the island would be lower. The 1960s business model is broken. Let's start to change. Why not lottery scratch ticket dispensers in the terminals? They are in state tourist rest stops. Why not Keno in the terminals or even on the boats? Lots of money. The state has already said that these activities are not immoral. And boldest of all, why not slot machines on the big boats? They only turn on when the beer light goes on. That should help keep fares down and if we have a lucky trip it will be a free shopping binge at Kappy's. Finally, how about grabbing some state highway funds like every other public transportation system in the country.
As an aside, is the Vineyard Gazette secretly in collusion with the SSA to make the distance more impressive? Why does the masthead of the Gazette say "seven miles off southeast coast of Mass..."? A map and a piece of paper suggests 3.2 miles or so is correct.
It sure is great to lean back in this earthly heaven and let the young folk do all the work.
To the Editor:
While I certainly look forward to the dialog in the Letters to the Editor section, I don't usually think it is the best place for discussion of policy. But Kelly Wheeler's August 2 letter regarding 40B development and Habitat for Humanity begs for a response. As a Habitat volunteer here and elsewhere for a number of years, I cannot let the issues she raises go unaddressed. To be clear, this letter represents my personal views, and not those of Habitat for Humanity International or Habitat for Humanity of Martha's Vineyard.
HFH is well known for its ability to enable the construction of affordable homes at very low cost, while engaging the homeowner in an amazing process (requiring "sweat equity" as well as mortgage payments) that encourages pride of ownership, and an appreciation for the realities of construction and home ownership. The process fosters a real sense of community. As has been seen recently in the wake of Katrina and elsewhere, Habitat is capable of mobilizing great numbers of people to assist in providing housing for hundreds of people in a relatively short time. Where land is available HFH constructs multiple units.
It would be fabulous if Habitat here on the Vineyard (HFHMV) could provide multiple homes simultaneously. Unfortunately on this island, land values are out of sight (from the perspective of most people) and acquiring property is far from easy. Contrary to what may be believed, HFH doesn't just buy land on the open market as it needs. The land, as well as most of the labor and material is donated or acquired at significant discount. The purchases that are necessary are achieved using funds raised for that purpose.
To vilify Habitat for utilizing existing regulations to benefit a genuinely qualified family is simply absurd. Ms. Wheeler would do better to familiarize herself with Habitat's mission and methods before casting aspersions. Locally, HFHMV's selection process is legal (conforming to Fair Housing regulations), careful, blind, and fully approved by the parent organization. Unfortunately, of dozens of qualified applicants only one can be selected at a time. (With regard to Kelly's allegations about Habitat's selection process, I wonder how many of her "qualified" neighbors have actually applied to Habitat or any of the other affordable housing programs available on the Island).
Kelly is 100 percent right that the 40B chapter of Massachusetts laws is used to create housing in defiance of local zoning. If you read the law, it states just that; with the exception of health and safety issues, the local laws are to be set aside in consideration of housing those who can't otherwise afford to buy or rent. The law itself states the formula under which a potential homeowner qualifies.
But Kelly is totally wrong to blame Habitat - or anyone else using 40B to provide affordable housing. Habitat and the developers using 40B to build are only following their mission statements. If there is a fault, it lies with the local authorities, and to the extent that we elect them, with us the citizens. The 40B law was not created recently, or even this century. It's over 30 years old. Reading the law, my interpretation (with which I find some agreement in the affordable housing community) is that its intent was and is to enable municipalities to plan for and provide affordable housing in an organized way. The intent was to allow local laws to be set aside in favor of affordable housing, with an eye to the multi-unit concept Kelly cites - as long as at least 25 percent of the development is affordable. In fact, while perhaps aimed at multi-unit development, 40B nowhere negates its use for a single dwelling.
I have been in a similar position to Kelly's, having spent the early part of this year fighting back against a 40B project around the corner from my house. Our neighbors and the abutters were "up in arms" too, as two huge market-rate homes were proposed (and ultimately approved with some mitigation) along with two affordable units. This all on a 14,970-square-foot (SF) lot in a zone requiring 10,000 SF for a single home. I too was angry at the applicant developer. In the end, the developer is getting his project, albeit slightly scaled back. The neighborhood is far from pleased. I for one would have welcomed all four units being affordable, had the large ones been scaled back.
But there is a difference - the developer and others like him will make a real profit from their projects; HFH will only gain by having helped to house one more deserving family.
There are two ways we as a community can avoid the "scourge" of independent 40B development. When a town has provided 10 percent of its housing stock at an affordable level (according to Mass Housing rules, using an 80 percent median income formula) it may reject any 40B project out of hand. The other possibility is for the town to be able to demonstrate steady movement toward that 10 percent goal by increasing affordable stock at the rate of 1 percent per year. In order to meet state requirements on this count, the town must also have a formal affordable housing plan filed with the state.
To date, no town on Martha's Vineyard has filed such a plan, although real constructive progress has been made. For a number of years now, everyone has been speaking vociferously and eloquently of the need for affordable housing. Yet, the reality is that an available remedy to control our own destiny is not in place, as 40B developers "assault" us. Looked at from the perspective of the 40B authors, the 40B mechanism IS working - those municipalities that don't act timely in their own future interest suffer the consequences permitted by 40B - independent developers who have only their own interests at the top of their list.
I generally have minimal respect for those politicians who sit far away and promulgate laws with little knowledge of the effect on individuals - but in this case, our representatives 30+ years ago may well have been more visionary than those of today. Of course, another solution to the need for housing is reducing the population - hardly likely in the foreseeable future.
Ms. Wheeler apparently has her own answer. She states "if people cannot afford a home here, perhaps that is a sign for change." Again, she is right - but I suspect not in the way she intends. The people who would have all those who cannot afford a home here simply go elsewhere would eventually deprive themselves and the Island of teachers, nurses, firefighters, store clerks, haircutters, wait-staff and all the less visible people who comprise the real fabric of a community and make it work day in and day out. I guess improvement for the good of all is not on some people's agenda.
The many affordable housing entities (as well as the many other non-profits) on the Vineyard have been working hard to help all those in need and save this island from completely losing its diversity and becoming a haven only for the rich. There's plenty more to do, but we all have to recognize and get comfortable with the reality that more people = more housing needs and therefore greater density. NIMBY ("Not In My Back Yard") only serves to promote isolation and polarization. With that in mind, the Kelly Wheelers of the world need to be educated.
A great success
To the Editor:
Every year one of the premier Vineyard fundraising events is held at the Field Gallery. The Vineyard Nursing Association's recent annual clambake was a resounding success again this year, as auctioneers Lenny Clarke and Kenny Goldberg entertained the sold-out audience at the same time as they enticed the crowd to participate in some very spirited bidding. A lunch with Walter Cronkite on his sailboat garnered the highest bid of the evening.
But beyond the auction, this event has become a wonderful community event supported by year-round and part-time Islanders with equal zest. These Islanders recognize the need to support the home-care efforts of the Vineyard Nursing Association as we help over 1,300 Vineyard families every year. We thank all those in our community who attended and help make this event very successful.
Also, everyone at the Vineyard Nursing Association knows the tremendous effort that it takes to stage this event and I would like to thank all the wonderful people and generous businesses that help make the event possible.
Special thanks to Eddie Fantasia and his family who, by sharing their personal experiences, helped the audience understand how truly valuable, worthy, and necessary are the skills that the Vineyard Nursing Association brings to families on the Vineyard; Chris and Sheila Morse who graciously provide the venue at the Field Gallery every year; Lenny Clarke and Kenny Goldberg, who lent their auctioneering skills and good humor again this year; the Vineyard Sound a cappella group and the Dukes County Jazz band who supplied the musical entertainment for the evening; the Martha's Vineyard Clambake Company, Our Market, Sweet Life Café, Chilmark Spring Water Company, Cash and Carry, the Scottish Bakehouse, and Brian and Noreen Flanders all of whom supplied various food, beverages, and desserts; Jacquelyn Schuman, Bardwell Electronics, Rosbeck Builders, Cronig's Market and Allied Waste Services, individuals and businesses that helped underwrite the event; all the individuals and businesses that donated their skills and merchandise to make the silent and live auctions possible.
And, as the CEO of the Vineyard Nursing Association, I want to personally thank the members of the clambake committee, all volunteers, for the time and effort that they put into the planning for this event. However, I would be remiss if I didn't especially thank Kristin Buck, our development director, whose tireless efforts day and night, weekends included, pulled all this together and provided for all of us a wonderful and successful evening.
Thank you to all.
Vineyard Nursing Association
To the Editor:
The Fish Farm for Haiti Project held its annual yard sale Saturday, July 14, in Edgartown. Again, it was a success. Our great volunteer staff worked from 6:30 am to 4:30 pm. We extend huge thanks to them as well as to the assistance of the Federated Church, and to all those who donated treasured items. Lifesaver of the Year Award goes to the family that donated the space and storage for the sale. These kindnesses are beyond our mere thanks.
One hundred percent of the proceeds from the yard sale and our other events benefit the poor and needy of Haiti.
We extend an invitation to our next fund-raising event, the Haitian Art Sale Benefit, to be held Aug. 24-26, at Featherstone Center for the Arts. Please come join us as in this island-to-island outreach.
A big hand for you
To the Editor;
I must report that on the weekend of July 6-8, I saw an example of volunteerism at its very best.
Sail Martha's Vineyard is a non-profit organization committed to teaching Island kids for free and to preserving the Island's maritime heritage. We have only one full-time, year-round employee. It was extraordinary to think that the second Vineyard Cup and Seafaring Festival Weekend was essentially organized, orchestrated, and beautifully accomplished by all volunteers. Again, this was the Vineyard community at its best: parents, kids, board members, members, passers-by, vendors, entertainers, racers, rowers, windsurfers all joining in to create a fantastic, fun, fund-raising weekend. Incredible!
For 16 years, Sail Martha's Vineyard's Seafood Buffet and Auction has been the major source for our operational costs. In 2006, we created the Vineyard Cup and Seafaring Festival Weekend to increase our fund-raising ability to better provide for our programs. Each event in the weekend benefited the organization and brought additional awareness about who we are and what we do.
Vineyard Vines was again our presenting sponsor, and we are ever grateful to them. Additional event sponsors were the Harbor View Hotel, Cross Current, Pearson Composites, Great Harbor Realty, WindPath, Golf Course Home Style.net, Martha's Vineyard Shipyard, Nestle Waters, Quantum, Sharky's, and Offshore Ale. We are tremendously thankful for their support.
We thank members at our corporate level: DeSorcy Company, MVTimes, Our Market, and RM Packer Company.
Our volunteer marketing/ publicity committee were Barbara Oberfest, Geoff Currier, James Hale, Sara Bell, and Thayer Whipple.
Wendy LeRoux ordered merchandise. Rick Brew oversaw facilities. Skip Tomassian provided his boat and time for Vineyard Cup photographer Louisa Gould.
Nevin Sayre and the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club hosted and organized the NE Jr. Windsurfing Championships.
Sandra Kingston chaired the Gig Rowing Competitions. The Lobergs and Parrishes offered the use of their beaches for the rowing festivities.
Brock Callen, Phil Hale, John Amabile, Eric Bates, Charlie Blair, Don Cohan, Dan Culkin, Harry Duane, Bob Jewett, Jim Pringle, Hugh Schwarz, Alan and Joanne Sgroi, George Keisewetter, and Jay Wilbur organized the Vineyard Cup Regatta.
The race committee consisted of Ned Brooks, Brock Callen, Harry Duane, Charlie Felder, MJ Grant, Charlotte Klein, Chuck Parrish, Henry Porter, Hugh Schwarz, Isaac Stoner, Mary Vivian, Kathy Weisman, Nancy Whipple, Mike Wilson, and Mary Worrell.
Mediterranean hosted our Friday BBQ, and Melanie Bilodeau was organizer.
Our sixteenth annual Seafood Buffet and Auction has the best venue, overlooking the harbor at Tisbury Wharf, thanks to the generosity of Ralph Packer. It was again catered by the wonderful Fella Caters, and chaired by Amy Hewitt, with auction committee Toni Cohen, Sandra Kingston, Jeannie McIntosh, and Anne Vose. Barbara Twiss helped with program booklet. The inimitable Trip Barnes was our auctioneer, and Karen Overtoom ran the auction floor. Dorie Clark headed up the buffet and Sioux Eagle the bartenders. Scott and Terre Young shucked clams. Kansas Brew was in charge of check ins/outs. Ross Gannon and Liz Thompson orchestrated boats at the dock. All gathered their own committees together. The Beetlebung Steel Band outdid itself, playing on the dock and at the dance afterwards. We couldn't have served such a fantastic feast without the generous food donations from IFP, Stop & Shop, and Our Market. And thanks to our auction donors for their valuable items for lively auction bidding.
Bev Mazza and Brenda Galligan chaired Festival Sunday with Jeannie Ogden, Lara Dario, and Leslie Williamson. Lorna Ashe was in charge of kids activities, Joanne Leighton gathered nautical antiques vendors and all were entertained by Tristan Israel, Joe Keenan, Paul Thurlow, and troubadour Billy Schustik. Local organizations offered demonstrations and information and maritime vendors their wares.
Sharky's provided great eats for the awards ceremony on Sunday evening, and Plum TV showed footage of the races on a donated flat screen from Crane Appliance.
There are so many more people to thank, who pitched in at every turn.
Sail Martha's Vineyard sends heartfelt thanks for the astounding support from our true friends in the community who have helped us create this new annual event weekend. We thank you and applaud you.
Wind farm is needed
To the Editor:
Massachusetts fossil power plants burn coal, oil, and natural gas to produce about 7,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity. The renewable fuel, offshore wind, can replace coal, oil, and natural gas for power generation. We need to start, now, generating low-cost, carbon-free electricity from our available shallow-water wind sites.
Europe is reaping the benefits of low-cost electricity from 24 shallow-water wind farms. Germany and Scotland have deep-water wind programs underway. European electricity from shallow-water wind sites is cheaper than electricity from deep-water wind sites.
Deep-water sites in Germany and Scotland are in the experimental/demonstration phase. They are not cost-effective. Electricity from Germany's site is about eight times more expensive than a comparable shallow-water site. The cost for the electricity from the deep-water site in Scotland cannot be estimated because it is being used for oil rigs and not for the residents of Scotland.
The United States has no shallow-water wind sites in operation or permitted. It is time to start. We can enjoy cost-competitive electricity, reduce our reliance on coal, oil, and natural gas, and reduce global warming, all at the same time.
Time is of the essence, and time is not on our side. The mounting crisis of energy prices, national security and global warming can be eased in part with the development of shallow-water wind farms. Let's get started.