Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
Having served on the Dukes County Charter Study Commission now for almost a year, and with six short months to go before our statutory deadline for official recommendations, it is hard not to have reached some conclusions about our county government. My experience has been thoroughly eye opening, often maddening, and frequently frustrating, but a 23-member commission with no staff poses significant management issues. However, the good will and hard work of the commissioners has carefully documented the current status of Dukes County government.
To be clear, I am not speaking for the commission. This is my personal report to the voters about what I have learned and what I think. Not all the commissioners share my views, and my comments are not intended as criticism, only as my contribution to the ongoing debate. I hope many other commissioners will take the opportunity to contribute as well.
First, from the beginning I have wondered whether the ongoing problems with Dukes County government are caused mainly by a faulty structure, or by elected officials and those they hire and appoint. This question has been the subject of considerable, but mostly informal, discussion among the charter commissioners. The problems, it now seems clear, are centered on the behavior of the county commissioners, their relationship with the recently departed county manager, and the county manager's lack of a relationship with the towns.
I say that after chairing two sub-committees, one on the role of the county manager, and another on the statutory, legal and political aspects of charter change. It shouldn't be surprising that no government, no matter how carefully constructed, can be guaranteed to function as intended all the time. (Consider our national government.) On this point I think my fellow commissioners and I largely agree. Thus one can argue, persuasively I think, that the structure of county governance is largely secondary to having a competent, cooperative set of elected commissioners with an able county manager.
The current form of county governance - the county manager form , adopted in the early 1990s - was not chosen lightly by the previous charter commission, nor should it be abandoned now solely in the name of change, or because its recent track record has been troubled. By statute the current charter commission has a spectrum of options available to it, but timing, the necessity of legislative involvement in some cases, and a lack of political unity here on the Island, effectively argues against the understandable temptation for a major overhaul.
What makes the most sense, to me, after more committee meetings than I care to remember, is to retain the county manager form, reduce the number of county commissioners to either five or three, and to elect them for only two-year terms. Mostly we need to make a clean break with the past, by electing a new cast of characters.
Second, as I ran for election to the charter commission open minded, but not exactly wide-eyed (and definitely not bushy-tailed), I was reasonably convinced that if there were no Island-wide governmental entity, we would have to invent one. And I feel that way more than ever. However, other than its troubled past, another familiar force challenges the creation of a successful Island-wide government. One of our commissioners, in describing the entrenched parochial attitudes of Martha's Vineyard, has memorably said, "Martha's Vineyard is actually six islands connected by land."
I would argue, however, it is not the job of the charter commission to address either the Island-wide issues or the narrow attitudes that prevent their solution. Repeatedly, the question "What can (or should) the county do?" has been posed. I submit that isn't the question. There are obvious needs for more intermunicipal cooperation in the areas of water quality, emergency planning, education, and waste disposal, not to mention the rapidly escalating costs of operating six towns as if they were sovereign countries. However, any serious attempt by the charter commission to define specific functions for county government, in other than very general terms, would in the current political climate become an instant distraction as well as being circular.
Here is my definition for the role of county government: The county commissioners and county manager exist to be enablers and facilitators when the six sovereign towns recognize that we all live on the same Island and that we have common needs and interests; that by cooperating we can save money, increase efficiency, and accomplish much that we cannot accomplish alone. To the extent the county commissioners and county manager bear all that in mind, build trust, demonstrate competence, and recognize political realities, they will be successful and we will want them, and the functions will follow. To the extent they do not, they provide more fuel for the smoldering fire of abolishment.
Finally, a surfeit of negative consequences go along with abolishment. The charter commission has been advised repeatedly, by those who have experienced abolishment and by our state representatives, that we should avoid abolishment. To be clear, abolishment only affects the county commissioners, the county manager, and the county treasurer. The semi-autonomous sheriff, Registry of Deeds, and courthouse would all continue under the rubric of "County" government, even though they will be operated as "Commonwealth" entities. The destiny of the airport is uncertain.
We would be foolish to ignore the well-informed advice we have solicited. Abolishment is irrevocable, although that makes it an attractive option for some people, and its time may come, but it certainly isn't now. An automatic charter review, say five years after the recommendations of this charter commission are implemented (if they are), should again consider that option. If by then the current problems of Island-wide government still exist, I for one will change my mind.
To the Editor:
Thank you for allowing me use of this venue to express my deeply felt gratitude toward those many Vineyarders who touched my life. In retrospect, I couldn't have chosen a better place to conduct my cultural anthropological fieldwork needed to meet a dissertation requirement at Binghamton University (State University of New York).
I would like to thank the great number of Vineyarders who showed their kindness, warmth, honesty, fairness and sincerity toward me in so many ways, great and small. Thank you for seeing the significance and value of my study - as demonstrated through our discussions during chance encounters, at social events, and during interviews. It brought great joy when a Vineyarder thanked me for an interview, said he or she enjoyed being interviewed, hugged me afterwards, or claimed that he or she benefited from being interviewed. A special place is reserved in my heart for all those who stayed with my lengthy interview throughout its entirety.
I am thankful to those who were polite while I pursued interviews through "cold calls." I was pleasantly surprised at how few cold calls I had to make before one would agree to be interviewed. Thank you to those who helped in other ways, e.g. explaining Vineyard ways, county and town functions, and land use on Martha's Vineyard, making suggestions about my study, and pointing me in the direction of people who might like to be interviewed. I also would like to thank those who graciously said no.
I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to those Vineyarders who welcomed me as a friend. The level of joy and fun you brought cannot be described. I would also like to thank the many Vineyarders who helped my Mom and our family after Mom (a Tisbury resident) had a severe right-sided stroke on February 28. Gratitude cannot run more deeply than that which I felt toward those who touched my Mom through the care they provided. These include caregivers, neighbors and friends who helped and who continue to help Mom. Their kind acts have played a huge part in Mom's remaining in good spirits. That she remains in good spirits makes this huge tragedy far easier for her and our family to endure.
My next year will be spent fulfilling my duty to all on Martha's Vineyard who helped me with my study. To maximize the benefit and relevance of my dissertation on socio/cultural variables that enable or impede health care access on Martha's Vineyard, it will be necessary to complete my dissertation as soon as possible. My year will be used to sort and analyze data, formulate my chapters, and write my dissertation.
The amount and scope of information I received is abundant and far-reaching. It will enable me to show, through the eyes of the 250 participants who took part in interviews and other Vineyarders with whom I spoke (but did not interview), exactly what comprises the Martha's Vineyard health care system (while considering if what makes up Vineyard health care services can be viewed as a system). My study includes mainstream and alternative health care providers. I will show how social interaction among Vineyard health care providers and those who use them enable or impede health care access. I will show how study participants believe their health care system can be improved and how they can maximize their health care access.
I will donate a copy of my dissertation to any library on Martha's Vineyard that wants one. My dissertation will be available both by hard copy and by download to those who wish to read it. I will write to the editor again as soon as my dissertation is available. It is my hope that Vineyarders will benefit greatly from my work.
If anyone feels disappointed that I was not able to interview him or her, please feel free to call me for a phone interview at 570-775-7853. Please let me know if this entails a toll call so we can hang up and I will call back. Thank you all again and again.
To the Editor:
I was particularly interested to find Laura Wainwright's article in last week's Calendar section of this paper about enjoying The Martha's Vineyard Cookbook, because one of my two collaborators, Linda McGuire, and I had only an hour or so to go before we completed checking the entire manuscript of the fourth edition of our cookbook. We will be sending it off to the publisher In a day or so. It is due to come out next spring.
Meanwhile, I suggest that if Miss Wainwright has access to more quinces, she should make the quince pudding in our book. It really is delicious, as well as somewhat out of the ordinary line of desserts.
The new edition will have about 20 new recipes, a short section at the end of the Portuguese chapter on Brazilian cooking, and a new chapter on African-American Cookery.
Jean Stewart Wexler
To the Editor:
The Times' Oct. 25 editorial, "Warmed by a rule-making opportunity," is one of the most simple-minded editorials I have ever read. It is a fine example of why some journalists believe that newspapers should not even publish editorials. Papers are often less well informed than their readers, as in this case.
The editorial writer, who I assume is Doug Cabral, ignores the opposing arguments on outdoor woodburning furnaces that were presented by Tisbury residents to the Tisbury board of health. The board, without national precedents to go on, set national precedents by acknowledging the harmful effects of these furnaces. The wise board passed regulations that are so severe that they amount to a virtual ban on outdoor woodburning fireplaces in the more heavily settled neighborhoods of Tisbury.
The editorial writer obviously did not visit the affected areas when the town's first two furnaces were in operation. Instead, he noted their "delightful money-saving appeal, not to mention fragrant byproducts." According to Mr. Cabral (Yes, I know editorials are never signed. The writers haven't got the courage to sign them. Please enlighten your readers if it was someone other than Mr. Cabral.), these rules are a modern-day attack on a grand old American tradition, when in fact these outdoor woodburning furnaces did not exist in the old day to which he referred.
As to the wonderful aroma that the sentimental Mr. Cabral attributes to outdoor woodburning furnaces, I suggest he throw a cut-up car tire into a garbage can, let it burn down to smoldering ashes, then stick his columnist's reminiscent shnoz into the barrel, and inhale deeply.
Perhaps to him, diseases such as lung cancer, emphysema, and asthma are quaint old American maladies that tug at the heartstrings of a slow-witted weekly newspaper raconteur.
To the Editor:
I was hoping to get help. My request is to photograph and run an article on the School Zone speed limit. Just sit at any school zone area, before school and watch the people speeding.
Some are town employees, construction workers, young, old, foreigners, locals - you name it - you run the gamut. I have been passed on Wing Road at 7:30 am, after dropping my son off, by someone who gave hand gestures. Mind you, it's a 20 mph zone clearly marked and a weekday just prior to school. The police did catch them, as they just happened to be coming my way, but they had to go after them and didn't catch them until just before the dump.
What the heck? Either everyone does not care or can't read, or? It has become unsafe to walk to school as everyone is in a hurry to get someplace and does not slow down even at the school zone areas with the flashing yellow slow 20 miles per hour.
Thank you, for considering assisting in this obvious safety problem.
I just would like to get help before someone has to hear the words, "I am sorry."
This would be just so awful, with no reason or excuse.
If you just leave a little earlier or go another way, please.
A reason for love
To the Editor:
One of the reasons I love Martha's Vineyard so much is because of the annual Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, where thousands of fishermen compete, structured so that a 14 year old boy, Chris Morris, who caught the winning bluefish, drew the magic key that fit the boat, motor, and trailer, one of the grand prizes.
Congratulations, Chris, and to all of you who won prizes and volunteered untold hours to make this event so special.
To the Editor:
The cost of oil is skyrocketing, and with it will go the costs of living, especially on the islands. This will have a mighty effect on the working class here. A recent article highlighted this when the Steamship Authority said that every $10 added to the cost of a barrel of oil translated into $1 million in extra fuel expense. But there are alternatives to fossil fuels.
San Francisco plans two solar- and wind-powered ferries that will cost a premium of 50 percent over fossil fuel-only powered ferries. With the cost of fossil fuels ever rising, this has to be an alternative worth looking at.
Or look at Cousteau's Alcyon, driven by wind turbines since 1985, with transatlantic voyages successfully accomplished. These turbines combine with diesel power to drive the propellers and should be able theoretically to be retrofitted to existing vessels. Sails are not used, but cylindrical towers with rotors contained within. The overall savings to Alcyon were calculated to be one-third.
The carbon emissions from the diesel powered ferries add significant pollution to our immediate and overall environment, and the time is here when a carbon tax should be discussed, as is the case in today's world, where industries pollute. If a carbon tax on the SSA were to be imposed, the effect could be to push them to either retrofit their vessels to cleaner, more sustainable energy sources, or in the alternative, to help to clear the financial logjam in the ports of Tisbury and Oak Bluffs. It is especially evident in the case of Tisbury that the plans to remove the telephone poles along Beach Road are in dire need of financing.
If combined with the planting of trees all along Beach Road, this would enhance the main entrance to this Island and ensure a counterbalance to the pollution emitted by the ferries and have the added benefit of welcoming more wildlife along this part of the Island.
Applause for Vineyard Golf Club
To the Editor:
On behalf of the Vineyard Nursing Association, the Dukes County Savings Bank and I personally would like to thank the board of directors of the Vineyard Golf Club for the use of the course for our fifth annual Dukes County Savings Bank Golf Classic, benefiting the Vineyard Nursing Association. I would also like to thank and complement the management and staff for a job extremely well done. With their help and hard work, we were able to raise almost $50,000, which will be put to a marvelous purpose: providing skilled nursing services to the Island population.
The Vineyard Golf Club has once again stepped up to the plate (or should I say, the tee box) and made its marvelous facility available to an important charity of the Island. The VGC is a quiet but crucial force in helping us Islanders live better lives, and it should be thanked and applauded for its efforts.
Robert N. Wheeler
Executive Vice President
Dukes County Financial Group
Safer Little League
To the Editor:
Why take the Oak out of Oak Bluffs?
One hundred years ago the town incorporated and became prideful of its designated parklands. Now parking, traffic, and safety issues related to Veira Park's change of use are requiring more deliberations and planning, as traffic surveys and studies have not been complete and accurate. The Oak Bluffs Police Department could not and would not share information concerning past records of accidents. The neighborhood clearly has had several, and no painted crosswalk or newly installed stop signs will end the pattern. Crosswalks give a false security and should not be trusted. Living on the border of one, I've witnessed multitudes of close calls because children believe they're being seen and safe within those white strips. Not so. Professional guidance and planning is necessary when increased traffic and parking situations compound.
Let's not be prideful and later wish we had addressed the issues more thoroughly. One child injured is not the price we should pay for potentially urbanizing the oak grove. Prudent behaviors on Little League petitioners and town board planners (are they present?) may be the insurance we need for no regrets down the line.
I fought for decreased speed signs and safer measures on Wing Road years ago and was told "Let's not be adversarial." The petition presented to town leaders had more Oak Bluff taxpayers signatures than any before. Amazing so many people in this town could agree on anything. Safety of children remains paramount.
Can we work together to find a safer setting for Little League's expansion? Hope springs eternal.
Thanks for the fish
To the Editor:
I would like to thank all the workers at the Bass Derby. For several years they have given to the residents of Island Elderly Housing the fish every Saturday while the Derby's on.
To the Editor:
I appreciate the opportunity to thank all of the wonderful people in our community who have contributed their time and resources to help our young men, many of whom are at risk. It is not easy to tackle the enormous problems associated with young men getting through their teenage years. Yet our role models/mentors have persevered year after year and continue to give of their valuable time and energy.
Over the past several years we have hosted mentorship luncheons and have invited any young man within the high school community who would like to receive the advice, counsel, and tutoring of these mentors.
We live on an Island that has a tremendous heart and sense of giving. We also have an incredible pool of talented volunteers and mentors for our young men. I would like to share with the community and recognize some of these outstanding citizens: Eric Adams, David Araujo, Alfred Badger, Walter Collier, Frank Daly, Valerio DeStefani, Chris Green, Norman Hall, Robert Hayden, Ewell Hopkins, Anthony Ibarrondo, Wade Johnson, Basil Jones, Jim McLaurin, Manny Neal, Ken Walker.
If you see these men on the street, please thank them for their community spirit and selflessness.
Others need to be thanked for their support as well: Ryan Blakey and Sam Koohey of Stop & Shop for their generous offerings, which have allowed us to provide the luncheon food for the meetings; Jack O'Malley, the culinary arts teacher, for supervising and allowing the culinary classes to prepare the delicious meals; and finally, Peg Regan, the principal, for allowing our young men the opportunity to get together for these occasions.
W. Leo Frame Jr.
Martha's Vineyard Regional
The place for bargains
To the Editor:
In response to Brenda Kennedy's Letter to the Editor (Not really thrifty) in last week's Times, I sincerely hope no one will take her advise which was to stop donating to and shopping at the Vineyard Haven Thrift Shop.
It has been my experience that the Thrift Shop is an excellent place to find a bargain; the staff very helpful; and donations benefit Martha's Vineyard Community Services.
The Thrift Shop is more than a place to recycle household items. It's a gathering place where people connect with one another and catch up on news. It's like an Island post office with 50-cent Tupperware.
I have costumed actors, dancers, and figure skaters for many Island productions thanks to the generosity of Islanders who donated items and the Thrift Shop staff who made the goods available to me. Usually the staff would say, "Just bring them back when the show is over," refusing to take any money from another organization. I bought a brand new washable silk shirt for $3 and a pair of practically new wool trousers for $2 (half-price on all clothing last Saturday).
Many times I have witnessed the staff giving away merchandise because the people couldn't pay. The Thrift Shop staff understands this community and is always ready to lend a hand.
Anna Marie D'Addarie
The writer is editor of the Calendar and Community sections of The Martha's Vineyard Times.
To the Editor:
For anyone who is tired of zoning rules and regulations, of building permits, of flood plains, of septic regulations and set backs to wells, let me tell you what happens without these rules. In Nicaragua, without zoning, without surveys, without boundary markers, without septic rules, there is chaos.
We have had torrential rains here for many weeks, beginning with Hurricane Felix. Sadly, there is no plan to prevent people from building on dry riverbeds or along little creeks. And when it rains a lot, these little creeks become boiling torrents carrying trees and rocks and mud and crushing homes and people. Then when the dry season returns, the homes are rebuilt in the same places.
And it is usually the poor who build along the rivers and streams. It is easier to walk a few steps to fetch water. The streams are also convenient places to throw garbage. Your garbage is always being washed downstream. Sewerage drains from your outhouse down to the river and is also washed away, but your neighbor's garbage and sewerage ends up in front of you. From this contaminated water source, you draw your water to cook with, bathe with, and clean.
There is a whole town, Chureca, built on top of the garbage dump for Managua. When the garbage trucks arrive every day, the children swarm the trucks, ripping open bags, looking for anything edible or of value. Chureca is where amputated body parts and syringes from the hospitals are dumped.
You can put an outhouse or dig a well (usually surface water) anywhere you want, even within feet of your neighbor's well. You can take your neighborhood home and turn it into a disco or change the oil in your car and let it flow into the gutter.
Good deeds with clear titles are hard to find, and if you do not have a good deed, you cannot get a mortgage or raise capital from the equity in your home.
We take so much for granted in the USA. Sometimes we chafe under rules, but living without rules here, makes me appreciate the rules we have back in the states.
To end on a good note, there is a 17-year-old boy who used to sell cigarettes and candies on the streets. He weighs about 115 pounds and is now a boxer, scheduled to fight in Japan. His nickname here is "El Chocolate." For this fight he will make about $200,000 to start. We are all wishing him well, and can only imagine the excitement of going from rags to riches. If you see his name in the states, you will know where he came from. He is a fine young man, so wish him well. Keep the faith, and hugs to you all.
Lower speed limits
To the Editor:
I second the Amarals' suggestion that the speed limit on State Road in North Tisbury be lowered. Thirty-five mph is too fast. Their cat might be alive today if it had been 30.
Cats aren't the only creatures whose lives are endangered by speeding vehicles. So are dogs, birds, raccoons, etc., and humans. The faster cars go, the greater is the chance of something or someone being injured or killed.
And North Tisbury isn't the only area that should have its speed limits lowered. The entire Island should be reduced by five mph.
Admittedly, it would add a few minutes to our driving times. And changing speed limits (legally) is a complicated process. But it's the smart thing to do, and will yield many benefits: Walking and bicycling will be safer, and thus will become more popular. More cars will be left at home. Traffic congestion and air pollution will be reduced. The Island's relaxed character will be preserved. Tourists will continue to visit. Less fuel will be consumed and global warming will be slowed. And last but not least, fewer families will grieve the loss of their pets.