Don't tread on him
No one enjoys criticism. In this respect, Tom Pachico, the current chairman of the Tisbury selectmen, as well as the paid, professional town board of health inspector, and the town's appointed member of the Steamship Authority's port council, is like the rest of us. But in another respect, Mr. Pachico is very different, particularly when compared with most seasoned public officials. That is because, unlike most of us, he doesn't hear much criticism. He is unused to the practice, generally common among elected public officials, of exposing themselves to criticism, listening to critics, welcoming their contrary views, considering their disapproving sentiments, and then acting in new ways that will address legitimate opposing views. Mr. Pachico prefers not to listen, never to welcome opposing views, rarely to change course, always to brush aside suggestions that run counter to his preferred path, and, when beset, always to counterpunch in terms as personal as possible, even if they are unmoored from the truth. So, Mr. Pachico, in his bullying way, steers Tisbury's ship, with the acquiescent Denys Wortman and the scattered, over-committed and loquacious Tristan Israel in tow.
The issue that has inflamed Mr. Pachico recently has to do with his role as Tisbury representative to the port council. This page deplored the amendment of the Steamship Authority's enabling legislation that extinguished the former finance advisory board and replaced it with a port council, which includes a member from each port community served by the boatline. As it is, the Steamship Authority's governing structure is at odds with what might be regarded as best practice. It Balkanizes the decision-making so that one Island might get from the boatline's capital or operating budgets what it wants this year, recognizing that making decisions this way means that the other island will in turn get something that it wants. What is harmed by this arrangement is the cohesion of decision-making in the interest of the organization as a whole and its future health. And that, after all, is the leadership that is most likely to serve us all over time.
Today, the members represent their communities to the boatline, rather than uniting in leadership, in pursuit of the Authority's mission of service to its island and mainland constituents. To have exacerbated the Balkanization by creating the current port council was, in our view, a great error.
This page has also deplored the appointment and reappointment of Mr. Pachico to council membership from Tisbury. Public service on Martha's Vineyard, whether at the town government, county, or regional levels, and even on non-profit boards, is too narrowly based in this community of varied, resourceful, and accomplished residents. There are many untapped talents, whose contributions may be insightful and progressive. They should be sought out and encouraged. Mr. Pachico, whatever may be his virtues, possesses no extraordinary talents as regards marine transportation, or vehicular congestion, or traffic flow planning. Others in Tisbury might. Mr. Pachico's job is not to press his less assertive colleagues into appointing and reappointing him to a job for which he is ill suited, especially when he is already so heavily committed in town affairs. His job, much as the job of the chairman of some non-profit board might be, is to search for and encourage participation by willing, talented others in the Tisbury community. Reaching out, not grasping, is the proper role for the Tisbury selectman.
This week, irritated by criticism of this sort, along with reporting that describes Mr. Pachico's obvious appreciation of the perquisites that go with such positions as port council member, he swatted at the Times reporter who was a handy target. Mr. Pachico posted a comment to the online version of reporter Janet Hefler's story about last week's Tisbury selectmen's meeting. No one had applied for one or two volunteer jobs in Tisbury town government. Mr. Pachico suggests in a comment included in the news report that Tisbury folk are not willing to step up, so he, over pressed as he is, must.
"Out of the 22 'free' trips I took last year," Mr. Pachico wrote in an online comment posted at 7:14 am, on Jan. 10, "how many were for town business? Which, by the way, many of which cost me a vacation day each, such as meetings with the many state agencies, and port council meetings! Who was the other 'more well qualified' candidate for port council rep? Oh that's right, it was reporter's husband. How many trips did the other past and present governor [He means member. Ed.] and port council members take? And who are they? The Times knows full well that least three other ports have, or had selectmen and city councilmen as their reps, as they feel being on top of what is going on is very important, but that's right, the editor of The Times said we would never get a say in our own harbor, or the embarkation money. Irritated, by all means, untruths and half stories with no research will do it to anyone. To The Times, 'Get a life!'"
Mr. Pachico's insinuations and evasions - For instance, that Ms. Hefler's husband was a candidate who was passed over for port council representative. Not true - are designed to silence critics, not to address their criticisms. Another example: that because other ports have selectmen as council reprentatives, that must be best practice. Or, that without the port council, and certainly without him as a member, the town would have no say in boatline use of the port of Vineyard Haven and miss out on the embarkation surcharge revenues. Indeed, for Mr. Pachico, the issue is only whether he is the best or the only one equipped to serve in the port council post. He thinks he is. We don't. The further issue is that Mr. Pachico's job ought to be to find fresh, talented Vineyard Haven residents to enhance the consideration of all the serious issues the town faces, and that's a job he has failed to do.