I am writing as an elected member of the Dukes County Charter Study Commission (DCCSC) in response to last week's editorial critical of the work of the commission. I am speaking for myself, although I am confident that at least some of my views are shared by my fellow commissioners.
To date The Martha's Vineyard Times has done a superb job reporting the work of the DCCSC. It is my hope that upon the conclusion of our work, the assessment of our findings and recommendations will be similarly objective and even positive.
Last week's editorial expressed a great deal of frustration with what appear to be limited accomplishments to date on our part. A number of commissioners have also been frustrated with the pace of our work. However, we are not yet finished.
The issue facing the study commission has really never been one of form, but instead of substance, namely how the affairs of the county are conducted, something that does not lend itself to easy solution through legislation or a restructuring of county governance.
As a result, it is unlikely that the commission will propose many major changes in the actual form of county government.
This is no accident, nor is it a failure on our part. Under the able leadership of Ed Logue, the 1992 Charter Study Commission got it right for the most part, which The Times likewise appeared to acknowledge in its editorial.
In the judgment of the 1992 commission and virtually all of the members of the current commission, the dissolution of the county was, and still is, a simplistic solution with substantial downside risks, particularly in the projected loss of both county property and local control/home rule.
Our assessment of these risks appears to be well founded. For instance, the current proposed legislation which would transfer the office of the county sheriff to the Commonwealth provides no compensation for an estimated value of over $3,200,000 in county property and equipment.
The most important change we are likely to recommend is the abandonment of the inflexible county manager form of government. For all its promise of professional leadership, which we truly believed was a step forward in 1992, the manager form has actually translated into far less and involved the appointment of managers who were protected under Massachusetts General Law (MGL) as if appointed for life.
Our most recent votes involving the number of commissioners and the length of their term of office were far less than unanimous. They are not our last word and will not be until more public hearings have been held, and we can then consider the sum of our recommendations taken as a whole.
Although the clock is ticking, we are still looking to make a series of non-legislative recommendations, designed to address the functions and functioning of the county, as well as the selection of county commissioners. These recommendations promise to have far more impact on the actual performance of county government than structural changes.
I encourage all who read these words to defer judgment, difficult as that may be, until our work is done and we have had an opportunity to present you with all of our findings and recommendations.
Tad Crawford lives in West Tisbury.