To the Editor:
I found this poem in one of my cookbooks today, Marie Simmons, "The good egg." Sending it out to fellow Island poultry folk. Happy clucking!
"Alas! My child, where is the Pen, /That can do justice to the Hen?/.....Laying foundations every day,/Though not for public buildings, yet/For Custards, Cakes and Omelete./.....No wonder, Child, we prize the Hen,/Whose egg is mightier than the Pen." By Oliver Herford.
To the Editor:
When a beagle named Uno won the Westminster dog show recently, it was a long overdue honor for the breed, in the opinion of beagle admirers. The last time beagles were in the canine spotlight was back in the 1960s, when Lyndon Johnson was in the White House. Remember the furor that was caused by a photo of the president lifting one of his dogs by the ears and claiming the dog enjoyed it?
My late husband, Howard Andrews, was a rabbit hunter, and was raising beagles even before President Johnson arrived on the scene. At the time, we were living in North Falmouth, and our dogs, Gunsmoke and Nelly, were the parents of several litters. Up until the general public clamor for beagles, the buyers of our AKC puppies were mainly fellow members of the Falmouth Beagle Club. The club owned several acres of a wooded area in East Falmouth, where the beagles learned the fine points of tracking and baying on a rabbit scent. There was no shooting involved, only training. The hard part is to teach the beagle when to leave the trail and come back to its owner.
Then, we lived minutes from Otis Air Base, where at the time President Kennedy would fly in to vacation at Hyannisport. Howard worked for New England Telephone and Telegraph Company and was involved in all the installation of telecommunications equipment at Otis. When we advertised beagle puppies for sale there, they were quickly acquired by military families living on the base. So some of our puppies were transported all over the world with their military owners. We heard from Panama and Alaska from air force personnel reporting on their dogs.
When the telephone company transferred Howard to Edgartown, he continued to raise and sell beagles to fellow Vineyard hunters into the 1980s, and those beagles' descendants may still be baying across the woods and moors of Martha's Vineyard.
Early in our marriage, I didn't approve of hunting, but I soon realized it was an important part of my husband's recreation. Once - and only once - I went along with him rabbit hunting. My task was only to help carry home the quarry. I would starve to death before killing an animal. My grandmother Mary Enos had raised chickens for food, but she always got her milkman to kill them. On that rabbit expedition, I soon noticed that streams of fleas were migrating up my gloves from the expired rabbits. That was the end of my hunting, but I did develop some good game recipes, including a delicious rabbit fricassee.
Our Christmas card of 1969 featured a photo of our daughter Susan surrounded by a litter of our beagle puppies. What could be cuter - beagles and babies. Right on, Uno!
The word's out
To the Editor:
I'd like to thank The Martha's Vineyard Times and C.K. Wolfson for publishing the story of my electric truck. When Cynthia first approached me about writing it, I did think that it was an awesome idea to get the word out to Islanders. What I didn't expect was the kind of response the article drew. The online version pulled in a wide crowd of folks. It turned out that those 50 or so who piped in had a lot to say. There is a lot of interest out there. Some were curious, some were complementary, and all were very opinionated. I was impressed and delighted that folks from other parts shared their knowledge and experiences freely in blog style.
There was a certain sense of accomplishment in converting the EV. The online exchange of ideas added one more dimension to that whole experience. I got more out of this than just my truck. It showed me that we Islanders continue to be the kind of folks who see the possibilities before them.
I both thank and congratulate The Times for offering this forum. It is a great way for folks to reach each other. It confirms, as stated in the article, that an individual can make a difference. That ripple might start out small, and it might start here, and it might just be felt across the world.
Stevie D. Solarazza
To the Editor:
Thank you so much for the coverage of the rescue of Robert Seaton in Oak Bluffs Harbor on Monday evening. While Rick and I were happy that we were home to help this young man out, it was our daughter Shelagh who deserves all the credit. She was the one who heard Mr. Seaton's frantic cries for help. Had it not been for her excellent hearing, I'm not sure that the outcome would have been as positive as it was. Please let your readers know that while it was certainly a family effort, Shelagh deserves all of the credit here. We hope that Mr. Seaton is recovering well.
Pat and Rick Kelley
Lunatics in Chilmark
To the Editor:
Well it's all but done. In what seemed as the most unpleasant of campaigns in recent memory, the town of Chilmark is going to have affordable housing by spending as much money as possible to achieve it. After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy out any possible interests involved from clay rights to land purchases, to develop a piece of property a mile out in nowhere, down a barely improved road with no water, no power, no communications or data and take years to do it instead of going across the street to an area with nearly complete infrastructure - improved road, power, communications and data and wells in the ground that once fed fire ponds almost big enough to water ski in. This is all part of a development that was stillborn. Had the town pursued this area of interest, keys to homes would already be in the hands of owners.
Years ago. Why not? I suspect NIMBY, but it is only speculation on my part. Now, the town will spend a million dollars to have.... Paper in order.
The lunatics are running the asylum.
William H. Smith
There's more to the tax story
To the Editor:
In his Letter to the Editor (Feb. 28) Peter Williams displays a shaky grasp of the facts, the issues, and the implications of the most recent property revaluation in West Tisbury. Mr. Williams applauds the sharp increase in the valuations of certain waterfront and water-view properties. "This helps all the little people," he says; "it helps all of the local people, being priced out of their homes, by reducing their tax bill."
I sympathize with the principle, that those who have more should pay more; "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need," as Karl Marx put it. Indeed, the owners of valuable properties have been paying more all along. Often their demands on town services are minimal, and the seasonal residents among them don't have a say in how their tax money is spent. As Mr. Williams asks on another point, "What is there to dislike about that?" If a goose settles into your backyard and starts laying golden eggs, are you going to report it to Animal Control?
I can see it from both sides. I've been a year-round, working resident of Martha's Vineyard since 1985. I've never come close to being able to afford property here. In retrospect, land prices in the mid-1980s look cheap, but they didn't seem so at the time to a single woman making less than $20,000 a year. So I've moved 11 times since 1985, including four times since 2001. At the same time, I'm now the co-owner, with my three siblings, of four acres and a camp on Tisbury Great Pond.
My father bought the land and built the camp in the early 1970s for less than $50,000. Improvements over the years have been minimal, but by FY2004 the place was valued at $1,775,400 (tax bill: $9,551.65). The valuation for FY2007 was $2,123,800 (tax bill: $9,568). Nothing prepared us, or our neighbors, for the FY2008 bills. Our assessment had more than doubled, to $4,419,700, and the taxes had jumped 83 percent, to $17,511.88.
If my income tax jumped 83 percent in a year, I'd be stunned - but presumably the spike in tax would have resulted from a spike in income, so I'd probably manage to come up with the money. Property taxes, by contrast, are regressive: they have nothing to do with either the property's income or the owner's. They're based on a purely theoretical figure: the price that the town assessors think the property would bring on the open market.
And that's where the issue gets complicated. The portion of Tisbury Great Pond that I know best - Deep Bottom Cove, Tiah's Cove, Thumb Cove, and the eastern side of the main pond - has been remarkably stable for decades. Few properties ever go on the open market, so those that are bought and sold have a major impact on the theoretical values of those that aren't. On the eastern side of Tisbury Great Pond, it appears that the sale of one particular property is having a tsunami effect on all properties in the vicinity. I say "appears" because other than the purchase price - around $19 million - the details of this sale are on no public record. How long was it on the market? Was it an arm's-length transaction? When making valuations, the assessors have the option to exclude from consideration high sales, low sales, and otherwise atypical sales. They chose not to exclude this sale. Why? What did they know that we can't find out?
In his happy dance for the "little people," Peter Williams is missing something big: that there are some players out there whose wealth is so great that nearly all of us are little in comparison. Two billionaires strike a deal, and the lives of hundreds of people whose existence they're totally unaware of are immediately affected; hundreds more, maybe thousands, will feel the effects of this deal in the longer term. The gods are dicing with thunderbolts, but all Mr. Williams sees is the goose out back laying those golden eggs. Unfortunately, he's not alone. The market gods - the gods of the millionaires, billionaires, and everyone who believes that value can always be measured in money - have been running the show for quite some time. They didn't notice, or care, as the price of land galloped out of reach of most working people, dragging the price of everything else along with it.
If the latest round of valuations stands, more Tisbury Great Pond riparian owners will give up and sell out, pushing the market value of their neighbors' properties higher until more of them throw in the towel. Eventually mega-mansions will be the rule, not the exception, and then what? Peter Williams expresses a touching faith in the "Boston tax court" - I think he means the state Appellate Tax Board - that I don't share. Mr. Williams doesn't realize that millionaires and billionaires can overrun the playing field without ever winning in court. Their lawyers will call the tune, and the little town of West Tisbury will be dancing a very unhappy dance. The goose in the backyard will keel over dead, and there won't be anyone left to scapegoat.
Susanna J. Sturgis
Support Health Care Access
To the Editor:
Please support the Vineyard Health Care Access program when it comes up for vote at your town meeting or special meeting. This critical program is there to help everyone connect with health care and health insurance. These issues are extremely complicated these days. With the current state of the economy, we are all at risk of being unable to get the health care we need, of having that one crisis that puts your family at risk.
The Health Care Access program is our lifeline to information and assistance for everything from dental care to prescription medicine coverage. Working people on the Vineyard need this program to help us through the health-care system. They have helped my family handle numerous crises of health care, and if you haven't needed their service yet, chances are you will. Please vote in your town to support this critical program for us all.
Edgartown ancient ways
To the Editor:
In the late 1980s, my mom (Rosalie Silva Bassett), Ed Tyra, and Joan Condlin started the byways committee in Edgartown. They had the insight and vision to see we were losing our ancient ways due to development, etc. They wanted to protect and preserve the ones we have left. And in the early '90s we became a town committee voted on by the town. We are the caretakers of these special ways. The pioneers who started the movement have passed it down to the next generation. That is when I got involved.
We are a committee for the people to keep these special ways public. People have blocked them, thrown trash and garbage on them. We took 10 dump truck loads to the landfill, cleaning Ben Tom's Road, Middle Line Path, and the Old Woods Road, all cleaned up with the help from the committee, the byway wardens, neighbors, etc.
There are no set rules or regulations or even police protection: that is why we need to get them DCPC, so that we will have rules and regulations to protect them. We did the Dr. Fisher Road first. Now we are doing five more: Pennywise Path, Tar Kiln, Watcha Path, Middle Line Path and Ben Tom's Road. We have 25 special ways. This will make six of the total to be DCPC. We thought of we did a few at a time, it would be easier to digest. The rest will be done in time, until we get all our special ways under DCPC protections.
We are working to have the best trail system on the Island. And it's my mission in life to see that this happens. These trails are some of the oldest landmarks on the Vineyard; they go back hundreds and thousands of years and deserve our attention. So, if you care to keep these ways public, come to the town meeting on March 6, and express your opinion. Let's keep our special ways for the public, so that generations to come can enjoy these jewels of Edgartown.
William Boo Bassett
Caretaker, Special Ways
Time to conserve special ways
To the Editor:
Tonight, at the Old Whaling Church, Edgartown will hold a special town meeting. Voters will have a chance to add five ancient paths to the protective status of ancient ways.
The town byways committee and the planning board have been working to protect these ways for nearly 20 years, and now hope to add the five ancient ways; Ben Tom's, Middle Line, Tar Kiln, Pennywise, and Watcha Path to the already protected Dr. Daniel Fisher Way.
These ways are analogous to the emerald necklace, a concept over 100 years old, proposed by Frederick Olmstead for the Boston public park system. The necklace refers to the ancient paths, the emeralds are blocks of open space.
These ways give Islanders and visitors alike a safe, healthy alternative to the busy highways and provide a continuity of travel for walkers, bikers, and horseback riders.
The process has been long and difficult at times but gratifying in the sense that people and boards have worked together. Trees have been cut down, police called, motivations questioned, reporters fired, but in the end the town will discuss, debate, and vote.
It is time to conserve and preserve. Please come to the town meeting.
Robert Green and Linda DeWitt
A unique place - leave it alone
To the Editor:
The Cape Wind permit hearings are coming up. I spent 30 years enforcing state environmental regulations and permitting various types of facilities which impacted the environment and am amazed and frustrated at the inordinate amount of time and effort that have gone into the permitting of this project. The sides are clearly drawn between those who are strongly committed to wind energy at nearly any cost and those who support renewable energy but cannot justify the environmental and aesthetic impacts that this project will likely cause.
I share the view that the minor and moderate impacts on birds, fish and other marine organisms on this particular site, as characterized by the Minerals Management Service, are not something we should be all that anxious to accept. I also see the habitat which Horseshoe Shoal represents as something irreplaceable. The shallow waters of Nantucket Sound are breeding grounds for vast numbers of marine organisms, which in turn support tremendous populations of birds, fish, and marine mammals. That is the purpose served by these shallow waters; sunlight, currents and available nutrients all make this a very unique habitat.
Through the last half of the last century we made many unwise choices in how we use the land. We put our landfills in wetlands because they were viewed as worthless land. We drained wetlands and covered them in asphalt to give us land to develop for strip malls, parking lots and housing developments all in the name of progress. We threaten the health of our rivers so we can have ready access to the cooling water for fossil and nuclear power plants rather than utilize more expensive cooling technology. Other forms of energy production cause mountains to be leveled for access to cheap coal, the arctic to be threatened for access to oil and the landscape covered with oil and gas drilling rigs. This habitat has been lost forever.
The failure of our government to establish policies that would create a comprehensive approach to national energy development and in the case of offshore wind, a strategy for ocean development, has significantly added to this problem. The warnings on climate change are real, and we need to stop wasting time. Wind energy is real but this is the wrong place for it.
Cape Wind will give us only 130 turbines, and it should be abundantly obvious that this site will never be able to expand; there is no space for growth. We will be giving up this unique habitat, this little donut hole of federal land, only to see it become dwarfed by the larger scale wind projects that will come in the very near future to satisfy our needs to become energy independent. These new projects will be in deeper offshore waters where they would be best sited.
This should be the focus of the MMS evaluation - alternative sites for the more significant amounts of energy this region needs. It is only through comprehensive planning that we can meet the challenge and permanently replace fossil fuels with renewable energy such as wind power. The current piecemeal approach represented by Cape Wind is shortsighted and sacrifices critical inshore habitat for little long-term energy gain.
As a nation, we have succeeded in losing much of our most valuable habitat forever; they don't make it anymore. The shallow waters of Nantucket Sound are now similarly threatened. Although clean, wind does not come without a price and we should not let our passion for protecting our planet leave us without those places that make it special. We should not be so quick to run to the first entrepreneur to come down the road and jump on his wagon. This project represents a financial package favorable to the developer and no one else. MMS needs to recognize that the evolution of wind technology has already made deeper water locations off our shoreline a distinct reality where we can take advantage of more consistent winds and fewer resource impacts and leave this truly unique place to the creatures who depend on it for their survival, including all of us.
No to Cape Wind
To the Editor:
Do you love to look out on the water, savor the natural beauty undisturbed by man surrounding the Island? I do and I bet you do too. You don't have to be a fisherman or a sailor to appreciate the unique place we choose to live. Cape Wind threatens us all in different ways. For me, 130 wind turbines taller than the Statue of Liberty are not inspired beauty or majestic peacefulness, with their 182-foot rotating blades and blinking lights. They are giant dollar signs for a private developer who will rake in subsidies and tax credits on our dime.
Six million birds migrate through the area of Horseshoe Shoals, the proposed construction site. These turbines are a danger to them and to aircraft radar. We currently enjoy nature's gift of excellent water quality. Cape Wind will contain 40,000 gallons of transformer oil on the 10-story electrical service platform, complete with helicopter pad.
A number of Island commercial fishermen regularly fish the shoals, your neighbor might be permanently losing his livelihood with the construction of the wind farm, never mind a potential spill. After all, the Big Dig turned out fine. Circuit Avenue will be doing the Cape Wind shuffle, marching to the multi-ton, metronome-like, incessant pounding of metal on metal pile drivers forcing these structures into the seabed.
Oh, we certainly will be able to hear it across the sound and during years of construction.
There is a bright future for wind power, but Cape Wind's proposal is flawed. We don't even get the electricity, it goes into the National Grid. The Federal Minerals Management Service Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), available at the Vineyard Haven Public Library, admits the cost of the electricity from Cape Wind will cost two to three times more than current wholesale prices. Federal and state taxpayers will pay over $1.3 billion in tax credits and subsidies to Cape Wind, a private enterprise. Your tax dollars at work in a private pocket.
I think it is costly enough to live here; does there have to be a cost to the environment as well? Please visit saveoursound.org. (It's quite an education) Look at the proposed view from Ocean Park and come to the DEIS public hearing at MVHRS on the 12th. This is our last chance to stop Cape Wind and their deep pockets.
Don't we sacrifice enough already? There is no benefit for the Island. We will suffer sea life habitat destruction, danger to bird migration, aircraft radar, boat navigation and property values as many of our stunning views will no longer exist. Your voice is needed at the last hearing, with mine. You can do something now that your great, great grandchildren will thank you for. It's our environment, not Cape Wind's, not yet.