Our town needs our help


To the Editor:

As spring fills the air with the new arrival of life and energy, Vineyard Haven is calling for our help.

A small group of merchants and developers has once again petitioned the town to allow the sale of beer and wine in 19 year-round restaurants and inns, plus an unknown number of seasonal establishments. A set of legislative guidelines has been copied practically verbatim from Rockport, without an original thought given to our unique harbor town. All three of our selectmen show unbridled enthusiasm for this change (two happen to be in the restaurant and inn business). All three town officials assure us that they will create appropriate regulations at some future time, and they inform us that the rules can be arbitrarily changed anytime at their discretion. The only certain thing about this ballot question is its uncertainty. Given the endless list of unanswered questions, it makes common sense to vote no, since we don’t really know what we’re voting for.

For nearly two centuries, Tisbury has been above the sale of alcoholic beverages. During these many years, our town has become the Island gold standard for year-round vitality, ecological commitment, a genuine working waterfront and a prosperous business community. Most important, we are a visitor friendly, family friendly, and kid friendly town.

This exceptional quality of life that we must not take for granted has been nurtured by citizens who value our town and its residents above personal gain. The entrepreneurial spirit of our business sector has always worked within our laws and prospered. Tisbury has truly achieved a high standard in contrast with our national culture where self-indulgence, complacency, and me-first attitudes are discouragingly common and clearly destructive.

The unique and independent character of Tisbury must not be compromised so we become like everywhere else.

Great things happen in Tisbury, and we should be grateful for them all. In a few years, we will celebrate a century since the founding of Brickman’s store and Cronig’s Market. The Mansion House passed that milestone 15 years ago. Walk through town, and you will see that most of our shops and restaurants have been established for 30 years or more. Businesses on State Road are constantly upgrading and expanding. Our waterfront is one of the few in the world where boatyards, restaurants, retailers and residents co-exist harmoniously and sustainably. Sail Martha’s Vineyard chose Tisbury as its home base for the safety of the Lagoon Pond, where it conducts swimming and sailing instruction for Island kids at no charge. More than 400 youngsters went through the program last year. For the hundreds of boating enthusiasts, all our harbors are available to town residents at affordable rates for moorings and dockage. This is unheard of in most tourist communities.

Vineyard Haven harbor is a marvel of maritime cooperation. Ferries are constantly arriving from Woods Hole, New Bedford and Falmouth, while tugs, barges, mini-cruise ships, and tall ships maneuver on the eastern side of the port. Each summer, hundreds of private and charter sail and motor yachts are drawn to this port due to its welcoming atmosphere, nautical authenticity and easy access to town and Owen Park. In the outer harbor, where transient moorings and anchorages are available, dozens of local and seasonal kids join the sailing program at the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club. Our waterways are teeming with activity for all ages and the collateral benefits to our town are huge. Surely, for safety reasons among many others, permitting the sale of beer and wine would not be wise around this waterfront.

The quiet residential homes in our William Street historic district, upper Main Street, and throughout our town should not be subject to the inevitable increase in noise and mess from nearby restaurants selling beer and wine. It is unfair to these citizens who settled here for the tranquility of Vineyard Haven.

As citizens, we should embrace all of our business community and insist on excellence, but we must not risk eroding our established foundation. If we stand back and really look objectively at our town in the context of our Island and our country, we will see the jewel in the crown. And it is not only our right but our obligation to cast our vote on April 27, with a clear perspective on the issues.

Ballot question number one is more than a policy decision. If approved, the political, economic, and cultural direction of our town could be irrevocably reversed to a downward trend. Do we really need to depend on the sale of beer and wine to be successful — or to be happy? Is this the message we want to send to our kids and neighbors?

We must vote to preserve the sustainable qualities of this town. Our focus should be on the greater good of all Tisbury residents. Let’s come together and express stewardship, not ownership. Protect our covenant with our town — for us and for generations to come.

Please vote no to beer and wine.

Nat Benjamin

Vineyard Haven