The vote’s in, but the jury’s out


Tisbury’s town election stimulated voters. (Do not infer an allusion to the beer/wine debate from the verb in the previous sentence.)

When 56 percent of voters participate, it is reasonable to conclude that they were moved by the choices offered them and that democracy works as it should in the Island’s port town. That isn’t to say that democracy’s fairytale aura governed.

Incumbent selectman Tristan Israel, now in his second decade in office, attracted two challengers, suggesting that there are segments of the electorate who hunger for change. But, Mr. Israel attracted an impressive vote in victory, and he justly deserves congratulations for a record that pleases so many of his neighbors and for a campaign that was so obviously effective.

Of course, reelection does not necessarily mean satisfaction. An incumbent may be returned to office because voters are not sufficiently acquainted with his or her opponents to take a chance. At least, not this year.

Reelection does not mean that the job is done. In Mr. Israel’s case, and for his selectmen colleagues, with regard to the management of the licensing of restaurants to sell beer and wine, there is a profound test ahead.

What are the measures that will be applied to gauge the selectmen’s performance on the beer/wine licensing issue? Here are a few:

Will the rules developed to govern licensed restaurants be clear, comprehensive, and designed to make the addition of beer/wine sales an enhancement to the experience residents and visitors have in Tisbury?

Will the rules be efficiently and relentlessly enforced?

Will the licensing be fair and in line with the rules? Leniency in this regard will be fatal to the selectmen’s leadership. Their leadership with regard to horrifying animal control issues over the past two years has been tarnished at times by leniency when rigor was required. The voters’ sent an unmistakable message that they want rigor not leniency in such persistent, notorious, and disagreeable matters. The lesson echoes in the defeat of Ken Garde, the longtime, incumbent board of health member and host to many of the town’s most troublesome dogs, by Michael Loberg, who as a newcomer to town elective politics put up an astonishing vote total, half again as large as Mr. Israel’s, in winning Mr. Garde’s seat.

And finally, there are the restaurant owners who will benefit — though not as handsomely as some of them and some of their opponents believe — from permission to add beer/wine sales to their menus. They will be measured too. Will they recognize the nervous willingness of voters to make a change in the interests of their business neighbors? And, will these business owners return the favor with a profound determination to make the sales of beer and wine in restaurants an unalloyed enhancement rather than a regrettable misstep for Tisbury?

There is every reason to think that, by every one of these measures, voters will satisfy themselves that they did the right thing. But, while the vote is in, the jury is out.