Menemsha is back


Tuesday’s modest ceremony in Menemsha was modest only in its simplicity. In fact, it marked a triumphant moment in the village’s history, a moment standing between calamity on a historic scale and anticipation of fresh rewards to come from the timely revival of a harbor front ecosystem that is beloved by all who experience it.

A year ago, fire destroyed a substantial part of the village and the structures that defined the west side of the harbor basin. That vicious blaze might very well have destroyed the eastern shore as well, but for the selfless and devoted actions of Chilmarkers, crickers, and Islanders from every town.

Now, a substantial portion of the destruction done on that desperate July day has been erased and replaced. The pace of rehabilitation has been remarkable, led by the town’s selectmen and others, all of whom have every reason to be proud of their determination, creativity, and industriousness. Tuesday, Menemsha turned its back on the enormous loss and looked ahead to the great pleasures associated with life in this tiny village in the years ahead.

Sadly, as efficient, determined, and admirable as the Chilmark effort to replace the damaged docks has been, the small town’s accomplishment has not been matched by the vast, grinding, bureaucracy of the federal government, whose job it is to replace the red-roofed Coast Guard Boathouse, which was such an important fixture in the life of Menemsha. It will be months, certainly, and perhaps years, before Washington will do its part, although the actual challenge for federal authorities does not approximate the daunting task that in July 2010 lay ahead of Chilmark residents and taxpayers.

Menemsha is back, and we say, Hats off to the small town that got such a big job done, done right, and done quickly.

Next in Oak Bluffs

Michael Dutton and the Oak Bluffs selectmen have cleared the decks for action on the town’s jumbled affairs. Today, the onus for leadership is squarely on the five selectmen. Every decision, every political scrap, every false start, every delay, every unwarranted genuflection to special interest pleadings, every hiring choice is on the selectmen. Voters take note.

This page does not believe for an instant that Oak Bluffs’s current disrepair can fairly be lodged at the feet of Mr. Dutton, though he might have done better. But, no matter. Whatever has been the cause of the town’s sad decline over time has been entirely the fault of the five selectmen, who are the chief executives. It is they who have made the poor judgments, managed their staffs poorly, failed to make important decisions or failed to make them in a timely fashion. It is they who, faced with declining revenues and increasing costs, have failed to make a plan and execute it. It is they who have failed to persuade town voters to follow their lead.

Now, the selectmen have the opportunity they’ve carved for themselves to right the ship. The situation is grave. They must not fail their constituents.