The departure of Tristan Israel from town government has left a void that Jeff Kristal and Seth Gambino are trying to fill.
Kristal, 53, is the owner of Crocker House Inn, and lives there with his wife, and Gambino, 44, is the owner of La Choza, and lives in an apartment inside his mother’s house on Causeway Street.
Kristal is touting his experience in town government as a former two-term selectman, finance committee member, and as a member of various other town boards. Gambino has never been elected or appointed to any board, and says that’s a plus.
“I think my experience will help bridge this gap from Tristan stepping down after 24 years. We need some institutional knowledge,” Kristal said. “I think experience is huge, and my opponent thinks that experience is not a good thing …”
Gambino said it’s time to look at town government differently. “I think what we really need, we’ve had a million people come in here and try to push their own agendas, and it never works. Our system is broken. We need to start it from the ground up,” he said. “We’re supposed to be impartial adjudicators, and that’s what I plan to bring. I think that my lack of interaction with all of these other boards is the strength for this position.”
Gambino would like to add staff to help overworked employees in town. “I’m repeating what every department has told me. All of their concern is that they’ve been taking on additional roles,” Gambino said.
Kristal said a lot is asked of town employees, but he understands the financial constraints. “We have some amazing people who do an extraordinary amount of work. Could they use some support staff? Probably. But they really need new accommodations, they need a new facility before they are looking to start expanding personnel. We did approve an assistant fire chief [at town meeting], so where it makes sense, financial sense, operational sense — absolutely we could probably use more staff.”
Both candidates agree on the shared-use path proposed by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation for Beach Road. They don’t support it. Gambino said the symmetrical bike lane makes more sense. “It’s unfair to either side of the road to put two-way traffic before two-way traffic,” Gambino said.
Kristal said land shouldn’t be taken by eminent domain unless there is a safety concern. “To me, we need to fix the damn sidewalks before we do anything,” Kristal said.
What to do with the Tisbury School is the key issue in town, Kristal said. “I don’t think any other building gets done in this town until the school gets addressed — until we get a long-range and short-range plan on the school,” he said. “How we’re going to fund it. Who we’re going to talk to for these outside funding sources. I still think we should go back to the state even though it’s a long, long shot.”
Gambino declined to pick any one issue, saying he is running on changing the status quo and improving transparency by using tools, like Facebook and the Internet, to reach more people. “I don’t fault anyone who has done this position … Where is my anger? Where am I upset? It’s not at any one particular thing, it’s the process. It’s the process that doesn’t include people and seems to work in the shadows whether it’s nefarious or not.”
How did you vote on the new Tisbury School project last year?
Gambino: “I voted against it. I’m not necessarily happy about it. I got caught up in the past … I think both sides did not do a great job at the end of communicating with people … It could have been a big financial mistake to do it as well. It could have been overbuilding a school as well. There were a lot of questions that weren’t answered. (Asked to explain what wasn’t answered, he said, “Was this too much school for us? Is that true? … Was maintenance neglected in order to push this through?”) It is what it is. It is the system … The Tisbury school board has been really good in changing their stance in really trying to work on finding something that makes everybody happy.”
Kristal: “I voted yes. I sat on the building committee, so I was involved for two-plus years. Saw everything they went through, participated in everything they went through, and at the end of the day we had one project in front of us. Would I have liked to have been able to choose from a cart full of — one from column A and two from column B? That would be great, but that’s not how the MSBA process works … We had one option through the MSBA. Usually when we do something like this, when we vote it down and we come back in another year or two, we always end up with a better project. So I anticipate we’ll all work together and come up with a better project.”
Now that Vineyard Haven has experience with all-alcohol licenses, do you support them?
Kristal: “It’s working out great. We’re actually seeing the down the road of what could happen. We talked about, people would want to invest in our community because we had reason for them to come. So we have a 130-seat restaurant that’s already been approved by the MVC and the zoning board to go into the old Bowl and Board, which is something that never would have happened if we didn’t have alcohol … We’ve had zero, absolutely zero, negativity towards drunks in the streets, kids are still safe riding their bikes, all these scare tactics we heard years ago have never come to fruition. That doesn’t mean we stop worrying about it. We still stay extremely vigilant, and the checks and balances are there.”
Gambino: “My concern is definitely the next step in going to bars, but again none of this matters if I’m elected selectman, and it shouldn’t matter if Jeff is elected selectman. We’re supposed to be an impartial adjudicator. As much as I didn’t like it, I was … a resident making a stand against something I didn’t want to see. And, of course, you stamp your feet because you can’t kind of be wishy-washy when you’re trying to make a point. It did work. But that is something that did work. It did go to the public. I support what the people want. I don’t want liquor in my backyard, no, but if the people want it — rock on. Hallelujah.”
Where do you stand on the three-day music festival, now known as Beach Road Weekend?
Kristal: “The town is still vetting it. I support the selectmen and how they’re going about it. I think that’s the prudent way … Unfortunately or fortunately, this is how we do things in Tisbury. We kind of talk things through so people are picking up their marbles and going to another town to play, but this promoter actually stayed with it, and is trying to show the town there is value. And you know what? If we do it and it doesn’t work out, we don’t do it again next year. That’s the great thing about it. It’s very difficult to say no if you don’t have a clue if it’s working or not working.”
Gambino: “If this is something that the town wants, by all means, we can look into it. This was something that the town was approached in late summer, early fall. It only came up in a whole-sentence thing in December …. It’s a decision that’s being made in a bubble. Licenses were issued the wrong way around. This is now out of our control. There’s nothing redeeming about this. It’s the wrong time of the year. It’s the wrong weekend. Wrong duration. Wrong type of event. And wrong location. But if the people want it, I know a lot and I can help it go off.”
Where do you stand on the Housing Bank?
Kristal: “I’m not in favor of the Housing Bank … We have a municipal housing trust. We can fund everything that Housing Bank is talking about, from a sewer to affordable housing to senior housing to workforce housing. We already fund a little bit out of it for Habitat for Humanity. We can purchase property. We can do a whole magnitude of things if we had a funding source, and right now that funding source looks to be the rooms tax coming through from the state with the new law. So for us to give up that revenue without even knowing what it is, I think, is just shortsighted. I think we need to keep the revenue first, I think we need to fund our municipal housing trust to a better level than what we currently fund it to right now, and that will allow us to do some of the things we need to do in this town, including paying down the tax rate, including fixing the roads, including — it just goes on and on and on. At the end of the year, we could put more in our stabilization funds. We could fund fire trucks through that. We could fund the school through that. We’ll have to see what money we have there. I don’t want count the money before it’s there. Doing the Housing Bank would absolutely cut us off at the knees.”
Gambino: “I’m trying so hard to like it, but I just … I can’t get behind it. It’s coming off as a nonrefundable commitment to disorganization. I would love to, the reason I tried to like it at first, a pitch they were trying to give me, is that after a couple of years, we vote on it again. If we vote it down, there’s all that money we can have it back and have it go into our general fund.”