To the Editor:
Recently, an Island planning board member, representing a town that went out of its way to defeat the Housing Bank proposal, was quoted in the Times and Gazette as saying: “When my town says we’re out, we’re out. It would be a mockery of democracy to meet with other planning boards to advance what we know our town doesn’t want.”
The interesting thing is that this planning board member seems to be misappropriating the term democracy, which only works when we have a well-informed citizenry. A variation of this sentiment on democracy was written by Founder Thomas Jefferson (bit.ly/JeffersonDem).
And in this planning board member’s town (no offense intended to its residents), what was being promoted in opposition to the Housing Bank was anything but informative. Some of it was false; much of it was inflammatory. In fact, the primary argument against the Housing Bank by this planning board member was a failure of its proponents to include the town selectmen.
So now, when the good people of West Tisbury, who had the good sense not to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” and to forward the Housing Bank proposal, propose in its defeat that the six towns work together on a solution, we get this response.
I feel compelled to challenge this planning board member as not a proponent of democracy but rather of demagoguery. Here, I will define it: “political activity or practices that seek support by appealing to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people rather than by using rational argument.”
I say we have critical needs on our Island, affordable housing being one of the most pressing. And while it would be petty of me to point out the recent incident of unfortunate folks who were found squatting in this planning board member’s town trailers, it is clear to me that we have a need only the six towns working together can solve.
Let’s get to work, people, on the housing issue together. If it means voting out those who act against our wishes and the greater good, then let’s make it so. I love West Tisbury, but maybe I should rent a place in O.B. so I can “put my money where my mouth is.”
Bellissimo is a member of the Dukes County Regional Housing Board. –Ed.