To the Editor:
I have just read the rather confusing report in The Times about the question of Ben Robinson’s domicile and/or legal residence, and thus his position as a member of the Tisbury planning board and of the M.V. Commission. I have also read the three comments currently online. To say that they are mean-spirited is an understatement; in fact, they were cravenly written behind aliases to hide the authors’ identities. Further, they appear to be ill-informed. Without weighing in on the possible political reasons for this attack, I am writing to offer a different view.
For the record, I have known Ben since he was a kid, and further, I have served as a planning board member in West Tisbury for many years. Unlike many residents as well as the ill-informed commenters, I am well aware of the very limited scope of our duties, responsibilities, and regulatory powers. For us, only the M.V. Commission has some real teeth and power to act to prevent the Vineyard from changing ever more dramatically and at an ever-escalating rate.
The duties, powers, and responsibilities of both positions are ones that I believe Ben understands and attempts to practice. In joint meetings, I have been very impressed over the years with his thoughtful and principled comments and decisions. Further, I am also impressed at his willingness to put in the time to attend meetings and make decisions which may help to keep the Island a livable place. This is an issue that is rapidly attaining real legs, as digital reservations and seasonal businesses predominate in our economy, with the requisite service-associated support businesses often coming from off-Island. Ben is a member of a very small cohort of young Islanders (under 50 or so) who actually serve in and on our Island-wide and local political structures. Rather than excoriated, he should be thanked, because the only other ones that I can think of are Keith Chatinover, Juli Vanderhoop, and Lucy Morrison, plus one or two board members in West Tisbury who “may be under 50”!
In fact, personal differences of opinion always arise with every application, review, and decision. That doesn’t make the person with a different view wrong unless there is an element of self-interest or conflict of interest involved. Unfortunately, and too often, there are unsavory covert and even overt factors, and where large sums of money are involved, those issues grow. Periodically, every member of Massachusetts town and county governments must take an ethics training and test. This is supposed to keep us honest. Having read about some decisions in various towns and at the county level recently, I am hard pressed to see how a board, official, or commission made some decision legally and ethically. Too often there seems to be a thread of self-aggrandizement or quid pro quo involved, if not actual enrichment.
The most shocking part of this whole controversy, however, is that people are watching to see whether lights come on, whether someone puts their garbage out, or other actions in order to determine residency. No matter what the issue, this is harassment of a particularly vile sort. No wonder it is virtually impossible to find people to serve for the public good instead of their own.
Virginia Crowell Jones