You’re not being neighborly

23

To the Editor:

I went to the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs for the West Tisbury town meeting. I stood by the entrance by myself, with a protest sign that read, “Why can’t I go to L.C.B?” I purposely put “Lambert’s Cove Beach” in initials, to try to engage a larger conversation about public beach access and what it means to be a neighbor. A few meetinggoers actually agreed with me, most ignored me, a couple said something about a “deed” and walked off. I even had a few people invite me to the beach, but I politely declined. The only real conversation I had was when someone asked me, “Why don’t you ever include Chilmark in your letters?” I told him my reasons, and he agreed they were valid, but didn’t want to take the conversation further than that. 

The policy that denies the public walk-on access to Lambert’s Cove Beach, a town park, isn’t my main gripe; it’s the way the people of West Tisbury so often describe themselves. Here are some examples from a recent Times article about West Tisbury’s diversity statement (“West Tisbury selectmen issue diversity statement,” June 18), and the diversity statement itself.

“West Tisbury Police Chief Matt Mincone later said community policing has long been West Tisbury’s model, as has approachability and respect for all: ‘We’re all neighbors.'” 

I call poppycock. Having your town meeting in a neighboring town on private property for free and having a policy to exclude those same people is not neighborly at all. To put in a public safety perspective, first responders from other towns will help if called to West Tisbury. Those same first responders who will risk their lives in your town are the ones you are excluding from your town beach. 

Here is another quote from the same article: “The board of selectmen celebrates the diversity of the community it serves and the individuals it employs, embracing the differences in race, color, religious creed, national origin, ancestry, gender, age, economic status, disability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.” Let’s focus on “national origin,” which boils down to “where you live.” So if someone works for the town of West Tisbury, but lives in another town, the town is treating them differently from someone who works for the town and lives in town. Because the employee who lives in another town is excluded from the beach. The town is treating its employees differently. Beach passes are also sold at the West Tisbury School. Students there come from all of the Island towns. The school/town is treating the students there differently because of where they are from. What does that teach the students?

Two final quotes from the diversity statement: “This is our commitment and our pledge. To listen, to engage and to be mindful in creating and maintaining a level of service that respects every person. And “The board of selectmen believes it has a responsibility to capitalize on the strength emanating from these differences, and has a duty to ensure its employees, citizens, business associates, and the members of the general public are treated with dignity and respect in all of their duties and dealings with the town of West Tisbury.” Again, I call poppycock.

In conclusion, these letters of mine really should have ended with, “You’re not being neighborly, so please stop saying you are,” instead of “end beach apartheid.”

 

Erik Albert
Oak Bluffs

23 COMMENTS

    • It seems that every time the topic of LCB makes it into the letters section someone brings up Chilmark. The differences have been explained over and over, but I will do it again.
      First off, Chilmark provides a public beach in Menemsha. The town posts a lifeguard at that beach and the guard’s wages are paid for by the revenue obtained via the sticker sales for Vincent and Squibnocket. As to the latter pair of beaches, those are privately owned land that is leased by the town. The leases clearly spell out who is allowed to access the beach in summer. The town may not unilaterally alter the conditions set forth in the agreements with the owners or they would be in violation of the lease.

  1. Welcome to the island! Where all pigs are created equal, but, some pigs are more equal than others.

    • Erik,

      As someone who has been very critical of your letters and slogan, I can at least appreciate that you seem to be parting ways with ‘beach apartheid’. If that’s the case, a sincere thanks. Really.

      I see your point about what it means to be neighborly. However, I’d ask you to consider that it is also unneighborly to piggyback on serious social topics that affect those in our community directly, like racism and homophobia. Those are very different from the LCB issue, and respect for context is needed when reading statements from our officials.

      I think you can continue to make your point without relating the beach to real injustice.

        • Erik, when local churches were tagged by homophobic cowards, several community leaders released statements about it. This paper published an editorial in support of LGBTQ. If I recall correctly, you said that made the paper and the community hypocritical. Complicit. All because LC is not handled to your liking. That’s just one example. The context of those statements, that editorial, and the community reaction is simple — our neighbors were being attacked for who they are. For their traits and identities. Do you really think it’s reasonable to compare orientation or race to the town in which someone chooses to buy a home? It’s not necessarily a matter of haves and have-nots, either. Someone could be wealthy and own a $5 million home in Edgartown. If that person wanted full West Tis access, then a West Tis purchase is the way to go.

          On the other hand, I don’t really have an objection to your goal. All Vineyard beaches being accessible to all Vineyard residents sounds good to me. Would that be the nice thing to do? Probably. But I would never compare missing out on a matter as small as beach access to the kind of struggles that are at hand when we talk about discrimination based on factors people are born with. We have neighbors who have been the target of true antipathy, and you’re comparing that to something that, while perhaps frustrating and inconvenient, is not rooted in actual hatred. I objected to your old slogan because there are still, thirty years later, beaches in South Africa where Black citizens are harassed and called slurs. It’s made the news within the last year. Real beach apartheid exists.

          I’m not asking you to abandon your goal. That’s your business. But I think you would have more support if you framed it more realistically. In any case, I’ve has my say and will let you be. Peace.

        • Aw, so friendly and neighborly. As usual. Can’t imagine why productive discussion eludes you, Erik.

          There once was a man from OB
          Penned letters obtuse as the sea
          Townsfolk begged him cease
          Their brows he did crease
          All for naught
          Cuz that beach still ain’t free

  2. You go Erik…the water’s edge, no matter where, should be open to all. Take 100 feet from high water mark by eminent domain all across the island and make it open to all. It’ll never happen but a town beach…of course.

    • It happens most everywhere else in the world.
      Someday MA will be dragged into modernity, kicking and screaming.

    • Vineyarder61
      This has been proposed many times in the past. The problem is that an eminent domain taking would require compensation be made to the current property owners. How much is one acre of beach front property worth on MV, and how would the funds be obtained for such an action?

  3. Erik, you have many fine qualities as a person, intelligence being one of them. Please use that intelligence to observe the general lack of enthusiasm or interest in this cause over the years that you’ve been writing these letters. When something fails to catch on with an audience, it is usually a sign that it is just not that compelling to other people and there is no groundswell of support. West Tisbury sets their terms within their legal rights. Imagine if people declared that they wanted to stay at your inn and would pay what they felt was a reasonable price in the high season, which on their terms was $50 a night. I suspect you would tell them that as it is your business, you set the rates and terms. No different than West Tisbury

    • The comment above that says “you go Erik” is all of the enthusiasm I need. Slavery was legal too, so was The Holocaust. Towns are public entities, not private businesses, so it’s a false equivalence to bring my private property into this.

      • Everyone has a right to express their thoughts and feelings. It is good form to avoid hyperbole (equating a town legal issue to the Holocaust, for example) but you can’t legislate tact and perspective. I doubt I’m alone in thinking that this verbose and inflamatory language does more harm than help to your cause and relegates you unnecessarily to the rank of tedious gadfly beating a dead horse, but to each their own. I love walking my dogs on Lambert’s Cove Beach, but when the town decided to ban that this summer, at no point did I consider comparing it to slavery or the Holocaust because it is an absurd equivalency.

        • I’ll walk back the slavery and Holocaust statement and replace them with “denying same sex couples to marry ” And it’s a fair criticism about inflammatory language. For what it’s worth, at my protest I was very polite. As far as beating a dead horse I’ll stick with Ghandi “Many people, especially ignorant people, want to punish you for speaking the truth, for being correct, for being you. Never apologize for being correct or for being years ahead of your time. If you’re right and you know it, speak your mind Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is still the truth.” — Mahatma Gandhi.

          • What slavery and Holocaust statement? And what about same sex couples being denied their rights?

            Does a privileged, white male pretend to feel suffering on a par with enslaved human beings or Holocaust victims? Even if you happen to be gay, surely you can’t believe that being denied a right to be in a loving marriage is the same as not being allowed to go to another town’s beach for a few months out of the year.

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