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.”