As the country gears up for a new president and a new congress, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission is calling on federal legislators to include the Island in future infrastructure discussions.
In letters to Rep. Bill Keating, D-Bourne, and senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren, the commission asked for a joint meeting or at the least individual meetings to discuss the role the federal government can play in developing green infrastructure, energy transformation, and ecologically regenerative best practices on the Island.
The letter lays out the Island’s efforts to combat climate change such as the Climate Action Task Force and the commission’s adoption of a climate crisis solution.
“One key piece that is still missing is meaningful partnerships at the federal government level. Now, with a change within the executive branch certain, we must bring the weight of the federal government to the table,” the letter states in part. “As we initially drafted this very letter, Beach Road — linking our lone hospital and year-round ferry terminal — was flooding in several places due to a fairly routine nor’easter. Even astronomical high tides are showing up as ‘sunny day’ nuisance flooding in more areas across the Island every year. With our coastal resources under immense threat, we have committed to becoming a leader in the larger quest to adapt to climate disruption. The Island community is engaged and willing; we stand ready to actively partner with state and federal government entities looking to showcase proofs of concept and refine them for real-world application in other regions. Such collaboration positions us for best practices and policies that account for unique local conditions.”
At a commission meeting Thursday night, commissioner Ben Robinson said now was the time to engage the state’s federal legislators, especially with the potential of a green infrastructure package on the way.
Robinson also said there has been discussion about bringing back earmarks, spending requests inserted into legislation at the request of individual lawmakers to benefit specific projects in specific locations.
In 2007, the Democratic House of Representatives reformed earmarks, requiring lawmakers to include their names on requests, and had to certify the earmark would be used for a nonprofit or public project. Republicans then put a moratorium on earmarks in 2011.
“There’s good and bad about earmarks. For a small community like the Vineyard, we can go after real projects here that our community really can’t afford to tackle. This might be money toward electrifying the Steamship Authority, money toward protecting coastal roads, so there’s a lot of initiatives we have that we’re looking for funding for,” Robinson said. “This is a way to get on their radar and be a bit of a squeaky wheel, to make sure Martha’s Vineyard doesn’t get left out when they start writing infrastructure bills.”
Commissioners unanimously approved sending the letter.
In other business, commissioners approved a loan rate modification on the properties the commission owns. The commission owns its offices on New York Avenue and a property on Tia Anna Lane in Oak Bluffs. The modification lowers the commission’s annual loan payments by $24,000.
A review of the Edgartown Stop & Shop’s west entrance was moved to the commission’s next meeting, on Jan. 7. The review is part of the grocery chain’s proposal to construct a 17,432-square-foot addition to the existing Stop & Shop store, plus the demolition and reconstruction of a slightly larger Rockland Trust Bank building.
Commissioners also granted Flat Point Farm a four-year extension on its project to create four three-acre lots and five four- to six-acre lots around existing buildings, and place 60 acres in conservation on a 91.6-acre farm.