MVC’s credibility is at stake

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To the Editor:

I am frankly concerned about what I heard when listening to the discussion at LUPC on Tuesday, June 8, concerning the high school’s application for the athletic fields. I voted for some of those folks, and expect them to represent me and the town in a way that is commensurate with our values. I expect the same of all elected officials — they should be representing the will of the majority, especially if the evidence supports that will. 

Candidly, I did not listen to all of the MVC sessions, but did hear the various perspectives presented in the first half of Tuesday’s meeting. Based on that, I would think that the MVC had no perspective or policy at all with regard to the environment. The various statements I heard, with the exception of Mr. Robinson’s, appeared to be looking for reasons to approve an acknowledged problematic approach. That, despite articulate opposing arguments from virtually every conservation and environmentally conscious group on the Vineyard. I was particularly upset by comments referring to how much plastic already exists in our environment. Just because human behavior has been a particular way is not a reason to continue it! If the problem is acknowledged, every action to offset it is meaningful.

 It’s not as if there isn’t a choice. The viable use of grass was testified to, as were the overstated use figures presented by the school (meaning there will likely be less wear than the applicant stated). 

 I urge the commissioners to seriously consider what their constituents — the voters — desire. West Tisbury has a history of environmental responsibility from banning plastic bottles to extensive use of environmentally friendly energy solutions (e.g., three town-owned vehicles are 100 percent electric; a solar farm supplies about 50 percent of the town’s electric usage). Other towns are making similar strides. It is not the job of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission to determine what is best for a group of students or their mentors; it is the MVC’s responsibility to look at the whole of a project, its impact for the very long term, and determine what is best for the Island and the entire community.

It is not about only one field. The lack of transparency about long-term costs for the entire project — multiple fields, the stands, clubhouse, etc. — is extremely troubling (as a member of the West Tisbury finance committee, I actively sought multiple meetings with school officials, and was turned down). For that reason alone, the project should be delayed until the community truly understands what it faces financially.

With regard to the requested plastic field, at the very least, the high school should start with a natural grass field; if it turns out to be truly problematic, the plan can be revisited. (One commissioner suggested just the opposite, starting with plastic turf. Certainly the reverse approach is safer and more logical.) So, in that regard, let’s err on the side of the environment. 

From a fiscal perspective, let’s not err at all.

Not only the environment and our pocketbooks, but the credibility of the MVC is at stake.

Doug Ruskin
West Tisbury