One week ago, the West Tisbury select board considered a holiday name change from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. However, the vote was delayed to provide select board member Kent Healy with more time to consider the issue.
Some people were unhappy with the consideration for the Columbus Day name change. West Tisbury town administrator Jennifer Rand received a lengthy letter from Matthew Guarnieri, founder of the Italian-American Defense League, expressing displeasure of the name change consideration. “Keep Columbus Day, and designate Indigenous People’s Day, a day worthy of recognition, to either August 9 (International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples), Sept. 24 (Native American Day in California), or the Friday after Thanksgiving, a better fit based on historical context,” Guarnieri wrote. “Replacing Columbus Day is contrary to a spirit of diversity, equity, and inclusion by excluding Italian Americans. Historical context shows Columbus Day was designated because of anti-Italianism and anti-Catholicism in the 19th and 20th centuries.”
Healy still wasn’t convinced it was time to make the change. “This is a town issue. It should not be decided by three members of the select board,” Healy said.
Select board chair Skipper Manter clarified to Healy that while they are voting on it, the motion is to recommend the change to the personnel board, which would then be decided upon during a town meeting.
“I don’t think we should,” Healy said.
During the previous meeting, Rand said if the change is made, the personnel board would need to bring forward a warrant article for the wording change at the next town meeting. Due to Massachusetts not recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day, West Tisbury would need to word the personnel bylaw in a way that gives a day off on the second Monday of October for a holiday the town recognizes. In the end, West Tisbury’s voters will be the ones to decide whether the town observes the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day.
Manter suggested a possibility of jointly celebrating Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples Day in West Tisbury until the state and federal governments made their own amendments.
The select board voted 2-0 to recommend the name change to the personnel board. Healy abstained. He did not immediately return a call seeking clarification on why he abstained.
West Tisbury joins Aquinnah in making the switch.
In other business, the select board unanimously approved holding a special town meeting. The meeting will take place at West Tisbury School on Nov. 16 at 7 pm. The following issues will be addressed during the meeting:
- A request to West Tisbury by the Up-Island School Committee for funds toward replacing the roof of West Tisbury School. An initial quote received by the committee estimated the costs to be $322,000. However, after the completion of the engineering bid and design, the costs looked closer to $644,000. District Superintendent Matthew D’Andrea said warrant articles for this issue will be submitted to the other Up-Island towns as well.
- A request for $5,000 for stormtide pathways from Martha’s Vineyard Commission climate change planner Liz Durkee.
- The new proposed cost-sharing formula for Tri-Town Ambulance, which was discussed Friday during an up-Island joint select board meeting.
- The funding process of Chilmark School’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system renovations, which was discussed during an Up-Island School Committee meeting on Monday.
- A request from West Tisbury treasurer Kathy Logue to readopt a couple articles of Massachusetts general law. This request was made because general laws are adopted with the exact language it was written in at the time. According to Rand, this process allows the town to keep pace with the current general bylaw with more efficiency. The details of the laws will be available soon.
- A request from West Tisbury town clerk Tara J. Whiting-Wells to adopt a Massachusetts general law in which if voter registration day falls on a Saturday, she is allowed to treat it as a Friday or a Monday. This would allow voters to register on a Friday or a Monday rather than requiring them to do it on a Saturday.
In shellfish news, the select board unanimously approved the start of recreational oyster season. Permit holders will be allowed a half-bushel one day per week. The commercial oyster season was approved 2-0 (Manter’s signal cut out, and made him absent for this vote) to last from Dec. 1, 2021, to April 30, 2022. Commercial oyster shellfishermen will be allowed to collect 800 pieces three out of five shellfishing days. The select board also unanimously approved the West Tisbury shellfish advisory committee access to $15,500 from the County License Plate Tourism/Economic Development Funds.