Housing bank wins; O.B. select board drama


After its clean sweep of town meetings two days ago, the housing bank has three more victories under its belt. In Edgartown, the housing bank received 473 yes votes and 193 no votes. It also won in Oak Bluffs in a vote of 775-285 and West Tisbury 683-194.

The housing bank must be approved both at town meeting and on the town ballot. In order to move on to the state legislature, it must have the support of four of the six Island towns. After tonight it appears well on its way.

“The margins are reflective of what we saw at town meetings, which is great,” Laura Silber, campaign coordinator for the Coalition to Create the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank, told The Times. “It’s a momentous night for Martha’s Vineyard. For three different towns to vote on that issue is definitive. Those are numbers we can take to the Legislature and say, ‘Look, this is not a small margin. This is a landslide and you can give us the right to do this’.”

The Legislature is considering a bill that would allow towns to charge a 2 percent fee on the purchase of properties to fund the housing bank. On the Island, the first $1 million would be exempt from the fee. So the buyer of a home for $1.2 million would pay a 2 percent fee on the $200,000.

“On behalf of the coalition I wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who has worked on this effort and town boards who worked and engaged with us,” Silber said. “It’s not over. We look forward to votes in Chilmark, Aquinnah, and the ballot vote in Tisbury.”

This housing bank is more than a year in the making and started with a steering committee. The coalition held public forums, met with select boards, and tweaked the proposal along the way.

“This is what community organizing is all about,” Silber said. “It’s literally engaging the community and making sure the community is part of the process. Making sure every age group is engaged. People don’t participate if they don’t feel like their voices are heard.”

There was drama in the Oak Bluffs select board race where incumbent Gail Barmakian (505) appears to have defeated Dion Alley (503) by just two votes. Town Clerk Colleen Morris and her staff had to take a close look at ballots to see if any of the three write-ins in the race changed the outcome. After a review, Morris emerged from the polls to where Alley, Barmakian, and their supporters were waiting and announced the write-ins didn’t alter the select board race, that Barmakian’s two vote win appeared solid. A third candidate for select board, Jim Bishop received 49 votes.

Alley told The Times at the polls that he will be requesting a recount and said it was a good sign so many voters exercised their votes. “That’s the way the town used to be.”

After the votes were counted, Barmakian called it “a cliffhanger.” Asked if she was surprised at how close it was, she said, “absolutely positively.” Despite his desire for a recount, Alley 

warmly congratulated Barmakian after Morris announced the write-ins didn’t alter the count. 

A short time later, Tommye Ann Brown, who Barmakian called her “unofficial campaign manager,” and who describes herself as Barmakian’s “biggest cheerleader,” told The Times what she told her daughter about voting.

Brown said her daughter, Ana Irwin, was the last person to enter the polls at approximately 6:59 pm. Brown said she told Irwin, “Don’t ever think your vote doesn’t count.” 

Two days before the election, Bishop took to his controversial Facebook page to ask his supporters to support Alley. Though he said he was withdrawing from the race, it was too late for his name to be taken off the ballot. Bishop caused a stir with his penchant for posting memes on his Facebook page that took aim at transgender individuals playing sports and made light of owning multiple guns, among other things.

In the other contested race in Oak Bluffs, incumbent Mark Crossland defeated challenger Scott Slarksy, 649-225. There were a whopping 216 voters who left the race blank.

Question 1 in Oak Bluffs, which is a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion to pay for a new boiler at Oak Bluffs School, passed by a vote of 795-102. And a third non-binding question asking Holtec, the owner of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station not to dump radioactive water into Cape Cod Bay, received overwhelming support in a vote of 999-45.

In the West Tisbury select board race, there was no drama. Jessica Miller was the winner of the three-way race for a one-year term on the select board with 601votes. Chris Lyons received 198 votes and James Kligensmith tallied 55 votes.
“I’m really happy and excited to serve my town and really grateful to all of the people who came to the polls and to the people who were out here all day holding up my signs, like my husband and my daughter,” Jessica Miller

West Tisbury also approved the non-binding referendum asking Holtec to withdraw plans to dump radioactive water into Cape Cod Bay, 816-29; and approved spending $423,000 for the Howes House renovation and reconstruction project, 659-190.

Other results

In Edgartown, 15.8% of the town’s 4,258 registered voters cast ballots. There were no contested races in the town election. Select board chair Michael Donaroma was reelected with 461 votes; Donna Goodale received 552 for board of assessors; Candace Nichols tallied 530 votes for board of health; William Bishop IV got 569 for constable; Julia Tarka (479) and Steven Jordan (465) were elected to the finance committee; Maggie Morrisson (515) and Olga Church (499) are on the library trustees; Steven Ewing received 582 votes for Land Bank; Glenn Searle got 562 for park commissioner; Lucy Morrison received 551 votes for planning board; and Laura Seguin got 511 votes for  school committee; Searle also was elected a wastewater commissioner with 549 votes; and Scott Ellis got 574 votes for water commissioner.

In West Tisbury, 32.4% of the town’s 2,750 registered voters cast ballots. Other than the one-year select board position, there were no other contested races in the town election. Town moderator Dan Waters was reelected with 808 votes; Cynthia Mitchell was reelected to the select board with 744 votes; Jessica Milller won her reelection to the board of health with 768; Tara J. Whiting-Wells was relected as town clerk with 798 votes; Jeremiah Brown won 753 votes to return to be the town’s tree warden; Mark Hap Bernard returns to the parks and recreation committee with 711 votes; Matt Merry (704) and Amy Upton (683) return to the planning board with the new addition of Heikki Soikkili (637); Frances Finnigan (696), Micah Solomon Thanhauser (657), and Emily Fern Fischer (752) are on the library trustees; Clark Rattet joins the finance committee with 674 votes. 

In Oak Bluffs, 20% of the town’s 4,191 registered voters cast ballots. Other than the select board and planning board positions, Kristien Beaumont Reimann was elected to the Land Bank wirth 784 vots; James Butterick was reelected to the board of health with 774 votes; Richard Combra Jr. got 759 votes for parks commission; Rizwan Malik received 672 votes for school committee; William Alwardt got 741 votes and Michael deBettencourt got 843 for two positions on the water commission; and Duncan Ross received 779 for water commission moderator. Several offices — two on the finance committee, constable, and cemetery commissioner — will be determined by write-ins. Morris expects to announce the winners in those races Friday afternoon.

Reporters Rich Saltzberg, Eunki Seonwoo, and Abigail Rosen contributed to this story.



      • Carla– Some people think that if a paper reports facts that do not fit into their own biased world view, then the messenger is biased.
        “Alternative facts” are much more convenient after all.

    • It’s not criminal, Scott, but the bias is causing heavy handed suppression. It’s going on in other social media too. Other housing bank opponents besides me are being censored in favor of what you see here. And you bet, Susanna, none of it is by accident.

      I’m not the only one to notice and be cut off. The question is WHY would proponents discourage intelligent, valid opposition that point glaringly to red flags? That’s not a difficult question.

      Not everyone is naive and trusting about bureaucratic entities that engage in multi million dollar money grabs, no matter who endorsed it or why. It’s not like this particular money grab goes to schools, medical care, safety, and essential infrastructure. Those things are supposed to take care of themselves when we house the fuzzy essential/nonessential “workforce”. Sure. But that’s not how reality works.

      Every HB proponent has a personal agenda, whether it’s well intentioned or not. Even the well intentioned are not looking at long term repercussions. The housing bank is not a fix. It is not a step in the right direction. It is not a desperate move that is benign, though the desperation is obvious.

      The island cannot house everyone’s self-interests, no matter how carefully and painstakingly this money grab is still being crafted. The funds can help some in the short run which in turn only makes a continued onslaught more appealing. But it will hit critical mass because there’s nowhere else for the “workforce” housing issue to go but needing more— and more taxes for infrastructure too.

      We have a beloved place outliving it’s gold rush era and becoming increasingly unaffordable and/or inhospitable to many.

      MV Times, I can do better in some of what I say. I do understand your agenda, which of course is certainly NOT “criminal”. And you can do better by allowing the opinions that cut to the heart of SOME of why the the HB is more of a slow death pyramid scheme. Housing and land are finite. So is time. Everything is. There’s been a huge disconnect to this reality in your effort to silence the most valid concerns for the long term.

      • You’re kidding, right? You’ve had nearly a dozen comments here opposing the housing bank. Dan Larkosh, another complainer that his views are being suppressed, also has had comments posted. You know why a couple of comments that you’ve posted weren’t allowed and it’s your penchant for name-calling.

      • Hello Jackie! I totally get that frustration. For what it’s worth, I have also had some comments not go through (you know that I am a proponent of the HB). Reading your comment reminded me that both newspapers are probably doing their level best on both sides. Tough job, I don’t envy them. A few months back, I learned that if my comments are too difficult to verify quickly enough, they might not get posted (like including deep details of the legislation, for example). I’m sure they have other rules too. MVTimes, correct me I’m misrepresenting!

        I remember and see again here that one of your bigger concerns is who might benefit from the money the HB accumulates, with specific concerns about essential workers. I feel it’s worth saying, in case you didn’t see, that the Teacher’s Union, MV Hospital, Dukes County Health Commission and many other essential institutions endorsed this legislation after having conversations with us about how it the HB will directly benefit their staff. I know you feel clear about being against the Housing Bank, but I can’t help but see the ways our interests are aligned. The conversations we’re having about the HB are ongoing and you are always, always welcome. I have seen disagreements make this legislation stronger. And it’s more fun than a comments section 😀

      • Jackie– I do not have a “personal agenda” about the housing bank.
        I will vote for it– It takes money from the wealthy and gives it to the middle class– I don’t think it will solve the affordable housing issue, but it will change the lives of a few families.
        But as far as being “censored” goes–
        I have been playing this game for a long time with many editors here.
        The current editor has his flaws, but I don’t think he cuts comments based on his opinions about various topics. As far as I can tell, he cuts outright lies, ( sometimes) and personal attacks.

      • So you claim all the proponents of the HB have a “personal agenda”, that’s fine if you also acknowledge the YOU and every other opponent also have a “personal agenda”! You can’t have it both ways Jackie.

  1. I was thrilled by the enthusiastic support for the Housing Bank at all four town meetings on Tuesday, and I’m thrilled again by the landslide support of three towns at the ballot box. This hasn’t happened by accident either. The need is great, but that’s been true for years. What made the difference is the extraordinary organizing effort of the Housing Bank Coalition over the last year and a half. It’s multi-generational, multi-occupational, and deeply rooted in all six towns. I haven’t seen anything like it in my decades on this island. Great work, all — let’s keep going!

  2. So now we pay for land bank and housing bank through real estate transactions….just saying it out loud.

    • “We” meaning those who buy houses for more than $1 million, and even then the fee only applies to the amount *over* $1 million. In return, we — meaning all of us — have half a chance of staffing our schools and shops and towns, our construction and landscaping crews, and of attracting volunteers for all the activities that make this a place worth living. We also have half a chance of maintaining what “community” we still have. It depends more than you may think on people who live and work and volunteer in the same general place. Workers who must commute from off-island take most of their money and all of their volunteer hours off with them at the end of the day. Think about it.

      • Your last sentence/point is simply untrue and divisive. Commuters purchase gas, food, work supplies, parking passes, bus passes, and all other sorts of commodities on the island. Some even pay real estate taxes as they have physical locations for their businesses. Perhaps you should read and consider “No Man is an Island” by John Donne and recognize the “community” you refer to does not end at the ferry terminals.

        • I see those commuters every day. They walk off the ferry with lunch pail in hand and all their tools. Their employer picks them up and off they go. But sure, people come over from the mainland to pay island prices for their supplies, gas and food.

  3. Anyone who voted for the candidate who withdrew, was voting for A CHANGE.
    The incumbent would have likely lost by nearly 50 votes had an accurate ballot been used. That’s sad state of affairs.

    Just sayin.’

    • John, I for one am very grateful that a man who posts divisive, prejudice and ignorant things on social media did not get elected. That’s the very last thing OB needs. We had one like him in the White House for four years and the damage from him continues to reverberate. Sadly I think of those votes as coming from those mired in that mentality.

    • The ballot was accurate the day it was approved for the election.
      The people who voted for the candidate who withdrew are responsible for being ignorant about the behavior of their chosen candidate.
      That he knew that he no chance of winning.
      Could not stand the humiliation of defeat.
      So he did the honnorable and cut and ran.

  4. I like the housing bank concept. I see it as a way to tax the wealthy and help the middle class. Call me a socialist if you will, but nobody needs a 10 million dollar house while there are homeless people on the streets. I personally think the fee should go up by an additional 1% for every extra million over the one that is exempt. So a 2 M house gets taxed at 3% 3 million at 4 % etc. If the high price of second homes is the problem, put it to them. But I digress…
    While I like it, and will vote for it, I feel that we are in a spot here where we can only chase the horizon. While we can change a few people’s lives — and it really will change some lives–and feel like we are doing something, it will always be a problem.
    Just sayin’.

    • To be clear, there is a land bank fee of 2% of the sales price and an additional 2% for a sales price over 1 million. So the total total tax on a property sold for 1.2mil is $28,000. If you buy a house in the campground there is a 2% land bank fee, 2% campground fee and a 2% housing bank fee over 1 mil. Total tax of $44,000.

      • Tammy– to be clear– if you buy a Barbie doll in this state, you pay a 6.25 percent sales tax on the purchase price. .

        • Don, I was just trying to explain that the housing bank is on top of the land bank because it seemed that some people did not understand that. I have been a mortgage loan officer on MV for 20 years. I am all for affordable housing but in order to live here you have to make enough to qualify and if you have been renting for a while, the down payment is tough to come up with. Buyers who make 6 figure incomes are outbid by cash buyers or who have a huge down payment. We are losing families because they can’t find stable housing.

          • Tammy– Your comment is articulate, reasonable and appropriate. What I am saying is that almost everything you buy is subject to a sales tax of 6.5 % — but not houses..
            So, I think the combined total of all the various taxes equalling 6 % is reasonable..
            I am also sure you know that for first time buyers, the first $595,000 is exempt. — I think that should be higher.

          • Tammyyyy! Tammy is the best; she was my loan officer and there is no way my husband and I would have been able to buy a home here without the community loan product for essential MV workers offered by Cape Cod 5 (specifically Tammy, I think, who brought that to the island!). Tammy- if this passes, the threshold would likely increase by the time fees are being collected. The goal is to totally bypass collecting fees from working class folks trying to buy a home for the first time. There’s no way to compete with the cash buyers, ugh.. but hopefully this will pass and we’ll be doing something. Your perspective (along with other mortgage officers and realtors) is imperative. If you have other ideas, text or email me! Always so grateful to you

  5. A friend repeated an Albert Lee quote to me this past weekend, “If public libraries were invented today, they’d be decried as radically socialist, economically unfeasible, and the certain end of the book publishing industry.” Luckily, today, we know that libraries offer us so many benefits. Just as I am glad to pay for libraries to benefit the common good, I am glad we may soon have a new mechanism to pay for some much needed affordable housing, to preserve our community, fighting against the strong tide of inequity. And the fee is only on the portion of a home-transaction over $1 Million! So wonderful! https://www.ccmvhb.org/

  6. If you paid a land bank fee at purchase, than credit that tax paid towards the housing bank fee at sale; if you’re purchasing a larger property at the same time, you’re hit again, on top of fed taxes on the gains. I’m sympathetic and supportive of the cause of affordable housing, but rentals make more sense to me. The money-grab tax the rich philosophy is punitive to those who worked hard for their means. Owning a home valued at over a million is pretty common here. Most are NOT $10 million dollar properties for whom such an additional tax would be meaningless.

  7. The first time homebuyer exemption for the land bank was increased to $715,000 however, if you have ever had title to a property or you are married and one of you has had title to a property, you will not be exempt. There is also a lien on the property for five years which will have to be paid back if the property is sold. Has the land bank and/or housing bank considered making exemptions for primary homeowners and/or community workforce?

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