Be open to change

14

We’re in the midst of a housing crisis that’s exacerbated a worker shortage on the Island. So inevitably needed off-Island workers need to commute and thus match up work and ferry schedules. A crisis calls for solutions and solutions call for changes. But in order to accommodate those changes, you have to be open minded.

Unfortunately, the Steamship Authority’s board is showing no such openness.

Two weeks ago, Christian Thornton, owner of Atria restaurant in Edgartown, launched a petition drive seeking a late-night ferry that would allow the Island’s hospitality and restaurant industry the opportunity to hire commuters. While the petition talks about an 11:30 pm ferry from the Island to Woods Hole, Thornton told The Times the petition is meant to be a conversation starter. Perhaps there is another ferry service like SeaStreak out of New Bedford, HyLine out of Hyannis, or the Patriot boats out of Falmouth that would be interested in shuttling workers to and from the Vineyard.

It’s not an absurd idea and shouldn’t be treated as such.

The SSA board, given that nearly 500 people have signed the petition, should welcome the conversation and invite some of the business owners and workers on the Island to learn more about what role the Island’s “life line” could play in helping to solve the problem.

So far, there have only been excuses about why it won’t work instead of taking a moment to listen and discuss the possibilities. Perhaps it begs the discussion of what we want for the Island’s future. Do we want to embrace and grow our tourism economy?

We wouldn’t be surprised if the SSA board dismisses it without much discussion. Sadly, it wouldn’t be the first time the board has been close-minded and stubborn.

Last February, Beach Road Weekend promoter Adam Epstein wrote to SSA officials asking for assistance in solving a good problem to have — the festival has become so successful that it is selling out packages early. That’s going to be a positive thing for restaurants and shops in Vineyard Haven, in particular, but will also trickle into other Island towns. Falmouth will also benefit from a late-summer boost in tourism as some concertgoers have accommodations off-Island.

We understand why any talk of a second 9:30 pm ferry was a non-starter for the SSA board. But provided with evidence that the Tisbury fire chief and police chief, in conjunction with the Oak Bluffs fire and police chief, requested that the 8:30 pm ferry from Oak Bluffs be diverted to Vineyard Haven, SSA board members wouldn’t budge off their high horse. 

In fact, Jim Malkin, the Vineyard’s representative to the board, didn’t advocate on behalf of the chiefs. He did the opposite and didn’t invite the chiefs to make their case for the change before the board. Instead, Malkin made it seem like it was a last-minute request and his fellow board members latched onto that narrative. (Remember, Epstein first went to them in February.)

The ferry diversion is a safety issue and safety should have taken priority. The chiefs correctly think it’s better for hundreds of concertgoers to walk to the ferry in Vineyard Haven from Veterans Memorial Park rather than jumping on shuttle buses to Oak Bluffs.
The SSA kicked the decision to the Oak Bluffs select board. That board, unfortunately, did not listen to the experts — the public safety chiefs — and put the decision back in the hands of the SSA board. We know how that’s going to go, which is disappointing. Safety be damned, we’ve shown Epstein who’s boss. That’s not helpful to anyone.

No editorial about the SSA would be complete without asking the board what they were thinking in their assessment of general manager Robert Davis. We have no doubt that Davis is a hard worker, but the SSA is far from running like a well-oiled machine deserving of the high praise and a raise that is three times what Martha’s Vineyard teachers are asking for percentage-wise.

The Woods Hole project is grossly over budget. Davis had to be pushed by legislative action to finally begin advertising for a chief operating officer and, thus far, the slow and plodding nationwide search has not materialized into actually filling the position. On the same day they heaped praise and a significant raise on Davis, one of the ferryline’s soon-to-be obsolete freight ferries had to be taken out of service to fix a gash in the metal. Taking the Gay Head out of service had a ripple effect throughout the SSA’s busy summer schedule pumping more freight traffic through Woods Hole to accommodate Nantucket. Customers were told they couldn’t use the online reservation system as well.

That’s not A-level work, at least not where we went to school.

We wish the SSA board would get out and speak with customers about the ferry service, perhaps holding a forum like they did in 2018 at the Performing Arts Center at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. No doubt they would get an earful. Most would tell them they are pleased with the rank and file workers — who consistently outperform management — but are tired of the ferry breakdowns, a reservation system that’s as frustrating as a Rubik’s Cube, a ferry service that emphasizes buildings over boats, and, back to where we started, a board that circles the ferries when there is a problem to be solved.

14 COMMENTS

  1. We’re in the midst of a housing crisis (and zoo-like crowds) so the Times asks, “Do we want to embrace and grow our tourist economy”? Two guesses what their answer is.

    This is why they are so enthusiastic about the housing bank. And nary a peep about the housing crisis for a nurse, teacher, or police officer in this editorial, but Beach Weekend? Greed oversold and sold out without securing traffic safety first. Money first on our tiny island, and then gripe when you don’t get your greedy way. There’s always the SSA to blame for blind ambition and greed overtaking good sense.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. June is the new July, July is the new August, and August is the new hell. Thanks, MVTimes, for encouraging more he’ll. There’s plenty to gripe about with our SSA, but island greed for more $32 burgers and $1,000/night accommodations? Those who care about a livable future for the island don’t agree.

    • There is nothing greedy about a $32 burger.
      As long as the masses can can get them for $8.
      There is no shortage of $32 burgers in Falmouth.
      No one pays $32 for a burger, they pay $8 for the burger and $24 for the quality of service and the ambiance of the venue.
      Pilots spend $150 in plane expenses just to go to the airport for a burger.

  2. Not really surprised that the long suggested fast commuter ferry didn’t make it into the editorial – which worked for all stakeholders in 2018. However, I am surprised that the editor didn’t read or intentionally excluded any mention of the editorial about this same issue from the Falmouth Enterprise.

  3. When we start running late night ferry boats, were going to have incidents like the one on the Block Island ferry.

  4. Did you read the article Jackie? We did manage traffic safety. The Steamship is the party that kicked the can. I know it doesn’t for your narrative, but it’s true.

    There is nothing about this festival that is done for greed. Any look at the numbers would enlighten you that this surely is not about the money for us.

    We do it because it brings people together for a fun weekend of music under the sun and stars.

    Let’s stop this BS about greed. It is a boogieman allegation. Fearmongering gets you nowhere, and doesn’t contribute to finding a solution.

    It’s really sad that you resort to such vacant platitudes about “greed” when the very closed economic system we live in on this island is what forces prices for housing, consumables, and labor to skyrocket.

    It’s basic economics, when demand outstrips supply. Prices rise. When you can add supply, as in a wider workforce coming from the Cape, prices and hourly labor rates can fall.

    I guarantee that NO ONE wants to charge $32 for hamburger. Your allegations that ordinary local business owners are out for greed is a toxic and malignant stain on those that work their butts off to survive here.

    Shame on you!

    • Oh please, Adam, seriously, of all the ways to address your critics, and I assure you, you have a slew of them, you’ve chosen the worst way. You do yourself and your “vision” of greed no service by exposing how you lash out to deal with well-deserved criticism. I happen to think you are to ill-suited to your line of work, as this and other little outbursts of yours testify.

      You think you invented concerts? Islanders have been coming together to enjoy music under the stars and sun since forever, but without the expensive tix, hotel packages, t-shirt merch, and the hordes you insist on bringing here. Tell us again how it’s not a money making deal.

    • Mr Epstein
      Why would your Company advertise/underwrite Beach Weekend for months this winter on WFUV if you’re only interested in locals being entertained ?? Is your company structure as a non profit??
      I find that hard to believe

      • Yes, the Friends of the MV Concert Series is a 501-c3 MA registered non-profit. its easy enough to verify.

        Beach Road Weekend is supposed to be its primary mode of raising money to fund the non-profit. its, in essence, our annual gala event.

        No one ever said we were only interested in entertaining locals. why would you think that?

  5. The trajectory for this island is certain and the end result is certain. More wealthy who are oblivious to tax increases, fewer workers and service people who cant afford to live here, lower/middle class departures, fewer school children and higher taxes that few can afford. Service workers continue to commute from the mainland and restaurants closing. Meanwhile the intellectuals will ruminate about warming, erosion, plovers and homeless.

    • Mr Engelman… Exactly right. Taxes are the problem. For one month everyone should keep track of the taxes they spend on property, sales, income, utilities, phone, gas, cable, social security, Medicare etc and you will quickly realize this is your biggest expense. Unfortunately, when things get tough this is the only place you can’t cut back. It only increases.

  6. What I find interesting and quite two-faced is that all you ‘islanders’ lamenting the awful change have sold out your ‘families’ properties for huge profits!! No? If you wanted to keep ‘your’ island somewhat similar why have you not sold out to actual hard working islanders for less? Greed and profit? Right? Just an observation.

Comments are closed.