No question how to vote

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There are two ballot questions on the Nov. 8 ballot that are specific to voters in Tisbury, and another for Oak Bluffs, and one of the four statewide ballot questions has some specific interest for the Island.

We start with Question 5 in Tisbury, which would allow customers to go to Vineyard Haven restaurants that have liquor licenses, and wouldn’t require an obligatory food order to have a beverage. 

In 2017, when the town first allowed alcoholic beverages beyond beer and wine, there were some folks who thought that would be the end of Vineyard Haven as we know it. They worried individuals having cocktails with their dinners would lead to drunkenness and unruliness on the streets.

That never materialized, of course.

We heard some of the same things leading up to a town meeting vote in 2020 that set in motion allowing folks to get an alcoholic beverage at local restaurants without ordering food. Despite some opposition, the measure got the necessary votes, and then made its slow journey through the legislature, and is finally back before voters as Question 5 in next Tuesday’s election.

There is really no reason to object to this ballot question.

It still won’t create bars in Vineyard Haven. Last call is before 11 pm, and restaurants are required to have sales that are 65 percent food and 35 percent alcohol. While this is self-monitored for the most part, restaurants would be foolhardy to ignore it. Should a question come up about their liquor license, the select board would likely want to see the records that audit food versus alcohol sales. 

It’s somewhat silly that visitors to the Island, who make their last stop before leaving at the SSA terminal, can’t pass the time for a waiting ferry with a beer, glass of wine, or a rum punch at the Black Dog Tavern. Meanwhile, on the ferry, the Steamship Authority’s vendor is serving beer and mixed drinks out of a can while the boat is still anchored, without requiring that customers get something to eat.

The restaurant owners support this measure, and other business owners do as well. Let’s support them by approving this ballot question on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

In Oak Bluffs, there is also a Question 5. This question is to codify a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion that was approved by town meeting voters to spend $26 million on upgrades to the town’s wastewater treatment plant. This is an important measure for the town’s future. Right now, according to town leaders, the wastewater treatment plant is nearing capacity, which doesn’t allow for any future tie-ins. Taxpayers will foot half of the bill, while ratepayers will also share in the costs for the upgrades.

Finally, of the four ballot questions that are on the statewide ballot, there is one that could have a significant impact on the Island.

A yes vote on Question 4 would keep the law in place that was approved by the state legislature that allows Massachusetts residents who cannot provide proof of lawful presence in the U.S. the ability to obtain a driver’s license or permit if they meet other requirements.

As you’ll see in a Letter to the Editor in this week’s newspaper, the number of unlicensed drivers on the Island is a significant problem.

The new law was approved in May, and just a month later was already facing a challenge by opponents, which is why it’s before you in this election.

Why is this a good idea? Because it ensures that an estimated 185,000 immigrants who already live in the state without legal status would be properly tested before driving. It also has some safeguards in it to make sure that not everyone has access to a driver’s license. Because it’s not a Real ID, which does require lots of documentation to establish citizenship, the immigrants would not be able to use the license to board a flight or gain access to a federal building. They would also be required to provide the Registry with a foreign passport or a consular identification document, as well as at least one of five other documents — a driver’s license from another state, a foreign driver’s license, a birth certificate, a foreign national card, or a marriage certificate from any U.S. territory.

This does nothing to establish a path to citizenship, and is all about improving safety and putting more insured and educated drivers on the road. Who says no to that?