Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

This is an open letter to the board of governors, management and unions of the SSA.

My wife and I are residents of the Vineyard, but last night, Dec. 18, we stayed in a hotel, unable to return to our home on the SSA. Sick grandchildren and heavy traffic caused us to arrive 45 minutes late for our 5 p.m. boat. At about 4 p.m. the reservation office reported four standbys in Woods Hole. We sat in standby for several hours and then became victims, not of Island Home’s finicky generator, its shipyard, its designers or its mechanics, but of the Steamship Authority management’s failure to provide a back-up boat when this vessel’s unpredictable performance is well known. We were also inconvenienced when the Island Home’s generator failed for the 7 a.m. run a week earlier when we had to be in Falmouth for a medical test.

If Island residents and visitors have safe and reliable ferry service, the SSA can have board members from New Bedford (and even Northampton), redundant and wise-guy employees (especially the one that blew us off last evening in Woods Hole), politicking of all sorts locally and in Boston, high costs and inefficiency (within limits), fuel-guzzling vessels with inconvenient support posts to drive around, new boats even bigger than the QE II with hydraulic lifts and the ability to parallel park like a Lexus without human intervention, shuttle buses more uncomfortable and noxious than those in undeveloped countries, remote parking lots in the Bronx, view-blocking canopies in Vineyard Haven and even empty spaces on runs that are shown as sold-out. But to end up sending us to a hotel when we arrive in Woods Hole at 5:45 p.m. on a slow, off-season Tuesday night with beautiful weather, someone needs to be held accountable right now. What is the plan to put this agency back on course and who is responsible?

Jeffrey Parker



Editors. Vineyard Gazette:

After reading the story on how to pay for the high school in last week’s Gazette, one thing left me very puzzled.

I understand that Chilmark and Edgartown are very happy with the old regional agreement. That agreement means they would pay 11 cents and 44 cents respectively while Tisbury would pay 97 cents and Oak Bluffs would pay $1.07. (This, incidentally, is very clear example of a regressive tax.) They are getting a bargain. Of course they are happy.

Under the Oak Bluffs proposal, articulated as an initial bargaining position by Thad Harshbarger, every Island taxpayer, whether he’s paying on a multimillion dollar vacation trophy house or a two-bedroom fixer-upper, would pay at the same rate — 64 cents.

What baffles me is that the Tisbury selectmen’s representative likes it the old way, too.

Peter Palches

Oak Bluffs


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

With the release of former Sen. George J. Mitchell’s report on the drug culture in professional baseball, a sore that had been festering for a number of years burst forth for the public to see. Baseball now joins other sports, for example, track and cycling, which have hit the news with their own drug problems.

What concerns me the most is the example some of these athletes are setting for our young boys and girls. Young people are looking for heroes and models to follow — just look at the names on their shirts and T-shirts.

As a substitute teacher at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School for several years, I have looked into the faces of many hundred students and hope that they will not be tempted to a momentary high or being cool on drugs to emulate some sports stars who have found steroids a way to bulk up, the long-term effects of which may be disastrous to oneself. Having lost part of my right lung to smoking, I would say: be careful what you put in your body, you may not be able to get it out.

George Mitchell deserves high praise for his 311-page report. In a 20-month investigation, he interviewed numerous players and people involved in baseball. His report included many documents, including cancelled checks and telephone messages, to name a few. As would be expected, criticism has begun, with a headline in The New York Times reading, “Orioles Take Issue With the Inclusion of Names in the Mitchell Report.” What will happen in baseball, our national sport, only time will tell.

Mev Good

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I don’t know what you think about the wind farm, but I am disturbed with the private use of pristine, public expanse. I think the windmills are actually stunning visually, but there is such an assault on natural beauty these days that I cannot applaud this project in our water. As far as I know, they aren’t making any more beautiful places like ours.

Harriet Bernstein

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

What follows is a letter to President George W. Bush.

Dear George, happy holidays. I would like to thank you for giving Christmas back to the estimated 5 million Americans who are potentially facing bankruptcy this year. Obviously I don’t know all the terms of your proposal, but putting a freeze on interest rates can certainly buy some time.

However, I don’t know if this action addresses the fundamentals. The price of home heating oil, the price of gasoline, the price of food and the price of all commodities, which has given rise to, as we have seen, staggering and, “numbing,” inflation numbers last month.

But let us look at the past. “More Americans own their own homes now than ever before.” Do you remember saying these words during your midterm election campaign, George? I do, I remember you saying them.

That is a provocative statement. Because it appears that you wanted Americans to believe that you were responsible for that significant statistic. Do you still want to take responsibility for that housing boom? And conversely take the responsibility for the real estate bust?

Well, George let’s not get bogged down too much during this holiday season as to who is responsible for the housing shortcomings. In fact, I’d like to give you a Christmas gift.

Computers, cell phones, Internet, all have one thing in common. Each of those products represents a $1 trillion industry. So the real question is, “What is the name of the next trillion-dollar industry?” Well that is what I would like to give you for Christmas this year.

Stealing a line from the movie The Graduate, when Benjamin’s uncle pulled him aside and said, “One word, Benjamin . . . plastics,” had we all invested a few dollars then in that industry then we all could retire. Well, George, that one word today is “robotics.” Like it or not, they are the future.

Not just a robot that vacuums the rug, but everything from computer-generated software engineers to robotic manufacturing, the two words that the Chinese may fear the most. Because what if you have robots that are doing all the manufacturing and then what do you do with 1.5 billion people?

Of course, that brings us to a good point: what will we do with all of our people when robots take over labor-intensive tasks? Well George, I will let you figure that one out.

In the meantime, give our children, our young brilliant minds, inspiration to go out and design, to let their imaginations soar and to let their creativity flourish. Give them hope that they might be the solution to some of our perplexing problems now and in the future.

“One word, George, robotics!” And happy holidays . . .

Ken Lay