Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

For years I have wondered how the town of Tisbury can discount residential property taxes (to which I confine what I write here) to year-round residents, requiring seasonal residents to pay more on the same assessed valuation. Your article of Nov. 21 demystifies the basis for this practice, but that does not make it seem any less questionable, though, for now, it is “legal.”

Property taxes are ad valorem. That means they are determined by the (assessed) value of the property. They have nothing to do with the owner’s income, nor, in almost every other municipality, with the owner’s legal residence.

While there are many good reasons for income taxes to be progressive (the more earned, the more taxed), there are no good reasons for property taxes to be apportioned among owners other than by the sole determinant of assessed valuation (another potential quagmire to be sure, but one beyond the purview of this letter).

Indeed, discounting property taxes to year-round residents, who definitionally require more local, state, and municipal services (most importantly for many, the services of the school system) makes no logical or equitable sense.

I concede that I may be missing something basic about this practice, but it seems the two-tiered residential property tax of Tisbury discriminates against a class of property owners (or, if you desire to put the best possible face on it, to prefer one class over another). It is, therefore, a constitutional question, ripe for challenge.

Nicholas W. Puner

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I am so deeply saddened by the cruel and bloody shooting of the beautiful turkey by officer Jeffrey Day. Turkeys will not bother anyone unless you provoke or torment them to the point of their trying to protect themselves and their families as well as we humans.

To me Jeffrey Day represents a total lack of compassion for animals and probably humans too. He has no business being a police officer. What on earth would he have done without his trusted gun. Grow up.

Jim Baker



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I am once again disappointed in the Gazette. in a recent issue I found a quarter page box around a photograph of Senator Obama speaking to a crowd above a strange poem entitled Nov. 5, 2008 by Fan Ogilvie. It is clear that Fan is a big “fan” of Mr. Obama but I am mystified that your paper gave her piece such a prominent place on the page. Past issues of the Gazette boldly proved that your editors were in the tank for Mr. Obama. Photographs, articles, op-ed pieces, even Jules Feiffer cartoons were prominently featured and lead me to question your dedication to honest journalism. I have come to the conclusion that you drank from the same Kool Aid well that poisoned the Boston Globe, the New York Times and MSNBC Can I trust you to cover other issues fairly again? What has happened to the Vineyard Gazette I grew up with? Has your hatred of George Bush permanently corrupted your commitment to honest journalism?

As for the legions of folks out there like Fan, I am worried Mr. Obama is just a man, a politician who graduated from the bare knuckle Democrat Chicago Machine. He has little experience doing anything, associates with questionable characters and is one of the most liberal, partisan members of Congress. These are the facts we know about so far.

Mr. Obama inherits a country in rough shape in a dangerous world. While I vigorously opposed his candidacy, I wish him well and will closely watch his administration take charge of the nation. But please, can we all get real? Can we all get back to earth? And can our media please get back to doing their job by reporting the facts and letting the public decide what to think?

Peter Robb



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

After a marathon day off-Island for surgery in Boston last Friday, I was comforted to know that my wife and I would soon be home to our safe, secure and peaceful home in Vineyard Haven. As has been the case for the 29 years that the Vineyard has been our home, my wife and I called it a day and without concern or reservation put our heads on our pillows and naively drifted into a peaceful sleep.

Before I share the events of our shattered peace, all readers should know that we too are parents who fully understand the challenges, fears, concerns, heartache and joy our adolescent children will bestow upon us as they journey through adolescence. Often our children will challenge our authority, express themselves in ways that confound or contradict our values and participate in peer group activities that they would never consider when alone. Unfortunately on occasions, their actions can cross the line of civility and good citizenship. They can quickly escalate from sophomoric fun into dangerous activities that rapidly surpass the age old adages that boys will be boys‚ it’s a right of passage‚ or no harm no foul‚ when we fail to teach, monitor, and hold our developing citizenry accountable.

Back to our slumber. It didn’t last long as we were startled from our rest by the voices and footsteps of a group of young men just feet from our bedroom window. To say the least I was struck with an element of fear. When I got up to assess the commotion my wife became concerned for our safety as the intruders appeared to signal with flashlights. Hearing what sounded like four voices, I knew I was out numbered and for the first time in my life, wished I owned a gun. As the voices crew louder, and with the realization, that like most Vineyarders, our doors were unlocked, we became increasingly uneasy. The group seemed to move on yet our serenity and trust in our community was shattered. We locked every door and window. I gathered a pipe as a defensive weapon and called 911 for assistance.

Soon we heard the sound of a Bobcat excavator starting that was parked in a neighbor’s yard for some tree planting. The noise from the machine’s engine suddenly stopped and I heard lots of yelling. While I was still not sure of the group’s motive, age or condition, I feared that someone had been seriously hurt so I redialed 911. Out of concern I ventured out onto my deck to learn that I had a bunch of out of control drunk teenagers as they started the Bobcat again and attempted to drive it in the black of night, slamming into a tree. When the police arrived the boys ran off into the woods. In the subsequent conversation with the officer we learned that a large party of high school age children, many of whom had been drinking, was in the process of being dispersed.

One may say no harm no foul. How wrong that is! Harm is not only property or physical damage. It is also psychological damage. It is the terror that intruders in the night impose on an otherwise peaceful existence. The foul is simple and often inconsequential trespassing. In this case the trespassing is criminal coupled with the terror of having multiple voices outside your bedroom window. Something you may not understand unless it has happened to you.

One may say teenage drinking, it’s a right of passage. Underage drinking is no right at all. It is illegal and should not be tolerated. The offenders and their parents should be held accountable and punished accordingly. It is dangerous and as many a parent knows, right here on Martha’s Vineyard, it has influenced date rape, car accidents and even death. Unfortunate tragedies that do not need to be repeated.

One may say boys will be boys. To discount the ridiculous notion that driving Bobcats in the black of night could be equated to egging a store window [not that I condone this either] is living in denial. Never mind the potential for property damage, even experienced equipment operators have maimed and killed coworkers in the light of day.

I ask, you the parents of these young men, how was your Friday night?

What time did you go to bed?

Did you sleep well?

Do you know where your sons were at midnight? Well, we do!

Years ago Hillary Clinton quoted an African village elder when she said it takes a village to raise a child. My intent in this letter is not to vilify the parents or the boys but to speak frankly and honestly as a member of our village that we all have work to do. Indifference to this type of behavior is an endorsement of it. It is imperative that the development of young adults include a true measure of consequence for such indiscriminate acts of incivility.

Harold Chapdelaine

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I have lived in and traveled to countries with repressive military dictatorships and seen the fear that these governments generate in the minds of their citizens. I was sharply reminded of this on the eve of Obama’s election. A group of us were gathered in West Tisbury, watching the returns with great excitement as our candidate’s numbers approached the critical point. Our dreams were realized when the breaking news announced that Obama had won. Within five seconds, CNN suddenly went black. We hurriedly scanned the other channels and to our surprise every single national news channel had gone off the air. We still got the shopping channel and a few local feeds so we knew the set was working but it was clear that all live national TV had shut down.

For several moments, the irrational fears that came from living in places where the police were young soldiers patrolling with automatic weapons and acting with little regard for any laws, felt very real. Our collective anxiety quickly calmed down though we were quick to remember how Bush stole the first election and I have to admit to moments of wondering if something truly sinister had happened.

Of course this sounds absurd in the retelling but as we hoped for the channels to come back on, (they didn’t all night), we spoke of our gratitude and how proud we were that the simple democratic process we sometimes take for granted, had (seemingly) worked again. As we observed Veterans Day shortly afterwards, we were reminded once more that the price of our freedom is very dear indeed.

On Jan. 20, we plan to celebrate the final step in the election process with joy. We also plan to take a moment to remind ourselves that America continues to set an example for the world, that democracy can work and that the people’s voice can be heard. Obama tells us that we all need to work together to get out of the mess this country is in, as importantly we all must remember that, as our veterans know so well, democracy can never survive as a spectator sport. For many in the world, our blackout could have signaled a military coup or violent assault on the government, for us it was simply an annoying Comcast malfunction. How lucky we are. What a great opportunity for change we have in our hands. Please consider this on inauguration day and be glad as you walk into the streets in the morning, that you face a friendly policeman instead of an angry camouflage dressed youth pointing an automatic weapon in your face demanding to see your identity card.

Todd Follansbee

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

It was not the ideal way to end the season on the Vineyard. Packed and loaded to the gills, we headed to the 8:30 a.m. ferry for our long trip to Baltimore. Alas, at Five Corners, we managed to hit the curb, and with that our front tire collapsed immediately! Totally deflated, we limped along to the check-in only to be informed that our reservation was som ehowmade for 8:30 p.m.

Missing the ferry by one car, we sat on the ramp in dismay until Bridget Tobin and her crew came to our rescue. They volunteered to unpack the car, retrieve the spare and changed the tire themselves. With the help of Lee Cormie, Mike Abram and Ray Leighton, we were repacked and first on the next boat.

We were so impressed by their kindness and good spirit that we wanted to honor them with this small recognition.

Once again, thank you Bridget and your team. You are the best!

Margo and Tony McClellan

West Tisbury

and Baltimore

The Vineyard Gazette welcomes letters to the editor on any subject concerning Martha’s Vineyard. The newspaper strives to publish all letters as space allows, although the editor reserves the right to reject letters that in her judgment are inappropriate. Letters must be signed, and should include a place of residence and contact telephone number. The Gazette does not publish anonymous letters.