Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I am not surprised to hear that the Vineyard Nursing Association is adding Medicare hospice services, even though they have been assuring the board and directors of Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard for several years that they are not. It is vital to recognize the difference in the level of care being offered by the VNA and Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard. It would be better for this community if these apples are not all in one big VNA basket.

Because Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard is nonprofit, and their services are free of charge, they are unique among only a few others in the nation. The VNA is a private nursing agency that collects money from individuals and both private and government-sponsored insurance companies. Both agencies need money, but one survives on free will donations, and the other is a fee-for-service agency which supplements with donations. That means that you can use the services of Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard for as long as you need to and never pay a dime. At the VNA, every time they see you there is a charge, to you or your insurance agency. Under Medicare hospice rules the VNA will receive a lump sum for your care, and there will be limits to that care.

I worked as a registered nurse at Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard, both in its early years and again recently when I was asked to return to fill a temporary staffing need. During my more recent employment, the VNA was telling their patients that they could take care of them at home until they died, but they simply couldn’t always cover it the way hospice does. Some families turned to hospice for additional support when they found this out. No Medicare-limited program can provide the level of attentiveness that patients and families receive from hospice. Everyone who staffs the office is a trained volunteer, social worker or nurse, or who serves on the board (and it truly is a working board,) does so with the single focus of serving the needs of those who are nearing the end of life. Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard nurses and social workers can make unlimited house calls; they can stay for as long as necessary. They visit their patients during hospital admissions, and help make the transition home smoother. The nurses are on call seven days and nights a week. Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard rents two storage units for all sorts of medical equipment that has been donated to them to loan to others. After a death there are follow-up care and bereavement services.

Furthermore, you don’t have to be certified by anyone to be a Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard patient. If by some miracle you don’t die as expected, and sometimes when patients’ pain and other needs are relieved, they don’t, they will still check on you. You can have a hospital bed too, covered by insurance with a doctor’s order. The doctor, not the insurance company, decides whether, or when, to make house calls.

Of course the VNA would love to absorb Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard — their trained volunteers and staff, their donor list, their endowment and those all important donations given “in memory of.” Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard has studied the possibility of becoming Medicare certified and wisely decided to remain an independent, community-based organization. For the VNA to disguise a grab for Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard as a “discussion” was a publicity stunt.

It is self-evident that our community needs and supports both the VNA and Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard. How they will work together, and support each other’s work, remains to be seen.

Marie Laursen

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Since its formation 27 years ago, I believe Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard has continuously provided Island families with high-quality, cost-free end of life care. Those who founded Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard duly considered Medicare certification, but decided an independent, community-supported hospice could provide better service without the limitations certification would impose.

I find it difficult to understand Vineyard Nursing Association’s decision to establish a Medicare certified hospice in addition to the already existing Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard. Cost-free hospice care from Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard is available to anyone on Martha’s Vineyard who wishes it, without the limitations a Medicare certified hospice would impose.

Even more difficult to understand is Vineyard Nursing Association’s proposal that Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard become a part of the nursing association — and thereby give up the advantages their non-Medicare certification offers?

Eliot Macy

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I have been distressed as I have read of the attempt by Vineyard Nursing Association to take over Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard. Although I must confess that I am not surprised. When my wife was dying in 1993, professionally, I must say that my daughters and I could not have weathered that storm without the people of hospice. One of the aspects of life missing today is the ministry of listening, and you cannot put a price on this. VNA is trying to put hospice out of business, and they have this desire to charge money for something which is more valuable than any ill-conceived profit. And this is a gift — to the people of the Island, and to the dying and it is provided by people who care and listen, not because they get paid, but rather because they care.

In this age of economic disaster, when everything is made whole by the bottom line, there are some things which money cannot buy — and these very special gifts of compassion and warmth are priceless. Heather, Jennifer and I shall be eternally grateful to hospice for their compassion and warmth at a time when we needed it the most — and we didn’t even have to ask . . . or pay.

Rev. Peter Sanborn

Melbourne, Fla.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The assertion that imposing the hotel lodging tax on owners of weekly vacation rentals has not hurt tourism or the economy in Maine is false. Maine has a third world economy because of its high taxes and controls, which are among the worst in the nation. Both property owners and tourists are being hurt by this.

We and many others stopped renting our property in downeast Maine to vacationers in 2005 when the state began imposing the 7 per cent hotel lodging tax and state registration on what had previously been exempt personal property. It takes an enormous amount of effort and responsibility to rent your own home to the public, and the taxes and bureaucratic intrusion were simply not worth it, especially for a low volume operation that mostly just helped to pay expenses — including the high property taxes. We were very sad to have to stop, and so are the vacationers who no longer have what they otherwise could have (

The “sales” tax is not a tax on tourists, it is a legal imposition on the owner of the property who must pay for it any way he can. For discretionary spending like vacations one cannot simply pass on the extra cost by raising the total price to the vacationer because market prices cannot be arbitrarily raised to cover costs without affecting volume, leading to unrented weeks. Anyone who has tried to determine a reasonable price to charge knows this. Vacationers look at the total cost to themselves, including what is called added tax on top of an advertised price. This causes the base price to be lower than it otherwise would have been and the sales tax turns out to be an income tax on gross receipts.

The tax also subjects private individuals to state bureaucracy, making more people subject to the broad discretionary powers of bureaucrats with the authority to estimate sales taxes and impose taxes and penalties whether you are renting or not simply because some suspicious bureaucrat claims you are. Normal constitutional protection of civil rights does not apply because the victims are required under state tax law to prove their innocence to the satisfaction of the bureaucrats. Proving a negative is a logical impossibility because things that don’t happen don’t leave traces behind as evidence of their nonexistence, so you are left at the mercy of belligerent bureaucrats who are pursuing their agency mission.

Several of us who stopped the vacation rentals or never did it have been harassed and bullied for years under this scheme with demands for tens of thousands of dollars in bogus taxes and penalties and threats to seize our property. The legal costs against a rigged system like this are horrendous and most victims simply give up and pay off the demands. Once ensnared in this scheme people become desperate but there is nowhere to turn for help against the abuse. See

The proposal in the name of generating income to impose a new tax on homeowners who rent their property for vacations should be recognized as the latest tax grab scheme that it is and rejected. And especially, no one should be emulating the third world government of Maine as any kind of example to follow.

Erich Veyhl

Concord, Me.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

As owners of a Middle Road house who live in California, we get the Gazette a little later than some. Therefore, our response to your Jan. 9 article about ongoing dealings between the state, Sheriff’s Meadow, Oakleaf Landscape and Dirk Ziff may be a little late.

We are responding to the “Sheriff’s Meadow, State Reach Accord” article because, having watched and experienced the ridiculous Moujabber folly (garage mahal) in Oak Bluffs, it seems that this incident is degenerating into another long, drawn-out series of frustrating indecisions. We don’t understand why there has been any time or money wasted on dealing with this issue.

Clearly, Sheriff’s Meadow’s “fuzzy” agreement with any of the landscapers was not written and needed monitoring, which wasn’t provided. Sheriff’s Meadow is partly liable for the damage to the land in their trust. They should be held accountable as the article states. I would think that contributors to Sheriff’s Meadow would be angry at the trust having to use $27,000 of their endowment to repair the affected land.

Oakleaf Landscaping has removed trees and soil in excess of the agreement with Sheriff’s Meadow. They stole mature trees and sold them to Dirk Ziff, a felony in most states. They should be fined and made to return the trees to the original land at their cost.

Mr. Ziff is not without guilt in this affair. I’m sure he will say he did not know anything about the removal of trees and soil to his property. He may not be a landscaper, but almost anyone would question the sudden appearance of 20-30-foot high, mature trees on their property (certainly at what must have been a lot less cost than bringing them in from the mainland). The article says the discussions are continuing with Mr. Ziff. He is complicit in this theft and should share the cost of returning the trees to their original position.

The article even includes a picture of one of the stolen trees being reinstalled at some location. What are you waiting for, a witness statement from one of the trees? I hope that this simple theft doesn’t slide down into a Sheriff’s Meadow/Oakleaf/Ziff folly of authority ineptitude.

In a wonderful bit of irony, you published a piece by Thomas Dresser titled Land Bank Trails Lead to Contemplation in the same issue of the paper. Mr. Dresser clearly describes a lovely walk on the Vineyard that the various land trusts help provide for us all. The accompanying photo above Mr. Dresser’s piece is of trees on the quiet piece of land. If those trees were to disappear and end up on private property hasn’t the word “trust” been violated in the most basic way?

Please use your editorial page to ensure that swift and just action is taken on this issue.

Thomas and Beebo Turman

Berkeley, Calif. and Chilmark


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

It was really heartening to read last week how our community has come together to help the food pantry help a growing number of fellow Islanders during these hard times. We applaud all involved for their creativity, collaboration and contributions. I do want to set the record straight, however, about the $500 gift for the new refrigerator that was attributed to us, and give credit where it is due. The Donors Collaborative does not give grants or make donations of our own but we do let donors who want to remain anonymous pass their donations through us. The refrigerator donation was from a seasonal resident who anonymously donates items on our annual Vineyard holiday wish list to five or six different nonprofits each year. This year, recognizing the need is greater now more than ever, she increased her donation to the Vineyard by 20 per cent. We salute her for that and for setting an example we hope others will follow. With the economy and state budget cuts, we’ll need it to get through.

Thank you!

Peter Temple


Mr. Temple is executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Donors Collaborative.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

If you go to any kind of gathering on the Vineyard these days, you eventually get around to a single topic: what’s happening with the national economy. As president of the Martha’s Vineyard Women’s Network, as well as a financial advisor and small business owner, I’m also hearing our 77 members and my own clients worry about the other piece of that puzzle: how it is going to impact us — if it hasn’t already.

The board of the women’s network became concerned enough about this serious topic to search for some answers for our membership. On March 5, the network will host a nationally known business consultant who will offer advice on embracing the economic challenges of today — just in time to make real changes in our approaches before the coming season. And because we think the whole Island could benefit from her talk, we’ve decided to reach out to every business leader or interested person on the Vineyard.

Lynn Switanowski, who has 20 years experience with Fortune 500 companies like Reebok, Aramark and Liz Claiborne and who now runs the Boston-based Creative Business Consulting Group, will give realistic strategies for thriving during this economic downturn. Lynn’s presentation will be data driven, gleaned from her management experience and her creative problem solving skills. And, although Lynn’s view comes from off-Island, her strategies will be directly transferable to our own unique marketing and sales needs. The presentation will address the changing consumer and therefore can be applied to our retail, service and nonprofit entities.

If you are engaged in or worry about any of those, this seminar is for you.

The women’s network, which was founded in the spring of 2007 to support and provide education and resources to the businesswomen of the Vineyard, believes there is no more important topic right now than our economy. I’d urge all of you — both men and women — to come to this meeting at the Old Whaling Church to try to get some help on this perplexing issue. Registration information can be found at

Margo Urbany-Joyce



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Not sure how many folks are aware of one of the Coast Guard’s most famous rescues that took place off Chatham in 1952. Two tankers broke in half during a gale on Feb. 18-19. The CG36500 was sent across the Chatham Bar to attempt a rescue from the stern section. No one expected the 36-footer to make it across the bar in such conditions. The coxswain was a very young Bernard Weber. He and a crew of three not only made it across, but managed to take 33 crew members off Pendelton’s stern in the worst conditions imaginable! Then made it back across that bar without a compass (which was smashed).

Anyway, Bernie crossed the bar for the last time about two weeks ago at the age of 80. I once had the honor of running that boat from Chatham to Menemsha during its last year in service. It has since been restored and is at the Cape Cod Museum. Bernie and his crew received the Gold Life Saving Medal for that rescue. He also made the last rescue ever, using the last Lyle gun on Cape Cod: six fisherman off a F/V aground off Race Point during another gale. I don’t know how many guys this man saved during his career in the Coast Guard, but it was many. Anyway, just thought this fellow should be remembered in some way.

Wayne V. Iacono