Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Several people have asked questions about my recent essay and presentations about Tisbury’s unfunded liability for other post-employment benefits (OPEB).

My analysis focused on these benefits rather than on pensions because the town started to fund its pension benefits some years ago. That cost is a regular part of the town’s budget, as it should be.

In my analysis and recommendation, I did not address potential changes in benefit offerings, health insurance costs, state or federal restructuring of the health insurance industry, or state or federal funding of part or all of these benefits.

Lowering the cost of our insurance is one important avenue to reducing the long-term liability. The town is working hard to lower its overall insurance costs. We should continue working to reduce our costs — that’s an essential effort.

Tisbury has no influence over the health insurance industry and the state and federal governments. Any changes there that might help would be a gift, but I don’t see much reason to hope for any significant changes in this area in the next few years, given the huge challenges that presently occupy the stage.

I also did not address those possibilities because, no matter what happens, the town will be better off if it starts funding now. The unfunded liability grows every year, so we would be foolish to delay in the vague hope that someone might bail us out. If we start funding now and something reduces the liability, we will be that much further ahead. If there is no outside rescue, we will at least be on our way to paying off this debt.

Besides being fiscally prudent, this is an issue of fairness: the unfunded liability is a cost of past and present employment, so it is unfair to saddle future taxpayers with that cost along with the cost of their own employees. It’s a little like putting your car’s gasoline costs on a credit card — you use the car now, but you put off paying for the gas until the future. That gas is still part of the cost of running the car today.

We should acknowledge the full cost of running the town, including the cost of future benefits already earned. That cost is real, whether we follow the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) guidelines or not. That future cost has grown to almost $20 million — it’s a debt we owe, and it won’t go away.

We should start paying down that debt. We shouldn’t wait until GASB or the state or federal government tells us we have to. If we start funding now, it will take us 30 years to pay down the liability we’ve built up, and the town will then be in much better shape. From then on, we should pay for those future benefits as they are earned — like paying for the gasoline in your car as you use it.

See you at town meeting.

Jon Snyder

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

It was disappointing to note the dissension as reported in your recent article pertaining to the financial budget for Oak Bluffs.

While the school department appears to seek significantly more money, scholarship is only one component of education. Education includes athletics and sports, craftsmanship, swimming and life-saving, personal care and safety, civic concern and responsibility, Scouts and similar outside activities. These and others are important complements to scholarship, and deserve citizens support as much or more than the school curricula. Schools develop capabilities for learning, analysis, and oral, written and creative expression. Schooling in grammar, organization, penmanship, mathematics, economics, history, civics and government — all derived from reading, study, usage and practical application at appropriate levels. All of these require serious attention if we are responsibly to transmit our culture and institutions to successive generations. Those who speak in terms of efforts “for the children” might do well to broaden their horizons and beyond the needs of the school department, and expand their efforts to the extent practicable to the needs of the whole education spectrum.

It is presumptuous to attempt to speak for the police department, but the requested budget increase sounds somewhat close to the cost of the road placement cruiser. Could it not be deferred for a year or two?

The town has a capable finance committee whose considered recommendations ought to be heeded. While level funding has been achieved in other departments, the selectmen apparently choose to utilize overrides in debt exclusions rather than their proper responsibility of living within their means, and presenting a budget balanced, integrated and equitable. It borders on blackmail to hold hostage one department as against another when all departments have their needs. Like robbing Peter to pay Paul! The rest of us have learned to make do, or do without.

Voters at town meeting should expect better balanced and agreed-upon recommendations for spending from limited resources, and not be left to emotions and loyalties. Above all, please attend and vote.

John M. Boardman

Oak Bluffs


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The Chappy Path Committee is hoping to complete the road survey on Chappaquiddick for a proposed shared use path along the road from the Chappy ferry to the Dike Bridge. This funding request now appears as article 24 on the Edgartown town warrant. The earlier road survey completed in 1995 does not include the Dike Bridge road portion. The warrant article, requesting CPA funding, will be amended to request the sum of $6,270 and is only for a survey plan of the Dike Road. The completed survey will provide a definitive basis for the Edgartown and Chappy communities to intelligently discuss the pros and cons of a shared use plan this summer. The proposed survey is an important step to enable that discussion and we hope that you agree and will vote in favor of our warrant article.

Richard Knight


Mr. Knight is a member of the bike path steering committee; other members are Bob Colvin (chairman), Will Geresy, Melissa Kagan, Joe Sullivan, Tom Tilghman and Peter Wells.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Island residents will once again be asked to decide on funding for the Vineyard Health Care Access Program during town meetings. There are two funding requests in most towns this year. The original request is based on an agreement made last year between the towns and the county, to share the cost of one third of the program’s total budget of $275,000. Until now, the remaining funds were raised from grants. Since those grants have declined, resulting in reductions in staff and therefore services, the access program is making an additional request for the coming year. The total request of all six towns combined is $125,000.

Although we have had to cut our staff, we are seeing more people than ever who need our services. The program is busy enrolling and maintaining the coverage for the 2,500 Islanders that we assist with affordable insurance every year. As people’s incomes are decreasing, they are struggling to keep up with steep increases in health insurance premiums, and to comply with the Massachusetts health insurance requirement. Some are losing insurance when they lose their jobs. We help Islanders who have serious conditions such as cancer and heart disease, have had injuries or acute illnesses that require immediate treatment, are pregnant, are entering a nursing home, or need medication to maintain their health. We remain committed to ensuring that they receive the care and the coverage they need.

We also help people apply for food stamps; we operate the David Kurth Memorial Fund for financial assistance with prescription medication, made possible by local donors; we manage the Vineyard Smiles portable dental program for children and more recently, lower-income seniors and the disabled; and provide health benefit counseling to seniors and disabled people.

The Vineyard Health Care Access Program was founded in 1999 and is now in its 10th year of service to the Vineyard community. We have provided services to over 5,000 Islanders in the past 10 years. Please help us to continue providing this vital assistance to our community by voting in support of the warrant articles for access program funding at your town meeting.

Sarah Kuh

Oak Bluffs

Sarah Kuh is director of the Vineyard Health Care Access Program.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The trustees of the Edgartown Free Public Library ask Edgartown voters to please support our library once again by voting on warrant article 18 at the Edgartown annual town meeting on April 14.

Approval of the CPC funds will bring our historic 1904 Carnegie Library building up to a combination of modern standards while retaining the original building design. Additionally, a refurbished Carnegie Library will be a green building saving on heating and electricity costs. Furthermore, the integrity of the historic restoration should be secure when the building is moved.

Our historic Carnegie Library building is the only such building on the Vineyard and one of the few left in the commonwealth.

Our renewed historic Carnegie Library will add to the beautification and historic preservation of downtown Edgartown.

Our Edgartown library is open and free to everyone. Right now, throughout the United States, as our nation’s economic downturn spreads, libraries are serving record numbers of clients.

Please take the time to attend the town meeting April 14 at 7 p.m. and vote yes on article 18. The library trustees thank the Edgartown residents for their support.

Herb Foster


Mr. Foster is an Edgartown library trustee; other trustees are David Blackburn (chairman), Diane Bongiorno, Pat Rose, Ann Tyra and Liz Cosgrove.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I am writing on behalf of the Edgartown Library Foundation to urge Edgartown voters to attend the annual town meeting Tuesday April 14, and vote to confirm warrant article 18. This measure approves the Community Preservation Committee's decision to allocate funds for the historic preservation of the original Edgartown Carnegie Library building.

These funds will halt the rapid deterioration of the building and make the building more energy efficient. As a result the town will be paying less in maintenance and utilities.

The library foundation is a nonprofit corporation, created in December 2004 for the purpose of providing support for the Edgartown Free Library. The all-­volunteer organization has hosted multiple gatherings to raise awareness of the library’s vital role in the community, to provide information about its expansion plans, and to raise contributions.

As of year-end 2008 over $1 million has been raised in donations and pledges.

Yet $5 million more is needed by December of this year to qualify for the $4.6 million grant that the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners has awarded Edgartown for expansion of the library. Edgartown is eligible because its plan meets state standards for a building which will be able to serve its community, not just for the moment, but for decades to come.

Expansion or not, the original Carnegie building will continue to be the visual centerpiece of the library. Please support the allocation to preserve it with your vote.

Gwyn Smith


Gwyn Smith is chairman of the Edgartown Library Foundation.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I am writing on behalf of the Edgartown Library Foundation. We want to urge all Edgartown voters to, once again, support the library by voting for warrant article 18 during the up-coming annual townmeeting. This article confirms the CPC decision to award the library funds for historic preservation for its lovely Carnegie Librarybuilding. Using the CPA funds in this way is a perfectfit. The funds would be used to insulate, repair and improve a very special 1904 historicbuilding. The improvements would actually bring the library building to “green” status, an excellent goal during these environmentally sensitive times.

The Edgartown Library is a tremendous resource, open to all, and centrally located. It is our obligation to care for the building. Please come to town meeting and support it.

Anne M. Vose



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

As in many cities and towns in the commonwealth, the League of Women Voters offers voters a ride to the polls on election day. I suspect that many of those accepting the league’s offer are senior citizens who have ceased driving their automobiles. Clearly, the league performs a valuable service to all of us by ensuring that the elderly can continue to exercise their rights as citizens to select those whom they wish to run town government.

However, as far as I know, there is no comparable service enabling senior citizens to exercise their rights at town meeting. The elderly are, by and large, left to fend for themselves in getting to town meeting and, as we who are aging know, driving at night is far from a pleasure. As a result, the elderly are not adequately represented at town meeting. Yet town meeting is probably more important than town elections in directing those who run town government. Look around you at town meeting. Where are Mr. and Mrs. Smith who spoke up at every town meeting you attended? What good advice are we missing because they no longer can come to town meeting?

Clearly, transporting people to and from the polls is a lot easier and much less time consuming than transporting them to and from town meeting. However, if we could solve this problem, our towns would benefit from the experience of our senior citizens; issues could be examined from the perspective of the young, the old and the middle-aged — that is, from the perspective of all of our citizens.

I don’t have an answer to this problem beyond suggesting that we who still drive volunteer to take our older neighbors and friends to town meeting with us. Perhaps, next year, the political parties, the VTA or one of the many social service agencies on the Island might have a better solution.

Al DeVito

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I’d like to see the Vineyard Gazette come out in support of President Obama’s public health insurance option. Given the impact the economic crisis is having on Island residents, it is critical that we ensure the pursuit of effective and affordable health care options.

Obama’s public health insurance option would save us up to 30 per cent on our insurance premiums by being more efficient and driving down prices across the board, according to the Commonwealth Fund report. The insurance lobbyists are fighting against Obama’s public health insurance option. Insurance companies know that lower costs for us mean lower profits for them.

The choice of a public health insurance plan is considered a crucial part of health care reform by Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman and political leaders from our region such as Dr. Howard Dean. The New York Times Editorial Board recently joined the list of supporters in favor of President Obama’s public health insurance option. I’d like to see the Vineyard Gazette do the same.

David J. Bennett

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

During the past few months, I have received homeopathy treatments from Jackie Clason, had my road sanded and scraped by John Keene, had my will rewritten, eaten quite a few lunches at Beetlebung Coffee, had computer work done by Steve Vages, my Web site updated by Al Mahoney, had a detox protocol from Roni DeLuz, and a fantastic meal prepared at my home for myself and my wife by expert chef Ben Deforest.

All that stuff could have really added onto our monthly expenses. But guess what? I didn’t actually “pay” for any (or most) of it. Instead, we all agreed to return to one of the sweetest informal arrangements that recalls ancient times: the barter. Thankfully, it seems I have things (calendars, photos, etc.) that others want, and they have items that I can appreciate as well.

In these hard economic times, the lost art of bartering seems to be making a comeback. And on a small Island, all it takes is a trusting handshake or hug. Uncle Sam probably isn’t all that thrilled, but hey — it saves us a lot of bookkeeping. And I never liked supporting those AIG bonuses anyway. And, at least so far, it has been a total win-win.

When the going gets tough, the tough get knowing that sharing one’s talents with each other is one way to survive. Ya, mon!

Peter Simon



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

On the evening of April 5, Vineyard House hosted a wonderful event at the Grange Hall. Supper with the Sisters was a sold-out event featuring presentations by Sister Rose and Sister Maurice of the Office of New Direction, Bronx, N.Y. The sisters spoke of their very personal experiences coping with the disease of alcoholism from the perspective of an alcoholic and the person coping with an alcoholic in her life. The presentations were at times hilarious and deeply moving. Many thanks to all who brought a dish — as both the sisters commented, the food was delicious and plentiful. In addition, we would like to thank the following Island businesses for contributing to the success of the event: Vineyard Bottled Water, Tilton Rental, Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, Grange Hall caretaker John Alley, DSP Sound, and the local recovery community. We are blessed.

Kathy Ferlund

Vineyard Haven

Ms. Ferlund is a member of the Vineyard House board; other members are Mark Jenkins, Dawn Bellante-Holand, Lang Clarke, Sharon Duncan-Sylvia, Bill Croke, Rob Doyle, John Early, Janina Kean, Carol McManus, Don Ogilvie, Lorraine Parish and Sheila Shapiro.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Sunday morning March 29 my son Marcus Garfinkle was the victim of a tragic hit-and-run automobile accident. Marcus was walking a friend back to her dorm after a fraternity event. While crossing at a crosswalk Marcus and Adrianna Bachan, age 18, from Santa Barbara, Calif., were struck by a hit-and-run driver. Adrianna lost her life and Marcus was critically injured. After being struck by the car, Adrianna was knocked aside and Marcus was carried on the hood for over 500 feet. The car then stopped and Marcus was thrown to the side of the street and left for dead. Marcus sustained injuries to every limb including multiple bone breaks, serious lacerations, nerve, tendon and ligament damage and more — much more. Miraculously Marcus did not sustain any brain or spinal injuries. We are so thankful he is alive.

There is more, so much more to tell; however, after two extensive surgeries Marcus continues to recover. We are facing another significant operation this week and we are hopeful that Marcus’s healthy spirit will help him pull through yet another ordeal with success.

He continues to be presented with some of life’s toughest challenges. He has been an inspiration to us all. Rather than wondering “why me?” every day Marcus has been thankful he is alive, thankful he has not sustained brain or spinal injury and thankful he is being cared for at a good medical facility. Each setback has presented Marcus with just another challenge, another chance to display his strong determination and his sterling character. His inner spirit has not only served him well but has been a source of strength and inspiration for all of us around him. I am proud to say he has become my teacher.

Every visitor, every flower delivery and every note and card helps buoy Marcus’ spirits. I hope his friends on the Vineyard will take a few moments to write a note of love and encouragement to him. Every gesture has significant meaning to Marcus at this time. If you have the time to write, his address is: Marcus Garfinkle, Care of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, 8700 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90048.

Thank you.

Myron Garfinkle

West Tisbury

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.