Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
Enough is enough. West Tisbury selectman Richard Knabel has been using the newspapers for his own personal crusade against the roundabout. In his most recent diatribe he writes that “had there been a ballot question in Oak Bluffs, I would venture to say the result there would not have been materially different from the roughly three-to-one landslide against it in the other towns.” His posturing is more akin to the morning pundit talk show hosts on who is going to win the presidential election in the fall.
The truth is that the good people of Oak Bluffs heard a presentation from state traffic engineers, and then had a meaningful and thoughtful discussion on the issue at an open town meeting. A standing vote was recorded by the town clerk, in case you wanted to see how your neighbor voted. Referendum votes are not a true pulse of voter sentiment since no dialogue of facts and figures is to be heard. The referendum vote is emotionally driven and often leads to catastrophic economic results. California, which has a long list of ballot initiatives regularly to fund worthwhile programs, has a glide path surpassing a $16 billion deficit. You got it right. Billions in the red, not millions. Even the recent stock sale of Facebook, which will net the state coffers a mighty $2 billion dollars, won’t put a dent into the problem.
I know change comes hard, but the real problem with Mr. Knabel’s posturing is that it will make state officials reticent about funding other necessary Island programs and infrastructure projects in the future. The state bureaucrats are no fools when it comes to politics; they don’t forget, and they will see no reason to begin another long open public process on the Island. Realistically, would you?
Selectman Knabel also chides the Oak Bluffs selectmen for not being good neighbors. Erik Albert, proprietor of the Oak Bluffs Inn, has for years tried to get your town to be neighborly and open up its beaches. He probably will wait a lifetime. History tells us that Oak Bluffs has the oldest open space-planned community in the United States, that Oak Bluffs is multi-cultural and inclusive, that the regional high school is located on donated Oak Bluffs land, that we are the summer gateway to thousands of summer visitors who spend their hard-earned money here and enjoy our beaches, that we have the August fireworks and don’t charge the good people of West Tisbury a dime to attend. So I really don’t need the lecture on being neighborly from Mr. Knabel.
Here is a piece of advice. You can’t be a private citizen some of the time and a public selectman some of the time. The course of action you have taken has put Island jobs at risk in a time of a floundering economic recovery. Oh, by the way, next time you are in Oak Bluffs, come to our town meeting and see real democracy at work. Have a great summer driving through the four-way stop. Just avoid it at peak-hour demand.