The spring political season kicks off next Tuesday with annual town meetings in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and West Tisbury. This is the Island’s super Tuesday, and more town meetings will follow.
Often called the purest form of democracy, town meeting government remains alive and well here. Voters, check your warrants; there are many important issues to consider this year. Some are small and defined by town boundaries, while others are more broadly drawn and cross town lines.
Spending initiatives on regional projects merit special attention, beginning with the Gay Head Light relocation effort. Voters next week will be asked to spend Community Preservation Act money from their towns on this project. To say that it is worthwhile seems an understatement — the iconic Gay Head Light stands as a beacon of history and symbol of our maritime heritage and is in very real danger of being lost. The ongoing Islandwide effort to raise funds to move the lighthouse is grass roots in the best sense of the phrase, backed by a group of hardworking town leaders and volunteers in Aquinnah. Voters should not hesitate to dedicate their share of town funds to save the Gay Head Light.
Saving Island ponds and groundwater from the ruinous effects of fertilizers is equally important, and voters will see a lengthy article on their warrants this year that represents a huge step in the right direction. The article spells out a newly conceived Islandwide district of critical planning concern to control fertilizer use. The initiative is explained in detail by Edgartown health agent Matthew Poole in an op-ed on the Commentary Page in today’s edition. The fertilizer district is not perfect and some fine tuning will no doubt be needed. Among other things, the rules require training and licensing for landscapers, golf course managers and others who handle fertilizers, and allow towns to charge fees for the licensing. The district is an important environmental protection initiative and is not intended to become a money-maker for towns through collecting fees, so some kind of mechanism may be in order to keep them in check. But it is especially heartening to see that the fertilizer district has the backing of many professional landscapers who are taking the lead with organic practices. The DCPC is well thought out, will cost no money and deserves the backing of Island voters.
It will cost money for towns to help keep the Adult Community Education program going, but not enough to break the bank. Demographic and cultural shifts have made adult education a vital component of the Island community. But funding for ACE has been scarce and without support, the program will likely have to close. Voters are being asked to chip in to help keep ACE going. On an Island that is known for its independent spirit and always taking care of its own, the benefits of supporting adult education seem obvious.
It all begins on Tuesday night. Plan to find a babysitter, walk the dog early, have a light supper and get out to town meeting and vote!