Oak Bluffs Results Were a Surprise - Is Healing of Long Battle
Under Way?

By Julia Wells

In Oak Bluffs the landscape has changed, and it's not just the
daffodils and day lilies. In this seaside town of honky tonk and
gingerbread and emerald parks, the landscape of local politics has also
suddenly changed.

Voters went to the polls in the annual town election last week and
swept out three high-profile incumbents. By decisive margins Kerry Scott
beat Todd Rebello for selectman, Linda Marinelli bested Joe Alosso for a
seat on the town board of health and David Morris knocked Tim Dobel from
his four-term perch on the school committee.

What happened in Oak Bluffs?

"I think it was a message that voters sent to the incumbents,
and I think that townspeople are not as happy with the incumbent powers
as they thought that everyone was," said Kerry Alley, a respected
lifelong town resident.

"I think people wanted change and usually when there are
issues out there people do want change. I hope that they get what they
were looking for because with change comes a loss of a good amount of
experience," said Robert Murphy, a local real estate broker and
longtime town resident.

Mr. Murphy and Mr. Alley were on different sides of the fence when
it came to voting, but they did not disagree on many of the central
themes in the town election this year:

* That the election results were a surprise.

* That they were the culmination of a long, bruising battle
over the development of the southern woodlands, a battle that tore the
town down the middle.

* That the bitterness is now fading and there are already many
signs of healing under way.

"Anytime you are in a small town there are only two ways to
vote on something, so you follow your gut and use your best judgment. I
hope now that the people who voted those people out of office can feel
that something positive is going to come out of it," Mr. Murphy

"I think it was probably a surprise that so many of them got
knocked out - I think the fact that the school committee and the
selectmen and the board of health all went out, the message is that
people are not quite content with the group that seems to be wielding a
lot of power in the last year or so," Mr. Alley said.
"It's too incestuous, it's too closely held and I
think people went too far," he added.

A golf course development proposal by Connecticut businessman Corey
Kupersmith was the fulcrum for bitter debate in Oak Bluffs for the last
four years. Along the way, three development plans were rejected by the
Martha's Vineyard Commission and a heated campaign to have the
town withdraw from the commission failed. For a time, living in Oak
Bluffs was a little like living in a Carl Hiassen novel - lawsuits
and threats filled the air like confetti, reports of patronage were
widespread and each week brought fresh reports of hostile acts by the

Last month it all ended in a truce, when the Martha's Vineyard
Land Bank announced that it had signed an agreement with the developer
to buy more than 200 acres that will become permanent public
conservation land. Mr. Kupersmith will also be allowed to build 26 homes
on 80 acres that he still owns, and his eight pending lawsuits will be

Shortly before the election Mr. Rebello, a one-term selectman and
board chairman, tried to take credit for his own role in brokering the
compromise, but for many voters it was too little too late.

It is unclear just how much voter disenchantment over golf and the
southern woodlands spilled into the election upset with Mr. Alosso and
Mr. Dobel, who were also at the center of separate controversies in the
past year. But Mr. Alley had his view.

"This election broke all along the lines of golf, and golf is
what cleaved this town down the middle. In all of my years I don't
think I saw anything as divisive as this, it pitted brothers against
brothers and families against families. The fallout had to happen, but
now it is settled and I think everyone is happy about the
settlement," he said, adding: "I think that whatever part
Todd Rebello played in brokering this last agreement, he should be
praised, but on the other hand he was on the other side for a couple of

On Circuit avenue this week the loyalty for Mr. Rebello lingered.

"Todd did an excellent job, and my personal feeling is that I
certainly hope he will get involved with other political office,"
said Marc Hanover, the owner of Linda Jean's restaurant.

And perhaps signaling a new brand of Oak Bluffs congeniality, the
remarks for Ms. Scott, the selectman-elect, were all sanguine.

"Kerry Scott - you can disagree with Kerry but I have
never seen her be disagreeable. She has a calming effect that could be
very beneficial to this board of selectmen," Mr. Alley said.

"I look very much forward to working with Kerry - she is
certainly upbeat and positive and hopefully that will work in our favor.
This golf course thing, I think it has hurt our town and it was split
right down the middle, so to me that was no referendum. I realize the
majority ruled here, but it is by a very slim margin," Mr. Hanover

And as a new week dawned, there was talk around town about healing.

"I hope that the rift that has divided us will subside and
that there can be a coming together," Mr. Alley said. He said
there are already many hopeful signs, pointing for example to the annual
town meeting last week, which most agreed was the smoothest in years.

"Most people just want to move on now and get on with the
business of running the town, which is in fact being run very well.
It's like, you fight, you are bruised and you move on. This is a
great town and it is working great," Mr. Hanover said.

"The hurt is there, but people are ready to put bandages on
it," Mr. Murphy agreed.

Looking again at the three key town positions that were the target
of change by voters, Mr. Alley concluded:

"All these people hitched their wagons to the same star, and
that star crashed."