Eric Turkington Recounts Service to Vineyard On Needs, Issues

By JAMES KINSELLA

Eric Turkington, who has represented Martha's Vineyard in the state house of representatives since 1989, said he can drive through every town on the Island and see projects and initiatives that he helped make happen.

Mr. Turkington, 59, a Democrat who lives in Falmouth, is running for re-election in the Cape and Islands district, which in addition to the Vineyard includes Nantucket and part of Falmouth.

In just the past year, he said, he has helped the YMCA secure permission to build on a site near the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, as well as bring in funding such as $40,000 for a Vineyard Haven police officer to help handle Steamship Authority summer traffic, and $50,000 for the Martha's Vineyard Boys' and Girls' Club.

Over the years, other projects he assisted include funding for the Oak Bluffs Public Library and the agricultural hall in West Tisbury, distance learning with the Nathan Mayhew seminars, and the opening of a home in Vineyard Haven for people with mental handicaps.

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"I enjoy what I'm doing," said Mr. Turkington, who also works as an attorney. "I've gotten to know this district as well as anyone can."

He also has been able to climb the leadership ladder. He has been appointed chairman of the tourism, arts and cultural development committee - a committee he said appears to have been designed for the district.

In campaigning this year, Mr. Turkington is visiting the Vineyard two or three times a week, and also has been going to Nantucket about three times a month.

Going forward, Mr. Turkington would like to give the proposed Martha's Vineyard Housing Bank another try. This past summer, the house voted 91-64 against the housing bank, which would have used a tax on real estate transactions to provide money for affordable housing.

He said supporters of the housing bank should be heartened by how far the bill went in the process before being defeated. The house leadership allowed the bill to get to the floor for a vote, unlike most bills.

"Basically, it got to the five-yard-line," Mr. Turkington said. "It's a minor miracle that it got as far as it did."

New ideas can take a while, Mr. Turkington said. He said the Cape Cod Land Bank took three years from its proposal to its passage.

As for another issue confronting residents in the district: rapidly rising home insurance premiums, Mr. Turkington said legislators are limited in controlling what essentially is driven by the market.

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"We can't make insurance companies put out products that don't make money," he said. "It's a huge issue that's largely out of our hands."

One way that he and other legislators are looking to rein in costs, Mr. Turkington said, is through the creation of a consortium of states in and near New England that would fund a dedicated reinsurance pool. Reinsurance costs have helped to drive premiums higher on some policies and led to the cancellation of others.

Mr. Turkington said he works to bring state officials together with Vineyarders to discuss issues of local interest. He helped arrange for the Oct. 18 forum on the Island where state education officials discussed possible changes in funding for regional school districts, of which the Vineyard has two. He also will bring in the commissioner of the state Department of Conservation and Recreation for a Nov. 9 meeting about the many dying trees inside the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest.

As for another issue facing the Vineyard - what, if anything, to do about the existing county government - Mr. Turkington, a former chairman of the house committee on counties, said he understands that the government hasn't met the hopes of its designers.

To that end, he calls on county residents on Nov. 7 to vote for creation of a charter commission, which would study the government and make recommendations.

"You have few enough regional entities," Mr. Turkington said. "You ought to think twice about blowing one up."