Jim Powell Stresses Island Roots in Campaign for Legislative Seat

By JAMES KINSELLA

Jim Powell of West Tisbury, the Republican candidate for the Cape and Islands state representative seat, is emphasizing the value of his connection to the Vineyard.

"We need a new, fresh, effective, results-oriented representative who really knows what it's like to work and survive on the Island," said Mr. Powell, 46, who ran unsuccessfully against the incumbent, Eric T. Turkington, in 2004.

Mr. Powell, a teacher at the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, a farmer and an innkeeper, said the Islands already loom large in the district, accounting for more than 60 per cent of its population and 90 per cent of its land area.

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He said 28 years have passed since an Islander represented the Vineyard, and that the time has come for an Islander to again fill the shoes. Mr. Powell traces his Vineyard lineage through the Mayhews to 1642, and counts 20 state legislators among his ancestors.

His campaigning has included personal appearances across both the Vineyard and Nantucket. On the Vineyard, he has widely distributed signs that call on residents to "vote for an Islander."

Education is a key issue for Mr. Powell. "As a teacher and an Islander, I really understand what our schools need," he said. "I understand budgets and how to lobby for funds."

In 2003, he said, he worked with other Vineyard leaders to successfully restore funding that otherwise would have led to more than 20 layoffs in the Island's schools.

He also is emphasizing the importance of water quality and the health of shellfish in district towns, stressing "how important that link is in preserving our Island way of life."

Renewable energy is another important issue for the candidate. While Mr. Powell said he favors the Cape Wind project, he favors siting the proposed wind farm either east of Nantucket or at the Massachusetts Military Reservation. He said bickering over the current proposed site, at Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound, is depriving the region of the wind farm's energy benefits.

Mr. Powell said he also backs land-based wind projects on a smaller scale, including in his own town of West Tisbury.

Taking the longer view, he wants to help the Cape and Islands district become a leader in wind-farm technology, which he said could generate good jobs while also cutting down on pollution generated by fossil fuels.

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Mr. Powell also has honed in on the issue of rising home insurance premiums in coastal areas such as the Cape and Islands. As a member of the Martha's Vineyard Commission and as its liaison to the state coastal zone management program, he said he has learned that coastal towns can take steps to pursue discounts on premiums that their residents otherwise would pay. He said he would work with district towns to pursue discounts.

Mr. Powell supports the proposed charter study committee for county government in Dukes County. He said the reforms of the initial charter, reached a decade ago, did not take effect as they should have. The fallout, he said, has included the continuing existence of an unsafe jail and $600,000 in costs related to a legal battle between the county commission and the Martha's Vineyard airport commission. He said he would like to see some county services expanded and some diminished, but when asked for specifics didn't provide any.

He sees the lack of affordable housing as another key issue, one that extends even to Cuttyhunk on the Elizabeth Islands. Asked about the proposed Martha's Vineyard Housing Bank, which would be funded on a tax on real estate transactions, Mr. Powell said he would favor a bill that would provide tax incentives through property tax abatements for prospective homeowners.

Mr. Powell also wants to reintroduce commuter rail from Boston to Buzzards Bay, which he said would give residents in the Falmouth section of the district better access to better jobs, and help the economy of the district.