County Charter: Good Lessons From Past

Sadly, the public has shown little interest so far in the work of the Dukes County Charter Study Commission. Part of the reason may be the commission itself, which has spent a good deal of time in the past year tangled in its own process, although perhaps not hopelessly so.

The study group still has the chance to deliver what voters wanted in the first place when they elected the commission fifteen months ago: a thoughtful, cogent report on the state of county government and any recommendations for change.

Unfortunately the group has allowed creative thinking to take a back seat to bureaucratic procedures.

The group also has suffered from a notable lack of leadership with a chairman who has failed to grasp the importance of his role. The late Edward Logue, a seasoned city planner who was chairman of the first charter study group eighteen years ago, knew how to lead, how to get things done. He understood the mission and its importance. He had strong opinions and wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. And if he took a little heat along the way, that was okay. There was an important job to do for the Vineyard.

In fact the work of the former charter study group provides an excellent model. Elected in November of 1990, the commission held six public hearings and other forums. In June of 1991 it produced a preliminary report and in April 1992, its final report. That report, which makes a strong case for county government, remains relevant and should be posted on the county Web site for all to read.

Many of the recommendations in the charter study report — such as the formation of a cabinet with a representative from each town to discuss common concerns — were simply never carried out. “To an extent the county is unique and so is its political culture,” the final report stated. “We believe that the county needs the protection of home rule.”

Words that are still true today. The county charter study group never did a preliminary report, but is due to complete its final report in May. There is much work to do between now and then.