Decision Time in Tisbury

When voters in the town of Tisbury go to the polls on Tuesday, a number of important decisions are at hand. In addition to choosing who will be selectman for the next three years — incumbent Thomas Pachico or challenger Jeff Kristal — voters will decide on the pivotal question of whether to allow limited sales of beer and wine in some restaurants in town. They also will be asked to exempt from the provisions of Proposition two and a half, the state-mandated tax cap, the five hundred thousand dollar restoration project for Veterans Memorial Park.

The Beer and Wine Question

Question Four has had the benefit of widespread debate leading up to this election. The discourse has been civil and thoughtful with good points made on both sides. Most of the opinions both for and against the question have been canvassed on the Commentary Page of this newspaper.

The chief proponents of allowing beer and wine sales are restaurant owners and other businessmen. Their reasoning is at once sound and obvious: it is incredibly hard to earn a living in the restaurant business, and even more so in a resort community where the window of opportunity for making a profit is roughly twelve to fifteen weeks a year.

But for precisely this reason the argument in favor of beer and wine sales rests on an isthmus of truth too narrow to be compelling. Why should a town make such a sweeping change for a handful of restaurant owners?

At risk of sounding stodgy, the counter position on the beer and wine question rests on a broad field of reason and history and narrative that goes to that sometimes intangible thing: the character of a town.

Quiet, quirky and unpretentious with a sturdy working waterfront and a prosperous harbor, Vineyard Haven is the main port town, studded with year-round businesses that include a thriving boat building enterprise, two marinas and arguably the best book store, home goods and clothing stores on the Island.

It is the only place on the Vineyard where you can find a Main street sidewalk cafe that sells biscuits for the dog as well as cappuccino. It’s a place where you can go to dinner and take your own bottle, and while that may not be as profitable as the restaurant owners would like, it’s a nice thing for consumers, especially people on fixed incomes.

Vineyard Haven is not a dying town, as some businessmen would have us believe. It is a town in a state of change — but that is true of every Vineyard town these days, whether wet or dry.

The argument to allow the sale of beer and wine in restaurants remains hollow and unconvincing and fails to resonate throughout a broad cross section of the town.

Question Four should be voted down.

Restoring War Veterans Memorial Park

It was built by hand by a small group of Vineyard Haven veterans more than half a century ago. An anonymous donor contributed five thousand dollars to the cause. The Gazette heralded the project to create Veterans Memorial Park as an important Islandwide effort.

Indeed, the public park has since become an Islandwide institution whose broad playing fields support thousands of athletes young and old from spring through fall, from Saturday morning youth soccer games to Friday evening adult softball games.

Today the park has fallen into serious disrepair and needs restoration. The price tag is half a million dollars. At the annual town meeting last week, after healthy debate, voters agreed to spend the money.

But there is one more step to take. A ballot question at the annual town election Tuesday asks to exclude the debt for the park project from the provisions of Proposition two and a half.

This is a priority project and well worth the money.

And the whole Island will benefit.