Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

If there were two causes that mattered to the late Henry Beetle and Elizabeth Bowie Hough, longtime editors and publishers of this newspaper, they were the preservation of the natural beauty of the Vineyard and loving care for its wild and domestic animals. With their establishment of the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, they managed to accomplish some of the former. With their longtime support of the animal shelter that Katharine M. Foote began in 1933 and that became the Animal Rescue League and later, at her choice, the MSPCA, both they and she felt certain that Vineyard animals in need would always have unfaltering care.

Now the MSPCA has decided to abandon its Island animal shelter. What a pity for all future dogs and cats that will be in need of happy Island homes. What a blow to the memory of Katharine Foote and to the tireless efforts for animal welfare of Henry and Betty Hough. And what a disgrace that the MSPCA cannot live up to an obligation it undertook some half-century ago, at Miss Foote’s request, to look after Martha’s Vineyard’s animals in need. It can only be hoped that that organization will, in the end, be honorable enough to live up to its obligation and not close down its Edgartown shelter.

Phyllis Meras

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

When I heard the news that the MSPCA shelter in Edgartown will close its doors in May, I was devastated and sad, then angry. How can an organization like the MSPCA abandon its responsibilities to the animals on Martha’s Vineyard? What will happen to all the homeless and lost cats and dogs and those given up because their owners can no longer afford to feed them? And what will happen to animals who need to be cremated because of old age or illness?

When my husband and I moved back to the Vineyard in 1978, I met A’Bell Washburn and we discovered a mutual love of animals and concern about the conditions at the old MSPCA shelter. Together we began to do what we could to find homes for all the cats and dogs that found their way to the shelter to live in substandard conditions because the MSPCA had all but abandoned their responsibilities, even then. For years Mrs. Washburn and I collected funds and started the idea for a new shelter. It took years but the MSPCA finally agreed to build us a new shelter. Out of that concern and hard work was the establishment of PAWS, which was funded by donations and run by dedicated volunteers. The new shelter was built in the early 1980s and has been run successfully ever since. And now they want to abandon it and the animals — again! The consequences of such an act are unthinkable.

I urge everyone who loves animals and who has ever adopted a pet from the shelter to please express your unhappiness and regret to Carter Luke, President, MSPCA, 350 South Huntington Avenue, Boston MA 02130, or by e-mail at mspca.org. And write to your local papers.

Our voices must be heard for the animals who cannot speak for themselves.

Janet Norton



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

We were saddened to learn of the closing of the three MSPCA shelters, especially the one on the Vineyard. And although the Vineyard Veterinary Clinic is a tenant in the front building of the MSPCA property, our privately-owned veterinary business is not affected by the shelter closings. We will continue to serve our patients’ and clients’ needs for high-quality veterinary care, and will work with the many other Island animal welfare organizations.

Doctors Williams, Buck and myself, along with the entire staff of the Vineyard Veterinary Clinic look forward to serving you for a long time to come.

We are hopeful that a quick solution can be developed and that the building behind our clinic can once again be a working animal shelter to help Island pets in need of homes.

Bridget Dunnigan,

Clinic Manager



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

So as of their Feb. 5 meeting, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission still hasn’t agreed to forego pay hikes for staff in fiscal year 2010. Amazing. How soon they forget.

Back in 2000, when I worked for the commission, the agency was broke. The staff did without Cola raises that year, and nary a peep escaped from any of us.

Why? Because for three of the years that our stints there overlapped, executive director Charles W. Clifford forewent any pay raises for himself. That was the extent of his dedication to the commission, and the staff knew it. Why would we complain?

By the way, Mr. Clifford was earning about half of what the current executive director pulls in.

I’m missing you, Chuck.

Pia Webster



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

When the Martha’s Vineyard Commission adopted its budget in January, as required by its enabling legislation and bylaws, it committed itself to review the budget again before certifying it to the towns. On Feb. 5, the commission amended its budget, with additional cuts to expenses, so that the assessments to the towns are now level funded.

With respect to salaries, our aim is to make sure that our employees are treated in a similar way to other public servants on the Vineyard. It appears that the MVC’s proposed salary increase is currently right in line with the average proposed salary increases in towns and other public entities, based on a preliminary compilation of data. As definitive information about their salary increases will not be available until town meetings take place, the commission plans to review salary levels in May, before they go into effect for the next fiscal year.

The commission also committed itself to review its budget development process for future years, to make it more timely, clear, and responsive to town boards and citizens.

Ned Orleans, Treasurer

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Law enforcement complaints of problems with the new marijuana law are unsubstantiated. They see ambiguities because they lost power when the people approved Question 2 and they want that power back.

West Tisbury chief Beth Toomey complains that officers must issue citations for a fine that when paid goes to West Tisbury’s general fund, her employer! She laments the loss of discretion. For police, discretion is just another word for the power to arbitrarily discriminate.

She also complains that a person can refuse to provide their name. The Constitution preserves the right to remain silent when questioned by police about anything. Yet the number of persons who will fail to identify themselves is very small and she provided not a single example where that has occurred.

As for sending the evidence to the state lab, she has been told not to do that anymore. The burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence, the substance itself and perhaps a far less expensive field test result would suffice in the rare instance a hearing is held over the $100 fine.

As for Edgartown chief Paul Condlin, Edgartown selectmen should be investigating why three months after passage and one month after it became effective the chief reports he still does not have the citations, when a sample citation was made available to him by the Secretary of Public Safety and Security in December.

Because of their insubordination toward the over seventy per cent of their employers who voted for Question 2, the selectmen should not renew the contracts of Chiefs Toomey, Condlin and John Cashin.

Steven Epstein



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

As I was skimming the Gazette’s recent coverage of that cool speed-networking gathering, I found myself wanting to hear (a lot) more about the Portuguese-speaking Vineyard realtor quoted who sold so many Brazilian folks houses with low interest mortgages (six or seven closings a month!”) — and in slow times is now house cleaning in competition with her clients.

This glib reflection, if accurate, makes me think some investigative reporting might help explain at the local level our national crisis that has crippled our economy.

Who were the banks? Not our own, I’ll bet. Who were the lawyers? What were the down payments?

Do the folks feel they were honestly represented? Were the risks fairly represented?

I’ve heard for a few years now the rumor about the real estate broker that has made millions cornering the Portuguese-speaking market — is this that person? I would like to hear firsthand accounts of their experiences, if some would share them.

So many Brazilian families I know work endless hours, multiple jobs, and when reading the foreclosure notices it seems that they are losing their houses weekly.

How about some real news?

If there is a story here that should be told, I’d like to hear it.

R.M. Campbell

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Over the years we have seen the good and caring people of this Island reach out to help one of their own in need. Please read on about a tiny baby born on Jan. 22 at just 26 weeks and one pound, eleven ounces. Her name, Autumn Rose Nelson, is as beautiful as her parents’ devotion to her.

Her mom is Amanda Berninger, who has worked as a cashier for Tony’s for the last four years. Her dad is Erik Nelson, who is employed at the Vineyard Refuse District. They will be married this fall and live in Oak Bluffs. Both are back at work on a tight schedule that involves long trips to the hospital in Boston where Autumn is making progress on the challenging path to the point, months from now, when they can bring her home.

New and unexpected expenses are no surprise to young parents, but for Amanda and Erik the weekly trips to Boston and the uninsured extra expenses of a very early birth and long hospitalization are staggering.

They say it takes a village . . . but no, in this case it will take an Island and generous gifts of money from caring people to help this little family hold things together, get to Boston every week and stay there for Autumn.

We are very fond of Amanda and Erik and want to invite you to participate with us in sharing the burden of their unexpected expenses. They are good people and they have a big job to do.

You can help. Please give whatever you can — even in these tough times — to help this fine little family. You can bring a donation into Tony’s where we have a special collection box, or mail a check, payable to Amanda Berninger, to our P.O. Box 2106, Oak Bluffs MA 02557. We are going to match the first $1,000 of contributions.

Thank you, and please keep little Autumn in your prayers and in the circle of your love.

Dave and Ellen Richardson

Oak Bluffs


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

What everyone on Martha’s Vineyard should know: We are among the top ten American Cancer Daffodil Days accounts on the Cape and Islands. Last year you bought 1,350 bunches of 10 daffodil buds. Amazing. But then I received another notice that listed the top 26 money raisers in New England and there we are, ninth on the list. (Unfortunately they listed it under my name, not Martha’s Vineyard.) We’ll have to correct that. Most of the others are corporations and universities.

More news: We now have a Hope Lodge in Boston where cancer outpatients who must travel a considerable distance may stay free of charge during treatment — a home away from home. We have had one in Worcester since 1984. Many other lodges are located throughout the country. The AstroZeneca Hope Lodge Center was opened in Boston last October. For information, call 1-800-227-2345.

There is so much more to tell. You know about the American Cancer Society’s programs for education, prevention, information, family support weekends, children’s summer camps and, of course, research. We have had 42 researchers funded by the American Cancer Society who have gone on to win the Nobel Prize, including 11 from Massachusetts. Contact the society any time, day or night, at the above number, or go to cancer.org.

We hope all Islanders know that volunteers will meet cancer patients in Woods Hole, drive them to Mashpee or Hyannis for their treatments, wait for them, and return them to Woods Hole. This has been available for many years.

Our volunteers on the Vineyard have been working hard this week and will continue until Feb. 27 to get their preorders from schools, banks, offices and businesses all over the Island. These are very difficult times for many of us and perhaps we may not be as successful as last year. But we shall try. The daffodils will arrive on March 17; we will distribute the preorders promptly. The next day they will be sold at several locations on the Island.

Thank you for your support.

Dorothy K. Bangs

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I am a recent arrival to the Vineyard and have rapidly grown into an avid reader of the Vineyard Gazette. I was inspired by a piece in the Feb. 6 edition by Jack Schimmelman titled Splashdown in the Hudson: A Matter of Choice. He selected precise metaphors, symbolism and imagery that, at this time, would speak to even the most literal of minds. The miracle on the Hudson could not have happened on a more perfect day. Simply put, America, and the world for that matter, seemed to be hungry for a miracle, regardless of if we acknowledged this hunger or not. Thank you, Mr. Schimmelman, for collecting our thoughts and unveiling them so eloquently in black and white.

Stephanie Johnson

Oak Bluffs