Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I’d like to thank all the Tisbury voters who attended two long nights of annual town meeting. Town meeting is the forum where major town issues can be debated and decided, and, as the saying goes, the world is run by those who show up. Shame on those who didn’t bother to participate.

Shame on those, too, who stayed at town meeting only long enough to vote on the one issue that concerned them. After the beer and wine question had been decided, more than half the crowd made for the exits. There were still a number of articles to be voted, including one that had the potential to raise taxes seven or eight per cent for the next 30 years — the article that proposed starting to fund the town’s huge unfunded retirement insurance liability.

The financial health of the town is just as important as the beer and wine issue, and it will affect all our residents, from BYOBers to teetotalers. The finance committee will bring this article back to the town at future town meetings, and I urge all Tisbury’s citizens to learn as much as possible about this and other town issues.

Jon Snyder

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I am a selectman and West Tisbury’s representative to the tri-town DAS (distributed antennas system) committee.

I am not one of those who have taken, or seem now to be taking, the position that a DAS system is not needed or desirable to enhance cell phone service in the three up-Island towns. Besides improved cell phone service I have always had as one of my goals using the DAS system to improve and enhance public safety communications. That feature alone makes a DAS system desirable beyond just better service to the public.

What has proven to be disappointing and somewhat discouraging is the final design of the system as now proposed by American Tower. The disappearance of battery backup, the sudden appearance of 18-inch diameter poles in some very inappropriate places, and at the eleventh hour, represent a system a far cry from what was envisioned when the DAS committee began working with American Tower. Indeed, one would almost think this design is meant to engender maximum opposition.

While economics and the alleged refusal of NStar and Verizon to permit third party access to their existing utility poles may explain these recent changes in the design, the DAS committee was not party to the negotiations with the utilities. The question is whether American Tower will appeal the denial of access to the state board that resolves such disputes, and whether we have heard the last word on this dispute. I rather doubt it.

We must at a minimum get the DAS design back to the original idea: relatively inconspicuous whip antennas on top of existing utility poles. If that proves impossible for some reason, then up-Island must be ready for a proliferation of applications for cell phone towers. That is the law. We will have one or the other. To those who are concerned about health and safety, I would point out that cell phone towers operate at much higher power levels than the nodes of a DAS system.

Richard Knabel

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The DAS system proposal to locate 25 cell phone antenna nodes in the three up-Island towns has profound implications — economic, visual and environmental. Unfortunately, due to very restrictive FCC regulations (all slanted to protect the cell phone industry) we are not allowed to consider environmental issues when reviewing cell tower installations and DAS. Isn’t the system which allows me to testify that locating a cell phone antenna node near my property will lower its value but forbids me to mention that the same node location puts my grandsons’ health and well-being at risk morally, ethically and legally wrong?

I am a resident of West Tisbury and landowner in Chilmark. I would be glad to provide more information and residents of Aquinnah, Chilmark and West Tisbury are urged to contact their local town hall and selectmen to get more information about the project and the proposed locations, including the one which would be located between Halcyon Way and Dr. Fisher Road in West Tisbury. You have until May 4 to comment, and please don’t hesitate to speak out. Comments should be sent to the DAS study committee, c/o Chuck Hodgkinson, Town Hall, Box 119, Chilmark, MA 02535, and the West Tisbury Board of Selectmen, Town Hall, Box 278, West Tisbury, MA 02575.

Thank you.

Virginia Crowell Jones

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The following letter was sent to the West Tisbury selectmen:

I would like to urge you to find a different solution to improving the 911 and emergency response systems that I realize are very important to our community. The 11 proposed cell tower sites that are not marked by the town are at the West Tisbury School, next to the Island Children’s School, at bus stops and very close to people’s homes.

Is it fair to raise our taxes and lower our property values? There are many studies taking place on the effects of these towers on children and the elderly. In most of Europe they are not allowed at schools. I urge you to research further. Perhaps the fiber optic cable Comcast already laid can be considered. We do seem to have adequate coverage in West Tisbury and two cell towers already. Aquinnah may need to find their own solution.

Julie Sierputoski

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Long may the burgee fly with honor. I am referring to the Pink Squid Yacht Club. The Gazette story by Mark Lovewell about the disbanding brought sadness to the Island community. As many of you know, I am presently and have been a member of quite a few yacht clubs here and abroad, but never to one that gave so much back to the community. Lee Welch and friends founded Pink Squid Yacht Club years ago to raise scholarship funds for Island kids. They had fun along the way and lifetime friendships formed. The fishing tournament was Lee’s idea, usually held the first week of June, and grew in size each year as new people found out about it. The Edgartown selectmen, led by Ted Morgan, graciously allowed me to dock all the out-of-town vessels at no charge at town piers. The Edgartown Yacht Club, Harborside Boatyard and Mad Max Marina also gave dock space as the tournament grew to over 40 boats. A rivalry grew between the Osterville Anglers Club and Pink Squid Yacht Club for the club title, which was the other club’s burgee handed over for the year.

With the help of manager Mark Hess and the board of directors at the Edgartown Golf Club, a golf tournament was added as a fun fund-raiser. I hope the divots have grown back by now. Its motto was “Are you having fun?” Pink Squid Yacht Club never lost sight of their goal and dozens of scholarships were awarded to Martha’s Vineyard seniors heading for college. I thank everyone for their support over the years and will cherish my memories that the Pink Squid Yacht Club left me with.

Charlie Blair



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Recently my sister returned from a trip toting her two cats, mother and daughter, in a kitty carrier. She opened it to let the confined critters out on her front lawn. The mother stayed near the house, but the youngster vanished into the neighborhood. After several frantic days in which my sister put up posters and took out ads in the newspapers, a woman who lives reasonably nearby called her with the good news that she was pretty sure the cat she found in her yard belonged to my sister. It was indeed her black and white kitten to my sister’s great relief.

Nothing remarkable in this story except that my sister has her cats microchipped. I am not sure how many people do this for their animals, but any pet adopted from the MSPCA shelter was automatically “chipped” before being placed. If someone finds a lost animal they should bring it to the animal control officer in their town or to any Island vet. A quick scan will provide the information necessary to locate the owner.

Cynthia Walsh

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

As two participants of the Daybreak Clubhouse of Martha’s Vineyard, we were privileged last week to attend and learn from a three-day seminar in Washington, D.C. The Eastern USA Clubhouse Conference addressed clubhouse practices worldwide. Approximately 150 members, staff and friends of East Coast clubhouses expressed pride in their local associations and were excited by this opportunity to meet as a group. Our voices and our ideas together might advance the lives of people with mental illness.

We arrived at the conference on Sunday and left Wednesday. Daily workshops on everything from education and technology to advocacy and fund-raising were an opportunity for everyone attending to learn as well as to share knowledge and experience.

The only prerequisite to being a member of a clubhouse is to have a mental illness. There was, however, little talk of having a mental illness and much talk about the clubhouse community, including employment, education, advocacy and other facets of the clubhouse program. The clubhouse community, as a whole, is the intersection of understanding, respect and opportunity. Where the larger community fails us with stigma, the clubhouse community steps in. The clubhouse offers a lifeline, acceptance, a road to recovery and independent living.

In the clubhouse, we are enabled to accept responsibility for our illnesses as illnesses, and not as our identity. The clubhouse is not a program of arts and crafts or group therapy. It is about empowerment and belief in oneself. We can work and we will work if looked upon without smirk and bigotry, if nurtured by a place to live, food to eat and access to important medical treatment.

Work starts in the clubhouse. Members work side by side with staff, doing the jobs of the clubhouse for the benefit of the members. Folks work in the kitchen unit, making, serving and cleaning up after meals, or in the business unit, writing the newsletter or completing various reports for the department of mental health. We forget our illnesses.

Our illnesses are serious brain diseases: schizophrenia, depression, bipolar, obsessive compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder and others. We must bear the burden of our symptoms and our medications just as one must wear and accept the passing of time. And, when we are allowed to carry our own weight in this way, as clubhouses worldwide encourage, we are a valuable resource.

First and foremost, we are a community to others who are sick. We are friends, peers. We are a smile in place of a pronounced look of silence. We are the first step to independent living.

Here on Martha’s Vineyard at the Daybreak Clubhouse, members work in an employment program with local businesses. We fill positions efficiently and economically, saving these businesses money and adding to their productivity.

Employment and supporting oneself was one of the many topics discussed at the conference in the nation’s capital last week. Employment and later independent living, one member at the conference said, starts with love. A person traumatized by illness needs shoulders of compassion. Clubhouse community provides this support. For some, it may take several years being part of the clubhouse before they are back at work. We learned how to support each other and how to grow strong from our relationships. We came together to unite in the ongoing campaign against stigma. We combined to create new energy.

Joe Pantoliano, who starred in Risky Business and The Matrix‚ showed a working copy of his new documentary on mental illness, titled No Kidding‚ Me Too. Mr. Pantoliano suffers from depression. He brought with him an Iraq war veteran with post-traumatic stress syndrome, and a survivor of a suicide attempt from a seven-story window. They urged us to fight.

We visited the Capitol and called on our congressmen and senators. We told our stories. At a banquet at the Canon Capitol Building, we celebrated employers who have supported clubhouses. Cong. Barney Frank and other officials spoke. We, in the audience, applauded and shared in the achievements of those being honored.

We said, yes we can.

With the help and care of folks like you, we will.

Jonathan Burke

Vineyard Haven

Jakob Burton-Sundman

Oak Bluffs