Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The following letter was sent to Rep. Matthew Patrick on the subject of the striped bass conservation bill, which is pending in the state legislature:

I am a 65-year-old retired businessman who is passionate about surf fishing and striped bass. The last three years of my career were spent as executive director of the Connecticut chapter of Coastal Conservation Association, a national fisheries advocacy organization and I now live on Martha’s Vineyard where I can pursue my passion. I am fortunate to be able to fish more than 100 times a year.

Anecdotal evidence indicates the striped bass fishery along the entire striper coast appears to be in trouble and I agree. From overfishing and lack of forage, to disease, recruitment and environmental problems as well as the lack of smaller fish, all of the same ominous warning signs that were there before the last crash, are there now. They are signs that were not reacted to the last time until it was almost too late. This time around, we should not wait until it takes an act of congress and a moratorium to save, and then restore the fishery. I applaud your effort to try to avoid that.

As you know, a big problem with current striper regulations, particularly north of Chesapeake Bay, is that for the most part they target female fish. A fecund female can spawn up to 3.5 million eggs and spawn as many as five or six times if she stays alive long enough to do her thing. Once it’s taken out of the fishery its contribution to the future is gone forever. While only a very small percentage of that spawn survives to adulthood, for obvious reasons, taking a few hundred thousand female fish out of the fishery every year is not a good thing. From a conservation standpoint, bill HD 245 is good in that it would reduce the recreational take of stripers in Massachusetts by a minimum of 50 per cent as the creel limit will be reduced to one fish at 20 to 26 inches or one over 40 inches instead of the current two at 28 inches. It also halves the take of breeding females.

As to the elimination of the commercial fishery, no one wants to see anyone lose his or her job, or even a substantial portion of their income, particularly in the current economy. I am concerned about the very small minority of commercial striped bass license holders that rely on the sale of striped bass to help support their families. There are fishermen on Martha’s Vineyard that fall into that category, most of them younger people. However, the majority of the striped bass commercial license holders in Massachusetts sell stripers only to support their hobby, and I believe that to be a misuse of the resource. I would like to see the state of Massachusetts eliminate the commercial permit holder who sells two, 10, 20 or even 100 fish a year and a provision added that would grandfather in the extremely small percentage of commercial rod and reelers who can prove they derive a minimum of 40 per cent of their annual income from the sale of striped bass. This can be accomplished through catch records and tax returns. Then, to make it a true conservation bill and a good compromise with the recreational angling community, I would like to see another provision added that would reduce the commercial quota in proportion to the number of permit holders remaining. Once this has been done, a permanent moratorium should be placed on the issuance of new commercial striped bass permits.

Thank you for the interest and action on this controversial and sensitive issue.

Ron Domurat



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The Island Food Pantry story in last Friday’s Gazette confirms that the Vineyard is experiencing the same kinds of dramatic increases in the number of people requiring food assistance that we read about for the rest of the country. It is heartening (and not surprising) to read that our community is rising to this challenge through the pantry volunteers and especially through all the food donations that are coming in. Frequently when I go grocery shopping, especially at Cronig’s, I encounter one of these people at the entrance called Friends of the Island Food Pantry. They greet you with a smile and hand out a list of items that the pantry currently needs and ask that you consider picking up an item for the pantry while you are shopping. They collect any items you pick out after you check out. It makes it so easy to donate and to give that which is really needed!

While many in the community help out the pantry, I think this group may have been overlooked in your article and deserves recognition for their significant contribution to the food pantry’s needs.

Melinda Loberg

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

This is to further the very cogent comments by Nick Mosey in the Gazette of last Friday, Dec. 4, recognizing that democracy is a third freedom that we have yet to attain.

We live in a political universe where money talks and mere voters are supposed to be persuaded, vote accordingly, and then shut up until the next election cycle, and where only the votes in swing states have any consequence. Voter apathy is not the problem, it is a consequence of serious problems in how we have arranged matters (or have allowed them to be arranged). We need to get things out of the way of democracy, and that requires some changes. Here are a few:

• Let electors be appointed according to the vote in their respective congressional districts. Two states, Maine and Nebraska, already follow the congressional district method.

• To the notion that a corporation has the rights of a person under the law (a legal doctrine established by the Supreme Court in 1886), add the requirement that a corporation must also bear the responsibilities that a person has under the law. In state constitutions, add to corporate law the following 28 words: “The duty of directors henceforth shall be to make money for shareholders but not at the expense of the environment, human rights, public health and safety, dignity of employees, and the welfare of the communities in which the company operates.” This effort is now ongoing state by state. Support it.

• Annul the perverse notion that spending money is a form of speech. Affirm that mere expenditure is an amplifier of expression, not an expression in itself. Some ways to implement this: set a (low) limit on all political contributions to candidates, prohibit contributions to political parties, except from candidates, prohibit purchase of any political advertising, and require all broadcast media to provide equal time to all candidates at no charge.

• Require that any amendment introduced in the legislature must be germane to the bill being amended. An amendment can modify the treatment of the original subject of the bill, but it cannot change the subject entirely. The legal test involves objective linguistic features such as cross references and shared vocabulary. Political horse traders won’t like this, but we need fewer horse traders and more creators of good legislation.

Sounds pretty unlikely to happen? That’s a measure of how far we are from that freedom called democracy, my fellow citizens.

Bruce Nevin



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Affordable Housing, the under-funded oxymoron of Martha’s Vineyard, needs our help. Band-Aid funding in the form of benevolent donations cannot and will not support the steady and growing need for housing opportunities and subsidies today and in the future. Affordable housing needs serious help by way of a consistent, year-over-year income stream that can be subsidized or built upon through donations and other fund-raising efforts. This is nothing new and many bright minds have toiled away the dark hours pondering a solution.

Having lived here for close to 40 years, and as the principal of a small real estate firm, I feel I see both sides of the conflict pretty clearly. Year-over-year increases in real estate values and a booming real estate economy, combined with towns historically working hard to prevent more change, have created a situation of unavoidable tension in the housing market. All the people who work on buildings, rent, own and sell homes here benefit from the high costs of rentals and sales. It’s one of the engines, if not the biggest, that runs the Vineyard economy. But we all benefit at the detriment of those who struggle to afford to live here and who against all odds fight the fight to stay. These people are our friends; they are our neighbors, our boards, our employees, our community.

This is about self preservation. It seems like a natural idea that the people of the Vineyard would like to see the future preserved for generations to come. It also seems reasonable that we’d like to do this without waiting for a bigger collapse of the real estate market driving values down so far to make them affordable again and simultaneously causing people to flee for cheaper, more job-prone areas. With the recent decline in the housing market, the rental housing market has also softened up, allowing for the conversion of a few summer homes into year-round rentals but it’s still far from good.

On our Island we do a large volume of rentals, which as Don Muckerheide has presented in unpopular past arguments, could fuel our affordable housing market. It’s been hard to come to a realistic number on the volume of seasonal rentals we do here but I would venture a guess of between $100 and $150 million a year. That’s a massive number, year after year. The concept of a tax poses many problems, in management, enforcement etc., as well as a lot of resistance especially in this economy. Many real estate agencies will say they cannot afford to do anything or they already do all they can.

I think the idea of a voluntary donation makes more sense right now. Here is my proposal:

I would like to see all the real estate agencies come together and volunteer to donate half of one per cent of their 15-plus per cent rental commission. I would like to also see the owners who benefit from these rentals also donate half of one per cent ($500 on $100,000 of rental income). Together we would have one per cent per year to voluntarily donate to the Island Affordable Housing Fund, a 501 C-3 nonprofit, and we would receive a tax benefit for that donation. Together we could raise from just this initiative alone over $1 million per year. But let’s not stop here. People visiting the Island also benefit from the high cost of real estate. It’s what keeps this place so beautiful and underdeveloped. Let’s ask real estate agencies to add a $50 administration fee to every lease. Many agencies already do this in some form and the ones that do not certainly could. This could generate another few hundred thousand per year.

As these are just ideas, I decided to poll some of my homeowners to see what their reactions would be. So far everyone I spoke to thought the idea was sound. It’s a community effort idea. We all take a very small share and by pooling our efforts make a very large impact. The key is doing it together. Sure this is another controversial idea, but I’d like to think of it as a baby step toward a solution we can create together.

Jim Feiner



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The following was sent to Malcolm Hammond in Edgartown from the county manager:

This letter is being sent to you at the request of the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard board that voted to publicly acknowledge your generous and thoughtful gift. Your selfless idea of using your 11th birthday party to collect money for the animal shelter in lieu of gifts shows an unusual community awareness for your age.

We are happy to report that your efforts resulted in hundreds of dollars being donated to the shelter for the care and well-being of the animals. We hope you will visit the shelter to see the good work your generosity supports.

“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” — Mohandas Gandhi.

Thank you.

Russell H. Smith

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I would like to thank all those involved in realizing a dream of mine to float a lighted Christmas tree in Sunset Lake in Oak Bluffs: Todd Alexander, Paul Mahoney, Chris Gibson, Jim Moreis, Will Debettencourt, Joe Alosso, Rich Combra and my landscape crews. Heartfelt thanks.

Mark Crossland

Oak Bluffs


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The vibrant, fun-loving, family-caring community of Oak Bluffs turned out in droves for the annual tree lighting on Dec. 2.

Hundreds of children of all ages came to bring gifts of food for the Island Food Pantry, to rejoice in the tradition of caroling and tree lighting and to immerse themselves in the much-anticipated arrival (aboard an Oak Bluffs fire truck) of a very jolly St. Nick.

And so another traditional tree lighting is history, and thanks to the many participants, a good time was had by all.

A special thanks to the Oak Bluffs highway department for all their good work in lighting our town, and all the many other volunteers who helped make the event happen, and to all the folks who came to celebrate the holiday and special feeling of community that an event like this brings to us all.

Renee Balter

Oak Bluffs


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Happy holidays and may you find peace in your heart, experience prosperity in your life, and take pride in the many people around the Island who are committed to helping others. The Martha’s Vineyard NAACP would like to thank all the merchants who generously donated to the raffle and silent auction held at our holiday bazaar on Dec. 5.

Laurie Perry-Henry

Oak Bluffs

The writer is president of the Vineyard chapter of the NAACP.


Editor, Vineyard Gazette:

Accounts of acts of kindness abound on this wonderful Island. I was the recipient of one Tuesday morning when my car developed a flat tire along Middle Road in Chilmark. While waiting for a repair truck, along came samaritan Steve Norberg in his red truck. After asking about the problem, he insisted on driving to the house of a nearby friend for an air pump to temporarily fix the tire for the short trip to Mid-Island Repair. Not only that, but he followed me there to make sure there was no other mishap!

Once again, I’ve been reminded of why this is such a special place to live. Thank you, thank you, Steve!

Merry Christmas to all.

Barbara Rivers



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Now that 2009 is drawing to a close, I want to thank the caring, selfless, kind and helpful people who played such an important role in my and my husband George’s life this past year:

First are Harold and Patty Zadeh. We called them for medical help at least four times this year. Once I called at 5 a.m. Patty answered from sleep and was as kind and helpful as if it were four in the afternoon. Harold brought me over-the-counter medicine in a matter of minutes, took George to the emergency room, oversaw ambulance service one night, and gave phone advice at least twice.

Joyce Stiles-Tucker, director of the Tisbury council on aging, who loaned me a tub-transfer bench for showering. I don’t think she even took our names and certainly never asked nor called to find out when we would be returning it. Trust in time of need.

Gina Barbosa and the SSA deckhands. Gina has been a fountain of help and information to us over the past 15 years. I don’t know what we’d do without her, like, getting a reservation in the summer for a sudden and important medical appointment. And thanks to the deckhands for letting us walk on or off the freight deck or for parking us where the elevator is accessible. And to the men and women at the ports for getting us on ferries in the summer when waiting in standby would be too painful.

Rabbi Caryn Broitman and her husband Rabbi Brian Walt. Rabbi Broitman continues to awe me with her brilliance. Her sermon at Rosh Hashanah this year was about the polarity of compassion and justice in spirituality. By the end, after many religious, historical and modern examples, she recommended balance and choice to resolve these opposites, with spirituality ever present. It made so much sense. Rabbi Walt sings from the Torah on Saturday mornings. Concurrently singing in Hebrew and English, he makes it so easy to understand the portion being studied that morning. And hearing the Hebrew sung in his strong, confident voice is a joy.

Vineyard Nursing Association’s Patty French and Terry Forde who checked on me even though I wasn’t on their schedule, who brought me supplies and called the doctor for me when indicated.

Leslie Clapp at the Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living who obtained taxi service for us at least 20 times this year, patiently answered all our questions and always returned calls.

Claudia Macedo, the best physical therapist at the hospital who never wavered in her faith and hard work for my recovery and never tired of stretching, pulling, and lifting me to help me recover.

Dot and John Dropick, truly selfless, helpful people. God threw away the mold when he made them.

The Chappy ferry captains Charlie Ross, Brad Fligor, Bob Gilkes, Kim and Jonathan Morse and Liz Villard, whose no-nonsense policy insures safe passage across Edgartown harbor under all kinds of weather and people conditions.

Colin Floyd, so eager and willing to help us by driving our car or giving rides to George. Mary Spencer who shares her love of foreign films with her friends even though she works all week. Dr. Lorna Andrade, whose countless medical recommendations enabled George and me to receive better care and feel better at home. Sharon Clauss-Zanger, who also gave all the time I needed to feel better through phone conversations when I was in desperate need of help and advice.

And finally Lucy Levick, artist extraordinaire, beautiful, elegant, worldly, funny and humble, who describes her knitting talent as “nothing more than two sticks and some string.” A Kate Hepburn type living among us.

Best wishes to all for a healthy and happy 2010.

Susan and George Gomez