Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Congratulations to the entire eighth grade and Karl Nelson, their eighth grade science teacher, on bringing honor and distinction to the West Tisbury School.

The Boston Globe on Sept. 15 ranked West Tisbury School’s eighth grade as the highest performers in the entire state of Massachusetts on the MCAS science test.

Results such as these are evidence of hard work, the ability to motivate students to learn, and commitment to excellence. We have here data on student performance of which we all can be proud. Congratulations to Mr. Nelson and the students. They have earned all our applause.

Joel Weintraub

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Last year at this time, flu shots obtained by our local health departments were limited. We were told that senior citizens need not apply, as our health departments did not order enough, and we would have to wait until later on into the winter. Needless to say, many of my friends had the flu and had no protection.

I left for Florida in the middle of December to visit with my brother, and I was amazed that flu shots were available locally without any restrictions at Walgreens, CVS, Wal-Mart, etc. Evidently their ability to secure flu shots was much more efficient than our local health departments.

To my knowledge, there has been no public announcement on the Vineyard as to when flu shots would be available here. Yet when I was in Falmouth last week, Wal-Mart and Walgreens were advertising that they had the flu shots for distribution to their customers at the end of this month.

To our local health departments or whomever is in charge of obtaining flu shots for the Vineyard, can you please direct your attention to this problem? We relied on you last winter, and you let us down much to the detriment of those who suffered the pains of dealing with the flu.

Michael Murphy



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I remember the day I read about the trouble the Housing Fund was having and how I immediately began to need a villain. I attended the open forum and sat in disgust as the board continued with a panicked explanation of why we were all misinformed. I remember the conversations that week where suddenly we all were newly anointed members of the I-told-you-so club. And I remember feeling sad because there would be so many yet to lose in this debacle.

So much was done wrong, so much greed left unchecked, yet in the end I couldn’t help but notice that every road led back to me.

For some odd reason I was asked if I would be on an advisory group by the new head of the fund, Mr. Hopkins (whom I find intelligent and well meaning). I was flattered and for a moment tempted because I could finally have a real platform from which to find the “bogyman.” The whole thing would have gone down so much easier if I had found a villain.

But lo and behold, the villain was me.

I just couldn’t overlook the fact that I slept in a house with two empty bedrooms and a separate garage I’d converted to a 10-person sauna instead of an apartment I could have rented. Was I really the one who would offer that voice to turn it all around or was I the real reason that affordable housing was an issue on our Island in the first place?

I declined the request and decided that until I was willing to make some sort of personal sacrifice like renting a room at an affordable price to someone who needed a place to call home, or converting the unused sauna into a small apartment, then I best be quiet and try and learn something myself — like compassion or action instead of lofty words. Maybe the hypocrisy coffers were full and my contribution unnecessary.

In retrospect perhaps we need the directors of charities and assistance funds to include people who’ve needed affordable housing themselves at some point in their lives: the clerk at the market or the teacher at your child’s school. Maybe the groups we pick to solve the problems need to be more than our Island’s influential residents and business leaders. Success hardly qualifies a person for compassion, and great knowledge in one area doesn’t automatically make a person an expert in another.

Maybe we need to realize that wealthy potential donors do not behave like a flock of mallard ducks and therefore do not need well-placed decoys in order to land upon the grounds of a charity themselves.

And finally, I believe we need to stop treating people who don’t have big bank balances like some sort of side-show that we must save or a vehicle to assuage our guilt because it’s demeaning and invasive. We don’t need high-tech solar homes with space-age technology so someone can win an award, when for the same money three could have been built. People who dream of owning a home where they can raise a family do not care if the counter is made from coconut husks or bamboo bark.

Sometimes we care more about a tomato being local than we do about the person who sells us a coffee or smiles behind a counter.

But again, as long as I look the other way and allow contracts to be awarded to board members, expensive studies to be awarded to nephews or look sideways as real estate commissions are snatched up by last-minute departing board members as they run out the door like an Edgartown Pancho Villa, then really I ask you, who should care at all about what my opinion is?

If I want things to change, then I best start with myself.

Mark Martin

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The Vineyard community has an opportunity to support easements for public beach access on private beaches by commenting on the request by the town of Edgartown to amend the DEP Chapter 91, 10-year comprehensive dredge permit, held jointly with Oak Bluffs, to allow beach nourishment below mean high water at private beaches along Cow Bay. The comment period ends Oct. 7. According to state regulations, with publicly funded dredge projects where beach nourishment is placed below mean low water on private beaches, easements are required to allow public access along these beaches. These easements would allow strolling only; the public would not be permitted any other activity besides strolling. Currently, under the Colonial Ordinances, the public has access for the purpose of fishing, fowling and navigation (not strolling) below mean high water, but even this right is curtailed by private homeowners by the use of private guards.

To be fair to the private homeowners, it would be possible for them to work with DEP to establish areas and time restrictions for strolling. Privately funded dredge projects do not require easements, and that is where the issue becomes gray. The beach nourishment for Cow Bay will be coming from the Sengekontacket channel dredge project. Oak Bluffs has allotted $500,000 for the project. The project will cost more, so Oak Bluffs has been forced to sell some of the sand to Cow Bay to cover the extra costs. The Edgartown dredge will be doing the dredging at a cost of $11 per cubic yard, the same cost that Cow Bay paid last season. Edgartown stands to be paid $712,000 which includes $25,000, half of an excessive mobilization and demobilization cost. Edgartown will benefit by receiving some of this sand to be placed on Bend in the Road beach, and a small amount on the adjoining State Beach to support the Bend. This will be paid for by Cow Bay. Despite the fact that dredging the channel will have positive effects for both towns, Edgartown has been unwilling to bear any of the costs. No sand will be placed on the Oak Bluffs portion of State Beach to refill the eroding groins which was originally an important part of this project. Oak Bluffs hopes to have enough money left to put the permitted amount of sand above the high tide line at Pay and Inkwell beaches. I believe that this qualifies as a publicly-funded project, and strolling easements should be required along private beaches as part of the Chapter 91 permit amendment.

More information about public easements can be found on the state Coastal Zone Management and Attorney General Web sites. Comments supporting this as a publicly funded project should be sent by Oct. 7 by to Mitch Ziencina, DEP Waterways, 20 Riverside Drive, Lakeville, MA 02347.

Lynne Fraker

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Upon returning from the IFRAO Congress on Pleistocene Art of the World, I found that an article about me had appeared in the Gazette on Sept. 3. Quite a few confusions crept into the profile and should be corrected.

First for the photographs. The stream and foliage in the picture of me looking at a rock face should have warned the copy editor that the photograph probably didn’t show anyone “inspecting a meteorite in the Sahara.” That desert is just too dry to have many creeks or bushes. Not to mention the fact that the picture doesn’t show anything resembling a meteorite. The picture was taken in a streambed in France.

The caption of the adjacent photo, which shows a complex petroglyph with overlapping contours of animals, is labeled as being “Not just another pretty cave drawing.” That is technically true since the panel isn’t even near a cave. The newspaper found the picture on a web page dedicated to the largest known concentration of Paleolithic art outside of caves — the cornucopia of outdoor sites in the Coa Valley of Portugal. The Web page, which is part of my Web site,, encourages everyone to visit the marvels in the valley, which is now an archaeological park and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The body of the article should also have been proofread, since the first words are wrong. The caves that I study with my friend, Laurent Valois, are not even close to 10 minutes outside Paris. Driving at 80 miles per hour, the cave zone is about an hour from the city while all the areas within 10 minutes have been covered by urban sprawl for decades.

Another error concerns the types of animals illustrated in the relatively small cavities of our prospecting zone, the Massif de Fontainebleau. Not one of them contains an image of a mammoth or megaloceros. In reading the PDF of my paper for the World Congress on Pleistocene Art, the author of the Gazette article seems to have confused caves near Paris with the much larger caves in Burgundy and south of the Loire River, which were discussed in the paper for reasons of comparison. Proboscidians and megaloceroses are only found in a few exceptional caves such as Rouffignac, in the Dordogne, where there are mammoths, and Cougnac, in the Lot, where there are two megaloceroses, but, unfortunately, neither of these rarely represented species have been found in the Massif de Fontainebleau.

By the way, both Rouffignac and Cougnac are open to the public and should be at the top of anyone’s list of major European attractions.

The next error concerns supposed “elk with superimposed vulvar heads,” as the article put it. The sentence is a deformation of a description of a single horse, not an elk or deer. The horse with the vulvar head is in the Guy Martin cave network at Lussac-les-Chateaux in the Vienne.

Another confusion crept in concerning the location of one of the peoples mentioned in my work — the Nootka, who live on the northwestern coast of Canada, rather than in Siberia.

Next, when the author quotes me as saying that, “It’ll be great to share these findings and ideas. Hopefully it will lead to some breakthroughs,” he leaves a misleading impression, since I was not referring to sharing my own ideas, but to the fact that several researchers, including Camille Bourdier, Oscar Fuentes, Aurélie Abgrall, Jean Brot, andGenevièvePinçon were about to give convergent presentations about the sculptures of Roc-aux-Sorciers, which I was going to discuss as well. The convergence of so much attention on that site led me to believe that the congress would be especially fruitful for its inte rpretation.

Speaking of which, a fabulous new interpretative center has just opened at the Roc-aux-Sorciers, which is the Parthenon of Paleolithic friezes, so add it to your destinations as well!

Moving on to biographical information, neither of my parents ever worked in an Egyptian embassy. My father, and my father alone, worked in the American Embassy in Egypt in the early 1950s — never in an Egyptian embassy anywhere in the world. Furthermore, the article was wrong in suggesting that my mother was ever a CIA agent in Egypt or any other foreign country. She had just finished her training in the Agency, when she was forced to decide between pursuing her career and marrying my father, since their common employer refused to employ both a husband and wife. Like many women who have been forced to give up their careers to have a family, she resented the fact for the rest of her life.

The description of the Vineyard’s past could also be improved since the article refers to “an abundance of Clovis points” and then goes on to suggest that Martha’s Vineyard was just part of “a vast coastal plain” 13,000 years ago. Unfortunately, Clovis points are exceedingly rare here, with fewer than 10 examples known, as far as I know, including fragments! Furthermore, the hills stretching from Menemsha to Lambert’s Cove make up the terminal moraine of the last ice cap while the cliffs in Aquinnah contain uplifted Cretaceous and Miocene strata, so our Island was much more than a simple coastal plain even at the end of the Paleolithic.

Finally, I was quoted as saying that humanity is losing the chance to learn about New England’s paleontological past when “artifacts go out to sea unstudied.” If I said that, I misspoke, since I was referring, of course, to the loss of the Vineyard’s unstudied fossils — not, this time, to artifacts.

Having said all this, I wish to thank the writer for writing an article about such unfamiliar material under the pressure of a deadline. If our roles had been reversed, I might have gotten equally confused.

Duncan Caldwell

Aquinnah and

Paris, France

The writer is a fellow at the Marine and Paleobiological Research Institute.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The good work Massachusetts is doing making education an equal opportunity was covered in the July 16 Vineyard Gazette. Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville noted that funding for schools is heavily reliant on community taxes; poor communities raise less in property taxes and have less to spend on schools. This is a reality.

In the August 10 paper, Grace Potter of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, says: “I always had a death wish for fame.”

I have heard some schools in the United States have resorted to rewarding students monetarily for good grades. Philosopher and mystic Martin Buber says in I and Thou, in cosmic realization a soul opens out and is boundlessly known — a kind of big, anonymous fame. Not everyone wants a lot of money or either of these kinds of fame, but almost everyone wants to be respected by his fellow man. Maybe teachers could tell students, as early as appropriate, that education and degrees are respected by others. Wanting to be respected is just about the most powerful thing I know.

Bonnie Green

Atlanta, Ga.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

During this election season, the Massachusetts Municipal Association is calling on all candidates for the legislature to pledge their support for reform legislation to give cities and towns the ability to control skyrocketing health insurance costs and save local taxpayers $100 million a year, and we encourage all voters and taxpayers to do the same.

Paying for health insurance is a problem for everyone, but cities and towns have been forced to pay much more than necessary because of a state law that gives municipal unions a veto over routine plan changes that would reduce the cost to taxpayers. Over the past 10 years, cities and towns have seen their health insurance costs rise by over 150 per cent, squeezing out vital services and costing local taxpayers more and more.

The state has cut local aid by $825 million, and cities and towns have laid off thousands of employees, cut services and increased their reliance on property taxes. Without real health insurance reform, communities will continue to pay too much for employee health benefits, which will force even more service cuts and layoffs while local taxpayers pay millions more than they should.

When the new legislature convenes in January, our representatives and senators need to support real reform that gives local government the same authority the state has to design health insurance plans outside of collective bargaining. Cities and towns would be able to their lower health insurance costs by $100 million statewide. This is real savings that taxpayers deserve and need.

The reform legislation would provide relief from an indefensible state law that allows local unions to block even modest changes in health plans, such as increasing any co-pays or deductibles. Many municipalities are locked into plans that offer $5 co-pays for office visits, and no co-pays or deductibles for many expensive procedures. But state employees have $20 co-pays and much higher deductibles because state leaders have exempted themselves from this collective bargaining mandate, and state officials routinely implement plan changes to save money on health insurance with no union approval required.

Cities and towns should have the same authority the state has. There is no excuse for keeping the unique and special veto power that municipal unions hold over health plan changes — this veto power is costing taxpayers millions, and is forcing cuts in important services, and is causing the elimination of teachers, firefighters and police officers from local budgets.

We urge all voters and taxpayers to ask candidates for the legislature for a commitment to pass strong municipal health insurance reform when the legislature convenes in January. Otherwise, the fiscal problems we face will get worse, and local taxpayers will continue to pay more and get less in return.

Geoffrey C. Beckwith


The writer is executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Our family has vacationed on Martha’s Vineyard since 1975. Our children are grown now and have children of their own. We still spend a week at the Vineyard, renting a large house to accommodate all 14 of us.

This year I asked my grandchildren to contribute to a quilt that I would make as a remembrance of our wonderful times spent on the Vineyard. As his contribution, my 13-year-old grandson wrote the following poem expressing his feelings about your wonderful Island and specifically South Beach. I thought it was worth sharing.

Soft sand sits

Weathering through time

Under the feet of the boy

Who stands by the ocean.

Staring into an infinity

Of crashing waves and

The perfectly balanced,

Perfectly straight,

Perfectly sparkling horizon.

A tired sun sinks into

The depths of the sky,

To return when the day

Is born again.

The boy takes a step,

Then another.

Halfway in he

Dives in.

Then stops,

He wishes to join

The never changing,

Simple and beautiful

Mysteries of the ocean.

And escape the

Impatience of humanity.

But the fear of being

lost forever keeps him in


The ocean is a magical place

With such beauty it will crush us

With emotions and makes us realize

Just how small we are.

The boy leaves the ocean to itself

And returns home to meet the

Ocean another year.

— Philip Scott

Elizabeth Scott

East Greenbush, N.Y.

The Vineyard Gazette welcomes letters to the editor on any subject concerning Martha’s Vineyard. The newspaper strives to publish all letters as space allows, although the editor reserves the right to reject letters that in her judgment are inappropriate. Letters must be signed, and should include a place of residence and contact telephone number. The Gazette does not publish anonymous letters.