Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I am of the firm belief that by virtue of the fact that you know about the existence of a situation you become responsible for its continuation.

As we approach town meeting time, it is a time for serious reflection. Increasing growth pressures on our Island are bringing forth issues of great importance and our present actions and decisions will impact greatly on our future. We who represent the citizens, many of whom volunteer hours of their time every week, care passionately about our community but we do not always agree as to what is best. Most of us are not trained in negotiation. At meetings tempers can flare and the issues at hand take a second seat to egos, personality conflicts and political allegiances. This seems to be happening more now than in the past and we are not alone. Political observers and social scientists say that feelings of isolation, cynicism and disaffection are widespread and deeply felt from Capitol Hill to local town boards. In a New York Times op-ed essay, Melanie Grossman, a member of the Woodbridge, Conn., board of finance wrote: “We do not sit as neighbors any longer, but rather take on the demeanor of pit bulls.” I do not want this for our Island community.

It is the job of our Island and town government officials to keep our government responsive to our citizens so they feel more invested in it. Trust in the system sustains the system. Civility in our town and county government is imperative. It is not always easy when one feels strongly about an issue, but a quiet, thoughtful response most often carries far more weight than an uncivil, loud, angry one.

As we look forward to our town meetings I recall two bumper stickers that grace our vehicles that we need to pay particular attention to. One says “Democracy is not a spectator sport,” and another says “Think globally, act locally.” I urge all our citizens to go to their town meetings and to vote. It is not only a right, but also a privilege. Do you realize that an article can be either voted up or down by one vote? Talk about seeing a vote count — that vote may be yours!

Many thanks.

Ann Floyd



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The following letter was sent to the Edgartown conservation commission last month commenting on a proposed pier project at the Wrigley property on the Edgartown harbor:

The project site lies within mapped shellfish habitat for quahaugs (Mercenaria mercenaria) and bay scallops (Argopecten irradians) which is afforded protection under the Wetlands Protection Act (310 CMR 10,34). Mapped land containing shellfish is deemed significant to the interest of the Wetland Protection Act and the protection of marine fisheries.

Marine Fisheries has the following concerns with this project:

• Although submitted as a private project, the site plan appears to be for a marina (dockage for 10 or more vessels) considering another pier exists on the property. As such, review through the MEPA process may be required.

• Given the number of slips and potential number of vessels that could use the structure, development plans should include a pumpout station. Marine Fisheries supports the use of a vessel pumpout system.

• The placement of the pier and associated vessels will likely result in the loss of shellfish habitat.

• No future dredging should be allowed.

Questions regarding this review may be directed to Eileen Feeney in our New Bedford office at 508-990-2860 extension 117.

Paul J. Diodati, Director

Division of Marine Fisheries



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Article 37 was hastily added to the Tisbury town meeting warrant after the selectmen met in a closed-door “strategy” session at their March 8 meeting. The article asks voters to appropriate an unspecified sum of money to acquire a parcel of land even though that purchase was already approved under article 11 of the 1991 town meeting. Curiously this parcel has never been assigned an assessors’ parcel number. These odd circumstances raise questions. Why are the selectmen asking to purchase this parcel when the voters already approved that purchase in 1991? What happened to the money set aside in 1991? Why has the town not assigned this parcel its own assessors’ parcel number in the last 20 years? Finally, why is there not a specific dollar figure included in article 37?

The answers to these questions start with the official minutes relating to article 11 at the 1991 town meeting. There the town admitted it had mistakenly been assessing two parcels of land as if they were three parcels of land. The first (and by far the most significant) of the two real parcels of land described in these minutes is the parcel that the selectmen now want to acquire under article 37. This parcel still has no assessors’ parcel number, so I will refer to it as the article 11 parcel. The 1991 minutes correctly identify the article 11 parcel as a single, nine-acre parcel described in a deed recorded in Book 36, Page 692. The voters then approved the sum of $461,460.44 to be used for a purchase that would never happen.

Instead of following the voters’ instructions, town officials decided to spend the voters’ money in a different way. They opted not to correct the mistaken assessors’ maps, but to pay lawyers to commence tax foreclosure actions in land court using these inaccurately drawn assessors’ parcels. There the town claimed it was owed taxes on these fictitious parcels by equally fictitious “owners.” These phony proceedings were not halted even after the town’s own 1993 survey of the area (which is now being used in article 37 to describe this parcel) once again confirmed to the town the real identity and shape of the article 11 parcel.

The town’s plan suffered a setback in 1996, when a deed was recorded for the article 11 parcel from one of the heirs of the owner named in the deed referred to in the article 11 minutes. The town ignored repeated demands by the owners to change the assessors’ records to show this parcel as a single parcel with the same dimensions shown in the town’s own 1993 survey (although the present assessor is now looking into this issue). We now know that a proper assessment of the article 11 parcel at that time would have eliminated the incorrectly drawn assessors’ parcels on which the towns was attempting to “foreclose” in land court and so would have ended the scheme in which the town had invested taxpayer money.

Ultimately the land court was tricked into “foreclosing” on only one of the nonexistent assessors’ parcels in question. An alert examiner caught on to the scheme in the other proceedings and the town’s claims were tossed out of court. Even in the only successful foreclosure proceeding, however, the town acquired nothing more than a title which a fictitious owner held on a nonexistent parcel of land — namely none. Meanwhile as there has been no assessors’ parcel number assigned to the article 11 parcel, there has been no lawful valuation and assessment upon which a tax could be lawfully determined and billed to the owners. As a result the town has now forfeited its rights to claim any taxes for most of the last 20 years.

So what caused article 37 to surface after 20 years of keeping this debacle a secret? This past summer the probate court appointed an independent commissioner to sell the article 11 parcel for $630,000. The town was notified and given an opportunity to make an offer for the parcel, but instead the town “strategy” now seems to be to ask voters for a blank check to double down on its failed strategy of using nonexistent assessors’ parcels and high-priced lawyers to create confusion and more legal bills for the town. Article 37 still refers to or relies on these same nonexistent assessors’ parcels as if they were real, even though the town’s own records and surveys prove they are not. The town has become so entangled in this web of nonexistent parcels that it has spun that it cannot get its own story straight. Article 37 not only refers to an assessors’ parcel number that does not appear on any map (42-A-31), but uses another parcel number (49-A-3.1) to describe “part of” the piece the town wants to acquire, when in fact that assessors’ parcel number identifies a nearby six-acre piece the town already owns. Perhaps the selectmen could have avoided this confusion if parcel numbers in Tisbury were only assigned to actual parcels of land that corresponded to recorded deeds or plans and the town stopped trying to exploit old errors in the assessors’ records to mislead the public and the courts. If the article 11 parcel has always been a single parcel of land since 1855, how can the town justify showing it as divided into two separate assessors’ parcels?

Now Tisbury voters must decide if they would have been better off had the selectmen followed the voters’ instructions and simply purchased the Article 11 parcel when the funds and a lower price were both available, or if spending that money on the alternate strategy of deception and abuse of power has led to a better result after 20 years. If the voters still want to buy this parcel then they may wish to demand that article 37 be amended to require that this single parcel be assigned one assessors’ parcel number, as required by law, and then that it be acquired by honest purchase at fair value in a transparent process — not by strategies involving shell games with phony assessors’ parcels hatched in secret sessions. Perhaps, however, the more important question is whether the taxpayers still want to pay for this parcel. Much has changed in 20 years and a lot of money has already been wasted. What harm will one new home do in an area that is otherwise completely controlled by the town and conservation and is heavily regulated to insure aquifer protection?

Ronald Monterosso



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Prof. Manning Marable, an intellectual, activist and author, died Friday, April 1.

Manning Marable and his equally brilliant wife, Leith Mullings, were summer residents of Martha’s Vineyard for more than a decade. I had the honor and great pleasure of transcribing many of Dr. Marable’s manuscripts in the last 10 years, particularly his seminal work, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. The book was published on Monday, April 4. Many of you saw or heard tributes to Dr. Marable over the weekend: on the front page of The New York Times, on NPR, and on Monday morning, on the NBC Today show where he had been scheduled to appear in conjunction with the release of his book.

There are many, many on-line tributes to Professor Marable; perhaps his intellectual accomplishments and legacy are best summed up by Fredrick Harris, director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies, which Dr. Marable founded. You can find that at

Rest in peace, Manning. All of us who knew you are better people because of you.

Sara Crafts

Oak Bluffs


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Having recently had occasion to avail myself of some of the many and varied social services offered and rendered by our close-knit community, I was pleased by the kindness, compassion and professionalism given to me by the Vineyard Health Care Access staff. It was truly refreshing. Their efforts have given me a new awareness of the interconnectedness of all of us in the great network of relationships that make up our human society. My heartfelt thanks go out to all in this organization as I ask my fellow readers to remember the importance to all of us of what they do and how they do it. All of your support will help the community benefit from many more dozens of years of their valuable service.

Jeffrey Sullivan



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The hospitality committee of the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury would like to thank (the always dependable) Cronig’s Market and the Black Dog Cafe for their generous donations to the Wednesday community suppers. They have assisted us in honoring our commitment to the community. Thank you also to our guests and members of the congregation for their contributions, providing a wide variety of interesting and enjoyable dishes. Each meal was a complete success. It was a pleasure to serve a total of 800 meals over 12 weeks in our small but cozy parish hall. We look forward to serving our community next year.

Brenda Lehman

Oak Bluffs


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

April 10 to 16 is National Volunteer Recognition Week and Elder Services of Cape Cod and the Islands is making a special effort to say thank you to all of its many volunteers. During the week, volunteers will receive a small gift of appreciation at their various work sites or when they stop into the elder services office. Throughout the week they will hear from elder services staff how much their contributions are valued.

Elder Services depends on its 1,000-plus volunteers to help the agency carry out its mission of helping seniors to “enhance their quality of life and maintain their independence.” Volunteers assist at the senior dining centers located throughout the region or deliver Meals on Wheels, providing a nutritious meal and well-being check. Other volunteers visit seniors in their homes to help with bill-paying and balancing checkbooks, make weekly visits to nursing and rest homes to monitor conditions and meet with residents to address any concerns that they might have about their care, and serve on the board of directors and advisory councils to offer guidance and support.

In addition to the volunteers who directly serve elder service clients, the Senior Service Corps recruits and places volunteers aged 55 and older with other community organizations. Senior Corps volunteers may provide environmental monitoring, tutor students, drive an elder to medical appointments or perform many other tasks.

Our volunteers work tirelessly throughout the year to serve our community. We cannot thank our volunteers enough and look forward to discovering all that we can accomplish together during the next year.

Leslie E. Scheer

South Dennis

The writer is executive director of Elder Services of Cape Cod and the Islands.

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.