Editors, Vineyard Gazette

If the Martha’s Vineyard Commission was ever well-served by Mark London, that is no longer the case. His attempted gag order in the matter of the highly controversial roundabout is an insult not only to the commissioners whom he serves, but to the entire Vineyard community as well. In sum, he directs commissioners to freeze time as of the closing of the public hearing, and thereafter, to stick their heads in the sand.

I served on a well-advised planning board in Westchester County, N.Y., for eight years, four of them as its chairman. Our lawyer told us that we could not hold no-notice, quorum-satisfying meetings. But he never suggested that planning board members could not talk to each other on a one-to-one basis, to their constituents, or to the press.

Open meetings, or sunshine laws have worthy purposes: to ensure that decisions are openly arrived at and that the reasons for a given decision are stated. But such laws have not been adopted to restrict the flow of information and opinion that ultimately, contribute to decisions.

Mark London claims that commissioners are in “quasi-judicial” mode when they are rendering a decision on a development of regional impact. There is no basis for that claim in the Martha’s Vineyard Commission act. Indeed, he claims to find it in a shadowy and unrevealed “manual” that commissioners receive when they become commissioners. If there is indeed such a direction, it would be wrong. Does he believe that judges — in full judicial mode no less — don’t discuss cases and that each operates in a vacuum? If that were so, no case would be decided. Judges also read newspapers. They may lead metaphorically sequestered lives, but they are not officially sequestered. Many judges are elected. And as Finley Peter Dunne’s character Mr. Dooley observed long ago, “The Supreme Court follows the election returns.”

Members of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, while bound by rules of ethical conduct, are not required to take the veil. Nor is it desirable that they do so. Their constituency is local. They are either elected or appointed by elected officials, and although they should not operate only as a conduit for perceived public opinion, they assuredly owe their respective constituencies their unbiased best efforts to arrive at the best decision they can. This process is not advanced by an imperious executive director’s attempt to cut off their information flow.

As Richard Knabel pointed out, Chris Murphy’s deciding vote was a political one (“I’m going to support the Oak Bluffs selectmen”). How such a statement, let alone a vote, relates to the merits of the roundabout escapes me. It has nothing whatever to do with the criteria specified in the MVC act for approving a DRI. His vote produced an inglorious day for the commission; apparently its executive director will brook no opposition in seeing that result affirmed.

Exactly what axe is Mark London grinding? We don’t know, but it is fair to say that he is heavily (and, in my view, improperly) invested in the approval of the roundabout. Does anyone think that it is within the purview of his executive director role to be a “quasi-commissioner” with advocacy authority?

Let’s hope that, given a second chance, our commissioners demonstrate more attuned ears and show us they have learned something about where they live.

Nicholas W. Puner

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

We on the Island are very fortunate! The Dukes County Health Council has the yearly opportunity to collaborate with University of Massachusetts Medical School and its Rural Scholars Program.

Since its inception, the university has required its medical (and now graduate school of nursing) students to experience an immersion course in population and community health. For the last several years, small groups of students have come to the Island for a two-week period to learn about communities and populations and to contribute to the work of the Dukes County Health Council. This year two student groups tackled the commanding subjects of mental health in the elderly and the reduction of tick-borne diseases on the Island. The students presented their significant, and sometimes startling, findings last Friday. The community will benefit greatly from their efforts in both studies! The presentation was filmed by MVTV and will be available to the public shortly.

A grateful thank-you goes to the many Islanders who agreed to be interviewed by the students with a special nod to Michael Loberg, Maura Valley, Drs. Gerry Yukevich, Bruce Stelle and Michael Jacobs, who captained the tick-borne illness study, and Paddy Moore and Joy Ganapol, who led the elderly study. An important and admirable job was done by all.

Patsy McCornack

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Today I was trying to get some information about Comcast services, as dial up via Verizon’s exceptionally expensive landlines has frustrated me long enough. The young man was struggling to spell out and pronounce West Tisbury as he accumulated information so that he could provide details about various Comcast packages. He was interested to hear that West Tisbury is the summer home of Mr. Comcast, Brian Roberts. When I suggested that perhaps Mr. Roberts might step into his office and wouldn’t it be nice if he could pronounce West Tisbury correctly, he responded that he would be honored to have Mr. Roberts stop by. After some further conversation I asked where he was located and he responded that he was in Castries, St. Lucia.

My next project was to make a reservation via Greyhound Bus for February. Again, although very helpful, the young man was struggling with English. I asked his location and was told Colombia.

Last week I was attempting to call Allstate Insurance, and after some particularly difficult linguistic juggling I asked the young lady her whereabouts; she responded that she was in Mumbai.

These are three very American companies which have obviously found it more efficient and cost-effective to outsource various services overseas. Why isn’t this a mini-industry on our Island? Not that we are a third world sort of place, but because we have lots of people here who could be providing these sorts of services and without the frustrations of language and cultural barriers. This could help to broaden the base and diversify our Island economy in a sustainable way.

Virginia Crowell Jones

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I just sent my pledge card to the Y for $25 per month. I’ve never done pledges before, but the Y has stood by me, and I want to stand by it.

They need money to provide scholarships for kids to attend programs. They need money to supplement membership fees. They need the money.

And I think they spend wisely. The facility is clean. It functions well. There is variety and opportunity in classes, exercise equipment and pool use.

Personally, since Joyce and I joined in January, we find our lives revolve around the Y, whether a Zumba, yoga, body pump, spinning, or water aerobics class, the treadmill or laps in the pool. And you know what? You get to see your friends, but it’s not an endless conversation, it’s a collaborative greeting, then you both get to work out.

The Y deserves my pledge. And I hope you’ll consider a pledge to the Y during their annual drive which highlights the opening of the teen center on Nov. 15.

It’s worth more than money can buy.

Tom and Joyce Dresser

Oak Bluffs


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I just want to clarify that I was hosting a psychic symposium, not a psychic’s symposium. So I was sad to see the article title in the Gazette misrepresenting the event as a Psychics’ Conference. This was not a gathering for people working as psychics but rather a gathering for people who use and want to improve their psychic awareness in everyday life. The word “psychic” comes from the Greek word meaning “soul.” It is the inner workings of the soul’s senses that the group coming together was having conversations about.

None of us gathered are working psychics. We are Wall Street people, medical professionals, writers, teachers, business administrators and healing therapists. We came together to discuss how honoring our inner knowing, metaphysical and mystical (direct communion with God) experiences can guide us to a deeper awareness in our lives, our work and in our world. We hope to inspire others to pay greater attention to the inner senses of their own soul self.

Constance Messmer



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Minnesingers send out a major thank-you and sincere appreciation for the overwhelming generosity and support demonstrated by the community in making the annual Minnesinger auction at Farm Neck last Friday such a huge success. The donations from our Island merchants, artists and service providers, especially during these challenging economic times, truly indicate how our Island joins together to support our students and the performing arts.

A very special thanks to the Minnesinger Parents’ Group, to former Minnesinger parents, and to the many friends and family members whose efforts made this event possible. We would like to acknowledge Mia Rebello, who helped coordinate the evening, and Adam Rebello, Jill Jackson, Jordan Rebello and Judy Pizzella, who worked tirelessly throughout the evening. And kudos to our veteran and popular auctioneer, Trip Barnes, who guided the auction bidders with his uniquely humorous delivery.

We are truly grateful for the continued support shown by all our Island friends.

Janis Wightman


The writer is director of the high school Minnesingers.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I am compelled to write because I want to share a story with the residents of Edgartown about our (my husband and I) experience when we visited your wonderful Island on Oct. 3 and 4.

For over 30 years, I have wanted to find out where my great-aunt Nana (Grace Estelle Johnston) spent her final years in Edgartown. I knew that she loved it there and I now know why. I came armed only with the name of the circle she lived on and the cemetery she was buried in (Westside) in 1973. We were there for only one day. Mapquest couldn’t find Atwood Circle and I didn’t know the house number. We started our visit by staying in the Kelley House (wonderful). As we ventured out to find Nana, I had no idea where to begin. We went by the cemetery and realized it was much too big to read every headstone. We decided to look for the courthouse.

We were having no luck finding the courthouse, but did see a sign for Tomassian & Tomassian, Attorneys at Law. We decided to stop and see if they could direct us to the courthouse. Martin Tomassian came to the door and I told him my story, and the rest is an incredible journey, led by an incredible attorney, Skip Tomassian. He said he would take us to Atwood Circle, as it would be too hard for us to find. The fact that he would leave a busy office and take time to help strangers from Savannah, Ga., was very touching to us. He went above and beyond helping me in my quest. He took us by the cemetery and found the groundskeeper, Mike Smith, who said he would look and try to find Nana’s grave.

He then took us to Atwood Circle (mind you, this was a Tuesday and a workday. I worked in a law office and know that it is not an easy thing to take time out.) We didn’t know the house number and I was a little disappointed that I didn’t know exactly which house it was as all the houses were beautiful, but I was very happy to know she lived in such a beautiful area.

He then drove us back to the cemetery where the grounds keeper had taken the time to locate her grave for us!

Skip then suggested that he drop us off at the Vineyard Gazette as he was sure they could help me. He gave us a name in the archives department to ask for and she was wonderful. She took us to her office and found a folder with newspaper clippings that were about Nana. What a find! It assured me that Nana had been a very happy resident of your wonderful Island.

This same lady took the time to call a friend, Steve Gentle, to see if she could find out exactly which house was Nana’s. He gave her the information and she got permission from him for us to take pictures to share with other family members.

As I said, I write this as my thank-you to the wonderful, hospitable, helpful folks of Edgartown. You folks should get the award of the year for hospitality. Thank you for such a wonderful day in your beautiful town.

Suzie Walker

Savannah, Ga.

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.