Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
I’d truly regret having this week’s startling news out of the Oak Bluffs town offices pass without mention. Tax bills received in the past week, at least in my case, show a jump in property tax assessment of 16 per cent from a year ago, and a tax rate increase that has resulted in a tax bill that’s 22 per cent higher than it was last year at this time. And it’s impossible to compare the effect on other property owners because the Web site of Vision Appraisal, the firm that conducts assessments for many towns in the commonwealth and New England, has not been updated to reflect the new appraisals; the only place they appear so far is on the tax bills just received.
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
The following letter was sent to the West Tisbury selectmen:
I am very much opposed to using West Tisbury taxpayer dollars for what seems a frivolous and unwise lawsuit against the MVC regarding the roundabout proposal for the town of Oak Bluffs. Why are our selectmen choosing to make aggressive, costly and poor decisions without any input from the town taxpayers?
The roundabout is Oak Bluffs’s business, not ours. There is not cause for an actual case since all the steps taken were correct, appropriate and legal. Even if by some remote chance the towns actually win their point, the case will simply return to the MVC for further review.
Please drop the case now, while the bill is $30,000, not $200,000 as it will likely become. If the selectmen decide not to drop the case then we are forced to have (an expensive) special town meeting. I urgently hope that the voters of West Tisbury will not bankroll this embarrassingly unnecessary lawsuit.
Laura Clancy Murphy
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
While we are all going “roundabout” it may be time for a bit of history. Back in another century, Henry Hough and I shared our views on many environmental issues. At one point I suggested an op-ed that predicted the issues to which town meetings will be directed in a decade or so. Henry modestly suggested that it would better if it came as a letter to the editor.
I do not remember all my proposed votes but one was whether to tear down the fire tower, or to leave it as a memorial to the forests that once surrounded it. Another questioned how to use the grant for Menemsha to train students dressed as fishermen to let visitors know what once supported this and other villages on the Island. There was also something about whether to continue building the tunnel to Woods Hole, or join in double-decking the bridge from Gay Head via Cuttyhunk to Padanarum. The letter got printed, but not much changed.
We are now looking at the edge of a situation that has already been solved by other islands. For instance, Monomoy accepts few or no automobiles; Bermuda has its own vehicular code that in no way resembles that which keeps London trucks and autos well-behaved. But our revolutionary colonies somehow did not inherit the necessary wisdom to pace domestic growth with temporal necessities and the glacier of mechanical devices created to support them. Our Island already bears scars of this failure — dangerous intersections unprotected by simple signals available to control abject human behavior collectively blamed on “traffic.” Roadway designations (“state road” etc.) take precedence over local usage — a phenomenon that has as much to do with ancient geology, Mother Nature and getting children safely to school.
There is hope: Both the crossing at the Oak Bluffs fire station as well as the current blacktop battleground show that a democratically-based ritual of patience and politeness works at important intersections. It also asks us to consider the impact of a wider application of this brand of intelligence that would begin to tame the burgeoning traffic clogging our roadways. For instance, if the intersection of State Road with the Edgartown Road as it begins leaving Vineyard Haven became a one-at-a-time gavotte, the pressure at sequentially troubled locations can benefit from the resultant pacing. This could include (in addition to intersections) the entries and exits to businesses along State Road going west out of town. And please don’t get me started on Five Corners.
Friends that have been to other, more creative islands in the world tell me that in time visitors and services become aware of the special nature of each island, and prepare their minds and schedules for it. If state laws and federal formats do not accomplish these purposes, they can be changed.
What, then, is missing? Two things: 1) Enough of us; including purveyors of goods and services as well as bureaucrats, beginning to understand that the problem here is not just one unhappy crossroad; and 2) The courage and creativity to begin solving our vehicular future now, while there is time.
HIGH AND DRY
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
I would think the Department of Homeland Security, with their $57 billion budget, would out of good will pay some of the damages to the town of Chilmark and all the boat owners who lost boats or incurred serious damage from the July 12 fire of undetermined origin. Before a new and larger boathouse is built.
I can’t believe these folks were left high and dry to recover on their own.
WHOSE AMERICAN DREAM?
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
It was difficult to sit through the recent town hall meeting and listen to Congressman Keating and state Senator Wolf lecture about their version of the American dream. The ideas they expressed distort the meaning of this iconic phrase beyond all recognition. Apparently they envision an America in which a citizen’s success depends not on self-reliance and hard work, but on an ability to negotiate special subsidies, handouts and favors from a constantly expanding government.
Mr. Keating’s opening dialogue, for example, was in part a celebration of this country’s actuarially unsound entitlement programs and in part a call for more spending on higher education. His rambling discourse made no mention of the need for unpopular cuts in, or alternatives to, these entitlement programs that will soon bankrupt our nation. Nor did he address the issue of whether unlimited government subsidies for student loans have created an artificial demand that is driving up college costs at a rate that is four times the rate of inflation, thereby forcing most students to jeopardize their financial future in order to attend college.
Mr. Wolf’s vision of the American dream was reflected in his response to a person seeking help with an irrational government regulation that was needlessly hurting his small business. Rather than addressing ways to rationalize the regulation, Mr. Wolf suggested an unnecessary government tax on larger corporations so as to cripple all businesses equally. When this person responded that imposing taxes on his larger competitors was of no help to him, Mr. Wolf launched into a diatribe about the evils of “big corporations” and the need for more “revenue” (taxes) in order “to allow the government to do its job.” Apparently the job of government in Mr. Wolf’s view is to take away the earnings of its citizens so it can redistribute them in a manner consistent with his personal agenda.
Mr. Keating then supported Mr. Wolf’s call for raising corporate taxes, suggesting that more revenues (taxes) were needed to increase spending on infrastructure and education if America wanted to remain competitive with other nations. In fact, however, America’s corporate tax rates are among the highest in the world, and so increasing these taxes would have the opposite effect. Only state Rep. Tim Madden seemed to realize that the real problem with the regulation in question could be traced to our government’s one-size-fits-all approach to promulgating regulations — a heavy-handed approach that has been devastating small businesses for the last few years.
Hopefully the electorate will wake up from this version of American dream as envisioned by Mssrs. Keating and Wolf before the next election.
ANGER ON ALL SIDES
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
Reading the Gazette story last week about the newspaper’s interview of Senator Keating proves that the Democrats in Washington still don’t get it. Apparently, Mr. Keating is angry about a dysfunctional Congress. He is also angry about threats to core American values. He blames “ideologically-centered individuals in congress that have their beliefs supercede common sense and the very foundation of our country . . .”
The dysfunction Mr. Keating complains about is nothing more than the system working. Congress was never meant to be a rubber stamp for any president. Congress has the power to make war and is in charge of the purse strings. What we are seeing is pushback. It started shortly after Mr. Obama won in 2008. The elections in 2010 resulted in overwhelming gains for Republicans who spoke for the vast majority of Americans who rejected the president’s radical agenda. The fact that our representatives are not caving in to the administration’s liberal programs and massive spending projects is a good thing: They are standing up for us.
I find it ironic that Mr. Keating blames Republicans for threatening the American dream and core American values. Indeed, polls show that most folks think the Democrats, led by Mr. Obama, are far more threatening. Two major pollsters found that about 75 per cent of citizens feel we are on the wrong track. Translated into English, that means three out of four people feel the country is moving in the wrong direction. That’s a substantial finding, one Mr. Keating conveniently ignores.
Americans are tired and discouraged about Washington these days. They elected a president who said he would keep unemployment at eight per cent if only we gave him time and money. Three years in, after spending billions we don’t have, we flirted with 10 per cent unemployment (which is misleading as there are millions who have just dropped off the government rolls). Every time we see the president on the news, he is headed to another fundraiser. Recently, he announced he would spend most of 2012 fund-raising and campaigning. Really? He couldn’t think of any problems that need his attention? And most Americans were shocked to learn that Barack Obama announced late last year that he plans to spend up to $1 billion to get re-elected. This, during the great recession! Are there not better uses for that money than paying major media outlets?
We are angry, Mr. Keating. We have only one vote and it seems this administration doesn’t hear us.
We know that the president wants to impose a European-style socialist system here. It won’t work. It is failing across Europe. Every night on television, we see more of our allies struggle to contain the crowds marching for more. Even with the generous government programs, they want more and are balking at any cuts (that must be made). We are at a tipping point. We either remain faithful to the constitution and the vision of the founding fathers, or we head off in another direction. This election is that simple. God willing, Mr. Obama will be out of a job come January 2013.
Peter B. Robb
Holliston and Oak Bluffs
The following letters were given to Rep. Bill Keating at his public meeting on the Vineyard on Jan. 9:
Thank you for giving me and other Vineyard residents this chance to address ways that you and other decision makers can help improve our world, and lives.
Following is my hastily-prepared wish list.
• Cease invasions and occupations of foreign countries. (We should follow the Golden Rule, which states, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We should not invade and exploit foreign countries unless we decide that it’s okay for them to invade and exploit us.)
• End secret arrests, indefinite detentions, extraditions, and torture. Provide fair trials to all people – the same as you and I would want to receive.
• End cruel treatment of people wanting to emigrate into the U.S. Instead, treat them like family members.
• Change campaign finance laws so that candidates aren’t controlled by the military industrial complex, Monsanto, and other powerful corporations.
• Balance our country’s budget, largely by cutting military spending.
• Accelerate programs for increasing energy efficiency and harnessing renewable energies.
• Phase out fossil fueled and nuclear power plants.
• Reject proposals for more oil drilling in Alaska, the Gulf, and other areas.
• Reject the Keystone pipeline proposal.
• Halt gas extraction by the fracking method.
• End the dumping of hazardous wastes (such as electronics) in foreign countries.
• Halt the development of new weapons, including nuclear bombs and space weapons.
• Increase programs to end poverty and stabilize the world’s population.
• When making decisions, give greatest attention to the recommendations of unbiased individuals and NGOs, and less to industrial representatives.
My name is Cynthia Riggs. I live in West Tisbury. I have a serious problem with the U.S. Postal Service. My mail and packages are being delayed, lost, or returned to sender stamped “address unknown” whenever I use a street address as required for some deliveries. According to an L.L. Bean representative, the zip code 02575 is changed automatically to Vineyard Haven 02568 to comply with U.S. Postal Service requirements. UPS, which is charged with many deliveries to my street address, says this is a common problem. Although most UPS and FedEx drivers know where I live, not all do. And since there are two Edgartown Roads, one in West Tisbury and one in Vineyard Haven, my shipments are often delivered to the wrong address. At that point, they are consistently returned to sender or are lost.
The USPS apparently does not permit shippers other than the postal service to use the zip code 02575. USPS itself will only deliver mail with a 02575 zip to a P.O. Box. All mail addressed to a street number in West Tisbury 02575 is automatically rerouted to Vineyard Haven 02568.
For those of us running a business that is dependent upon reliable and prompt mail service and deliveries, this is causing a serious economic problem. Since many legal documents must be delivered to a street address, this is a matter of utmost concern.
A second major concern with the USPS is that a letter mailed in West Tisbury addressed to Chilmark (five miles away) or any other Island town, is trucked to Vineyard Haven (six and a half miles), ferried to Woods Hole (seven miles), trucked to Buzzards Bay (30 miles), postmarked, and then returned by the same route, a total of more than 90 miles to deliver a letter five miles from its place of origin.
The USPS would save energy, time, money, and manpower by reinstituting the Island mail delivery system it abandoned several years ago.
I hope you will bring these concerns to the attention of the postal service authorities.