On the cusp of a new decade, along with lengthening days, a greening landscape and the return of the osprey, the annual political season has arrived again on the Island.

On Tuesday night voters will gather in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and West Tisbury for their annual town meetings. Moderators will gavel the meetings to order and the annual business will begin. In a few weeks Chilmark and Aquinnah will hold their meetings. The New England annual town meeting has been called the purest form of democracy.

This year there is much to consider. Annual town meeting warrants are freighted with issues from regional to parochial, including multimillion-dollar annual town budgets, zoning bylaw changes, community preservation initiatives and capital planning for future public school buildings.

This is the grist of small town government. Voters are urged to read their town warrants — all are published on the Gazette website — sharpen their pencils and go to town meeting. Every voter has a say. As the saying goes, democracy is not a spectator sport.

The Housing Bank Question

The shortage of decent, reasonably-priced housing is unfortunately a well-settled fact of life on the Island. Many groups and individuals have been working for years to address the problem through a variety of initiatives large and small. Inroads have been made, but more is needed. And there is general agreement that the new short-term rental tax could provide a potentially rich source of revenue to help pay for affordable housing projects in every Island town.

How to best accomplish that goal remains an open question.

When Gov. Charlie Baker signed the short-term rental tax into law in early January, affordable housing advocates on the Vineyard saw an opportunity. Petitioned articles were swiftly written for annual town meeting warrants to establish a housing bank modeled after the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank. Under the proposal, the new housing bank would be funded by half the revenues from the short-term rental tax.

Since then an aggressive, well-funded political campaign to promote the housing bank has been under way.

But critics say the campaign was too quick off the mark, coming as it did with the ink barely dry on Governor Baker’s bill. The wording is vague, and there was little effort to include elected and appointed officials who make policy and set town budgets, including on affordable housing initiatives, in crafting a plan.

Now for a number of reasons, selectmen in all three down-Island towns are strongly opposed to the housing bank.

Proponents of the housing bank have called this a once-in-a generation opportunity to address an endemic problem, but considering its long-term nature it is reasonable to ask why the hurry.

For one thing, every Island town is still sorting out exactly how much revenue the rental tax will actually bring in (and it will be different in every town). Selectmen are understandably concerned about committing a revenue stream that hasn’t been established yet.

Other issues include the wisdom of establishing yet another government entity on Island with more political subdivisions per capita than arguably any other comparably-sized community. Consider for a minute that Martha’s Vineyard has six town governments, one county government, one land bank, one regional planning agency, one regional housing authority, one regional transportation authority, two regional trash districts, and two regional school districts. Affordable housing committees and trusts exist in every Island town. It is already difficult to fill important leadership positions with qualified candidates. Is another bureaucracy really needed to administer funds for affordable housing?

These are among the questions that need to be asked, and in the end will make for a better effort — community-wide — to address the problem.

An article this week in the Wall Street Journal noted that affordable housing is far from just a local issue. Cities from London to Stockholm to Sydney are grappling with a similar problem, and “no approach has solved the crises and most have other negative ripple effects,” the article found.

In a commentary in today’s edition, the three Edgartown selectmen explain their position opposing the housing bank, while in a separate commentary, Island Housing Trust president Richard Leonard explains the position of the housing bank campaign.

Both are required reading.

Then beginning next week, it will be up to the voters to decide.