As we look back at 2023 and look forward for 2024, several things come to mind. Certainly we grieve the loss of some of those who make the Vineyard what it is and has been. Marie Allen, Charles Ogletree, Bob Hayden, Walter Lowe and religious voices Rev. Calvin Butts 3rd and Rev. Charles Adams, just to name a few.

We are grateful for the new streets and sidewalks on Circuit avenue and for the ability of our retail and commercial establishments to push past Covid and remain resilient. That we continue to fight food insecurity and help many with their sobriety, demonstrating our generosity and our humanity.

But as I look out into the new year, I ask myself, what is our greatest threat to the Island that we love, cherish and hope to preserve for our progeny?

To me it is the alarming, almost-unbearable cost of housing on the Island that poses the greatest threat to our future. Without sufficient inventory of reasonably-priced housing we will lose our service and hospitality workers, our summer assistants, our professional personnel that want to live here year-round. All is at risk.

The Martha’s Vineyard Hospital has worked hard to address its loss of nine staffers over the past year and another 13 candidates who did not accept job offers because of housing shortages. The hospital is currently in the development phase of creating 48 housing units — including duplexes, apartments and town houses — in hopes of slowing down the attrition.

But there is not often sufficient land nor resources for others to duplicate or scale this kind of housing on-Island. Perhaps we can look to changing our housing policy to allow existing cottage owners to construct an additional dwelling unit in their current cottage cavity, above a garage or on land adjacent to their property if it can be demonstrated that it will alleviate our worker housing shortage. There must be a structural change to permit small, quick to market housing units with existing property owners to solve this problem.

So I would simply ask that you join the thinking around more housing strategies or volunteer on-Island to help youth, seniors, nonprofit programs and more in 2024 to protect our sacred Island.

I leave you a stanza from the brilliant Amanda Gorman’s New Day’s Lyric:

We heed this old spirit.

In a new day’s lyric,

In our hearts we hear it:

For auld lang syne, my dear

For auld lang syne.

Be bold, sang Time this year,

Be bold, sang Time,

For when you honor yesterday,

Tomorrow ye will find.

Know what we’ve fought

Need not be forgot nor for none.

It defines us, binds us as one,

Come over, join this day just begun.

For wherever we come together,

We will forever overcome.

Paradise on earth is living the Vineyard experience. Enjoy it as life is fleeting. Randall Edward Taylor, rest in peace.