Seven Candidates Vie for Two Selectmen Seats in Oak Bluffs

By CHRIS BURRELL

Some people in town are calling it an outright horse race - seven candidates running for two seats on the board of selectmen in Oak Bluffs. It is the most hotly contested race in this year's political season on the Vineyard. Voters will pick their selectmen at the polls from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Oak Bluffs School on Thursday, April 10.

This week, the seven candidates talked to the Gazette about their experience and answered three questions. Here is what they had to say:

Roger L. Wey

Roger Wey is the one incumbent in the race. A 62-year-old general contractor, he is seeking his sixth three-year term on the board of selectmen. He currently serves on the county commission; he has also been a commissioner to the Martha's Vineyard Commission and a member of the town zoning board of appeals.

Gazette: Please explain your position on whether Oak Bluffs should or should not withdraw from the Martha's Vineyard Commission.

Mr. Wey: They shouldn't withdraw from the Martha's Vineyard Commission. For almost 25 years, the Martha's Vineyard Commission has prevented development from overrunning the Island. We need to continue the partnership with other towns in order to preserve what we have.

Gazette: What can be done to heal the deep divisions in town created by more than three years of fighting over the southern woodlands and the proposed golf course?

Mr. Wey: This upcoming vote in May, that's going to help the healing process because you'll get what the majority of the town wants. Basically, this decision to leave the commission is about if you want golf or don't want golf in the southern woodlands. Once that's been decided, we go on. We should have asked the people two years ago.

Gazette: One year after the town completed its new sewer system for the downtown area at a cost of roughly $16 million, some leaders in town are calling for a town hall addition, a new library, a police station and renovation of the senior center. How should Oak Bluffs address these financial pressures?

Mr. Wey: We should do it through bonding. We get a bond at a good rate and go forward. These projects, they're all needed - the library, the addition at town hall. They are well-needed, and we will pay for it over the long term. It wouldn't be proposed unless we could handle it, and it's my understanding from the auditors that we can handle this.

Karen Achille

Karen Achille is 61 years old and a former teacher of high school English and history. She is active in the world of public libraries. She was the children's librarian at the Vineyard Haven Public Library, and is currently a member of the board of trustees of the Oak Bluffs Public Library. She is also chairman of the Oak Bluffs library building committee. For nine years, she and her husband owned and operated Bubba's Hot Dogs on the Oak Bluffs harbor.

Gazette: Please explain your position on whether Oak Bluffs should or should not withdraw from the Martha's Vineyard Commission.

Ms. Achille: I favor withdrawal from the commission because recently they have not been able to control the conduct and hearing process for the Down Island Golf Club. I feel they've allowed - by protracting the process hearing after hearing - a divisive and angry situation to develop. And personalities have been much too much a part of the process. I don't feel they have served the people of Oak Bluffs at all. They have put us in an awkward position of being perceived as the affordable housing capital of the Island.

Gazette: What can be done to heal the deep divisions in town created by more than three years of fighting over the southern woodlands and the proposed golf course?

Ms. Achille: Most importantly, there needs to be a new voice in the process, and I want to be the new voice. We need to get beyond the anger and focus on what comes next. What comes next is hopefully a solution which will provide the best use of the southern woodlands with the least impact on our infrastructure from buildings thereon and a concentrated effort to best utilize our town funds.

Gazette: One year after the town completed its new sewer system for the downtown area at a cost of roughly $16 million, some leaders in town are calling for a town hall addition, a new library, a police station and renovation of the senior center. How should Oak Bluffs address these financial pressures?

Ms. Achille: We have an excellent bond rating at present. Each project needs to be handled individually but in the context of a master plan. I envision a community campus at the site of the present town hall. We own the land there, and it would functionally serve some of the facilities mentioned in the question.

I believe there are properties such as the Everett Rogers building - the old town hall - that could be either sold or leased as income for the town. The present library is an appropriate building for offices and could be sold for great advantage, providing means by which we can fiscally manage upcoming projects.

David Araujo

David Araujo, 59, works for the family trucking and septic pump-out business. A former Tisbury selectman, he served two terms. He is on the board of directors of the Holy Ghost Society. Mr. Araujo is a veteran of the U.S. Army and a former commander of the American Legion Post 257.

Gazette: Please explain your position on whether Oak Bluffs should or should not withdraw from the Martha's Vineyard Commission.

Mr. Araujo: I can say emphatically that the town should not withdraw. The reason is that too many people, me included, have tried too hard to keep control of the Island. The Island is a jewel, and we should keep it as a jewel. The commission is very big as far as protecting the Island. The commission has its problems, but they are problems we can solve, and we should try to stay with the commission.

Gazette: What can be done to heal the deep divisions in town created by more than three years of fighting over the southern woodlands and the proposed golf course?

Mr. Araujo: The people have basically spoken and said they weren't interested in the golf course. But some members of the board of selectmen chose to defy the people and stay with the golf proposal. That's not fair to the people. If elected, I will represent all the people, not just a select few.

Gazette: One year after the town completed its new sewer system for the downtown area at a cost of roughly $16 million, some leaders in town are calling for a town hall addition, a new library, a police station and renovation of the senior center. How should Oak Bluffs address these financial pressures?

Mr. Araujo: Oak Bluffs is in a financial bind. What we need to do is step back, take a deep breath and take one thing at a time.

Gregory Coogan

Gregory Coogan has taught math at the Tisbury School for more than 20 years. At 54, he has served on several town boards and was chairman of the conservation commission and the Oak Bluffs School building committee. He was one of the first commissioners to the Martha's Vineyard Commission.

Gazette: Please explain your position on whether Oak Bluffs should or should not withdraw from the Martha's Vineyard Commission.

Mr. Coogan: I don't think they should withdraw from the commission. That's just one issue. The commission does too many other things for the town, and I'd like to see them stay in the commission. We need to recognize that we still live on an Island. To cut ourselves off from the commission and the other towns is a major mistake. We need to get beyond the golf course issue.

Gazette: What can be done to heal the deep divisions in town created by more than three years of fighting over the southern woodlands and the proposed golf course?

Mr. Coogan: The vote on May 13. I think the town needs to make that decision one way or another. The day after the vote, the healing process will begin. Hopefully, selectmen will have a clear mandate and will be able to move on and deal with other issues in town. Everybody would welcome that.

Gazette: One year after the town completed its new sewer system for the downtown area at a cost of roughly $16 million, some leaders in town are calling for a town hall addition, a new library, a police station and renovation of the senior center. How should Oak Bluffs address these financial pressures?

Mr. Coogan: Obviously all those issues are too much for the town to take in one moment in time. They're all important, but they won't be solved overnight. The new town hall needs work. Getting revenue from the old town hall will help with some of that. And we need to clear up the picture about the police station. The senior center does need work. Frankly, these are all things I am dying to learn more about.

Kenneth DeBettencourt

Kenneth DeBettencourt worked for the telephone company for 26 years before retiring and devoting himself to his hobby of flower gardening. He is 57 and a past member of both the board of health and conservation commission. He is also a former Martha's Vineyard Land Bank commissioner.

Gazette: Please explain your position on whether Oak Bluffs should or should not withdraw from the Martha's Vineyard Commission.

Mr. DeBettencourt: Given the current policies and decisions of the Martha's Vineyard Commission, I would favor the withdrawal of Oak Bluffs. But as a selectman I would be willing to consider remaining a part of the commission if the incumbents were more open to the needs of Oak Bluffs residents. Some residents may have the opposing opinion, and I will follow the wishes of the majority, whatever my own feelings may be.

Gazette: What can be done to heal the deep divisions in town created by more than three years of fighting over the southern woodlands and the proposed golf course?

Mr. DeBettencourt: The commission deals with development issues on the Island, attempting to fill the need of growth and preservation of natural resources. But in looking at a larger picture, they lose sight of individual problems faced by each town. The commission ought to remember the increasing need for tax revenue from developed properties. By realizing this, there will be an improvement.

Gazette: One year after the town completed its new sewer system for the downtown area at a cost of roughly $16 million, some leaders in town are calling for a town hall addition, a new library, a police station and renovation of the senior center. How should Oak Bluffs address these financial pressures?

Mr. DeBettencourt: We need a greater understanding of departmental workings by the board. Hopefully, this will decrease wasteful spending and other inefficiencies. The board of selectmen should work more closely with the finance committee. Currently, the recommendations of this committee are overlooked.

Linda Marinelli

Linda Marinelli is a former selectman and an outspoken critic of town government. She is 73 and drives a Lift van for the Vineyard Transit Authority. A selectman for 13 years, she has also served on the finance committee, school committee, zoning board of appeals and Martha's Vineyard Commission.

Gazette: Please explain your position on whether Oak Bluffs should or should not withdraw from the Martha's Vineyard Commission.

Mrs. Marinelli: We should absolutely not withdraw from the Martha's Vineyard Commission. There are a lot of things the commission can do that our local planning boards cannot. They do not have the outreach and power the commission has. The commission has done a lot for the town of Oak Bluffs. They have saved us from a lot of heartaches.

Gazette: What can be done to heal the deep divisions in town created by more than three years of fighting over the southern woodlands and the proposed golf course?

Mrs. Marinelli: They can try to work things out together. Dialogue is the most important thing and prior to the dialogue, listen.

Gazette: One year after the town completed its new sewer system for the downtown area at a cost of roughly $16 million, some leaders in town are calling for a town hall addition, a new library, a police station and renovation of the senior center. How should Oak Bluffs address these financial pressures?

Mrs. Marinelli: The only people who should really have a say are the voters at the town meeting. We may be biting too much off at one time. We need to take and set our goals for a five-year plan or a 10-year plan and work from that. A lot of this is killing the taxpayer. I heard from one man whose taxes doubled, and he moved off-Island. I don't want to see that, especially with young people.

Hans von Steiger

Hans von Steiger, 67, is a newcomer to the Oak Bluffs political scene. Trained as a mechanical and nuclear engineer, he currently works a project developer. He is also president of the Friends of the Oak Bluffs Council on Aging and served as a alternate to the harbor management committee.

Gazette: Please explain your position on whether Oak Bluffs should or should not withdraw from the Martha's Vineyard Commission.

Mr. von Steiger: I'm not pleased with the present form of the Martha's Vineyard Commission. So, yes, it is wise now, yes - it is wise now to withdraw. When you go in [to the commission], there are no rules or regulations. It's like playing Monopoly, and someone makes up the rules as they go along. An applicant needs rules to go by, and if he fulfills the rules, he should get his permit. We need a master plan, and we need growth planning.

Gazette: What can be done to heal the deep divisions in town created by more than three years of fighting over the southern woodlands and the proposed golf course?

Mr. von Steiger: Again, the town itself should have a plan and know where are they going. The southern woodlands - and I don't think there's anybody who disagrees - would be nice to keep it wild. But barring that, the land usage should be part of a master plan. We don't have that. We don't have any true consensus of what should be done there. We need to ensure that the land usage is appropriate for the town.

Gazette: One year after the town completed its new sewer system for the downtown area at a cost of roughly $16 million, some leaders in town are calling for a town hall addition, a new library, a police station and renovation of the senior center. How should Oak Bluffs address these financial pressures?

Mr. von Steiger: The town has an asset, and it's the old town hall. It is a very valuable asset, probably in the seven figures. That should be sold. A good thing to do would be to put the post office there. The present post office has no parking. The federal government would do a wonderful job with it, and the sale to the federal government could be a lucrative sale.

The present town hall is not an ideal structure. We need a building combining all town offices. Those monies could come from the sale of properties we presently have. A town service complex could share all the parking at the town hall site.