CALL FOR LEADERSHIP
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
In any small town, there are cultural, political, social and economic factions that converge to give each town its own special personality. Within each faction, there are personal issues, public interests and many hidden agendas to deal with. These are the difficult and enormously complicated problems that make a small town so special. We all get to be involved. And we all get to be affected. It is the curse and the blessing of small-town living.
Usually, when someone is in trouble and needs help, the town rallies. Comfort, financial aid, home-cooked meals, basic sustainable needs are given by all. Fundraisers are common. Volunteers give time, care and their talents to help. Leaders lead with encouragement and praise.
So what has gone wrong here in Oak Bluffs?
Economic stress produces fear, suspicion and then there is always the danger of splitting. Yes, splitting. Dividing the town with threats of wrongdoings and doers. Fear-based actions that can cause damage often beyond repair.
I am not privy to all or even most of the facts surrounding the possible dismissal of Michael Dutton, our town administrator. I only know that he is a smart, talented and capable person. I also know that he has labored long hours and spent a great deal of his time and energy addressing issues that far exceed his job description.
With the prolonged illness and unfortunate death of our financial director, Paul Manzi, the extra responsibilities for our town administrator must have increased substantially. Add to that the loss of employees in other departments and a decline in morale throughout our town in general plus decreases in many of the usual town revenues (building permits/excise taxes, etc.) and many of the services we have come to rely on. With all of these difficulties, the person who is our town administrator needs all the support and leadership he can get.
Where are the leaders of our town? Why aren’t they encouraging, building, repairing and shoring up a system that desperately needs their help? This is a really important question we all need to ask.
PORT TOWN REVIVAL
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
It’s a balmy, summer Saturday night and I have just returned from the Tisbury Street Fair, one day postponed. Indeed, our port town has seen some darkish days since the Bunch of Grapes fire of 2008. While the sister towns of Oak Bluffs (nicely revamped by stimulus money last year) and Edgartown (always quaint by day and bustling well into the night) seem to be holding their own, venerable Vineyard Haven has been recession-torn and tattered. Yet the annual street fair only reinforced my notion that there is still a pulse to Main street, despite the odds.
Indeed, I sense some signs of life springing forth. Cafe Moxie seems to be getting ready to reclaim its glory next to the refurbished Bunch of Grapes. And now there are at least five art galleries holding their own (including my own). With the advent of beer and wine sales at the eateries, there seems to be more of a sparkle along the sidewalks, and little touches here and there are lending a vibrancy missing in action for the past few years. A few new spots stand out, such as the Tisberry fruit and yogurt shop, the Blissed Out juice bar (a flashback to my beloved hippie days of yore), an upscale beach-attire alcove, and an expanded Beetlebung Dry Goods outlet.
This coming Friday, Vineyard Haven will hold its first art stroll to celebrate the new energy. Various galleries and other businesses will stay open until 9 p.m., and many will be offering refreshments and other amenities to encourage foot traffic and merriment. There will be nonstop music in front of the old Bowl and Board, and perhaps dancing in the streets?
We still have a way to go . . . there are still a few unrented storefronts, and some of the commercial and nearby residential buildings could use some TLC. But as of this summer, I sense that our year-round town is coming around again (to quote from one of my sister’s finest songs).
Hats off to the board of selectmen and the Tisbury Business Association for encouraging these new ventures and creating a nicer, more merchant-friendly environment. Here’s hoping that the art stroll this Friday will be the first of many more happy evenings ahead.
KEEP HOME OFFICE
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
The following letter, akin to Doris Ward’s letter in the July 8 Vineyard Gazette, is directed at the Steamship Authority administration, as well as all ferry riders on “our way home” to the Vineyard.
I feel that Doris Ward is correct when she writes that she “is sure that (she) speak(s) for all year-round Islanders and summer residents” when she urges the SSA to keep the wonderful, hard-working staff at the SSA office by the airport functioning there in an easily accessible location, and to let these resourceful and compassionate SSA staffers continue to help resolve the unexpected, yet inevitable and often quirky quandaries that periodically beset even the most undemanding of car ferry customers when stuck without a workable reservation to get off of and back onto our Island.
I needed, and received, just such person-to-person assistance this morning, July 9, after a weeklong wait-list wait did not avail us of a needed early departure.
Thank you to the SSA staff.