Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Last August 17, during the Harvard Charles Hamilton Houston Institute’s Annual Conference on Race on Martha’s Vineyard, I was intrigued to hear the esteemed panelists address the need for dialogue about race in this country and then, express their own uncertainty about how to go about such a huge and daunting task. Although it was rewarding to hear these prominent voices pronounce the same need that has been echoing in my own thoughts, I must admit I was frustrated that the panel didn’t seem to a have the (tidy) solution I was perhaps naively hoping for.

But I do believe only a few weeks later, a valuable example of this very kind of sought-after dialogue took place at the Aquinnah Cultural Center in the format of a discussion between Linda Coombs, both a member of the Wampanoag tribe and director of the cultural center, and Geraldine Brooks, the author of Caleb’s Crossing, the historical novel based on Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College.

For most of the evening, Ms. Coombs asked a series of carefully measured and thought-provoking questions to which Ms. Brooks responded one by one. Other letters to the editor have already quite aptly described some of the content of this interaction, so I would like to concentrate more on the spirit of the dialogue between the two speakers.

What took place was a scrupulous and genuine conversation between two intelligent and learned women wisely taking the time and space and willingness to speak and listen with honesty and respect for themselves and each other.

I think it would be fair to say that each of the speakers had an agenda; neither woman was neutral on the subject of Ms. Brooks as a non-Native American using the life and voice of a Native American as a main character in her work of fiction. And in my opinion, it was the speakers’ strong feelings on the subject that constituted an important element to giving significance to the discussion: Neutrality doesn’t necessarily nourish deep dialogue.

In trying to recount the event at the ACC to different people who weren’t there, I am almost always asked the question, “So, who won?” And my answer is, “The community won.” The event wasn’t a trial in a court of law or winner-take-all debate, it was an opportunity for learning.

I won’t say that anyone positively and radically changed his mind on the subject of the evening, but I will say that the participants (including the audience) had the opportunity to broaden their spectrum of understanding and have access to another cultural vision.

Providing windows into another way of looking at the world is part of the role of a cultural center and I would like to thank Linda Coombs, Geraldine Brooks and the Aquinnah Cultural Center for doing just that, and with such intelligence and grace.

Nancy Caldwell

Aquinnah and

Paris, France


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

In response to continuing discussion regarding the planned roundabout in Oak Bluffs, I traveled a roundabout in Marston Mills for four years. That roundabout, like the one proposed here, has one axis (east-west) which is much more traveled than the other (north-south). Because I was traveling the north-south axis and often reached it at rush hour, I found it difficult and somewhat nerve-wracking to enter the roundabout because there was a steady stream of cars passing east-west that did not want to let me in. I would liken this to the feeling I had trying to enter traffic at the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven blinker junction prior to the installation of the stop signs. There is a question that needs to be answered so that we don’t end up with an expensive version of the blinkers. The designers have stated that traffic is slowed down by the angle of entry. How can they make sure that north-south traffic can enter easily when there is an overwhelming stream of traffic going east-west? This is often the case in the summer.

There are several other issues regarding the roundabout which are of concern, but in this space I will mention one troubling issue that is not so easily solved. Intuitively, many people have felt that improving traffic flow at the blinkers junction may increase traffic backups in Edgartown and Vineyard Haven. At the public hearing on Sept. 1, John Diaz of the design firm Greenman-Pedersen, stated that the roundabout would add only four or five more cars an hour to the traffic at the Edgartown end. This made no sense to me. And while I have great respect for Mr. Diaz, I did not think his figures could be correct. I do not know what data he used to calculate this, but I went home and actually did the math using observed data that I had made on two days of traffic backups in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown on the Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road. Based on those observations, I strongly disagree with Mr. Diaz’s findings.

Using a spreadsheet formula, I sped up the traffic flow at the blinkers, as the roundabout will do. The result was as expected: The traffic arrived in Edgartown more quickly and the backup at that stop sign got progressively worse. The additional backup depended on how many cars arrived from Oak Bluffs and how quickly they arrived there. In one version, 20 minutes worth of additional “speeded up” traffic going to Edgartown created 10 minutes of added backup there. This held true if half of the cars traveling from Oak Bluffs arrived in Edgartown, as was the case on an August day that I made observations. I easily found that this part of the backup is due to the fact that in season it takes longer to get through the Edgartown stop sign than the blinkers stop sign. (This problem is akin to a doctor who consistently schedules patients at a shorter interval than it takes him to finish each appointment — he will have the same number of patients, but they get there too quickly. The doctor can’t see them fast enough, so the waiting room will get more crowded, until people are backed up into the hallway.)

On a second day, I measured the traffic backup in Edgartown as three-fifths of a mile, with a wait time of 20 minutes to reach the stop sign and an estimated 100 cars-plus waiting. If there had been a roundabout increasing traffic flow with a steady stream of half of the cars passing through the blinkers arriving in Edgartown (not unlikely in summer), it would have added a line of cars waiting 10 more minutes, for a total of a 30-minute wait in Edgartown. This is one scenario and there are several others, but it shows the risk of making an already horrendous traffic problem worse unless we do a study by an independent firm to analyze the traffic patterns in Edgartown and the impact on that traffic from the roundabout.

Supporters of the roundabout have said, “Well, we have to start solving the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven traffic issue somewhere.” That doesn’t make any sense. If you solve one problem with the result that you create an even larger problem somewhere else, you’ve started solving in the wrong place.

Niki Patton

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Regarding the Gazette commentary piece: Those Who Deny Science Are Unfit to Lead (Sept. 2): Curious, these Republican “leaders.” East Coast hurricanes, whose increasing frequency scientists attribute to global warming, are seen as a sign of God’s displeasure with Congress for raising the debt ceiling. Texas, on the other hand, organizes official prayer services for drought relief, as if God hadn’t noticed the wildfires and devastation. Is it not possible that the hurricane and drought are both signs from God that there’s something to global warming?

Michael Stoto

Vineyard Haven

and Washington, D.C.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

As a resident of Chappaquiddick and a taxpayer of Edgartown, I would be very disappointed if Edgartown town officials responsible for negotiating a new contract with Comcast even consider an agreement that does not assure Chappaquiddick residents of Edgartown equal Internet service. There is absolutely no basis for Edgartown to consider any agreement which would discriminate against a portion of the town with regard to what has become a basic and necessary utility service. I hope that Edgartown officials and Comcast representatives do not underestimate how strongly many residents of Chappy feel about this issue. I would not be surprised to see a taxpayers’ revolt, election recall efforts, or other strong forms of citizen action if Chappaquiddick is abandoned by its representatives on this issue. But it should never come to this if the town does its job properly.

Eric D. Green



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

On behalf of everyone at the Polly Hill Arboretum, I would like to thank Catalyst Concerts and Lia Kahler and Richard Gordon for last Sunday’s wonderful benefit concert, Songs for my Father. This concert of songs and arias about flowers, plants and animals was dedicated to the memory of Ms. Kahler’s father, Albert Littlefield, who was born and grew up on what is now the Polly Hill Arboretum. Ms. Kahler, the founder of Catalyst Concerts, which does benefits for selected nonprofit organizations, notes, “I want to celebrate the bond between people and nature as expressed in the caring for land and animals, which results in such enduring beauty as the Arboretum landscape and such loving places as the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard.” The concert was a benefit for both organizations.

Through Ms. Kahler’s tireless efforts over $11,000 was raised for each organization! Many thanks to Catalyst Concerts and all those who supported this event.

Karin Stanley

West Tisbury

The writer is education and outreach coordinator for the Polly Hill Arboretum.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The fair committee of the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society would like to thank the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust for allowing us to stage our parade celebrating the 150th agricultural fair at the Grange Hall. It was most fitting to start our parade where the fair was held for over 130 years.

In addition we would like to thank the West Tisbury police department, especially Chief Rossi and Sergeant Manter, for their time and effort in designing the route for the parade. They helped us make sure both the parade participants and the parade viewers were safe.

To all the parade participants a big thank you! What fun to see your enthusiasm and your creativity. Thank you as well to the residents of Music street and Panhandle Road for the short inconvenience of the road closure. And finally, thank you to all those volunteers back at the new Agricultural Hall who had the reviewing stand so cheerfully decorated and the refreshments ready for the parade participants.

What a grand way to kick off a truly fabulous 150th Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society Fair.

Nancy Abbott

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

To Flanders Field the ball players go. Now they sit and watch for snow. “Wait until next year,” the pundits say. But I can’t wait until Memorial Day. It’s better when the jocks begin to arrive. On June 24, they all will thrive. The birds have gone, I know it’s fall. But in my heart, it’s still “Play ball!”

Bill Edison


The Vineyard Gazette welcomes letters to the editor on any subject concerning Martha’s Vineyard. The newspaper strives to publish all letters as space allows, although the editor reserves the right to reject letters that in her judgment are inappropriate. Letters must be signed, and should include a place of residence and contact telephone number. The Gazette does not publish anonymous letters.