Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
At the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen meeting last Tuesday, July 9, our selectmen cheerfully voted to sacrifice safety in favor of cramming in 15 extra diagonal parking spots on Sea View avenue, from the Lookout Tavern down to the bottom of the hill, and changing four-hour parking to two-hour parking, thus doubling the amount of backing up done, potentially into children on bikes, scooters, skates and in buggies.
The lone voice of reason came from the courageous Gail Barmakian, who displayed greater concern for the residents of and visitors to our town over the business interests of a few.
This ill-advised decision flies in the face of 20 years of traffic and parking studies that cite damage to street and pedestrian safety, impaired traffic fluidity and destruction to what attracts tourists.
Coincidentally this past week, Jeff Speck, arguably the national expert on town planning, was interviewed on National Public Radio, where he stated that it’s been known for decades that adding parking and road space for cars in congested areas simply creates more need for parking and cars. Not only does it fail to solve the problem; it exacerbates it.
Someday all this “planning” will have to be undone by a subsequent board of selectmen that realizes that this wrongheaded bunch hurt the town by doing everything exactly wrong.
In the meantime, it’s important to correct one blustery statement made by Selectman Mike Santoro and supported by Chairman Walter Vail, happily wielding his gavel with unsurpassed enthusiasm.
When I asked Selectman Santoro, owner of the Lookout Tavern and obvious benefiter from the extra parking, why he did not recuse himself from this discussion (instead, arguing vociferously in favor of the dangerous changes), he replied with vehement certitude that he’d been given a clean bill of ethical health by both the town attorney (Ron Rappaport, I assume) and the Massachusetts State Board of Ethics. This was news to me and three other complainants, as we were told by this same board that, until we got a certified letter stating this matter was resolved, the questions about Mr. Santoro’s ethics were still open and under investigation.
I called the board, just to be sure. In careful language (they are under a gag order until the investigation is complete) I was told, “It is our policy to send out letters to anyone on the record as a complainant, stating that this matter has been resolved. I checked the file this morning, and no such letter was sent to you or the others. Therefore, based on our policy, you can assume the case is still open.”
Finally, there is one good thing that can come out of this really bad behavior: a change of leadership at the next election.
I appeal to the citizens of Oak Bluffs, who are no dummies, to please pay attention to what is happening at the hands of this imperial board. Discussion is discouraged. People are intimidated. Truth is misrepresented. And public safety is ignored.
Let’s throw them out and encourage some real leaders to apply for the job. (But please, let’s retain the honest and gutsy Ms. Barmakian.)
Belleruth Naparstek, Oak Bluffs