The Vineyard has always been a place of community and inclusiveness, where open dialogue, democratic ideals and respect for others’ opinions, even when we don’t agree with them, have been valued. According to the National Council of Nonprofits, board good governance practices includes responsiveness to the community, being consensus oriented, transparent, inclusive and participatory with the community as well as within the board.

The Vineyard Trust owns many treasured historic structures on the Vineyard, including Alley’s Store. In the past couple of years, many major changes have occurred, including a name change for the trust and the revamping of Alley’s store.

As board members of the trust, it is our responsibility to be informed of the processes that go into major decisions and to thoughtfully consider all decisions by the trust. If we have a question or concern, it is our responsibility to bring those questions and concerns to the board.

After I had personally visited Alley’s and had spoken with community residents and visitors, as a member of the Vineyard Trust board, I voiced concerns about the process and method by which decisions were made to go beyond safety and security issues and to change the very character of the store. In further speaking to residents and visitors I heard that many are saddened that Alley’s, what they consider to have been a last vestige of the “Old Vineyard,” has been lost. John Rosenmiller’s thoughtful recent Gazette op-ed (“Clutter-Free is Not for Me”) expresses the concerns of many Vineyard folks as illustrated by the 60-plus comments the article elicited.

In a board meeting earlier this summer, I questioned the methodology used by the trust’s executive director and executive committee to come to their decision to go beyond safety and security and to change the atmosphere of Alley’s. I inquired how they involved the community in their decision to change the very character of Alley’s. I was shocked at the tone and accusations hurled at me by our chairman via a series of emails.

Like Otis Spunkmeyer’s unceremonious removal from Alley’s shelves, I received a letter telling me that I was removed as a board member of the trust.

So here’s the larger question for our Island community: should the community be involved in decisions that go beyond safety and security and affect the very character of the Island’s historic structures? Is the Vineyard Trust management and executive committee going to be inclusive and take into consideration the thoughts of all its board members and the larger community as it makes its decisions? I am hopeful that sane and cool heads will prevail in the best interests of the community and the Island’s unique character. If we are to work toward the best that this Island community deserves, it seems imperative that transparency of processes, respecting differences of opinion and working toward consensus are crucial in preserving our heritage as well as attending to our evolving community.

Ellen Harley