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February 3, 2012     Vineyard Gazette
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SIX VINEYARD GAZETTE, MARTHA'S VINEYARD, MASS. FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2012 VINEYARD GAZETTE Martha's  Established Vineyard's" in 1846 Newspaper A Journal for 165 Years of Island Life Jane Seagrave, Publisher Julia Wells, Editor Joel Greenberg, Managing Editor Joe Pitt, General Manager Stephen Durkee, Director of Graphics and Design Phyllis Meras, Contributing Editor Richard Reston and Mary Jo Reston Publishers 1988-2010 Sally Fulton Reston and James Reston Publishers 1968-1988 Elizabeth Bowie Hough and Henry Beetle Hough Publishers 1920-1965 Sewer Plant Chronicles The swirl of news in Edgartown and Oak Bluffs this week around the two town wastewater treatment plants, both managed by superintendent Joseph Alosso, is a tale of two towns with strik- ingly different approaches to handling a problem. Let's be clear. There are not a lot of heroes in a scandal that has been unfolding for more than a year. It was January 10, 2011, when an audit of Edgartown's wastewater department turned up discrepancies in the way disposal from septic system pump-outs was being reported, prompting a fraud investigation by the Mas- sachusetts district attorney's office and state and local police. And the exact nature of each town's problem is quite different, even as they are linked by the same individual. But where Edgartown has taken deliberate, meaningful and very public steps to make sure the issues are fairly identified and openly dealt with, the opposite has occurred in Oak Bluffs. With the release this week of the report by special town counsel John Paul Sullivan to the Edgartown selectmen and wastewater com- mission, all the cards are finally on the table. Troubling facts are now confirmed in spades: Extraordinarily lax management and shoddy record-keeping at the plant have cost the town untold sums of money over a period of some ten years  possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue at the septage receiving facility where haulers were allowed to dump their waste on an honor system, unchecked and unsupervised. An electronic metering system for tracking septic waste, paid for by Edgartown taxpayers and installed at the plantwas never properly used. Receipts meant to be kept for accour/ting purposes were thrown away, in clear violation of state record retention laws. Equipment was purchased without following state bidding laws. Absent a coherent record-keepirm ystem; all the  septieh'aulers could easily  exploit;die system t0-lieown advantage" and'some apparently d, One of those haulers now faces criminal charges in district court. It was public money out the window and a public trust violated. And at the helm during all this stood plant superintendent Joseph Alosso, now on paid administrative leave following the release of the Sullivan report on Tuesday morning. If the wastewater commis- sion follows the recommendation of Mr. Sullivan at their meeting this coming Tuesday, they will fire Mr. Alosso. It is the only rational outcome at this stage. Equally troubling is the role of the elected wastewater commis- sion, as detailed by Mr. Sullivan in his lengthy report. Passive and wholly uninvolved in the workings of the plant, the three commis- sioners met only sporadically, Mr. Sullivan found. And when they did meet, the agendas were developed by Mr. Alosso, who for all intents and purposes ran the meetings. By their own admission, the waste- water commissioners had little or no knowledge of what was going on at the plant, on a daily or annual basis. Mr. Alosso was running the show with no oversight, and the results are now plainly obvious. In his report Mr. Sullivan raised the possibility that the sewer commission be changed from elected to appointed, but stopped short of recommending action, preferring to say this is a decision for voters to make, We expect the selectmen will pick up the cue and begin discussion about this. This is a sad chapter for the town of Edgartown, but the select- men, their town administrator and technology director, among others, deserve praise for their open and thorough handling of the situation. Once they learned there was a problem, town leaders called for a forensic audit, brought in the police and district attorney to inves- tigate and, once that investigation was complete, hired Mr. Sullivan to conduct an independent review. The Sullivan report is posted on the Gazette Web site this morning and is required reading. By contrast, the abrupt action of two Oak Bluffs wastewater com- missioners to eliminate Joseph Al.osso's position as superintendent of the treatment plant in that town late last week was precipitous, and possibly a violation of the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law. Wastewater com- missioner Gail Barmakian, who is also a selectman, and commissioner Hans von Steiger took it upon themselves to put Mr. Alosso out of a job by announcing at a wastewater meeting last Friday that they were eliminating his position due to budgetary constraints. Draft minutes from the meeting show there was little further explanation. To be sure, the wastewater plant where the irregularities oc- curred is in Edgartown, not Oak Bluffs. But it would have been perfectly reasonable for Oak Bluffs to conduct a public review of budgets and staffng at its own wastewater plant in light of the is- sues raised in Edgartown, and it strains credibility that Mr. Alosso's dismissal was strictly a money issue. The decision literally came out of the blue, and the matter was not properly posted for discussion on the meeting agenda, as re- quired by the open meeting law. The third wastewater commissioner, Robert Iadicicco, is right to cry foul. It is especially troubling to think that Ms. Barmakian and Mr. von Steiger may have spoken to each other ahead of time to plan their strategy, which would have been a clear violation of the open meeting law. It all adds up to much confusion and represents a sad setback for Oak Bluffs, where town leaders have worked hard to put the town back on track after a long period of financial instability and weak administration. There are good lessons that officials in every town can take away from this saga, but none more important than the value of acknowl- edging a problem and being open about getting to the bottom of it. I FOR AMANDA Editors, Vineyard Gazette: Amanda Hutchinson and I were neo- phyte beekeepers together. I knew her peripherally, living in the same town, but hadn't spent any time with her until we both attended a beekeeeping workshop last April. Since we both had a few trepidations about the whole enterprise, we decided to try it together. We each bought hives and set them up at her place. I can't say our first, and so sadly, only, as it turns out, season of beekeeping was a tremendous success but we did harvest a little honey, leav- ing most for the bees. We reveled in the structure of a colony, the industry with which each bee -- worker, drone or queen -- had its specific tasks to perform in such harmony. Amanda was definitely a worker bee (though she could spot the queen like nobody's business!); did anyone worker harder than she? We humans seem to have a harder time living in harmony but Amanda certainly tried to make life easier for everyone she met. May she rest in peace. Mitzi Pratt Aquinnah TALK IT UP Editors, Vineyard Gazette: After arguing for thousands of years, believers and nonbelievers both appear happily convinced the other is a fool for not seeing the light. That's okay and reconcilable.., for things religious and philosophical. Man, it seems, was made to ponder and never meant to learn certain metaphysical, unattain- able truths. But should this same kind of apathetic dismissiveness (based on the preconceived notion of never be- ing able to know for certain what the truth is) go unchallenged for things more secular, by people who designed and built a government to serve them- selves? Is-truth real!y so unimportant or inconsequential'or tmattainable to our democracy in fightingi for example a murder, or worse, high crime and trea- son? Our founders didn't think so, who felt there should be a third branch of government: the Department of Justice. Properly run investigations follow and don't ignore established methodology and protocols; examining all evidence, (controlled demolitions), no matter how inconvenient, including testimony under oath (not coerced) and cross- examining contradictions to find out who's lying and why. Proud 9/11 "conspiracy theorists" such as myself feel compelled to point out that the objection to the official 9/11 Commission Report is not about the conclusion reached but how (im- properly) the conclusion was reached. By short-circuiting such highly evolved, agreed-upon, established principles we undermine and compromise not just the conclusion being sought but the very integrity of the report. Was it sloppy and amateurish or criminally in- tentional? In either case, only a proper and independent, unbiased investiga- tion (versus a top-down "report") can help unite our country. (See ae91 ltruth. org). The more our mainstream media tries to whitewash this, downplaying all ramifications, the more serious it becomes. We are the jury; let's follow the rules and make sure the rules get followed. Talk it up, not down. Nick van Nes West Tisbury Smooth Surface Meets a Calm Sky .lake Meegan FAIR PLAN? Editors;Vineyard Gazette: The following is the text of testimony submitted this week by Cape and Is- lands Sen. Dan Wolf to Massachusetts insurance commissioner Joseph Mur- ray: Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony regarding the 2012 homeowners' insurance rate changes as proposed by the Massachusetts Prop- erty Insurance Underwriting Associa- tion (FAIR plan). As the state senator for the Cape and Islands, I would like to address the proposed rate changes be- fore you which would raise homeown- ers' insurance rates for my constituents by more than six per cent this coming year. This would be in addition to an almost 25 per cent rate increase in 2006. If this hike is approved, rates on the Cape and Islands will have risen almost 44 per cent in 10 years. This rate hike should not be approved as proposed, because the process in determining the rates is not fully transparent and crucial information in how the rates were determined has not been released. Without a transparent process, it is impossible to justify this or any other rate increase to my constituents. I am also concerned that the risk assess- ments for the Cape and Islands are incorrect. I understand that the rates in my district are higher because of the potential for hurricanes and coastal flooding, however other meteorological events that appear to contribute to our rates are inappropriately applied. Due to maritime influences and the class of soil found in my district, we are not sus- ceptible in the same way as the rest of the state to thunderstorms, tornadoes, widespread rainfall and subsequent flooding or ice storms. I speak not just as someone who has lived on the Cape for over 30 years to witness the lack of these events, but also as a successful entrepreneur whose entire business is dictated by meteorological events. Data supports Cape and Islands rates to include hurricane and coastal flood- ing risks, but does not support the risk inclusion of other meteorological events. However, it appears that these events are also factored into our risk assessment. This is not a reflection of our actual risk and I believe is falsely contributing to our high rates. I also question the impact of the reinsurance market on our rates and the role they play in this rate increase proposal. Lack of clear information about the role of the reinsurance market reinforces the need for clearer and more transparent information for ratepayers about how their rates are determined and why this rate increase is necessary. Lastly, looking at historical loss ra- tios, it is hard to make sense of the rate structure from the Cape and Islands perspective. Over the years, my district has had a relatively low amount of claims paid out but consistently high premiums. In fact, more recently, the private insurance market started writing policies in my district agaim. suggesting that there is potential for significant profits to be made, below current FAIR plan rates. In summary, I believe that with the actual exposure of the Cape and Islands, a lack of transpar- ency in the rate structuring to suggest otherwise, and additional competition in the market, all point to a rate de- crease being a more appropriate and competitive recommendation for the FAIR plan and not a rate increase. Thank you for your attention to this most important matter for the Cape and Islands and for the entire com- monwealth. Dan Wolf North Harwich HASTE YE BACK Editors, Vineyard Gazette: The Scottish Society of Martha's Vineyard would like to thank all those who helped to make our annual Robert Burns Dinner such a success. We'd especially like to thank those who contributed to our scholarship fund auction and raffle. Thanks to the Harbor View for a great meal, chef Shawn Sells for delicious Al- len Farm haggis, Jack Wildauer for his awesome sound system andTrip Barnes, auctioneer, for again humorously sepa- rating us Scots from our money, no easy feat. See you all next year. Steve Ewing Edgartown Does America Have Nevada Envy? Bet on It HE NEXT EPISODE OF THAT REALITY TV SHOW known as The GOP Bumper-Car Presiden- tial Campaign is this Saturday; Feb. 4 -- the Nevada primary. So we have to ask: Is Ne- vada more like America? They said Iowa was, but then it was too white. They said New Hampshire was, but then it was too Yankee. They said South Carolina was, but then it was too Southern. They said Florida was, but then it was too Hispanic -- or too Jewish. Nevada's demographics are changing. Up until the economy hit the fan, it had undergorie a tremendous population surge-- up tenfoldin 50 years.A genera- tion ago, they'd say you could take all the people in Nevada and put them in hotels in New York city. Today, you would need to clear everyone out of Brooklyn. But Nevada is more like America. After all, just about every other state wants to be Nevada. For raising needed funds without raising taxes, state legislatures are answering the siren's call -- legal- ize gambling! It's morning in Gomorrah. Gambling, that's the answer. Let's turn the clock back so that the future is behind us. Let's escape from the rigors of responsibility and pretend we're living in the old Wild West. Back when rules only existed for poker. Back when bullets settled everything. Back when men were young and dead and women were marms and tarts. Open casinos in every state and then you don't need more taxes. We are all Nevadans now. By ARNIE REISMAN What happens in Vegas goes everywhere. But wasn't there once talk about sin and degradation -- and gambling falling in there somewhere? Or was that just a subtext in The Music Man? How can gambling be sweeping the nation, a nation of evangelicals and fundamentalists? Oh, that's right -- they're not paying attention because they're too busy voting for Newt Gingrich. Does anyone do the research? Does anyone un- derstand the full effects of legalized gambling? Are states really going to be supporting themselves with casinos? Show me positive results and I'll drink my sarsaparilla in silence. Maybe gambling is just the Native American way of retaliation. The casino gods must be vengeful. Gambling has only helped to destroy people along with the moral fabric of the country. Gambling puts people in debt, breaks human spirits and creates more problems for our courts and medical profession. I'm betting more addictive gamblers enter our health care system than folks suffering from the burdens of taxation. Gambling does not keep a state financially afloat, it sinks it. But, of course, mostly we hear the word gaming, not gambling. Gaming makes it sound better, makes it sound almost moral or idyllic, like it involves elks and pheasants frolicking peacefully on grassy green meadows.They'd be gar0boling, not gambling. It's like picturing yourself rolling dice in slow motion on some velvety green table in some elegant country club. In my state -- the Commonwealth of Massachu- setts -- they recently outlawed dog racing because they decided this betting sport was harmful to the health of dogs. So now we're going to have casinos because who cares if people get mined? It's their own damn fault. . Just ask any libertarian! Taxation is more destructive anyway. Isn't that the message? Why pay taxes? It only encourages the bastards. Why have a federal govern- ment that just interferes with your life and spends your money? Look at Greece. Up to their ears in debt and unemployment and they're still getting by. Let's just spend what we already have. And if we've already done that, then let's wait for all that corporate goodness to trickle down. Should I get an umbrella yet? Taxes are so Sept. 10. Like ethics and credibility. Like regulation. Like enforcement of regulation. So if we can opt for gambling to get us out of our tax problem, what will we use to alter our perception of unemployment? Wait, I have it. How about more reality TV? That's as addictive as gambling. How about a game show where the jobless come to compete for the one great job unfilled in each city? It can be hosted by Donald Trump. We can call it American Idle. Arnie Reisman lives in Vineyard Haven. He and and his wife, Paula Lyons, regularly appear on the weekly NPR comedy quiz show, Says You/Thispiece was first published in the Huffington Post on Jan. 30. It appears here with permission. THE GAZETTE CHRONICLE I Bon Voyage, Malvina B. From Gazette editions of February, 1937: With the sale of Capt. Isaac Norton's fast schooner, Malvina B., less than at year since the B.T. Hillman, Capt. Horace Hillman, gave her parting salute to her home port, Edgartown's schooner fleet has only two representatives, the Liberty, Capt. Claude Wagner, and the Hazel M. Jackson, Capt. Robert L. Jackson. Youngest of the fleet, the Malvina B. first entered Edgartown harbor April 1,1930, after a speedy trip of twenty hours fr0ra Damariscotta, Me., where she was built by J. D. Morse. She can pack down 55,000 pounds of fish and is a beautiful craft with fine lines, though of sturdy constructi0n. "Even the gulls can't take it any- more." So says Cap'n Everett Po01e of Menemsha Creek, as he sits in his lookout window, observing the activities of the flocks of sea gulls that swoop over the village and harbor. The gulls have developed peculiar habits. They either can't stand the cold or have discovered that such hardship is entirely unneces- sary. When they develop a case of chill- blains or simple cold feet, they perch on an open chimney top until they have become warmed through and through. Sizing up the weather and casting a keen glance to windward, a gull will take off and select a chimney that seems to suit his purpose; he will settle on it, resting his feet on the warm bricks and ever and anon turning his body, so that his chest and tail feathers receive equal benefits. There are coal, wood and oil burners at Menemsha. Some of the gulls' breasts are dark with hickory smoke. They will roost only on a wood-burning house chimney. Others prefer the coal and are believed to become slightly intoxicated by the gas. One elderly man, famed for his truthfulness, says that he has seen gulls with the hicccoughs after roosting, and that occasionally they will descend to earth and walk with a pronounced stagger and a heavy list to port. But the adherents of the oil burners have evinced the strongest signs of intel- ligence.These birds have discovered the source of the heat, kerosene, and there- fore have reasoned that where there is kerosene there must be warmth.A gull was seen roosting on a kerosene tank a few days ago and the bird revealed s6glls of irritation when its feet failed tOCttmcome wama. Itpecked on tho tank and attempted to turn the faucet with its beak. The old, reliable, one-legged gull that has lived in Menemsha for years was seen to pick up a match and try to scratch it and ignite a can of kerosene that had been left standing by the side of the road. Only the fact that the match had already been lighted prevented the bird from carrying out its purpose. And Menemsha people are very careful these days to leave no unlighted matches where the gulls can reach them. No one yet knows, apparently, whether the eelgrass will come back. Until five years ago there seemed limitless mead- ows of the trading green grass along our shores; one could see the grass floating in the sunlight at low tide, and storms brought up great windrows of it to be col- lected by farmers for various use Then, all at once, the eelgrass disappeared, and all the marine life which it used to shelter had to move on. Shore birds which used to feed on the eelgrass were sore af- flicted. Why the present epidemic, almost world wide, would have ocurred remains mysterious, Meantime, the United States Biological Survey has made transplant- ings from the Pacific to the Atlantic. We should like to see such transplanting tried in the waters of the Vineyard, for a return of eelgrass would be a boon to scallop fishermen and to many wild fowl. But what an amazing drama this is which has been enacted beneath the tides, and how far its effects have been felt! More than once we have remarked upon the benighted condition of certain cooks on the mainland who use toma- toes and carrots in making clam chow- der.As if a real clam chowder could be made in any such way! Vegetable soup is what it is, with a few pathetically naked clams floating around in it. Now we read a recipe for dam chow- der which lists as ingredients salt pork, potatoes, onions, canned tomatoes, and then  wonder of wonders -=- cooked elbow macaroni! This is mixing things up with a vengeance. Since when did the Italian influence get to work on the American institution of clam chowder? We grieve over these cans of tomatoes and this macaroni. But then the recipe goes on to specify cherrystone clams! It does not have clams -- it has quahaugs. We have a high opionion of quahaug chowder when properly prepared, not made with cherrystones, which are too deli- cious to be eaten any way but raw. Imagine cooking a cherrystone! Every connoisseur on earth will agree with us that the gentler flavor of the clam is better than the flavor of the quahaug, although each is good in its place. But what a high crime to confuse the twol Plainly, one thing wrong with our coun- try is the inability to cook seafood prop- erly, and to know the difference between dams and quahaugs. Why not have some agency send representatives from every city in the country to the Vineyard to get at the true inwardness of this vital matter. Compiled by Cynthia Meisner library@mvgazette.com