The rumor you haven’t heard is true: This afternoon I took out nomination papers to run for the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) in the November election. By the end of the day I’d also registered with the State Ethics Commission, a prelude to filing the statement of financial interests that is required of any candidate for public office, and also of all public officials and “designated public employees,” which seems to mean those in major policy-making positions.
There are plenty of hoops to jump through, but the bottom line is that only 10 certified signatures of registered voters are required to get on the ballot. Since signatures have to be certified by the clerk of the voter’s town, it’s easiest to obtain all the signatures in one town, ideally one’s own. I do not anticipate that this will be difficult.
MVC seats are not exactly hotly contested, but the selection criteria complicate matters somewhat. The MVC has 21 members. Five are appointed by the governor; of these five, only one can vote, and these five are rarely seen at meetings. One is appointed by the board of selectmen in each of the island’s six towns, and one is appointed by the county. The other nine are elected by island voters, but each town must be represented by at least one commissioner and no town can be represented by more than two. This means that the #3 vote-getter from a particular town loses even if s/he outpolls candidates from other towns.
West Tisbury, being a civic-minded town, often fields more candidates than can be elected. Of the town’s two current elected commissioners, one is a longtimer with major name recognition: pretty much unbeatable if she decides to run again. The other, though, is a relative newcomer who voted for the roundabout every chance he got. Since the island electorate is running close to 75% against the roundabout, this makes him vulnerable. In addition, I’ve heard tell of at least one other person who’s taken out nomination papers in my town, and since the filing deadline isn’t till July 31, there may be more.
So why am I running for the Martha’s Vineyard Commission? Or, more accurately, why am I seriously considering running for the Martha’s Vineyard Commission? I attended a bunch of MVC meetings and hearings last year in connection with the roundabout. Despite some bright spots, I wasn’t impressed with the quality of the discussion. The more I learned about what happened, or rather didn’t happen, in the years leading up to those meetings, the angrier I got. Did no one on the MVC notice that the MVC staff was running the show? The tail was wagging the dog and the dog didn’t bark?
Well, when I stopped sputtering, I had to admit that I’m possessed of some skills that might be useful to the MVC. I can do research, I can process information, I can (if I work at it) see both the big picture and the pesky details at the same time. I can listen. I’m not afraid to speak. I’m also a renter, a constituency underrepresented on just about every elected body on Martha’s Vineyard.
“If not me, who?” is what it comes down to. We’ll see what happens next.