Rumor Control

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.

My campaign manager

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.

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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11 Responses to Rumor Control

  1. helen green says:

    I’m voting for you Susanna. Fellow West Tisbuyrite/Tisburyian whatever…


  2. susan robinson says:

    Good move, it fits you. And with your superior campaign manager, you’ll surely be elected!


  3. jo says:

    it sounds to me as if you are motivated by the best of reasons—you feel you must do something, not so much that you really want to be a commissioner. how long is the term? even if it does prove to be a huge time-suck with minimal returns, it can at least supply material for your next novel.


    • Terms are two years. A current commissioner told me many people don’t realize how “time-consuming and thankless” the job is, but I pretty much take that for granted about any kind of public activity, elective or not. I’m drowning in novel material — in the last couple of years the island seems to have turned into a parody of itself, or maybe I just noticed once I got out of horses? On the useless scale, however, writing another novel ranks way higher than running for the MVC, which is one reason I’m doing the latter instead of the former.


  4. Hal Davis says:

    Keep us posted. What do you neighbors say?


    • I told one of my neighbors last night. He works for the county housing authority and is also my landlord, so I figured he better find out firsthand what his wacky tenant was up to now. I think he was pleased. In general, reaction has been positive but surprised, along the lines of “Are you effing nuts? You want to go to more of those meetings?”


      • Hal Davis says:

        I’m of two minds. I hate meetings at work. But, as a citizen, I’m a dull-meeting fan. I love C-SPAN. You would certainly enliven things, if you bring to MV meetings the same verve you displayed at WisCon panels.


      • Hal, we’ve got our own C-SPAN: MVTV, the community access cable station, videos most major meetings, and they’re available “on demand.” (My idea of purgatory is having to watch on-screen a meeting I sat through in person. ) IMO, a big problem is that people who go to a lot of meetings tend to turn into meeting junkies: meetings become an end in themselves, they aren’t very well run, and the meeting junkies think that everyone who doesn’t go to meetings and public hearings is apathetic. I’m not a fan of term limits, but a 12-step program for meeting junkies might be a good idea. They’d love it — wow, another meeting! — until their sponsor told them to shut up and listen till they had something to say. 🙂


      • Hal Davis says:

        “listen till they had something to say. :-)”

        If it’s “something *substantive* to say,” the meetings would be over in no time.


  5. Nanci Dator says:

    Good for you, Susanna. Go for it. I think you have a lot to contribute.


    • Thanks, Nanci. 🙂 I think so too — but I also wonder if it’d be a huge expenditure of energy for not much result, and it would also make a big difference if some other new blood were elected.


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