One month to the day after I picked up the instructions and a blank petition (see “Rumor Control” for the backstory), I filed my nomination papers to run for the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC). This required a trip to Town Hall. The town clerk doesn’t come in on Thursday, but her assistant skimmed my petition and duly stamped it at the top with Thursday’s date.
It’s not due till July 31, and since the 10 signatures required seemed ridiculously low, I filled all the blank spaces, for a total of 29 bona fide if barely legible signatures of West Tisbury voters. There would have been 30, but I had to cross out the nice fellow from Chilmark who didn’t realize that my petition was for West Tisbury voters only. Candidates can collect signatures from any town, but each town’s voters have to be OKed by their own town clerk. So it’s easiest to get them all in one town.
Collecting signatures, it turns out, was the easy part about getting myself duly nominated. Along with your 10 signatures, you have to present a receipt certifying that you’ve filed the Statement of Financial Interests (SFI) required by the State Ethics Commission. Yeow! Being an editor by trade and a writer by avocation, I expect that with some effort I will be able to decipher most documents written in English. The SFI totally buffaloed me. It buffaloed me worse than anything I’ve tried to read since the last time I tried to read the instructions for Form 1040, and that was a long time ago: the tax forms are easier to fill out if you don’t read the instructions.
The SFI is written in a legal/financial dialect that I’m barely acquainted with, so filling it out took several days of hair-tearing and procrastination. Fortunately my sister not only has an MBA, she’s been a selectman and a school committee member in her (off-island) town and she’s even run for state rep. The State Ethics Commission was also very helpful. Clearly they’re used to dealing with buffaloed newbie candidates.
Yes, disclosure of financial interests by various candidates and elected and appointed officials is important, but don’t other unsuspecting candidates find the SFI intimidating? The real high-stakes players, the ones with financial interests hefty enough to influence their politicking, almost surely have lawyers and accountants working overtime to make those interests look as innocuous as possible — and, of course, to tell them how to fill out the SFI.
My “investments” aren’t likely to influence any vote I make if I’m elected to the MVC, mainly because until I filled out the SFI I didn’t know what they were. In late 2009, the house I grew up in was sold, and I, along with my three siblings, each wound up with a chunk of money that was a little too big to stuff under the mattress or put in a savings account. So I marched myself down to Martha’s Vineyard Financial Group, which is affiliated with my bank, and asked if they could do something with this money that would help me ward off destitution as an old person — and maybe even allow me to edit less and write more?
So as of the end of 2011 (the period stipulated by the SFI) these were my financial interests:
I’m a chronic tenant and consider myself landless, but this is not quite true. My parents dragged me to the Vineyard in 1965, when I was 14. I bugged out as soon as I could, but my father loved the place. In the early 1970s he bought four acres of land on Thumb Point, Tisbury Great Pond, and built an old-style summer camp there — for, IIRC, a total of $45,000.
After I became a city girl, in 1969, the Vineyard started to grow on me. In what may have been the biggest mistake of my life — I won’t know for sure till after I’m dead — I moved here year-round in 1985. The family camp, being unwinterized, unelectrified, and down two miles of rough dirt road, gradually moved to the peripheries of my psychic map.
In the early 1990s, my father created the Sturgis Family Trust. He was the trustee, my siblings and I the beneficiaries, and the pond camp the trust’s sole possession. My father died in 2008. My sibs and I are, in effect, the owners of the pond camp. I hardly ever think about the pond camp, but the SFI said I had to deal with it. Fair enough: the pond camp was pretty much the only financial interest I had that might possibly be relevant to a Martha’s Vineyard Commissioner.
Well, it took a consultation with my sister and a couple of calls to the State Ethics Commission, but this is what I came up with:
If you catch me making a sleazy vote against eutrophication of Tisbury Great Pond, that might be the financial interest behind it. Or maybe not.
Finally I got to the end and swore that I’d done my best to come up with the required information and it was all true to the best of my knowledge. Whew. I collected my signatures and took them and the coveted and utterly necessary receipt down to the town clerk’s office on Thursday.
I am, indeed, a candidate for the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
And you know what? Yesterday morning I woke up to the news that commissioner Lenny Jason had announced his intention to file a motion to rescind the roundabout vote at the next MVC meeting, on June 21. Yesterday was my 61st birthday. It’s an omen. I’m on the right track.