with permission, MV Times, Letters to the Editor

Let the voters say

To the Editor:

The events of this past week affecting our proposal for a place for the performing arts at the Aquinnah Circle leave the effort diverted but not derailed, delayed but not destroyed. There was a successful effort by several residents, some of whom are voters, to co-opt the process via raw political power rationalized by some spurious semantic feints. The pity is, in a turn of events sometimes acrimonious, occasionally hysterical, the will of the voters remains unknown. In that fact, these opponents may have mis-served their own cause.

My purpose here is not to advocate our concept as much as to highlight the failures of process we all experienced. Indeed, our proposal seeks only to benefit the larger group of townspeople: if it is not the will of the voters to embrace our offer, so be it. With that will unknowable, given the lack of good faith displayed in the manner this was handled, the question remains open, serving no one. This minority group has fallen into the trap of allowing their zealotry to overshadow all reason and due process. It is an ethical truism that ends do not justify the means. Perhaps they took the path they did out of desperation, out of fear of the truth. The only fact left knowable is that such truth remains unknown, begging for the light of day.

The argument against the effort revolves mostly about the desire for stasis. Admittedly, it threatens the status quo. But it does so to achieve an arguably larger good for the arts, for the economy of the poorest town in the Commonwealth, for the sharing of the cultures we all embrace. This is the choice we still believe only the voters are empowered to make. At times, we all have felt the desire to be the last person off the boat. But this is a cynical expression of negativity that defies logic, courtesy or propriety. Why not let the voters speak their mind?

Most of all, my partner, Ted Cammann, and myself want to thank all those who take heed of the merits that all but a very few will admit may accrue to our idea and assume a positive perspective – positive not necessarily in favor our proposal, but positive for our future in their persistent attempts to find common ground to bring the most benefit to the greater part of our community. Those indeed are the ones our children should look up to and seek to emulate.

Jim Glavin
Circle Productions LLC

It’s not Aquinnah

To the Editor:

This is a copy of a letter to the Aquinnah selectmen.

This letter is in vigorous opposition to the proposal of Circle Productions to create a seasonal venue for the holding of concerts and other events in the circle at the cliffs. We, 31 undersigned residents of Aquinnah, request that this letter be read into the public record at the public hearing to be held on this matter, April 30, or whenever held.

As we all know, Aquinnah is an unusual place. Indeed, even Wikipedia, the world wide web’s encyclopedia, states that Aquinnah “is known for its beautiful clay cliffs and its quiet natural serenity, which has become less common in the heavily populated northeastern United States.” Thus, we agree with the opening statement of the group seeking to promote such concerts.

In their proposal, they state that the townspeople of Aquinnah, are “blessed with a very special and unique place.” That statement is right on the money (so to speak). It is, in fact, the essence of why we all want to be here.

We also agree with the promoters that the uniqueness of Aquinnah and of the cliffs makes it a particularly attractive venue for concerts or for other public gatherings. But the issue here is not whether Aquinnah is a good place for concerts. The issue is whether concerts are good for Aquinnah.

The congestion, the traffic, the pollution, the litter and, above all, the loud amplified sound emanating from the proposed stage and echoing into the landscape and into our homes are not in keeping with the nature and identity of this community. No amount of fine tuning of the proposal, no amount of tinkering with the terms and conditions of the proposed lease, no amount of negotiation with the promoters is going to solve this fundamental inconsistency. No matter how well run and organized, an ongoing series of concerts at the circle is in direct conflict with the uniqueness of our town and with our “quiet natural serenity.”

On a personal level, we wish to say that all of us reside in Aquinnah because we love the openness and texture of the landscape, the sound of the surf hitting the beach, the crickets at night, the wind in the trees, the solitude and privacy, and the friendship of our neighbors. For us, there is no place else on earth like this.

We do not reside in Aquinnah to fight with, to listen to, or to watch traffic and to breathe its exhaust, or to admire the many cars parking up and down Moshup Trail, or to have electronically amplified sound keep our children awake at night while blotting out the sounds of nature. We can get that in other places. We come here, to the far end of an Island in the middle of the ocean, for a different reason.

As for congestion, the promoters admit as much in their proposal. They say, “these events will attract visitors who may not otherwise have ventured into the woolly westernmost wilds of our Island….” But, as a town, haven’t we tried very hard to keep things “woolly and wild?” Why would bringing hundreds or thousands of people to Aquinnah on a regular basis be attractive to the town?

To the promoters, the reason is to increase commerce. Their proposal states that bringing visitors would “create an opportunity for the more established businesses to increase their exposure, not only on the day of the event; but by instilling their offerings in the minds of these sometime visitors….” In this way, the proposal continues, these visitors would be “likely to return at another time.” In plain English, bringing more visitors now means even more visitors later, and not just on weekends.

And where does bringing more and more visitors to Aquinnah all end? What is the ultimate effect on the town? To what degree will this change the nature of this place? The promoters address this issue as well. They state: “It is impossible for us to conjure a certain vision of where this proposal will lead after a number of years.” Yes, indeed.

Is increasing the circle’s commercial use in the Aquinnah residents’ best interests? Is such commercial expansion part of our town’s long-term plan? To be absurd, we could conceivably put a strip mall at the top of the circle and have a mini-Woodstock every weekend. But how less absurd is it – no matter the degree of commercialization – to act contrary to and to defeat the very reason we all reside here?

The promoters, it appears, seek to establish a kind of outdoor Hot Tin Roof in the heart of our community, one where we can hear the music from our houses without having to pay for admission.

How many of our fellow townspeople are delighted that they don’t live down-island – with all its traffic – during the summer? ¬†How many of us seek a decrease in the value of our homes, because Aquinnah’s identity as a safe, quiet and unique haven is threatened and up for sale? Is the dignity of the Vanderhoop homestead for sale? How much are the spectacular and commanding views of Philbin Beach and Nomans Land worth?

The promoters state that Aquinnah “offers us all an opportunity and a responsibility in the privilege to designate its use.” We submit that their proposal is an inappropriate use and, given our town’s uniqueness, it is irresponsible as well.

The promoters state that their “proposal has no merit if it fails to bring us together as neighbors in pursuit of the greater good….” We agree. By bringing an activity to Aquinnah that is alien to its identity, to its nature, and to our reasons for being here, this proposal will surely fail to bring the people of Aquinnah together as neighbors. Nor does the proposal promote the greater good; it will, instead, tend toward destroying it. Judged, then, even by the promoters’ own terms, the proposal has no merit.

Respectfully submitted.

Rob Schiller, Sue Jensen, Tom Murphy, Christine Murphy, Tim Murphy, Kate Murphy, Jim Vercruysee, Layne Vercruysee, Steven Kaufman, Barrie Keller, Joseph Corbo, Faith Corbo, Ron Lowe, Cindy Lowe, John Patton, Lisa Donahue, Kristin Mannion, H.P. Goldfield, Catherine Vickery, David Vickery, Barbara Okun, Cheryl Batzer, Gary Foster, Lisa Foster, Clyde Phillips, Jane Lancelotti, Sarah Thulin, Dennis Thulin, Jay Theise, Beth Green, Jerry Green