The Trumpizing of Nantucket Politics

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The Trumpizing of Nantucket Politics
Donald Trump

What sets Nantucket apart from America is the way we come together as a community. Where else can you drive down the street and get a hand cramp from waving at your friends? Where else can you go into a store and know most of the people in there? Where else can you find such support for people suffering from illness, loss, dire circumstances that need a helping hand and a fund raiser is put on in a blink of an eye?

Unfortunately, it would appear that the politics of Trump have crept into Nantucket politics. We have watched for months a “politician” on the national stage repeatedly trumpeting, pun intended, his ego, while denigrating women, minorities, religious groups and anyone that does not agree with him. He is going to make “American great again”.

America is already great. Nantucket is already great. No one is the “second coming”, not Trump, and not anyone running for the HDC. Nothing trumps, pun intended again, honesty, hard work, dedication and commitment, not to mention experience.

This toxic political environment has infected Nantucket politics over the past few weeks to an extreme degree, a sad state of affairs. We were told as kids and we tell our children not to bully, call people names, disrespect people who are different from themselves, or be prejudiced. It is hard to explain to our kids why a presidential candidate on TV every minute of the day is allowed to do that “bad and mean stuff” when they are told that it is not acceptable.

It is equally hard to tell my sons why they got something in the mail that trashes their mother. It is a painful thing. This type of political smear campaign should be abhorrent to all of us here. Those of us running for office have families that are negatively impacted by these tactics.

It is unacceptable that two HDC candidates have thought it appropriate to continue with negative, mean-spirited misrepresentation of facts just to get a seat on the HDC. This shows their low standards and lack of integrity. Have we gotten so infected with the vitriol from the current presidential campaign that it has become acceptable here even for a race for HDC? We should all be ashamed if this is the type of politics we want here on Nantucket.

Over the years we have seen baseless accusations hurled at various candidates, myself in particular, at the last minute, opponents knowingly eliminating our chance to defend or set the record straight with the our local newspaper already printed and no way to respond. In 33 years in town politics and 43 years here year-round, I have never seen this extreme a reprehensible tactic that most of us were subjected to over the past 48 hours.

In your boxes was a trifold mailer that mispresented the facts, contained outright falsehoods and attacked me specifically and personally, a candidate (incumbent) for the HDC. Why do they need to do that to get elected? They cannot run on their records, only on how long their families have been here, or misleading statements that have nothing to do with the HDC. They even added a throw-a-way comment at the bottom of the mailer that referenced my own personal hardship that has nothing to do with the HDC and that was cleared by the Ethics Commission.  I had yet another conversation today with the Ethics Commission about my concerns about how to respond to this attack.  Attack ads are all the rage in America; they should not be tolerated here on Nantucket and done in such a way that the person attacked has no options to respond deliberately. That is smarmy to say the least.

In addition, the I & M also sunk to a level of attack seldom seen in what is supposed to be a reputable publication. We have seen, to some minor degree, such denigrating comments made by the paper in the past but they outdid themselves this time in the April 7th edition, sinking to personal attacks that should be below their journalistic ethics. The paper has the perfect right to endorse whomever they please for whatever reason. It is what it is. No one should set their personal worth by whether you get endorsed or not. But it would appear that the paper did not have the courage of their own convictions, when to justify questionable, tepid endorsements for HDC, they felt the need to harshly attack me, a dedicated public servant for 33 years as if I was yesterday’s trash. That should not be tolerated by us.

When the country and this community are exhausted and so beaten down by the meanness in politics this year to rage and fight against it, we all need to stop and take a minute to breathe and decide if this is the tenor of what we want in our local (or national) politics.  Those who resorted to tearing down and disrespecting another candidate to get elected with negative and baseless attack ads should be ashamed of dragging our community into the mud with the presidential candidates. In my book, this will never be acceptable and I will never resort to it.

I thought long and hard about responding to these attacks, but was encouraged by the community to do this and was thankful for the great support I received the past few days and particularly the anger expressed about the situation on my behalf. Many said they threw the mailer out and refused to even read it when they saw it was Mr. Wagley. I will always try to do my best for you and protect the island my grandparents came to almost 90 years ago. They taught me to give back to the community I lived in and I will continue to do so.

Make it clear that you do not want that type of political vitriol here. Go to the polls and vote on Tuesday and in the fall and make a choice you can feel good about. No matter whom you vote for this Tuesday or in the fall have the courage of your convictions and GO VOTE.

For the record, let me just correct these factual errors in the mailing by Mr. Wagley and promoted by Ms. Camp:      

1.         Bottom of first page: Barely veiled innuendo that I was in violation about a personal fund raising effort months ago. I was in constant contact with the Ethics Commission. Initially, they said it was okay. Trying to eliminate conflicts of interest I created a potential one. I asked donors to contribute anonymously as I sit on regulatory boards. The issue was solely related to “as I sit on regulator boards”. After over a week, it was agreed that we needed to start over for safety’s sake and take that phrase out. The money was returned and people could re-donate. I have no contact with the site and someone else is managing it.

2.         Freeing up frozen seats:  Doing a great job, vote for them; doing a bad job vote them out. Out of 8 HDC members, 5 are new over the past 3 years, new energy and new insights. Mr. Wagley is advocating removing any institutional knowledge/experience for the sake of removing them. Is this what you want? The vote against term limits on Monday was resounding, @2-1. Neither candidate has the best interests of the HDC and the public at heart.

3.         How long was I chairman:  Time has flown on the HDC for me over nearly 20 years. I may be incorrect as to how long I have been chairman. I thought it was only for one full year as I was for a short time 2 years ago. I was chairman for about 4 months in early 2014 I believe when asked by David Barham and Kevin Kuester to be chairman with a political attack coming against the HDC that they felt I was best suited to defend, then they voted me out again once done. There was no attempt to mislead. I apologize for an honest mistake.

4.         Marginalizing “professional” staff: Under the contract with the BOS and Planning Commission that created PLUS, administration has sole authority to direct HDC staff and all others under PLUS and made the decision to change staffing at our meetings for good reason.

5.         Under Robert’s Rules, chairmen sets agendas:  As on all boards. I review all files to set the agenda and create consent sections. In that pursuit, incomplete applications, missing items, etc. are fixed before the HDC wastes time at meetings.  There have been no constructive grants, missing items from agendas, applications are moving through quickly, views are done in a timely manner and up to 50 items put on the consent agendas weekly. Meeting prep is due to excellent job by John Hedden in charge of files/contact with public prior to meetings.

6.         The Builders Association:  Is very angry about Mr. Wagley’s misuse of their data that is two years old and not relevant. He was told by a board member that things were going much better and to call two other members of the Board for more specifics, which he did not as he would be told information that was counter to what he wanted to hear. The Board has sent out blast emails to their several hundred members expressing anger over Mr. Wagley’s trifold and his newspaper ad. He never talked to PLUS admin who would have enlighten him, rather he talked to a disgruntled staff member. Admittedly, in 2014, some of the staff was highly resistant to the change and created difficulties, HDC staff included.  Once rectified, things began to improve rapidly, with more support staff to assist in the HDC process as time went on.

7.         Chaotic meetings:  How often has Mr. Wagley came to a meeting?  I run a tight ship. Does it go awry at times? sure. Sometimes it gets heated, we argue, that causes good debate, good results and better consistent design. It is a daunting task with over 100 applications at times a night. I am a forthright, direct, no games person. My style can be hard to take. This is not your grandfather’s HDC anymore being faced with complicated projects, a building boom and changes to historic structures unlike never before. Admittedly some members, not myself, were acting outside of HDC jurisdiction then. That issue was rectified with new understandings and assistance by Town Counsel/PLUS admin.

8.         Improvement in two years:  PLUS department users state customer service, speed, attention etc. are greatly improved. It helps the HDC process greatly. There is accountability for staff actions/ inactions when there was none prior to PLUS. High performance standards are demanded. Due to PLUS administration, inspections are done weekly not taking up to three months as before.

9.         Number of items for HDC review:  Reduced significantly since the consent agendas have expanded under my chairmanship. Review of applications is part of setting the agenda and not previously done adequately by staff.  Little was on consent, some items were not appropriate. No Thursday meetings as a result of the expanded consent agenda. The public /Commissioners are able to review files ahead of time and some do. I like to be prepared and able to explain applications to focus discussion. Our staff did not/does not review  and render staff reports.

10.       As of 2007, the control of our staff, and several other staffs, passed by charter change at ATM to Town Administration. Perhaps Mr. Wagley missed that. We do not control HDC staff.

11.       HDC budget:  With PLUS, all of our budgets are combined with shared staff, office supplies, etc.  saving the town money. Mr. Wagley should have done his homework. Unless you have a special account, fees go into the general fund and have always done so historically.

12.       BOS memo: The BOS has no authority to demand adherence from any other elected board or commission nor tell PLUS admin what to do with staffing under the contract. The HDC discussed and voted unanimously to send a reply to the BOS. It was not ignored.

13.       No changes over the past two years: Shows ignorance of the office and HDC currently. HDC office is running better but needs to continue improving - revamping the State Act, application process, submission requirements etc. with full support from PLUS admin.  A consultant will be hired with CPC funding to redo Building With Nantucket In Mind.  The HDC has held organizational meetings over the past 4-5 years resulting in several proposals. Review indicates nothing was advanced by that staff until now with PLUS admin and John Hedden’s support.

14.       HDC does not need to be rescued by Mr. Wagley or Ms. Camp: The HDC needs to be protected and supported for better or worse. Neither candidate has done anything to further the well-being of the HDC, nor has either stated how they would improve it.  HDC is moving in the right direction - forward. Misrepresenting the state of the Builders Association survey, HDC process and staff to make themselves look good, is a political tactic we should not tolerate. The HDC is a pain in the butt but a necessary process to keep Nantucket special into the future. 

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