Is change possible? Certainly.

This week we explore the impact on our lives of something we experience every day on Nantucket: Uncertainty.  As you know, our organization was founded around the idea of reversing the erosion of quality-of-life on Nantucket. But what exactly does that mean? Often when we talk about quality-of-life issues, we are zeroing in on those things that make living on Nantucket worthwhile and the first things that go missing when longstanding islanders decide to leave. (A few notable neighbors have done just that lately which was the spark for this note.)

Your list of quality-of-life issues may be different than someone else’s. But there are a few things we can all agree on — whether tangible or intangible — that are worth protecting and re-building. 

Tangible: Water quality that makes boating, fishing, clamming and scalloping possible and enjoyable, the ability to move about and conduct our business or leisure freely, open spaces for people to enjoy.  

Intangible: A sense of community and belonging, peace of mind, a feeling that the island we once fell in love with is still here in some form or another, and a sense of place.

When quality-of-life begins to erode, however, that’s when life on an island 26 miles out at sea becomes so uncertain that it is difficult to bear. In many ways, Nantucket has always been “Uncertainty Island.” There are the little uncertainties like guessing whether the boats will run or whether we can find a parking space or if there will be any kimchi at the Stop and Shop. And then there are the bigger uncertainties: Islanders who have to do the shuffle every year or two live with a crushing amount of uncertainty when it comes to housing. The sheer numbers of developments, cars, trucks, and boats mean we all face uncertain water quality and limits to our resources. And with the 53 citizens articles submitted for April’s Annual Town Meeting this year, it’s uncertain if voters and town government are actually in synch. [Note: Link contains a large document and will take some time to load]

The science of neuropsychology tells us that human beings are willing to put up with a lot of things. But past a certain point, uncertainty is not one of them. Uncertainty, in fact, resides in the same part of the brain as pain, so we react to it similarly. Small amounts of uncertainty are a nagging annoyance. Big ones are what we run away from. Suffice it to say that uncertainty is something that can cause a person or family to make a decision to give up and live somewhere else.

All of which means addressing quality of life, in many cases, is about dialing back uncertainty in people’s lives. If we address the tangible causes of uncertainty, the intangible quality of life issues — peace of mind, a sense of place — improve. 

A non-profit like ACK•Now cannot eliminate uncertainty from the island completely. The boats and planes are always going to be at the whim of the weather, and no one can predict when the first sweet corn will be picked at Bartlett’s. But we can take steps to address out-of-control spec development, the accessibility of housing, environmental impacts, and traffic. As well as help people to access town meeting more easily and brainstorm ways to help town government be more effective. What are some of the uncertainties you face every day that you would like to change? Reply to this email and let us know. Have a great Sunday.

Thoughts on what divides Nantucket and what brings us together

Nantucket is often a peculiar place. There is an imaginary, yet obvious, divide here among several kinds of people. 

The most often talked about is the division between people who were born on Nantucket (the natives) and those who were born somewhere else (the washashores). But it goes even deeper than that. There are some people who claim a higher level of local legitimacy because their island lineage goes back further than those who only have one or two generations hanging from their Nantucket family tree (as if they had anything to do with the choices their great, great, great, great grandparents made). 

There is a division between homeowners as well. Are you a summer person or year-round? Even year-rounders divide into groups. Do you disappear to Belize or Costa Rica in the bleak winter months? Or do you tough it out with the rest of us? 

Of course, there is the long-standing division between the wealthy and the poor here, but even that schism has gradients of distinction: the struggling, the working poor, the house poor, the middle class, the well-off, the millionaires and the billionaires. And there’s a line drawn among the Hispanic community, the Jamaican community, and the eastern European community.

Another distinction: do you have stable housing or do you have to do the shuffle every six or eight months? There are parents who send their kids to one of the two island private schools and those who prefer the public school system. There’s a division between those who work in construction, hospitality, real estate, or the non-profit sector. And there’s a split between the people who are involved in the town government and those who vote occasionally or not at all. 

And sometimes the divisions are hard to get your head around, like the pro-Nantucket-license-plate faction and the anti-Nantucket-license-plate coalition (who doesn’t approve of over $800,000 raised for island children’s charities?). 

It’s a little daunting thinking about all of the things that divide us as a community. In fact, this may be the crux of our problems and eroding quality-of-life we currently face. Our divisions harm our island in ways we can’t even quantify. 

To ACK•Now, none of the above distinctions really matter all that much. There’s only one litmus test that we care about when we look for supporters and allies and volunteers: 

Do you love Nantucket? 

Do you love the island enough to put away personal short-term gains in favor of a better, more secure future? Or do you care more about your own bottom line? Your piece of the pie? Or how you look on Instagram (you look marvelous by the way)?

Wash-ashore, native, rich, poor, nail-banger, push-raker, Bruins fan or Red Sox fan, whale pants or ripped jeans — if you love Nantucket, you’re our kind of people. And we want to hear from you. And here are a few ways you can get involved with us.

If we can all learn to put aside what divides us and concentrate on the love-of-community we have in common, we can engineer changes that will last for generations.  

Have a great Sunday.

Housing on Nantucket: The Basics.

Want to better understand the housing situation on Nantucket? Need a refresher on the kinds of housing the town and other non-profits are working to create? Do terms like the SHI list, 40Bs, HUD requirements and the legal definition of the word “affordable” make your head swim? Listen to this 27-minute recording with Tucker Holland, the Town’s Housing Director and Brooke Moore, Vice-Chair of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund recently made at WNCK, Nantucket’s NPR Station, 89.5 on the Town Talk show with Mellisa Murphy. The result will be 100% housing literacy.

ATM 2020 ACK•Now Citizens Articles.

Good morning, Islanders.

This is another in a series of weekly morning notes to our subscribers and friends of ACK•Now. Thank you so much for inviting us into your inbox. Today we will give you a preview of the warrant articles ACK•Now filed with the town last week.

ACK•Now, as an organization, has been up and running for just six weeks — not a lot of time. We still have not convened all of our workgroups as of this writing. But despite our status as a fledgling not-for-profit, we did make a conscious decision to add two articles to the town meeting warrant for April 2020. These were two articles that the organization’s leadership felt could make a meaningful impact on the quality of life of island residents.

With the short runway up to the citizens warrant articles deadline, we recognized that these may require some work and tweaking before ATM. But we feel they are a good step forward that underscores the mission and vision of the organization. The actual language of the articles is at the end of this post, for your convenience.

One: A phase-out of gas-powered leaf blowers by Dec 1, 2020.

This article is an attempt to solve two problems. The lesser of the two is the environmental impact of smaller two-stroke engines for both landscapers and the people around them. The second and larger problem is noise. With a growing population on the island, we all need to be more sensitive to the impact our activities have on the rest of the community. Loud hand-held machines like gas-powered leaf blowers represent an unnecessary intrusion into the peace and quiet of a beautiful island and are a health risk to those who must operate them — especially given that better technology currently exists. Battery-powered blowers are powerful, long-lasting and 10-35 dB(A) quieter. ACK•Now will work to help landscapers with outreach to customers about the benefits and potential bylaw change so that customers can understand why there may be a cost pass through.

Two: A pilot program to gather data on commercial deliveries.

Until there is a viable, legal and workable way to limit vehicles on Nantucket, the solution to our traffic and parking problems is a basic one: take turns and share. We can’t all use the roadways of the island at the same time and expect to get where we need to go when we want to get there. So we need to make it possible for some operators to use the road when others are not using it. And vice-versa. To that end, we have filed a warrant article with the town to develop a pilot program to study commercial vehicle deliveries and their impact on traffic and parking. The measure also proposes a shift in delivery times for the largest trucks. The idea here is to use technology to track deliveries and measure times, locations and the impact those deliveries have on traffic. We are currently looking at various tech vendors to capture that data and happily, there are several good options from which to choose. Bottom line: the data in this area is nearly non-existent and if we are going to make any progress in making downtown accessible for everyone, we need the data. (And we plan to share the data with everyone.) ACK•Now will fund the pilot program and work out the logistics between now and town meeting so that it is equitable to all. Plus we’ll be engaging with both businesses and delivery companies to make sure the ultimate solution is workable.

We did not expect everyone to embrace these measures right away, but the folks we have talked to have been supportive and enthusiastic. We welcome questions and comments. Check out the article language below.

And have a great Monday.

2020 Spring Town Meeting
Warrant Article
ACKNow, Inc.
November 2019

Article One

To see if the Town will vote to amend the Town of Nantucket Noise Bylaw in the following manner: Amend Section 101-2 of the Town’s Code of Bylaws to prohibit, on a Town-wide basis commencing on December 1, 2020, the use of gas-powered leaf blowers at all times of the day on all days of the year, by any commercial landscaper, commercial landscape company, or other entity engaged in the business of providing home and yard repair, clean-up, and maintenance services for a fee; or take any other action on the matter.

Explanation: Complaints regarding gas-powered leaf blowers by property owners and gardening contractors have been increasing as the use of these tools has also increased. The environmental impact of such gas-powered equipment has also become a growing concern. Finally, it appears that some local commercial landscaping companies have already adopted battery-powered leaf blowers as an effective alternative with much-reduced noise levels.

2020 Spring Town Meeting
Warrant Article
ACKNow, Inc.
November 2019

Article Two

To see if the Town will vote to direct the Select Board, as part of its administration of the Town’s public ways pursuant to Article 200 of the Town’s Code of Bylaws (the “Traffic Rules and Regulations”), to develop a pilot program between June 15, 2020, and September 15, 2020, for (a) tracking the level of compliance of certain Heavy Commercial Vehicles, as defined in the Traffic Rules and Regulations, with a vehicle body length exceeding twenty-one (21) feet (“Large HCVs”) with the Town’s Noise Bylaw; and (b) adjusting the hours of delivery by Large HCVs to the downtown core district to between 5:00 am to 10:00 am and 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm during such period for the purposes of reducing traffic congestion and gathering more granular data than is currently available on time of day, size and weight of vehicle, type of commercial use, and access locations of Large HCVs on the Town’s public ways within the downtown core district with the purpose of considering further regulation of the size of such vehicles permitted on said public ways (or a subset thereof), which public ways may be so accessed, in which areas, and during which hours; or take any other action on the matter.

Explanation: There has been a noticeable increase in commercial deliveries, especially from the largest heavy commercial vehicles, delivering in the downtown core district. ACKNow volunteers its time and resources working with the Town to put together the requisite analytical framework by collaborating with businesses and commercial delivery companies to put a pilot program in place for the summer of 2020, including adjusting delivery times for the largest heavy commercial vehicles in the downtown core district and identifying measurable factors that will determine the success of the pilot program and whether it should be permanently implemented. This pilot project is an opportunity to learn about one aspect of congestion and inform a long-term strategy to help alleviate commercial traffic in the island’s downtown core district.


Copyright © 2019 ACK•Now, All rights reserved.

The difference: Why ACK•Now is a 501(c)4, not a 501(c)3.

Good morning, Islanders.

This is the first in a series of weekly morning notes we will be sending our subscribers. Thank you so much for inviting us into your inbox. Today we thought we would give you some information on one of the things that sets ACK•Now apart.

One of the important distinctions between ACK•Now and other non-profits that the recent press coverage did not touch upon is a point key to the organization’s core beliefs — a difference that, for many, should make all the difference. We are a 501(c)(4) non-profit. And not a 501(c)(3).

So, what does this mean? First, it means we are organized to primarily promote public and social benefits. A garden variety 501(c)(3) can be an arts organization that caters only to people who love Strindberg, a church of any denomination, a private social club like the Wharf Rats, or a charity that addresses a specific need. But a public welfare non-profit — a 501(c)(4) — has to be run for the benefit of the many.

Some common examples of 501(c)(4) corporations include volunteer fire departments, Miss America and community service organizations like Rotary and Kiwanis clubs.

Here’s the definition from the IRS.gov web site:

To be tax-exempt as a social welfare organization described in Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 501(c)(4), an organization must not be organized for profit and must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare.

The word exclusively is important there. An organization like ACK•Now is not here to entertain the whims of a small group or focus on a pet project. We are organized to do good in a general sense for the general population of the island.

Another thing about being a 501(c)(4): it means a donation made to ACK•Now is not tax-deductible. In other words, people who give to a 501(c)(4) do so because they believe in the mission and the work being done and are definitely not doing it because they want to lower their tax liability.

And speaking of donations, as a 501(c)(4) we are obligated to file a form 990 with the IRS and disclose our donations. While some non-profits choose to redact the names of their donors, it is our policy to maintain full transparency and disclose the names of those who support us. We dislike the idea of dark money in politics as much as anyone.

Given the restrictions of being a 501(c)(4), one might ask why we did not decide to be a plain old 501(c)(3) instead. The answer is, that 501(c)(3) groups are limited by the IRS in how they can participate in the political process.

Being a 501(c)(4) means we are free to do the hard work necessary to make change happen. Like participate fully in town meetings and lobbying the statehouse. It means we can hire subject matter experts and legal counsel to push ideas forward. We can work with government. But we can also operate independently as long as we keep public benefit in mind.

Sure, there are downsides to being a 501(c)(4). There’s extra reporting. Compliance can be more complicated. And it’s somewhat harder to fundraise. But, ultimately the benefits win out.

It all comes down to this: Meaningful change cannot happen without political participation, and the 501(c)(4) designation allows us to participate as a political organization as long as no more than 50% of our income is spent to impact the political process. (The other 50% will be spent on things like research, knowledge base creation, team building, and public awareness projects.)

We felt that the time for this idea is now. Hope you agree.

Have a great week.

Copyright © 2019 ACK•Now, All rights reserved.

Being thankful this week.

Things have been relatively quiet on Nantucket this week with the Thanksgiving holiday. There’s plenty of time to stop and reflect upon the things for which we are thankful. And there are a lot of them. One only needs to take a walk on the quiet beaches or invite friends and family into one’s home to be filled with the gratitude of life 30 miles out to sea. At the same time, this article has been making the rounds on social media. It’s an essay that explains, in shocking and depressing tones, what a mess humanity has made of the planet and how our focus on climate change is something of a red herring. Throughout this piece, it is possible to substitute the word “Nantucket” for “The planet” and come to the same conclusions: our growth-addicted, two-legged species is spoiling things. Fortunately, on Nantucket, the natural beauty and viability of our resources are still intact, if not tentatively so. We believe that it is still possible to protect the things we are thankful for on this small island. Community. Nature. Quality of life. It will take a lot of collaboration and hard work. But, thankfully, hard work is one thing that Nantucketers are used to. 

Have a great Sunday. 

A difference that makes all the difference

One of the important distinctions between ACK•Now and other non-profits that the recent press coverage did not touch upon is a point key to the organization’s core beliefs — a difference that, for many, should make all the difference. We are a 501(c)(4) non-profit. And not a 501(c)(3).

So, what does this mean? First, it means we are organized to primarily promote public and social benefits. A garden variety 501(c)(3) can be an arts organization that caters only to people who love Strindberg, a church of any denomination, a private social club like the Wharf Rats, or a charity that addresses a specific need. But a public welfare non-profit — a 501(c)(4) — has to be run for the benefit of the many. 

Some common examples of 501(c)(4) corporations include volunteer fire departments, Miss America and community service organizations like Rotary and Kiwanis clubs.

Here’s the definition from the IRS.gov web site:

To be tax-exempt as a social welfare organization described in Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 501(c)(4), an organization must not be organized for profit and must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare.

The word exclusively is important there. An organization like ACK•Now is not here to entertain the whims of a small group or focus on a pet project. We are organized to do good in a general sense for the general population of the island. 

Another thing about being a 501(c)(4): it means a donation made to ACK•Now is not tax-deductible. In other words, people who give to a 501(c)(4) do so because they believe in the mission and the work being done and are definitely not doing it because they want to lower their tax liability. 

And speaking of donations, as a 501(c)(4) we are obligated to file a form 990 with the IRS and disclose our donations. While some non-profits choose to redact the names of their donors, it is our policy to maintain full transparency and disclose the names of those who support us. We dislike the idea of dark money in politics as much as anyone. 

Given the restrictions of being a 501(c)(4), one might ask why we did not decide to be a plain old 501(c)(3) instead. The answer is, that 501(c)(3) groups are limited by the IRS in how they can participate in the political process. 

Being a 501(c)(4) means we are free to do the hard work necessary to make change happen. Like participate fully in town meetings and lobbying the statehouse. It means we can hire subject matter experts and legal counsel to push ideas forward. We can work with government. But we can also operate independently as long as we keep public benefit in mind. 

Sure, there are downsides to being a 501(c)(4). There’s extra reporting. Compliance can be more complicated. And it’s somewhat harder to fundraise. But, ultimately the benefits win out. 

It all comes down to this: Meaningful change cannot happen without political participation, and the 501(c)(4) designation allows us to participate as a political organization as long as no more than 50% of our income is spent to impact the political process. (The other 50% will be spent on things like research, knowledge base creation, team building, and public awareness projects.)

We felt that the time for this idea is now. Hope you agree.   

Have a great week.

How do cities and towns pay for transportation?

Let’s face it. Making improvements to transportation requires funding and lots of it. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council in Massachusetts has put together its 2019 report on ways for Massachusetts cities and towns to pay for transportation improvements. Not all of these 14 suggestions relate directly to Nantucket, but they may spark some creative problem-solving.

What can Nantucket Learn From Manhattan?

Nantucket and Manhattan are both small islands (Nantucket is 4 times bigger, believe it or not). And we have many of the same problems, but on a different scale, of course. Transportation is always an issue. Parking is never easy unless it is incredibly expensive. People have trouble finding affordable housing. And, perhaps most importantly, the trash and sewage issues are ones for which we need the best thinking and smart people working every day for the sake of our own health and that of the environment. Here’s a great episode of the podcast Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin called “Brilliant Minds of Trash and Sewage” that we can all learn from, even if we live on an island without a single skyscraper.