2020 Citizen’s Warrant Articles List

Click below to download a handy PDF of all citizen’s warrant articles with town counsel comments, complete wording, and links to maps where appropriate. Feel free to share this link with anyone who wants to better understand ATM. And stay tuned for more info as the warrant comes together.

Citizen’s (Articles) United

One of the things we’ve been doing for the past couple of weeks is pulling together (uniting) into a single document nearly all of the pertinent and available information regarding the 53 citizen’s articles that the town will be putting on the ATM warrant in April of this year. You can download the doc from our website, here. The document includes a description of each article, the town council’s comments, the wording, if any, and a link to a related map if one exists. At some point, we will add our own comments and insights, but we will wait for the town to submit their articles and pull the warrant together in a complete group before that happens. 

As we mentioned a few weeks ago, with 53 articles from citizens, it’s uncertain if voters and town government are in synch. One could assume that this unusually large number of citizen initiatives could be the electorate sending town government a message. But when you look more closely, it appears that many of the proponents of some of the more out-of-the-box citizens’ articles turn out to be current and former town officials or insiders. Some examples:

Former Selectboard member Bob Decosta putting forth an initiative to banish valet parking from the town parking lot. FinCom member Chris Glowacki asking town meeting to request the authority to approve paid parking downtown. Mary Bergman, executive director of the Preservation Trust, proposing a new rule that would make developers wait 12 months before renovating a historically significant building. And Planning Board member, David Iverson asking town meeting to squelch the annoying and invasive spritzing of perfume at passersby downtown. 

When you look at these initiatives, one thing becomes clear. These insiders put their articles forward, in part or in whole because they think that the issues they care about deserve a larger audience than a select board hearing on a rainy Wednesday evening with seven people in attendance. Or a discussion on Facebook with the vast majority of folks clicking hearts and frowny faces. Some of these subjects deserve to be discussed openly and clearly on the town meeting floor. And voted upon. Whether the measure is binding or not. Parking. Gut rehabs. Scent assault. (Not to mention gas-powered leaf blowers and commercial deliveries.) These things warrant a larger discussion.  

We think so, too. How else are we going to come together as a community and solve some of these problems if we don’t have a community-level dialogue? There’s a lot of work to be done before town meeting and we will keep you posted as new ideas bubble to the surface. 

Have a great Sunday. 

The canary in the eel grass bed

If you didn’t figure it out from our email note last week, let us make it clear: we are pretty much data nerds. We find data to be both compelling and interesting. And one stat that has been followed semi-religiously by the town and by fishermen is the scallop harvest. It won’t surprise long-time islanders when we say that the scallop fishery has declined. 

Just how much has it declined? Hope you’re sitting down. Here are the hard numbers. 

In 1980, the scallop harvest was 120,000 bushels. 
In 1990 the harvest was 40,000 bushels. 
In 2000, it was half that or 20,000 bushels. 
In 2010, a year in which the season was extended in the middle of a paralyzing economic downturn, the total was around 18,000.
And last year, the harvest dipped to 3,000 bushels. 

That’s a decline of 97.5% over 39 years. It remains to be seen if closing the windswept cranberry bog and recent efforts to plant eelgrass will reverse this trend. But we can remain hopeful and stalwart in our support of these kinds of efforts. We applaud the local organizations that are doing this vital work. 

Now let’s look at another trend: population.

In 1980, the census counted 5,087 people.
in 1990, there were 6,012.
in 2000 the census number was 9,520.
In 2010 (even in the middle of a paralyzing economic downturn) the count climbed to 10,172.
And the estimates for 2020 are anywhere from 15,000 (a likely US Census outcome) to 19,000 (the Nantucket Data Platform current estimate) year-round residents. But let’s go with a conservative number of 15,000. 

That’s a 40-year increase in the island’s population of 195%. 

Imagine, if you will, the scallop harvest over the past 40 years graphed with a big red line on an x/y axis from left to right, 120,000 down to 3,000. And then superimpose that over a similar graph in red of the population growing from left to right, 5,000 up to 15,000. Can you picture that big, red X in your mind? We can. 

Now, we are not saying that the rise in population directly caused a decrease in the scallop harvest. But we can say with relative certainty that the sheer blunt force trauma of human activity on Nantucket — boats, building, green lawns, failing septic systems, and more — has had an unmistakable impact on the natural resources of the island. And that we all ought to view the scallop as a proverbial canary in the coal mine. Because if the scallop finally goes, our sense of community and quality of life will not be far behind. 

See you next week. 

Data you might not know. But can’t ignore.

We hesitate to blow your mind on the last day of 2019, but this is the kind of data nearly everyone needs to see. Here are a few of the most eyebrow-raising facts and the sources of that data that we have uncovered in our work. 

32,000 cars. There are 28,000 vehicles on Nantucket year-round (many of them garaged during the off-season). The number grows to 32,000 at the height of August. (Nantucket Data Platform) So if you think that people who bring cars here in the summer are causing the island’s traffic problems, you’re right. But only 12.5% right. How much traffic is made up of year-rounders and businesses versus visitors? We’re working on uncovering that number.1,500 short-term rentals. 1,500 homes on Nantucket are registered with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as short-term rentals. That’s a greater percentage of homes than anywhere else in MA: 9.3% of the inventory of the entire Commonwealth. (Commonwealth of MA) And since this is the first year property owners are required to register to pay sales tax to the state, the real number is likely higher. From $953,000 to $1,310,000. The ten-year selling price change for a three-bedroom home on Nantucket. That’s a ten-year increase of $357,000 (Zillow). This is great news for people who already have equity in a Nantucket property, but for those who wish to buy into the market, the opportunities seem to be moving further and further out of reach. $5 to $24 Billion. The total assessed value of all real estate on Nantucket has increased over the past 20 years (2000-2019) from $5 billion to $24 billion. Or a little less than one billion dollars worth of growth in assessed value per year. (Town of Nantucket) This is due to three market forces. New construction, “improvements” made to existing real estate, as well as the overall growth in the value of the real estate market here. 50+ boards, committees, councils, and workgroups. Nantucket town government currently has over 50 boards, committees, councils, and workgroups, most of which are staffed by elected or appointed officials, town employees and volunteers. (Town of Nantucket) This fact alone makes it difficult for the average citizen to keep track and play an active role. 7% Participation. Only 7% of registered voters attended ATM in 2018. (Town of Nantucket) At the ballot box, 25% participated, which is over three times better, but still unacceptably low. In contrast, 61.7% of all registered voters cast a vote in the last presidential election, nationwide. What does this all mean? Basically, it means we have our work cut out for us in 2020. In the coming weeks, we will be developing programs designed to move the community’s vision forward. It also means your support and energies have never been more important. Thank you for being a part of this effort. 

Have a great New Year. 

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 Mohr, 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.