Does Nat Lowell Need A Timeout?

Charity Benz •

To the editor:

Does Nat Lowell Need A Time Out? Nat's folksy letter seems to be a sermon to his "locals" congregation. He thinks Nantucket "needs a timeout – now” to heal the community, but his letter reads more like a call to arms than an attempt to tamp down community anger and frustration.

Who exactly qualifies as a member of Nat's "locals?" It sounds like folks who live here year-round, but for how long? If "locals" spend the winter in Naples, FL are they still considered "locals?”

Nat goes on to denounce a subgroup of "locals" as "you newer locals." Who are they? Are new retirees who have spent summers here for decades now “newer locals?” Or only year-round residents who have lived and voted here for fewer than 30 years? 20 years? 10 years?

What about year-round residents who have arrived from other countries or parts of America? Are they "locals," are they "newer locals," or are they excluded from "localhood" altogether? Is property ownership required, and if not, can “sofa surfers” and people and families who live in their cars when they can’t find housing be considered a “local?”

Perhaps Nat's "locals" are simply acolytes whom he and his political associates try to shuffle from one board, committee, or commission to another to control the island's fate. Is that what Nat is worrying about? Losing influence?

It might be that Nat's letter was prompted by the November 8th election, when 48% of Nantucket's 9522 registered voters cast ballots for the open Select Board seat. With that astonishing turnout, Nat is correct: his "happy place" doesn't seem that happy anymore.

In his letter, Nat launched an unexpected personal attack on a community member. He wrote: "She" (Mrs. Rayport) "maligned Jack Gardner's incredible lifetime legacy of service to this community." I was curious about that so I took Nat’s advice that locals should "fact check the information you hear surrounding the issues we face." I went back to watch the Zoom meeting when Hillary Rayport presented Article 81 to the NP&EDC on February 8, 2022.

After providing background of his work getting the NP&EDC established 50 years ago, Jack Gardner said to Mrs, Rayport: "I think you've done a great job looking into it, and I think there needs to be a lot of discussion before we make a lot of these changes. Thank you very much." Mrs. Rayport replied, "Thank you, Mr. Gardner." Does that sound “maligning” to you? It certainly didn't seem that way to me.

Nat's nostalgic "alternative universe" of how life used to be on Nantucket no longer exists. Over the years, our elected or selected “leaders” have simply sidelined the hard issues to fester until they explode, or hired legions of consultants to try to solve the problems they cannot (or won’t) figure out how to solve themselves. The issue with short term rentals is just the most recent example of this chronic crisis-to-crisis mismanagement leadership style.

When the pace of everything in the world is speeding up exponentially, Nantucket doesn’t need a timeout. What Nantucket needs urgently is new leadership and long-range planning talent to secure a more confident future for this island and its people. Not to “change” it, as Nat put it, but to save it. And, when it comes to that, we are all “locals.”

Charity Benz

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