Martha's Vineyard: A Democrat Paradise

Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard (the “Islands”) are idyllic and are under absolute control by Democrats.

Should conservatives switch their support to Democrats in order to create more such paradises throughout our nation? I’m afraid not. While Democrats eradicate the middle class in the rest of America with crime, regulations, taxes, and bad schools, in the Islands, Democrats attack the middle class by controlling and squeezing off access to land.

In the 1980s a Land Bank was created that taxes 2% of every property sale on the Islands and then uses the money to buy up land in order to “protect” it. There are allied organizations such as Sheriff’s Meadow and the Trustees who use inheritance tax law to secure land and conservation easements donated for tax purposes.

The Land Bank’s arrogance has grown along with its wealth and power. In March 2022 the Land Bank bought houses on a 14-acre property for $9.3 million for their own use and development. In other words, they used taxpayers’ money to buy houses for themselves.  “A felicitous purchase,” said the Land Bank president. The Land Bank is also doing “deals” in land development and investment. The next step can easily be the diversion of more property and wealth to employees’ and directors’ families and friends.

But a greater danger from the conservation mafia than mere corruption is that it buys land that is adjacent to wealthy estates, thus making those estates more valuable and strangling access to the land for ordinary people. In addition, there are strict zoning laws making building difficult. In total, the conservation mafia boasts that they now have 70% of the Islands under control, and they righteously point out that there’s still 30% they need to control.

The 2% Land Bank tax doesn’t sound like much, but as any investor knows, the power of compounding builds with tsunami force. The Land Banks in the Islands took $41 million during 2021. (They recently bought 335 acres from the Kennedys for $37 million, for example.)

Any ordinary American who desires a house or a plot of land on which to build is outbid by Land Bank bureaucrats flush with other peoples’ money and flush with credit -- their obvious cash flow makes them an excellent credit risk, and they borrow to finance larger purchases.  

Barack Obama’s place is a typical beneficiary of the Land Bank’s “protection.” One side of his property is on the water. He has a conservation property bordering on the land side, and then a checkerboard of conservation properties extending out from there which will ensure his privacy and the privacy of the few other wealthy estates in the area. Restrictive zoning prevents any additional building on neighboring privately owned property.

Working people and the middle class are already priced out of the Islands. They can hold on as long as they own their houses, but their children and grandchildren will leave and never return. The median house is over $2m on Nantucket and $1.3 on Martha’s Vineyard.

Yet Islanders and the local press adore the Land Bank which they believe keeps the Islands pristine. They also moan about unaffordable housing, unaware that the Land Banks are the reason for it. They don’t yet understand that if land is bought with the taxpayers’ money at the highest price and then banned from human use, the price of the remaining land will rise. Their families’ days on the Islands are numbered and they’re being eliminated in a way that provides more space and privacy for the estates of the wealthy.

The Islands are indeed paradises. There’s almost no violent crime. The county jail is really only used to hold drunks overnight. Blueberry pancakes are served for breakfast. There are no homeless encampments, and no vagrants. No trash, no needles on the ground. Smash and grab doesn’t exist. The public schools are good. Virtue signaling is common but never has anyone suggested defunding the police, who are respected.  Many Islanders never lock their doors.

There may have been only one COVID death on the Islands -- an elderly gent, and it’s not clear if he died of COVID or with COVID. Because the population surges as high as the hundreds of thousands, statistically there should have been hundreds of deaths.

There aren’t any fat people. Well, we can all stand to lose a few pounds, but there are no behemoths such as those roaming a Walmart in Wisconsin. Perhaps it is because of the lack of fast food, which is largely banned. The Islands are a fat farm: move there and you’ll lose weight.

The Islands are surrounded by a moat, the Atlantic. A moated community is even better than a gated community. Safer and no homeowners’ association fees.

Democrats are aware they have a land problem on the Islands, but unfortunately their solution is a bigger problem. The Land Bank created all this, so they’ve decided to create a Housing Bank to build government housing. Government housing projects teach entitlement and despair and have never succeeded, though they’ve been tried hundreds of thousands of times. The Housing Bank plus the Land Bank can create a community composed of the very rich and the very poor, a reflection of Democrat voters nationwide.

Land prices could mathematically rise to infinity. The estates of the wealthy will continue to grow in value and privacy as the Land Bank buys neighboring acreage. Waves of servants already arrive by ferry each morning to tend the rich, and this will increase, turning the Islands into sundown towns that exclude ordinary people from dusk to dawn.

But fortunately, history is never linear. Something’s going to give. Corruption at the Land Bank will shatter its support. The Housing Bank’s projects will proceed but will probably be token and minimal. Local voters will figure out that the Land Bank dooms their families’ existence on the Islands. Immigration may play a positive role. There is already a large Brazilian population on the Islands. They do not complain about the lack of affordable housing because they can sleep six people in a room, altering the concept of housing affordability. A couple of planeloads of illegal aliens from Venezuela arrived on September 14th which may be the beginning of another enclave of people who may in the future grasp political strength of their own. The future will bring conflict, but this conflict will bring a brighter future of less government intrusion, a future that is reminiscent of the Islands’ glorious past.  

Ishmael Jones is a former CIA officer and author of The Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture.  He owns a small place on Nantucket. 

Image: Massachusetts Office Of Travel and Tourism

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