Keene City Council Votes Against Jail for Pot Users; Re-Vote Likely

The Keene city council voted earlier this month in favor of asking the state to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. But the council will likely vote again on the matter at its October 1 meeting, and the vote is expected to be close.

“The war on drugs is over and we lost,” Frederick Parsells told the Valley Post. Parsells is a member of the Keene planning commission, and a former Keene police detective. He served on the Keene city council for six years. It was a letter that Parsells recently sent to the city council that prompted the vote.

Rally Against Racism in Northampton

A rally for Jason Vassell was held on August 6 in Northampton following an evidentiary hearing related to a Motion to Dismiss filed by Vassell’s attorneys at the county courthouse there. The former UMass student was involved in an altercation with two non-UMass students in the Southwest dormitory complex on February 3, 2008. The rally was in support of the motion filed on Vassell’s behalf and to hear further information regarding recent court finagling over the defense’s discovery process.

Belchertown Board Accused of Aiding Developer at Taxpayer Expense

In Belchertown, near Amherst, leaders of the Belchertown Economic Development and Industrial Corporation (EDIC) admitted mistakes to making mistakes and defended other practices in the Corporation’s attempt to redevelop the former Belchertown State School, according to a draft of its response to a recent state audit.

The panel's response to Massachusetts state Auditor Joseph DeNucci's April 7 report on the EDIC was discussed and tabled at the July 27 selectboard meeting.

A Local Worker Talks About His Union

Labor Day is right around the corner and the Valley Post is starting a series of profiles of Valley unions. Michael Barry is one of about 380 union workers at the mental hospital in Brattleboro. He started there in 1975. His job title is “mental health worker” at the Brattleboro Retreat.

Barry and his co-workers started organizing their union in the mid-1990s and finished in 2002. They are members of United Nurses and Allied Professionals. UNAP is based in Rhode Island and has about 5,000 members.

Car Kills 33-Year-Old Amherst Janitor on Her Bicycle; Another VT Cyclist Hit

Misty Bassi, 33, was killed while riding her bicycle in Amherst around 10:30 a.m. on May 25. The motorist fled the scene, but police caught them. The punishment for someone who kills a person with their car is usually much weaker than when a gun is used. Bassi was a janitor at UMass. The driver of the vehicle that killed Bassi was Parvin Niroomand.

Gay Marriage Legal in NH

New Hampshire on June 3 became the sixth state to legalize gay marriage. Governor John Lynch, who once opposed gay marriage, said he had heard “compelling arguments that a separate system is not an equal system.”

The law takes effect Jan. 1.

The New York Times reported that Lynch ordered that the bill protect members of religious groups from having to provide same-sex couples with religious counseling, housing designated for married people and other services relating to “the promotion of marriage.”

Mass. Environmental Health Workers May Be Fired

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s proposed budget, and the state senate’s budget, both include deep cuts to the state’s so-called “environmental health account,” according to Claire Chang of the Shelburne Falls, Mass.-based Citizens Awareness Network (CAN) www.nukebusters.org

These cuts total more than $1 million to a $4.2 million environmental health budget for the state. Patrick’s budget and the senate budget both cut the appropriation for environmental health to $3.1 million. The House proposed $3.8 million.

Governor Loses Vermont Veto Fight

In a victory for middle class workers and farmers, the Vermont legislature on June 2 voted to override governor Jim Douglas's veto of the $4.5 billion state budget. No governor had ever vetoed the budget. In his own budget proposal, offered in January, Douglas attempted to hide a major tax increase: $63 million dollars in new property taxes. His budget would have frozen the state’s education reimbursements at last year’s levels, even though most Vermont towns have already passed school budgets for next year.

A complex economy: Bellows Falls businesses see varied consequences

In an address to Congress on February 24, President Barack Obama stated, “You don’t need to hear another list of statistics to know our economy is in crisis, because you live it everyday. It’s the worry you wake up with, and the source of sleepless nights.”

Northampton Abortion Rights Vigil Is June 3 at 7 p.m.

On June 3 in Northampton there will be a vigil for Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider who was killed last week. Lisa Unger Baskin is organizing the event. It will be at the First Churches of Northampton on Main Street from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Baskin is asking people to bring candles and signs.

"In this country, a woman's right to make a decision about her own body is in jeopardy," Baskin told the Hampshire Gazette newspaper.