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.

Thousand Acres in Keene Saved

In Keene, the 1,044 acre Greater Goose Pond Forest has been protected from development. The land is owned by the city and had been vulnerable to being paved. The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests this month permanently protected the Keene forest, which includes a pond, streams, and wetlands.

“This was the work of many people, from the Greater Goose Pond land management committee to the Keene city council that adopted the committee’s recommendations,” said Eloise Clark of the Keene Conservation Commission.

NH Governor Vetoes Drug War Reform Effort

New Hampshire governor John Lynch on July 10 vetoed legislation that would have made New Hampshire the 14th state to legalize marijuana use by severely ill people. The bill passed the House by 232-108 and the senate by 14-10. If enough people call their legislators, it’s possible that the legislature will over-ride Lynch’s veto. Legislators’ contact info is at www.gencourt.state.nh.us

Photo: Keene Local Food Activist

Bonnie Hudspeth of Keene buys local organic eggs at the Hannah Grimes store on Main Street in downtown Keene after walking through a rain storm. Hudspeth works for a non-profit organization, the Keene Downtown Group. The Group's mission is to make downtown Keene better. Downtown Keene is walk-able and is full of locally owned businesses. Suburban Keene is dominated by cars, Wal-Mart, and other chain stores. For details, call Hudspeth at 603-352-0900. More info on the egg store is at www.HannahGrimes.com

photo by Eesha Williams

Huge Park Near Brattleboro, Keene May Be Paved

Pisgah State Park is the biggest state park in New Hampshire. It's a 10 minute drive from both Brattleboro and Keene, and is just a few miles from Massachusetts. On June 8, the New Hampshire Parks Advisory Council released a proposed plan that placed Pisgah State Park in a class which, among other choices for alternative management, includes "disposal," the so-called “C” list.

There will be public hearings, but not in Keene. The closest is in Peterborough:

June 23, 4 p.m.

Peterborough Town Hall
1 Grove Street
Peterborough, NH

There is also the opportunity for written comment:

Arrests, Petitions in Local Fights for Public Education

Negotiations between the Northampton teachers and the school board are heating up. The teachers belong to a union www.nea.org Mayor Clare Higgins asked the workers to forgo previously negotiated pay raises for next year.

On June 16, voters in Northampton will decide on the so-called “Proposition 2½ override,” which will affect the city’s budget.

The National Priorities Project www.nationalpriorities.org is a nation-wide non-profit based in Northampton. According to the group’s web site, the Iraq war had cost American taxpayers $790 billion as of October 2008.

Bear Chases Man Near Downtown Keene; Both OK

From the Keene Sentinel: A hungry young black bear ripped open a homeless man’s tent Tuesday (May 26) and chased him through the woods in Keene, according to wildlife officials. The local man, identified as Dave Kolek, was not injured during the incident. Kolek wears tattered clothing, has a thick beard and long hair and is known by an array of nicknames, including “Tarzan” and “Jumanji.”

The bear tore open Kolek’s tent, which was located in a wooded area near the intersection of Main Street and Route 101, shortly after 10:30 a.m., N.H. Fish and Game Officer Josiah Towne said.

In NH, Fight Over Sustainable Transport Heats Up

New Hampshire Governor John Lynch said on May 22 he would veto the legislature’s effort to raise gas taxes. The House’s budget includes a 15 cent increase in the gas tax. The tax would raise $44 million next year.

Gas in Europe is more than twice the price of gas in the U.S. because of taxes. The tax money is used to create train networks, bicycle paths, and other transportation alternatives that work much better than in the U.S.

Taxes in France make up about 70 percent of the price of gas. In the U.S., it's less than 20 percent.

Collapse Leaves Parts of Downtown Keene Without Water

A major water main broke at around 3 a.m. on May 8 in downtown Keene leaving residents with no water or low water pressure. Water and Sewer Superintendent Joseph W. Tonweber told the Keene Sentinel that the collapse “blew a big hole in the street." The crater reached from a sidewalk fence to the middle of the road, he said.

Steve Chase lives in Keene, where he is director of Antioch University’s program in Environmental Advocacy.

Local Food Co-ops Hear from Activists

Food co-ops keep consumers’ money in the local community, unlike chain supermarkets like Stop and Shop or Price Chopper. The Greenfield food co-op opened in 1980; the Brattleboro one, also in business for decades, is the size of a small supermarket.