Teachers' Union Rally is Jan. 8

On January 8 in Westhampton, Massachusetts there will be a teachers' union rally. Westhampton borders Northampton. The rally will be at 5:30 p.m. outside 19 Stage Road in Westhampton. Details are at:

www.facebook.com/events/1365432547425203

There was a wave of teachers' strikes around the USA in 2018 and 2019. The pandemic caused a pause in the strikes. According to a 2019 BBC article, in Chicago, “25,000 teachers went on strike... Last year saw the most U.S. workers on strike in a generation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 20 major work stoppages in 2018, involving 485,000 workers -- the most since 1986. In a big shift, the most-represented industry was teaching. Significant state-wide work stoppages in education occurred in West Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado and North Carolina. In January 2019, teachers in Los Angeles -- the nation's second-largest school district -- went on strike for six days.”

In 2023, teachers went on strike in California, Nevada, and Oregon.

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Environmentalists in Dummerston, Vermont are asking Dummerston residents to attend the annual town meeting on Tuesday, March 5 at 10 a.m. at the school and vote to conserve scenic wetlands and forestland, and create a new town forest. Dummerston borders Brattleboro and the Connecticut river.

For decades, and probably much longer, the public has hiked and hunted on the approximately 70 acres of forestland and wetlands accessed from a trail next to the pond on Middle Road in Dummerston that's between Kipling and Dutton Farm roads. That ended in November 2022 when the land was sold and the new owner posted “no trespassing” signs.

Neighbors have seen moose, black bears, gray foxes, owls many times, fish in the streams and ponds, and many other kinds of birds on this land. Some of the trees are 52 inches in diameter. Wetlands such as the ponds and streams on this land are essential for water quality, flood control and wildlife habitat, yet state laws do little to protect them. In keeping with their vision for the future, many Dummerston residents call this land the Owl Sanctuary.

The new owner is willing to sell the land to the town so it can be a town forest, open to the public for hiking and hunting.

Dummerston now owns 35 acres of forest. By comparison, neighboring towns own more. Marlboro owns 586 acres, Brattleboro owns 490 acres. Chesterfield, NH's town forest is 220 acres. The Newfane town forest is 162 acres. Putney owns 92 acres of forest.

Dover (which doesn't border Dummerston but does border Newfane) owns 1,400 acres of forest. Westmoreland, NH borders Dummerston. It doesn't own forestland but Cheshire county owns 499 acres of forest in Westmoreland. Windham county (home to Dummerston) doesn't own any forest. Brookline didn't reply to a request for this info.

The state of Vermont (VHCB) is encouraging the town to apply for $150,000 toward the purchase of the Owl Sanctuary. Neighbors donated $2,500 to pay for an appraisal, plus about $800 to pay for other costs of this conservation effort. The Owl Sanctuary is worth $313,000. Many people in town are asking the town to pay the missing $163,000 plus a stewardship fee that may be required by the state. Vermont River Conservancy has said it will let townspeople know soon how much that fee will be. It's possible VHCB will agree to steward the Owl Sanctuary itself.

The town's share of the cost of saving the Owl Sanctuary could be paid over a 22 year municipal bond, like the $56 million one that Dummerston, Brattleboro and several other towns finished paying off in November 2023 for repairs to the high school. Or Dummerston could save on interest by paying the full amount now. This question will also be decided at the annual town meeting.

The USA is losing 6,000 acres of open space every day. The number of houses in Dummerston went from about 300 in 1960 to about 850 today. Investing in forestland protection will reduce town taxes in the long run. In Vermont, the towns with the most protected open space have the lowest property taxes.

New housing can be built on sites like the vacant Brattleboro Home Depot, and by purchasing and de-constructing the many decrepit single-family houses within a mile of the Brattleboro Amtrak station and replacing them with energy efficient multi-family housing.

Protecting open space is one of the best ways to stop climate change, which the world's leading scientists say is a major threat to earth's ability to support human life. For more information contact the Valley Post.

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In Greenfield, every Saturday at the town common there is a rally for peace and justice from 11 a.m. until noon. The organizers have a web site at www.traprock.org. One of the organizers, Anna Gyorgy, told the Valley Post on January 4, “Our Franklin county for peace group will continue collaborating with Jewish Voice for Peace. Friends in Greenfield will outreach to the incoming mayor and others to build peace education programs in local schools.”

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