Monday, October 28, 2013

Don't Stop with Donating to a Food Shelf

   A visitor who uses the food shelf just stopped by the center with his bags. All the food was heavily processed (not to mention over packaged) including "cheese blintzes" and hostess-type cakes and white bread. He isn't allowed to pick the food himself, the staff picks it out for him. This is a fellow who does cook for himself with fresh food if he can get it (A friend gave him a real treat, some chicken, which he baked.) Of course the food will keep him from being hungry. He's quite thin as he has to walk everywhere and has a severe (and obvious) physical disability. His color is very poor and he looks unhealthy. He does smoke, but due to the high cost of cigarettes he picks up butts from the ground, a practice he says he'd like to stop, but he can't afford to buy them and nicotine is a really hard addiction to kick. His family background was in farming, before the farms went under, so he remembers farm-fresh food from his childhood.

  Charity is laudable, but it would be great if people would also spend some time working to break the hold of agro-business on the economy, stop subsidizing mega-producers of corn and soybeans and start subsidizing small farmers and community farms, because as it is now they can't make it without selling at high prices ("value-added") to wealthy people. This fellow can't afford the local organic "Duck Comfit" advertised downtown. Plain old chicken, some potatoes and a fresh vegetable would be just fine for him, thank you. Oh, by the way, his food stamps have been cut to under $200/month, and if things keep going the way they are, will probably be cut again.

  Don't stop with a donation to your local food shelf. Ask yourself how we can change the system to create a local, healthy stable food supply for all Americans, not just the privileged few.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Four Scenarios, A Play in One Act for People who Know About Newport Development

[Sharon and Diane exit the Planning Commission Meeting, where Bill Stenger, great benefactor of the Newport masses, has just outlined how he will provide JOBS which graciously allow the poor residents of Newport to clean the rooms of wealthy tourists at wages they can't live on.]

Sharon: [Whose life experience involves many years without a fixed address on the streets of D.C. and things haven't been very rosy since either]: I'm with them. Those places on that block aren't fit for human habitation. There's bedbugs and all manner of vermin and the place they give you with one room and a toilet nobody should have to live in. They should tear 'em all down, and then maybe they could rent them to poor folks, who'd have a decent place to live.

Diane: Well that's not what they have in mind...[drowned out by Sharon going on about how lovely the new apartments would be.] SHARON, LISTEN---They just want to rent them to rich people, all the poor people will have to move somewhere else.

Sharon: Well that's the plan they have, but maybe they won't be able to rent them all, then they'll be glad to get a steady renter at any rent, who won't trash the place and they won't have to keep putting it on the market. Hell, maybe they won't be able to rent them at all.

Diane: I've thought of that. I've thought of that. That's Scenario Number 2. Scenario Number 1 is that everything goes as they have planned and all the poor people have to go somewhere else and just have to come in to wait on tables and clean the rooms. Scenario Number 2 is that it flops. It's bad if it flops when there's just a big hole in the ground, but if it flops later, we have a lot of nice places for people to live that they can't rent so have to rent at low rates. That's good for poor people. Personally, I think it will flop.

Sharon: There should be a mix of apartments, some subsidized and some for the movie stars and glamorous ones, they should push to equalize that, with all the nice furbishments for people with low incomes next door to the millionaires and such so the poor people have a decent place to live...

Diane: SHARON, have you ever seen, is there anybody...

Sharon: They'd be happy to get people in who just pay the rent along with big spenders...

Diane: Sharon, there's nobody in Newport with the guts to demand that. That's Scenario Number 3, where we demand that they provide subsidized housing along side the nice apartments. But our spineless City Council, the quivering Planning Commission, nobody has the guts to ask this. That would be great, best for everybody, but they're all such idiots....

Sharon: Then there's Scenario Number 4.

Diane: There is no Number 4 . There's three scenarios, that's it.

Sharon: Scenario Number 4, where we tear down the whole  system.

Diane: I suppose that involves pitchforks and torches.

Sharon: Yeah, pitchforks and torches. Goodnight Diane. Don't stay up too late.

Diane: Goodnight Sharon. See ya later.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

NEK 99% Winter Projects

   Nek 99% folks met today to talk about winter projects, including the next Tasting Party, the winter film series and a focus on encouraging dialog among local residents about issues of importance to them, with the goal of generating solutions.
  • The downtown Newport neighborhood will be invited to a Tasting Party at The 99 on October 30 starting at 3 PM. We are getting some great organic, locally produced winter vegetables and will be cooking up one or two recipes to sample along with some cider and Halloween (healthy) treat bags for the kids that will include community building messages. Look for posters up in Newport and notices in neighbors' doors.
  • The 99 will be showing free documentary films weekly on Thursdays at 6 PM on a variety of topics, beginning January 2 with  a series entitled "MONEY". Why doesn't there seem to be enough of it to go around? How did our monetary system get in such a mess? Who's really running it?  What IS money, anyway? 
  • Look for us in downtown Newport at  the Fish (and possibly at other locations around the Kingdom) interviewing people on the street on camera about how Federal budget cutbacks have affected them. Do you have a story to tell? Let us get it on video.
  • Look for us using art and theater (at various locations not disclosed in advance!)  to engage people's attention about vital local issues like rights of workers, housing rights and disability rights. Then join us for a discussion of a featured issue where you can target problems and be part of the solution.
  • Free classes will continue at The 99, beginning with "Watercolors" taught by NEK artist Mary Brenner on Saturday, November 9 from 1-4 PM. Jack Rogers will be teaching an advance block printing class and we will again be offering  internet classes this time geared to specific levels of computer expertise, as we found this varies quite a bit.
  • We have begun a discussion about setting up community WiFi to improve access to the internet for low income people. Also, remember that The 99 has free WiFi, and the coffee,tea and snacks are free too!
  • Our next art exhibit, opening around December 1, will be called "Surreal". Artists: Are you a surrealist? Is your art just a little weird? We are looking to hear from you. As always, untrained artists and students are welcome.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

New Activist Center Opens in Barre

   We were pleased to see that the street we turned down to get to Barre's new activist center, located on Orange Street, is called "Freedom Way". We think the new activist center will indeed give people in the Barre-Montpelier area more freedom to speak about the issues that concern them.
   Under a nicely lettered sign that says WE ALL LIVE DOWNSTREAM, and marked by a friendly quilted "99 %" lawn sign, the cozy white house seems to say ""Everybody welcome here." The message is borne out when you enter the door and find a spacious  area with comfortable furniture, the coffee pot on and a wide selection of books and pamphlets. WiFi is also available. A board in the open kitchen space displays all the Occucards currently out.   If you don't know about these, they are colorfully printed postcard-size informational material on "Why we occupy: exposing and opposing the corporate state" and are helpful in explaining some rather complicated issues and how they negatively impact average Americans.
   Crystal Zevon, who is graciously maintaining this space, explained that the center will host a variety of events including free meals and movies and will be a place where neighbors and activists can meet and discuss issues. There is also space for overnight guests and the option for people who may want to stay in the area to rent a room  for a longer period.
   Guests at the open house enjoyed some great home-cooked food and pleasant conversation. We're glad we made the drive down there all the way from the Northeast Kingdom!