ARROWSIC, Maine: Town meeting adopts antiwar stance

The town meeting is a democratic assembly unique to the New England region that brings voters together to determine the direction of their community for a year. Their decisions are binding.

By an overwhelming vote of 71-17, residents here adopted a resolution June 13 urging “the President and the U.S. Congress … to act swiftly and decisively to immediately stop all funding for the war in Iraq” and to end the U.S. occupation.

Arrowsic, with 396 registered voters, is the first town in Maine to take such action. Hundreds of other communities across the country have taken similar positions.

The town is near the Bath Iron Works, a company that builds ships for the U.S. Navy.

Rejecting an objection that only “town stuff” that “affects us directly” be discussed, resident Wendy Briggs answered, “The war does affect us. It affects our schools, our families.”

Supporting Briggs, town Treasurer Paul Schlein said, “This is not about politics or parties. It is about people dying. This country has spent $450 billion on this war. That’s $450 billion that wasn’t spent here. Federal funding of programs that help our kids has suffered. After four years and $450 billion, the war has to stop.”

HOUSTON: Labor-backed Democrat wins in company town

Right in the heart of Enron country, the stomping ground of President Bush the father and disgraced former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), voters sent educator Melissa Noriega to the City Council in a special June 16 election. Noriega, who had union backing, defeated Republican Roy Morales, a retired Air Force officer, giving Democrats an 8-6 majority on the City Council in the nation’s fourth largest city. Mayor Bill White is also a Democrat.

Noriega’s winning margin of 55-45 percent arose out of shoe leather, the Harris County AFL-CIO’s “labor to neighbor” campaign and an intensive phone-banking effort.

Making the contest more difficult, less than 3 percent of Houston voters cast their ballots in the race for the at-large seat.

Noriega told the Houston Chronicle she plans to increase police patrols, preserve and increase “green space,” increase affordable housing and improve public education, among other measures, to reduce crime.

WASHINGTON: House to vote on torture school

It is a dirty little secret that U.S. taxpayers fund a training facility, the School of the Americas (SOA), aka the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, that produces mass murderers like the thugs who in El Salvador killed Bishop Oscar Romero in 1980 and four U.S. churchwomen in the 1990s.

This week, a bill introduced by Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), HR 1707, which would close down the Fort Benning, Ga., facility, is up for a vote. In 2006, no less than 35 House members who supported the “torture school” lost their bid for re-election.

In May, Costa Rica joined Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela in refusing to send police or military personnel to the school for training, citing human rights abuses.

Since 1990, thousands of U.S. residents have protested the school each Nov. 16, the anniversary of the assassination of six Jesuit priests and two Salvadoran women at the hands of SOA graduates. Many protesters have been arrested for trespass and have served time in U.S. federal prisons. Recently, led by the Rev. Roy Bourgeois and Lisa Sullivan Rodiguez, activists lobbied Congress to cut off funding to the school.

BOSTON: Same-sex marriage upheld

Who you love is who you love, said the state Legislature when it rejected, by a 151-45 vote, an effort to amend the state constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage, June 14. “Today’s vote averts a divisive, defamatory and hugely expensive campaign that our national community would have had to wage between now and 2008 to preserve the freedom to marry in the one state where we have it,” said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

The vote preserves the 2003 landmark state Supreme Judicial Court decision that concluded that denying same-sex couples the right to marry violates the Massachusetts constitution.

A grassroots education and mobilization effort, involving 3,000 volunteers statewide, was key to victory, organizers said.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696 Paul Hill, John Thompson and W.T. Whitney Jr. contributed.