Forum, July 15: Immigration Crisis; A World Beyond the Co-op; Help Clean the Mascoma River; Troubles With Norwich Website

Help Clean Up the Mascoma

To the Editor:

The Mascoma River is due for another heavy cleaning, and two local Rotary Clubs are gearing up to do that on Saturday. A volunteer army made up of the Rotary Club of Lebanon and the Lebanon-Riverside Club will join forces and “hand-scrub” the river.

Every other year, Ernst Oidtmann, chairman of the cleanup project, assembles troops to do battle with refuse that others so carelessly toss into the river, thinking that one little piece of junk won’t make a difference. But, because there are lots of others who think the same way, the river gradually fills up with all kinds of stuff, such as tires, shopping carts, fast-food packaging, clothing and shoes, lamps, bedsprings and on and on.

On Saturday, you are invited to join this band of “river warriors.” The group will assemble at the Riverside Park Pavilion and Skate Park on Glen Road in West Lebanon at 8 a.m.

There are jobs for those who have canoes or kayaks. There is a need to help organize trash pulled from the river. People are needed to toss things into the large bins that are generously being donated by Cassella.

The reward is a clean, healthy river, and a free lunch. More volunteers are getting together to provide the cleanup crew with a hearty lunch, soft drinks and water, available around noon at the pavilion behind the CCB in Lebanon.

If you are interested in joining this cleanup crew from 8 a.m. till about noon, contact Ernst Oidtmann at 603-448-1941, or by email at He will assign a spot and let you know what you need to bring. We’d like to know how many to plan for lunch.

A table will be set up Thursday from 5-7 p.m. during the Farmers Market on the Lebanon Green for you to learn more about this project, to volunteer, and to see a large map of the river. Linda and Ernst Oidtmann will answer questions. For further general information, visit

Betsey Child

Rotary Club of Lebanon

U.S. Brought On This Crisis

To the Editor:

The crisis and blame game escalate as the U.S. government seeks policy solutions to a nightmare. Misinformation and fear on all sides brutalize and dehumanize. Ethical questions abound. Who are we as a people in the face of this desperation? What values guide our actions? Political responses remain shortsighted and superficial. If we are to design new, more effective and humane policies, we need to go deeper and look at the boomerang effect of our policies that have contributed to this immigration crisis.

Why do Mexican and Central American mothers and children brave dangerous journeys where ruthless criminals kidnap, murder and rape? The first answer is usually crushing poverty. Unfortunately, our trade policies that have benefited U.S. producers have also put an estimated million poor Mexican corn farmers out of work. This and rising tortilla prices have led to growing hunger. What would we do facing similar circumstances? Crossing the Rio Grande offers hope. How ironic, seeking hope in the place that contributed to the hunger.

Other reasons are violence, fear and drugs. Many are fleeing the brutal urban gangs of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, tragically brought to the region by U.S. support of vicious sadistic militaries fighting revolution in the 1980s. Families who could, sent their children to the U.S. Sadly, many went to big cities where street gangs became their community. They returned home as sophisticated, savage thugs. U.S. policies in Central America have brought us hungry children. To the region, they have brought violence and despair. The nightmare is exacerbated by U.S. demand for drugs that fuels the carnage and power of the cartels. Yet in the face of these complexities, U.S. foreign policy focuses on simple-minded militarized solutions repeating the boomerang effect. Instead, we should use the administration’s proposed 3-plus billion dollars to partner with the region’s countless outstanding citizens and local organizations working to overcome poverty and violence. Their courage and creativity offer a sound and humane investment in all our futures.

Valerie Miller, Former advisor to Unicef Central America


The World Beyond the Co-op

To the Editor:

The recent events at the Co-op have certainly caught our attention, and much has been written about them by others, with varying forms of concern, outrage and questioning. But this story pales in comparison to the horror and tragedy now facing Central American children and mothers on America’s southern border. The media has reported on their plight primarily from a political gridlock perspective, while it lumps these unfortunate children who are fleeing for their lives from unimaginable violence and degradation in their home countries with all the other “illegal alien” problems the U.S. is trying unsuccessfully to solve with Border Patrol, police, DHS, ICE, detention prisons, border drones and billions of taxpayer dollars.

Sending the children and mothers back whence they so perilously came is the same as a death sentence, for those who survived the trip in the first place. Why are 5- and 6-year-old Guatemalan, Salvadorian or Honduran children any different from our own when it comes to humanitarian and economic support and loving care? Why are we allowing these kids to be handcuffed, processed in adult detention facilities and jails, where they are photographed and fingerprinted like criminals, and then deported back to the hells they came from? What good does this serve anyone, and who will ultimately come to their aid, if not the (supposedly) most democratic country in the world, “the land of the free and the ... brave”?

At least let us pay as much attention to the border injustices and dangers to the children and mothers as we pay to the Co-op. If we do or say nothing, then we are complicit.

Alix Olson and Martha Popp


Trouble With Town Websites

To the Editor:

I was not surprised to read in the Valley News on July 8 that at least two Upper Valley towns have deactivated their websites because they are unable to comply with the revised requirements of the Open Meeting law. In fact, the town of Norwich failed even to comply with the old statute. Norwich property owners may be interested to know that the Board of Listers repeatedly violated the requirements of the Open Meeting Law during the summer of 2013 when appeals of tax evaluations were being heard. The listers failed to make minutes of meetings available for a period of many weeks, forget the five days proscribed by the law. As I understand it, the remedy for such conduct can be the return of a property evaluation to the level prior to that occasioning the appeal. Norwich appellants may wish to consult with counsel about seeking such relief.

Richard Chapman


Ledyard Charter School’s Future

To the Editor:

As Ledyard Charter School celebrates its fifth birthday, the school and its supporters can look back with pride for providing an alternative education to over 200 students in our community — many of whom have gone on to attend college and pursue successful careers here in the Upper Valley.

As Nora Doyle-Burr’s article (“Struggles of Its Own,” July 6) points out, LCS continues to face challenges of limited funding to service an increasing population of students in need of a personalized education. We teach academic subjects through real-world applications and experiences, community service and internships which are integrated into small classes and a holistic curriculum.

However, as the new executive director of Ledyard, I would like to respectfully offer a correction. Ledyard is not in debt. In fact, we have a small end-of-year surplus, thanks in part to the generosity and vision of supporters such as the Byrne Foundation, Hope Foundation, Mascoma Savings Bank Foundation, Dartmouth College, Ledyard Charter School board, parents and volunteers. We also look forward to the 2014-15 school year in which Whaleback Mountain will partner with us to offer a valuable component of outdoor education in science, service and skills-building. Additionally, thanks to Balagur Associates, we have just leased a beautiful new space at the Whipple Building in downtown Lebanon for our school. With 12 years in special education, I understand the needs of students who seek an alternative to a traditional comprehensive high school. As former director of sales for the Pepsi Bottling Group, I also understand the needs and expectations of employers. Our goal at LCS is and will remain to graduate students well equipped to enter the workforce or pursue additional education.

I am excited to collaborate toward our shared future and I will keep you updated on our students’ successes. Thanks to all who have supported LCS over the past five years. We welcome continued support from our community. Please visit our website at to learn more.

John Higgins, Executive Director, Ledyard Charter School