Town Meeting: Hanover approves Gaza cease-fire resolution

Dartmouth professor Sergei Kan, center left, confronts Sharon Racusin, center right, of Hanover, N.H., as she votes on an amendment to a ceasefire resolution during town meeting at Hanover High School in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Racusin said she knows Kan, who was attending the meeting as an observer, through the Upper Valley Jewish community to which they both belong and was taken aback by his comments, in which he criticized her for bringing forward a ceasefire resolution and said she was “not the brightest bulb.” (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Dartmouth professor Sergei Kan, center left, confronts Sharon Racusin, center right, of Hanover, N.H., as she votes on an amendment to a ceasefire resolution during town meeting at Hanover High School in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Racusin said she knows Kan, who was attending the meeting as an observer, through the Upper Valley Jewish community to which they both belong and was taken aback by his comments, in which he criticized her for bringing forward a ceasefire resolution and said she was “not the brightest bulb.” (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America photographs — Alex Driehaus

From left, Randy Witwick, of Hanover, N.H., stops on his way home from voting to talk to Nesreen Itani and her son Ali Osman, both of Grantham, N.H., and members of Upper Valley for Palestine, during town meeting at Hanover High School in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. “Sometimes we have the hubris of thinking we know everything,” Witwick said. “You’ve got to ask questions.” (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

From left, Randy Witwick, of Hanover, N.H., stops on his way home from voting to talk to Nesreen Itani and her son Ali Osman, both of Grantham, N.H., and members of Upper Valley for Palestine, during town meeting at Hanover High School in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. “Sometimes we have the hubris of thinking we know everything,” Witwick said. “You’ve got to ask questions.” (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hanover Chief of Police Charlie Dennis, center, listens as community members discuss an amendment to strike a contribution to the police vehicles and equipment capital reserve fund from article 11, which failed by a voice vote, during town meeting at Hanover High School in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Several attendees voiced their opinions on the police response to a protest at Dartmouth on May 1, and were told that a selectboard meeting would be a more appropriate venue for the conversation. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hanover Chief of Police Charlie Dennis, center, listens as community members discuss an amendment to strike a contribution to the police vehicles and equipment capital reserve fund from article 11, which failed by a voice vote, during town meeting at Hanover High School in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Several attendees voiced their opinions on the police response to a protest at Dartmouth on May 1, and were told that a selectboard meeting would be a more appropriate venue for the conversation. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America photographs — Alex Driehaus

Attendees hold up cards as they vote to approve a collective bargaining agreement reached by the selectboard and the town’s public works department employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 93, Local 1348 during town meeting at Hanover High School in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Voters approved the CBA, along with two others covering fire and police department employees. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Attendees hold up cards as they vote to approve a collective bargaining agreement reached by the selectboard and the town’s public works department employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 93, Local 1348 during town meeting at Hanover High School in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Voters approved the CBA, along with two others covering fire and police department employees. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Dartmouth student Jackson Weinstein, center, proposes an amendment to a ceasefire resolution, calling on the United States government to support “permanent and lasting peace throughout the Middle East” for people in all nations, during town meeting at Hanover High School in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. The amendment failed, 132 to 74, and the original ceasefire resolution passed 101 to 89. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Dartmouth student Jackson Weinstein, center, proposes an amendment to a ceasefire resolution, calling on the United States government to support “permanent and lasting peace throughout the Middle East” for people in all nations, during town meeting at Hanover High School in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. The amendment failed, 132 to 74, and the original ceasefire resolution passed 101 to 89. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

By PATRICK ADRIAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 05-15-2024 8:25 PM

Modified: 05-15-2024 8:59 PM


HANOVER — The ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, as well as the related protests and arrests at Dartmouth College, overshadowed regular business at Tuesday night’ s annual Town Meeting.

Voters approved all spending proposals on the warrant, including a $31 million main operating budget, $2.1 million in capital expenditures and new three-year collective bargaining agreements for police, fire and public works employees.

But many of the voters at the in-person portion of the 4 ½-hour meeting held at Hanover High School were most eager to discuss the petitioned article calling for an immediate and permanent cease-fire in Gaza and the West Bank and for a stoppage of U.S. military aid to Israel.

In paper balloting the article passed,101-89.

“This resolution is part of a movement of towns and cities across the county to condemn the U.S. (government’s) complicity in Israel’s apartheid and system of oppression,” explained resident Sharon Racusin, who submitted the proposed article.

The Israel-Hamas war, now in its seventh month, has tallied death counts of over 34,800 Palestinians and 1,410 Israelis, and displaced 1.7 million people in Gaza since the conflict began on Oct. 7, according to the United Nations.

Voters, including many Dartmouth students, lined up behind a microphone to contribute to the discussion, which began at 10 p.m. — three hours into the meeting.

“I think we should take a stand on not sending our tax dollars to support a genocide,” said resident Jake Blum. “They are routinely dropping (2,000-pound) bombs supplied by (our country) on densely populated urban areas, on defenseless people. Some might be Hamas, but the majority are innocent civilians.”

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Opponents to the proposal said the resolution was one-sided and divisive by targeting the Israeli government as the primary perpetrator of the violence.

“Many Dartmouth students, faculty and staff) find this resolution’s text overly exclusive, ill-nuanced for this conflict … and only liable to hurt of offend a large portion of this town’s residents who may feel unsafe, unwelcome or unheard in their own town or their campus,” said Dartmouth freshman Jackson Weinstein.

Weinstein moved to replace the resolution with a version that expressed support for “a permanent and lasting peace in the Middle East” and for the protection of all peoples’ rights and well-being — while removing any specific mention of Israel or Palestine.

Voters rejected Weinstein’s amendment by secret ballot, 132-74. Opponents of the change criticized the omission of stopping military aid to Israel, which was a key component of the original draft.

Earlier in the meeting, voters criticized the town police for its involvement in the arrests of 89 pro-Palestinian demonstrators on the Dartmouth Green on May 1, and the town’s refusal to release information about two Dartmouth student activists who were arrested by town police on Oct. 28 for setting up an encampment on the lawn in front of Dartmouth President Sian Leah Beilock’s office.

Last month, attorneys for the Valley News argued in Grafton County Superior Court for the release of the records. A judge’s ruling is pending.

“We have had no accountability for our police’s brutal behavior, we have had no accountability from Selectboard members for the events of May 1 or last October, including a release of public records that have been requested concerning those (October) arrests,” said resident Nancy Welch.

Selectboard Chairman Athos Rassias encouraged residents to bring their questions or concerns to a regular Selectboard meeting instead of Town Meeting, when the goal is to vote on articles on the town warrant.

The board could consider scheduling a public listening session to discuss the campus arrests, at the board’s reorganization meeting — when newly elected board members are sworn in and the board chooses new officers — on Monday, Rassias said. “Speaking for the current board, we would certainly be happy and willing to set a meeting but I can’t do that right now,” he said.

Proposals by voters to remove funding for the police department from two appropriations, including $126,000 to replenish the department’s capital reserve fund and $100,000 to purchase firearms and radios, were defeated in voice votes.

The budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 includes $17 million to be raised by property taxes, including $12 million for the general fund and $5 million for fire department services — which are taxed separately.

The new town tax rate, combined with fire services, will be $6.21 per $1,000 of assessed property value — equivalent to $3,105 on a $500,000 home.

In ballot voting earlier in the day, three candidates were vying for two Selectboard seats. Incumbent Joanna Whitcomb finished first with 500 votes and elected Jarett Berke,owner of Lou’s Restaurant in downtown Hanover and a member of the town planning board, secured the second three-year term with 478 votes. Kari Asmus, chairwoman of the town’s finance committee, failed in her bid to join the Selectboard with 348 votes.

Voters at the polls also approved five proposed zoning amendments, including allowing a maximum building height of 55 feet in the downtown center — a 10 foot increase — and removing a regulation that restricts buildings’ maximum square footage.

A total of 731 ballots were cast on Tuesday, just 9% of the town’s 7,931 registered voters.

Patrick Adrian may be reached at padrian@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.