Membership Meeting on Transportation

Thursday, April 3

7:30 – 9:00 pm

Waban Library Center, 1608 Beacon Street, Waban

Join League members as we discuss potential local positions on transportation.  We’ll decide on whether or not we’d like to put two proposed statements forward for a vote at the Annual Meeting in May.  This League process needs 25 League members to participate, discuss, and review the material, so join us on April 3rd!

Click here for the LWVN-Transportation-Discussion-Book–Updated

2014 Handbook Sponsorships

The LWVN’s bi-annual handbook will be coming this spring, so now is the time to ask friends, family and favorite businesses to support the League. Sponsorships start at $50 for a quarter page. Please invite your favorite florist / tailor / fill-in-the-blank to support the League by purchasing a spot!  Download and print the letter and form below, or direct them to this year’s new, easy online form.  The deadline is April 7, so don’t delay.

Dear Friend,

As a member of the League of Women Voters of Newton, I would like to invite your business to be a sponsor of the 2014-2015 edition of our Handbook.  This year we are once again placing a “Yellow Pages” section of supporters in the Handbook and are seeking sponsorship from businesses and services that individual Newton League members have found useful and would recommend to others.

Our handbook, published every other year just after local elections, is an important tool for our members and other influential citizens in the community.  It contains a directory of all current elected officials, from Newton’s municipal government up through U.S. President; contact information for all of our members; municipal meeting calendars; League position statements; and other pertinent information.  The new edition is being prepared now for publication in April.

I have found my association with your business to be one that I want other League members to know about, and I hope you will agree to sponsor the League.  The list of rates and terms is outlined on the accompanying sheet.  Please note that we must receive copy and payment by March 31, 2014 for sponsorships to appear in this year’s handbook.

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, has fought since 1920 to improve our system of government and impact public policies through citizen education and advocacy.  The League of Women Voters is nonpartisan in that it does not support or oppose any political party or candidate; it is political in that it takes positions on selected governmental issues after member study and agreement.  The League’s enduring vitality and resonance come from its unique decentralized structure.  The League is a grassroots organization, working at the local, state, and national levels.

The Newton League has a robust membership of over 200 informed and active citizens.  In order to help Newton citizens become educated, informed and active voters, we:

  • Promote and assist in the registration of voters;
  • Provide information about elections and voting procedures, and help the electorate learn the views of all candidates through Candidate’s Forums and Voter’s Guides;
  • Work to assure that government is accessible to all, by recruiting and training League members to observe and report on municipal meetings;
  • Join with other Newton organizations to sponsor forums to inform Newton citizens about important local issues; e.g., our Early Education Forum co-sponsored with the John M. Barry Boys and Girls Club of Newton; the League’s Candidates Workshop, Don’t Just Stand There, Run;  and we co-sponsored with the Green Decade the forum, Water Wars in MA- Reforming Water Management in a Blue State.

If you have any questions, please contact me or our handbook editor, Lisa Mirabile (617-332-5374 or handbook@lwvnewton.org).

Thank you very much for your support of the League of Women Voters of Newton.

Agriculture Study News–Update

Please join us–Wed. March 19, 2014, 7:30 pm, at the Boys and Girls Club to discuss and come to consensus on the study questions!

LWV members from Newton and Needham gathered at the Boys and Girls Club on March 12 to learn background information for the current LWV US Agriculture study.  The study’s motto is “If you eat, you are involved with agriculture,” and we quickly realized that we had a lot to learn.  Speakers were Steve Goodwin, Dean of College of Natural Sciences at UMass/Amherst, and Greg Maslowe, Farm Manager at Newton Community Farm.  Local Leagues in Wisconsin and the Midwest have been pushing for an agriculture study to enable LWV US to lobby on issues associated with the Farm Bills and other food related issues.  In order to narrow the scope of the study to a do-able size, we are focusing on current technology issues in agriculture, finance issues, including consolidation in agriculture industries, crop subsidies, and the federal regulatory process; as well as food safety and labeling issues.

Dean. Goodwin talked about the role of top research universities in agricultural and economic research as they attempt to be honest brokers of information and research among all the competing interests in the industry:  Big agriculture; corporations such as General Mills and Pepsi, chemical industries, consumer safety and security advocates are among the many players.

The term “organic” for food products came up for discussion first, with Dean Goodwin pointing out that the basic meaning of the word “organic” is really “having a lot of carbon molecules”—which makes DDT pesticide a very organic product.  He believes the term is the worst possible for negotiating issues among famers, consumers, retailers and researchers.  In some ways it is a “catch all” term used to mark best agricultural practices, including low pesticide use, responsible use of chemical fertilizers, Integrated Pest Management, and sustainable farming techniques.  Dean Goodwin  pointed out that agriculture is the industry with the largest “carbon footprint”, and that much of that is due to trucking and the global distribution of food products.

Greg Maslowe, on the other hand, encourages the use of the term “organic” and pointed out that information on what the term means in food labeling is available on the USDA website.   However, there are different standards in different locations , and among different certifying groups.  Small independent farmers generally don’t use the term because it requires some practices that are unpractical for small scale operations.   Consumers frequently have mistaken ideas about what “organic” labeled produce really is..Mr Maslowe believes our entire food supply system in broken; for instance we are on a treadmill of using antibiotics in animal feed, and pesticide development that requires continual upgrading to keep up with resistance that builds up naturally in organisms treated with any synthetic or toxic substances.  We have sorely depleted the soil in our most productive agricultural areas, and we have not solved the problem of overuse of aquifer water in the west, which threatens water supplies for all uses in the not very distant future.  Mr Maslowe recommended getting to know nearby producers, and keeping as much of your purchasing as local as possible, as the most practical steps to take.

Discussion included reminders that the USA has long history of subsidizing agriculture in order to keep food prices low.   The systems of that subsidy are open to increased debate:  crop insurance as opposed to farm subsidy payments is part of the current Farm bill.  Many well -established American agricultural practices, are, when looked at squarely, open to a great deal of question.  Consumers were urged for many years to look for “corn fed beef”, but since cattle digestive systems had evolved for pasture grazing, and not the digestion of corn, the use of antibiotics has become standard because it enables cattle to digest feed corn, and that practice allows farm producers to meet consumer demand.  Does this make sense?  Perhaps we may want to pay higher prices for meat that is not “corn fed”?

Major commodity farming of feed corn, soy, wheat and so forth has been very successful in the USA, but we are heading to disaster if we continue current practices.  How can we provide food security by having a reasonable amount of most people’s diets from local food?  Dean Goodwin thought that a manageable goal for New England is to produce one third of the food we need within the region.

With climate change we can expect more variation in the weather, with seasons of too much rain and too little rain becoming more common, which will have major impacts on our food production.

Other topics mentioned included:  Wisconsin’s lead over Massachusetts in cranberry production with widespread construction of artificial cranberry bogs;   meat production has such a high carbon footprint that reducing meat consumption is really necessary for environmental reasons, never mind health issues.  No solution has been developed for dealing with the animal manure by- product of large and intensive scale cattle, pig, chicken farming.

Neither speaker thought there is any inherent harm in genetically modified crops, but issues around testing of new technologies for food production—premarket? post market?  by whom? and using what standards? are all problems we have not reached resolution on.

Issues of sustainability for natural resources and food labeling and safety were also discussed.

 

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