Veterans for Peace
William Ladd Chapter 001
Minutes from Business Meeting
November 19, 2009
Belfast, Maine

PRESENT: Richard Clement, Rita Clement, Doug Rawlings, Herb Hoffman, Bruce Gagnon, Dan Ellis, Tom Sturtevant, Tom Whitney, Clarence Smith, Dud Hendrick, Michael Uhl, and Susan Connery

The meeting began at 7:10 pm.

  • Doug read his 1985 statement about why he was interested in forming a group of veterans interested in working for peace. All five founding members wrote such a statement at Jerry Genesio’s request. Statements can be found in Jerry’s book about VFP.
  • Minutes from the October 2009 meeting were approved (Herb motion/ Smitty second).
  • Dud presented the treasurer’s report in Kristina’s absence. Since there was a major discrepancy in the balance, Dud felt that he couldn’t go on with the report until clarifying the mistake with Kristina.
  • Dan presented the membership report: not much change this month. 176 members in the chapter (143 veteran members, 29 associate members, and 4 honorary members). 104 members have kept their dues payments current. Dud called members on his list. There was some discussion about who our honorary members are. We concluded that they are Maria Holt, Rob Shetterly, Seth Berner, and John Branson.
  • Tom Sturtevant reported that MaineShare will be sending out checks at the end of December. Although Tom wasn’t able to say what amount VFP will be receiving, he did comment that giving to MaineShare has dropped as the economy worsens. Tom will attend the MaineShare annual meeting and encourages other members to attend if possible.
  • There was no Nominating Committee business.
  • Herb reported on the November 6th rally in Portland. He thought it went off very well with about 100 people in attendance on a cold, blustery night. All four speakers (Bruce Gagnon, Lisa Savage, Dud Hendrick [speaking for Jack Bussell], and David Swanson) provided needed, in-depth comments about the war in Afghanistan and what we in the peace movement can do about stopping it. During the rally about 200 supporters of marriage equality joined in on their way down Congress Street. Herb Hoffman thanked the chapter for its commitment of $250 to the rally, none of which he had to use – the total expense was $5.00, for sound. Herb will cover that out of pocket, so no VFP funds were needed. We agreed that Herb should run all rallies in the future if he can deliver such economies of scale. Bruce pointed out that Herb deserves much credit for putting on a good, spirited protest. VFP banners were prominently displayed, and there was good press coverage (including Ch. 8). Bruce also mentioned the need to stay informed about the testing of drones here in Maine and elsewhere (which he spoke to during the rally). Apparently, Maine has been targeted for such testing because of our cold weather – drones are infamous for crashing in cold weather, so the designers of these death machines feel they need to use our land to fine tune their power to kill innocents. We should be vigilant and resist all such plans.
  • The Armistice Day (Veterans’ Day) parade/march was discussed. We had a good turnout (probably 50 in all) with at least six members of the crowd joining in with us as we marched. Our banner (GET OUT OF AFGHANISTAN NOW) was favorably received by many except the American Legion. One representative of the legion thought that our message was political and, therefore, broke the rules of the parade. One response is that the statement on the so-called “offensive” banner was perfectly in order – it expressed our organization’s mission statement concisely. There will be further decision about our presence in the parade, no doubt. Some around the table thought that the action was fine since we need to more forcefully call attention to the Afghanistan War; others thought that it was a bad move, tactically, since it now gives the American Legion a perception of leverage if they want to exclude us from the next parade. Since it appeared that members of the Portland City Council supported our message (thumbs up, etc), some members around the table thought that we have some good support for our future participation in the parade. We shall see.
  • Bruce announced a meeting this coming Saturday (November 21st) at the Addams-Melman house at 1:00 pm to discuss how we in Maine can plan a campaign to end the war in Afghanistan. He emphasized David Swanson’s point that focusing on our congressional delegation to stop the funding is probably the best action to take. Bruce will propose that we in Maine mount a three month campaign that’s very much grass-roots, taking around broadsheets, writing letters to the editor, contacting our representatives and insisting that they take leadership roles in cutting funding for the Afghanistan War (not just merely react to public pressure). Doug moved (Dan seconded) that Maine VFP endorse this idea: “A campaign to influence our congressional representatives to defund the Afghanistan War be launched in Maine.” Approved. Michael suggested that Obama has a three year plan that will include escalation of the war and that we should be prepared to respond. Dud called our attention to Tom Englehart’s “speech that Obama should make” on Tomdispatch. He also mentioned that Common Dreams has posted a petition to call for an end to the war and encouraged individual members to sign on.
  • Herb called our attention to Laurie Dobson’s letter to Obama about ending the Afghanistan War. Many people are beginning to sign on (including Cynthia McKinney and members of VFP). He thinks this is a good mobilizing tactic since it includes the statement that members of the Democratic Party will be encouraged to leave the party if Obama continues to support the war (which is gaining some teeth since the California Dems have officially endorsed the same position). Herb moved (Smitty second) that the William Ladd Chapter of VFP endorse this letter and appear as a signatory. After much discussion, the motion was accepted (with two abstentions).
  • Herb announced plans for a December 12th rally in Washington, DC to oppose the Afghanistan War as a preliminary move before the planned March rally. He says that the rally is developing quickly, with McKinney’s son signing on, David Swanson signing on. He’ s going to approach national VFP to see if we can have a VFP speaker there as well. Michael thinks that Obama’s escalation statement will reflect pressures from the Gates “camp” as well as the Eichenberg “camp.” Bruce is not supportive of this rally because he thinks it’s too “slipshod” and too hastily put together. Herb disagreed. Michael thought that no harm would come from supporting a rally like this; Herb believes that we need to continue encouraging people to take to the streets rather than sitting at their computers; Smitty agreed with Bruce’s reservations about the rally. Herb moved (Doug seconded) that the William Ladd Chapter endorse the December 12th rally in Washington, DC. The motion passed with one abstention.
  • Herb suggested that we rejuvenate the “Bring the National Guard Home” movement. He and Tom Sturtevant are willing to work on this project. They think we should reintroduce the bill we fashioned last year (based on the Vermont bill) this year since we could emphasize that this is an improper use of the Guard in these difficult economic times, in these times when the “homeland” is under supposed threat, and in these times when the stress level on our Guard and Reserves is mounting to a breaking point. Many of us feel that this would be a good time to encourage our local representatives to support such a bill. Herb thinks that he might be able to convince his representative, Peter Bowman, into offering such support. Doug moved (Herb second) that our chapter work to submit a bill to our legislature calling for the withdrawal of Maine National Guard troops from Afghanistan. Motion approved. Herb and Tom will work to modify the existing statement; we will then put the statement on to our list-serve and encourage members to approach their state representatives and seek out bill sponsors. Further discussion: Michael thinks this issue will probably not have much traction; Herb disagrees, thinking that the National Guard (and their families) is a population we don’t usually reach and this might be the time to reach out to them with our message. We’ll see.
  • Tom Whitney discussed his recent trip to Colombia with an organized labor delegation. He is proposing that VFP spend some time focusing on the wars in Central and South America. He’d even like us to consider a workshop on this topic at our national convention in August. He handed out a fact sheet on the situation in Colombia, mentioning that the U.S. has used (and continues to use and plans on using) Colombia as a sort of “beachhead” to further its military incursion into the Americas. Of course it’s the rich and their allies that are encouraging this to protect their ill-gotten gains. We are setting up our military in Colombia to assist us in interfering in Venezuelan politics and could build up to 7 bases there, giving us “access” to all of Central and South America down to Tierra Del Fuego. Tom reminds us that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could be considered diversions as we ramp up our military efforts in the Americas, leading us down the same path we wandered during the Vietnam War. Tom is seeking consensus from our chapter to write about his findings in Colombia and to publish letters in editorial pages under our auspices. Bruce moved (Herb second) that our chapter ask Tom to write letters to newspapers and use our VFP name to further this cause, asking also for petitions to be signed in support of withdrawing bases from the Americas and, finally, to propose a workshop for our upcoming convention. Motion approved.
  • 2010 Convention: Dud announced that Jack Bussell has resigned from both the VFP Chapter and VFP national because of health reasons, effective November 12, 2009. Dud accepted his resignation with much regret, reading from a statement from Jack: he felt he had no other recourse than to resign since the stress of belonging to VFP has had detrimental effects on his health. He will forward all pertinent convention data and reports and contacts to Dud. After many years of service to VFP, Jack felt that it was in the best interests of his family that he resign all duties and obligations. Various members around the table expressed their regrets and words of encouragement to Jack. And we will more formally honor his service at a later date.

    Dud discussed the convention further: we have decided that our problems with the Eastland Hotel and its accessibility to members with disabilities rules out the Eastland for a convention venue. We are now exploring the possibility of either holding it at the Holiday Inn by the Bay (in town Portland) or the Marriott Sable Oaks out by the Maine Mall. Tim Blanchette has really picked up the ball here and is exploring both venues, discussing rates and meeting with personnel. Michael and Doug will be meeting with representatives from both venues this coming Monday morning (November 23rd).

    Dud asked Michael and Doug to serve with him as co-chairs for the 2010 convention. They agreed.

    Dan asked if the Eastland had been notified. Dud informed us that John Branson has helped craft a letter to the Eastland Hotel pointing out that we are withdrawing our reservation for accessibility reasons (further validated by a report from Alpha One, an accredited disabilities association). Our letter was sent out by certified mail on November 19th. We are requesting that the agreement with the hotel be terminated with no penalties attached. Dud will keep us informed of the results.

    Dud proposed that we forego the December Business meeting (as we have done in past Decembers), but that the 2010 Convention Planning Committee meet after Thanksgiving. He also informed us that if we choose to go with the Holiday Inn, we’ll have to move the convention date up a week. Dud will continue review of Jack’s notes and prepare to reconnect with important convention participants (lobster bake group, etc).

    Michael remarked that locking down the venue is of utmost importance. We really can’t assume that we can afford either the Holiday Inn or the Marriott. We’re leaning towards the Holiday Inn because the National Board really does prefer an in-town venue. We’ll need to notify the national board immediately about our chosen venue to get their input.

    The planning committee has agreed to meet at the Addams-Melman House on November 30th at 6:00 pm. We also agreed that, apart from the necessary social gathering, we should devote the entire January retreat to convention planning.

    Tom Sturtevant pointed out that the Marriott Hotel might prove to be a problem since we are definitely a “labor issues sensitive” organization and the Marriott group just trashed their union in Boston. VFP members might not want to stay at a Marriott after that.

  • January Retreat: Dud announced that we have paid off Chewonki for last year’s retreat. He’d like to have us meet this year at the Point Lookout Resort and Conference Center in Northport (by Camden). It’s the former MBNA site that is now privately owned and quite spiffy (no yurts in sight). The prices for rooms ($99 for a single) ($139 for a double) are not that much more compared to Chewonki. In addition, we could bring partners, etc etc. He’ll look into this possibility further. A function room would cost us $350 for a day. Hey there’s a bowling alley, too.
  • The meeting adjourned at 9:15 pm.