New Hampshire Rebels Against Political Corruption

by Roger Wood

A rainy Fourth of July turned sunny for a dedicated legion of activists.  Organizers of the NH Rebellion and their supporters walked dozens of miles from all directions.  They converged on historic Prescott Park in  Portsmouth, NH to fine tune their message that big spending by big entities corrupts Washington, and that has to stop.

Roger Wood photo

They began their message by reciting the Declaration of Independence.  You can see a video of that reading below.

The rally attracted some 100 people to a location where many politicians launched their campaigns or conducted their stump speeches with the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in the background.

NH rebellion spectators – Roger Wood photo

Lawrence Lessig, who founded NH Rebellion some 15 years ago, exhorted the crowd to get involved, by making each 2016 President contender know that they oppose the spending that influences Washington politicians.  I spoke to him afterward, in a podcast interview.  You can listen by clicking on the arrow below or download link.

 

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Lessig, who has crisscrossed the state twice in his battle against political corruption was energized as he spoke to the crowd in the oldest part of the city. There is also a video of part of his address to the Portsmouth residents and others who came out for the event.

In the coming weeks and months, the activist group plans to bring its message to voters and Presidential candidates across the state in hopes of making campaign finance reform a central issue in the upcoming election.

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New Hampshire Rebellion – Second Independence Day?

The Fourth of July weekend means a lot more than just fireworks, beaches and barbecues. It marks the start of the rebellion against British rule in 1776.   New Hampshire, one of the 13 original colonies as well represented in the list of signatories of the Declaration of Independence.  Josiah Bartlett, Matthew Thornton and William Whipple were among those willing to take the risk of signing a document that could cost them their freedom or lives. Now, a new New Hampshire rebellion, percolating for the last couple of years, is reaching a crescendo, as the 2016 Presidential election draws closer.  A dedicated cadre of activists is hosting a march and rally to Prescott Park in downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  They will be at the location where hundreds of politicians have stood, either declaring their intentions to run, or stirring up the populace with campaign stump speeches.

Images courtesy of NH Rebellion

But this group, led by Dan Weeks, is running a different kind of campaign.  As you will hear in the podcast interview by click on the arrow below, his organization is rallying against what the group sees as corruption fueled by interests that spend large amounts of money for or against candidates or referendums.

A video prepared by the organization follows the podcast, along with the official news release promoting the July 4th. rally at Prescott Park.

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Here is a short video featuring some of the images and personalities of the NH rebellion.

Here, finally is the schedule of events July 4th. from the group’s news release.

On July 4th, Hundreds to Celebrate the Declaration of Independence and Call for “Rebellion” Against Modern-Day Corruption in Politics

Public Reading of Declaration of Independence Concludes 36-mile “Walk for Independence” to Portsmouth, NH

PORTSMOUTH, NH — After the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, prints were made, couriers dispatched, and the Declaration read in towns throughout the colonies, including Portsmouth.  This Saturday, July 4th, hundreds of citizen rebels again gather to hear the entire Declaration in Prescott Park as part of a new rebellion against big money politics.

Hosted by the NH Rebellion, the reading of the Declaration of Independence will be done by former Democratic State Senator Burt Cohen and former Republican State Representative and Assistant US Secretary of State Betty Tamposi.  The cross-partisan reading and “Rally for Independence” come at the end of NH Rebellion’s July 4th “Walk for Independence” from Rochester and Hampton to Portsmouth.  The walks follow in the footsteps of legendary NH reformer Doris “Granny D” Haddock, who walked across the United States at the age of 90 to protest big money in politics.

“Just like in the American Revolution, the citizens are angry. Angry that their vote doesn’t carry as much weight as a big corporation, which doesn’t even have a vote,”  said Dan Weeks, a leader of the NH Rebellion.  ”We’re out to change that, and demand that candidates for office take action against this corruption when they get to office,” he said.

The event begins at 4:30 as free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is served to walkers and anyone who attends the rally, followed by the reading of the Declaration at 5 p.m. and speakers from the NH Rebellion.   Citizens are still welcome to register for the free walk at walk.nhrebellion.org as well as attend the rally.

Lawrence Lessig, founder of the NH Rebellion, will be speaking at the rally.   Lessig is a Harvard Law School Professor and internationally known expert on intellectual property, but has turned his time to organizing against the influence of big money in politics.   His TED Talk “We the People” has had over 1.2 million views on YouTube and Lessig has spoken around the United States and with every major news outlet.  This will be the eighth large-scale walk of the NH Rebellion since 2014. NH Rebellion is part of Open Democracy, the NH nonpartisan organization dedicated to transparent and accountable governance.

RALLY SCHEDULE:

4:30 PM – Walkers gather at Prescott Park (free Ben & Jerry’s served)

5:00 PM – Rally for Independence featuring Declaration of Independence reading by Burt Cohen and Betty Tamposi, speech by Lawrence Lessig, theatrics
5:30 PM – Rally ends and walkers depart (free rides back to parking)

FULL DAY SCHEDULE:

Rochester to Portsmouth Walk

6:30 AM – Breakfast and meeting at Rochester Commons (breakfast provided by Panera Dover)

7:00 AM – Kickoff at Rochester Commons with guest speakers

11:00 AM – Lunch at Dover Friends Meeting House

2:00 PM – Waypoint, Old General Sullivan Pedestrian Bridge

Hampton to Portsmouth Walk

10:00 AM – Kickoff at 229 Ocean Boulevard, Hampton Beach (courtesy Panera)

12:50 PM – Waypoint at Rye Harbor State Park

1:25 PM – Waypoint at Wallis Sands Beach

2:25 PM – Waypoint at Moose Lodge, Portsmouth NH

For information on the NH Rebellion and its activities, see their website at NHRebellion.org or call 603-264-2877.

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Tidal Power to Electrify New Memorial Bridge System

by Roger Wood

The two-year old Memorial Bridge connecting New Hampshire and Maine will harness the swift flowing Piscataqua River for a ground-breaking project to monitor many aspects of the bridge’s operation.

I spoke to Ann Scholz of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.  You can listen to my interview by clicking on the arrow below or download link.  The official news release from the D.O.T. on the “Living Bridge” initiative is below.

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The Memorial Bridge connecting Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Kittery, Maine may soon become a benchmark for assessing the long-term condition of transportation infrastructure.

 

The “Living Bridge” project will create “a self-diagnosing, self-reporting smart infrastructure” through the installation of approximately 250 sensors on the two year old lift bridge that will continually monitor traffic, environment, and the structural condition of the bridge. These sensors will specifically collect data on such conditions as traffic, stress, vibration, wind speed, temperature, and humidity. The sensors will be powered by tidal energy through a turbine system installed at a bridge pier.

 

There are several innovations on the Memorial Bridge that will be monitored for possible future use on other transportation projects, including gusset-less truss connections, structural metalized steel coating, and vertical lift balance system. This bridge monitoring system will proactively assess and maintain bridge performance, and reduce long-term maintenance costs.

 

The innovative project that expands on a National Science Foundation project is a partnership between the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT), the Maine DOT, the University of New Hampshire and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). It is being made possible by a $355,000 FHWA Accelerated Innovating Deployment (AID) award.  - News Release from NHDOT.

 

According to UNH Assistant Professor of Engineering Erin Bell, the Memorial Bridge will “have the capacity to sense its environment, communicate with people, and even “feed” itself with electric energy. We hope that the Living Bridge will become somewhat of a prototype for the estuarine bridge of the future.”

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SAPL Advocates Wind Power

The Seacoast Anti-Pollution League has long been an opponent of conventional power plants.  The activist group was an early antagonist of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant.  They, the Clamshell alliance and more radical group Direct Action, were outspoken in their ultimately unsuccessful effort to block the plant from opening.  While the group continues to oppose the plant’s re-licensing process, citing alleged concrete problems in non-nuclear buildings, the non-profit has also espoused alternative energies.  At its recent annual meeting this month,  SAPL featured a program based on off-shore wind power.  You can see a video of their program below.  The group is based in Portsmouth, NH and their website is www.saplnh.org

 

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Thousands celebrate gay pride in New England City

Portsmouth, New Hampshire is a small sea-side city of some 22 thousand people.  But one day after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage in the U.S., nearly one fifth of that number, some 4 thousand people jammed the downtown to march and rally in celebration of the ruling.

Roger Wood photo

City Mayor Bob Lister called the event “a great day for Portsmouth.”  Assistant Mayor Jim Splaine, a long-time gay rights activist, told the huge crowd that he has dropped the word “gay” from gay marriage.  He pointed out that over three thousand same sex marriages have taken place in New Hampshire since it was legalized.  You can listen to a podcast interview with Splaine by clicking on the listen arrow below or download link.  There is also a video of the march into the downtown by celebrants.

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Splaine has also been at the forefront of investigating a local police officer, who was ultimately fired for improperly influencing an elderly woman to inherit her nearly $3 million dollar estate.  Below is a video showing the march through downtown Portsmouth.

 

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Relay for Life – Cancer Victims and Survivors Honored

Each year, more than 4 million people in over 20 countries raise much-needed funds and awareness to save lives from cancer through the Relay For Life movement.  Volunteers raise funds and celebrate the  14 million cancer survivors who will celebrate another birthday this year!

Relay For Life teams camp out overnight and take turns walking or running around a track or path at a local high school, park, or fairground. Events are up to 24 hours long, and because cancer never sleeps, each team is asked to have at least one participant on the track at all times. – From www.relayforlife.org website.

My own wife, Elaine Moses Wood is one of those celebrants.  She survived a bout with breast cancer in 2008.  Since then, she has been an active participant in the Seacoast NH Relay for Life.  She has brought with her luminaries that will be lit at night, specifically honoring my mother, Virginia Wood, along with two of her relatives, Julia Freeman and Mary Mozart, all cancer victims.

This year, her team, the Piscataqua Savings Bank team, joined others at Winnacunnet High School in Hampton.  She participated in the survivors’ walk, in addition to other events.  She also sent along pictures from the New Hampshire event.   Thanks to her work, and the labors of others, there will be another birthday and relay next year.

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Training to Save Lives on the Water

It’s an all too familiar scenario, especially in summer.  A family goes to what looks like a safe spot to swim, and it ends up in tragedy.  The latest such incident involved a father and son, both drowning in the Merrimack River in Boscawen, New Hampshire.  A family of four went swimming off a sandbar in the swift running river, and when the 10 year old son went under, his father tried to rescue him.  The boy’s body was recovered, but the search for the father has gone on, so far without success.

Keeping people safe on the waterways is the goal of emergency responders statewide.  Recently, a flotilla of jet-skis manned by members of the Durham and Bedford fire departments took to the surf off Pirate’s Cove Beach in Rye, New Hampshire.  They were there to practice rescues in rough water.

Pirate’s Cove Beach – Roger Wood photo

I spoke to Ben Selleck,  of the Bedford, FD, who is the training director for the water rescue teams.  You can hear my podcast with him by clicking on the listen arrow below or clicking on the download link, depending on your device.  There is also a video featuring the team of jet-ski training participants.

 

 

Here is a podcast interview with Ben Selleck of the Bedford, NH Fire Department.

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Below is a video showing the training members off the coast.

 

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Spanish Galeon Sails into Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Visitors and locals will be dazzled by the appearance of a 16th century Spanish Galleon replica when she docks with her Spanish crew later this summer.  The tall ship El Galeon Andalucia will be open for tours and other events for four days starting July 22nd, and running through the 25th.  This summer, there will be a change of location for the traditional tall ship festival, known as Sail Portsmouth.  Andalucia will be docked at the Commercial Fish Pier, near the beautiful Prescott Park, which will be featuring Peter Pan as its major production.    The city’s Piscataqua Maritime Commission will host the 170 foot  vessel, which will be open for public tours daily from 10 am to 5:30 pm.  The festivities start out with the traditional Parade of Sail and welcoming ceremony for the Spanish captain and crew.   Joining the Galleon will be the 120 foot two masted schooner Lynx, created in Baltimore during the War of 1812.   You can listen to a podcast featuring Larry Job and Valerie Rochon, of the Commission and Chamber of Commerce respectively.  There is also a video interview with Larry Job on this site I invite you to check out.

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Next is a short video of Larry Job, a member of the Piscataqua Maritime Commission at the Commercial Fish Pier.

The website for information on the ship’s visit and the commission is www.sailportsmouth.org

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African Burial Ground Memorial Now Open

One of the Only Such Sites in the Nation.

Morey Goodman stood in the middle of the newly dedicated African Burying Ground in downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  The Greenland resident served on the committee which worked tirelessly to raise over a million dollars for the sacred site.  A day before,  a throng of residents and visitors jammed Chestnut Street to observe the official dedication of the memorial.  Occupying most of the street, it serves as a memorial to African Americans who were enslaved in the city in the 1700′s.  The remains of 13 of those individuals were discovered by accident by crews digging up the pavement in 2003.  Now, 12 years later, the site is a solemn reminder that slavery didn’t just exist in the South.  Goodman credits Valerie Cunningham, founder of the Black Heritage Trail in Portsmouth as the “muse” of the group which worked on the memorial project from its inception.  She has been quoted as saying that the people buried there, and beyond those boundaries should be remembered as individuals and not slaves.    Goodman has predicted that the site will attract visitors from all over the country, and based on his observation on this day, he believes it won’t take long for that to happen.  I spoke to Morey Goodman at the site of the memorial.   A podcast of that interview is available by clicking on the listen arrow below or download link depending on your device.  There are also two videos available for viewing.  One is with Goodman, and the second with visitor Cecile Garcia of Randolph Massachusetts.

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Here follows two video interviews with Goodman and Cecile Garcia.


The newly dedicated African Burying Ground is lighted at night, and is located close to the Firefighters memorial at the city’s Central Fire Station on Court Street.

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African Burying Ground Memorial Complete – Dedication set

Since October of 2003, I’ve been following the progress of a dedicated group of Portsmouth residents who have been working on a memorial to a colonial era African burial ground.  It was unearthed, along with a 13 coffins and some human remains, while crews were working on a road project.    Experts believe as many as 200 individuals, slave and free were buried at the site now occupied by Chestnut Street in the city.  It was paved over and forgotten until the discovery.  Although their names are unknown, in 2004, the mayor appointed a committee to return the site to sacred ground.  The committee has raised nearly 1.2 million dollars to build the memorial and close off the street to regular vehicle travel.  It will be a pleasure to see the vision of the committee’s work be realized.  In May, a series of events will mark the celebration of the memorial’s completion. In this blog you will find complete details of the commemoration.

Here is a podcast of an earlier ceremony marking the project’s inception.

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Recently, I spoke with Valerie Cunningham, founder of the black history trail in the city, along with Mayor Bob Lister, at the site.  A video follows.

The following is from a news release issued by the city of Portsmouth.

The City of Portsmouth and its Mayoral-appointed African Burying Ground Committee have announced a multi-day commemoration to coincide with the completion of the African Burying Ground Memorial Park – We Stand in Honor of Those Forgotten. A reburial ceremony for the remains that were exhumed as part of site excavations on October 7, 2003 will be held in the morning of Saturday, May 23, 2015 at Chestnut Street. A series of events leading up to the reburial will include an onsite visit by Middle School students with project artist and sculpture Jerome Meadows, an unveiling of the artworks, an ancestral vigil and, after the reburial ceremony, a large public celebration at Portsmouth Middle School.

We are returning the Chestnut Street site to sacred ground; the Portsmouth community has found a meaningful and powerful way of honoring those buried beneath the street,” said Vernis Jackson, Chair of the African Burying Ground Committee. “These events are about remembering the dead and returning the remains to the earth, as well as acknowledging the site’s history and celebrating the community-wide effort that has made this project possible.”

The City, the African Burying Ground Committee and a group of dedicated volunteers have raised over $1.1 million towards the project. A total of $60,000 remains to be raised, according to Jackson. “We still need the community’s help to put our fundraising over the top,” Jackson said. “Now is the time for everyone who wishes to be a part of this important Portsmouth project to contribute.” (Donations may be made on the secure website www.africanburyinggroundnh.org or by check c/o African Burying Ground, 1 Junkins Avenue, Portsmouth NH 03801.)

Final Site Work

In the coming weeks, project contractors will return to the site to finish remaining work, which includes installations of the decorative fence at the Court Street end and decorative pavement for the travel lane, as well as remaining work on sidewalks, blue stone, and granite seat walls. Finally, in May, the original works of outdoor public art will be installed. “We have reached out to the abutters to make them aware of the remaining work and schedule, they have been incredibly supportive of this project for which we are grateful,” Chair Jackson said.

Reburial Service and Public Celebration

  • Wednesday, May 20thOn-siteevent with artist and sculptor Jerome Meadows, Portsmouth Middle School students and the community for artist discussion and to view student-designed tiles in for the Park’s decorative railing.
  • Friday, May 22nd – African Burying Ground Ancestral Vigil at New Hope Baptist Church. Services at 7 p.m., midnight and 7 a.m. with opportunities throughout the night for members of the community to participate.
  • Saturday, May 23rd
  • 8:30 a.m. — Unveiling of Art Work On-site at the African Burying Ground
  • 9:00 a.m. — Reburial Ceremony at African Burying Ground
  • 10:30 a.m. – Public Celebration at Portsmouth Middle School Auditorium
  • 7:00 p.m. – Blind Boys of Alabama at The Music Hall - A concert in recognition and celebration of the African Burying Ground Memorial

 

For full schedule and details please visit www.AfricanBuryingGroundNH.org.

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