For those of you not on the edge of your seat after reading my title, I encourage you to read my diary about renaming Jew Pond in Mont Vernon NH.
I have come here to give you an update on what has happened since my diary and the outcome of our vote.
March 13th - Town Meeting. I had no expectations and did not know if the Jew Pond name change would be welcomed or denied. With the help of a friend, I had a few sentences to say if I chose, but didn't know if I would. My husband and I came with our dear friend from town who was there for support.
When we arrived, the parking lot was full and parking overflowed into the street. There were three television news trucks ready to broadcast our decision. We entered the building and lined up, giving our names to verify residency and collect our blue tickets to be held up for each vote. Looking around the room, it was interesting putting faces to the names I had seen from our local Facebook group.
The meeting began with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer led by Pastor Dave. For over two hours we discussed and voted on regular town business. We were about to consider the Jew Pond warrant article when the fire alarm sounded. Was this comic relief? Everyone filed out and regrouped in the parking lot for a much needed break.
There was no fire, so we all returned and the discussion of renaming Jew Pond began. The warrant article stated that Jew Pond would be renamed to “Grand Hill Pond”. An amendment was proposed to remove “Grand Hill Pond” and decide on a new name at a later date. In addition, the amendment requested a secret ballot. I voted against this amendment because it gave anonymity to those opposed to changing the name - an anonymity they vehemently advocated for on Facebook. It is unfortunate that the news cameras would not capture those hands raised for a "no" vote, but this is what many wanted. The vote to rename Jew Pond would be done in secret, exhibiting a lack of transparency. This amendment passed.
Discussion began. Of the six who presented, I was the only Jewish person. All six spoke in favor of changing the name. All were heartfelt and well spoken with each speaker receiving resounding applause. Even though many with objections were in the room, no one spoke against changing the name. My turn at the microphone came.
Because the name "Jew Pond" is a remnant from a discriminatory period in the history of our town, and because it is clear that some residents and visitors find it offensive, I support changing the name of the pond as an outward demonstration of Mont Vernon's commitment to being a welcoming and INCLUSIVE community. I hope my fellow citizens will stand alongside me in support. Let's send a message of peace and harmony to all who are watching.It was time to vote. We lined up to put either a “yes” or “no” in the ballot box. The vote result was 104-33 in favor of changing the name. Mont Vernon, NH will rename Jew Pond. Victory!
After the meeting, we came home to find many on line news articles already submitted. We watched the 11:00 news on TV and there I was!
This issue has caused a rift in my town which I hope will soon be healed. It was interesting to see that those who weighed in negatively on Facebook were not brave enough to either speak at our meeting or confront me in person. Unfortunately, some in town continued to post vitriol against me for writing my Daily Kos diary and accused me of putting the town in a negative light.
Personally, this whole controversy has been both good and bad. I have seen the true colors of my town brought to light. I have made new friends and benefited from their support. I have been vilified on Facebook only to see brave people stand up and defend me. What I have learned is that a very vocal group of people can indeed be a minority. People at town meeting were genuinely warm and, overall, sincere in wanting to do what was right. Many approached and greeted me after I spoke. What I greatly appreciated, too, was the comfort from my community here on Daily Kos.
The following is my most recent posting on our town's Facebook group wall:
Thank you to Katelyn Ann Dobbs for producing a well done and beautiful documentary of Jew Pond.As for the future, life will go on. Planning for the Easter egg hunt and Spring Gala are already under way. We will rename Jew Pond. There is a proposal to put up a kiosk at the site explaining its history. I was happy to see that most of us recognized the significance of this issue to the local Jewish community and did the right thing.
Thank you to Rich Masters for all the work he has done and continues to do on this project.
Thank you to each and every one of you who spoke at the meeting on Tuesday. All were genuine and heartfelt.
Thank you to the 104 Mont Vernon residents who left their homes in the midst of a power failure, stood in the parking lot patiently waiting during the fire evacuation, returned and voted in favor of renaming Jew Pond.