Finally, A Parking Job At Fresh Market We Can All Enjoy

(Photo/Ellen Meehan Jent)

(Photo/Ellen Meehan Jent)

The Bucks Don’t Stop Here

This is New York Knicks territory. But in one house on Beachside Avenue, Milwaukee Bucks jerseys may soon be in vogue.

Hedge fund titan Marc Lasry — whose $1.7 billion fortune lands him at #1047 on Forbes’ list of the world’s billionaires — is one of 2 men hoping to buy the hapless NBA team. (How bad are they? Their 15-67 record this year was even worse than the 37-45 Knicks’.)

Marc Lasry. (Photo/Avenue Capital Group)

Marc Lasry. (Photo/Avenue Capital Group)

Lasry — a low-key financier, but also a prodigious Democratic fundraiser — and fellow Wall Streeter Wesley Edens have offered longtime owner Herb Kohl $550 million for the Bucks. The 4-term Democratic Senator from Wisconsin bought the team in 1985 for $18 million (about $40 million today), according to the New York TimesThe sale must be approved by at least 23 of the 30 NBA owners.

But don’t expect to see the Bucks in Webster Bank Arena. Lasry and Edens have pledged to keep the team in Milwaukee.

Thankfully.

Milwaukee Bucks

 

 

Cell Phone Controversy Towers Over Green’s Farms

5 RTM members — including 4 from Green’s Farms, the center of this issue — sent this letter to “06880.” Don Bergmann (District 1), and District 5 members Seth Braunstein, Peter Gold,  Paul Rossi and John Suggs write:

An AT&T cell tower may be located in a Residence AA Zone, close to the intersection of Hillspoint and Greens Farms Roads. The tower will be 120 feet tall. It would loom above the tree line at this “gateway” intersection leading toward our beaches. The address of the site is 92 Greens Farms Road, a private residence.

The house on the left is 92 Greens Farms Road. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

The house on the left is 92 Greens Farms Road. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

We write to engage the public, and to express our abhorrence of a 120-foot cell tower in a residential zone. A citizens group has been formed, and all avenues of opposition are being explored.

Cell phones are part of day-to-day living. They are convenient and, in emergencies, important. Nevertheless, the adverse impacts of a cell tower resonate with most citizens.

Cell towers generate health risks. Also, the size of cell towers, particularly their massive foundations, requires and impacts upon a large land mass.  That will be particularly so at 92 Greens Farms Road, since there are water courses that flow into a nearby pond and also under I-95 to the Sherwood Mill Pond.

The cell phone industry managed in 1996 to secure the passage of very favorable federal legislation. As implemented in Connecticut by the unfortunate creation of a State Siting Council, local communities are severely constrained in their ability to impact upon cell tower siting. Those constraints preclude challenges based upon the adverse effects from electromagnetic fields and radio waves generated by cell towers.

An AT&T cell tower.

An AT&T cell tower.

Those dangers, particularly for the young and those with certain genetic pre-dispositions, are well known, but must be ignored in any site determination by reason of the law. The law also pre-empts local zoning regulations, for example a regulation adopted by Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission in 2000.

Our P&Z regulation makes it clear that Westport does not want any cell tower in a residential zone. Sadly, the law negates the effectiveness of our regulation, except as a public declaration by Westport in opposition to cell towers in residential zones. We believe Westport does not want a 120-foot tall cell tower looming above the trees at 92 Greens Farms Road.

First Selectman Jim Marpe is pursuing avenues that he believes appropriate. However, whatever the town undertakes, public interest and concern is crucial. We need to stop this before it gets to the Siting Council. So please join in this battle. Let us or others on the RTM know of your support. Even better, contact the citizens group by e mailing: notowerat92@gmail.com, or Hope Hageman, hhagema1@gmail.com.

Please engage. Like Joni Mitchell’s “tearing down trees for a parking lot,” this cell tower will also be a blight.

“06880″ readers, what do you think? Dangerous? Unsightly? Necessary? An issue of one property owner doing what he wants with his property, or one where the wishes of a majority of neighborhood residents should take precedence? Click “Comments” — and please use your full, real name. If relevant, include your neighborhood too.

 

 

Debra Haffner Prays With The President

The email was exciting: President Obama invites you to the annual Easter Prayer Breakfast, held in the East Room the day after Palm Sunday.

“White House invitations are always a little mysterious,” says Rev. Debra Haffner, president of the Westport-based Religious Institute. She thinks it may have been because her multi-faith organization — which advocates for sexual health, education and justice — has supported contraceptive coverage in the Affordable Care Act.

This was Rev. Haffner’s 3rd trip to the White House. But it was the smallest gathering — 150 clergy — and, in many ways, the most moving.

“Some people call these events ‘window dressing,’” she said. “But it was very profound.”

Rev. Debra Haffner sat this close to President Obama (and George Washington) in the East Room.

Rev. Debra Haffner sat this close to President Obama (and George Washington) in the East Room.

President Obama opened his remarks by citing the shootings the previous day at 2 Jewish facilities in Kansas. He said that no one should be fearful when they pray, and called on members of all faiths to combat the ignorance and intolerance that leads to anti-Semitism, hatred and violence.

Rev. Haffner — who laughs that she may have been “the 1st Jewish-Unitarian Universalist minister” at the event — had walked over from her hotel with Pastor Joel Hunter. He leads a 20,000-member mega-church in Orlando, and gave the opening prayer.

“People across the theological spectrum prayed together,” Rev. Haffner notes. “There was a very inclusive message, in a very diverse room.”

Dr. Otis Moss — who took over at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ after Rev. Jeremiah Wright stepped down — gave a powerful sermon. The black theologian tied together Anne Frank, Martin Luther King and the Easter celebration in a “spellbinding” way, Dr. Haffner says.

She was seated very near the front. Her table included Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, head of the 40,000-plus Hispanic Evangelical Association. Rev. Haffner told him about the Religious Institute’s Safer Congregations movement — keeping children and vulnerable adults safe from abuse and harassment — and says, “There’s a good chance we will work together on it.”

Rev. Debra Haffner with Gene Robinson, retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire.

Rev. Debra Haffner with Gene Robinson, retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire.

Also at their table: Bishop Vashti McKenzie, the 1st female head of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

At the end of the breakfast, President Obama looked around. No one was scheduled to give the closing prayer, so he asked Rev. Gene Robinson — the retired openly gay Episcopal bishop — to give the benediction. He was as surprised as anyone, but spoke movingly, off the cuff.

“Starting with Joel and ending with Gene really shows the broad theological spectrum” of the day — and the administration — Rev. Haffner says.

After the breakfast, President Obama greeted the clergy. Rev. Haffner’s table was 1st — and she was the 1st member of her group that he spoke with.

Returning to Westport from Washington, Rev. Haffner reflected on the day — and all that came before it.

“My grandparents immigrated from Poland and Ukraine,” she says. “I don’t think they could ever have imagined this.”

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This h communities and society.

Bobby Q To The Rescue

Laura Oestreicher Rikon is a 2008 Staples grad. She lives abroad now, but always appreciates returning to her hometown.

On Saturday night, she and a friend had dinner at Bobby Q’s. They enjoyed their meal — but later, Laura realized one of her earrings was missing.

Laura Oestreicher Rikon, and her beloved earrings.

Laura Oestreicher Rikon, and her beloved earrings.

They have great sentimental value — they were the last birthday present Laura’s grandmother gave her.

Laura and her friend searched all over the car, the parking lot and the street. Finding nothing, they returned to Bobby Q’s.

The staff helped her look around the floor, and in the bathroom. But they said they’d already swept up, so her earring might have been thrown away. They suggested she call in the morning. Laura thanked them and left — very disappointed and upset, yet grateful for their help.

But she dawdled on her way out, still  hopeful she’d find the missing jewelry. Once more, she searched the parking lot. Once more, nothing.

About to give up, she saw 2 men running toward her. They yelled, “We found it! We found it!”

They told her they knew how important the earring was to her. So after she left they crawled on the floor, using their phones for light. There it was!

Laura was thrilled to have her earring back — and floored by the kindness of strangers, who went far out of their way to do a good deed.

“Their generosity was so heartwarming, I couldn’t find words to express my gratitude,” she says. “And all they asked in return was that I pay it forward.”

In her excitement, she forgot to get their names. She hopes that telling her story on “06880″ is one way of thanking them — and letting Westporters know how special Bobby Q’s is.

Bobby Qs Westport CT

 

 

Breaking News: Tyler Hicks Wins A Pulitzer For Breaking News

Westport native and Staples High School graduate Tyler Hicks has just won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography.

He received the award — one of the most prestigious in journalism — for “his compelling pictures that showed skill and bravery in documenting the unfolding terrorist attack at Westgate mall in Kenya.”

The event took place last September. Hicks — a staff photographer for the New York Times who has covered major conflicts around the world, won numerous other major awards, and survived a kidnapping in Libya — now lives in Nairobi. When he heard news of the massacre, he raced to the scene.

The Pulitzer Prize website shows 19 of Hicks’ photos. They include these:

A woman tried to shelter children from gunfire by Somali militants at the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in an attack that killed more than 70 people. Tyler Hicks made this photo from a floor above, in an exposed area where the police feared for his safety. (Tyler Hicks, The New York Times - September 23, 2013)

A woman tried to shelter children from gunfire by Somali militants at the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in an attack that killed more than 70 people. Tyler Hicks made this photo from a floor above, in an exposed area where the police feared for his safety. (Tyler Hicks, The New York Times – September 23, 2013)

Plainclothes officers rushed into the mall and Hicks accompanied them, knowing well that many terrorists remained inside and fearing not only guns but explosives around every corner. (Tyler Hicks, The New York Times - September 22, 2013)

Plainclothes officers rushed into the mall and Hicks accompanied them, knowing well that many terrorists remained inside and fearing not only guns but explosives around every corner. (Tyler Hicks, The New York Times – September 22, 2013)

Terrified Saturday-afternoon shoppers rushed from stores and a casino toward the exits. The police feared that escaping attackers had camouflaged themselves among them. (Tyler Hicks, The New York Times - September 21, 2013)

Terrified Saturday-afternoon shoppers rushed from stores and a casino toward the exits. The police feared that escaping attackers had camouflaged themselves among them. (Tyler Hicks, The New York Times – September 21, 2013)

Tyler Hicks travels the world. He has seen sights, and undergone experiences, that none of us could ever comprehend.

He has recorded them — in all their brutality and gruesomeness — for all the world to see.

It’s a terrible — and terribly important — business. But no one does it better.

 

 

But Wait! There’s More!

As noted yesterday morning, I’ve set a pretty high bar for photos of poor/ entitled/passive-aggressive parking. To make “06880″ these days, you’ve got to be spectacularly arrogant.

This one sees that challenge, and doubles it.

Last Friday, an alert reader came out of Fresh Market. She saw a white Audi, parked in a handicapped spot. (Okay, “parked” may be the wrong word.)

Fresh Market - 1

As she took a picture of that hard-to-believe sight, a black Mercedes pulled into the other handicapped -spot, and parked like this. You can’t make this stuff up.

Fresh Market - 2

In the glass-half-full department, handicapped placards did hang from both rear view mirrors.

Though if this is the way they park, neither driver should be allowed on the road.

 

Sam Vail, Fukushima, And Why Westporters Should Be Very, Very Worried

For better or worse, Westporters are experts at the NIMBY game. Cell towers, group homes, a new synagogue — there are tons of good reasons those things should go in your back yard, not mine.

In 1967, we thought we took care of the NIMBY nuclear power issue for good. A utility company’s plan to build a nuclear power plant on Cockenoe Island — a mile from Compo Beach — was defeated (despite many Westport proponents). We now own the rocky isle.

So — as tragic as the 2011 failures at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant were — they generated little concern here. After all, Westport is 6,578 miles — one vast ocean, one large continent — away.

Of course, as “60 Minutes” made clear last Sunday, the disaster is far from over. The crippled plant still releases high levels of radiation daily. It seeps into ground soil, evaporates into the air, and leaks into the Pacific.

Children are particularly vulnerable to radiation. And — because wind and ocean currents know no borders — even affluent, suburban Americans may be at risk.

Sam Vail knows the dangers well. A native Westporter, his career took him to the very same Fukushima plant that continues to spew poisons today.

He is very, very worried.

After graduating from Staples in 1982, Sam learned commercial diving at the Florida Institute of Technology. He joined an Essex, Connecticut company that cut and welded dams and other underwater structures — including power plants.

In 1989 he became certified to work on nuclear reactors. Soon, he was sent to Fukushima. He returned a couple more times. It was lucrative work — but the more Sam saw, the more worried he became about the safety of nuclear power.

Watching news coverage of the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent power plant disaster was “mind-blowing,” Sam said last week. He was about to leave for Costa Rica — he’s now a solar power consultant — but he wanted to talked about what he’s seen.

The start of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

The start of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

“The first reactor that blew up was the first one I’d worked on over there,” Sam noted. “I knew how bad things would be.”

The more he’s learned over the past 3 years, the more worried he’s grown.

“This is the worst man-made industrial accident in the history of the planet — hands down,” Sam said. “I’m not a physicist. I just helped fix the reactors. But I don’t think they can entomb this. It’s an incredibly serious situation.”

Sam is surprised that — notwithstanding the “60 Minutes” report (which focused on the life of one displaced farmer) — scant media attention has been paid to the ongoing Fukushima crisis.

On Tuesday, April 29 (6:15 p.m., Westport Library), he’ll do his part to raise local awareness. The World Network for Saving Children from Radiation is showing “A2-B-C,” a documentary about the aftermath of radiation exposures.

Cockenoe Island, off Compo Beach. In 1967, it almost became the site of a nuclear power plant.

Cockenoe Island, off Compo Beach. In 1967, it almost became the site of a nuclear power plant.

Immediately after the film, Sam will join a Q-and-A session. Other panelists include Mariko Bender (a Fukushima native now living in Connecticut), and Dr. David Brown, a Westporter and Fairfield University professor who is an expert in environmental ethics and toxicology.

“This isn’t about politics,” Sam said. “It’s about the health of our planet. The particulates are already here.

“Five years after Chernobyl, there was a spike in thyroid cancer and other thyroid abnormalities.

“Well, Fukushima will make Chernobyl look like a tea party.”

Sam applauds environmental organizations that are trying to educate people about nuclear power (including the dangers of not-very-far-away Indian Point).

His library appearance is another way to do that. Sam Vail will be in his home town, half a world away from the Fukushima nuclear reactors he worked on.

But in many ways, Fukushima is also in our back yard.

 

 

 

Hey, Bud!

A sight some of us thought we would never again see:

(Photo/Bart Shuldman)

(Photo/Bart Shuldman)

Happy Palm Sunday!

A bagpiper and clergy led congregants out of Christ & Holy Trinity Church this morning. They marched up and down Myrtle Avenue, then returned inside.

The festive procession marked Palm Sunday — the beginning of Holy Week — celebrated by thousands of Westporters.

Music and religious rites combined as the Palm Sunday procession began.

Music and religious rites combined as the Palm Sunday procession began.

The procession continued down Myrtle Avenue.

The procession continued down Myrtle Avenue.

Among the celebrants: Jessica Branson, daughter of former minister Rev. John Branson and his wife Judyth.

Among the celebrants: Jessica Branson, daughter of former minister Rev. John Branson and his wife Judyth.

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