Category Archives: Politics

Vanishing Main Street: The Sequel

Steve Edwards — Westport’s public works director — offers this comment on today’s “06880” story, about the new Main Street sidewalk:

Your reader’s observation that in places on Main Street the curb placement has changed is correct.

This is a positive curb re-alignment based on survey measurement and engineering design. As the new granite curbing is being installed, the town  is taking the opportunity to “straighten out the curb line” on Main Street that historically had significant variation.

For example,  in front of Chase Bank a belly in the curb line was removed to create a more visually attractive uniform curb. In a number of places along the roadway the curb line has been corrected. In some cases the roadway got slightly wider, and others slightly more narrow.

At some points, the new curb on Main Street is wider than before.

At some points, the new curb on Main Street is wider than before.

Ethan Zorfas Helps Lead Ted Cruz Crusade

When 10 candidates squared off in the 1st GOP debate earlier this month, plenty of Westporters watched closely.

Republicans searched for the best leader. Democrats anticipated a train wreck.

Ethan Zorfas wanted to see how well his boss would do.

The 2003 Staples High  School graduate is one of Ted Cruz’s senior advisors, concentrating on the Northeast. So when New Hampshire holds its 1st-in-the-nation primary 6 months from now, Zorfas’ work may well determine whether the Texan is on a path to the White House — or back to the Senate.

Ethan Zorfas' job is to help Senator Ted Cruz (3rd from right) break out of the GOP pack. Besides these 10, 7 other Republicans are running for president.

Ethan Zorfas’ job is to help Senator Ted Cruz (3rd from right) break out of the GOP pack. Besides these 10, 7 other Republicans are running for president.

It’s a job Zorfas would never have expected a dozen years ago. His main passion entering Staples was basketball. He played it well — and earned Academic All-State honors.

But in his first few days of junior year, terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Lis Comm’s English class spent days talking about how the world suddenly changed.

“I woke up to the outside world,” Zorfas recalls. “For the first time, I realized that policy matters.”

Social studies teacher Justin Cosell opened his eyes to politics. In class, Zorfas learned how to write a bill.

“He was a huge liberal. I was more conservative,” Zorfas says, of the instructor who happens to be Howard Cosell’s grandson.

But a friendship grew. Today, they still talk often about politics.

After graduating, Zorfas headed to Clark University in Worcester. “That’s another liberal school,” he laughs.

Ethan Zorfas

Ethan Zorfas

He joined with a few non-liberals to reactivate a dormant Republican  Club. And he earned $100 a day knocking on doors in New Hampshire during President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign.

After earning a master’s in public administration from Clark, Zorfas worked on a handful of campaigns. He joined the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2008 — “a tough cycle,” Zorfas admits — and stayed on to organize fundraising for congressmen Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming. He then branched out into political consulting for others.

In 2010 he was hired as chief of staff by New Hampshire congressman Frank Guinta. At 25, Zorfas may have been the youngest chief of staff on Capitol Hill.

When Guinta was defeated in 2012, Zorfas restarted his small firm, MarblePort Consulting. (The name combines Marblehead — where he lived as a child — and Westport.)

Zorfas’ New Hampshire ties made him a hot commodity in GOP circles. After the 2014 election cycle, he examined the wide swath of presidential candidates to find the best fit.

Cruz rose to the top of Zorfas’ list.

“If you really want to change Washington and how things work, he’s the only one in the field who can do that,” the consultant explains.

Zorfas had breakfast with the senator in New Hampshire, then flew to Texas.

“I’d only seen him on TV,” Zorfas recalls. “But I was impressed that he’d been solicitor general of Texas, and a clerk for (Supreme Court Chief Justice William) Rehnquist. His constitutional knowledge blew me away.”

They talked about how Zorfas could help Cruz be competitive in New Hampshire. Then, wham: The 30-year-old signed on as a key advisor.

Senator Ted Cruz (Photo/NH Journal)

Senator Ted Cruz (Photo/NH Journal)

His job now is to develop and implement strategies for Cruz to succeed in the Northeast. Zorfas is helping build the campaign infrastructure, and provides perspective to other Cruz advisors.

He speaks frequently with the candidate. “He’s taking New Hampshire very seriously,” Zorfas says.

Zorfas has worked on local, congressional and Senate races. Yet a presidential campaign is orders of magnitude different. Half a year before the first primary votes are cast, he already feels exponentially more energy and enthusiasm.

This month’s Fox News debate marked a major moment, Zorfas says. He sat with 200 supporters at the carefully chosen Texas Roadhouse in Nashua. Like a true professional, Zorfas says, “The feedback is that the senator spoke well, and had a clear message.”

Zorfas knows that a pro-life, gun-rights, anti-same-sex-marriage, climate-change denying Texan is not the first choice of most Westporters. Especially those Westporters who graduated with Zorfas in 2003.

“I had a great group of friends,” he says with pride. “We still talk on a daily basis. Most of them are probably Democrats. But I think they’re very proud of me and my accomplishments, as I am of them. They think it’s great that I can grow my career like this.”

And, he says, “we always have great debates.”

So if Senator Cruz becomes President Cruz, what job would Zorfas want?

“It’s way too early to think about that,” he says with the ease of a practiced politician. “Right now we’re all just focused on winning a 17-person race.”

He has no desire to run for office himself. “Seeing candidates go through what they do, I’m happy where I am,” Zorfas noted. “I love what I do.”

And Ted Cruz loves having this Connecticut-raised, New Hampshire-tested advisor on his very senior national staff.

Big Day For Adoptees

It flies under most people’s radars. But today marked a big day in Connecticut’s adoption community.

The state presented original birth certificates to 4 adult adoptees. They received them under a new law that requires the Department of Public Health to give adopted individuals age 18 or older whose adoptions were finalized on or after October 1, 1983 — or their adult children or grandchildren — uncertified copies of the adoptee’s original birth certificate on request.

It’s a key to an adoptee knowing his or her family medical history — and the truth about who they are.

John Suggs

John Suggs

The Westport connection — besides its importance to adoptees — is John Suggs. The RTM member works full time as a forensic genetic genealogist, specializing in helping adult adoptees, and birth parents and siblings, find each other.

The search he’s proudest of took 9 years to solve. It involved a birth mother of an abandoned 3-month old — who was now 91 years old.

Suggs found and interviewed an 85-year-old nephew of the missing birth mother. He said his aunt had “disappeared,” and after a lengthy search by her father and brother was presumed to have been murdered.

Suggs finally told the birth mother’s 91-year-old daughter that her mother had never abandoned her — she’d been taken from her. The daughter died a few months later.

Not all his searches are as dramatic. All, however, are unique — and important.

Suggs also volunteers as Westport’s representative on Access CT. The 501(c)(4) organization fights for the right of every adult adoptee born in the state to access his or her true original birth certificate.

This morning Access CT launched a social media fundraising campaign to help all Connecticut adult adoptees — not just those born after a certain date — gain access to their original birth certificates. Suggs says 43,000 Connecticut birth mothers and adult adoptees are still trying to find each other.

He’s doing all he can to help.

(For more information, click here. To contact Suggs directly, email or call 203-273-2774.)

Birth certificate


Dorian Kail Does The White House

Yesterday’s “06880” post about the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act — and the formation of a possible town commission on disabilities — resonated with Dorian Kail.

The Westport native manages the professional wheelchair division at New York Road Runners (including the marathon). She’s been awed by the accomplishments of the men and women who use wheels to run.

One of her top athletes — the fastest wheelchair marathoner of all time — is Tatyana McFadden. She won a lawsuit against her high school to allow wheelchair participants in sports.

Last week, McFadden invited Kail to the White House, to celebrate the ADA’s anniversary. McFadden and Kail met the president; Kail also had a quick conversation with Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Bob Dole (who as a senator helped pass the ADA).

Dorian Kail and Vice President Joe Biden.

Dorian Kail and Vice President Joe Biden, at the White House.

Thanks for all you’ve done, Dorian. Keep on pushing — and keep helping these remarkable athletes run.

Dorian Kail and Tatyana McFadden stroll through the White House.

Dorian Kail and Tatyana McFadden stroll through the White House.

Former senator Bob Dole -- now 92 years old -- asked for a selfie with Dorian Kail.

Former senator Bob Dole — now 92 years old — asked for a selfie with Dorian Kail.

Jane Moritz’s Cookies Are So Gay

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states, you’ve probably heard stories of businesses that refuse to serve gay clients.

This post is not about how stunningly hypocritical they are, as they willingly serve divorced people, adulterers, and women who refuse to submit to their husbands.

And it’s not about some homophobes in far-off flyover country, who cannot understand that allowing 2 men or 2 women to wed has no effect whatsoever on their own marriages. Or that marriage, legally, is a civil institution; a religious ceremony is just icing on the cake.

Jane Moritz

Jane Moritz

This story is about a Westport woman, and what happened when she put rainbow cookies on her website to celebrate the Supreme Court ruling.

Jane Moritz owns Challah Connection. Her Norwalk-based company offers gift baskets — not just bread, but kosher meals, deli, fruit and babka — for High Holy Days, housewarmings, birthdays, graduations, weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, and shivas.

(They also ship baked good, nuts and dried fruit for Ramadan and Eid.)

Last month, when same-sex marriage became legal nationwide, Moritz displayed “rainbow cookies” on her website’s home page. She added a message: “Never have these treasured cookies had such meaning.”

Within an hour, she’d received 3 “hate emails.” She told The Jewish Week that people asked “what was wrong with me, how could I be a Jew, how could I be supporting gay marriage.” They said they would never order from the Challah Connection again.

Moritz responded on a Yeshiva World News message board: “We stand firm in the Jewish values that implore upon us to show compassion and kindness to all beings.”

Rainbow cookiesTo which someone replied:  “Even though the Torah that you pretend to accept calls this behavior an ‘abomination’ punishable by death. I guess when Torah values conflict with liberal politically correct values we know which side you choose.”

Moritz told The Jewish Week that she is proud of what she did. She does not think it’s her place to judge anyone’s celebration of Judaism — or anything else.

She’s not alone. Orders poured in for the Challah Connection’s rainbow cookies.


Westport Businessmen: Connecticut Must Do Better

When Connecticut legislators passed a controversial budget bill earlier this month — which Governor Malloy has not yet signed, and is still being tinkered with — a number of business leaders howled. GE threatened to move.

Two Westport businessmen decided to do more than just complain. Bart Shuldman (a frequent “06880” commenter) and Steve Obsitnik (a former congressional candidate) organized a “business roundtable.” Set for this Friday (June 26, 9 a.m., Norwalk Inn), the aim is to discuss ways to improve the state’s business climate.

Governor Malloy was invited, but declined. So Shuldman and Obsitnik got another governor to speak: Florida’s Rick Scott.

“We need to know what competitive states like his are doing — so we can do better,” Shuldman says. “In business it’s called benchmarking — looking at the market and seeing best practices.”

The roundtable is an invitation-only event. But I’m sure Shuldman will provide “06880” with details.

Florida Governor Rick Scott

Florida Governor Rick Scott


No Moon This jUNe

This Saturday (June 27), Westport marks its 50th jUNe Day.

For half a century on the last Saturday of June, we’ve welcomed guests from the UN. Lawyers, staff members, security guards — they and their families come here for a full day of sports, beach-going, shopping and fun.

You’d think the organizers would go all out to celebrate 50 years. They’d plan great new activities. Shoot off fireworks. Bring Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to town for a ceremonial something.

Not gonna happen.

Longshore is a favorite destination for jUNe Day guests. (Photo/Carroll Hubbard)

Longshore is a favorite destination for jUNe Day guests. (Photo/Carroll Hubbard)

In keeping with the theme of jUNe Day — a low-key chance for UN workers to get out of the city, and Westport to show off its beauty and hospitality — the event will consist of the usual: a brief hello at Saugatuck Elementary School (10:30 a.m.), then the rest of the day filled with soccer, tennis and golf; tours of Earthplace, the Westport Historical Society, downtown and the Westport Arts Center — and of course, Compo Beach.

Okay, the welcome ceremony will include Senator Richard Blumenthal and recent UN special coordinator for the Ebola risis Tony Banbury. But Banbury lives in Westport. And Blumenthal shows up anywhere there’s a camera.

Children of UN staffers enjoy Wakeman Town Farm. Many UN families seldom leave New York, jUNe Day organizers note. (Photo/Carroll Hubbard)

Children of UN staffers enjoy Wakeman Town Farm. Many UN families seldom leave New York, jUNe Day organizers note. (Photo/Carroll Hubbard)

For all the joy, fun and relaxation it brings more than 300 UN folks and their families, jUNe Day is organized by a tiny group. Just a few core volunteers plan everything. (UN, and every other governmental organization: Take note!)

Michaela MacColl got involved 15 years ago, at the invitation of jUNe Day founder Ruth Steinkraus Cohen. MacColl — whose day job is children’s author — liked what she saw. When Steinkraus Cohen died, MacColl took over.

“I love Westport, but sometimes I’m frustrated by the homogeneity,” MacColl — a 20-year resident — says. “For one day, things are different.” Last year, 35 countries were represented at jUNe Day. (Their flags are the ones you’ll see flying on the appropriately named Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge this Saturday.)

On jUNe Day, the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge brims with flags from around the world. (Photo/Jeff Simon)

On jUNe Day, the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge brims with flags from around the world. (Photo/Jeff Simon)

“It’s always nice to see people gob-smacked by Westport’s beauty,” MacColl says. “But they also meet very kind people here. Westporters really like showing off the town, and they help out in any way they can.”

Local businesses do too. Most of the food is donated by area businesses. (The kitchen is run by a teenager, William Amon.)

Little things stand out. A Syrian family is always the first to arrive, MacColl says. They’ve come every year since their son was born. He’s 20 now.

The weather is usually fantastic. One year though, it rained hard. A Filipino man came, with 2 small children. He told MacColl he’d considered staying in New York. But when he thought about how much work Westport put into the event, he realized he had to be here.

Fifty years is indeed a great achievement. But you won’t see or hear jUNe Day organizers boasting about it on Saturday.

They’ll be too busy helping 300 guests, from all over the globe.

(Volunteers are always needed. To help, contact Andrea Dostal: 203-526-3275; For more information, contact Michaela MacColl at 203-227-9461, or Bill Hass at 203-454-7685.)

United Nations

Community Conversation Set For Sunday On #WhiteLivesMatter Flyer

Last week, some Westporters woke to find #WhiteLivesMatter flyers thrown anonymously onto their lawns and driveways.

Some were outraged. Others shrugged.

When “06880” reported the story, some commenters talked about hate groups. Others talked about the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Still others countered, “All Lives Matter.”

It was an intense discussion. And it deserves to be played out not only in cyberspace, but in real time, with real faces.

Several local organizations are giving Westporters the chance to do just that. This Sunday (May 17, 4 p.m., Westport Library), everyone is invited to a community conversation. The topic is: “Why Does the Flyer Matter?”

Participants include First Selectman James Marpe, Police Chief Dale Call, Rev. Alison Patton of the Saugatuck Congregational Church, and yours truly.

TEAM-Westport-logo2The following statement announcing the event was signed by TEAM Westport, Interfaith Clergy Association of Westport and Weston, the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County, Westport Human Services Commission, the Westport Board of Education, and Westport Police:

On the night of Thursday, May 7, 2015  flyers containing the slogan “#White Lives Matter” were left anonymously at a number of residences in Westport. We are deeply troubled by this campaign. While some have raised questions about the intent of the slogan, it is clear from similar campaigns in neighboring towns that this message was motivated by racism, which we reject absolutely and without qualification.

Further, we contend that dismantling racism requires us to attend to the impact of actions, regardless of intent. These flyers attempt to co-opt a movement that has been created by citizens of color across our nation to redress disparities in treatment, based on race. We are united in declaring that these flyers have no place in Westport, which aspires to be an inclusive community that values a diverse population.

We affirm the principle that all lives matter equally. However, there is much more work to do before our nation achieves genuine equality across race and ethnicity. In circumstances where this equality is not upheld, we affirm our commitment to support and pursue constructive efforts to redress institutional and cultural racism which tears at the fabric of our nation.

In the next several months we will organize a number of opportunities in Westport for education, discussion and engagement on matters relating to race relations in the United States. The initial event will be a community conversation held at the Westport Library on Sunday, May 17 at 4 p.m. regarding the topic:  “Why Does the Flyer Matter?” We hope you will join us.

Flyers like these were tossed onto lawns in Westport in the middle of the night last week.

These flyers were tossed onto Westport lawns in the middle of the night last week.

Temple Intruder: “It Is An Act Of Violence Not To Yell And Scream”

Gregory Williams — one of the 2 men arrested Tuesday at Temple Israel — released this statement to local media:


Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children; the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnal house.  We could not, so help us God, do otherwise, for we are sick at heart; our hearts give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning children.
– Daniel Berrigan, S.J., 1968

At around 1 p.m. on Tuesday, 12 May, my colleague, Dan Fischer, and I calmly walked into into Temple Israel, where the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces was holding a lunchtime meeting. So as to appear as non-threatening as possible, we had no bags, no literature—I had even left the small pocketknife I usually carry at home.

We were armed only with a written testimony by Nabila Abu Halima, a Palestinian woman who lives in the Gaza strip, who watched her son be murdered by the IDF during Operation Cast Lead, and who had to flee her home during last year’s Gaza massacre.

Our intention was simple: to read the statement at the FIDF’s meeting, which was hosting a brigadier general in the occupying, colonizing army that is responsible for her suffering, and the suffering of so many other indigenous Palestinian women.

Gregory Williams, author of this letter.

Gregory Williams, author of this letter.

We were there, first and foremost, because we are Jews (additionally, I am a scholar of religious ethics), and we wanted to take responsibility for the racism in our community that fuels Jewish American support for the Zionist Apartheid regime’s continued occupation of Palestinian land.

Growing up, I remember hearing my mother and grandmother telling stories about members of our family who were killed during the Holocaust. One of the lessons that I learned from those stories was the lesson of collective responsibility.

History remembers kindly those Europeans and Americans who took responsibility for the racism in their community which had bred Naziism by protecting Jewish people, by lifting up their voices, and by working to build a political resistance movement to dismantle fascism.

I entered Temple Israel on Tuesday because I feel that, as a Jew living in the United States, the time has come to take responsibility for my community. Zionism is no less racist, no less hateful, and no less violent and threatening to human life and dignity than Naziism. Like Naziism, Zionism seeks to build a nation upon an ethnocentric vision which erases the lives of people it considers “undesirable.”

When Dan and I reached the second floor of the synagogue, we told staff exactly why we were there. We said that we had come to read a statement from a Palestinian woman at the FIDF event, and that we would leave voluntarily when we were done, or when we were ordered to do so by a police officer.

Daniel Fischer was also arrested at Temple Israel.

Daniel Fischer was also arrested at Temple Israel.

The staff immediately assaulted us, and tackled us to the ground. We did not take any physical action against them. Instead, we started to read the statement that we had come to deliver and, since we were still outside the door of the meeting room, we did so loudly so that as many people would hear us as possible. The staff kicked our phones away, we began to say “Free, Free Palestine!”

Even though we had told the staff what we were doing, and had made clear that this was a nonviolent political demonstration, they turned around and, over the phone and in our hearing, filed a false police report, claiming that we were armed.  “We’re unarmed!” we said, “Tell them we are unarmed!  We are Jews coming to a synagogue!”

Because the staff (and apparently several others) filed this false police report, we are told that several schools were put on lockdown—this is one of the dangers of filing a false report or making a frivolous 911 call.

Since then, people from senators to judges to newspaper reporters have called us “violent,” “criminals,” even “terrorists.”  I ask you, who is the terrorist?  Someone who reads a statement from a Palestinian woman, or the general who helps murder that woman’s child?

What is violent, to protest that general, or to hold a public event to support her and the illegitimate armed force that she serves?  There are those who say that they felt threatened by our action.  I ask, what does it say about your community that you feel threatened by two nonviolent protesters testifying to the violence of that racist hate-ideology called Zionism?

Could this mean that your community is committed to racism and hatred?  There are those who say that they felt threatened by our volume. I respectfully submit that there are times, especially times when children are being murdered by a colonial regime and a racist ideology, when it is an act of violence not to yell and scream.

Sue Sirlin: “We Experienced What Israelis Live With Daily”

“06880” reader Sue Sirlin was in Temple Israel yesterday, when a lunch meeting was interrupted by 2 intruders.

She’s had 24 hours to reflect on those harrowing minutes. Here is her report:

Yesterday, Temple Israel hosted a “Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces” luncheon that drew 100 participants from around Fairfield County. FIDF was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors to provide for the education and well-being of those who serve in the IDF, as well as their families. Our goal was to learn how we can support the IDF, and about its vital programming to keep Israel and, consequently, the US safer.

I was one of many participants enjoying the event. We were eating, mingling and listening to a handful of speakers present their stories on the importance of protecting the liberty of Israel’s citizens. A fighter pilot spoke about his experiences flying during combat in Israel. A female sergeant and a general spoke as well. Unfortunately, the event was cut short…


Within moments, our peaceful gathering shifted abruptly. The far doors to the Social Hall rattled, and a sizable commotion behind those glass-paneled doors ensued. Muffled shouts erupted from behind them. I saw a belligerent man violently struggle to gain access to the room. Someone restrained him from behind.

They wrestled for about 15 seconds — long enough for us to register the scene. The demonstrator shouted, “Long live Palestine! Long live the Intifada!”

The women closest to the doors reacted first, pushing themselves from the table and fleeing quickly to the other side of the hall. Then in a blurred moment, many fled from the room, myself included.

A few women gasped “Call 911!” while others cried. Many of us spontaneously consulted each other to determine where to escape. No one was certain how many men were there.

Thoughts ricocheted through our minds: Were they armed? Were they terrorists? And most importantly, where in the temple were they? As a result, we were unsure of where run or take cover. It was chaos.

Temple israel

In that surreal blur, we experienced firsthand what Israelis live with daily: the panic in a moment’s notice of something signaling danger, not knowing what might happen next. Ironically, we were there yesterday as Israel’s fellow congregants, financial supporters, loyalists — from a supposedly safe, yet empathetic, vantage point. Or so we thought.

Fortunately, the 2 intruders were not armed. They were subdued immediately by 3 brave temple staff members who reacted with great speed and strength. The police arrived within minutes of the call, and took control of the situation. And no one was injured. Thank goodness.

Yet Temple Israel and its preschool were on lockdown, as were Coleytown Middle and Coleytown Elementary Schools, Bedford Middle School, and the Unitarian Church preschool. In that hour, how many lives were shaken by these 2 radical 25-year old men?

Reflecting back on yesterday’s events, a deep anger wells up inside. During those moments we were not permitted to hear what we wanted to hear, to congregate at our FIDF event. Our liberty was limited by 2 men’s wrath.

I later learned that the FIDF speakers did continue after the police cleared the building. I wish I could have stayed to hear what they had to say. Shockingly, I later learned that one of the intruders wore a Jewish star around his neck. How could someone who identifies himself as Jewish threaten fellow Jews?

One thing is certain: My appreciation and empathy has deepened toward our Israeli friends’ needs. I will never stop supporting them, in any way possible.