Category Archives: Politics

Westporter To Lead UN Ebola Response

In more than 25 years as a peacekeeper and emergency management expert, Anthony Banbury has served the United Nations — and the world — in crises like the 2010 Haiti earthquake and 2004 Japan tsunami.

From 2003 to 2009 he was Asia regional director for the World Food Program.

Anthony Banbury

Anthony Banbury

Now the Westport resident has a new — and crucial — job. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has named Banbury as special representative and head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response.

Banbury leaves tomorrow for Africa. Under his leadership, the mission will provide the operational framework to treat infected patients, ensure essential services, preserve stability and prevent the disease’s spread to other countries.

Before joining the UN, Banbury worked in the White House with the National Security Council, and at the Department of Defense.

Governor Malloy’s Visit To Staples On Monday NOT A No-Brainer

Governor Dannel Malloy will be in the Staples High School fieldhouse next Monday (September 29) at 1 p.m.

He’ll sign a bill passed by the legislature earlier this year regarding concussion treatment and education in youth sports. A group of Westport mothers spearheaded the effort.

Here comes the governor.

Here comes the governor.

 

The Future Of Westport: Don’t Say You Weren’t Asked

With 2 major planning projects underway — for downtown and the beach — town officials are urging Westporters to make their wishes known.

Sure, you can click on the “Comments” section of “06880.” But nothing beats showing up in public, and opening your mouth.

The Downtown Steering Committee holds a “charrette” this weekend (September 20-21) at Town Hall. Satellite events are set for other downtown locations too.

your-downtown-logoCharrettes are collaborative work sessions in which design professionals, residents, merchants, municipal experts and others discuss and draft solutions to address specific opportunities and challenges.

This weekend’s charrettes follow a kickoff event on Monday. A couple dozen people heard about, and saw visuals of:

  • A park-like walkway along Parker Harding Plaza, with a footbridge leading to the former Save the Children property on Wilton Road.
  • A new 2-story retail shopping center between the relocated Kemper-Gunn House on Elm Street, and Brooks Corner — effectively hiding the Baldwin parking lot.
  • A redesign that cuts Jesup Green in half. All parking would face Matsu Sushi; half of the current lot becomes an expanded green from the river to the police lot (with gazebo and paths). At the top of the green is a new “community arts space.”
  • An area in front of the current Y will force Church Lane traffic heading to Main Street to turn onto the Post Road first.
  • New buildings on the Imperial Avenue upper parking lot.
  • Possible relocation of the police department, and construction of — yes — a new retail shopping complex.
The west side of the Saugatuck River is also part of the new downtown plan. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for DowntownWestportCT.com)

The west side of the Saugatuck River is also part of the new downtown plan. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for DowntownWestportCT.com)

The charrette begins this Saturday at 8:30 a.m., at Town Hall. A “walking tour” of downtown follows at 9 a.m. From 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m.  back at Town Hall, there are work sessions, panels and discussions. From 3:30-6 p.m., “open studio workstations” allow discussions with experts about specific ideas and plans.

Sunday features more open studio exhibits and workstations (9:30 a.m.-1 p.m.), followed by a closing presentation (1:30-3 p.m.).

JP Vellotti — a longtime Westporter who attended Monday’s kickoff — says, “This is our chance to define how we want our downtown to look, and how we interact with that space.”

The charrette will also include a special aerial video of downtown, produced by Staples freshman Rick Eason. For more information on the charrette, click on www.downtownwestportct.com.

Rick Eason's video shows downtown from an angle never before seen.

Rick Eason’s video shows downtown from an angle never before seen.

Then, on Monday, September 29 (7:30 p.m., Town Hall auditorium), the Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee presents its recommended draft master plan to the Parks and Recreation Commission. Public comment is invited.

The Commission will make formal recommendations to the committee at a future public meeting. “It is important that the commissioners have sufficient time to digest the recommendations of the committee and the public input,” says Parks & Rec Commission chair Charlie Haberstroh.

The full draft of the master plan is available at www.compobeach2.com.

Both downtown and the beach are important, and vital, parts of Westport. The changes to one (or both) may be large (or small).

How close they come to what you want may depend on how clearly (and strongly) you (and your neighbors) express yourselves.

After-School Bus Route Funding Extended Through December 31

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is extending funding for the Westport Transit District’s after-school bus route through the end of 2014.

That’s good news for parents who have scrambled to provide transportation for youngsters headed to programs at Earthplace, Temple Israel and other spots around town.

State Representative Steinberg commended the FTA for its “flexibility and commitment to fairness. The town of Westport followed the process which FTA laid out and the arguments for an extension were well-received.”

Involved with Steinberg in the bipartisan effort to secure the funding extension were Westport 1st selectman Jim Marpe, Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and Congressman Jim Himes.

Now, Steinberg says, Westport must turn its attention to longer-range transportation options.

FTA logo

 

Update: Earthplace, Temple Israel, And The Future Of Westport Transit

An “06880” post earlier today reported that the after-school Westport Transit District bus routes serving Earthplace and Temple Israel would be suspended indefinitely.

“06880” has learned that last-ditch negotiations may provide a solution. But time is running out.

EarthplaceThe reason for the suspension of the routes is cessation of federal funds. Because the route is geared to students traveling from schools to afternoon activities — but not run by a school district — it is out of compliance with government regulations.

If the funds are cut, dozens of Westport parents will have to figure how to get their kids to Earthplace programs, and religious education.

One result, of course, would be more cars on the road.

Temple IsraelBroader issues include: What’s the future of the Westport Transit District? How does it fit in with other area organizations? How do we live and move around in town? Is there any role for mass transportation, suburb-style?

A number of folks are working hard, seeking a resolution. State Representative Jonathan Steinberg, First Selectman Jim Marpe and town operations director Dewey Loselle, the WTD’s Jennifer Johnson and Gene Cederbaum, along with Earthplace and Temple Israel officials, have pulled many levers seeking a stay of execution — or at least a delay.

There are many layers to this onion. Stay tuned as Westport peels them back, one by one.

A Westport Transit District bus.

A Westport Transit District bus.

Talking Big Bucks And Milwaukee Bucks With Marc Lasry

There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

But this Sunday at the Westport Library, you can hear — for free — a wide-ranging talk by probably the wealthiest man in a town filled with money.

Marc Lasry. (Photo/Avenue Capital Group)

Marc Lasry. (Photo/Avenue Capital Group)

On August 3 (2 p.m., McManus Room), hedge fund titan Marc Lasry — whose $1.7 billion fortune lands him at #1047 on Forbes’ list of the world’s billionaires — talks about the US and global economy, and the current investment climate.

Lasry — CEO and co-founder of Avenue Capital Group —  will address why good investments are getting harder to find, regions and industries where his firm is finding them, and how they find them.

And — because there is more to life than hedge funds — Lasry will also discuss his recent purchase of the Milwaukee Bucks NBA team, and his hiring of Jason Kidd as coach. Plus Lasry’s interest in politics, philanthropy and comic books.

This being Westport, Lasry will be introduced by fellow resident Arthur Levitt. He’s only the former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Bruce Kasanoff: “Fix This Bridge, Or Connecticut Dies”

Bruce Kasanoff is a Westport-based ghostwriter and former Planning & Zoning  commissioner who works with entrepreneurs. He is also — most importantly for this story — a Metro-North rider.

Well, he rides when the trains are running. Which is not as often as he — or the rest of us — would like.

Yesterday, Forbes.com published his opinion piece: “Fix This Bridge, Or Connecticut Dies.” Bruce began:

Bruce Kasanoff

Bruce Kasanoff

I’m a big fan of bringing out the best in others, but even an optimist like me knows that when people act like they have rocks in their heads, to make progress you might have to bang some heads together.

Commuters who live in Connecticut and work in New York City are all in favor of banging some heads together. Most depend on the Metro-North train system to bring them in and out of the city. Over the past two years, service has gone from pretty good to consistently horrible – and it’s about to get worse.

Bruce described the issues, like fatal accidents that led (via additional safety requirements) to longer train rides and the stuck-twice-in-8-days South Norwalk bridge. He continued:

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy  was outraged by the latest failure, which I know because his office immediately issued a press release that said, “Let me be clear, this is outrageous.”

Remembering Lucie Cunningham McKinney

Lucie Cunningham McKinney — a longtime resident of Greens Farms, who followed her family’s great tradition of philanthropy and civic involvement — died Saturday night, of complications from cancer. She was 80 years old.

Lucie Cunningham McKinney

Lucie Cunningham McKinney

She was the great-granddaughter of Edward T. Bedford, a director of Standard Oil, founder of the Westport YMCA and the namesake of Bedford Middle School; the daughter of Lucie Bedford Cunningham Warren (who died 2 years ago at 104) and Briggs Cunningham (victorious World Cup skipper, Le Mans race car driver and heir to the Procter & Gamble fortune); the widow of US Congressman Stewart McKinney, and mother of 5, including State Senate Minority Leader and current Republican gubernatorial candidate John P. McKinney.

First Selectman Jim Marpe called Lucie Cunningham McKinney “a valued citizen in our community.” He added:

I salute her activist role in working with people with AIDS following the death of her husband, former Congressman Stewart McKinney, from that disease in 1987.

She was also a strong proponent of protecting the environment as well as a major supporter of her church. As a member of the Bedford family, Lucie McKinney continued a 100-year tradition of the Bedford family providing major support to the Westport Woman’s Club, the Family Y and Norwalk Hospital. On behalf of the Town of Westport, I extend my deepest sympathies to her family.

For all her wealth and good fortune, Lucie McKinney was not immune to life’s misfortunes. She spoke openly of a daughter’s drug addiction and rehabilitation, and the day after her husband died of AIDS, she started a foundation to help victims of the disease.

Though Stewart McKinney was elected 9 times to Congress she remained in Connecticut, raising their 5 children.

“I was very proud to be Mrs. Stewart McKinney,” she said. “I adored the campaigns. I hated the social junk.”

In an interview with the Associated Press in 1987, she said, “Nothing has ever been an embarrassment to my family. If you can turn a bad situation into a good one,  why not do it?”

Lucie Cunningham McKinney, enjoying a car show at the Fairfield County Hunt Club.

Lucie Cunningham McKinney, enjoying a car show at the Fairfield County Hunt Club.

Wanted: Town Operations Director

The “help wanted” sign is out at Town Hall. Westport is looking for its 1st-ever operations manager.

A press release says the new guy (or gal) will report directly to the 1st selectman. He (or she) “will work with all Town departments to achieve operational efficiency, improve government effectiveness, enhance and expand communications, develop strategies to accomplish disaster recovery objectives, and seek out and develop economic development opportunities.”

Westport sealCandidates must have “considerable knowledge of the principles and practices of municipal administration; knowledge of public personnel and finance methods and procedures; ability to perform research and prepare technical reports on all aspects of municipal government operations; and knowledge of Emergency Management methods and procedures.”

An MBA, masters in public administration or a closely related field, and 5 years of “progressively responsible municipal experience, or any equivalent combination of education and experience,”  is preferred.  Candidates should also have a “strong knowledge of Westport and town government operations.”

A 5-person committee will interview candidates, and make a recommendation to 1st selectman Jim Marpe. The chair is Pete Wolgast, former 1st selectman executive assistant. Other members include Westport personnel director Ralph Chetcuti, communications specialist Karen Hess, former Board of Education chair Don O’Day, and senior corporate executive Steve Parrish.

Marpe calls the operations director “an extremely important member of my team, whose work will directly benefit the town of Westport and its residents.”

For more information or to apply, email personnel@westportct.gov, or go to Room 208 of Town Hall. The application deadline is May 20.

Mr. Cory Goes To Washington

Dave Stalling is a native Westporter. He served in a Marine Corps Force Recon unit, earned degrees in forestry and journalism, and has worked for several wildlife conservation organizations.

Dave is also the proud father of a young man named Cory. This is Dave’s guest post, on “06880.”

Although he grew up in Westport around the same time I did, I never met Peter Weisman. He had Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, and died at the age of 15. It was 1980 — just a year after I graduated from Staples.

Mary-Lou Weisman bookI learned about Peter nearly 30 years later when another Westport friend, Bill Handley, gave me Intensive Care: A Family Love Story. Written by Peter’s mother Mary-Lou Weisman, it described her family and son’s struggle with Duchenne. (The book was made into a 1985 movie, “A Time to Live.” It earned Liza Minnelli a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Mary-Lou.)

When I read her book in 2009, I had lived in Montana for 23 years. My own son, Cory, had just been diagnosed with Duchenne. He was 9.

I was devastated. I felt a need to talk to Mary-Lou. So out of the blue, I called her.

At first she thought I was a solicitor and said she was busy. I quickly said, “My son was just diagnosed with Duchenne.” After a bit of silence she replied, “For you, I have all the time in the world.”

She has indeed given me a lot of time, and helped me through the tumultuous journey of coming to terms with my son having a fatal disease. Her advice and encouragement inspires hope. A lot has changed since Peter died: New treatments are available; scientists feel they are close to a potential cure, and clinical trials are underway with promising results.

But more awareness, support and money is urgently needed to turn hope into reality.

Cory and I recently traveled from our home in Missoula to Washington, DC. We participated in an advocacy conference organized by Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, a national nonprofit leading the fight to end Duchenne. Cory met collectively and one-on-one with the entire Montana congressional delegation: Senators Jon Tester and John Walsh, and Congressman Steve Daines.

Cory hangs with Senator Jon Tester of Montana.

Cory hangs with Senator Jon Tester of Montana.

Congressman Daines took Cory onto the House floor, let him cast votes, and introduced him to other representatives. One was Tammy Duckworth of Illinois. She lost her legs while serving as a helicopter pilot in the Iraq War, and uses a wheelchair.

Cory befriended an assistant clerk to the Supreme Court. He took Cory into the courtroom (off limits to tourists). Cory met Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, who is leading Congressional efforts to increase awareness and support for fighting Duchenne. We also had plenty of time for to visit various monuments and museums.

Cory stands proudly at the US Capitol.

Cory stands proudly at the US Capitol.

More importantly, Cory persuaded both Montana senators and our congressman to co-sponsor re-authorization of the Muscular Dystrophy Care Act. It could provide funding and support for further research and development of treatments, therapies and a cure that could help save not only his own life, but those of nearly 350,000 boys around the world who have Duchenne.

The trip was paid for entirely by donations from generous, supportive friends and family members, including numerous people from Westport.

Thanks to all who made this trip possible.  Special thanks to Peter Weisman, whose strength, courage and memories are kept alive by his amazing family. Peter continues to inspire boys like my son Cory to fight Duchenne, while enjoying life to the fullest.

(Last year, Dave’s Staples Class of ’79 donated leftover reunion money to help Cory and other boys with Duchenne. To contribute, click here.)  

Cory at the memorial to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Both used wheelchairs; neither was  bound by them.

Cory Stalling at the memorial to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Both used wheelchairs; neither was bound by them.

If your browser does not take you to this video of Cory’s trip, click here.