Community Gardens: RTM Candidates’ Views

Like many Westporters, Don Bergmann has followed the controversy over the future of the Westport Community Gardens and Long Lots Preserve.

Last week, he wrote to every candidate running in November’s election for the Board of Education, Board of Finance, Planning & Zoning Commission, and Representative Town Meeting. 

He said: “All of you are to be thanked for your civic interest and commitment to Westport. Your responses to this e mail may result in an ‘06880’ story authored by Dan Woog. I am of course copying Dan.

“All are familiar with the matter of the Community Gardens and a new Long Lots Elementary School. Each of you is probably more than  familiar with the issues and the dramatic tension that has arisen. That tension focuses on the desire to preserve the Gardens and the Preserve as is.

“My belief is that all of you have a personal opinion as to what should occur, i.e. should the Gardens and Preserve be retained in place or should the Gardens and Preserve be dismantled. Some of you may believe those are not the choices but, rather, the relocation and reconstruction of the Gardens and Preserve on a new site, whether at Long Lots or elsewhere in town, is also relevant. My view is that the choice is binary, either preserve or destroy.

“As candidates for elected office, I think it is reasonable to receive from each of you your views, your positions on this issue of preserving the Gardens and the Preserve. I believe that you are obligated to publicly set forth your thinking.  The fact that you may be serving either before or after the November election in a position that has a role in the Long Lots and Gardens process should not be seen or used as a reason not to express your views. 

Westport Community Gardens & Long Lots Preserve 

“Many times, elected officials will take positions as citizens, not as a member of an elected body. Whether you choose to express your views as a citizen and not as a member of an elected body is up to you. What is crucial is that you inform all those who will or will not vote for you, your views on this issue of the Gardens. 

“I ask that you e mail me with your views. I leave it to each of you what form that will take or details to be provided. If you want to include your thinking on other important town issues of which your constituents should be informed in order to cast a thoughtful vote in support of your candidacy, that would be up to you. The more you convey, the better will be the election outcomes and the better for Westport.

“I will be convey your written responses to Dan Woog for him to use or comment upon as Dan thinks best. We all know of Dan’s integrity. I have zero concern that anything you write will be treated in any manner than with respect.”  

Don gave a deadline of last Friday. He received responses from 10 RTM candidates. There were none for any candidates for the other offices. Their unedited, verbatim responses are below.


Andrew Bloom (District 1): I recognize the importance of this issue and would defer to the building committee’s recommendation while hoping that an amicable compromise can be reached. However, as a father of 3 elementary school aged children, I would personally favor outcomes that prioritize the school and fields. 

Long Lots Elementary School and adjacent fields.


Clarence Hayes (District 4): I have been a gardener much of my life. While a student at Deep Springs College I was responsible for a garden and orchard feeding a community of 40 people.

Today I live in a condo with a 360-sf front yard in which I built two 12′ x 6′ raised beds where I grow tomatoes and basil which I use for pasta sauces I store up. These are surrounded by pollinator friendly plants such as milkweed and goldenrod which I transplanted from nearby highway margins. Attached is a picture of end of season tomatoes picked yesterday. So I certainly am sympathetic to the community gardeners.

However, regarding preserving the community gardens in the current location, my response is: “It depends.”

I have not yet digested all the relevant detail in terms of requirements, building costs, potential regulatory limitations, etc.

Regardless, from what I have been able to find so far,  the publicly available information appears insufficient to allow for a fully informed recommendation.

And not having been a committee member at an early stage, alternate designs I might prefer are not on the table  (e.g. a parking garage and minimal access roads in order to maximize usable land). Until I have access to such detail — and the opportunity to directly influence the recommendation committee — it would be mere sentiment on my part to claim the gardens absolutely must be preserved exactly as they now are, regardless of other competing interests.

I also played baseball in high school and am sympathetic to the views which the local baseball associations cogently presented in a post yesterday regarding the challenges they face.

My commitment is to do my best to listen to all Westport constituencies and to balance as intelligently as possible conflicting interests as we attempt to make decisions which maximize the long term value of town property for all of Westport.


Candace Banks (District 6): I have visited the Community Gardens and they are visually stunning.  The hard work and care of the gardeners and volunteers are evident.

I also learned from a recent “06880” podcast that this is not the first time the Gardens have faced displacement due to school construction; the Gardens were originally located on the site that became the present day Bedford Middle School. I am sure this fact only adds to the gardeners’ apprehension and frustration about the imminent Long Lots school construction.

The RTM is not going to get an up or down vote on what exactly to do with the Gardens. It will get an up or down vote on appropriating money for LLS school construction which I enthusiastically support. I hope that vote happens as soon as possible because a new elementary school  for the school aged children zoned to LLS from Districts 6, 7 & parts of 9 is much needed and long overdue. I hope the candidates for local office feel the same so that LLS gets the rehabilitation it needs asap. If they don’t, they owe to their constituents, particularly those who have young children, to say so now.

I understand even if the Gardens remain in its current location that they will be inaccessible during the 24 month construction period. That fact seems to weigh in favor of finding other (perhaps larger) spaces in Town for it so the gardeners  can maintain their community, expand their mission and their contributions to the pollinator network as well as add to their membership. 


Jessica Bram (District 6): As a mother of 3 sons who attended the Westport Public Schools, one of them Long Lots, I am a fierce advocate for the Westport Public Schools.  In my last three terms on the RTM I have voted in favor of every appropriation request brought to the RTM by the Westport Public Schools. In this case, there is no question that a new elementary school for the school-aged children zoned to LLS from RTM District 6, the district I represent, is badly needed.

However, I am dismayed that current proposals require the dismantling or relocation of the Westport Community Gardens. I believe that other Long Lots locations might have been identified, including the school’s athletic and ball fields, in any Long Lots construction design.

The Westport Community Gardens are as important to Westport as Compo Beach, undeniably our Town’s most vital asset. I do not believe that any proposal to construct a school that would jeopardize or displace access to our shoreline would ever have been contemplated. And in this case, I do not accept that relocating the Westport Community Gardens is a viable, or in any way acceptable, option.

The RTM will not conduct any vote on the Westport Community Gardens themselves. Our role is only to vote on specific appropriation requests made by the Westport Public Schools. However, with a heavy heart because I remain so fierce a supporter our Westport Public Schools, I cannot vote in favor of any plan that requires the dismantling, removal, or relocation of Westport Community Gardens.


Louis D’Onofrio Jr. (District 6): If I was in a position to vote on the community gardens I would clearly say, a vote for Louis D’Onofrio Jr in District 6 is a vote to preserve the Community Gardens.

The simple fact that our town’s administration is pushing aside our history is not what myself, or the people of District 6, stands for. I have written to the Westport Journal about my concerns of our current town administration’s approving the overgrowth of the town which strains our resources and displaces our lower socioeconomic communities and this is very concerning. To preserve the community gardens is to preserve a section of our community. There is also something pure and grand about these gardens being by our school. We need to bring nature and gardening into our classes more and what better way than to allow students to view nature on a daily basis.

Thank you for reaching out and I appreciate you collecting our thoughts and ideas on the topic.

Long Lots School Building Committee representatives (left), with Board of Education members and Westport Public Schools administrators.


Brandi Briggs (District 7): I believe it is premature to be making a decision on the gardens at this point since the Building Committee has not delivered their recommendation. However, I think coming up with a solution that is first and foremost best for Long Lots School is the top priority over other interests. All the stakeholders should continue to have a chance to have their say and find a solution that can be satisfactory to all those involved but everyone will need to be adaptable. My eventual vote will be based on the recommendations of experts on the Building Committee that have spent countless hours and hard work researching and determining the right solution for Long Lots.


Lauren Karpf (District 7): As an RTM member, I have spent countless hours over almost a decade supporting the need for a new LLS. I believe staff and students deserve an appropriate building as soon as possible.

I respect and appreciate the building committee’s diligent approach in exploring numerous options for the layout of the building and campus. It has become clear to me that it is a complex landscape at LLS, and that all involved need to be flexible and adaptable, as construction is never easy and many components need to fit in a limited space.

I have long been a fan of the gardens. I admire all that the gardeners have accomplished, and in fact bought and planted a tree in the Long Lots Preserve. While currently the gardens can only be accessed and enjoyed by approximately 100 people, I am hopeful that a partnership with the schools and other organizations, and a larger space if the gardens are moved to a different location, can allow greater use for more residents going forward, including during the two years of construction.

I look forward to hearing the building committee’s recommended plan after many months of hard work, and voting to begin construction without delay.


Jennifer Johnson (District 9): I strongly believe that the Westport Community Garden should be preserved in its current location. The garden is a wonderful piece of our town’s community soul that should be protected in perpetuity with a conservation easement to keep it a community garden for all ages and years to come.

It is time to move the discussion to other plans. Yes, it will take a couple of years of disruption. But that is what construction is. We have ball fields, and theaters and other resources across the town than can be used during construction. We can definitely build a great school and keep the garden.  So many people now know and understand this treasured town resource. Let’s continue the celebration…and let it grow!


Sal Liccione (District 9): I have reached out and worked closely with the Gardeners throughout this entire process. I have listened to their concerns and learned. I am deeply and firmly committed to the Gardens and Preserve and keeping them exactly where they are.

As such, I will only vote to support a new or refurbished Long Lots School Plan that does not disturb or destroy the existing Gardens and Preserve. In my opinion, this horrible threat to the Gardens should have been taken “off the table” by the Administration long ago.


John Suggs (District 9):  Thank you Don Bergmann for asking all of the local town candidates this vital question before the November election. Thank you, also, Dan Woog for providing us with this wonderful 06880 platform in which to answer it. Because of the importance of the question, I hope that the majority of us will choose to respond.

I wish my fellow Westporters to know that my position on the Gardens and the Preserve is one of the main reasons behind my recent decision, after taking a six year hiatus, to, once again, return to the RTM. (Dependent entirely, of course, on if the electors of District 9 decide to grant me the opportunity for another tour of service on the RTM.)

My position on the Gardens and Preserve is simple and unwavering. They must continue to be protected, preserved and celebrated as the Town Treasures that they are.  And they must remain, undisturbed, right where they have been so carefully tended and nurtured by hundreds of volunteers over the past twenty years.

As such, if I am elected, when the Long Lots Building Committee comes before the RTM, as is now expected either in December or January, I will vote against approving any Long Lots School plan that includes the destruction of the gardens and preserve in their present location.  Period.

None of us, much less our impressionable and curious school children, will ever benefit from a new or refurbished school if it is built on the backs of hundreds of gardeners who have labored in the fields these past twenty years.  We must acknowledge and honor the commitments that we first made with them. Just like a garden that is how a healthy, vibrant community grows.

I wish to offer one last point, if I might.  I have been deeply saddened and troubled by the process itself by which this whole matter of determining whether to rehab the existing school or building a new school has unfolded.  Much of the ultimate resulting controversies might well have been avoided, or at least, mitigated somewhat had there been a spirit of more openness and transparency by the Administration.

I have witnessed, as recently as this week, the negative impact of the outright refusal of the Park and Recreation Commission to so much as even place a discussion of the concerns of the gardeners on their meeting agenda. Much less to actively reach out and consult with them about their many ideas for creative ways to resolve this impasse.  By repeatedly refusing them a place on the PRC’s agenda, dozens and dozens of concerned residents, myself included, have been reduced to the indignity of pleading our case in the brief, few minutes set aside at the beginning of their meeting for non-agenda items.

This has not been Westport’s finest hour.

In conclusion, yes we must- – and will — either rehab the existing school or build a new school.  We can — and will — also identify a new location for a baseball field. But in the doing, we must also honor the stewardship, responsibility and commitment that was first made twenty years ago to maintain, protect and preserve our Community Garden and Preserve.

As for me, if elected in November, I will only vote to support a school plan that first “does no harm” and protects and preserves the gardens where they have resided for twenty years.






36 responses to “Community Gardens: RTM Candidates’ Views

  1. Mille grazie! A million thanks to Don Bergman for putting this question to those who seek to represent us, and to Dan Woog for publishing. And a big thank you to these 10 brave candidates who dignify this issue with a response.

  2. Please see my comment about the RTM and Long LotsvSchool mistakenly posted under pics of the day, by my fault I am sure, but intended to be here.

  3. Oops! My comment was mistakenly posted under the pics of the day section., but I’d like you to read it.

  4. Larry Weisman’s comment (cut-and-paste):

    Larry Weisman | September 25, 2023 at 6:31 am | Reply
    If I were on the RTM I would want to know more about the process by which a decision is being made to renovate or replace the Long Lots School before I voiced an opinion on the matter.

    I would want to see the “multiple studies” referenced in the April 21, 2023 BOE recommendation that concluded that renovation is not a feasible alternative, and I would want to know why the Building Committee was empowered to ignore and replicate those studies and consider a renovation alternative.

    I would want to know why the BOE, having issued its recommendation, sits idly by while its carefully considered plan and those “multiple studies”, (presumably undertaken at some cost to the town), and its authority as an elected body are ignored by the First Selectwoman and her appointed committee.

    I would also want to know why the Building Committee and Parks & Rec have failed and refused to engage with the gardeners and their supporters in a good faith effort to find a mutually acceptable solution to their differences, allowing only 15 minutes for public comment at their meetings.

    I would want to know whether, if the gardens cannot be maintained in their present location and configuration, there might be a feasible alternative which recognizes their importance, such as, for example, moving what can be moved and replicating what is immovable, at town expense, to a town-owned site such as that piece of Winslow Park on North Compo which is presently a construction staging area,

    If I were on the RTM I would demand answers to these questions before making up my mind or expressing my opinion in public. But hey, it’s easier just to shoot from the hip rather than do the work involved to fully understand what is going on here and how the rights of the gardeners and the public at large have been deliberately trampled in a rush to what certainly seems to be a predetermined outcome.

  5. I appreciate the Garden but why aren’t people discussing and evaluating the headline issue-new school or renovate?! Major decision, major $$$, major decision.

    • Mark I believe the answer is very clear – the LLSBC has made very plain publicly and on several occasions that while their partial remit is to consider renovation as well as rebuild, that in their opinion a new school is (paraphrasing) cheaper and quicker to build. Cheaper and quicker are not in my lexicon – I prefer to do it right the first time within fiscal prudence.

      Everyone understands our young students must come first but a lot of town stakeholders have an interest here and all voices should be given a fair hearing and IMHO the lack of creative thinking is most unfortunate.

      I am not an expert on these construction matters and I have no idea what the truth is here but apparently the committee does have a strong opinion based on their public deliberations and their answers to public comment thus far.

      I’ll just make the point that the contractor selected to cost out these options inevitably wants an easy life and demolish and rebuild seems like the simplest option for them, particularly if you know that’s where the decision makers are leaning anyway.

  6. Candidates for Board of Education, Board of Finance and Planning and Zoning will debate at Town Hall Auditorium October 11and 12. Please send questions you would like asked to

  7. Mr Bergman has done what is necessary in this highly controversial issue. I for one find it very interesting and telling of the RTM people who responded. Some expressed their support either way and some just “sat on the fence” From what I have read of the options available I think RTM should be able to support one option over the rest. As disappointing as it is not to have the courage of your convictions, will these fence sitters ever commit to anything. Since Parks and Rec has control over the ball field at issue, why have they been mute on this issue. Are they waiting for others to make this decision so they can say “it’s not our fault “. That’s bush league as they say!

  8. I believe that there should be an additional option given by the engineers/architects to include preserving the current location of the gardens and preserve. We have continually as a global community put nature at risk in order to “improve” other things we feel are necessary. I agree that we need to prioritize education and a new Long lots building, but a baseball field or soccer fields can be moved and rebuilt more easily than the community gardens and preserve. Has anyone cared to find out the definition of preserve? Preserve is meant to KEEP/protect and preserve the area from construction and or destruction. Our climate is changing dramatically due to this kind of insensitive decisions over the years all over the world.

    Some inconveniences for some of the sports fields to the athletes is unfortunate, but if the experts cannot figure out another way to use the land in the long lots school property without destroying the current preserve and gardens then that is the least of the evils. Even the baseball leagues have agreed that they are open to another location, hoping it would still be walking distance for the freshmen to get to practices from staples. I know sports are a huge thing for all of our children and the fields are already overscheduled, but this is still the least of the evils unless they can figure out a way to build the school building and parking areas upward taking on less of a footprint while “preserving” the 20 year old gardens and preserve areas.

  9. I am an RTM member from District 8. I did not respond to Mr. Bergmann’s letter because I felt -and still do – that it is premature for representatives who will make official decisions about expenditures to do that based on partial information. But I did write the following before I made that choice:

    Rather than asking RTM members our personal opinions on whether we should “save the Community Garden and Preserve”, I wish the question were, “What information should we have before making choices for the town?” Good governance requires we have good information on which to base town decisions. When we have that we can filter it through town values, needs, and wants, look at potential consequences, perhaps find compromises, and come to consensus.

    We do now have some important information from and about the glorious Preserve and Community Gardens and the larger ways they serve our community; the BOE educational specs and critical needs for Long Lots; and recently the Westport and Staples baseball/softball groups have weighed in about sports fields. Here are some (but not all) other as yet unknown considerations:

    1. What is the actual status of the current LLS building (we have drawn “conclusions” from the public conversations of the LLSBC but what does all the research actually reveal) and the site itself?

    2. Do characteristics of different building sites impact possible safety? (For example, where are wetlands located and how will the building siting affect those, and vice versa? Has there been an examination of whether the hazardous contaminants once present have seeped into the soil and aquifers on the site, and if so what problems they present)? What is the actual data?

    3. Are there relevant laws/regulations about outdoor spaces – apart from the good pesticide-use prohibition? Are there laws/regulations concerning the building itself? (For example, first-grade classrooms must be on the first floor.)

    4. What does the current LLS community, including staff, have to say about its next incarnation?

    5. The excellence of the school must be the first priority. It will serve thousands of people over the next years. What best practices will be used to ensure the finished school and its recreation areas will have parity with the other town els?

    6. What are neighbors’ concerns and how can they be best taken into account?

    7. What about the Parks and Rec data and playing fields requirements and concerns?

    8. It has been suggested that the Town must relocate the Gardens/Preserve in order to satisfy the need for sports fields. Is this really an either/or situation? Are there are good alternatives for sports fields?

    9. For all but for the RTM in particular, since our input comes via financial approvals: What are the relative costs for different scenarios? Let’s remember, CES is next and with these two schools alone we are probably looking at tripling the town debt.

    After the LLSBC makes its recommendations to our First Selectwoman and she makes the choice, the review process of committees and commissions begins. Obviously all meetings must completely transparent and inclusive. These conversations can also shape outcomes.

    Some people have asked repeatedly for representatives’ “gut reactions”. I believe those should not be determinative. Are we really being to declare ourselves pro-or anti-gardens? But here is information about some of my past work:

    I’ve worked for several decades on and with the boards of national, international and local environmental groups including The National Audubon Society and The Sierra Club (whose Books and Calendar Publishing division I co-founded and where I published books on subjects like the relations of environmental issues to cancer and other critical illnesses; the importance of small-scale farming; in 1977, the first comprehensive book on creating sustainable homes; in l981, the whys and hows of edible gardening; The Ocean Alliance; the CT Climate Coalition, CTLCV, and Westport’s Plastic Pollution Project.

    A few of my town initiatives: I was one of the original founders of the Wakeman Town Farm; contributed to writing (requiring decisions to be made based on environmental and social effects as well as financial ones) and edited the town’s Net Zero resolution; wrote our prohibition of the use of toxic crumb-rubber particles on playing fields; wrote our prohibition on using fracking waste; contributed to writing and editing to our ban on single-use plastics. During the ten years I chaired Westport’s Environment Committee the town became widely known for these and much other work protecting the environment and health and creating ways to move the tradition forward.

    I hope and expect we will weigh all facts based on how we identify as a community, without rancor. We can and will find a good solution.

    • Good comments. But I have to ask: Can a committee recommendation to move forward with a plan be made without all of these questions deliberated and answered … publicly?

  10. Karen La Costa Mather

    Thank you Don Bergmann. Sadly, since neither the Building Committee nor Parks & Rec came up with alternative sites for a baseball field throughout this process, it seems Plan Alt C – the only plan which preserves the Garden/Preserves in place – was never a real consideration.

    And the Building Committee gets to whittle the recommendation down to one plan (maybe two – but most likely both the same for Gardeners – Destruction). Good luck steering that ship around once the decision is made by a tiny, unelected group with their priorities considered paramount. The appointed Building Committee held all the cards, did not involve stakeholders, kept quiet about it and is rushing this process along to pursue the outcome they want.

    Neighbors are now worried about increased flooding with the removal of the Garden/Preserves acting as a sponge coupled with more extreme storm events. Also, according to Dan Woog’s blog highlighting the baseball community, “WBS and SHSB do not seek to disrupt or displace the Gardens”. But they would like an alternative field site. Where is the due diligence on that? In addition, Elementary school children will be deprived of valuable, educational hands on classes regarding eco-systems, sustainability and stewardship of our increasingly fragile planet as more development consumes green space. Westport town officials will look hypocritical promoting sustainability and concern over climate change while destroying the Gardens/Preserve. Explain that to the kids.

    Wouldn’t it be great if the leaders of our town paused and indeed found an alternative site for a baseball field and kept the Gardens/Preserves in place. All in the town of Westport would be grateful. I wish they would read the Cadet prayer and serve as one:

    Cadet Prayer:
    Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong and never to be content with a half truths when the whole truth can be won.

  11. Very happy to see many did not respond. That is destined for uncivil discourse…yes, you promote a false sense of security by grandstanding on the theory of looking good personally, but in reality you are putting the cart before the horse.

    The administration was tasked to appoint experts, and let civil discourse play out in Committee as it should, undisturbed, with no bias or intrusion from higher serving officials. Otherwise, it is not genuine and coming to the final decision is not wholesome. But who wrote Sal’s response? I receive his emails (too often) and this is not his style. Happy to see improvements!

    • So much for civil discourse.

    • That is such a cruel thing to say and reeks of entitlement and eliteism – Is that how your mother raised you Mr. Bonham ? You should be ashamed of yourself.

    • Pretty lousy thing to say Mr. Bonham.

    • P.U.!!!!!

    • There is nothing “wholesome “ or “genuine” about any of this….
      “Experts” pray tell ! What experts ?
      There are no experts on this committee.

    • Robert Harrington

      Mr Bonham – Its obviously fine to agree or disagree on the subject of the Westport Community Gardens. However, your comment about Sal is both unkind and unnecessary.

    • The “cart before the horse” is taking a Community Gardens that were established twenty years ago by every relevant Board in Town and pretending that it is simply land – treating it as if it had not been long established.

      I’m also curious as to what you think the “expertise” is of the LLSBC members. They were handpicked by the First Selectwoman with specific goals in mind – some of which were not made public until recently.

  12. My goal was to request that candidates for office for the BoE, the P&Z, the BoF and the RTM express, however, they wish a view as to the Community Gardens. I sought this because I believe a vote for or against a candidate for office should be based, as reasonably as possible, on the views of the candidate on important issues.
    I also expect that without input from the candidates, the Building Committee is likely to make a recommendation that does not include the preservation of the Gardens. If that is the case, momentum will take over, with the only way to preserve the Gardens being for the BoF or the RTM to vote against the required funding.
    Since that will be a difficult vote for both bodies, notwithstanding a desire to preserve the Gardens, the only way to impact on this process is by conveying now to the Building Committee and to Jen Tooker the views of candidates for office AND the views of those who will continue in office. That means statements from all on the RTM, the BoF and probably the BoE and the P&Z Commission. Those statements need to be conveyed immediately, before the Building Committee and Jen Tooker act. Failure to have a preserve the Gardens option, is very likely to result in the destruction of the Gardens and the Preserve by reason of the pressure to authorize a new school without the opportunity even to vote on a plan that preserves the Gardens and the Preserve.
    No new facts or answers are needed to generate at least an option that will preserve the Gardens option. That option may or may not pass, but at least it will be voted upon.

  13. Mr. Bonham
    All due respect … but I think any and all issues of concern to the electorate (especially a month before an election) is fair game. Candidates who duck and weave are in it for reasons other than to serve. Not enough info for an educated opinion? GO GET IT!

    Your rude comment notwithstanding, I have a lot of respect for people like Sal (and others) who make every attempt to know the issue … and participate in the process — no matter whether they agree with my POV.

    The Committee is a public body, and their deliberations and fact-finding are to be public. They CANNOT be allowed to deliberate these issues “undisturbed” by concerned citizens and/or elected officials.

    • Toni I could not agree more with you.

      But I will add to that, Mr. Bonhams statement was rude and ignorant, especially, in light of his civil discourse remark.

      Sal Liccione is an outstanding and standout member of the rtm, who always listens to those who elect him, as all rtm should. We elect the rtm to be our voice, not to do what they think is right, but to do what we, who, elected them think is right. Simple as that.
      And Sal Liccione always does what his constituents ask of him as best he can.
      Sal works tirelessly, 7 days a week, 365 days a year on behalf of his constituents. He is completely selfless, responsible and ALWAYS, always shows up.

      Having spoken on countless occasions with Sal Liccione I know that there are sometimes discussions and decisions to be made where he would have voted in a different manner on a personal level, BUT he listens to his constituents and he votes as the majority who elected him would want. That is why the residents of district 9 vote for him. They know they can trust him to have their back.

      There are too many committees making too many important recommendations and most of them are made up of unelected folk, lacking the qualifications to make such decisions.

      Case in point parker Harding.

      I’m not suggesting that committee members do not spend many hours of their time volunteering to sit on same, for which we are grateful.
      But in this case the committee should have had representation from the community gardens and sustainable Westport, not to mention someone from the baseball community as well as some folk with vast construction experience.
      There should have been more transparency, and I fear the school which is clearly, badly needed yesterday, is going to end up being severely delayed, precisely because the lack of transparency is being duly noted and quite frankly not tolerated by the vast majority of constituents in Westport.
      It did not have to happen this way. And it is not the fault of the school or the gardeners.

  14. Robert Harrington (Board of Education Member)

    This is a very helpful and informative article thank you.

    As a Board of Education member I am proud to reiterate my clear view: Westport needs to move ahead with a new school building AND fight to keep the community gardens in their current location. The school should not be delayed. The Westport Community Gardens should not be moved and they should not be closed. Find solution. I don’t need to wait for experts to tell me this. Westport should be proud to pay to make this site work.

    • I appreciate that your repeated that the gardens should be closed during construction. considering one of the options was renovating while the kids were in school. That process can be steered by the needs of the people, students and gardeners.

  15. The gardens have ABSOLUTELY NOOOOOO REASON TO BE CLOSED DURING CONSTRUCTION ! Convenient self serving bs !
    No need for any lack of access.
    Seriously does the bullying ever stop. Or the further attempt at justification.. “sure, they won’t have access anymore…”
    Projects happen in Manhattan all the time far “tighter “ than this.
    Get a grip and stop with the convenient falsehoods..
    NO the gardens WILL be fully accessible during construction.
    UNLESS OF COURSE, the punishment is to make them not accessible…

  16. Actually I stand corrected. The gardens “shall” remain accessible.

    • Ellen and Wendy,
      Right now an RTM “Sense of the meeting” assertion that they will reject any LL appropriation that destroys the Community Gardens would send a clear message to the building committee to present a proposal keeping the Gardens undisturbed.

      So to say that the RTM has “no say” over preserving the gardens is not completely true.

      But obviously that only works if the RTM has the conviction to make good on their assertion… which is questionable.

      As the “voice of the people” the RTM could have a lot more power than it currently chooses.

  17. “Shall” is used in the First Persons and “Will” is used in the other persons. You were correct.

  18. I am a current RTM Member from District 7. I did not respond with a “statement” as I did not think the way it was requested was the best way to approach getting candidates’ thoughts on this topic. However, I am weighing in as part of the discussion.

    But to set the record straight in terms of some FACTS:
    1. The RTM will ultimately be voting on whether to approve a budget to build the school – nothing more and nothing less. That’s what is within our mandate. We can not vote on whether the plan should include the Gardens – that will not be up to us.
    2. There is no realistic option to move the Gardens and the Preserve somewhere else. It is a culmination of a 20 year effort including thousands of hours of labor, money raised through private donations, painstaking planning and cultivating of the individual gardens but also of the trees and shrubs that support pollinators and birds, and a variety of community building events, among other things. This can not be re-established somewhere else without that kind of effort and time. Unless the Town is willing to invest in recreating this by pouring money, time (years) and manpower into a new one, there is no such thing as it being moved. It will be done.
    3. This is not a question of a small community of gardeners vs a school – there needs to be a new school there – no question. However, this is an environmental community gem and something that many constituencies can benefit from, not just the people that garden there.
    4. There are many issues that need to be considered along with the best type of building. Many of these have been mentioned above but must be considered in the plans, like wetlands, underground water pathways, sustainable materials, etc. The soccer field and baseball field are not part of the school complex – they are town fields.

    I truly hope that the Building Committee, Parks and Rec and the Selectman’s Office can find a plan that retains the gardens and the preserve where they are while building a school that is state-of-the-art and has everything needed to accomodate and educate our kids at the highest level.

    • Thank you, Ellen, for stating those facts so clearly.

    • Robert Harrington

      Thanks Ellen for your clear and logical thinking. This is much appreciated.

      I definitely am concerned that if there is only one proposal and it embeds moving / destroying the gardens then the RTM will be faced with a very narrow request to simply deny or accept the funding. I really hope Town Leadership doesn’t let it get to this point.

      We can prioritize both a 1st class new school building AND keeping the gardens in their current location.

  19. Thank you. This was a great and helpful initiative.

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