Category Archives: Economy

Roundup: 9/11 Babies, Gas, More


From time to time, “06880” has noted Hillary O’Neill. The Staples High School graduate — and daughter of Coleytown Middle School social studies teacher Glenn O’Neill — was born on September 11, 2001.

She and a number of other young people have embraced their now-infamous birthday, dedicating themselves to service on a day that is difficult to celebrate.

Yesterday, Politico ran a story headlined: “The Children of 9/11 Are About to Vote.” The piece explored what “the youngest cohort of American voters thinks about politics, fear and the potential of the country they’ve grown up in.”

Hillary — now an EMT and student — was one of the “9/11 babies” interviewed. Among her thoughts:

From what I understand, there’s a certain aspect of fear now that didn’t necessarily exist before. It’s weird when I talk to my parents and they say, “This is not what it was always like.

The country has done a very poor job of handling the pandemic. It’s exposed a lot of the disorganization and divisions in our country and in our government. The fact that we are so divided has prevented us from actually being able to move forward with anything. It’s just frustrating when you hear experts on the topic who have been preparing their whole lives for an event like this, and they’re not being listened to.

When I was younger, I always thought that in America there was equality—that everyone had rights and everyone had freedoms. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized although that’s the ideal, that’s not the truth.

As a young woman, the way that (President Trump) talks about women is very disheartening to me and a lot of my friends. To know that that’s the person who is supposed to represent your country is a very frustrating feeling. You would think that everyone looked down upon that. The fact that not everyone does is a very frustrating feeling.

I hope that my generation can bring back a sense of community to the country. That is really something that will allow us to accomplish more things and move forward as a country. Rather than just accepting something the way that it is—because that’s the way it’s always been or accepting certain institutions—people my age have grown up learning to challenge those. If you don’t agree with something, challenge it.

Click here for the full Politico story, with more comments by Hillary and others. (Hat tip: Kerry Foley)

 

 

 

 

The cost of many things goes up. The price of gas keeps dropping.

As Chip Stephens put out his state representative campaign signs yesterday, he noticed at least 3 gas stations charging less than $2 a gallon.

Now, if we only had someplace to go, other than around in circles …

(Photo/Chip Stephens)


And finally … Ronald Khalis Bell — a founder of Kool & the Gang — died Wednesday. He was 68. Let’s celebrate the group’s monster hit, which he wrote:

Roundup: Kings Highway Welcome, Bank Of America, More


As Kings Highway Elementary teachers returned to the building yesterday for the first time since March, students and parents welcomed them with messages of gratitude, encouragement and support

Families also clapped as staff members entered (from a safe distance, of course). The traditional school message echoes again: Kind hearts shine, and we will get through this together!

Working together to welcome teachers. (Photo/Elizabeth Ginns Britten


One of the oddest aspects of the pandemic — and there have been many — is the continued closure of local Bank of America branches.

At least 6 in the area have been shut since early spring. That includes the 3 on the Post Road in Westport. The one near Whole Foods, just over the Norwalk line, is still open.

I understand the ease of online banking. But sometimes you need a human being.

BOA is MIA. And no one has said a peep.


And finally … as we near the end of one of the strangest summers ever:

In A Pandemic, Staples Tuition Grants Marks A Record Year

For Staples Tuition Grants, it was the perfect storm.

In March — just when volunteers with the 77-year-old organization were finalizing awards for the 100-plus graduating seniors and alums currently in college who depend on donors to make education a reality — the coronavirus struck.

More students needed more aid. And fewer Westporters were able to give.

But the community rose to the challenge. A special drive brought in desperately needed funds.

So this spring, STG disbursed more money than ever: $375,000.

That means 107 Staples grads — at 72 colleges and universities across the country — can continue their educations.

COVID also knocked out STG’s annual June ceremony, always a joyful, inspiring event.

But Staples grad and STG booster Margot Bruce did the next best thing: She created a joyful, inspiring video.

It includes brief messages from 1st Selectman Jim Marpe (who notes the importance of a tuition grant in his Ohio hometown, helping him become the first in his family to go college); Staples principal Stafford Thomas; former recipient Scott Bennewitz, the son of a single mom and now a Princeton grad, plus many current and recent recipients.

The video is well worth the 6 minutes. And when it’s over — or even before — you can click here to help Staples Tuition Grants reach its 2021 goal.

Roundup: Showers, Library, Cash, Kayaks, More


Staples High School is open today (Monday, August 10) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., for Westport residents to use hot showers. Everyone must bring their own towels and toiletries. The Community Emergency Response Team will assist with scheduling and social distancing.

Yesterday, CERT volunteers delivered food to seniors in need.

The Westport Library is open from noon to 6 p.m. today too, so residents can charge their devices. Everyone must wear a mask, maintain social distance, and limit their stay to an hour.


Need a place to work?

Office Evolution — the work space in the office building opposite fire headquarters — offers a low rate for this week: a $50 day pass for a private office; $25 for socially distanced co-working, with no additional or hidden fees, and free Starbucks coffee! (Strict safety protocols are of course in place.)

Interested? Email Westport.CT@officeevolution.com or call 203-635-8770 and leave a message. They respond quickly. For more information on Office Evolution, click here.


A reader writes:

“Hocon is a big problem. This is the second storm where they  let us run out of propane when we have a partial generator. My husband started calling them Thursday to say that we had 55% in the tank and would run out by Sunday. He called Sunday 5 times explaining that we’re not getting power till Tuesday midnight or Wednesday. They promised to come today, without an estimated time, but never came.

“I have a heart condition, atrial fibrillation that gets very exasperated by heat.  We have a couple of fans going. When the generator dies, which will happen within the hour, we will have nothing to deal with this heat, and tomorrow’s heat.

“It’s so frustrating to have invested in a generator and not be able to get propane when we need it. This is so upsetting.”


Like many Westporters, John Karrel has been struck by the sudden necessity for actual dollars, quarters and dimes. He writes:

“A week ago, all bets were that cash was on its way out in our world. Yesterday I picked up dinner at March Burger Lobster. I’m now sitting outside Donut Crazy with my iced coffee. Both establishments: cash only!

“The volatility of a pandemic. The shorter-term volatility of a severe power outage. For sure, not our last power outage. Maybe cash does remain a viable Plan B.”

It sure does. Provided your ATM has power.

(Photo/John Karrel)


A reader writes: “Could you provide an update on Optimum, the local cable/internet monopoly? How widespread is their outage? When will they get back online? They are not answering calls or calling back.

“By the way, when I called to cancel part of my service due to an exorbitant monthly fee (before the storm hit), they told me they closed their cancellation department.”

I don’t have any info from Optimum (or Altice, the parent company). I don’t have any sources there either. If any readers knows the answers — or has a special number to call — please click “Comments” below.


You may not have had power. But Mystic Bowie and Talking Dreads had plenty of it yesterday.

The popular band rocked Westport, in the 2nd of back-to-back sold-out “Supper & Soul” shows at the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

Everyone — the powered-up and the power-less — had a fantastic time. Kudos to Mystic and the Dreads. And of course to the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. Which should probably change its name to “Chamber of Concerts.”

A small part of the large crowd last night.


For the past few days, Westport was up the proverbial creek, without the proverbial paddle.

But grab those paddles. August 14-31 are the dates for the 5th annual Paddle for the Sound. This year it’s virtual, so even the most land-locked lubbers can join.

For 17 days, Save the Sound will help participants raise awareness and funds to find and fix pollution sources, while leading habitat restoration projects throughout the Long Island Sound region.

Prizes will be awarded to 1st place finishers in the Paddle/Kayak, Sail, and Run/Walk divisions for total distance traveled or time spent doing their sport over the span of the event. Prizes also go to the top fundraisers.

Participants will start their virtual races from self-selected launch points, tracking their miles and time with each excursion. Those interested in supporting without racing can “raise their paddle” in an online virtual auction featuring private boat excursions, local artisan products, and a signed New York Giants jersey. For more information and to register, click here.


Local photographer Michael Chait, whose photographs are part of the permanent collection in the Brooklyn Museum, has an outdoor photo show and sale closer to home.

It’s next Sunday (August 9, 12 to 5 p.m., in the outdoor courtyard at 11 Riverside Avenue). It’s an eclectic, “kooky” exhibit of photos through several decade, including classic cars and cityscapes. All are framed and ready to hang.

A classic car photo, by Michael Chait


Back in action, and with power: (among many other businesses): Granola Bar, Ignazio’s, and Joey’s by the Shore Featuring Elvira Mae’s Coffee Bar. We are getting back to normal!

PS: For the past few days, Kawa Ni has operated a food truck.

 

And finally … utility crews have arrived in Westport from all over. I haven’t seen a Wichita lineman — but I had a great chat Saturday with 2 from Neosho, Missouri, just a few miles from the Kansas border. They drove non-stop to get here, and are driving back and forth from their hotel — which is in Chicopee, Massachusetts (north of Springfield). Westport owes a huge thanks to all the linemen (and linewomen), working hard for us from all around North America.

Roundup: WTF; Reopening; Historic Homes; More


How you gonna keep ’em away from the farm?

Wakeman Farm Town announces a slew of interesting events.

A “Rockin’ Lawn Party” (Wednesday, August 5, 6 p.m.) includes live music and a customized picnic box by Terrain Cafe. Tickets ($80 for 2; ages 21+ only) include a donation to WTF. BYOB (blankets — or chairs — and beverages). Click here to order.

An outdoor movie — “The Pollinators” — is set for Friday, August 7 (gates open at 7:30 p.m., film at 8:30). The filmmakers will be on hand, and WTF hopes to sell honey from their hives. The ticket price of $15 includes fresh popcorn from Sport Hill Farm; wood-fired pizza is available to order. Click here to order.

Noted chef and caterer Alison Milwe Grace celebrates summer’s bounty with a 4-course farm feast on Tuesday, August 25. The $90 ticket includes a WTF donation. Click here to order.

To learn more about WTF — including an online workshop on CBD (Monday, August 3), click here.


Tomorrow’s ReOpen Westport Advisory Team meeting welcomes a special guest.

David Lehman — commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development — joins the discussion, and answers questions from the community.

The Thursday, July 30 virtual event begins at 11 a.m. The meeting will be live streamed on www.westportct.gov, and broadcast on Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020. Residents may email questions prior to the meeting  (reopenteam@westportct.gov).

Lehman will provide an update on modified rules for business sectors, and the decision to delay Phase 3 of reopening.


Your house may be old. It can also be famous.

The Westport Historic District Commission  is seeking nominations for its annual Westport Preservation Awards. Properties should show:

  • Rehabilitation and Adaptive Re-use: making a property compatible for new use by preserving features that convey historic, cultural, or architectural values.
  • Restoration: returning a property to its form at a particular period of time.
  • Reconstruction: new construction depicting the original form, features and details of the non-surviving historic structure.
  • Special recognition of individuals or organizations that advance the cause of historic preservation.

A structure must be at least 50 years old, and fit at least one of these criteria:

  • designed by a significant architect
  • the property is associated with a significant event or person;
  • the structure is indicative of a significant architectural style or period.

Nominations can be made by private residents, not-for-profits, commercial firms, and government institutions and officials. Please include photos and a brief narrative describing why the property or person deserves an award. Nominations should be emailed to rwmailbox@aol.com, by August 14.

A 2018 Preservation Award winner, at 75 Kings Highway North.


Next up in the Westport Library’s Camp Explore program: science TV host Emily Calandrelli.

The “Bill Nye Saves the World” and “Xploration Outer Space” star will be online this Monday (August 3, 4 p.m.).

Calandrelli makes science-related topics easily understandable, for audiences ranging from from Google, Pixar, MIT and CERN to colleges and schools around the country. Her topics include science communication, space exploration and women in STEM.

Click here to register for the Camp Explore event.


And finally … one of the best in our parade of classic summer songs.

[OPINION] Frontline Worker Deals With Baggage

An “06880” reader who works locally writes:

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont’s executive order to suspend the 10-cent surcharge for paper and/or plastic bags expired on June 30. That took some residents by surprise.

Surprise! We frontline workers don’t like having our heads taken off by rude, ignorant customers.

Some retailers are charging the 10-cent fee. Others are not. So frontline workers like me are stuck in the middle. Customers don’t know who’s doing what, or what the law is. We get the brunt of their anger.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

Some customers were disgruntled before COVID. Some were angry  even before the present White House administration. Some have been upset for the past 30 years.

They complain about anything that doesn’t fit their own personal narrative.

We have enough to juggle and deal with: stocking shelves. Following all the new rules and regulations. Wearing masks and gloves. Answering questions. Handling our own lives and uncertainties.

We would appreciate some manners, etiquette and courtesy.

It’s bad enough people don’t wear their masks correctly, when they come into our business. If they don’t get their acts together, we will be right back where we started, with this spread of infection.

Little kids actually wear them very well. They’re fine. It’s the adults who don’t. Not all of them — but enough to make a worrisome difference.

I have wear a mask for 8 to 9 hours a day. So do hospital staff, doctors and first responders.

So don’t tell me you are having issues breathing or having anxiety attacks. Deal with it! Wear your mask for a 30-minute shopping trip!

PS: Yes, you can bring your own bags. You probably will be asked to bag your own groceries, because frontline workers don’t feel comfortable bagging with reusable bags at this time. It’s for our safety.

PPP: Lifeline Loans For Westport Businesses, Organizations

COVID-19 wreaked havoc on nearly every segment of the economy.

Without the Paycheck Protection Program, it would have been far worse.

The PPP provided a lifeline for companies, non-profits and other employers. Loans offered an incentive to keep workers on the payroll. The Small Business Administration will forgive loans if certain employee retention criteria are met, and the funds are used for eligible expenses.

Newly released information shows 137 recipients in Westport, of loans of $150,000 or more.

They cover a broad range: construction firms, healthcare providers, attorneys, restaurants, retail stores, a tutoring service, fitness and sports centers, architects, public relations firms, dry cleaners, car dealers, childcare services and more.

Three religious institutions are on the list. So is the Pierrepont School, and non-profits like Earthplace, the Westport Weston Family YMCA, Westport Country Playhouse and Westport Library.

BioSig Technologies got a PPP loan. As “06880” reported in April, the Wilton Road firm is working on oral treatments for the coronavirus.

Click here to see the full Westport list.

On Monday, the PPP is once again accepting loan applications. The deadline is August 8. Click here for information.

(Hat tip: Paul Delano)

Sakura is one of 137 local businesses helped by the Paycheck Protection Program.

After Devastating Accident, Westporters Help

Last Sunday, a crew from Norwalk’s JS Landscaping removed a very large and quite dead tree near Maple Avenue South.

Allison Wiedman, her husband and 3 kids — summer renters — watched the action. The trunk snapped. They heard an enormous bang.

The tree had fallen onto the JS truck. Ronny Salazar — owner Jose’s brother — tried to get away. But he was pinned underneath.

His 3 brothers and Allison’s husband Bill managed to push the enormous trunk off Ronny’s leg.

Allison — a physical therapist — saw that Ronny had a massive wound to his right elbow: a severed brachial artery, multiple compound fractures, missing tissue, and massive bleeding.

After calling 911 she told the men to compress near Ronny’s underarm, then ran into the house to find something to use as a tourniquet. She remembered seeing thick exercise band in the guest room.

When she got back, a police officer was on the scene and applying a tourniquet. EMS arrived quickly, and took him to Yale New Haven Hospital.

Over the next few days he underwent multiple surgeries. Doctors made the difficult decision to amputate his leg below the knee.

Ronny Salazar

Thankfully, he will still have use of his right arm and hand, though after reconstruction it will never be the same.

Allison has helped Juan try to navigate the healthcare system. A neighbor, Rachel Gordon, set up a GoFundMe account to help with medical bills, lost wages, the expense of a prostheses and more.

She wrote:

Juan and Ronny came from Costa Rica. Juan moved here when he was 18 years old, nearly 20 years ago.

He worked as a busboy, line cook and in a nursery until about 10 years ago, when he earned enough money to start a landscaping company.

They started with 16 clients and now have 130. Juan has seen the United States be a land of opportunity for those willing to work for it.

From the hospital, Ronny is hoping he will recover enough to follow in his brother’s footsteps, and play with his nieces.

We know times are difficult for everyone right now, but we hope you will consider donating to the Salazar Family Accident Fund. Juan and Ronny are some of the kindest, hardest-working people you will ever meet. They have successfully pursued the American dream until this point/ We don’t want to let a random accident beyond their control derail them, but the unfortunate reality is that our system is set up in a way that it can.

All money raised will be given directly to Juan and Ronny. Every little bit will help as they begin their journey forward from this terrible accident.

(Click here for the GoFundMe page for Juan and Ronny Salazar.)

Roundup: Reopening; Juneteenth; Renters’ Rebates; More


Phase 2 of Connecticut’s reopening plan began yesterday with indoor restaurant dining, fitness facilities, all personal services and many other business sectors allowed to welcome customers again.

2nd Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker says that business owners are “empowered to make the decision to open their doors. If they do, the ReOpen Westport team is working diligently to support them through this complicated process.  We are taking this seriously. It is our goal to build confidence throughout the entire community during this reopen period.”

For a complete list of Connecticut’s Phase 1 and Phase 2 business sectors and rules, click here. For ReOpen Westport Advisory Team information and FAQs, click here. To contact the ReOpen Westport Advisory Team, email reopenteam@westportct.gov.

While local COVID-19 transmission rates continue to be low, Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper says, “following safety protocols like wearing masks, maintaining social distance, and good hygiene practices are all critical. I urge residents to use common sense and to take advantage of testing, especially if experiencing symptoms.”

St. Vincent’s Behavioral Health Center on Long Lots Road is a local testing site option with open time slots. Call 860-972-8100 for an appointment.

2nd selectman Jennifer Tooker


The Westport Museum for History & Culture and TEAM Westport are partnering for a special Juneteenth Zoom program.

Tomorrow (Friday, June 19, 5 p.m.), theater professor and playwright Kyle Bass discusses his play Possessing Harriet. It’s the story of enslaved woman traveling with her captors from the South to upstate New York, who finds refuge in the home of an abolitionist where he meets his young cousin Elizabeth Cady (later Stanton).

Bass will also discuss his play in progress about his ancestors Tim & Lill Bennett. They were slaves in Westport, in a home on Compo Road South.

The event is free, but registration is required. Click here to join.

Kyle Bass (Photo/Brenna Merritt)


Elderly and disabled Westport residents can apply for the Connecticut Renters’ Rebate Program. Qualifications for the program include:

  • Age 65 as of December 31, 2019, or totally disabled and collecting Social Security disability income.
  • The maximum gross income for the program is $37,000 for a single person, $45,100 for a married couple.
  • One year of residency in Connecticut is required. People renting an apartment, room or mobile home, or living in cooperative housing, may be eligible for this program.

The application deadline for the Renters’ Rebate Program is September 28.

Qualifying Westport residents should call the Human Services Department for an appointment: 203-341-1050.


Carol Alexander took this photo at Old Mill. She writes:

As more people come to enjoy this beautiful neighborhood beach, we need to treat it with respect. Please clean up before you leave!


Playwright/director Tazewell Thompson is familiar to area residents. In 2006 and ’07, he was artistic director at the Westport Country Playhouse.

When his opera “Blue” premiered last summer at the Glimmerglass Festival, New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini called it “one of the most elegant librettos I’ve heard in a long time.”

Thompson wrote about a black family — the father of a police officer — that is torn apart when the son is killed at a protest by another officer.

“Blue” has now been named Best New Opera by the Music Critics Association of North America. The Times calls the honor “sadly timely as the nation is roiled by unrest over police brutality and race relations.” (Click here for Thompson’s story on how he wrote the opera. Hat tip: Nina Sankovitch.)


As an Ivy Film Festival screenplay staff member, Brown University senior Elena Levin reads scripts from undergrad and grad students across the country. Each spring, the staff holds a screenwriting workshop for high schoolers.

Now the Westport resident is bringing the experience to her home town.

Elena offers an “Intro to Screenwriting Workshop” for rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors (no experience required). It meets outdoors at 4 p.m. every Wednesday in July for 2 hours. By the end of the 5th session, everyone will have written — and workshopped — a script.

Click here for more information. Questions? Email elena_l_levin@brown.edu.

Elana Levin


And finally … Patti Smith has power. She knows that people have it too.

After The Protests: Here’s How To Help

Sunday’s “United Against Racism” protest on Jesup Green was powerful and important.

But many of the several hundred attendees left feeling helpless. What can we actually do, besides march and speak? they wondered.

Darcy Hicks heard them. the co-organizer of the event — and a longtime social justice advocate — says, “I’m a big believer in protests and rallies. But not if they just stop there.”

On Monday, she went to work. She compiled a list of ways to help.

Downtown Bridgeport — there’s a lot going on.(Photo/Gary Pivot)

She focused on Bridgeport because she and her husband — attorney Josh Koskoff — both work there.

“We love the people,” Darcy says. “It’s a vibrant city with amazing history – yet 40% of children live below poverty level.

“Having a foot in both Westport and Bridgeport makes me realize that if all of us had that experience, we would think about their needs more. It’s hard to remember people in need of you don’t know them, or even see them.”

So, Darcy says, in addition to rallies and protests — or instead of, if you are concerned about COVID-19 — here is what you can do:


1. Drive to Bridgeport. It’s not far. It’s part of our extended neighborhood — and it’s important to interact in any way we can.

If you’ve been braving Starbucks, go to Bean N Batter instead one day. Treat yourself to waffles — available for curbside pickup. BONUS: It’s owned by Staples grad Will Hamer.

Instead of going to Dunkin’, surprise your family with a box of the real thing from Daybreak Doughnuts. Tired of the usual takeout? Wait until you feast on Brazilian churrascaria from Pantanal

2. Online shoppers: Here’s a better way to support your habit! https://www.fastcompany.com/…/7-black-owned-businesses-to-s…

3. Give. I know, some people say it’s inappropriate to ask for money these days. But for those of us fortunate enough to fill our carts with 700 rolls of toilet paper, we can spare something. The ACLU is always a good place to donate. So are https://bailproject.org and www.campaignzero.org.

Here’s a list of state and local organizations I’ve compiled, with the help of BPT Generation Now! (an amazing group of people, who are making great changes in Bridgeport):

Black Lives Matter
CTCore
Citywide Youth Coalition
Hearing Youth Voices
Students 4 Educational Justice
Connecticut Students 4 a Dream
Make the Road CT
Adam J. Lewis Academy
Neighborhood Studios

Some very happy Adam J. Lewis preschoolers.

4. Join these Facebook groups:
https://www.facebook.com/…/Justice-for-Jayson-155481706457…/
https://www.facebook.com/noahcalebfreedom/
https://www.facebook.com/nhvcrb/

5. When the quarantine is lifted and you find yourself filling your day back up with exercise classes, pick a day to volunteer for the Bridgeport Public Schools. They need visiting readers! https://www.bridgeportedu.net/SVAB.

Or volunteer to teach English to women at Mercy Learning Center. Or help kids with their homework at The Caroline House.

There’s so much more that can be done. If you know of more ways to close the socioeconomic gap that exacerbates racism and inequality in this area, please click “Comments” below.