Category Archives: Environment

Women Cancer Survivors: Get Pampered!

Westporters who have battled cancer are lucky to have the support of friends and family.

Now they’ve got local businesses behind them too.

Upper Deck Fitness and National Hall are sponsoring a special Women’s Wellness and Survivor Day next Saturday (October 20, 9:30 a.m.).

The event honors the strength of women who have overcome cancer, by treating them (and their friends and families) to a morning of nourishment.

Participants will enjoy a gentle outdoor workout on the Saugatuck River, followed by a communal brunch courtesy of Bartaco, OKO, Winfield Deli, Amis Trattoria, New Wave Seafood and Rye Ridge Deli.

Pampering is provided by Whip Salon, Beautycounter and the massage therapists of Upper Deck Fitness.

Lululemon, Athleta and others are contributing raffle prizes.

National Hall and Upper Deck Fitness.

Guest speakers include Maureen Lutz, who has written about surviving breast cancer and founded the non-profit Necessities Bags, and Upper Deck CEO Suzanne Vita Palazzo, who founded the Badass and Beautiful blog.

The event is free, but RSVPs are requested. Email spalazzo@upperdeckfitness.com. Questions? Call 203-309-6231.

Mt. Kisco Takes Our Tesla Taxes

The other day, David Pogue — the tech writer (Yahoo, New York Times, Scientific American), TV correspondent (“CBS News Sunday Morning,” PBS “Nova Science Now”) and author (“Missing Manual” series, “Pogue’s Basics”) — reported a Tesla story.

Pogue is also a devoted Westporter. He decided to localize his piece, exclusively for “06880.” After all, our town is (supposedly) the Tesla capital of Connecticut. He writes:

These days, we’re seeing a lot of Teslas on Westport streets. And no wonder: These electric cars are gorgeous, fast, and unbelievably smart. They’re far better for the environment than internal-combustion cars. You never need gas. There’s no engine and no transmission, so there are no oil changes, tuneups, or emissions checks. You get a total of $10,500 from the state and federal government, in cash and tax credits, to help you buy one.

And in Westport, there are free charging stations all over town — in the sweetest electric-car-only parking spots.

But every time you see a Tesla in Westport, remember that its owner drove to Mount Kisco, New York to get it.

That’s right: You’re not allowed to buy a Tesla in Connecticut.

Robin Tauck’s Tesla license plate sends a message.

Connecticut and 15 other states have an ancient law on the books. It bans a car maker from selling directly to the public, as Tesla stores do.

The law was designed 80 years ago to protect local franchises — the traditional car-dealership model — from having to compete with stores opened by the car makers themselves. Local Ford dealerships, for example, didn’t want Ford to open its own store across the street and run them out of business.

Of course, the law never envisioned a car company, like Tesla, that didn’t use the franchise system. (Why doesn’t Tesla use the normal local-franchise dealership model? It believes that electric cars require more explaining and patience than a traditional dealer would bother with.)

A number of states have recognized the anachronism and overturned the ban—but not Connecticut. Every time the ban comes up for a vote in our state legislature, our legislators continue keeping Tesla out of the state.

That’s a result of lobbying work by CARA (Connecticut Auto Retailers’ Association). “They’ll be the legislators’ best friends,” says Bruce Becker, president of the Electric Vehicle Club of Connecticut. “What some dealers do is, they’ll actually man the campaigns. They’ll have a campaign headquarters in their dealerships. There’s one dealer who’s actually running the campaign for someone who’s running for governor.”

He says that there’s a simple reason why car dealers want to keep Tesla out: because electric cars threaten their profits. Car dealerships make most of their money on service (3 times as much profit as they get from selling cars, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association). And as noted above, electric cars require almost no service.

“You’ve got these entrenched special interests that have really pushed hard, and they seem to be more entrenched every year, because they see the risks to them personally,” Westport state senator Toni Boucher told me. “There’s such an enormous amount of opposition.”

20 Saugatuck Avenue was considered recently as a site for a Tesla service center.

So what’s the result? Connecticut loses jobs, sales, and property tax to surrounding states.

This protectionism will make it difficult to reach Connecticut’s environmental goals (to lower emissions to 45 percent of 2001 levels by 2030).

“This is the unfortunate thing about CT politics: So much energy goes into creating these monopolies and protecting and limiting trade, as opposed to innovating and creating a more efficient economy,” says Becker.

I did a deep dive on this topic in my Yahoo Finance column this week. I interviewed not only Bruce Becker and Toni Boucher, but also Westport’s state representative Jonathan Steinberg; Tesla’s head counsel Todd Maron, and car-dealership lobbyist Jim Fleming, president of the CT Auto Retailers’ Association.

It’s a surprisingly fraught, sensitive, contentious issue, filled with back-room deals and arguments on both sides about what’s best for the consumer.

Meanwhile, next time you see a Tesla driving by, nod in acknowledgment to the trip its owner took to Mount Kisco.

Photo Challenge #198

Old habits die hard.

Sixty years after its founding, many Westporters still call Earthplace “the Nature Center.” (It had another name before that: the Mid-Fairfield County Youth Museum.)

But there’s something (relatively) new at the 62-acre property near the Norwalk  border. The Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum is a 12-acre gem, filled with old trees, hiking trails, flowers and more.

The arboretum is town-designated open space, managed by tree warden Bruce Lindsay and the Westport Tree Board. While adjacent to Earthplace, ir is a separate entity. It’s funded largely by grants, donations, and some support from the town budget.

Rich Stein, Tom Ryan, Chip Stephens, Sharon Paulsen, Wendy Cusick, Walker Stollenwerck and Darcy Sledge all identified the spot, from the few small rocks and vegetation shown in Miggs Burroughs’ photo.

They know and love the Wadsworth Arboretum. You should too! (Click here for last week’s Photo Challenge image. Click here for an “06880” story about the land.)

The next Photo Challenge comes courtesy of David Meth:

(Photo/David Meth)

If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

Pic Of The Day #544

The seagulls were here first (Photo/Seth Goltzer)

Pic Of The Day #540

Artist Matthew Levine, en plein air at Sherwood Mill Pond (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Photo Challenge #197

“06880” readers really know their onions.

I thought last Sunday’s Photo Challenge was a tough one. It was Franco Fellah’s drone image of the Community Garden at Long Lots Elementary School — but it looked more like (as one person commented) his mother’s kitchen linoleum. (Click here to see.)

There was no way anyone could tell it was an aerial shot.

Or so I thought.

Rich Stein, Jonathan McClure, Diane Bosch, A. Darcy Sledge all identified it correctly — and all within minutes of posting.

Seth Goltzer chimed in soon.

So I’ll try to stump you again. This one is not easy.

Then again, I said that last week.

(Photo/Miggs Burroughs)

If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

Pic Of The Day #536

One more shot of the famous palm tree (Photo/Les Dinkin)

GVI Expands Beyond Its Roots

Remember the Green Village Initiative?

Ten years ago Dan Levinson, Monique Bosch and a group of passionate Westporters founded the organization. They restored the Wakeman Town Farm and Sustainability Center, established edible gardens in schools, and launched a film and lecture series throughout Fairfield County.

Today WTF is thriving. The schools gardens in Bridgeport used lesson plans created by Sacred Heart University that tie into the curriculum.

GVI got its start at Wakeman Town Farm.

And 10 years later, GVI is now Bridgeport-based. Its mission is more focused: to grow food, knowledge, leadership and community through urban gardening and farming, creating a more just food system.

GVI believes that economic development is fostered when a community has the ability to grow, sell and purchase the food it chooses to, conveniently.

With 3 full-time employees, paid interns and summer Bridgeport student employees, GVI grows, sells and donates over 5,000 pounds of fresh, organic produce each year. More than 200 families grow their own food at community gardens, and 0ver 500 students seed, maintain and harvest their school gardens.

A new Urban Farmer Training Program — launched with the University of Connecticut — helps gardeners grow food. The group — including Westporter Cornelia Olsen — is now a vendor at Bridgeport farmers’ markets.

Other Westporters have worked hard to make this happen too. Every year hundreds rebuild and clean gardens, and farm with the GVI team.

Volunteers include Staples High School interns, Staples Service League of Boys (SLOBS) student and parents, and Builders Beyond Borders.

Westporters and Bridgeporters work together with GVI.

In addition, Westport League of Women voters members join GVI board member Pippa Bell Ader and her friends, coordinating annual Bridgeport elementary school trips to Reservoir Community Farm.

Those volunteers and supporters were honored the other day, at a party at Patagonia in Westport. Local law firms Cohen and Wolf and Berchem Moses were key sponsors.

Next up: a “Harvest Bits & Booze” fundraiser November 13 (6 to 9 p.m., Read’s Art Space, 1042 Broad Street, Bridgeport).

Trattoria ‘A Vucchella caters, with meat and vegetables from Connecticut farms. All proceeds go to GVI’s programs. Click here for tickets and more information.

A lot has blossomed over the past 10 years. Congratulations to GVI, as it celebrates a decade of growth!

Pic Of The Day #530

Reflection at Grace Salmon Park (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Pic Of The Day #529

The Bulkley Pond dam gave way during Tuesday’s torrential rain. This was the scene at 4 p.m. today. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)