Category Archives: Local politics

Roundup: Homes With Hope, Pane e Bene, Bridgewater …

For 40 years, Homes with Hope has provided emergency shelter, supportive housing, a community kitchen and food pantry to area residents.

It’s a national model for what a suburban organization can do, to help solve a national crisis.

Now the non-profit has taken another step. Homes with Hope is creating an Affordable Housing Advisory Council. They’ll advocate for, and participate in, developing affordable supportive housing initiatives, as part of the HwH mission to prevent and end homelessness.

The council will continue collaborating with local partners and town officials to increase efforts to add affordable housing here.

Lauren Soloff, a board member for 12 yeas, will chair the Council. It will consist of prominent Westporters including former 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, former New Neighborhoods CEO Ross Burkhardt, Michelle Lapine McCabe and David McCarthy.

Homes with Hope board members on the Affordable Housing Advisory Council include Brian Baxendale, Jen Ferrante, Will Haskell, Becky Martin, Kate Weber and Ralph Yearwood,


This Sunday marks the last supper for Pane e Bene.

The Post Road East Italian restaurant opened 12 years ago. The property has been sold, and will be developed as The Clubhouse, a “simulator lounge” activity space with interactive experiences in golf, football, soccer, hockey, dodgeball and more; private rooms for birthday parties, corporate events, karaoke and big-screen game viewings, plus a bar with craft cocktails and a pub-bites menu.

Pane e Bene will reopen when a new location is found.

Pane e Bene restaurant.


September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Many Westporters — and Circle of Care, the non-profit that provides assistance to families who have a child with cancer — are taking note.

Gold ribbons — representing the color of childhood cancer awareness — can be seen all around town.

Families decorated Kings Highway Elementary School with the ribbons (and inspiring messages. Last Friday, staff and students wore gold, and donated dollar bills to build awareness.

Circle of Care provides practical, emotional, and financial support to children in treatment and their families. Since its founding in 2003 it has assisted over 3,200 families, providing over $5 million in services.

For more information, click here.

Honoring Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (from left): 2nd Selectwoman Andrea Moore, Circle of Care co-executive directors Liz Vega and Liz Salguero, 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker.


When Stauffer Chemical Company moved its international headquarters to the former Nyala Farm property at I-95 Exit 18 in 1970, it was a defining moment: Westport’s first big office property.

There was plenty of opposition. Thanks in large part to activism by the Greens Farms Association, safeguards were put in place to maintain much of the land as open space. Today — even though it’s home to Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund — it’s hardly noticeable.

But area residents have noticed a new addition recently: tents, and a large “slip and slide.”

Bridgewater’s slip and slide …

That’s not in keeping with the special permit negotiated by the Association, that the open space be maintained as “rolling meadowlands.”

Association officials are keeping an eye on the tents and slide — which may be temporary — as well as other, more permanent modifications to the meadow.

The special permit negotiated over 50 years ago is still in force.

… and tents. (Screenshots from video by Art Schoeller)


The East Coast Greenway — which runs from the Canadian border to Key West, and passes through Westport (primarily on Greens Farms Road) — got a shoutout this week in the New York Times.

In “These Human-Made Natural Wonders Hide in Plain Sight,” Peter Coy
examines the power of transformational and expansive trail networks. Click here for the full piece. Click here for a map. (Hat tip: Peter Gold)


This is crazy, but it seems true. WestportMoms posted on social media:

“Everyone’s age today is 2023.

“The whole world is the same age. It only happens one every 1,000 years. Add your age and your year of birth. For every person, it adds up to 2023.

“It’s so strange that even experts can’t explain it.”



Flowers (artificial) and a pumpkin (real) create a nice “Westport … (Semi-)Naturally” tableau at Burying Hill Beach.

(Photo/Johanna Keyser Rossi)


And finally … in honor of the “2023” age/birthday phenomenon noted by WestportMoms (story above):

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Auto Theft Audience Applauds Police, Demands Legislative Action

Westporters respect, admire, even love their police department.

Westporters hate laws that hamper law enforcement, attract criminals, and allow juvenile car thieves to return here again and again, sometimes even taunting officers.

Both themes emerged strongly last night, at a Town Hall forum with the Westport Police command staff, a representative of the Bridgeport Auto Theft Task Force, and 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker.

The event was scheduled in the wake of a Bayberry Lane carjacking Sunday afternoon. Two people were arrested within 72 hours — but the incident highlighted the ongoing problem of auto thefts.

The panel at last night’s forum (from right): 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, Police Chief Foti Koskinas, Westport Police command staff David Farrell, Ryan Paulsson, David Wolf, Anthony Prezioso, Jillian Cabana, and Bridgeport Auto Theft Task force officer David Scinto. Not pictured: Eric Woods. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Police Chief Foti Koskinas and his top aides told the crowd of over 150 — including his counterparts from neighboring towns, and several TV crews — that several factors contribute to the thefts, which so far this year number 50.

One is the number of expensive cars owned by Westporters. Unfortunately — despite repeated warnings — residents continue to leave their cars unlocked, with the keys in the ignition or fobs inside, and valuables in plain sight.

One of the 2 BMWs driven by the pair to the Bayberry Lane carjacking had been stolen the night before on Church Lane. A resident left his car running, while he went into a restaurant to pick up a takeout order.

Residents can take precautions to make it harder for thieves to spot and steal vehicles, Koskinas and the officers noted.

But another element in the rash of thefts stems from laws passed several years ago by state legislators, severely limiting consequences for juvenile offenders. They know exactly how quickly they can be released; how hard it is for police to find out if they’ve committed prior crimes; how insignificantly they’ll be punished; even how constrained officers now are to give chase following a property crime.

(The carjacking was different– it was a crime against a person, as the driver was still in his vehicle. However, police must still consider many factors like traffic, weather and road conditions when giving chase — things that people in stolen cars never consider.)

Two people confront a car owner in his garage on Sunday.

Koskinas and his department received several strong rounds of applause, with most speakers beginning their remarks by thanking them for all they do despite the challenging circumstances.

But applause was even more sustained for speakers who demanded that the General Assembly revisit, and revise, legislation that hamstrings police at many levels of their work, particularly with juvenile offenders.

Police are also impacted by a “Police Accountability Law,” which make them more responsible for decisions made in the heat of the moment, including during a crime and while trying to apprehend a criminal.

“We are not inept,” Lieutenant Anthony Prezioso said. “But criminals know what we can and cannot do. They know what lines to cross, and what the system offers them at their age. They flaunt it.”

“This is not a partisan issue. It’s a safety issue,” said Westport Representative Town Meeting member Jimmy Izzo.

Though different municipalities have different priorities, Koskinas noted that car thefts have ramifications beyond taking property, and violating trust. Stolen cars are often used in other crimes, including burglaries, robberies, drug deals and drive-by shootings, in cities like Bridgeport, Waterbury, Hartford, even Newark.

The juvenile justice system works for “98 or 99%” of youths arrested, Prezioso said. He supports the move toward restorative justice — with accountability to parents and themselves — rather than punishment.

But for “the other 1 or 2%,” the loopholes are wide. And widely exploited.

Prezioso described the pandemic’s impact on juvenile justice. When courthouses were shut, it created a backlog of cases that continues today.

“The same 50 to 75 kids across the state are responsible for most of the crimes,” Deputy Chief Ryan Paulsson said.

“We know exactly who they are. But our hands are tied.”

When the public spoke, several asked about personal safety. Beyond the oft-repeated advice — lock cars always; keep them in a garage, with keys, fobs and valuables removed — officers recommended lights all around a property, including the back; being aware at all times; making sure vehicles have tracking devices, and calling police for any suspicious activity.

Knowing your neighbors, and working together, also helps.

Diane Lowman was among 2 dozen people who spoke at last night’s forum. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Yet the loudest applause came from residents who castigated politicians who promoted, and passed, legislation that has led to the current situation.

Koskinas agreed. While praising support he’s received from Westport officials, who provide him with the tools and personnel he needs — along with the regional cooperation of many law enforcement agencies — he made the “not great analogy” with the current debate on gun safety.

“Cars are bullets too,” he said. “An unsecured car can become as dangerous as an unsecured gun.”

In the aftermath of the carjacking, Koskinas said, all of Westport’s legislators reached out to him.

“Our state legislature needs input from police departments — and everyone here” to change the current laws, he said, to robust applause.

“I hope they’re as tenacious about this as they were when they passed the Police Accountability bill.”

(Hat tip: Bill Dedman) 

Westport Baseball Explains Community Gardens Stance

In the fervid debate over the Long Lots Elementary School building project, and possible impacts on the Westport Community Gardens and athletic fields, one voice has been silent: the baseball community. Today, they offer their perspective:

Westport Baseball & Softball (WBS) and Staples High School Baseball (SHSB) have observed with much interest the deliberations and decision-making process of the Long Lots Elementary School Building Committee, along with the debate regarding utilization of the Long Lots School property and Community Gardens.

We are the only 2 town-operated baseball programs in Westport. While there have been preferences attributed to “Westport Baseball” and considerable conjecture regarding our views, neither WBS nor SHSB has been formally contacted by the Committee, the Board of Education, Westport government officials or Parks & Recreation, and neither organization has stated publicly any position regarding Long Lots Elementary School and the surrounding land.

Neither WBS nor SHSB has any interest in, or has ever proposed, removing, replacing or otherwise displacing the Gardens from their current location. Today we present our joint position with respect to the baseball field at Long Lots and the Community Gardens, and respond to unfounded criticisms and speculation regarding such position. We welcome the opportunity to be included in the discussion going forward.


WBS is a non-profit organization led by volunteers. It offers baseball and softball programs to Westport children ages 3 through 19. These programs include Little League Baseball, Little League Softball, Travel Baseball, Babe Ruth Baseball, Legion Baseball, Advanced Baseball and our cherished Challenger program.

SHSB fields 3 teams: freshman, junior varsity and varsity. As with Westport’s superior schools and support services, Westport’s diverse offering of sports and recreation programs, including baseball, attracts families to our town.

Repeated references to the surfeit of baseball fields in Westport by participants in the discussions regarding a baseball field at Long Lots are not only not true, but completely miss the point.

Registered Players

The numbers of players for each of the WBS baseball programs varies each season and year, for a variety of reasons. Grade sizes vary; children cease playing sports, switch sports or favor a sport in its primary season, but switch sports in its offseason. Players also leave our programs to play on teams operated by third party, for-profit AAU organizations.

Nevertheless, program leaders need to plan in advance before each season for organizing their programs. This includes budgeting, resource allocation and scheduling of fields. It is a red herring to try to project the number of players across WBS’s various programs. SHSB can more easily estimate the number of players on each of its teams, and it consistently fills rosters for all 3 teams.

Scarcity of Fields

WBS and SHSB programs have distinct needs and serve different baseball and softball audiences, and participants play on different size fields based on age and league.

Westport has baseball fields in 3 sizes. Little League baseball and Travel baseball players up to age 12 play on 46/60-foot fields; Intermediate and Travel baseball players up to age 13 play on 50/70 diamonds, and Travel, Babe Ruth, Legion and Advanced Baseball, and high school players, play on 60/90 fields.

Our Babe Ruth, Legion, Advanced Baseball and SHSB teams are not private “Travel” teams, which have been criticized in this Long Lots debate, and WBS’ Travel baseball programs are town operated and non-profit.

Westport has 4 60/90 fields: Doubleday, Staples, Wakeman and Long Lots. One 60/90 field is intended to be exclusive to baseball: Wakeman D.  However, even that field now hosts lacrosse practices in the outfield during the week.

Doubleday baseball diamond at Kings Highway Elementary School, and nearby PJ Romano Field. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

The Staples field on which our highly regarded high school team plays is also not exclusive to baseball. A temporary fence is erected for a period of time during spring and summer. During the remainder of the year, the outfield is used for soccer and other sports.

Doubleday and Long Lots fields are mixed use — shared by baseball and other sports.

In summary, WBS alone (not including SHSB) has up to 5 teams, with approximately 70-80 players sharing one field (Wakeman) in the fall. This is untenable from a scheduling perspective.

In the spring/summer, WBS has up to 4 teams (approximately 65-75 players) that play on the 3 full size fields. During the high school season the varsity team practices at Staples and the junior varsity practices at Wakeman. The freshman team is relegated to finding their way to Long Lots, presumably on foot.

Regarding the Long Lots diamond: It is carved out on only a fraction of the available space. The rest of the area is lined for soccer.

Long Lots Elementary School and parking lot (bottom), with baseball diamond and adjacent upper and lower soccer fields. (Photo courtesy of Westport GIS Map System)

For most of the day (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.), this open space is used exclusively by Long Lots students. After 3, it is used for after-school activities. Only from 4:15 to dark (as early as 6:30) does Parks & Recreation determine which town program has access to the field.

In its current form, the Long Lots baseball field is deficient. It suffers from disproportionate dimensions between left and right field, and a steep drop beyond center field to the lower fields. It lacks dugouts and adequate space on the sidelines.

The alternative is asking parents or hiring buses to drive in peak traffic to other towns’ fields that can be as far as 90 minutes away, forgoing the home field and last at-bats advantage.

We need a field for these older players.  Attempting to discredit the use of a grass field because of the lines drawn on it is akin to discrediting a classroom based on the subject being taught in it. Unfortunately, this has occurred in certain of the dialogue regarding a Long Lots baseball field and the Gardens.

Scheduling; Domino Effect

Westport suffers from tremendous field stress, given the paucity of fields available to various sports. Existing fields are carefully rationed by Parks & Recreation before each season, at a meeting with leaders of various sports. This meeting follows months of considered planning by Parks & Recreation leaders on how to share fields. WBS and SHSB collaborate closely with Parks & Recreation and other sports programs regarding scheduling and field utilization.

Soccer at the Long Lots lower fields. (Photo courtesy of Our Town Crier)

In contrast to when many of us grew up, historically seasonal sports are now played year-round. Westport children play baseball and lacrosse in the fall, and soccer players play in the spring as well.

We can debate the pros and cons of this evolution, but it is the reality.

Full-year participation is also fueled by many students’ desire to play sports at the collegiate level, including to gain admission to a better academic school in a highly competitive admissions environment. Athletic scholarships have helped many families carry the financial burden of affording college.

The loss of access to Long Lots fields during the contemplated construction will make a daunting scheduling and field sharing challenge for Parks & Recreation and Westport sports program leaders nearly impossible.

The permanent loss of a full-size field will make it virtually unfeasible for Westport baseball teams to practice and play games at home in the fall (when earlier sunsets and later dismissal from school for younger players already limits availability of fields to a few precious hours), render spring play exceedingly challenging, and leave the SHSB freshman team homeless.

The Long Lots baseball diamond lacks dugouts and seating.

Similarly, a domino effect vis-à-vis other Westport sports will occur. It will for example severely impair the ability of the Westport Soccer Association to operate soccer practices and games in the spring.

A displaced team will in turn displace another team, and so on, ultimately creating acrimony between teams and among Westport sports programs, ending only when the last domino falls on the teams deemed least worthy of standing.


We strongly believe that there is a crucial link between youth sports and children’s mental and physical well-being. The social, psychological, emotional and medical benefits to children being outdoors and on a team with friends are well documented.

COVID highlighted the importance of offering children these opportunities. For example, when the pandemic shut down social activities, mental health-related emergency room visits increased by 24% for children ages 5 to 11 and 31% for adolescents ages 12 to 17. Dependence on cell phones and playing video games makes involvement in team sports even more beneficial.

Long Lots Elementary School field day. This is the outfield of the baseball diamond.

The plantings at, and maintenance of, the Gardens are similarly outdoor activities with team building aspects that provide countless benefits to the caretakers of the Gardens and the community.

WBS and SHSB do not seek to disrupt or displace the Gardens. We simply want to retain the availability of a full-size field.

Our town’s population continues to grow, with families driving that growth.  These families are attracted to Westport for its schools, and the diverse offerings inside and outside of the school building.

This population applies pressure on schools to accommodate larger populations.  Outdoor space available to our children for sports and other recreational activities should not contract in the face of this growth.

The benefits to children continue long after elementary school. Participating in youth team teaches  many skills including socialization, sportsmanship, collegiality, discipline, teamwork, and collaboration to achieve a common goal.

A full-size baseball field requires at least 6 acres. There are scant parcels of available land this size, especially near Staples to provide a logistically convenient home for the SHSB freshman team. The cost to purchase such a parcel of land would be exorbitant. WBS and SBHS are open to learning of other locations for a field in lieu of Long Lots that is available now, or no later than the commencement of construction at Long Lots Elementary School.

Elementary School Student Use

We understand anecdotally that field space at Long Lots was originally donated with the intent that it would be used for athletics and recreation for children. But team baseball play at the current Long Lots field, which has commanded considerable attention in the commentary regarding the best outcome for the space, constitutes only a small fraction of its use. In the fall for example, Westport soccer appropriately has priority for the upper and lower fields at Long Lots.

Our outstanding elementary schools are fortunate to benefit from expansive outdoor grounds where gym classes are taught, recess is enjoyed, after-school activities are conducted, playdates, picnics and field days are held, and team sports are played.

Kings Highway and Saugatuck Elementary Schools share about 8.5 acres of open space, including a playground, PJ Romano turfed field (football and lacrosse), tennis courts, and baseball and softball diamonds.

Coleytown Elementary School features 3.5 acres that are home to 2 playgrounds and a basketball court, in addition to the smaller baseball and softball fields.

There is a Little League diamond, and other fields, behind Coleytown Elementary School. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

Greens Farms Elementary School offers 2 acres of open grass space used for baseball and other sports, a basketball court and playground. Extended access until mid-evening is feasible because of lights.

On the other hand, Long Lots Elementary School has a 2-tiered field complex, consisting of 2.75 acres on the upper level where the baseball diamond is cut into about a quarter of the grass, surrounded by multiple soccer fields. The playground and basketball court are separate from the field area being discussed.

We have already noted the shortcomings of the existing Long Lots baseball field.  Construction of a new school on the upper level would supplant the full-size baseball field. Building a new full-size field on the lower level would displace the soccer fields which are already heavily utilized.

But these consequences pale in comparison to the impact on the students, families and neighbors of the Long Lots Elementary School community, which would be deprived of the current green space adjacent to the school where the baseball field is situated for the uses discussed above, which already is inferior to the open space available at the other Westport elementary schools.

False Narrative; Conclusion

The narrative of “Westport Baseball” versus the Community Gardens is a manufactured one that has engendered much passion and acrimony.

Neither WBS nor SHSB has requested that the Long Lots baseball field be relocated anywhere, including to the current location of the beloved Gardens.

Westport Community Gardens and adjacent Long Lots Preserve.

It is counterproductive and divisive to pit “Westport Baseball” or any other Westport sport against the Gardens, and vice versa, even if the perception is that the priorities and preferences of the groups differ and that they are necessarily competing for the same physical real estate.

It is especially disconcerting when the leadership of WBS and SHSB have never been formally approached for a discussion, or even asked for their views.  Further, WBS is not conspiring with the WSA to replace or relocate the Gardens.  WSA posted its thoughtful views earlier this month on this blog.

The characterization of Plan C-ALT exemplifies this effort to be provocative: “Plan C-ALT would allow the garden to remain at the expense of Long Lots’ baseball diamond.”

The actual narrative should be that Plan C-ALT would allow the gardens to remain at the expense of eliminating nearly half of the existing precious open space at Long Lots. As explained above, while Westport’s baseball and soccer programs would certainly suffer if the field was eliminated, the primary losers would be the children who attend Long Lots Elementary School, and their families and neighbors of Long Lots.

WBS’s and SHSB’s only objective is to not sacrifice one of Westport’s full-sized baseball fields for the reasons discussed above. We do not require that the field be located anywhere on the Long Lots property.

But if the field is to be eliminated at Long Lots, then we respectfully request that a new full-size field be built in close proximity to Staples.

Open space for sports fields in Westport is already highly limited. Neither WBS nor SHSB is aware of an alternative site for a full-size baseball field that would serve the needs of the members of their respective communities.

We do not want to lose the field, and be dismissed with a promise to find space in the future for a construction project and capital expenditure that needs to be planned and budgeted over many years.

We need it now, and the construction of a new Long Lots Elementary School will exacerbate an already challenging situation for Westport baseball and other sports.

WBS and SHSB’s official joint position is that we support any plan that the Committee proposes that maintains the current open space at Long Lots Elementary School and ensures that we continue to have access to a full-size baseball field, whether built at Long Lots or a suitable alternative location.

To reiterate: We admire and respect what the gardeners have achieved on the grounds of the Gardens, and in the Westport community more broadly, over the past 20 years. We hope that the Gardens are preserved and remain for generations to come.

We expect that WBS, SHSB, the Gardens, and perhaps anyone who enjoys the outdoors, have a shared interest in preserving and, in fact, seeking out and allocating more open green spaces in Westport.

WBS and SHSB defer to the considered judgment of the Committee, with continued input from the Board of Education, Long Lots Elementary School leadership and parents, the Gardens and Westport’s sports programs leaders, and its determination as to the future of the Gardens and where to resituate the baseball field. 

We kindly ask for access to the formal discussion, dialogue and collaboration to identify and implement a solution that achieves these goals, rather than resigning ourselves to concluding it cannot happen, and engaging in polarizing and unproductive rhetoric.

Roundup: Carjacking Forum, Car Theft Podcast, Lyman Apartments …

Tonight’s special forum on car thefts, vehicle break-ins and Sunday’s carjacking (Wednesday, September 20, 7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium) will also be livestreamed. Click here to access that page, on the town’s website.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas will lead a discussion on safety concerns voiced by residents. He and members of his command staff will describe the work of the Regional Auto Theft Task Force, formed in response to increased car thefts and vehicle break-ins in the area.

The discussion will also include police practices utilized to combat vehicle thefts.

Yesterday, Koskinas and 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker taped a special edition of “What’s Happening … Westport.” They discussed the escalation in incidents, and what residents can do. Click below to listen to the Y’s Men of Westport and Weston podcast.


Meanwhile, Westport Police made one custodial arrest between September 13 nd 20. A woman was charged with disorderly conduct, following a domestic dispute.

Police also issued these citations:

  • Failure to comply with state traffic commission regulations 6 citations
  • Traveling unreasonably fast: 4
  • Operating a motor vehicle without a license: 3
  • Operating a motor vehicle without minimum insurance: 3
  • Operating an unregistered motor vehicle: 2
  • Failure to obey traffic control signs: 2
  • Evading responsibility: 1
  • Following too closely: 1
  • Distracted driving: 1
  • Distracted driving (2nd offense): 1
  • Operating a motor vehicle using a handheld phone: 1
  • Failure to grant right of way: 1
  • Operating an unregistered motor vehicle: 1
  • Operating a motor vehicle under suspension: 1
  • Improper use of license plates: 1


As winter nears, Westport’s sister city of Lyman is in a race against time.

52 apartment buildings need repairs, so they can survive the cold weather and be fully restored in the spring.

Ukraine Aid International co-founder Brian Mayer — the Westporter who helped create the sister city relationship, and has made many trips to Lyman on our behalf — sends a video that shows how much our town has helped.

And how much remains to be done.

(Donations through Ukrainian Aid International will help rebuild the many heavily damaged apartments. Click here to help. Under “Designation,” click the dropdown menu and select “Westport — Lyman Sister City.”)


This Friday’s Westport Country Playhouse show is called “I’ll Drink to That! A Broadway Cocktail Party.”

Fittingly, it will feature Broadway stars.

Joe Delafield, Kristen Hahn and Maggie Lacey will perform cocktail-themed tunes and scenes from Broadway productions, while author Laurence Maslon recounts tales of actors, shows, and cocktail concoctions from his recently published book, “I’ll Drink to That!”

The event (September 22, 6 p.m., Playhouse courtyard and barn) begins with cocktails that pay homage to Broadway. The 70-minute program concludes with a second cocktail and book signing. Cocktails are included with $50 ticket.

Click here for tickets, and more information.

From left: Joe Delafield, Kristen Hahn, Maggie Lacy.


STAR Inc. and Voices Center for Resilience present a special program: “A 22-Year Journey from 9/11 to Today: Helping Families and Communities Prepare for Emergencies” (October 18, 7 p.m., Westport Library).

Mary Fetchet — founding Director of Voices Center for Resilience — lives in New Canaan. Her son Brad died in the September 11 attacks.

She will share her personal experience and perspective on preparing communities in advance of a tragedy. The presentations also includes representatives of local and state emergency management, highlighting their efforts to prepare communities.

For more information and to register,  click here.

Mary Fetchet, with a photo of her son Brad.


When kids go to the doctor, they may be nervous.

Like many offices, Village Pediatrics provides distractions to calm their nerves.

Their latest surprise, for patients big and small: an outer space room.

Huck (in the rocket control center) and Lola Shipman, with their mother.


Speaking of doctors: BD²: Breakthrough Discoveries for Thriving with Bipolar Disorder today announced an $18 million first round of grants, focusing on research in bipolar disorder.

Among the recipients: Westport resident Dr. Hilary Blumberg. She will lead a Yale University team in an investigation of mitochondrial-related genes, metabolic changes, and the central importance of energy- and activity-related symptoms at the onset of bipolar-related episodes. These studies w may translate that into pharmacological therapeutics and behavioral interventions. (Hat tip: Sherri Peyser)

Dr. Hilary Blumberg


The bar for “06880” Entitled Parking photos has been set incredibly high.

Drivers must now show breathtaking acts of selfishness to be featured here.

This one does:

(Photo/David Meth)

That’s not one, but two handicap spots taken up at Stop & Shop.

Plus, the car is taking up space in the drivers’ part of the lot too.

And — of course! — there is no handicap placard inside the car.


Johanna Keyser Rossi reports for “Westport … Naturally” from Sherwood Island State Park:

“There were lots of monarch butterflies yesterday, all around the milkweeds and bees. Unfortunately, lanternflies were everywhere too.”

(Photo/Johanna Keyser Rossi)


Roger Whittaker — described by the New York Times as “a British singer whose easy-listening ballads and folk songs caught the sentiments of perfect summer days and last farewells, touching the hearts of mainly older fans across Europe and America for four decades” — died last week in France. He was 87.

Click here for a full obituary.

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Townwide Forum On Wednesday Will Address Auto Thefts, Carjacking

Yesterday’s carjacking — and the recent spike in car thefts — has rattled many Westporters.

This Wednesday (September 20, 7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium) Westport Police Department and 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker will host a town forum on public safety. It will focus on car thefts, vehicle break-ins, and Sunday’s carjacking.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas will lead a discussion on safety concerns voiced by residents. He and members of his command staff will describe the work of the Regional Auto Theft Task Force, formed in response to increased car thefts and vehicle break-ins in the area.

The discussion will also include police practices utilized to combat vehicle thefts.

All Westporters are invited to Wednesday’s event.

Meanwhile, Westport Police have released Ring videos of the carjacking. Portions of the video have been redacted, to protect the victim’s identity.


Seeking Westport’s Vision: The Sequel

Clarence Hayes’ “Opinion” piece — posted this morning on “06880,” urging Westport’s politicians and residents to adopt a “vision” for the future — has already generated 26 comments.

Some of them noted that Westport already has such a plan. It’s state-mandated, developed with input from a broad array of stakeholders, and updated regularly. 

Clarence asked me to add this clarification. He writes:

Numerous engaged Westport citizens have pointed out to me that I am not up to speed with work already well advanced around many of the points in my original comments. Mea culpa!

In regards to taking control of the affordable housing issue, a plan was recently adopted by the Planning & Zoning Commission under Danielle Dobin’s leadership, which hits all the points I was hoping would be addressed.  Click here to see.

Screenshot: Westport’s Affordable Housing Plan.

Additionally, as Dick Lowenstein pointed out, Westport has a “10 year Conservation and Development Plan” — in compliance with state law — the last one of which was adopted in 2017. Click here to see.

So I’m learning. Thank you.

I did nor intend to criticize good work which has been accomplished, but rather to suggest even more ambition to do even better.

I maintain my “call to action”: to have a permanent forum for town engagement which:

  • Programmatically links the town’s various volunteer associations to the relevant town board/committee
  • Is structured for input/debate to maintain a long-term plan that touches all town assets, and is regularly amended
  • Establishes concrete goals that reach to 20+ years out — generational levels of development effort
  • Allows for annual measurement of progress
  • Includes results that are visible, front and center, on, providing effectively a  detailed, easily accessed, ‘who we are’ statement which is more than general aspirations.

Thanks to Mr. Woog for his tireless work providing a Westport “town square!”

[OPINION] Seeking Westport’s Vision

Clarence Hayes has lived in Westport for 6 years. A senior vice president in global technology at Bank of America, he manages its user-facing data networks, and associated $225 million budget.

He has been married for 39 years, and has 2 daughters and 5 grandchildren. Two attend Kings Highway Elementary School. He helps with after-school tutoring and swim team practice.

A gardener and amateur naturalist, he is very familiar with Westport’s natural habitat. He takes advantage of, and values, the town’s many amenities, including the beaches and parks, Longshore golf, pool and skating rink, Levitt Pavilion, Library and Earthplace. 

But, Clarence wonders: 

What is the Westport vision?

As a relative newcomer to town and recent follower of town events on this blog, I’d like to offer a general challenge to my new hometown: Set a long term plan, and be more ambitious.

What could Westport be like, not only for me in a few years’ time, but for my grandkids, and beyond that for my grandkids’ grandkids? We should have a 50- year plan. It should be visionary. The town can have something to measure its progress against every year.

I followed one of my daughters – with a couple of my grandkids in tow — when they moved to Westport 6 years ago. They show no intention of ever moving again, nor will I. This town has amazing assets. With continued improvement, I can imagine Westport as #1 on a “Best Places to Live in the USA” list.

What I observe in the debates over the Parker Harding Plaza evolution, and the Long Lots School direction, and numerous one-off Planning & Zoning Commission decisions, are piecemeal challenges confronting what appear to be irreconcilable differences of opinion. Parking vs. green space; a convenient sport facility vs. a community garden; new development vs. river views; pro-car vs. anti-car; etc.

Parking? Green space? What’s our vision — for downtown, and our entire town? (Photo/Susan Leone)

Of course, not all differences can be reconciled. Choices are required. But I think more of those differences could be reconciled, and a higher quality overall result achieved, if we were more ambitious, and made bigger decisions based on a long- term vision.

Bigger decisions could mean, for instance, instead of minor tweaking of access and marginal rearrangements of which piece of existing Westport property is paved or green, we could look at working with developers to exchange town property for jointly developed major changes.

For example: multi-story/underground parking; taking control of becoming compliant with state affordable housing mandates by the town co-investing and controlling those housing units to achieve some bigger contribution to Westport quality of life; complete conversion of downtown to pedestrian only (basically an outdoor mall more attractive than SoNo or Trumbull); reclaiming all of the waterside for public benefit with walking paths and green space designed across all of downtown which will be used more widely, as opposed to patchworks that sit idle due to lack of connection.

I could go on.

I’d love to see what my fellow citizens imagine as a visionary future; compare it to mine – and debate how to merge these futuristic visions into something that could unite a broad majority of voters around a feasible plan.

A few years ago, architects were asked to imagine the Westport of 2050. Mike Greenberg thought about a way the town could become more neighborhood-oriented. This is a detailed view of the Roseville/ Long Lots/North Avenue/Cross Highway quadrant.

Without such a comprehensive long-term plan, I think the town risks frittering away its comparative advantage, foreclosing opportunities with short-term decisions, and not getting maximum bang for the buck with town tax revenue.

I think it better to consciously define our “brand” and decide what we want the town to be — with ambitious goals — than to leave it to the ongoing happenstance of decisions constrained by short-term implications, and the sense that there isn’t money or a way to achieve something better.

Call to action: The selectwomen’s office, together with the Representative Town Meeting, formally institute a “Westport Vision”  process that engages the public and is primarily driven by public input, and has the objective to:

  • Document guiding principles for future development of the whole range of town assets – the “who we are” statement;
  • Lay out a range of futuristic visions to challenge our ambitions – something to get excited about, and stimulate debate;
  • Then, based on that vision, work backward to define and then prioritize ambitious steps that can be taken by relevant town boards and committees for action, to start that long-term journey.

Let’s make Westport the best place to live in the country, for us and our descendants.

Roundup: Voters’ Guide, Tech Talk, PBS NewsHour …

Westport’s League of Women Voters will once again provide a digital-only “Candidates’ Guide” to November’s election.

They have begun seeking responses about local issues. It is expected to be ready in mid-October.


Tech talk, investment opportunities, entrepreneurial ideas and networking were all important parts of last night’s second Startup Westport meeting, at the Westport Library.

Dan O’Keefe — Connecticut’s chief innovation officer — discussed his work, and the opportunities available in the state. He was a late replacement for Dan Bikel, the Westporter and a key member of the AI community at Meta, who was diagnosed with COVID this week.

Click here for more information about Startup Westport, whose mission is to make Westport an innovation hub.

From left: Police Chief Foti Koskinas, Cliff Sirlin, Jay Norris, Connecticut chief innovation officer Dan O’Keefe, 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, Stefano Pacifico, Peter Propp. All except O’Keefe are Startup Westport team leaders.


Last night’s “PBS NewsHour” featured an in-depth look at the problems facing regional theaters around the US.

After beginning with Long Wharf — which has abandoned its home for several pop-up venues — the story pivoted “less than an hour south,” to the Westport Country Playhouse.

Incoming artistic director Mark Shanahan discussed the struggles facing regional theaters, while acting managing director Beth Huisking spoke about the future.

Shanahan added: “The theater is all about problems and problem-solving. It always is. What play are we going to do? Who’s going to be in it? Who’s going to light it? Who’s going to do the set? How are we going to tell people it’s out there? Who’s going to pay for it? What time of year are we doing it?

“How are we going to make any of this happen? Why are we ever surprised that there are problems? We just have a new set of problems, and sometimes a growing set of problems, and we have to figure out how to solve them.”

Click here to view the entire segment. (Hat tips: Dick Lowenstein and Dennis Jackson).

Screenshot of Beth Huisking and Mark Shanahan last night.


The Public Works Department’s fall paving program begins Monday (September 18). It runs through the end of October.

The following roads will be paved, though not in this order:

  • Hiawatha Lane
  • Ferry Lane West
  • Indian Hill Road
  • West End Avenue
  • Davenport Avenue
  • Beachside Avenue
  • Prospect Road
  • Lamplight Lane
  • Iris Lane
  • Blue Ribbon Drive
  • Hazelnut Road
  • Northfield Drive
  • Riverfield Drive (south)
  • Bayberry Lane (north of Easton Road)
  • Gray’s Farm Road

Questions? Call 203-341-1120.


Bob Weingarten writes: “Years ago the Post Office changed all the outdoor mailboxes in Westport to provide only a small slot, big enough for envelopes, replacing a box with a door mechanism.

“Yesterday I posted a letter in the mailbox between UPS and Westport Hardware, at 606 Post Road East. There was some resistance, so I pushed it in. I felt the bottom of the slot entry. It was sticky, like some sort of adhesive was on the bottom rim. Perhaps someone placed adhesive in the slot to catcher letters, so they could retrieve them later.

“I asked at the UPS store about that. They said they informed the Post Office about the issue last week, but nothing was done about it. I called the phone number on the box to report it, but a recording said the phone was not in service.

“I wante to warn people to check the slot on outdoor boxes before placing letters in it. If it is sticky, do not use it.”

Mailbox outside the UPS Store. (Photo/Bob Weingarten)


As Westport River Gallery on 1 Riverside Avenue celebrates its 20th anniversary in Westport, they feature a new collection by Dominique Dorie, from the Provence region of France. Click here for details.

“Fragrant French Lavender” (Dominique Dorie)


What better way to end the week than by this very cool “Westport … Naturally” photo of Connecticut’s official state insect, a praying mantis:

(Photo/Pippa Bell Ader)


And finally … on this day in 1969, before taking the stage with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young at California’s Big Sur Folk Festival, Stephen Stills got in a fistfight with a heckler railing them for their profligate lifestyle.

The festival was raising funds for Joan Baez’ Institute for ghe Study of Nonviolence.

NOTE: The official video for this song was created by Westporter Jeff Scher.

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No Decisions — Yet — By Long Lots Building Committee

Mia Bomback reports:

No decision was made last night on an elementary school.

Or a garden.

But the Long Lots School Building Committee inched closer to a final plan, at their meeting in Town Hall.

Members discussed 6 proposals for renovating or reconstructing the 70-year elementary school. They also discussed a timeline for presenting those plans to the Planning & Zoning Commission, and Board of Finance.

The various proposals faced criticism from Westport residents, who are particularly concerned about the impact on the adjacent Westport Community Gardens and Long Lots Preserve. No votes were taken on the half-dozen plans — or their effect on the gardens and preserve — pending cost estimates from Newfield Construction.

Long Lots Elementary School. The Westport Community Gardens and Long Lots Preserve (not shown) are to the left of the parking lot in the lower left corner. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

Plans A and B — which call for the renovation of and addition to the existing school — raised concerns among committee members due to undersized classrooms. Members said those plans fail to meet state Board of Education requirements. 

Plan B would replace the gardens with a baseball diamond.

Plans C, C-ALT, D and E call for the complete demolition and reconstruction of Long Lots Elementary School. Plans C, D and E would require relocation of the garden, while Plan C-ALT would allow the garden to remain at the expense of Long Lots’ baseball diamond.

Plan C would relocate both the school and the garden.

Advocates for the community garden voiced support for Plan C-ALT, arguing that moving a garden of this size is “impossible,” and that the only way to safeguard it is to keep it where it is.

James Mather, a longtime Westporter, said, “You can’t move a garden that took 20 years of work. Your casual indifference that the garden is a potted plant is disgusting.”

Some gardeners expressed concerns that their interests are being overshadowed by sports fields. They demanded that a Parks & Recreation Department survey detailing the usage of the sports fields on Long Lots property be publicized before any decisions about which plan (or plans) to move forward with are made.

Westport Community Gardens, and adjacent Long Lots Preserve.

“We see the care that you take in deliberating athletic fields, and we don’t see that with the gardens,” gardener Toni Simonetti said.

“I just can’t believe that this far into the process we don’t have any record of how utilized the lower-level baseball field is, and we’re considering destroying a garden that is treasured and loved by 120 families,” Mather’s wife Karen said. 

Long Lots School Building Committee members debate Plan E (shown on large screen). (Photos/Mia Bomback)

Ex officio committee member Liz Heyer — who also sits on the Board of Education — reassured the gardeners that their voices and opinions were being taken into account. She noted that board members previously voted against plans that would limit parking access to the gardens.

The committee’s intended timeline also posed controversial. Chair Jay Keenan expressed a desire to request an 8-24 (municipal improvement review) from the P&Z or secure funding from the Board of Finance in the coming weeks, ideally presenting to the Representative Town Meetings on November 14. 

John Suggs, an RTM District 9 candidate advocating for the garden’s preservation, likened this timeline to the “moral equivalent of the Amy Coney Barrett being rushed through the US Senate confirmation process one week before the election.”

“Believe me, the voters are pretty speaking out on this,” he said.

The committee plans to make their recommendation after receiving price estimates from Newfield Construction, expected within the next one and a half to 2 weeks.

(Reporter Mia Bomback is a Staples High School junior, and a writer for Inklings)

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[OPINION] First Student Is New Nightmare

Dr. Stefanie Lemcke lives on North Avenue. She is the founder and CEO of Gokid, a carpooling technology for schools. Stefanie writes:

When my husband and I learned (after the fact) that Mary Young, director of Westport’s Planning & Zoning Department, had issued a permit allowing the new school bus company First Student to park at Staples and other Westport schools, we were concerned.

First, there had been no notice or public hearing on the matter. In fact, we only learned of the permit when P&Z issued a press release.

Second, we believed any such decision properly lay with the Planning & Zoning Commission, and not with Ms. Young.

And third, we were concerned that this was a backhanded way to save money by permanently moving the parking to school property. (The previous company provided  a parking lot on the Post Road).

We were assured, however, that this was only an interim measure, and that the conditions attached to the permit would protect neighbors and adequately address our concerns. 

It turns out that we were right to be worried. Not only are these buses creating additional traffic around schools, but every weekday since school started, our entire North Avenue neighborhood has been awakened at 5:45 a.m. by the sound of buses firing up, then beeping and backing up, as well as the sound of motors idling.

Every morning, way before school starts, we have also been treated to the toxic pollution produced by those engines. Here’s a video:

Ali Stanley of Willow Walk says: “Since the first day of school I have been awakened by the beeping and honking of the buses parked at Staples. I look forward to October 31 when they can find an alternate home. The noise pollution is unsustainable.”

We raised the problem with the schools, the town and the Board of Education over the past week. We believed that we were on firm ground in doing so. After all, the permit expressly prohibits any activity that “adversely impact[s] the students, neighbors, and the community at large.”

Moreover, the permit states that any complaints will be resolved within 7 days.

Yet the town has done nothing to remedy the situation. In fact, when we raised the issue of idling buses, we were told that this was simply the company “doing their maintenance thing.” (Never mind that maintenance is specifically prohibited on school grounds.) 

We are particularly concerned because the permit is due to expire on October 31, and to the best of our knowledge, the town has done nothing to procure alternative sites for the buses.

Buses parked during the day at Staples High School. (Photo/Stefanie Lemcke)

We believe that it would be unconscionable (and potentially illegal) for the town to extend this permit, given the lack of public input at the time it was adopted and the environmental and health consequences for residents.

It is time for the town to become more transparent about these types of decisions, to include neighbors in the process, and to reveal what efforts have been undertaken to find a permanent location for the buses.

We are a leading school district, so let’s lead by example: We are asking to bring back dedicated, off-campus parking for buses, which will decrease traffic around school sites, improve access, air quality, and safety for students and staff, and generally improve our quality of life. 

Last week, in response to numerous concerns about school buses — including not only school parking, but routes and reliability —  superintendent of school Thomas Scarice addressed the bus question. In an email to Westport Public Schools parents, he wrote:

The district has officially transitioned transportation providers from Dattco to First Student. Our efforts certainly are not perfect, particularly at the beginning of the school year, but performance is much improved and will only continue to get better as the days and weeks ensue.

Bus Parking:  The district secured temporary authorization to park in our school lots through October 31 and we are actively pursuing options for the permanent parking of buses. An extension of authorization for school-based parking may need to be pursued in the interim.

New Buses:  A completely new fleet of buses will roll off the assembly line and into our schools in December. When that happens, the transportation app will return. The current fleet does not have the technology to support the transportation app.

First Student buses. (Photo/Amy Schneider)

Drivers:  There is a full roster of drivers this year, which significantly contributes to more reliability. Many Dattco drivers have been hired by First Student. However, there could be a time where a combined route is necessary if a significant number of drivers call out on a given day. There are a couple of routes that continue to need attention to improve performance and I can assure our families that this work is underway. Improvements will continue to be felt in the coming days and weeks.

Traffic: One pervasive challenge that has only worsened is the traffic volume around town. As we moved beyond the pandemic, traffic patterns became problematic. These problems are worse this year than any of my three previous years. We will work to reroute as needed to mitigate the effects of town traffic.

Overall, the entire transportation operation is better, but there is still plenty of room for improvement, particularly at this point in the school year. Communication will improve and parents should look for messages from building administrators when there are delays.

To support our ask to bring back a dedicated school bus parking lot, please email me:

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