Category Archives: Media

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.

Storywalk: The Sequel

The wooden walkway behind the Riverside Avenue medical complex is beautiful any time of year. It’s especially lovely in October.

Village Pediatrics takes full advantage. They’ve created a story walk there. They  laminate pages of a popular children’s story, then mount them on pylons behind their office.

Children and parents love it. So do random walkers and joggers of all ages.

Unfortunately — as “06880” reported last month — someone stole a story walk. Hard to believe why anyone would want to do that — or even think of it — but it happened.

Fortunately, the pediatricians were not deterred. They found a great story — The Hallo-Wiener — that’s perfect for the upcoming Halloween holiday kids love. (And dentists hate.)

It’s fully laminated, mounted on pylons, and ready for everyone to enjoy.

Except, hopefully, the Grinch who stole the last one.

Coleytown Middle School 7th grader Sophia Lomnitz enjoys the new story walk.

Rent Or Buy? A Question For These Times.

For decades, most Westport families lived in homes they owned. This is suburbia, after all. Renters lived in places like New York City.

But times, real estate markets and financial planning have changed.

According to a story in today’s New York Times real estate section:

In a real estate market tinged with so much uncertainty, renting at more than $5,000, $8,000 or even $10,000 a month feels like a safer bet these days to a number of people who could well afford to buy in the suburban counties of Fairfield and Westchester, where median sale prices in many towns are above $1 million. Indeed, demand for high-end single-family rentals is up significantly, a trend that dovetails with a decline in sales in New York and across portions of the region.

The story includes a couple of Westport examples.

Aimee Raupp-Temple and her husband Ken Temple rented instead of buying a house when they moved here from Brooklyn Heights  3 years ago. They were testing out an unfamiliar place.

But they love Westport. They think home prices will continue to drop. So they’re renting again — in Wilton — while waiting out the market to buy here.

This Riverside Avenue house rents for $5,800 a month. Current rental listings range from $2,800 to $11,500.

Another couple — Michelle and Jeremy Fine — and their 2 young children have moved White Plains. Property taxes are much lower  here.

But they too did not want to buy in Westport until they test-drove the town.

Click here for the full Times story. If you’re a renter, we’d love to hear your thoughts; please click “Comments” below.

Meanwhile: Welcome to Westport, Temples and Fines!

(Hat tip: John Karrel)

Marilyn Monroe’s Westport T-Bird

Marilyn Monroe spent a mid-1950s summer in Westport. She rented at Old Mill Beach, if the stories are to be believed.

Not up for dispute: She bought a black 1956 Thunderbird convertible — from a dealership here in town.

Now you can own it too. According to the New York Post, it will be auctioned off in November.

Marilyn Monroe’s Thunderbird (Photo courtesy of New York Post)

Of course, it’ll cost you. The Post said bids are expected to range between $300,000 and $500,000.

Monroe owned the T-bird from 1955 to 1962 — the year she died. She and Arthur Miller drove it to their 1956 wedding.

“In recognition of the car’s important provenance, special heed was given to the retention of original parts, with most driver and passenger touch surfaces left undisturbed,” the owner said.

Think this is #fakenews? The Post notes: “Julien’s Auctions is behind its sale and reportedly has documents from the current owner proving the vehicle’s authenticity.”

(Click here for the full story. Hat tip: Rob Corona)

Paul Ferrante: “The Beatles Must Die!”

Paul Ferrante was in 2nd grade when President Kennedy was killed. That’s his first real memory.

The second is from a few months later: The Beatles performing on “Ed Sullivan.”

More than 50 years later, Ferrante is a 7th grade language arts teacher at Coleytown Middle School. His students are only a few years older than he was then, huddled around a black-and-white TV “like the rest of America,” he says.

Kids today have gazillions of channels to choose from. Rock ‘n’ roll has given way to rap, hip hop, EDM, emo and more.

Paul Ferrante

But, Ferrante says, kids still love the Beatles.

He includes the band in his poetry curriculum. His students look at lyrics. They watch videos. They talk about the American culture, then and now.

When graduates come back to say hi, they ask if Ferrante still teaches the Beatles.

So it’s no surprise that the Fab Four are the subject of Ferrante’s most recent book. In addition to teaching, he’s a noted young adult author. His T.J. Jackson Mysteries series follow the paranormal investigations of 3 ghost-hunting teenagers from Gettysburg to New Orleans (with a stop in Fairfield County).

His 7th book — “The Beatles Must Die” — is as different from those mysteries as John, Paul, George and Ringo are from the Andrews Sisters.

The novel follows Marnie, a fan in Memphis who must make a choice between the group and her conservative community, after John Lennon’s famous “We’re more popular than Jesus” remark results in banned and burned records, even death threats.

John Lennon’s 1966 “Beatles are more popular than Jesus” quote drew a belated — but fierce — backlash.

As Ferrante notes, there are countless books about the Beatles’ music and lives. His is a rare piece of historical fiction, aimed at teens and older readers.

Why are kids still interested in the group, whose 2 surviving members are both well over 64?

“The music holds up,” Ferrante says. “They hear it from their parents. They still think it’s great stuff.”

Plus, he says, “they’re fascinated by the videos of all the girls going crazy.”

His students are intrigued to hear about a time before the internet, when most families had only one television and music came through transistor radios.

That’s why Ferrante — in his 19th year at Coleytown — sees kids in class wearing Beatles t-shirts.

He researched his book well. He read books, and watched the “8 Days a Week” video about their tours.

He built his story around real events — like the actual KKK death threat against the Beatles at their Memphis show. (They played anyway.)

Ferrante also gave his protagonist a strong character. She understands the importance of free speech, and the value of sticking up for herself.

“I’m a teacher, after all,” Ferrante says with a smile.

Yeah, yeah, yeah!

[OPINION] As Coleytown Moves: Be Adaptable, Flexible, Welcoming

Marcy Sansolo is the administrator of What Up Westport. Usually, she and the 3,000-plus members of her Facebook group share comments and photos about life in Westport. There are notices about upcoming events, observations on life at Whole Foods, and quirky photos.

Marcy is an upbeat, glass-half-full woman. What Up Westport mostly steers clear of controversy.

But as Coleytown Middle School 6th and 7th graders prepare to move today to Bedford Middle School, and 8th graders to Staples High, for about a month — while experts explore whether mold or mold remediation has caused dizziness, nausea, itching and headaches — they’ve faced another issue: pushback from some parents at the host schools, concerned about the impact on their own buildings.

Coleytown Middle School

Marcy did not want to post anything that would fan the flames. But she did not want to downplay the situation either. What she wrote deserves the broadest audience possible. So, with her permission, I’m re-posting it here.

S— happens. Kids who are faced with adversity will become more resilient kids and eventually resilient adults.

This is my free advice, and you don’t have to take it.

If you have a student who is in one of the 3 schools, have them look at this as an adventure.

An opportunity to meet new people, to experience a new setting, to be a host, to help thy neighbor.

Children are incredibly accommodating and figure things out quickly.

They will take their cues from you. You stay positive, understanding, friendly and flexible, and so will they.

For those students who require more emotional or physical support, their support team is there for them.

Have faith in your kids and those making the decisions.

Bedford Middle School 2

Bedford Middle School

Reaction was quick, and largely positive.

“Amen!” one woman wrote. “Kids adjust much more easily than adults. Parents, give your kids the chance to deal with a problem, disappointment, and adversity. Make this a positive and they will be better for it.”

Another noted: “Westport has a history of coming together and making things happen — big and small — from buying the Longshore Club to banning plastic bags in stores. As someone who sells this wonderful town to new residents, I love sharing these stories. This can be one more of them. We control the narrative about how we come together as a community and handle this.”

A third said: “This is one town, these kids are kids, they adjust, they are resilient, they are friends in their swim teams/ basketball/ ballet/theatre, they will be in Staples together, their moms take the same spin classes at the Y. This is ONE town. Let’s just all show love and not scare these kids with our own negativity, because they know better.”

It won’t be easy for the Coleytown students, as they move to a new school (for the 6th graders, their 2nd in a month). It will be hard — but certainly less difficult — for those at Bedford and Staples.

It will be a learning experience for all — staff as well as students. Let’s hope the lessons of welcoming and adaptability are taught everywhere — not just in school.

Staples High School (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

Westport: A Town Of “Darkness And Pain”

Last week, I posted a story about “Land of Steady Habits.”

The movie — based on 2001 Staples High School graduate Ted Thompson’s debut novel about a Westporter seeking something beyond his soul-crushing marriage and job — has just been released by Netflix.

The New York Times‘ A.O. Scott gave it a strong review yesterday, calling it “unpredictable and fresh.”

He begins:

The American suburb is zoned for ambivalence. Neither city nor country, suburbia — at least in the imagination of too many novelists, filmmakers and songwriters to count — yokes affluence to alienation. Beyond the well-kept lawns and hedges are seething hives of adultery, anomie and addiction. These pathologies may not actually be more common along the commuter rail lines than anywhere else, but there is an imposing body of literature that insists otherwise.

He adds of director Nicole Holofcener: “The darkness and pain haunting Westport are more pronounced …than the melancholy and quiet rage that figure in Ms. Holofcener’s other movies.”

Fortunately, that “darkness and pain” refers to the film, not life in our actual town.

I think.

(For the full New York Times review, click here. Hat tips: John Karrel and Fran White)

 

Kami Evans: “Thank You, Westport”

In her 6 years in Westport and Fairfield, Kami Evans made quite a mark.

She started several community Facebook pages, and became an “influence marketer.”

Two of her most popular pages were Westport and Fairfield Parents, and Fairfield County Friends and Family. Readers asked about — and recommended — the best local places to shop, upcoming events, and other resources.

Then came “Kami’s Kloud.” She connected businesses with non-profits and charities, helping build community. 

Now she’s off on a new adventure. Kami writes:

We moved to Westport in 2012 from New York — like many of our neighbors. We wanted to be near the city, as well as a beach, amazing schools and like-minded people. It fit the bill for sure. Summers on Compo are irreplaceable.

Kami Evans

So people ask me: Why did you move? The short answer: We found a magical home in Fairfield that we wanted to be in forever. It was just over the Westport line, so we felt it wasn’t a stretch.

We still went to Compo ($750 a season was worth it for our family), and we did most of our activities in Westport.

I know I was lucky when I began doing social media outreach. I got my share of passionate moments from members and beyond, but it never took me away from wanting to help the community. It was a gift to help as much as I could. So with honor and pleasure, the brand Kami’s Kloud and Kloud9TV started.

Tony and I always knew we would move back, but an opportunity to move to England came up earlier than we expected.

We have Westport Lake, Weston Road, and a home near us called The Fairfield House. We can’t quit you Westport, even if we try. It’s a lovely reminder seeing all of these familiar names.

Kami Evans lives half a mile from Westport Lake. It’s in Trentham, Stoke-on-Trent, 45 minutes south of Manchester.

As an “American” in the village, people stop and talk to us frequently. I hear “you have a cute accent” — imagine that.

Life here is at a much calmer pace. I wish I took time to enjoy our life back in America as much as we do now. Having people pop over for a cuppa is a daily event, and it’s so sweet. I just need to remember: Don’t put an electric kettle on the hob (stove).

With a quick move comes with many challenges. As we started to work with a Fairfield County realtor we got very lucky to have Inna Agujen help with the transition.

She offered the usual above and beyond support so many local realtors are known for, like taking care of the last documents. But she also showed me other ways to help the community we love as we leave.

Inna contacted Families in Need, Big Brothers, Salvation Army, Veterans of America and Habitat for Humanity. In such a rush, I would never have connected with so many resources myself. It warms my heart knowing nothing went to the dump.

Kami Evans, in her new digs.

Now we are in Blighty, but I cannot share enough how much I miss our friends back in America. We will always hold a special place in our heart for Westport.

Thank you all, and please continue to look out for neighbors who can benefit from a kind word. And oh: The mean ones are only lions with thorns in their paws. Help them remove it. 😘

Be The Stewardesses Of Our World. Totally.

Jarret Liotta is a man of many talents.

The 1983 Staples High School graduate is a Westport filmmaker and writer. Recently, he put his talents to work on a short film about the environment — specifically, car idling, and the idle thinking behind it.

Jarret filmed “Save the Trees” in front of (of course) Starbucks, with a local cast including Sara Levine and Annie McCarthy.

It’s well worth the 2 1/2 minutes. Enjoy!

Remarkable Bookcycle: The Back Story

Saturday night’s Pics of the Day was one of “06880”‘s most special — and most commented on.

The photo s– sent by a reader who did not identify him or herself — showed a 3-wheeler. In front of the pedals sat a wooden structure, filled with books.

It was painted pink — just like the old Remarkable Book Shop.

More remarkably, the front featured the beloved store’s dancing man logo.

And — in case you missed the other clues — a sign on the top said “The Remarkable Bookcycle.”

The photos were taken in and around Compo Beach.

Readers loved it. But no one knew the back story.

Now it can be told. And the tale comes courtesy of Jane Green: author of 19 novels, with over 10 million books in print in more than 25 languages. Besides being (duh) a huge book lover, she’s a longtime Westporter — and a very involved neighbor. She writes:

It started with George, although really, it started with the Remarkable Book Shop. Ever since I moved to Westport almost 18 years ago, everyone has told me that I would have loved the Remarkable Book Shop. Esther and Sidney Kramer were neighbors of ours, and I’ve harbored a secret fantasy of re-opening the bright pink bookshop for years.

Which brings me to George: a cargo tricycle we bought from neighbors of ours at the beach about 12 years ago. It seemed like a great idea at the time, a way to transport picnics and children back and forth to the beach, but those children are now teenagers, and George has languished in our garage for years.

More recently, I found myself obsessed with Little Free Libraries. The Little Free Library is a non-profit organization founded in the 1980’s to encourage people to read, and to bring communities together. Usually, people build them at the end of their driveways, giving away free books, bringing strangers together, chatting about books.

As a novelist who created the Facebook group Westport Front Porch for exactly that reason — to bring a sense of community back — and as an avid reader, I had always wanted a little free library. Also, my house is threatening to topple over with the piles of books everywhere. But I live on a small private street, and suspected my neighbors might not be so happy with an influx of readers coming over.

A mobile Little Free Library suddenly seemed an excellent idea, one that could travel around the beach and bring a bit of happy nostalgia to our town, for who doesn’t feel good when they remember the Remarkable Book Shop? I found a wonderful new Staples graduate, Ryan Peterson, to rebuild George and transform him into the bookshop. I downloaded pictures of the store for him, and with my husband Ian Warburg, who grew up here and has so many happy memories of the bookstore, designed the cart as a double-sided library where people can take home free books.

Jane Green stocks the Remarkable Bookcycle library …

I was ready to paint the sign myself, but realized that Miggs Burroughs would do a much better job. I sent him an email asking for his help with a secret project, with no idea that his mother, Esta Burroughs, worked at the book shop from the day it opened until the day it closed. (How remarkable is that?!) Miggs was thrilled, and painted both the sign and the instantly recognizable dancing man.

We have loved parking the Remarkable Bookcycle (pronounced bicycle!) by the beach this weekend, and seeing the smiles on people’s faces. At some point soon, we’ll have a website set up with news of how to donate books. In the meantime, look for the Remarkable Bookcycle around Compo, raise your glasses to the spirits of Sidney and Esther Kramer and Esta Burroughs, and don’t forget to stroke Heathcliff the cat while you’re picking out your book. Yes, there’s even a Heathcliff the cat tucked in amongst the books in the Remarkable Bookcycle!

… and takes an inaugural ride, along Compo Beach Road.