Category Archives: Politics

Compo Guards Save Lives, Offer Life Lessons

Westport’s lifeguards are superb. They’re well-trained, well-skilled, friendly and fun. (They’re also very tan and quite fit.)

Compo Beach-goers know that the guard shack offers more than first aid. There’s tide and temperature info; warnings — and an always intriguing Quote of the Day.

Yesterday’s was particularly noteworthy:

Compo lifeguard sign


Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

Marc Lasry Is With Her

Marc Lasry — the billionaire hedge fund manager/Milwaukee Bucks co-owner — is a noted Hillary Clinton fan. Just 3 months ago, the prodigious fundraiser opened his Beachside Avenue home for an event featuring the Democratic presidential candidate’s husband, a guy named Bill.

Last night, Lasry talked up Clinton’s candidacy with PBS interviewer Charlie Rose.

Alert “06880” reader JP Vellotti watched his fellow Westporter with interest.

But one subject did not come up.

“I wonder what Lasry thinks of her line promising to make the ultra-rich pay their fair share of taxes,” Vellotti says.

Mark Lasry and Charlie Rose talk about Hillary Clinton. (Screenshot/JP Vellotti)

Mark Lasry and Charlie Rose talk about Hillary Clinton. (Screenshot/JP Vellotti)


David Loffredo And The Donald

Longtime Westporter — and frequent “06880” commenter — David Loffredo was invited to speak at an event at the Trump Doral.

Intrigued, he accepted. He’d never been to a Trump resort before.

“It’s everything you’d expect — lots of gold,” David reports.

Last night, there was a buzz that the Republican presidential candidate was coming.

After David spoke, he headed toward the lobby. Bam!

Donald Trump - by David Loffredo

“His employees — mostly minorities — love this guy,” David says.

He also talked to Secret Service members. “They said he’s a ‘rock star.'”

Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

Town Fights 8-30g — And Wins

A real estate developer buys suburban land. He announces plans to build a massive number of housing units on it. Citing Connecticut’s 8-30g statute, 30% will be “affordable,” according to state guidelines.

Townspeople — worried about the impact of such a massive development — rise up to oppose it.

Sound familiar? It happens all over — including Westport.

Here’s the unfamiliar part: The townspeople won.

The town is not Westport. But it’s nearby.

Easton residents and officials just got big news. A 5-year battle against a 99-unit, 31-building townhouse complex, on 124.7 acres of watershed bordered by Sport Hill, Westport, Silver Hill and Cedar Hill Roads, has come to an end. An appellate court declined to hear the developer’s appeal of a January decision by Hartford’s housing court, which upheld Easton’s Planning and Zoning Commission and Conservation Commission’s 2011 denial of that plan (and a previous one for 105 units).

Part of the Easton property proposed for a 99-unit 8-30g housing development.

Part of the Easton property proposed for a 99-unit 8-30g housing development. (Photo/Google Earth)

How did they do it?

Ira Bloom explains. He was legal counsel for the town commissions. He’s also Westport’s town attorney, so he knows something about 8-30g.

Unlike most zoning applications, Bloom says, if a town commission turns down an 8-30g application, the burden is on them — not on the developer — to prove they made the right decision.

There are a couple of ways to do that, Bloom says. One is to show there is “substantial public interest” in the denial. “Mere traffic congestion” does not work, Bloom notes. Traffic safety, however, may. “Substantial public interest” must clearly outweigh the need for affordable housing in that town.

Another way is to show that no possible modification of the proposal would satisfy the requirements.

Ira Bloom

Ira Bloom

“That’s a heavy burden of proof,” Bloom says. In fact, last year 9 8-30g cases were decided by Connecticut courts. 7 were won by developers. Towns prevailed in only 2 — including Easton.

Bloom argued that because the 99 units would be built on public watershed — serving most of the Easton — the town had a substantial public interest in denying the application. He cited Department of Energy and Environmental Protection guidelines that no more than 1 unit be built on every 2 acres of watershed.

In Westport, officials used the “substantial public interest” argument in denying a proposal for a large 8-30g complex on Wilton Road, near Kings Highway North. The fire chief testified there were severe safety concerns, about the ability of his department to access the proposed complex.

Westport is now writing briefs for that case. They’re due August 12. The developer — Garden Homes — then submits their own briefs.

Easton has very little affordable housing. Westport has more.

But when it comes to 8-30g, no town is out of the woods.

And, Bloom notes, the Easton developer still owns that property. A new proposal may be in the works.

Life In The Westport Bubble

This weekend, my biggest worry is the cloudy forecast. It’s summertime. I love the beach. Will my cookout be canceled? If not, will I still be able to enjoy a lovely Compo sunset?

I do not worry about being shot at a barbecue grill.

Compo Beach: long a place of joy, peace and safety.

Compo Beach: long a place of joy, peace and safety.

I have an excellent relationship with the Westport police. I grew up with some officers. The chief is a great guy, and a good friend. I know our cops’ jobs are complex and sometimes dangerous. Of course, I do get the usual twinge of anxiety when I see a patrol car in the rear view mirror.

I do not worry about being shot by a policeman.

I own my own home, and a car. I have savings for retirement, and health insurance. I am on the low end of the Westport income scale, but that is the high end for virtually every other community in the country. I am not in the 1%, but — in a town filled with haves and have-mores — I have everything I could possibly need or want.

I do not worry about where my next meal comes from, whether the roof over my head will disappear, or if I am one doctor’s visit away from ruin.

Most Westporters feel safe and secure in our homes. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

Most Westporters feel safe and secure in our homes. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

I am a minority — a gay man — but I have never been treated differently because of it. On the contrary, I am surrounded by straight men and women who affirm their support for same-sex marriage, for my right to hold any job I want, for my dignity and worth as a human being.

I do not worry about being murdered in a nightclub. And I certainly do not have to worry about issues like which bathroom I use.

Walking around town, and especially at the beach, I enjoy hearing so many different languages being spoken. I drive across the Post Road bridge on jUNe Day just to see so many different flags flying proudly. I am proud to be an American, and proud to be a global citizen of the world.

I do not worry that some people do not want me here. I do not worry that because of the way I look or dress or talk, some people will make assumptions about me. And although I worry about the consequences of a wall being built on our border, that worry is for all of us. I do not worry that I will be on the other side.

On jUNe Day, the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge brims with flags from around the world. (Photo/Jeff Simon)

On jUNe Day, the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge brims with flags from around the world. (Photo/Jeff Simon)

In the comfort of my home, I watch the news on my flat-screen TV. If the images get too depressing, I can change the channel. I can order up a movie on demand, go for a walk in beautiful Winslow Park next door, or do anything else I please. If the political rhetoric gets too heated, the voices too shrill or the idiocy and hypocrisy too dismal, I can read a book on one of my many devices. Or even a real one.

But — because I am an American, and a global citizen of the world — I do not change the channel. I do not watch a movie, go for a walk or read a book. Instead — fascinated, horrified, frightened, angry, sad — I stay tuned to the latest episode of the reality show that is “America.” Every day, the plot line gets crazier and crazier.

And — in the bubble that is Westport — I worry. I worry for me. I worry for you. And I worry for all the people outside our bubble.

Because, after all, they really are all of us too.

Police Lives Matter

(Photo/Chip Stephens)

(Photo/Chip Stephens)

Saugatuck Church: Walk Our Rainbow Labyrinth!

Last fall, members of Saugatuck Congregational Church joined Eagle Scout candidate Liam Borner, in building a labyrinth. It’s on the edge of the front lawn, underneath trees.

Labyrinths are a series of concentric circles with many turns, all leading to a center. They’ve been important spiritual parts of many cultures for thousands of years. Walking a labyrinth provides a calming meditative state that re-energizes, reduces stress, helps re-focus and nourishes the soul.

Saugatuck’s labyrinth has 7 rings — the same number as colors in the rainbow.

Recently, church members prayed for the residents of the Orlando shooting. Realizing that the rainbow flag has special meaning to LGBT folks, congregants lined each labyrinth ring with a different color.

Saugatuck Church labyrinth

The Saugatuck Congregational Church labyrinth.

The tribute takes on added layers of meaning now, with more violence in Bangladesh, Turkey, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

“We remember all those who have been impacted by the violence in our world — of every faith and nation,” says Rev. Alison J. Buttrick Patton.

Everyone — church members and not — is invited to walk the colorful labyrinth.

“Take time to remember, grieve, contemplate ways to honor our human diversity, or simply walk in silence. All are welcome!” Patton says.

Staples Grad Nominated As Ambassador To Malaysia

Kamala Lakhdhir is in line to be an ambassador.

President Obama has named the 1980 Staples High School graduate as the next US Ambassador to Malaysia. The multi-ethnic, multicultural nation is an economic powerhouse of Asia.

A career member of the Foreign Service, Lakhdhir served as executive assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2011-15. For 2 years before that, she was US Consul General in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

She previously worked as director of the Office of Maritime Southeast Asia; special assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs; political officer at the US Embassy in Beijing; on US House of Representatives committees and subcommittees, and as a political officer in Indonesia and a consular officer in Saudi Arabia.

Kamala Lakhdhir

Kamala Lakhdhir

Lakhdhir received a BA from Harvard College, and an MS from the National War College.

Her “diplomatic missions” date back to her Westport days. In the mid-1970s — during her Bedford Junior High School days — Lakhdhir supported a girl in Bangladesh, through Save the Children. She did it by giving up half her allowance.

Inspired, Lakhdhir visited the youngster — bringing frisbees, super balls and other tiny gifts to the village.

Her latest appointment must be confirmed by the  US Senate.

(Hat tip: Dan Kail)

Gregory Katz Tells The Brexit Story

Gregory Katz has covered some big stories in his long reporting career.

Gregory Katz's story on John Lennon's murder ran in the Rolling Stone issue with this now-legendary cover.

Gregory Katz’s story on John Lennon’s murder ran in the Rolling Stone issue with this now-legendary cover.

During the chaos following John Lennon’s murder, the 1971 Staples High School graduate was the only journalist inside the Dakota building. Katz’s interview with the first person on the scene ran in Rolling Stone. It became the definitive account of that night.

Katz earned a share of the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting. His Dallas Morning News team produced a 14-part series on violence against women throughout the world.

For many years, Katz covered Latin America and the Mideast. Now — ranging all over Europe, as AP bureau chief in London — he’s written about popes, politics, refugees and Queen Elizabeth.

Katz — who owns a summer home on Saugatuck Shores — has been insanely busy recently. But he took time out from his all-Brexit, all-the-time coverage to speak with “06880” about the back story behind that huge story.


Brexit has been AP’s main focus for the last 3 months. Katz and his staff made a huge story list. They brought in extra reporters from France and Germany, and TV producers from across Europe.

Gregory Katz

Gregory Katz

That enabled them to provide 24-hour coverage on the big night, with feature reporting from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

It’s a very hard story to explain. There are many question marks, including how the actual separation from the European Union could — and now, will — work.

Katz traveled to Dover for one report. The White Cliffs and water are beautiful, but he also sensed the residents’ tremendous anger toward immigrants. He’d heard similar sentiments earlier, but found them more widespread now.

The native Westporter spent much of his career in remote places, covering chaotic events. Brexit, he says, was “more of a slow-motion, extended political and business story. It was much more controlled than the sort of reporting I used to do.”

There was very little drama, Katz says, until near the end. “Then it just exploded on the the world’s consciousness. You could see it coming because the financial markets are so sensitive.”

It was clear, Katz said, that the vote would be close. But most people thought the “remain” side would win, so the outcome was stunning.

BrexitBecause of the result, it’s a story he’ll cover for the next few years. For example: What’s the process for taking Britain out of the EU? Will there be major job losses in London and other cities? What will be the status of people from other European nations, who are now working or studying in the UK legally? Of course, there will soon be a new prime minister too.

“It’s a confusing time for a lot of people,” Katz notes. “And it won’t be resolved quickly. The whole AP staff here will be working on various aspects of the story.”

Usually around this time, Katz says, people are quite excited about Wimbledon.

“But no one’s even noticed this year.”

Donald Trump “Spotted” In Westport

No, this is not an April Fool’s story. Donald Trump was seen at the Spotted Horse last night.

At least, a cardboard cutout of him was.

Donald Trump

He — or it — arrived in Avi Kaner’s car trunk. The second selectman’s wife Liz was lobbying in Washington a few weeks ago. Waiting for her train home, she went into a souvenir store and purchased the cardboard fold-up “Donald.”

Since then, he’s made appearances at various town events — including graduation parties.

Whether you like the presumptive Republican nominee’s politics or loathe them, you gotta admit: He’s a stand-up guy.

(Hat tip: Francis Fiolek)