Category Archives: Politics

Voter Registration Deadlines Near

The Registrars of Voters office (Room 107, Town Hall) is open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., for voter registration.

October 30 is the deadline for these registrations for the November 6 state election:

November 5 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Town Hall) is the deadline for in-person registration by residents who meet the following criteria:

Between October 30, and November 6, 2018:

  • Achieved the age of 18
  • Moved to Westport
  • Achieved citizenship
  • Are a member or family member of the armed services.

Questions? Call 203-341-1115 or click here.

NOTEVoters whose normal polling place is Coleytown Middle School will vote this year at Coleytown Elementary School.

Iran, The US, The UN — And Westport

By the time Alex Anvari was 9 years old, he spoke 3 languages: English, French and Farsi.

His parents had met at the University of Illinois when his father was a Ph.D. candidate from the Middle East; his mother was a Midwestern undergrad.

Alex’s father’s job in academia brought the family to his native Iran. Alex played soccer in the streets, learning the language and culture of his new country.

His classmates at Tehran International School came from 35 countries. “We were just like the UN,” Alex says.

Alex Anvari (right), in jUNe Day soccer action.

So it was natural, when he moved to Westport in 1992 — he worked in “the Oracle economy” — to play in the jUNe Day soccer game pitting local players against UN guests. Soon, Alex was running the event.

He made occasional trips back to Iran, where family members still lived. While Americans have long been fascinated by the country — its fascinating history, the larger-than-life stories of the shah, its longtime role with Israel as a “policeman of the Gulf” — he’s had an up-front-and-personal view of it.

So he’s excited to be moderating an event — sponsored by the United Nations Association of Southwestern Connecticut — a week before UN Day.

Set for Town Hall (Wednesday, October 17, 12 p.m.), it’s a conversation with Dina Esfandiary, international security fellow at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

They’ll talk about Middle East geopolitics, the role of the UN regarding Iran’s nuclear deal, US foreign policy, and business strategy after American sanctions.

“06880”‘s tagline is “Where Westport meets the world.” Alex Anvari is one Westporter who has done that all his life.

LWV Wants Your Candidate Debate Questions

With Connecticut teetering on the brink of financial disaster — and education, housing, transportation and infrastructure issues clamoring for attention too — the stakes are high in next month’s election.

So besides sponsoring their usual candidates’ debate, Westport’s League of Women Voters is taking one more step to ensure citizen involvement.

The October 29 event (7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium) will include questions from community members — and they can be emailed ahead of time.

To ask State Senate candidates Toni Boucher, Will Haskell, Tony Hwang and Michelle McCabe, and House hopefuls Gail Lavielle, Stephanie Thomas, Greg Kraut and Jonathan Steinberg anything, email LWVWestportct.org.

Screeners — 1 Republican, 1 Democrat and 1 unaffiliated League member — will ensure that all questions are nonpartisan.

Can’t be there? The debate will be televised live on Cablevision Channel 79 and Frontier channel 90, and posted thereafter on the town website.

Whether you ask questions, attend the debate or miss it complete, don’t forget to vote! Election Day is November 6.

(The League of Women Voters is co-sponsoring this debate, with the Westport PTA Council.)

Westport Signs: The Sequel

Yesterday, “06880” posted a(nother) story on sign pollution. It featured (sigh) a stop sign with another sign at the bottom pleading “Please No Signs.”

At the end, I challenged readers to send photos of the worst sign polluters in town. I promised to post the “winner.”

Aka, the “loser.”

John Karrel is our man. He cites his “least favorite” corner: the intersection of Hillspoint and Greens Farms Road.

(Photo/John Karrel)

He writes:

  1. It is an UGLY sign
  2. You’re not supposed to pitch a business.
  3. Would someone really choose a fitness option this way?!

Please don’t answer that.

Trevor Noah Headlines “Show Of Unity” Event

An evening with Trevor Noah sounds special.

But the Anti-Defamation League Connecticut offers a lot more than just watching “The Daily Show.”

On November 11, the comedian/political commentator headlines ADL’s 2nd annual “Voices: A Show of Unity” event. Noah will talk intimately with the audience about his life and the world — tying it all in with ADL’s ongoing fight against bigotry, extremism and hate crimes, and for civil rights, interfaith and inter-group understanding.

Trevor Noah (Photo/Gavin Bond)

Noah knows. Born in South Africa to a black mother who converted to Judaism and a white father, his youth under apartheid was difficult. His parents could not be seen in public together.

Since replacing Jon Stewart as “Daily Show” host 3 years ago, Noah has been a leading voice for unity. Last year, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

“He’s funny. But he won’t be doing stand-up,” says Steve Ginsburg, a Westporter and ADL’s statewide director. “This will be a chance to hear his take on the world.”

The “Voices” event is both a fundraiser and a community-builder. The ADL gives free tickets to many local organizations, including Project Return, Bridgeport’s Neighborhood Studio, the Triangle Community Center, and churches, mosques and synagogues.

Westporters will have a strong presence at Noah’s show. Sarah Green — co-founder of Kool To Be Kind — serves as artistic director. Claudia Cohen is event chair; Jill Nadel is vice chair.

Westporters will also sing in the choir, joining musicians from Bridgeport and other towns.

“There will be diverse voices on stage — and in the audience,” Ginsburg notes.

“We’ve seen a large spike in incidents of bigotry and bias,” he adds. “The ADL has worked hard to respond. And we’re doing education programs to try to prevent them.”

They’ve been active at Staples High School and with local police. This summer, Police Chief Foti Koskinas attended ADL training for law enforcement in Washington, DC.

The ADL event also features a civil rights award, in memory of Irwin Hausman. It goes to Lorella Praeli, who as a Dreamer child was taunted for her Hispanic heritage, and the loss of a leg.

The ADL provided support. She’s now head of immigration efforts for the American Civil Liberties Union, and works closely with the ADL on anti-bullying efforts.

“Voices: A Show of Unity” is set for November 11 — Veterans Day. Tickets are provided to vets’ groups, and service members will be honored at the event.

(“Voices: A Show of Unity” is November 11, 5 p.m. at the Klein Auditorium in Bridgeport. Tickets go on sale September 27. For more information, click here or call 203-530-7456. )

 

Sam’s Mobil Self-Serve Closes Soon

A couple of years ago, a big snowstorm closed local roads.

Concerned that Samer “Sam” Hiba — owner of the Mobil Self-Serve next to Barnes & Noble — might not make it home to Trumbull, a nearby customer called and invited him to sleep at her house.

Not many gas station owners develop those kinds of bonds with their customers.

As of Thursday, there will be one less in Westport.

Tomorrow (Tuesday, September 18) is the last day for Sam’s station.

He explains:

The gas company informed me that they decided to withdraw from this location only after carefully analyzing the numbers and determining that, unfortunately, the station’s projected long term revenues are not sufficient to justify investing the additional resources necessary to do the mandatory upgrade to the tanks, along with the corresponding improvements to the canopy, pumps and store.

Sam will shut off the pumps at 10 p.m., then spend Wednesday and Thursday cleaning out the station he loves.

He is devastated. So are his many customers — many of whom prefer the word “friend.”

Sam Hiba, in his Mobil Self-Serve gas station.

From the day Sam bought the business 5 years ago, his life has been intertwined with the men and women who come in for gas, coffee, snacks and conversation.

He has brightened their days. They’ve supported his major community work: caring for Syrian refugees.

Sam left his native country 25 years ago. He’s now a proud American citizen — as are his 5 children, all of whom were born here. But he’s never forgotten that war-torn nation.

His long list of friends include Westport residents, local businesses, even St. Luke Church. Sister Maureen and the entire staff has been particularly strong supporters of Sam’s Syrian relief efforts.

“From the first day, I loved my customers,” Sam says. “They are part of my family now. They know about my life, and I know about theirs. We chat all the time. I will miss them, big time.”

As customers hear that Sam’s Mobil Self-Serve is closing, they’re shattered. Today and tomorrow they’ll fill his small but well-stocked mini-mart, and say thanks.

“I see their tears and concern for me,” Sam says. “That’s very special.”

He promises to keep in touch with his customers — er, friends. He knows they’ll do the same.

Yet life on that stretch of the Post Road will never be quite the same.

 

Westport’s FDA Head Hopes To Snuff Out Juuls

Westporter Dr. Scott Gottlieb was in the news on Wednesday.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb

The commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration took aim at e-cigarettes. Targeting both manufacturers and sellers, he gave Juul and 4 other major makers 60 days to prove they can keep their wildly popular devices away from minors.

The FDA also warned 1,100 retailers and issued 131 fines for major corporations — including 7-Eleven and Walgreens — that sell e-cigarettes to people under 18.

The New York Times said Gottlieb’s “aggressive approach against private industry is unusual for an official in the business-friendly Trump administration which has sought to roll back numerous environmental and health regulations.”

But, it added, “critics said that his decision last summer to extend a deadline for e-cigarette manufacturers to demonstrate that their products comply with public health concerns helped perpetuate the the current problem.”

Gottlieb told the Times that “the immense popularity of vaping among teens and the growing addiction among young people was not something he foresaw last summer.”

Juul pods: empty (left) and full.

Regarding actions taken by Juul and other companies since then, he said, if they’d had the impact he intended, “I wouldn’t be viewing the statistics I’m now seeing.”

The Times quoted legal experts, who predicted a “protracted legal fight” over the FDA’s threats.

(To read the entire New York Times story, click here. For one Westport teenager’s story about his e-cigarette addiction, click here.)

Jack Backiel: Westport’s Man In Washington

Jack Backiel left Westport a while ago. A member of Staples High School’s Class of 1965 who ended up graduating from private school — and the son of the owners of our local bowling alley and driving range — he’s now retired, living in Florida.

He still loves his hometown though, and comments frequently on “06880.”

He’s also a frequent visitor to Washington. If there’s a political hearing to attend, or a protest to join, Jack is there.

In March he flew north for the March for our Lives. Several students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland — the site of a mass shooting the month before, not far from Jack’s home — shared his flight.

The next month, he was there when Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress about Facebook’s privacy issues. Jack was interviewed by BBC, for a report that aired in Britain.

Jack Backiel, on camera.

During Paul Manafort’s trial, he met the defendant’s attorney and Fox News’ Peter Doocy as they awaited the verdict.

A couple of days ago, Jack was at Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court hearing. He waited in line for 2 hours, to be seated for 20 minutes. Several protesters interrupted the event, with one man carried out by police “like a bag of potatoes.”

Though Jack’s “sense of history” drives his recent visits to Washington, it’s not a new undertaking.

In 1974, he was seated right behind Connie Chung as the House Judiciary Committee considered impeaching President Nixon.

Vote! But Where? And When?

In the days leading up to Connecticut’s primary election this month, I did not receive my usual postcard reminding me when and where to vote.

That’s important information. In addition to voting day coming in the middle of summer — when one day slides into the next — my polling place has changed twice. First it was Saugatuck Elementary School. Then it was the Westport Library. Now — with renovation underway — I vote at Town Hall.

But I googled that info on my own, the day before the election.

I figured my postcard got lost in the mail.

In fact, there were no postcards.

Alert “06880” reader — and noted journalist/author Andrée Aelion Brooks, who spent 18 years with the New York Times — writes:

Westport and surrounding towns no longer send out postcards confirming the resident’s polling station and date of the election. This came to my attention after the primary last week, when many neighbors and friends said they did not vote because they were unaware it was the right date for Connecticut.

I contacted the Registrar of Voters, and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. Apparently the town saves money this way, and they do not believe cards are needed any longer.

This is not true. And it will depress voter turnout, especially in communities where residents rely even more on this low-tech method of reminders.

If this is a statewide issue, perhaps it can be solved at the state level. If it is a local issue, perhaps we can muster some awareness of the need for change.

Glamping: The Sequel

You know that big wedding last weekend on Beachside Avenue?

The one that featured white tents on Harvey Weinstein’s property, for glampers — “glamour campers” — to shelter on Friday and Saturday night, roughing it with only wooden floors and queen beds?

The one where fireworks lit up the sky after the ceremony, and a ton of security (uniformed cops, plainclothes and more) patrolled the area?

Turns out it was pretty, um, glamorous.

Zach Lasry — son of billionaire hedge fund owner/Milwaukee Bucks co-owner/Beachside Avenue resident Marc Lasry — married Arianna Lyons. They work together in film production.

Among the guests: former President Bill Clinton, and former Senator/Secretary of State/presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

President Bill Clinton at the Beachside Avenue wedding…

… and Hillary Clinton. (Photos courtesy of Instagram)

No word on whether they glamped, or decamped after the festivities to Chappaqua.

(Hat tip: WestportNow)