Category Archives: Politics

Pic Of The Day #607

No, it’s not a coincidence. The construction company doing work on the Merritt Parkway — and whose equipment is stored at the Exit 41 commuter parking lot — was founded by the grandfather of former Trump campaign chairman and convicted felon Paul Manafort. The company is based in New Britain. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Protesters Face PURA At Water Tower Site Visit

You’ve seen the yard signs up and down North Avenue.

On Thursday, members of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority did too.

They came to Westport last week, on a site visit to the proposed location of 2 concrete water towers. Aquarion hopes to build them — as replacements and improvements on the one current, much smaller facility — directly opposite Staples High School.

Jennifer Johnson joined several other opponents at the regulators’ site visit.

She was not impressed.

PURA members and protesters at the Aquarion North Avenue water tower site visit on Thursday.

“Aquarion didn’t mark out the rough location of the proposed tanks, or mark the trees that are coming down, and/or float a balloon so people could visualize the tanks’ height (squished into a small site),” she says. “Isn’t that the point of a site inspection?

Johnson reports that a few non-Aquarion attendees tried to mark the location of one of the new tanks by standing in the woods at the proposed center, then walking 50 feet in each direction. “It was only partly successful,” she says.

Johnson and her group hoped to convey some of their opposite to the PURA members. They printed out their main objections, part of a fact sheet originally compiled by Save Westport Now:

●  As currently planned, the new tank will not solve the water pressure problems in Westport. Even if the new tanks are built, the majority of fire hydrants in town will still be deficient.

●  The new tanks will allow Aquarion to “push” more water to other parts of Fairfield County, begging the question: Can’t they find another site for the second tank, in a less residential area?

An aerial view shows the North Avenue Aquarion tank site, opposite Staples High School.

●  During the proposed 2-plus-year construction period, trucks and industrial excavators will clog North Avenue and streets around Staples. Combined with traffic from Bedford Middle School and the loss of the sidewalk, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Yet Aquarion remains delinquent in providing a basic construction plan.

●  The real problem is not just the size of the tanks, but the obsolete and undersized water mains that run beneath our roads.

●  To make matters worse, the new tanks are likely to create bigger problems. The large increase in water capacity can lead to stale water.

●  Aquarion has finally acknowledged the problem with the water mains, and agreed to minor upgrades. It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. (Aquarion is a for-profit monopoly. Its interest in rewarding shareholders does not necessarily align with residents’ or customers’ interests.)

●  Westport could wind up with 2 extremely ugly tanks, more expensive water—and still have a water pressure problem.

A photo shows the height of the proposed new water tanks.

Opponents ask PURA to require a “full independent review and comprehensive plan for upgrading Westport’s water infrastructure.”

They also want Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission to have the authority to revoke the permit for this project. That way, they say, “Westport and Aquarion can move forward with a workable plan for rebuilding our water infrastructure for the next century.”

Several town officials, including the fire chief, have testified that the towers are necessary for safety.

PURA will hold a public hearing on Thursday, December 20 (9:30 a.m., 10 Franklin Square, New Britain), to consider Aquarion’s proposed towers.

America’s Story. In Just 6 Words.

No matter what your political views, it can feel as if there are no words to describe America’s current situation.

But all you need are 6.

Ernest Hemingway wrote the most famous 6-word story: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Since then, writers of all types have tried their hand at the 6-word exercise.

Karin Kessler wants to hear yours.

She’s the upbeat, indefatigable owner of Backspace, the typewriter shop/writing space on Church Street South, behind Little Barn.

Karin Kessler, in her Backspace space.

Customers always talk about the political climate, Karin says. They usually throw their hands in the air, and say they have no voice.

So this month, she invites everyone to come to Backspace and write their own 6-word story on any typewriter. There’s no charge.

(You can also write at home, and drop it off at Backspace. You can email it in too — backspacewestport@gmail.com — or post it on a special Facebook page. But if you haven’t seen the shop, you really should.)

Any and every viewpoint is welcome (except hate-mongering).

The 6 words should have something to do with the political atmosphere — and be a thought-provoking reflection of the times.

“We can show that right and left can coexist, and respectfully disagree with one another,” Karin says.

This is not a competition between parties, she notes. She’s looking for “a description, statement or feeling about politics today.”

Karin offers her own suggestion: “United we stand. Divided we fall.”

She hopes to compile the stories, to promote both thought and conversation.

December can be a stressful month. She hopes this can be a fun exercise, done during downtime on the train, while stuck in traffic, or anywhere else. (Except, I guess, watching Fox or MSNBC.)

“Let’s start a wave from Westport, using our right of freedom of speech,” Karin says. “Let’s all hear what everyone says.”

In exactly 6 words.

Remembering Daryl Libow

Bruce Nemirow writes:

Staples High School lost one of its most prominent alums this week, with the passing of Daryl Libow (Class of 1977) at age 59 after a battle with cancer.

Daryl was captain of Staples’ tennis team. He was also a highly accomplished debater, which no doubt led to his success as a litigator. He headed the prestigious law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell’s Washington D.C. office, as managing partner.

After Staples, Daryl graduated from Harvard University, the London School of Economics, and Cornell Law School. .

Daryl Libow

Beyond the law and fighting for human rights wherever they were challenged, Daryl was an avid lover of jazz. He particularly appreciated its inspirational value for young people.

His love of jazz can be traced to Westport’s long-gone Players Tavern — where he saw his first live performances in the mid-1970s — along with constant visits to Sally’s Place with his dad, Sanford.

Daryl’s passion led to action. He served on the board of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, and The Ellington Fund of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

Daryl was a wonderful son, husband, father, brother, colleague and friend. He will be missed by all those whose lives he touched.

Westport Votes Blue; 2 Democrats Win

Westport backed all 4 Democratic candidates in yesterday’s state Senate and House races. That helped deliver 2 of those districts to the Democratic Party.

Will Haskell

In a race that drew statewide — even national — attention, 22-year-old Staples High School graduate Will Haskell thrashed longtime incumbent Toni Boucher, for the State Senate 26th district seat.

Haskell’s 64-36% winning margin — against a politician who was in office as long as he’d been alive — was helped by a strong base of active volunteers. The recent Georgetown University graduate galvanized many young voters, and women.

Staples grad Jonathan Steinberg returns to Hartford, representing House district 136. He beat back a challenge from Republican Greg Kraut, a newcomer to politics and a 2-year Westporter. The unofficial margin was 61-39%.

In races that involved small portions of Westport, Republican incumbents Tony Hwang (State Senate district 28) and Gail Lavielle (State House district 143) retained their seats. However, both lost Westport to their Democratic challengers, Michelle Lapine McCabe and Stephanie Thomas, respectively.

 

Polls Are Open!

Many people have many reasons to vote today.

But as I drove to my polling place this morning, I realized there is one that unites every American.

I vote at Town Hall. It sits handsomely on a hill, directly across from Veterans Green.

That small park is filled with statues and plaques honoring men and women killed in war.

They fought — and died — for our right to do what we’re doing today.

Let’s make sure their sacrifices were not in vain.

(If you’re a Connecticut resident, click here for your polling place.)

Voting was steady early this morning at Town Hall.

ADL After Pittsburgh: Activism, And Trevor Noah

The Anti-Defamation League is always busy.

But in the wake of last month’s horrific shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, the anti-hate organization’s Connecticut office went into overdrive.

Statewide director Steve Ginsburg — a Westport resident — spoke to a crowd of 1,000 at an interfaith vigil at the Conservative Synagogue here. He also addressed a Stamford vigil, and attended events in Bridgeport and Hartford. Other ADL officials talked elsewhere around the state.

Ginsburg met with Senator Richard Blumenthal, and spoke by phone with politicians and candidates across the political spectrum. When an anti-Semitic campaign mailer went viral, the organization responded.

ADL presented a program in Bridgeport, on how adults and youngsters can confront anti-Semitism. They sent curriculum resources to dozens of schools and trainers.

ADL also worked with law enforcement officials across Connecticut.

All of that takes time, effort — and money. The Pittsburgh murders came just as the ADL was ramping up publicity for its major fundraiser of the year.

“Voices: A Show of Unity” is also an ADL community-builder. They give free tickets to many local organizations, including CONECT, CIRI, NAACP, IRIS, The Urban League, GLSEN, Greater Bridgeport Latino Network and Voices of Hope.

The event is this Sunday (November 11, 5 p.m., Klein Auditorium in Bridgeport).

Trevor Noah

The headliner is a perfect fit for these times. Trevor Noah was born in South Africa to a black mother who converted to Judaism, and white father. His parents could not be seen in public together.

The “Daily Show” host will be funny, of course. But he won’t do stand-up. He’ll offer attendees his take on the world.

The world is a dangerous place. There’s more than enough hate to go around.

The ADL does what it can to combat bigotry and evil. On Sunday, they ask our help so they can keep doing it.

(For more information and tickets, click here.)

Vote!

The Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Memorial Bridge has been the scene of much political activism over the years.

Last night, someone sent a message that every American — regardless of party — should agree with.

(Photo/Jaime Bairaktaris)

Election Day is Tuesday (November 6). Polls open at 6 a.m., and close at 8 p.m.

Westport voters who previously voted at the library have a new location: Town Hall. Those who voted at Coleytown Middle School will vote at Coleytown Elementary.

All voters should be sure to check their polling place. If you’re a Connecticut resident, click here.

Labyrinth Day Election Walk

Stressed out by all the rhetoric leading up to Election Day? Bombarded by mailings, assaulted by robocalls?

The Westport Unitarian Church invites residents of all political persuasions — and none — to an Election Day labyrinth.

Open from 12 noon to 8 p.m. this Tuesday (November 6) at the handsome sanctuary on 10 Lyons Plains Road, the Blue Lotus Peace Labyrinth experience also includes contemplative music.

A typical labyrinth

According to the church, labyrinth walking is deeply calming. It challenges and shifts walkers’ perspectives.

Labyrinths are ancient and ubiquitous. They’re part of cultures and faith traditions from the early Americas to pre-Christian Europe, from Africa to India and ancient Greece.

NOTE: Labyrinths are not mazes — which are designed to get lost in. Labyrinths have only one path in to the center.

For more information, call 203-227-7205, ext. 14.

[OPINION] Rachel Paul: “Enemies May Hate Us For Who We Are”

Alert — and concerned — “06880” reader Dr. Edward Paul’s daughter Rachel Paul is a 2014 Staples High School graduate. She went to UCLA, then stayed after graduation for a job in Santa Monica.

The other night, she received what she and her father hope was a Halloween prank. But, he says, in light of last weekend’s Pittsburgh murders, she viewed what happened with extreme caution.

“Aside from the act,” he says, “it raised the concept that many of us can have enemies that we don’t know, and who don’t know us. But they hate us for no apparent reason except for who we are.”

He wants her story to speak for itself.

“Do you have any enemies?” I heard the officer ask through the phone. “Anyone you know who would want to do this?”

“No,” I thought. “Of course not.”

This is the conversation that has played over and over in my head since the evening of October 28.

My boyfriend and I were walking to my car after a relaxing weekend of watching movies, baking brownies and going to Halloween parties. My Honda Accord had been parallel parked on the corner of Whitworth Avenue and Almont Drive, in the heart of a Jewish neighborhood in Beverly Hills.

When we got to my car, I mindlessly went to open the back right door to toss in my backpack. As my hand reached for the handle, however, I noticed something.

I jumped back and gasped as I realized what was before me: the back right portion of my car was covered in streaks of what appears to be blood. Because it was a misty night, it seemed that some of the liquid was still wet. Other parts had coagulated.

Is this what blood looks like when it dries on a car? Is this what it streaks like when it rolls down a door? Those questions flooded through my brain, as I frantically looked around the car to see if there was a body.

While searching the area for some clue as to what happened, I noticed a hair tangled in the blood on the car. My stomach dropped as I thought about what had occurred just 2 days prior: a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh that left 11 innocent people dead.

Here I stood, in the middle of a predominantly Jewish community, staring at my car, with streaks of dark red liquid running down the sides.

After 3 1/2 hours the police arrived. They relieved me of my worst fear: It was not real blood. It appeared to be either a Halloween prank or some type of act of retaliation, which is why the officer asked if I had any enemies. Relieved and exhausted, I drove home at 1:30 in the morning.

As I stood in my parking garage scrubbing the fake blood off my car, something occurred to me: Simply by existing, by being who I am, I have made enemies.

I am a young Jewish woman with liberal political views and a fierce belief in social equality. As the events of this past weekend so clearly pointed out, these qualities alone are enough to provoke violence, even from strangers.

To whoever decided to paint my car with fake blood: Did you know that you were in a Jewish neighborhood? Did you think about the innocent lives that were taken a mere 2 days earlier, simply due to their religious beliefs?

Ignorance is a form of privilege. It is a luxury we cannot afford. You do not have to be old enough to vote in order to take a stand or have your own beliefs. If you are old enough to paint fake blood on a car, then you are old enough to know what is going on in our world.

Our society is filled with a level of hatred beyond anything I could have dreamed of as a child. We are not free to be who we are without judgment and violence from those around us. We must educate ourselves about the realities of our cultural and political climate, and we must truly think of the repercussions of our actions before we act upon them.

Parents: Please take time to talk to your children about values such as understanding, tolerance and acceptance. What may have seemed like a simple Halloween prank to those individuals that night carries so much more weight.

If anything I’ve said has resonated with you, please share my story. We need to work together to change our culture. If we all merely shake our heads and gasp at the horrors that occur around us, we will do nothing but watch passively as the moral fabric of our community disintegrates.

Listen to others even if they have different beliefs than you. Accept members of your community even if they have a different faith than you.

Live a life that will leave a legacy.