Category Archives: Politics

“Recovering Lawyer” Turns To Collage

Geoffrey Stein studied product design at Parsons. Terrified of not getting a job, he pivoted to a sociology major at Bard College.

Hmmmm …

Walking around cold, rainy mid-1980s New York City — unemployed — he took stock. He didn’t have enough science courses for medical school. He didn’t have enough math for business school.

So, since Bard had taught him to think critically and analytically …

…. in 1986 he graduate from Albany Law School.

Stein clerked for an appellate judge. He worked at a trial firm. He got into reinsurance litigation, in London.

He found that aspect of law fascinating. “You have to get the right answer, but you do it in a civilized way,” he describes reinsurance.

These days, Stein is …

… a “recovering lawyer.”

Geoffrey Stein

Geoffrey Stein

All along, he’d made art. He carved wood, built things, welded metal sculptures and took photos.

He kept looking for a more creative way to practice law. Though “there are some very creative people” in the profession, he could not find that niche.

Finally, in 1999, his wife said, “Go to art school. Or stop complaining.”

He did the latter. For 3 years, Stein practiced law while taking classes at the New York Studio School.

“A more prudent person would have taken a leave of absence” from the firm, he says.

But — although he’s kept his license, and still does a bit of contract work — Stein has been a full-time artist for nearly 20 years.

“It’s quite a switch,” he admits. “People know what a lawyer does. They have status. They don’t know what an artist does.” Then again, he adds, “I don’t know what ‘artist’ means either. I just put pigment on a flat surface.”

Objection, counselor!

Stein does far more than that.

He began experimenting with collages at the Studio School. After earning an MFA from the Slade School in London, he began moving into the political realm.

“A.O.C.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; from a speech. New York Times photocopies; digitally altered photo. Acryclic, gesso and pencil on cavas.

Stein calls himself a “conceptual portrait painter.” A self-described “political junkie,” he is fascinated by what’s going on in the world, and with the economy.

The artist uses materials from a subject’s world to create their likeness. Stein calls it “a modern take on the Renaissance trope of putting objects into a portrait to illustrate the attributes of the subject — for example, books to show the subject was educated.”

Instead of illustrating the attributes of the subject with a symbol though, he collages the portraits with materials and text from the subject’s world.

“Dissenting.” Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Burwell v. Hobby Lobby; Justice Ginsburg’s dissent. Acrylic and pencil on canvas.

Stein says, “I paint, draw and collage to find out what I think about the world; to discover the things I do not have words for. When painting, I savor the slips of the hand that express one’s unconscious feelings about the subject, and in collage, I love the randomness — the snippets of text and photographs appearing and disappearing that becomes the subject’s likeness.

“I am interested in the conversation between abstraction and realism. I do not want to make an academic copy of the model or a photo realistic illustration. My work rather explores the tension of what needs to be shown and what does not, the seen and the unseen.”

Geoffrey Stein, with other types of his work. (Photo/Rosie Lopeman)

His subjects include Alan Greenspan, Timothy Geithner, Jamie Dimon, Janet Yellen and Elizabeth Warren. He’s done Donald Trump, of course.

Commissions started coming: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Queen Elizabeth, presidential candidates, Michael Bloomberg, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Andrew Cuomo, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, Greta Thunberg, Amanda Gorman.

“Speaking Truth to Power.” Dr. Anthony Fauci; CDC and New York Times. Acrylic, gesso and pencil on canvas.

Stein works in a studio at his Westport home. He and his wife Pat — a partner in a law firm — bought a house here in 2015.  Before COVID, it was a weekend getaway. Arriving Friday night and leaving Sunday, they were very much New York-focused.

Since moving here full-time in the early days of the pandemic, they have gotten to know their neighbors better. It’s been a wonderful sanctuary for them. “We recognize how fortunate we are,” Stein says.

(Their offices are on opposite sides of the house. “We meet in the middle for lunch and coffee,” he says.)

One downside to working alone: Stein says he has not had time to engage with Westport’s arts community. “I’ve had my head down, working and marketing,” he admits.

As he starts his next project — a Stacey Abrams collage — Stein is thinking about how to go back to the city. His wife’s firm plans to bring their lawyers back after Labor Day.

“It’s so nice to have all these trees, and so much room,” Stein says. “I understand how lucky I am to have both worlds.”

(For more information on Geoffrey Stein, and samples of his work, click here.)

“The Poet.” Amanda Gorman, from “The Hill We Climb” inauguration speech. Acrylic and pencil on canvas.

 

Roundup: Le Penguin, Portables, Jim Himes …

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Each year, the American Institute of Architects’ Connecticut chapter sponsors a “Connecticut Treasures” contest.

The public is invited to explore the wealth and diversity of buildings from each of our state’s 8 counties. Then they vote on their favorite — based on design, historical relevance, or just because it’s the county they live in.

This year’s theme is “theaters.” The Fairfield County entrant is the Westport Country Playhouse.

Voting ends Friday (July 23, 11:59 p.m.). Click here for details.

Will the Westport Country Playhouse be this year’s AIA state treasure?

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From the Pickle Barrel to Blue Lemon and — most recently — Le Penguin, the building in the corner of Sconset Square nearest the Post Road has been many things.

It will soon be something else. When we find out exactly what, you’ll be the first to know.

(Photo/Molly Alger)

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It took a while. But the portable classrooms at Bedford Middle School are finally back on the road.

They were used when Coleytown Middle School was closed, due to mold. The school reopened in January.

Moving the massive structures was not easy. The turn from into the exit drive, from the north side of the school, was tight. And the parking lots are the the midst of a repaving project, making the going extra tough.

The portables served us well, when we needed them. Now they’re are on their way to some other district, for some other reason.

(Photo/Dan Woog)

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Congressman Jim Himes was in town last Saturday, for a “town hall” meeting at the Westport Library.

If you couldn’t get there — or want another chance to talk to your representative — he’s hosting a virtual town hall this afternoon (Tuesday, July 20, 5:30 p.m.).

Click here to submit a video question. Click here to watch the event, on Himes’ Facebook page.

Congressman Jim Himes, at a previous “town hall” meeting.

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He’s still 8 years away from his driver’s license. But 8-year-old Dylan Rosen got a glimpse of the good life Sunday, at the Westport PAL classic car show.

This Camaro was cool 60 years before he was born. It still is.

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Dylan may be only 8 years old. But I’d bet the farm he can park better than a somehow-licensed driver, who walked away from this job on Riverside Avenue:

(Photo/Michael Chait)

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Still speaking of cars: This morning’s post about traffic woes in town drew plenty of comments.

Stephanie Bass has her own thoughts. This sign sits outside her Old Mill-area home:

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Ben & Jerry’s is on one side of the Middle East controversy. Morton Williams is on the other.

The Vermont-based ice cream maker announced it will no longer sell in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In response, the New York supermarket change is slashing its Ben & Jerry’s products by 70%, will stop promoting it in its weekly ads, and will demote the brand to the “least desirable locations” of its freezers.

That quote comes from Avi Kaner, Morton Williams co-owner, and former Westport 2nd selectman and Board of Finance chair.

He explained: “Of all the places in the world to boycott, Ben & Jerry’s has chosen to target the one Jewish nation in the world.”

Click here for the full New York Post story.

Avi Kaner in a Bronx Morton Williams store. (Photo/Danny Ghitis for the New York Times)

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I try to stay away from beach sunrise or sunset photos. I get up to 10 a day, and can’t possibly use 99% of them. (Gentle hint…)

But this shot was different. Here’s how to make the “06880” sunrise cut:

(Photo/Kevin Carroll)

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George Billis Gallery on Main Street hosts a free, open cocktail reception for its next group show tomorrow (Wednesday, July 21, 5 to 7 p.m.).

Featured artists include Derek Buckner, Julian Cardinal, Alice Federico, Paul Pitsker, Jeffrey Reed and Jarvis Wilcox.

“Key Bird” (Paul Pitsker)

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” image is from Judith Katz’s garden of earthly delights.

(Photo/Judith Katz)

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And finally … on this date in 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk walk on the moon. Ten others have followed. The last 2 — Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt — made the journey in 1972.

There are squintillions of songs with “moon” in the title. These are a few favorites:

Roundup: Bike Lights, Jim Himes, Beechwood Arts …

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“06880” gave the wrong date yesterday for the 42nd annual Compo Beach Point to Point Swim. The correct date is Sunday, July 18.

The rest of the story was correct. Its a ton of fun — and a key fundraiser for the Westport Weston Family YMCA’s aquatics program.

There are awards for the top 3 male and female finishers, and t-shirts for all. To register, click here. For more information email jrojas@wesetporty.org, or call 203-226-8981, ext. 139.

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John Richers writes:

On Monday night I drove on Hillspoint Road, from the Post Road to the Mill Pond. Just before 10 p.m., I saw 3 separate groups of 2 or 3 teens (or “tweens”) on bikes with no lights heading north, probably from the beach.

It was scary! I want parents to know: Please set your kids’ bikes up with lights. A set of rechargeable white front headlight and red taillight can be ordered through Amazon for under $20. A priceless investment! (Most safety-conscious bicyclists use strobing lights in broad daylight to increase visibility and safety.)

Just a moment of driver inattention or distraction could have tragic consequences. Parents need to know the dangers their kids are facing!

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Got a question, complaint or (even) praise for Jim Himes? Tell him in person.

Our congressman holds a “town hall”-style meeting at the Westport Library on Saturday, July 17 (11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.). Seating is limited; click here to register.

Congressman Jim Himes, at a previous “town hall” meeting at Bedford Middle School. (Photo/Dan Woog)

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Speaking of politics: As one of the youngest state politicians in the country, 2014 Staples High School graduate (and state senator) Will Haskell often gets calls from students and recent graduates. They ask how to run for office.

He doesn’t have all the answers. But he’s put his thoughts together in a new Simon & Schuster book. “100,000 First Bosses: My Unlikely Path as a 22-Year-Old Lawmaker” describes his 2018 campaign, and first year in the Connecticut Senate.

Haskell’s book goes on sale in January. It’s available for pre-sale now. Click here to order, and for more information.


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Beechwood Arts’ most popular annual event returns August 1 (2 to 6 p.m.).

The grounds at 52 Weston Road will be open. That’s fitting. This year’s theme is “Opening Up.” It’s Beechwood’s first full, in-person arts immersion experience since fall of 2019.

The event marks Beechwood’s 10th year. Favorite musical artists from the past will be on hand; there are special arts installations too, along with spontaneous community performances, an outdoor artist market and sculptures, all on Beechwood’s beautiful property.

Artists and performers are welcome to share their talents. Click here for tickets, and more information on how to take part.

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When the Westport Rotary Club and Westport Soccer Association partnered on a gently used uniform and equipment drive, they expected a few donations.

What they got was astonishing: over 200 pairs of cleats, 150 soccer balls, dozens of jerseys, backpacks, shin guards, cones, even referee equipment.

It will all be shipped to a club in Nicaragua, which will use all of it. Score a big win for Westport!

Leslie Roberts, former Westport Rotary Club president, with a small portion of the donated soccer gear.

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The Westport Police has joined the Gillespie Center food pantry drive.

Now through August, residents can drop items off at the Gillespie Center courtyard (behind Don Memo restaurant, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays), or the Westport Police Department lobby, across from the Gillespie Center men’s shelter on Jesup Road (any time, 24/7).

Non-perishable items needed include canned meats, tuna, salmon, Spam, pasta sauces, hot and cold cereals, canned fruits and soups, peanut butter, jelly, pasta, mac and cheese, paper goods and reusable bags.

Questions? Call 203-226-3426, or email info@hwhct.org.

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Maya Konig and Kathy Belzer met when their children were in Westport preschool. During the pandemic, they tried to think positively. Their combined love for exploring, experiencing and finding beauty in simple things led them to create Local Luxe Co.

It’s a “gift-giving company.” They source local products from artisans and “emerging makers” throughout the Northeast, and offer them online in seasonal collections. Options include real estate broker closing gifts, and corporate and special events.  

Products include environmentally friendly beach bags made from oyster traps, home accessories, eco-friendly wellness and beauty products for adults and tweens, and snacks and drinks.

Among their local partners: The Two-Oh-Three, Allison Daniels Designs, Laurel & Vine and Rustic Ridge.

A portion of proceeds will be given to Breathe4ALS, the foundation started by Westporters Jonathan and Iris Greenfield. (Click here for the Local Luxe Co. website.)

Gift options from Local Luxe Co.

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Noted artist Barbara Bernstein died last month, from chronic myelomonocytic leukemia. She was 86.

A colorist whose work evokes the legacy of the French Impressionists, she produced landscapes and interiors in both oils and watercolors. She was a founding member of Art/Place Gallery.

Barbara participated in more than 200 group and national juried shows, and won more than 40 awards. She was a juried artists member of the Connecticut Watercolor Society, Connecticut Women Artists and the New Haven Paint and Clay Club. Her works are in the collections of General Electric Corp. the town of Westport and many others.

Passionate about art and education, she received two graduate degrees, in teaching and education. She taught art in the Westport school system for many years.

Barbara was also known for her commitment to social justice. She participated in the 1963 March on Washington, and protested the wars in Vietnam and Iraq in weekly vigils. She was arrested for civil disobedience while protesting the mining of Haiphong Harbor and escalation of the war in Vietnam.

Barbara was also passionate about travel, often bringing her sketchbooks and watercolors on diverse treks. She traveled extensively throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, Central America and New Zealand.

Barbara was preceded in death by her brother Albert and sister Alice. She is survived by her husband Joseph; children Eric, Sara and David; 2 nephews and many cousins.

Services are private. In lieu of flowers, please donate to Planned Parenthood or the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. For information or to sign an online register, click here.

Barbara Bernstein

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“Naturally … Westport” offers up today’s beautiful image:

(Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

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And finally … on this day in 1889, the Wall Street Journal published its first issue.

Also today in 1932, the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached its lowest level of the Great Depression. It closed at 41.22.

Roundup: Bat Girl, Henry Wynne, Mental Health …

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Some things are worth waiting for.

For Gwen Goldman McLoughlin — the Westporter who waited 60 years to be a New York Yankees bat girl — last night was a long-deferred dream come true.

The festivities began even before the game. Tina Cervasio, Channel 5 sportscaster, tweeted this photo of a delighted Gwen, ready to play ball. (Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

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After a 5-hour delay Sunday night — caused by 111-degree heat in Eugene, Oregon — Henry Wynne battled for a spot on the US Olympic track and field team.

The Staples High School Class of 2013 graduate had to finish 3rd in the 1500-meter finals.

Running outside for much of the race, he surged to a 3:37.70 finish. But that was good only for 5th.

Since 2016, Wynne — one of the greatest runners in Connecticut history — has s suffered a knee injury, pneumonia, and surgery on his small intestine. He’s persevered through it all — and COVID — yet came up just short Sunday night.

Henry Wynne, in an indoor race for Staples High. (Photo courtesy of MSG Varsity)

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Tomorrow (Wednesday, June 30, 7 p.m., Westport Library), Silver Hill Hospital’s president and medical director Dr. Andrew Gerber and other experts will present a workshop to help parents learn how to talk with and support children as they try to understand tragedies.

The program is a joint effort of Westport’s Department of Human Services, the Westport Public Schools, Westport Together, and the Westport Prevention Coalition, in partnership with the Library. Click here to register to attend in person. Click here for the livestream link.

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Connecticut’s Superior Court holds remote hearings o 2 proposed settlements, between Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission and developers. These could be the final steps on the road toward construction.

The 157-unit Hiawatha Lane settlement will be discussed on July 19 (10:30 a.m.). The 68-unit Lincoln Street settlement is set for the same day, at 2:30 p.m.

Anyone interested in listening to or participating in the hearing should email abby.bowker@jud.ct.gov, or call 860-548-2851 for instructions.

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Wondering about electrical vehicle incentives and free charging opportunities?

The EV Club of Connecticut has the answers. They’ll provide them during a free virtual webinar: (July 27, 7 p.m.).

The program is co-sponsored by the Town of Westport, and Sustainable Westport. Click here to register, and for more information.

Electric vehicles lined up by the Staples charging stations (from left): Chevy Bolt, Tesla S, VW, Tesla X, Nissan Leafes,

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo is black-and-white — in color:

(Photo/Jamie Walsh)

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And finally … today in 2007, Apple released its first iPhone. The world has never been the same.

 

Roundup: Blight House, Tiny House, Stiles Market …

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Partrick Road is historic, winding and beautiful. Tucked into Westport’s northwest corner, it’s one of our town’s true gems.

Except for the property that’s sat, unoccupied, for nearly 30 years.

First the home was abandoned. Then it became blighted. After it was removed, the lot became overgrown and unkempt.

The 3-decade saga is nearly over. New owners bought the property. They’re planning to build a nice, single family home.

The weeds and rotted wood will soon be gone. The entire neighborhood’s 3 decades of frustration is at an end.

Meanwhile, the homeowners would love to know more about its history — and previous plans to subdivide the land. If you know anything, click “Comments” below.

The formerly blighted house on Partrick Road.

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Require masks, or not? Take a hard line, or soft? Make customers make a choice, or give them options?

With masks largely optional now — but COVID still real — every business has to decide what’s right for their customers (and employees).

It’s not easy. But Stiles Market seems to have threaded the needle as well as anyone. Their sign says:

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

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Aspetuck Land Trust is seeking a community engagement coordinator. This is a paid 11-month service position through TerraCorps — the conservation version of AmeriCorps.

The coordinator would inspire and educate homeowners about how to build biodiversity into their home landscapes and yards. This is a key goal of Aspetuck Land Trust’s Green Corridor Initiative: to save the planet, one conserved acre and one homeowner at a time.

Activities include creating hands-on classes at ALT’s innovative model native landscapes, helping organize th annual native plant sale, and implementing a local “native” garden tour to showcase homeowners who have taken steps to create biodiverse yards. Click here for the full job description.

Qualifications include at least a high school diploma or GED (ideally a 4-year degree). The coordinator should want a career in conservation, and be passionate about repairing our natural world. This is a great opportunity for a recent college graduate to gain valuable work experience with a land trust.

For more information, email David Brant: dbrant@aspetucklandtrust.org.

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Several readers sent photos of last night’s gorgeous moonrise. (Tonight’s is the actual full moon. The “Strawberry Moon” — a signal to Native Americans to pick strawberries — will be the last “supermoon” of 2021, Betsy Pollak says.

“06880” readers sent in plenty of great photos. Among them:

(Photo/Dick Wingate)

And this:

(Photo/Alexandra Gay)

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Politicians love photo ops. And free meals.

So the turnout was great yesterday, when Romanacci Cafe celebrated its expansion on Railroad Place.

Romanacci Xpress — which opened 5 years ago — has moved into the old Commuter Coffee location next door. Owners Graziano and Maurizio Ricci created an inviting new restaurant, with full bar and outside seating.

Guests yesterday were treated to a nice feast, including fresh burrata and seasonal zucchini flowers.

Among the dignitaries in the photo below: Selectmen Jim Marpe, Jen Tooker and Melissa Kane; State Senator Will Haskell; State Representative Jonathan Steinberg; Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce executive director Matthew Mandell; members of the Chamber staff; the Ricci brothers, and their staff.

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Staples High School graduate and volunteer firefighter Peter Zarges died peacefully at home last month. He was 74.

After graduating from Staples High School, he joined the US Navy. He served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk off the coast of Vietnam and North Korea during the Pueblo crisis.

Peter began his 40-year career with the various ATT companies in 1970. He started with Southern New England Telephone, and moved to Southwestern Bell.

His lifelong commitment to the fire service started at Coleytown Volunteer Engine Company #6. He continued with Klein Volunteer Fire Department. Throughout the years he served as lieutenant, captain, district chief and fire marshal. Peter was also an advisor to Exploring Post 31.

Peter is survived by his wife of 49 years, Janet; 2 children, Liz (Kelcey) Trotty and Robert (Corey) Zarges; grandchild Jace Trotty, brother and sister-in-law David and Debbie Zarges and many nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Gary Sinise Foundation or Fisher House.

Peter Zarges

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In all the discussions about current politics, it’s easy to forget Newt Gingrich. But we would not be where we are today without the 1990s-era House Speaker.

Princeton historian and CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer just wrote a new book: Burning Down The House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party.

On July 7 (7 p.m., Zoom) he’ll discuss Gingrich, American politics and more. The program is sponsored by the Westport Library and League of Women Voters. Bruce McGuirk, leader of the Library’s Pages Through the Ages history discussion group, leads the conversation.

Click here to register. Bookplate signed copies of the new paperback are available here.

Julian Zelizer

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Westport Country Playhouse presents a virtual symposium, in conjunction with the on-demand staging of the new comedy “Tiny House.”

The free Symposium features playwright Michael Gotch an WCP associate artistic director David Kennedy. will be on the Playhouse’s website from June 30 through July 18. They’ll hat about the themes of utopia and apocalypse, political polarization, downsizing, escaping urban life, and fresh starts — plus the challenges of producing a play virtually.

In “Tiny House,” fireworks fly when family, friends, and quirky neighbors come together for a Fourth of July barbecue at the off-the-grid, isolated mountain paradise of a young, urban couple.  “Tiny House” streams on demand from June 29 through July 18. A one-night, in-person screening at the Playhouse is set for Tuesday (June 29, 7 p.m.). Click here for more information.

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Lou Weinberg sends today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo — and details:

“Mason bees pollinate up to 80 times more than honeybees. They are native too — and they don’t sting!”

(Photo/Lou Weinberg)

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And finally … yesterday, “06880” saluted Banff, Canada’s first national park. Today we note the 141st anniversary of the first performance of “O Canada.” One hundred years later, it became the country’s official national anthem.

It certainly is a lot easier to sing than ours.

Unsung Hero #196

Less than 3 years ago, the Hausman family suffered an unspeakable tragedy.

Three months after graduating from Staples High School, Corey — the youngest boy — died from what began as a skateboarding accident at the University of Colorado. 

The Hausmans’ life changed forever. Now — thanks in large part to Corey’s mom Nanette — other lives may not change in that tragic way.

Aimee Monroy Smith writes:

This past legislative session, Nanette Hausman spearheaded an effort to make colleges and universities safer, by ensuring that serious safety incidents are included as part of their safety reports.

Corey Hausman (center) with Lucas (left) and Casey (right): “The Brothers.”

This effort required the arduous process of finding legislators to sponsor a bill (which Annette did with our 2 state senators, Will Haskell and Tony Hwang). and advocating for it throughout committee hearings and chamber votes.

Every year, many good bills are raised but never get through the process. They either die in committee, or on a chamber calendar.

Nanette’s advocacy not only brought the bill to a floor vote on the last day of this session; she also galvanized the support of Jason Rojas, the majority leader and likely the most sought after individual on that hectic last day.

Nanette’s advocacy and compassion are remarkable. As someone who has worked in government relations for 20 years, I am inspired by her efforts. They serve as an important reminder about the power of a parent’s story.

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email dwoog@optonline.net. Hat tip: Jeff Mitchell.)

“06880” Podcast: Trey Ellis

Trey Ellis is one of the most interesting — and accomplished — people in Westport.

He is a leading chronicle of the Black experience. An award-winning novelist, Emmy and Peabody-honored filmmaker, playwright and professor of screenwriting in the Graduate School at Columbia University, he recently served as executive producer and interviewer for the HBO documentaries “True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight For Equality,” and “King in the Wilderness.”

The other day, I spoke with Trey. We talked about writing, creativity, Black lives here and elsewhere, raising children in Westport, and much more.

It was a fascinating, wide-ranging conversation. Click here for the newest “06880: The Podcast” episode.

Screenshot from the Trey Ellis podcast.

Pride And Joy In Westport

Over the years, Jesup Green has hosted anti-war and pro-war demonstrations. It’s seen rallies against nuclear arms, antisemitism and AAPI violence, and in support of Black Lives Matter.

Yesterday, Westport’s first LGBTQ Pride celebration took over the historic town lawn. For several years in the early 2000s, smaller events were held at the Unitarian Church.

This one drew 500 people. Spanning all ages, many faiths, and ranging from gay, lesbian, bi, trans and questioning to plenty of straight allies, they enjoyed the most beautiful day of the year so far. (Weather-wise, and in spirit.)

Kicking off a joyful day. (Photo/Kerry Long)

The crowd saw a rainbow flag fly over the green. They heard great music and inspiring speeches from out, proud teenagers. Politicians and clergy praised the progress made, and promised to keep working for social justice and civil rights. Kids had their faces painted.

Westport Pride organizer Brian McGunagle and his 2-year-old son Henry listen as 1st Selectman Jim Marpe — wearing a rainbow tie — reads a town proclamation. (Photo/Kerry Long)

It was a powerful, memorable community event. For some in the crowd, it could have been life-changing.

Another celebrant. (Photo/Lauri Weiser)

It made all who were there immensely proud of their town. (Click here for the News12 report.)

Proud clergy (from left): Rev. Heather Sinclair, United Methodist; Rev. Alison Patton, Saugatuck Congregational; Rev. Dr. John Morehouse, Unitarian; Rev. John Betit, Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal;  Rev. Marcella Gillis, Christ & Holy Trinity. Jewish clergy who were officiating at Saturday services sent their best wishes. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Showing the flag (Photo/Kerry Long)

State Senators Tony Hwang and Will Haskell. Haskell drew laughs when he said that his 3 gay brothers were disappointed the day he brought home a girl. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Staples Players were out in force — with their own prideful t-shirts. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Suzanne Sheridan helped organize Westport’s first Pride festival in 2002. She was part of the great entertainers, along with Stacie Lewis, Julie Loyd and many young singers. (Photo/Kerry Long)

(Photo/Kerry Long)

Former Staples High School principal John Dodig is flanked by his husband Rodger Leonard (left) and Staples Gay-Sexuality Alliance co-advisor Chris Fray. Kayla Iannetta, a biology teacher, is the other advisor, and helped organize the event. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Cornell University football player AJ Konstanty and his brother Colin, a Staples junior, posed, then performed “Your Song” on keyboards and vocals. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Marjorie Almansi, who helped organized the day, stands with her next-door neighbors. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Staples singers entertain the large crowd. (Photo/Kerry Long)

US Congressman Jim Himes discusses past struggles, current successes, and future goals. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Pride was a family event. (Photo/Lauri Weiser)

Weston High School junior Zac Mathias: fashion model — and role model. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Everyone — and everything — gets into the act. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Wave that flag! (Photo/Dan Woog)

 

Hundreds Rally Against Anti-Semitism

Over the past year, Jesup Green has been the meeting place for social justice rallies.

Black Lives Matter and Asian American/Pacific Islander rallies have brought hundreds of people — in those groups, and allies — together to denounce hatred and violence.

Last night, over 300 people — of all faiths, and none — gathered to denounce antisemitism.

Rabbis spoke — and so did other religious leaders, politicians and Westporters. Speakers described incidents around the world, and much closer to home.

The message of solidarity with victims of antisemitism, and the desire for peace in Israel and the Middle East, was strong.

A sense of purpose mixed with feelings of sorrow. Once again, a large crowd united against hate realized: There is so much work to be done.

(Photo/JerriGrahamPhotography.com)

Rabbi Shira Sklar of Temple Shalom — a Staples High School graduate — spoke. (Photo/Darcy Hicks)

Also speaking: Kanwar Singh, a member of the Norwalk Sikh temple. (Photo/Darcy Hicks)

(Photo/Darcy Hicks)

1st Selectman Jim Marpe speaks. (Photo/JerriGrahamPhotography.com)

(Photo/JerriGrahamPhotography.com)

(Photo/JerriGrahamPhotography.com)

(Photo/JerriGrahamPhotography.com)

(Photo/JerriGrahamPhotography.com)

(Photo/JerriGrahamPhotography.com)

 

States Passes Zoning Reform

Yesterday, the Connecticut Senate passed HB 6107 — the same zoning bill passed previously by the state House. Click here for the full text.

As noted by Planning & Zoning Commission chair Danielle Dobin on “06880” last week, the bill contains language specifically requiring towns to consider the impact of development on the Long Island Sound. This provides additional protection against overdevelopment in Saugatuck and around Main Street.

The bill also contains language requiring towns to permit a diversity of housing types, which Westport already does in our zoning code. This will have a real impact in towns across Connecticut that still don’t allow anything other than single family homes.

Westport has added diverse housing in areas like 793 Post Road East. Homes are set back from the Post Road, between residential and retail areas.

The bill creates a blue ribbon commission to look at affordable housing and zoning that’s mostly made up of legislators and various state level commissioners (e.g., Housing, DEEP, Transportation, etc.), as well as representatives from the COGs. This may lead to a revision of 8-30g, the controversial “affordable housing” regulation.

One important provision of the bill exempts new accessory dwelling units and accessory apartments from counting as part of overall dwelling units for 8-30(g). This means that permitting ADUs won’t count against Westport’s compliance with the statute.

The bill requires towns to permit ADUs but also provides an opt-out mechanism for towns where these units aren’t the right fit for infrastructure, soils, etc. Westport also permits ADUs in every single family zone, so this provision will not impact us.

The bill limits parking requirements to 1 space/studio or one-bedroom or 2 spaces/2-bedroom or above but provides an opt-out.

There’s a requirement for 4 hours of commissioner training per year. There’s no draconian penalty for non-compliance.

State Senator Will Haskell calls this “a very modest bill aimed at increasing housing supply in our state.” He praises the work of P&Z commissions in his district, for working together, adding that the legislation “does not infringe on local control, but instead empowers local commissioners to create more housing diversity without altering the look of their community.”

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In other P&Z news, last night Westport’s unanimously approved a new façade and site plan for the old Barnes & Noble building.

The new tenant — who will also occupy the adjacent Marshall’s Shoe Store space — is an as-yet-unnamed grocery store. It’s widely believed around town to be Amazon Go. featuring automated technology.

Coming soon: a new facade — and tenant.