Category Archives: Westport life

Fresh Market Foursome

“06880′ has frequently posted photos of drivers who take up 2 parking spaces.

Occasionally, we highlight those who manage to hog 3.

But this may be the first time we’ve run a shot of someone who managed to park one car across 4 different spots.

This may be our worst parker yet.

Or our most entitled.

PS: This was not someone leaving the lot. Photographer Merri Mueller sent other photos, from different — and equally egregious — angles.

(Photo/Merri Mueller)

[OPINION] Rudeness And Bullying At Public Meetings Must End

Last night, the Planning & Zoning Commission met to hear applications for 2 medical marijuana dispensaries in Westport.

They heard a lot more, from the very loud crowd. Things got so bad — despite chair Paul Lebowitz and member Chip Stephens’ pleas for civility — that a 15-minute recess was called.

When the meeting resumed, a Westport police officer stood next to the podium.

A Westport resident who was there — and was appalled at the audience’s rudeness — writes:

This is not about marijuana — medical or recreational. This is not about right or wrong federal, state or local laws. And this is not about one generation or political party.

This is about the total loss of civility, of crowd bullying and very bad behavior in the public process.

Kings Highway Elementary School holds a “kindness week.” Adults in town have not modeled that behavior recently.

In a town known historically for fairness, open-mindedness and respect for each other, the question now looms large: “What has happened to the residents of Westport?”

The past 3 weeks have seen 3 instances of police being called to public hearings at Town Hall because of perceived or actual threats, or physical altercations, during P & Z and Historic District Commission meetings.

These are official hearings, held by volunteer elected residents. They dedicate endless hours because they care about our town.

There is no compensation, beyond an occasional “thank you.” Meetings start at 7 p.m., and often last until 11 or midnight.

They are run by Robert’s Rules of Order, and basic rules of civil meetings. These rules allow elected officials to discuss ideas with each other, presenters and experts — and most importantly, to receive public input and opinion.

The rules are simple. A chair runs the meeting, recognizes speakers, and manages the time of many different submissions.

Audience members are invited to speak when recognized. They are supposed to address the commission on the submission at hand at a podium, after giving their name and address.

When not speaking, all participants — elected officials and and the public — are expected to be silent. They should respect others’ views and words. There should be no clapping, booing, berating or shaming others.

This is called civility. Civility at meetings allows a fair hearing, where all can express their views without fear of retribution or bullying.

At last night’s P & Z meeting there was utter chaos. Speakers incited the public to disorder and shouting. There was public shaming of certain speakers, causing others to leave before their turn to speak.

When the meeting became too disruptive, a break was taken. At that point there was shouting, with threats uttered at the elected officials. A few people actually grabbed a commissioner.

The police were called. A very professional officer reopened the meeting with a straight and strong message: This is a public meeting. You are all expected to be civil, and allow everyone to be heard. Please obey the rules of the meeting. If there are any further physical altercations or threats, the offender would leave with me.

The rudeness continued, albeit toned down. Comments included: “His opinion is wrong; mine is right.” “How dare you?” “How much are you getting paid?” “Why did you call the police? Are you afraid?”

This is not how a well-educated, well-heeled, politically astute and respected town is supposed to act. This is not the way to participate in the open and free political process.

I hope that civility and respect return to Westport soon. Our police have more important matters to attend to. Meanwhile, the list of those willing to serve in elected office continues to shrink.

Easter Bunny Brings Dog Ban

The signs — and the law — are clear: From April 1 to October 1, dogs are not allowed on Compo Beach. 

Or Old Mill, or Burying Hill.

As usual, some Westporters think the rules are merely “suggestions.” An alert “06880” reader writes:

I’m a lifelong Westporter.

My greatest pleasure throughout the years has been to go to the town beaches with family and friends. We visit with one another, swim, walk, and enjoy the sun and fresh air.

We do it every day from May to mid-October, when the water gets too cold to swim. There is nothing better.

Except that a number of dogs show up with their owners after April 1 — despite town laws that dogs are not allowed until October 1.

(Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

I know. You’re surprised that people would be so willing to ignore the signs telling them to “hold it” until the leaves start to turn.

You can’t blame the dogs. They go where they are led. It’s those pesky owners who chomp at the bit to let their “rovers” run free.

We have dogs too. We’ve had them for years.

But we respect the fact that rules are rules. There is a good reason for them — particularly in this instance.

So we don’t bring our dogs to the beach when it’s not allowed. That would be rude and selfish. It would be all about what I (and my loyal friend) would want, disregarding the rules and preference of those who use the beach for all those fun activities I mentioned above.

I’m a little “ruff”led by this lack of courtesy to those of us who want to enjoy a clean beach.

And I’m tired of nicely asking those with dogs to refrain from visiting the town beaches until the calendar turns.

These dogs were legal. The photo was taken on October 11.

If you agree, how do we get the Westport police or dog warden to enforce this quality of life issue. It seems so small, particularly these days, but is really so emblematic of the “me first” mentality that seems to have pattered its way into Westport life?

It’s the small things that often make a difference in the day.

Now how about those speeding cars?

What do you all think?

And In Westport, They Marched For Our Lives Too

All day yesterday, Westporters attended “March For Our Lives” rallies. They traveled to New York, Washington, Hartford and Shelton.

Former Westporters marched in places like Roxbury, Los Angeles, Delray Beach, Florida — and West Palm Beach, getting as close as they could to Mar-a-Lago.

Westporters temporarily finding themselves in places like Patagonia, Chile also marched.

And when it was all over — as dusk was falling — Westporters marched here too.

Over 1,000 friends and neighbors rallied on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge, and on Main Street. Their message was loud and clear: This American scourge must end.

One of many signs, as marchers gathered at the Westport Library. (Photo/Chuck Greenlee)

Poppy Harrington, Marin Banks and Ella Harrington joined over 1,000 Westporters last night. (Photo/Robert Harrington)

On the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. (Photo/Janette Kinnally)

A small part of the large crowd on the Post Road at Main Street. (Photo/Ellen Lautenberg and Kristan Hamlin)

Senator Richard Blumenthal with “Westport Moms.com” Megan Brownstein and Melissa Post.

Marchers on Main Street. (Photo/Annette Norton)

Members of the United Methodist Church stood together. (Photo/Ellyn Gelman)

Their message is clear. (Photo/Bridget Curtis)


Rob Feakins was in Washington yesterday. He compiled this short video. It’s a fitting coda to a passionate day.

 

Medical Marijuana User Offers The Real Dope On Dispensaries

Recent proposals to build 2 medical marijuana dispensaries in Westport — at the sites of the former Bertucci’s and Blockbuster — have caused plenty of controversy.

They’ve also raised many questions — and led to many misconceptions — about medical marijuana in general, dispensaries in particular, and the laws surrounding both.

An alert “06880” reader — who uses medical marijuana, and who for health privacy issues prefers not to be named — writes:

In trying to dispel myths about medical marijuana dispensaries, it’s important to understand how they work. Some people think it’s like going to get milk. Others think legions of people will pour into Westport to use the facility.

There was even a suggestion that we move the dispensary downtown, to boost our economy. The idea was that many patients would buy their pot, then shop.

None of these are true. And none are possible.

To get a medical marijuana license, you must be pre-qualified by your physician. You then must see a state registered and licensed medical practitioner, who submits your paperwork.

The practitioner must see identification with your birth date, address and more. It’s like going to the TSA office for a pre-check or Global Entry card.

But you actually need more than that. You have to bring medical records, and at least 2 different pieces of first class mail addressed to you at the location where your driver’s license or passport says you live.

After the practitioner scans all this information, you pay. It’s a yearly fee. The license is good for only one year. Then you do the process all over again.

Here is the important part. When you go through all this, you must designate which dispensary you will use.

It is not the Wild West. You must pick one dispensary. Your license is valid at only one Connecticut dispensary.

Westport will be able to know — in real time — how many patients will use the dispensary. We will know exactly how many people are coming here to get medical marijuana. And we will know who they are.

Once all of this gets sent to the state, it takes up to 3 months to get your license (though temporary licenses can be received within 30 days). That is, if everything was scanned and submitted properly.

Before you set foot in the facility, you need to bring your regular ID (most likely a driver’s license) and your state-issued medical marijuana ID.

At the door, you put both IDs onto a scanner. The person on the other side takes a few minutes to verify your information. She takes a picture of you, and finally buzzes you in.

Each time you enter, a record is kept for the state — with your picture. It’s more like using your safe deposit box than buying a quart of milk.

Of course, there’s more.

Before going to the one location you have picked, you must make an appointment with the pharmacist at that dispensary. He goes over your medical condition with you, and makes recommendations. He also tells you what your per-month usage is.

There is a purchase limit every month. The amount is enough to treat the symptoms of your disease. I assure you, it is not nearly enough for a patient to become a pot dealer.

Medical marijuana is expensive. In fact, it’s about 3 times more expensive than the equivalent street value. It seems very unfair to the sick and infirm to be price gouged, but that’s the reality.

There currently is no price regulation. Allow that to sink in. If prices are crazy in Bethel, imagine what dispensaries will charge in Westport.

There will not be a steady stream of “riff-raff” coming into our town. Economics point to a much wealthier Fairfield County clientele using the facility. People will not go out of their way to come to Westport. They’ll go to the facility closest to them.

As for the facility itself, location is important. There must be enough handicap parking.

Is it possible to get medical marijuana without being seriously ill? Yes. Some people will skirt the law.

However, most patients are visibly, seriously ill.  Many have prosthetic limbs or oxygen tanks. They use wheelchairs and walkers.

Most people who go into a dispensary don’t even buy pot (as in, the plant). Smoking does not go well with most diseases. Instead they get oils, pills, strips for the tongue, tea or edibles (which are gross — they taste like you’re eating grass. Real grass).

A variety of medical marijuana edibles.

So: no dispensary downtown. People getting medical marijuana are not shopping and strolling. They are sick.

If we really want to help people in need, the dispensary location must be well thought out. It should be in the back of the building. It isn’t right or fair to have seriously ill people hanging out on the Post Road waiting to get in, while everyone drives by and watches.

We need to stop thinking of a dispensary as dirty, and start thinking of it as a medical facility. Your kids are not strolling in to get pot. No one is. Dispensaries are so innocuous in appearance that unless we had this town-wide debate, you’d never know they are there.

Compassionate Care — a medical marijuana facility in Bethel,

So how come medical marijuana can’t be sold in a pharmacy?

A couple of reasons. One is that there is no price regulation.

Another is that it is not FDA-approved.

Also, according to federal law, all pot is illegal.

As for the concerns about what will happen If pot becomes legal. I have no idea. I assume Planning & Zoning will deal with it the same way they deal with wine shops, or people who want to open restaurants that serve alcohol.

But that isn’t really the issue. Medical marijuana dispensaries are not being set up in anticipation of legalization. Medical marijuana is completely different than recreational pot.

That’s not the discussion we should be having. Do we want to offer to help people now, in our town, or would we rather keep making people in need drive 40 minutes away to get relief?

That’s the only question you need to answer.

Local Facebook Resource Sites Are Back

In 2009 — when Cyd Hamer was considering moving from Greenwich to Westport — she met Kami Evans.

Cyd had worked in marketing and sales. Kami’s business — and hobby — was connecting businesses and non-profits with community members.

They became great friends.

Cyd moved here. She got her real estate license. And she became a huge Westport booster.

Cyd Hamer

“It’s got great schools. There’s a cosmopolitan mix. New people are welcomed. The arts are great. The river is right downtown. The beach is a real gathering place. The Levitt brings people together too. It’s a town of action. Things get done,” Cyd says.

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

Two of her most popular pages were Westport and Fairfield Parents, and Fairfield County Friends and Family. Both invited readers to ask about — and recommend — the best local places to shop, upcoming events, and other resources.

But when Kami decided to archive the pages, readers felt lost.

Now Cyd’s resurrected them.

Once again, the 2 pages are buzzing. Readers recently posted:

  • I need a good nanny for my 10-month-old.
  • What’s the best place to park at LaGuardia?
  • Anyone know a nail salon that comes to your home?

Feel free to respond on Cyd’s Facebook pages.

Not here!

 

Who Needs Help?

As it starts to get dark — Daylight Savings is still 3 days away, damn! — there may be some Westporters in need.

If you’ve got:

  • a sick child
  • an urgent need to get out tomorrow, like a medical appointment
  • fears about using your fireplace
  • no more food
  • or anything else…

… there are many of us ready to help.

Please post what you need in the “Comments” below.

And if you’ve got something to offer:

  • A warm bed
  • A shower
  • A ride
  • Advice on generators, sump pumps, low-hanging wires
  • or anything else…

…please post it too.

Anyone in need who wants to be connected privately with someone who has offered help can email me directly (dwoog@optonline.net).

We’re all in this together.

And the next time around, roles could be reversed.

A typical Westport scene today. (Photo/Marcy Sansolo)

“06880” Turns 9. Hmmm, What Kind Of Gift….

Good morning!

Today is no different from any other. Here in Westport you’ll crawl behind a school bus. Your dog will take you for a walk. You’ll click on “06880” to see — well, you never know what you’ll see.

If you’re not in Westport — but somewhere else on the planet — you’ll do your own thing. You too will click on “06880” to find out what’s happening in this wild, wonderful and only slightly weird place you’ve somehow come to know.

That’s the way it’s been since March 6, 2009. For 9 years, I’ve covered it all.

Our beautiful beaches — and their growing crowds. Our wonderful schools, the amazing kids there — and the enormous pressures on them. Entitled drivers, and unsung heroes. The renaissance of Saugatuck, the rise of Bedford Square, and the tumbleweeds on Main Street.

The only sure things in life are death and taxes. I write about them too.

This man is smiling because he loves writing “06880.” (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

Here’s something you may not know: Since that very first post nearly a decade ago, I have not missed a day.

For over 3,200 days — and through nearly 7,800 stories — “06880” has been here. On your desktop, laptop, iPad, iPhone, iWatch, whatever.

The tagline “Where Westport meets the world” means I write about organizations, events, politics, real estate, recreation, people who live here, people who once lived here, people who want to live here, even TV shows about people who live here.

You’ve made nearly 90,000 comments. Together, we’ve made “06880” — the blog — into a true, online community. Every day it lives, breathes and grows.

So does my commitment to it. And to you.

Once a year — on my anniversary — I put out my tin cup. I ask you to help sustain this blog. And me.

You see the stories I write. But you don’t see the research I do. The interviews I conduct. The comments I moderate — and the private emails I respond to. (I answer every one — even from the guy who asked me to post fewer stories, because his inbox was getting full.)

You don’t see the hours I spend scouring the interwebs for photos, the time I spend taking my own — or the photo editing that follows. (You think the latest feature — Pic of the Day — just falls from the sky?!)

Just another Pic of the Day.
(Photo/John Videler)

You don’t see the money I spend on “06880.” I pay to keep it ad-free. I pay for domain mapping. I pay for software upgrades.

And you don’t see that “06880” has become, basically, my full-time job. I’ve gone from a full-time freelance writer to an (almost) full-time freelance blogger.

So: If you like what you read, please consider supporting “06880.” Scroll down — details at the bottom!

Am I worth $1 a month? $1 a week? Perhaps (my choice!) $1 a day!

If  my 7,800 stories have been worth a penny apiece, that’s $78. If half them are worth a dime each, that’s $390. I’ll leave other calculations to you.

I hope that if “06880” has ever

  • made you laugh, cry, think or wonder
  • spurred you to go to an event, read a book, try a restaurant or patronize a store
  • helped you meet a neighbor, or connect with an old friend
  • kept you up to date in a blizzard, hurricane, windstorm or power outage
  • made you feel connected to your new town (or the place you grew up)
  • alerted you to a new housing or zoning development
  • provided a forum for you to rant about an issue, rave about a place, or complain about my own personal politics
  • delivered news about a favorite person, place or thing
  • galvanized you to support a cause
  • publicized your event, book, appearance or concert
  • published your photo
  • honored someone you loved or admired
  • connected you to your hometown from many miles away
  • saved you time or money
  • opened a window on Westport’s history, helped you think about its future, introduced you to someone in town you never knew, or helped you look at someone or someplace in a new way
  • inspired you
  • made you sit up and say “Wow!” (or “Holy f—!”)

— you will consider tossing something my way.

Everyone can contribute — politics be damned. Sure, you know where I stand. But I’ve always given you a voice too.

Just a suggestion.

Thanks for 9 great years. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, whether anyone sends an anniversary gift or not.

We’ll still have our summer “06880” party at the beach — and I’ll still cover both the beauty and the changes of Compo.

It’s all part of “06880.” It’s my honor and privilege to help share it with you.

You can donate by PayPal: click here. It’s easy, safe — and you don’t even need a PayPal account. If you get an error message, go to www.PayPal.com; then log in (or create an account), and send money from the dropdown menu by entering this email address: dwoog@optonline.net. Or click the “Donate” button on the home page of “06880. You can also donate using Venmo!

Checks can be mailed to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Put “06880” on the memo line. It won’t do anything for the IRS, but it may help you remember at tax time why you sent me something.

Camilla’s Blog

Back home in her native Norway, Camilla Moe Røisland had a thriving career.

She spent more than 20 years as a news presenter, reporter and producer, for TV and radio. She worked in communications for the oil, gas and shipping industry, and for unions and organizations.

When her husband was offered a great opportunity — building wind farms off Long Island — she put her own work on hold. Since late September she’s helped their 3 children (and dog) adapt to life in Westport.

Camilla Moe Roisland

It’s an exciting adventure, filled with ups and downs. Camilla loves much about this town (and, from time to time, just shakes her head). Between furnishing her new home, making new friends. figuring out the difference between Stop & Shop and Whole Foods, and spending endless hours behind the wheel, her days are full.

But Camilla is, at heart, a journalist. So she’s eager to share many of her insights — and photos — with her old friends in Norway.

And her new ones here.

Camilla Blogg” is an intriguing look at our town, from one of our newest arrivals. She sees the beauty many of us take for granted — the beach, for example, and Saugatuck Island. She also sees jarring sights many of us never think of — like the “Private Property” signs that keep so many others from enjoying much of our beautiful shoreline.

Camilla is a warm woman. Her writing reflects her outgoing nature.

“People in my situation have to be that way,” she explains. “We need to make friends to survive.”

By reaching out, she’s already made many friends here. Some are Americans; others are Europeans and Australians. She finds Westport to be very open and welcoming. There’s an international flavor, and most people want to help.

(Her children are embarrassed when she walks up to strangers and says, “Sorry, I am new to this country. I don’t know where to find…” Of course, kids all over the world are embarrassed by their parents.)

Camilla’s blog alternates between profound topics and light ones. She toggles between big themes and random encounters.

An early post on the joys of Compo Beach (she could not believe she wore shorts and a t-shirt in the fall) was countered by the heartache of her children’s first day of school.

Camilla illustrated her “first day of school” blog post this way.

Her youngest “looked so small in this huge building,” Camilla wrote. Fortunately, his counselor, teachers and principal seemed great.

“I know he is in good hands,” she said, before adding, “it’s hard when he is really scared that the other kids and the teachers will not understand” what he’s saying.

She concluded: “I cross my fingers, and hope that I will pick up two smiling kids after school today.”

Any mother anywhere could relate to that feeling. And any mother anywhere could share her frustration at hearing Ikea say, over and over, “We are sorry for your inconvenience.”

But it takes an objective, new-to-Westport eye to point out the extent to which automobiles rule life in our suburb.

In Norway, Camilla writes,

our kids are used to either taking the bus, walking or cycling to their schools. We commuted to our jobs by walking, taking the bus, ferry and sometimes a tram. Imagine how much more healthy that is, and it saves the environment for all the pollution from the cars.

She adapted. She bought a car that handles the snowy winter here. But she also “allowed” her husband to buy a Mustang.

Camilla captioned this “Americans and their cars.”

“In the beginning I was a bit unsure if it was tacky or not,” she wrote. “But some British friends assured me that it was cool. I hope they´re right. You might see me driving it around in the area too.”

The Winter Olympics — in which Norway built up a substantial medal lead — provided material for another blog post.

Camilla did not include an incident that meant a lot: When someone at Saugatuck Sweets complimented her on her country’s showing.

But she wrote about the good feeling she felt, in this cosmopolitan town, watching so many nations compete.

“Go Norway and our modern Vikings!” she said. “Go our Scandinavian neighbors, our European friends. And this time, go the US too!”

There is much more to cover. Camilla has noticed how wonderful and well-equipped Westport’s schools are, and the dedication of the teachers. Yet she’s astonished at the amount of homework her kids have — including weekends — and the fact that students must stay indoors when the weather is cold or wet.

“In Norway we have no bad weather,” she laughs. “Just bad clothes.”

She also contrasts Westport schools with those 10 minutes away. There, she notes, “they can’t even afford pencils.”

She loves her proximity to New York City. But she still can’t figure out why the train fare is so expensive, while the cost to drive a car is so cheap.

One of the photos Camilla took to illustrate the beauty of her new home town.

Moving from Norway to Westport was not easy. Camilla has put a lot of work — and thought — into making her new life here.

She loves sharing it all with others — those in her home country, and her new home town.

“I feel very Norwegian in Westport,” she says. “I also feel very European.

“I love Westport. I want to protect it. I’ve met so many nice, welcoming, interesting people. I have a very broad life. We all learn from each other.”

And you can read all about it here.

Westporters From Haiti, Norway React To Trump

Westport is filled with all kinds of people.

We are citizens, and we are on various types of visas. A few of us are undocumented.

We are 1st-, 2nd-, 3rd- and 4th-generation Americans, and more. At least one of us — hey, Jacques Voris! – has had family in Westport for at least 10 generations.

We may be descendants of the Pequot tribe here — I’m not sure. If not, every one of us came from somewhere else.

We came from England, Germany and — hey, Saugatuck! — Italy. We came from Canada, Russia, Japan, India, Brazil, Mexico, Israel, Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria.

We came from Norway. And from Haiti.

In the wake of President Trump’s comments yesterday — do I have to remind you he called Haiti and African nations “shithole” countries, and wondered aloud why we don’t have more immigrants from Norway — I reached out to Westporters from those specific places.

Stephanie Mastocciolo is a 1st-generation American. Her parents moved to the US to continue her grandfather’s work in the Caribbean music industry.

Her mother was adamant that Stephanie and her 2 younger sisters take advantage of the limitless opportunities in the US — in education, and for their careers. Her mother wanted her girls to become well-rounded, open-minded individuals here too.

Stephanie was born and raised in Larchmont, New York. She moved first to Greenwich, then to Westport. She has lived here for 6 years, and has enjoyed raising her 2 children in this community. 

She calls Trump’s comments “offensive, hurtful and very un-American.”

She acknowledges, “Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Yes, it has a lot of political, social and economic problems. But many — if not all — nations do.”

Trump’s comments sadden her, “because America has come a long way to break down stereotypes and barriers that divide people. America was built on the hard work and ideas of people looking for a better way of life.

She adds, “All nations should be referred to with respect and facts, not ignorant opinions. His comments speak for themselves. They show the true colors of the President of the United States.”

Camilla Moe Røisland moved to Westport in September, with her husband (whose company is building windmills off Long Island) and 2 of her children (a 3rd — and their dog — arrived recently). She worked as a news presenter, reporter and producer for Norway’s biggest radio/TV company.

Camilla does not know if she should take Trump’s words as a compliment or not. She is proud of her country — but does not like it being singled out as a “good one” in comparison to others.

“That’s not worthy of a president. Doesn’t he know, or understand, that the US is built up by immigrants throughout history?” she asks. “America’s strength comes from diversity.”

Trump is right, Camilla says, that Norwegians are highly educated in general, and hard-working. But, she adds, “that doesn’t mean that we are better or smarter than others. We are lucky because we live in a country that gives people both opportunities and security.

“We have a good health system. We take care of everyone. And we believe that all are equal — you are worth a lot even if you are not a male, white, heterosexual and rich.”

So why did she and her family move here?

Her husband had a great work opportunity. They looked forward to a new experience.

It was challenging, sure. But Westport is beautiful, Camilla says. They’ve met “so many nice, warm and welcoming people. We love living close to New York, which is a very exciting and fun city.”

It’s also a city filled with people from all over the world. Including Norway and Haiti.

Westport is too.

And I believe that many — if not all — of my fellow Westporters are glad and proud to count Camilla and Stephanie as our neighbors.