Tag Archives: Avi Kaner

Avi Kaner Hopes To Kick This Can Down The Road

Avi Kaner is a poster boy for civic involvement.

He’s chaired Westport’s Board of Finance, and served as 2nd selectman. He and his wife Liz are active members of Chabad of Westport, and lead philanthropic efforts in this town and Israel.

Now, Avi Kaner is a poster boy — and cover subject — in a battle against expansion of a New York law.

When Crain’s New York Business ran a long story on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to expand the state’s nickel-deposit law to include plastic and glass bottles containing juice, coffee and tea concoctions, plus sports and energy drinks, they illustrated it in print and online with a photo of a less-than-pleased Kaner — holding plastic bottles.

(Photo/Buck Ennis for Crain’s New York Business)

This issue has nothing to do with the Westporter’s civic work. His day job is co-owner of Morton Williams. That’s the family-owned chain of supermarkets, primarily in Manhattan, focused on fresh, organic, specialty and international foods.

Crain’s says Kaner “isn’t relishing the thought of folks bringing in a lot more bottles and cans” to his West 57th Street location. Morton Williams recently spent $10 million, turning the ground floor and lower level into retail space.

“We keep this place nice and clean, in fitting with the neighborhood,” Kaner told Crain’s. “The last thing we need is people bringing more of their garbage here.”

Customers can return up to 240 items a day. They are first stored near a street-facing window, then in the basement.

“It’s not an optimal use of space in a store where rent is $200 per square foot and every inch of shelving counts,” Crain’s says. Workers who sort the returnables earn $15 an hour.

Kaner is not anti-environment.

“Anything that can be done to prevent waste and help the planet is a good thing,” he told Crain’s. “But the economics of recycling don’t work for a business like ours.”

To read the full story — including its possible impact on curbside recycling — click here.

(Hat tip: John Karrel)

Challah On The Merritt

Lea Kaner leads an active life.

The retired Bi-Cultural Day School teacher returned to her Stamford home a few days ago, after a summer in Israel.

Last night, she got on the Merritt Parkway. She headed to Westport, to celebrate Shabbat with her children — former 2nd Selectman Avi Kaner and Celia Offir — and their families.

But her active life ground to a halt. A multi-car accident closed all northbound lanes for almost 2 hours.

On the front seat was Lea’s freshly baked, homemade challah. (As I said, she is very active.)

Lea Kaner (2nd from left) and her 3 children.

After an hour not moving at all, she got out of her car. Soon, she offered her challah to fellow stranded drivers.

They were a diverse group. Only one woman knew what challah is — and she wasn’t Jewish.

So Lea went into teacher mode. She educated them.

A young man in his 20s who runs a gas station was worried about waking up early this morning. He particularly enjoyed the soothing challah.

Everyone else did too. All said it was delicious.

Eventually Lea made it to Westport. They had a late — but treasured — Sabbath meal.

There was no challah. But the chocolate cake Lea baked — and which remained in her car during the long traffic jam — was wonderful.

Lea Kaner’s chocolate cake.

Avi Kaner Does Bloomberg

Westport knows Avi Kaner as our 2nd selectman.

Yesterday, the rest of America knew him as a grocery store expert.

Kaner was interviewed by Bloomberg TV. The subject was Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, and how rival businesses can compete on price.

The owner of Morton Williams — a 15-store New York supermarket chain — could not see the graphics being shown. If he’d been able to, Kaner says, he would have responded specifically to them.

Avi Kaner on TV.

Nonetheless, he did a great job answering questions like how responsive suppliers will be to Kaner compared to Jeff Bezos, and how to avoid a price war when Amazon/Whole Foods doesn’t mind one.

For Kaner’s deep dive into all things avocado, guacamole and banana, click here.

Selectmen Sign ADL Pledge

All 3 Westport selectmen — Jim Marpe, Avi Kaner and Helen Garten — have signed an Anti-Defamation League petition. It requests that President Trump “publicly and unequivocally disavow white supremacy.”

The statement reads:

The White House’s repeated failure to stand up to white supremacy and other forms of domestic extremism emboldens and allows its perpetrators to increase their visibility.

Now is the time for President Trump to name the hate and acknowledge that this is not a matter of equivalence between two sides with similar gripes.

The White House’s refusal to disavow white supremacist ideology as a growing source of extremist violence empowers and abets its perpetrators.

President Trump must personally and unequivocally disavow white supremacy and end the White House’s enabling and tolerating its rise.

To truly take a stand, we urge President Trump to also terminate all staff with any ties to these extremists. There is no rationale for employing people who excuse hateful rhetoric and ugly incitement.

 

Despite Rain, Westport Honors Its Heroes

For the 2nd year in a row, Westport canceled its Memorial Day parade.

But the men and women who gave their lives for our country — and all who served it — were memorialized in a moving ceremony at Town Hall.

2nd selectman Avi Kaner live-streamed it on Facebook. If you missed it, you can watch the impassioned speeches — and hear the stirring music — by clicking here. (The ceremony starts at the 10:30 mark.)

Among the speakers was 1st selectman Jim Marpe. He wove together the past and present, linking yesterday’s heroes with today’s “turbulent and unprecedented” times.

And — continuing a wonderful Westport tradition — he gave a sad roll call of the veterans we’ve lost within the past year. Here is his speech:

Good morning. It is an honor and privilege to be here today. First, I must salute the great gentleman we all love to call Mr. Parade, Bill Vornkahl, president of the Westport Veterans Council. Bill has orchestrated this special event for the last 47 years, in a true demonstration of love and commitment to his town and country. And thank you to everyone who has a role in making this great parade and these ceremonies happen.

Grand marshal Ed Vebell.

In just a few moments, we will hear from this year’s grand marshal, Edward Vebell. Ed is a World War II veteran who joined the Air Force in 1942. He was a member of the 904thCamouflage Unit, dropped behind enemy lines to sketch enemy equipment and positions.

He was also with Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper. We honor and recognize you, Ed, for your bravery under fire and distinguished service to our country.

We gather here today in our cherished annual tradition, to recognize those who sacrificed their lives for our great nation. We also honor the men and women right here among us who have served our country, whether in battle or in support of those who chose to put their country before themselves.

The contrast between our beautiful and peaceful town and the battlegrounds our soldiers experienced seems unimaginable right now. Technological advances and our societal demand for instantaneous news has shaped our experience of war, world conflict and political upheaval through high definition televisions, computer screens, and abrupt notifications on cell phones. We look at world politics, radical terrorism, chemical warfare, revolution and military oppression through a vastly different lens than we did a generation ago.

So how do we manage to uphold traditions and honor our past, but keep up with the technology and fascination with newer and faster means to gather information? What is our responsibility as Westporters in this fast-paced, ever changing world in which we live?

My answer is simple.  Like we have done for decades, we take a breath on the last Monday in May, reflect on our country’s history of great sacrifice and we honor those who have served and continue to serve. We recognize the tradition of Memorial Day. We value the sacrifices made by others to preserve our history and our tradition of civil discourse, where we constantly witness democracy in action despite strong and sometimes opposing views.

This sign on the 2014 parade route said it all.

The issues of the day make it appear as if the divide grows ever greater. But if we look back on our history, and recognize just a few of the lessons of the past, we can see that our democracy has withstood the test of time, despite tremendous cost.

It is almost a cliché to say that the Civil War pitted North against South, brother against brother; that the country could never unite again. Before World War II,the US was stubbornly isolationist. Today, many believe the decision to fight was an easy one, but it was not…it took the attack on Pearl Harbor to hurtle the US into war.

The Vietnam War tore our nation apart, pitting a younger generation against an older one, liberals against conservatives, and those who served against those who objected. Our political climate today, which for many feels turbulent and unprecedented, has in fact mobilized many who are trying to effect change peacefully, through demonstrations and lawful means, which is the bedrock of our country.

As Westporters, we celebrate the ability to disagree in a civil manner, but when the time comes to defend our great nation and the liberties we cherish, our men and women continue to place service to our country above themselves. We honor and thank them all today.

And now, as we have done in years past, I will make special mention of those war veterans who lived in Westport who have passed away this past year, with apologies in advance for any we may have inadvertently omitted.

Bertram Aber
Bruno Arcudi
Ernest (Ernie) Arnow
George F. Avery, Jr.
Alexander (Al) Balas
Robert Brannigan
Russell Brenneman
Erwine T. Buckenmaier, Jr.
Donald Evans Casciato
Frank Clark
C. Steven Crosby
Daniel B. Driscoll
Mary T. Ferruccio
Edward B. Gill
Thelma Gordon
Brett Matthew Hauslaib
James R. Hurley
Robert Kochiss
Kenneth H. Lanouette, Jr.
John Lomartire
Henry R. Loomis
Delmor B. Markoff
George H. Marks, Sr.
James P. McCabe
Frederick Meier, Sr.
Durwood (Woody) C. Milone
Jonathan B. Morris
John Nazzaro, Sr.
H. Elliott Netherton, Jr.
John G. Petti, Jr.
Alan Phelan
Charles T. Raymond
Philip W. Reeves
Estelle Reitano
Warren Rossell
Jack Rotman
Harold Scher
Frank Scotti
John C. Skinner
Jerome T. Spinola
David S. Stein
George L. Sterling
William E. Surrette
Walter (Wally) J. Sutherland
Ronald J. Swenn
Hugh B. Sweeney, Jr.
Albert R. Tremonte
William G. Turner, Jr.
George W. Underhill
Lawrence N. Waterbury

Let us always remember the service that these veterans gave to our country.

When you return to your homes today, enjoy your holiday, and take the time to reflect onwhat the flags, the music, the traditions and the speeches mean, and what you want your children and grandchildren to remember about Westport’s Memorial Day. That it means placing service to your country above yourself, and that the price of democracy, of the ability to debate and disagree in a civil and respectful manner, may mean making the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation. Today, we honor those who made that sacrifice for us all.

Thank you, and best wishes for a wonderful Memorial Day.

On Myrtle Avenue the quintessential Memorial Day view.

Villa Del Sol Sequel: Land Swap Still Alive

This morning’s “06880,” on the travails of Villa Del Sol during the construction phase of Bedford Square, noted that “a proposed land swap — exchanging the restaurant and adjacent parking lot for a parcel across the street — has been scuttled.”

However, despite reports in local media, that land swap is still very much alive.

Second Selectman Avi Kaner said this afternoon that the town has continued negotiations with David Waldman, developer of Bedford Square. That retail/residential project — on the site of the former YMCA — stretches along Church Street, with an entrance on Elm Street.

Kaner says the town and Waldman are close to an agreement on a deal. Details are unavailable. However, the original plan would have traded 36 Elm Street — the site of Villa del Sol — for a section of the town-owned Baldwin parking lot across the street. Waldman hoped to build an 8,477-square foot building behind Lux Bond & Green, with small retail stores and 4 apartments.

Under the original plan the town would demolish the Villa del Sol building, creating additional parking, walkways and greenery.

A view looking south, with the Brooks Corner shopping center at bottom center.

A view of the original land swap looking south. Villa del Sol is the building outlined in yellow at the top. Brooks Corner shopping center is at bottom center. A new building would be built in the outlined lower yellow section.

Kaner presented a status report at a Board of Finance executive session last week, and solicited negotiating advice.

Based on that discussion, he says, it is likely that the Elm Street/Baldwin lot land exchange will be discussed and voted on in an open public session, at the finance board’s April meeting.

Any decision would be subject to approval by other town bodies. The Planning & Zoning Commission has already given the swap a positive 8-24 review.

In this artist's rendering, Here’s an artist’s rendering. The new parking lot (old 36 Elm Street) is at left; across Elm Street is the new building (white), with Serena & Lily next to it.

In this artist’s rendering, the new parking lot (old 36 Elm Street) is at left. Across Elm Street is the new building (white), with Serena & Lily next to it.

 

 

 

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

The scene tonight at Democratic headquarters …

(Photo/Eli Debenham)

(Photo/Eli Debenham)

… and Rizzuto’s, where Republican Town Committee treasurer Joe Sledge, First Selectman Jim Marpe, Second Selectman Avi Kaner and State Representative candidate Cathy Walsh peered at results:

republican-headquarters

(Photo/Chip Stephens)

Donald Trump “Spotted” In Westport

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

At least, a cardboard cutout of him was.

Donald Trump

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

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

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

(Hat tip: Francis Fiolek)

Bart Shuldman: Town Leaders’ Hard Work Controls Costs

Wherever they were last week, Westporters appreciated hearing that our mill rate will actually fall in the coming fiscal year.

Bart Shuldman was in China. On his flight home, he reflected on the news:

Westport taxpayers received good news regarding the mill rate for fiscal year 2016-2017. The Board of Finance approved a 6.8% decrease from the previous year, based on the growth of the Grand List and the good work by Jim Marpe, Avi Kaner and the Board of Finance at controlling costs for the coming year.

In addition, Westport taxpayers will also pay less property tax on their cars. We should all thank Jim, Avi and the Board of Finance for their diligent work, as Westport is not like any other town in Connecticut. Many, if not all surrounding towns are experiencing either small or large mill rate increases.

Westport's 1st and 2nd selectmen: Jim Marpe (left) and Avi Kaner.

Westport’s 1st and 2nd selectmen: Jim Marpe (left) and Avi Kaner.

Westporters also learned additional good news: The town will continue to pay down debt, and also continue to pay the Actuarial Required Contribution for the town employee pension plan. I do not think most people know how important this piece of the news is to all of us.

Some background: Many years ago the town implemented 2 major employee benefit programs, a defined pension plan and something called OPEB (Other Post Employee Benefits). In addition, past town leaders borrowed a lot of money and accumulated a large amount of debt.

In 2011, after a very deep recession, Westport’s debt stood at over $156 million. Our pension liability was over $186 million, and the OPEB liability was more than $84 million.

Making matters worse, for years before 2011 Westport was not funding the Actuarial Required Contribution necessary to meet the pension obligations promised to town employees. Then the stock market went through the 2009 recession, causing pension assets to decline. Westport taxpayers were on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars.

This is NOT a photo of Westport's pension fund.

This is NOT a photo of Westport’s pension fund.

Fast forward to today. With the good work of Jim, Avi and the Board of Finance, the town is in much better financial shape.  While the pension obligation has grown to over $270 million, the pension is 85% funded.

As noted above, Westport is now paying the total Actuarial Required Contribution and also making up for past underpayments. Meanwhile, the town’s debt is down to $115 million.

What might surprise many residents is that debt service, employee pension and OPEB obligations are an enormous percentage of the budget. Principal and interest cost on the town’s debt is over $14 million. Pensions cost the town over $16 million, and it appears OPEB costs over $10 million each year. Therefore, almost 20% of the town’s budget goes to decisions made many years ago, and does not fund current town needs and potential projects.

Westport residents should thank our current town leaders for doing what is needed to control costs and manage the town’s obligations.

2nd Selectman Can’t Get Turned On

The New York Times just posted an interesting article on a technological phenomenon most of us have recently wondered about: Why the new digital-chip credit cards don’t work.

And the star of the piece is Avi Kaner.

The story begins:

Avi Kaner, a co-owner of the Morton Williams supermarket chain in New York, has spent about $700,000 to update the payment terminals at his stores.

Trouble is, he cannot turn them on.

The new terminals can accept credit and debit cards with embedded digital chips, a security feature meant to reduce the number of fraudulent purchases.

But before the payment systems can work, they must be certified, a process that Mr. Kaner and many retailers around the country are waiting to happen. In the case of Morton Williams, the holdup has lasted several months.

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

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

Kaner, of course, is not only an owner of the 15-store, 70-year old grocery retail chain.

He’s also Westport’s 2nd selectman.

When he’s not worrying about produce or credit cards, Kaner helps our town run smoothly.

Much more smoothly, in fact, than that digital-chip credit-card rollout.

(For the full New York Times story, click here.)