Tag Archives: Governor Ned Lamont

Roundup: Governor Lamont; Dr. Jackson; Shel Silverstein; More


On Wednesday, Governor Ned Lamont spoke to the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, by Zoom. He discussed a variety of topics, including (of course) business concerns, and took questions from listeneres. Click below to see his talk.


Parks and Recreation director Jen Fava says: “Based upon changes in the governor’s restrictions on gathering size and the Phase 2 reopening guidelines, athletic fields are now open to the general public unless a permit has been issued by the Parks and Recreation department.

“The department is working closely with local organizations like Westport Little League, Staples High School athletics, Continuing Education and others to ensure they have the proper protocols and self-certification in place to meet state requirements before permits are issued. This process is taking place for leagues as well as for other groups that utilize our facilities to run various clinics and summer programs.” 

All valid permits supersede general public use. Gathering size is limited to 100. PJ Romano (Saugatuck Elementary School) and Jinny Parker (Staples field hockey) fields remain closed for the summer due to construction.

Starting yesterday, the Longshore golf ldriving range and practice putting area are open as well. Driving range balls will be available at the ball machine only ($6 per basket). The machine accepts only $1 and $5 bills; exact change is required.

Starting Tuesday (June 23), an additional half hour of tee times will be available Mondays through Thursdays, starting at 7:30 a.m.

NOTE: Social distancing and face covering rules must be followed at all Westport Parks and Recreation facilities.

The Wakeman athletic fields are among those that have reopened.


Dr. Tiffany Renee Jackson has an amazing story. She grew up in a tough New Haven neighborhood, developed her singing gift in church, walked to lessons at Yale, and is now an international opera star.

She has many ties to Westport. She has sung at the Unitarian Church, taught at Greens Farms Academy, spoken at the Arts Advisory Council’s “Tea Talk,” and been part of Beechwood’s Immersive Arts Salon.

Dr. Jackson has developed an inspiring one-woman show: “From The Hood To The Ivy League (and Back).” Tonight (Friday, June 19, 7 to 9 p.m.) — in honor of Juneteenth — she sings and performs that show, as part of Beechwood’s Amplify Festival. Click here for tonight’s Facebook Live stream.

Dr. Tiffany Renee Jackson


With the Westport Library and Levitt Pavilion closed, it may be a while since you’ve been to the Riverwalk.

But the next time you’re at that beautiful, calm-in-the-midst-of-downtown spot, check out the Storybook Project.

Created by Anne Ferguson, with thanks to the library and Westport Parks & Recreation, it’s a series of 30 or so charmingly illustrated pages from Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving.”

Spaced appropriately more than 6 feet apart, the installation runs the length of the Riverwalk and garden. The pages recount the friendship and conversation between a small boy and a tree. Both lonely, they share their innermost thoughts.

The pages are attached to sticks in the ground, and the intervals encourage visitors onward to read each page as they walk. The black and white sketches are beautiful, and begin below the steps at the back of the library. (Hat tip: Jill Amadio)


This week’s #FridayFlowers can be found on the steps of Christ & Holy Trinity Church.

The beautiful arrangement was created by Dottie Fincher and Janet Wolgast, longtime Westport Garden Club members.


For months, the few people parking at or passing through the railroad station eastbound parking lot have seen a red Ford Escort, plunked in the middle of the lot. It never moved.

Folks were worried. What happened to the owner? Was he okay? A month ago, “06880” ran a photo.

Now, Wendy Cusick reports, the car is gone. Which brings up more questions: Did the owner finally return? Was it towed? Again: What about the driver?

If anyone knows, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Caroly Van Duyn)


Just published: About that Wine I Gave You: Dreams of Love, Life and Death in the Vineyard. The novel — about winemaking in San Diego, with themes of friendship, survival, love, aging, immigration, theology and racism — is the debut work of Craig Justice.

A 1977 graduate of Staples High School, he’s had a varied career. After Duke he interned with NATO; learned to speak French, German, Russian and Japanese; wrote for the International Herald Tribune; earned an MBA, and embarked on a career in the projector industry.

He and his wife began making wine in their California garage in 2004. They now have 1,000 vines.

Growing up here, Justice worked at Chez Pierre restaurant. The staff came from around the world, giving him an open-minded world view that he retains today.

Whenever he’s back east he heads to Westport. He walks on the beach, then heads to a coffee shop or library to write (when that’s allowed).

For more information — including how to order Justice’s book — click here.

Craig Justice


And finally … as Westport opens up, this seems like the perfect up-tempo tune. The next time you go inside for some java, think of Al Hirt.

Roundup: Governor Lamont, Marc Lasry Speak; Musicians Play; Helicopter Flies; More


Phase 2 of Connecticut’s reopening begins next Wednesday (June 17). It’s a big day for Governor Ned Lamont. And at 9 a.m., he shares it with the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

He’s the special guest and speaker for their virtual “Morning Network” meeting. The event is free — and open to all.

Lamont will give an update on the pandemic, discuss the next phase in reopening, offer his views on the future, and answer questions. They may be submitted ahead of time by email, or through the chat function during the event.

Pre-registration is required; click here.

Governor Ned Lamont


Also virtual — and also featuring big names — is the Westport Library’s next Trefz Newsmakers series.

CBS News justice and homeland security correspondent (and 1988 Staples High School graduate) Jeff Pegues interviews billionaire businessman, hedge fund manager, major Democratic Party donor, Milwaukee Bucks co-owner (and Westport resident) Marc Lasry.

They’ll talk about Lasry’s career, how he gives back, his advice for entrepreneurs, and COVID-19’s effect on business and the sports world.

To register, click here.


Driving around Westport and Weston, Aarti Khosla has been touched by the many yard signs and balloons congratulating high school and middle school graduates. She’s been impressed by the banners on Main Street, not far from Le Rouge — her “aartisan” chocolate shop.

But as she thought about all that’s going on America today, she was inspired to act on the words that she fervently believes in: “Spread love.” And what better place to spread love than nearby Bridgeport?

She called the superintendent of schools, and offered to celebrate their graduates with “Give a Little Love” hearts. Here’s her message to “06880” readers:

“Next week, 1115 Bridgeport students will graduate from high school. This is an enormous accomplishment. We recognize the obstacles they overcame to achieve success.

“Le Rouge asks for your support in celebrating these graduates. We will make chocolate hearts to celebrate every Bridgeport high school senior. If each Westport graduating senior — or a relative or friend, or perfect stranger — agrees to celebrate 3 Bridgeport students with a $25 sponsorship, we can give our love to the entire community via chocolate hearts.

“We have until next Monday to make this a reality. Click here to help.”

Aarti Khosla’s wonderful chocolates

 


Some youngsters returned to their elementary schools for the first time since March today. It was also their last time at “their” school.

“Moving up” car parades were held for 5th graders around town. This was the scene captured by Kings Highway Elementary School parent Tricia Lau-Lewis.

All 5 kids went to KHS. The youngest will be in 5th grade there next year.

Meanwhile, after the Saugatuck El parade, Carolyn Doan’s family headed to Sunny Daes. They met some Greens Farms Elementary folks there (below).

(Photo/Carolyn Doan)


MoCA Westport shut down in mid-March. But their beautiful Steinway grand piano did not sit idle.

As part of their pandemic programming, they invited accomplished local pianists to perform. They filmed them, and shared the virtual concerts free on their YouTube page.

Pianists are invited to play music of their choice. Some — like Chris Coogan — are inspired by MoCA’s current Helmut Lang exhibition. He wrote and performed an original piece.

This week’s performance features two Staples students. Patrick Looby and Lucas Lieberman are rising seniors. They played together in November, at Carnegie Hall.

For MoCA they play Aram Khachaturian’s  lively waltz “Masquerade.” Enjoy!


More music news! Drew Angus — the 2007 Staples High School grad profiled recently on “06880” as an example of a gig worker navigating his way through the coronavirus crisis — performs via Zoom this Friday (June 12, 12 noon).

It’s a Westport Senior Center production — but it’s open to everyone who wants to hear the work of this talented young singer/songwriter.

Click here for the Zoom link (meeting ID: 883 1489 6846; password: 2DHJSV). It’s also available on Facebook (click here, or search for Toquet Hall).


Here’s a sight you don’t see every day: Yesterday, a helicopter apparently headed for a landing at Old Mill Beach or Sherwood Island State Park.

If you know the back story, click “Comment” below.


And finally … this is a poignant song at any time. Particularly at graduation. And really particularly this year.

Here’s to the Class of 2020. You haven’t seen each other for a while. But you’ve come a long way from where you began. I hope you see each other for a long time, soon.

He’s A Winner! Simmelkjaer Named CT Lottery Chair

It’s a good bet that Westporters know the new chair of the Connecticut Lottery Corporation’s board of directors.

The other day, Governor Ned Lamont named Rob Simmelkjaer to fill the vacant position.

A former member of the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Democratic Town Committee, he was 1st selectman candidate Melissa Kane’s running mate 3 years ago.

Rob Simmelkjaer

He’s now founder and CEO of Persona Media, the interview and conversation-focused social media startup.

His face is also familiar to many beyond Westport. Simmelkjaer was an on-air contributor for NBC Sports, where he also served as vice president of NBC Sports Ventures. He previously worked at ESPN and ABC News.

So how does that prepare the Dartmouth College and Harvard University Law School graduate to head up the Connecticut Lottery, which since it began in 1972 has contributed more than $10 billion to the state’s general fund?

Simmelkjaer says that at NBC, he learned about the impact of sports betting — and the effect of all legal gaming on state economies. He spent time with CT Lottery CEO Greg Smith, and learned about its opportunities and challenges.

Lotteries are well established in every segment of American society, the new chair says.

Many Westporters buy tickets, especially when the jackpot is high. Simmelkjaer did too. (Iin his new position, he’s prohibited from winning.)

“I’ve always seen it as a relatively inexpensive form of entertainment,” he says. In the 1960s and ’70s his grandmother played the underground numbers in Harlem for $5 a week. When lotteries became legal, his father played the big jackpots.

Of course, Simmelkjaer says, with any form of gaming there is a potential for a small percentage of people to become addicted. Any expansion — such as online lottery sales, online casino games or sports betting — must provide help for anyone in trouble.

Lamont said his appointee’s “sharp eye and keen management style will provide the agency with a greatly-needed refresh.”

That’s a reference to the fact that although the lottery sold $1.3 billion worth of tickets last year, and contributed $370 million to the general fund, the agency has been rocked by a retailer fraud scandal, and a mistake-filled New Year’s Day promotion.

As chair — an unpaid position — Simmelkjaer will help set strategies and priorities. He’s a conduit between the governor and legislators.

“Responsible gaming can play an important role in the fiscal recovery of Connecticut from the current crisis,” the new chair says. “I look forward to working with the CEO and other key stakeholders to ensure that we grow the state’s gaming revenue, while ensuring the highest standards of compliance and oversight.”

COVID Roundup: State Reopens; Wrestlers Run; Food Collected; More

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce passes along this information for businesses, about the reopening of the state.

The first phase — including restaurants, offices, hair salons, barber shops, retail stores, outdoor museums and zoos — should take effect May 20.

Governor Lamont stresses that the decision to reopen during this phase rests with each individual business owner. They are not required to open. However,  those that do must follow all rules.

Those rules are available at ct.gov/coronavirus, and can be downloaded directly through the links below:

All businesses subject to these rules will be required to self-certify before opening on May 20. The certification system will be online beginning next week.

For more information, click here.


When Sal and Melissa Augeri found a few boxes of school supplies in their attic, they knew just who to call: Alex Kappel.

An assistant coach for the Staples High School wrestling team on which the Augeris’ son Nick is a star sophomore, Kappel is also an elementary school teacher in Bridgeport. Many families there have limited access to food and other resources.

The Augeris called several team members. Soon they had more supplies and food for “Coach Kap.”

But the wrestlers wanted to do more. On May 23, they’ll be “Running Across Westport.” One athlete starts; he’ll run to the next wrestler’s house and “tag” him (from 6 feet away, of course). The second wrestler will continue on. The high-powered Staples team has dozens of athletes, so it should be quite a run.

In return, the team asks for cash donations. They’ll use the funds to buy even more supplies and food. Any amount is welcome; just Venmo @Staples-Matmen.

Questions? Email salaugeri@me.com.

Team spirit is a hallmark of the Staples wrestling program. They support each other very enthusiastically. (Photo/Jose Villaluz)


Ariana Napier’s food drive bears fruit. On Friday she delivered 396 pounds of items — much of it donated by Westporters to the Bridgeport Rescue Mission.

She’ll continue to collect food, and deliver it every Friday. Her address is 14 Jennings Court (off Bayberry Lane). Items most needed this week: cereal; mac and cheese (box), jelly (no glass).


Another food drive — Homes With Hope‘s — was a great success yesterday. Volunteers — including Staples students — helped out. But the need continues, and another collection is set for tomorrow (Monday, May 11, 2 to 4 p.m.). Non-perishable goods can be brought to the Gillespie Center, behind Restoration Hardware. Stay in your car; pop your trunk; someone will take your donation.


Meanwhile, Kathie Motes Bennewitz spotted these great messages on a bench at Grace Salmon Park:


And finally … many Westporters love The Sweet Remains. The longtime folk/rock band was co-founded by Greg Naughton. He grew up in Weston, and now lives here with his wife, Kelli O’Hara.

A few days ago they released this “love song in the age of ‘shelter in place.'” It truly is lovely — and sweet.

COVID-19: Local, State Updates

Westport municipal offices — including Town Hall, the Senior Center and the Parks & Recreation Department office — will remain closed to the public at least through March 31. Public meetings are canceled through at least that date too.

However, staff will be available by phone or email weekdays, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. First Selectman Jim Marpe urges residents to be patient regarding response time.

He adds, “The public is also encouraged to utilize the town’s online services, such as paying taxes electronically.” The town’s website is www.westportct.gov.

Town Hall is closed. However, employees will be available by phone and email. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)


State Representative Jonathan Steinberg reports that Governor Ned Lamont is launching a Joint Information Center to coordinate Connecticut’s response to COVID-19.

The goal is to provide residents, municipalities, school districts, hospitals, medical providers, colleges and universities, the business community, the media and others with specific information related to the state’s response to the virus outbreak..

There are many ways to stay up-to-date about COVID-19:

  • CT-N carries the Governor’s press conferences (with sign language)
  • Call  211 24/7 with questions about COVID-19
  • Text  CTCOVID to 898211 for updates
  • Smart Speaker:  Ask for the 411 Coronavirus podcast
  • For the blind without TTY capabilities, the CDC and national news updates are shared through the TuneInCOVIDUpdates podcast

Here are resources for small business owners:

Note also:

  • The state Insurance Department commissioner told all travel insurers that they should accommodate travel cancellation requests and take into account the circumstances of the state of emergency.
  • State civil statutes prohibit price gouging. The attorney general will be monitoring closely. If you suspect price gouging, file a complaint immediately with the Attorney General’s Office by calling 860-808-5318.
  • Eversource has suspended all disconnects for customers until the governor lifts the state of emergency.  This applies to electric, gas and water companies that are not municipally owned.

Lamont Discourages Gatherings Of More Than 100 People

First Selectman Jim Marpe has passed along word that Governor Ned Lamont and the state Department of Public Health are discouraging large public gatherings attracting more than 100 persons, in response to the COVID-19 virus.

Marpe says:

 The state has partially activated its Emergency Operations center in response to the accelerating impact of the COVID-19 virus into the region and the growing threat within the state. The center held a conference call today at 5 p.m. for all emergency operations managers, municipal chief elected officials and key staff to hear an update of the recommended protocol.

According to Lamont, large crowds or places where individuals are shoulder-to-shoulder are considered the most dangerous and should be avoided, particularly for individuals over the age of 60.

While the directive is neither a mandate nor a declaration of a state of
emergency, the governor’s message was clear that the state needs to implement policies that discourage the spread of the virus.

Governor Ned Lamont

For example, Lamont is also instituting a freeze on out-of-state business travel for all state employees, as well as the postponement of any state-organized conferences anticipated to have more than 100 people in attendance, and urging
private employers to consider similar precautions.

The chief elected officials and superintendents of schools are responsible for the decisions and details on how localities respond to this directive. Marpe is working closely with interim superintendent Dr. David Abbey on a plan to address this recommendation locally.

Marpe says, “Based on the directive from the governor’s office, the town of Westport strongly encourages residents to re-think attendance at gatherings of more than 100 individuals and large gatherings where individuals might be shoulder-to-shoulder. We recognize that this will impact a number of recurring or long-planned and important activities, but we ask organizers and attendees to give appropriate consideration to the governor’s request.”

Town administration and the Board of Education are following the guidelines
from the CT DPH, with support and guidance from the Westport Weston Health District

For the time being, town functions are operating as normal, but with extra attention given to cleanliness and disinfection of the facilities and equipment.

COVID-19 is an evolving situation and today’s announcement is an example of that. There has been ongoing planning and decision-making in response to the situation, and residents are encouraged to maintain connections with the town resources so that up-to-date information can be received effectively, efficiently, and as quickly as possible.

State Representative Jonathan Steinberg (left), who co-chairs the Legislature’s Public Health Committee, and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe demonstrate the best way to say hello, COVAD-19-style.

To keep residents, students and businesses informed, the town will utilize press releases, its website, and its social media pages for all of its COVID-19 announcements.

  • The Westport emergency notification system is a text message-based alert system run by the Fire Department. Any resident not already signed up for these notifications can text 06880 to 888777 to subscribe.
  • The Town webpage dedicated to COVID-19 can be found at Westportct.gov/COVID-19.
  • The hashtag #WestportctCOVID-19info will be used for updated information on the town’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter social media accounts. This will also be utilized by the Fire, Police and Parks Departments.
  • To follow the Town’s press release coverage, go to WestportCT.Gov/subscribe and select “town news.”

The Department of Public Works has instituted an extra rigorous cleaning regimen in all public spaces, and released information on Friday alerting staff and elected officials of its procedures and best practices.

The Board of Education sent a coronavirus update informing parents of the importance of hand washing and the district’s use of cleaning agents, as well as
contingency planning.

On Tuesday, March 10, the schools will have a 3-hour delay so that
professionals can prepare for the possibility of home-based learning.

The town management, public safety professionals, the WWHD leadership and all department heads are working together with the Westport Public Schools to design contingency plans if the situation evolves to a point where town and school functions may need to be altered.

For example, the Board of Education is examining home-based instructional continuity and other strategies in the event of a school or district closing.

Town Hall staff are preparing to offer some public services on a remote basis if necessary. The Senior Center Activities is also preparing to operate as a drop-in-center in case programs must be cancelled.

Conducting public meetings may become challenging, but much of this will have to be determined based on a case-by-case basis.

For the time being, Marpe urged residents to follow these best practices to
prevent the spread of COVID-19:

Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. Cough or sneeze into your sleeve, not your hand.

  • Wash your hands frequently. While hand sanitizer may be effective, vigorous hand washing using regular soap is best.
  • Greet others with an elbow bump instead of a handshake.
  • Stay home if you are feeling unwell.
  • If you feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or if you live in or have recently traveled from a high-risk area, contact your health professional.

Westport Celebrates: Transformation Complete, Library Opens!

If you want to know what kind of town Westport is, consider this:

On a Sunday morning — the most beautiful day of summer (so far) — 1,000 or so men, women and kids turned out to celebrate the re-opening of our library.

Plus this: The multi-year project came in on time.

And within budget.

A large crowd waited for the opening ceremony.

There were brief speeches by Governor Ned Lamont and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

Governor Ned Lamont — whose family endowed a library at Harvard University — talks about their importance.

A band played. Dozens of kids jumped in for the ribbon-cutting.

Kids celebrate, moments after 1st Selectman Jim Marpe cut the ribbon.

Then everyone clambered up the very new stairs, to the great new entrance. As Marpe noted, the library — originally a gift from Morris Jesup — now embraces Jesup Green, named for the founder’s family.

A brass band plays, as the crowd streams up the steps.

It’s a spectacular building we can all be proud of. It will evolve and be used in ways we have not yet even imagined.

Within minutes of the opening, the grandstand was packed.

Today was a great day for Westport. If you haven’t seen it yet: The festivities continue until 4 p.m.

To all who made today possible — especially our amazing library director Bill Harmer — thank you!

Music on the main stage, dance, podcasts, educational sessions, even composting and bees — it’s all on, all afternoon at the new library, until 4 pm. (All photos/Dan Woog)

Governor Lamont To Cut The Library Ribbon

Tomorrow’s fun, festive Westport Library Transformation Project ribbon-cutting ceremony just got more high-powered.

Governor Lamont has agreed to do the honors.

The event starts promptly at 11 a.m. Everyone will gather on Jesup Green, at the new “Grand Staircase.”

Andrew Wilk will introduce First Selectman Jim Marpe. He’ll say a few words, and introduce the governor.

The new Jesup Green grand staircase.

After the ribbon-cutting, the Hartford Hot Several Brass Band will play. They’ll lead the crowd into the new Library. The Forum will be the site of the first official event: a few short words from Library board president Iain Bruce, project architect Henry Myerberg, and executive director Bill Harmer.

Then comes 5 hours of interactive fun. Bands, artists, live podcasts, a performance by world-renowned/Westport neighbor pianist Frederic Chiu, children’s music, discussions, acoustic guitar, dance, exhibits, MakerSpace demos — that and much more is in store.

See you at the Grand Staircase!

Ned Lamont Has To Go

Alert “06880” reader/Donut Crazy fan John Karrel was minding his own business, drinking an iced coffee and sitting on a sofa in the sugar-laden shop on the eastbound side of the train station around 3 this afternoon.

All of a sudden, in walked Governor Lamont, with 2 of his security detail.

Was he there for a strawberry frosted sprinkle donut? A cinnamon sugar cake? Perhaps one with shamrocks (special for St. Patrick’s Day week)?

Maybe the state’s chief executive was checking on the progress of our Transit Oriented Design Master Plan Committee?

Nope.

The governor had to use the restroom.

As he was leaving — without ordering — John chatted him up. They exchanged pleasantries.

No one else recognized him.

Par for the course, when it comes to Fairfield County and Hartford politicians?

Or crazy?

Have you seen this man? John Karrel did.