Tag Archives: Jim Marpe

Westport Voters Split Tickets: GOP’s Marpe/Tooker On Top, Dems Down-Ballot

Running against 3 opponents, Jim Marpe was chosen by almost exactly half of all Westport voters last night.

The Republican incumbent 1st selectman — and new running mate Jen Tooker — earned 4,187 of the total 8,380 cast (49.96%).

That was 452 more than the 44.57% received by Democrats Melissa Kane and Rob Simmelkjaer.

Trailing far behind were petitioning candidates John Suggs (430 votes, 5.13%) and T.J. Elgin (28 votes, 0.33%).

The results were far different for other races.

Democrats Brian Stern and Lee Caney were re-elected to the Board of Finance. Republican Andrea Moore fills the 3rd seat. Her running mate Vik Muktavaram fell short, and is expected to remain on the Board of Education.

The 4 Board of Ed candidates up for re-election — Democrats Elaine Whitney and Candi Savin, and Republicans Karen Kleine and Jeannie Smith — were all re-elected without opposition. They finished in the order above.

While the Board of Finance and Board of Ed remain in Democratic hands, the Planning & Zoning Commission switches control, from the GOP to the Dems. Democrats Greg Rutstein, Michael Cammeyer and Danielle Dobin won, beating Republican Jon Olefson and Coalition for Westport candidate Jennifer Johnson.

For all Westport election results — including RTM — click here. At the top of the page select “November 2017 Municipal Election,” then choose Westport from the map or drop-down menu below.

1st Selectman’s Race Heads “Home”

Tip O’Neill said that all politics is local. On North Avenue, it doesn’t get more local than water tanks in your neighborhood.

In what may be the only time this year the Democratic and Republican candidates for 1st selectman speak in the same home on the same day — though not together — Melissa Kane and Jim Marpe meet tonight with residents concerned about the planned expansion of Aquarion’s water towers.

The events take place at 66 North Avenue — opposite the Aquarion site.

Last month, Westport’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to approve the 3- to 5-year-construction project. Located directly across from Staples High School, it will more than triple the current water capabilities. Two new 40-foot tanks will replace the one current 12-foot tank.

Aquarion cites fire safety and increased daily usage as reasons for the new tanks. The fire department supports the proposal.

Over 200 residents have signed a petition opposing the project, and a legal challenge is underway.

A photo shows the height of the proposed new water tanks. Since the photo was taken, taller trees have replaced those in the photo.

10 Questions For 1st Selectman Candidates

Anyone can ask the 1st Selectman candidates what they think about taxes, traffic and the future of Main Street. Their answers may not be surprising.

But “06880” wants to know more. We’d like to know what makes these men (and woman) tick. And what makes them Westporters, as opposed to politicians.

So we asked each candidate the same 10 questions. Here are their replies. I chose the fairest way to post them: alphabetically. But — since as a “W” I’m always last — they’re in reverse order. Hah!

What got you to Westport?

John Suggs:  My wife and I were looking for a community in which to raise our newborn twins, with great schools, friendly neighborhoods and unique community character. A place that our kids would always be proud to call home. That is Westport.

Jim Marpe:  Our family moved to the New York City area 30 years ago at the request of my employer, Accenture, following a lengthy expatriate management assignment. By coincidence 2 of our best friends had moved to Westport while we were overseas, so we had already visited several times and gotten a preview of the community. Our daughter was entering elementary school, so the world-class quality of the school system was the primary attraction. But the other attractions were the physical character of the town, the cosmopolitan atmosphere and the wide variety of activities that did not exist in similar places we had lived.

Melissa Kane: I began coming here as a child and have loved it ever since.

TJ Elgin:  My grandparents helped save me from a dark path with my father.

John Suggs and his dog Monty. The photo was obviously taken between October 1 and March 31.

What kept you in Westport?

Suggs: The friendly people, the community ties and the schools which have become a second home for our children.

Marpe:  The Westport public schools are the primary reason we stayed, but by then we were involved in leadership roles with a variety of interesting community service organizations that help a wide cross-section of Westport, including Homes With Hope, the Westport Weston Family Y, Green’s Farms Congregational Church, the Rotary Club, Westport Country Playhouse, the Young Woman’s League, and Neighbors and Newcomers of Westport. My wife, Mary Ellen, was a successful small business owner for over a decade (Westport Academy of Dance). Moreover, we had come to appreciate the wide variety of high quality amenities that Westport offers (Library, beaches, Longshore, performing and visual arts, attractive open spaces) as well as proximity to New York City. In the end, it’s the great friendships we have developed with an amazing array of interesting and involved Westporters that will keep us here for many years to come.

Kane:  My husband proposed to me way out on a sandbar at Old Mill Cove. We love this town and wanted to raise our children here. The overall character, roots in the arts, and the people make it an easy place to love.

Elgin:  My family and friends.

Favorite place in Westport to relax?

Suggs:  Golden Shadows back porch in Baron’s South.

Marpe:  Compo Beach (South) on a summer evening with friends and a picnic dinner. Certainly not Town Hall!

Kane:  Walking on the beach.

Elgin:  Compo Beach.

Favorite place to go when you’re NOT in Westport?

Suggs:  Cape Town, South Africa.

Marpe:  Any place that has small, family-owned vineyards and wineries and a small, quiet inn.

Kane: Hiking in the White Mountains with my family.

Elgin:  Stratford Pyramid Shriners.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe, in the 2013 Memorial Day parade. Behind him are State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, 3rd Selectman Helen Garten and 2nd Selectman Avi Kaner.

Musical group you’d most like to see at the Levitt?

Suggs:  The Boss, Bruce Springsteen.

Marpe:  The Rolling Stones.

Kane:  Ben Folds.

Elgin:  Lights, she is from Canada.

Favorite annual event in Westport, and why?

Suggs:  Staples High School Candlelight Concert. The music by our talented students together — during the holiday season — makes my heart soar.

Marpe:  Memorial Day parade. Truly a local event with a family focus that reflects our small town character, honors our residents who fought for our freedoms, and marks the unofficial beginning of summer.

Kane:  Memorial Day parade. It’s the most wonderful small town, magical event one could imagine. It really captures the spirit of the town like nothing else.  My children have been in it; I love to watch and participate in it. I am also always humbled by the sacrifices that were made by our servicemen and women.  

Elgin:  Fireworks because it’s my first real date with my soon-to-be wife, and Lobsterfest because of old friends I never get to see.

Melissa Kane (right) with her mother, Judith Orseck Katz.

If you could wave a magic wand and change anything about Westport, what would it be?

Suggs:  The traffic congestion.

Marpe:  Traffic would flow easily and freely through all our intersections. The Waze and  Google Maps apps would cease to divert traffic from I-95 and the Merritt Parkway onto our local streets. Our drivers would obey all speed limits and traffic regulations, and observe safe driving etiquette. And our streets would magically widen to become “complete streets” with sidewalks, pedestrian- friendly crosswalks and bicycle lanes, along with plenty of room for cars to pass.

Kane:  Making it a place our children could come back to and our seniors can stay in.

Elgin:  The entitlement. We live in a world where we all need to help each other and our surroundings, to have a brighter future for our planet.

Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts?

Suggs: Neither. The Sherwood Diner.

Marpe: Dunkin’ Donuts. But my real choices are Coffee An’ and Donut Crazy.

Kane:  Coffee An’.

Elgin:  Neither. I don’t drink or eat from places that I don’t know where their products are from.

TJ Elgin and his fiancee, Denise Bahr.

5 words to describe Westport?

Suggs:  Compo, Cribari Bridge, beautiful, home.

Marpe:  Cosmopolitan, active, creative, caring, innovative.

Kane:  Forward-thinking, beautiful, engaged, active, community.

Elgin:  Historical, environmental, artistic, educational, proper.

5 words to describe yourself?

Suggs:  Persistent, dedicated, devoted, father, husband.

Marpe:  Hardworking, proactive, principled, optimistic, collaborative.

Kane:  Collaborative, optimistic, determined, down-to-earth, objective.

Elgin:  Generous, knowledgeable, noble, wolfy, strong.

Selectmen Candidates’ Debate On Thursday

If you were underwhelmed by the presidential debates of 2016, your long national nightmare is over.

On Thursday (October 12, 11:30 a.m. to 1:3o p.m., Westport Library), the 4 candidates for 1st selectmen face off. It should be informative — and substantive.

Republican Jim Marpe, Democrat Melissa Kane and independents John Suggs and Timothy J. Elgin will discuss business-related issues. There’s a good reason: The debate is sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

Moderator Jay Sandak will lead the discussion in areas like the town’s business environment, jobs and taxes.

The event begins with a chance to meet the candidates. At that time, attendees can submit written questions for the debate.

Be Careful Out There!

School starts Thursday. (Sorry, kids — and parents — for the buzzkill.)

To raise awareness — and reduce the chances that notoriously inattentive drivers will be surprised to see school buses and kids sharing the streets – the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association just released a public service video.

Viewers all over the state will see it. It’s clever and punchy. The stars on screen include 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Police Chief Foti Koskinas, and Westport cops, students, athletes — even our buses.

The message is clear: With buses on the road, allow extra travel time. Be alert. Don’t you dare pass when bus lights are flashing. Remind your kids how to behave too.

Perhaps Westport is featured in this statewide video because local drivers are the worst in Connecticut.

Perhaps it’s because the Concept Studio of Westport helped produce the PSA.

Perhaps it’s a combination.

Whatever the reason, it’s well worth watching.

Church’s “Black Lives Matter” Banner Vandalized

It was unclear whether a recent toilet-paper incident near Old Mill Beach was related to a “Black Lives Matter” bumper sticker on the homeowner’s car.

But there’s no mistaking this vandalism.

Westport’s Unitarian Church is known for its focus on diversity, inclusion, openness and dedication to social justice. Its handsome building in the woods off Lyons Plains Road provides a safe haven for individuals, groups and causes of many kinds.

Last October — after a series of fatal police shootings of blacks — the church dedicated a “Black Lives Matter” banner. Speakers at the dedication included TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey; State Senator Toni Boucher; 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, and Rev. Alison Patton of Saugatuck Congregational Church.

The Unitarian Church’s banner.

Unitarian Church representatives say the sign was “just a first step to engage with members of the congregation, local officials, interfaith clergy, and the community to affirm the need for dialogue and non-violent action towards the ending of racism in our society.”

When the banner went up, church officials fielded a number of phone calls. Some were supportive and thankful. Some were questioning. Some were opposed.

David Vita — director of social justice — says, “It made for lively, respectful conversations.”

In the early hours of Thursday morning — just days after neo-Nazis, the KKK and other hate groups marched in Charlottesville — the banner was ripped from its post.

The empty signpost.

Vita says, “It’s hard not to connect the destruction of the banner with a changed political climate, and an emboldened rise in racism.”

Senior minister Rev. Dr. John Morehouse adds, “We presume that those who took our sign feel that by removing it, they repudiate its message that black lives matter just as much as any other life.”

Marpe notes, “Given the current climate in this country and the state, the administration of our town and the Westport Police Department will not stand for this behavior. We will dedicate our resources to identifying the person or persons responsible for this vandalism. We urge our community to be respectful of the opinions of others and their right to express them, even if they may differ from their own. Hatred and bigotry are not welcome here.”

Police Chief Foti Koskinas says, “We support and respect the Unitarian Church, its members and their message of inclusiveness, equality and tolerance.  The police department is working with the church administration to prevent further incidents.”

All that remains of the “Black Lives Matter” banner. (Photo/David Vita)

The church is moving forward. This Sunday’s 10 a.m. service — planned before the incident — is “Heart of Racial Justice.”

Meanwhile, Morehouse promises to replace this sign. If it’s vandalized, it too will be replaced.

That will continue, he says, “until such a time as all lives — black, brown, gay or marginalized — matter as much as white lives do. We will not be intimidated by the forces of bigotry and hate.”

And, he notes, he will commit $100 to the NAACP whenever the banner is vandalized again.

(Anyone with information regarding the vandalism should call the Police Department detective bureau: 203-341-6080.)

BREAKING NEWS: Cribari Bridge Solution May Be At Hand

For years, the state Department of Transportation has pushed for a major renovation of the William Cribari (aka Bridge Street) Bridge.

For just as long, Westporters and town officials have pushed back. They fear that modernizing and widening the 2-lane span over the Saugatuck River would draw traffic — including 18-wheelers — off I-95, whenever there is an accident or delay on the nearby highway.

A solution appears to have been found.

And it’s a creative one.

The William Cribari (Bridge Street) Bridge. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

According to State Representative Jonathan Steinberg, the DOT is prepared to reroute Route 136. Right now, 136 includes North and South Compo Roads, and Bridge Street, through Saugatuck and on out to Saugatuck Avenue headed toward Norwalk.

Under the new plan, Route 136 would join the Post Road (also US1) at the North Compo intersection. It would head over the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown, then go south on Riverside Avenue (also known as Route 33), and on toward Saugatuck Avenue.

Thus, the Cribari Bridge would no longer be a state road.

DOT has agreed to do repair work on the bridge — but not a major renovation.

When repairs are finished, DOT would hand the bridge over to the town. Westport would own it — and be responsible for ongoing and future maintenance.

The bridge and environs would no longer be Route 136.

The plan was described to a bipartisan group of state legislators from the area — Steinberg, State Senators Toni Boucher and Tony Hwang, and State Representative Gail Lavielle — by state DOT officials, including commissioner James Redeker. DOT wanted the legislators’ input, before presenting it to 1st selectman Jim Marpe.

[NOTE: An earlier version of this story described — based on a source — the meeting as a “negotiation.” It was an informational meeting only.]

“It’s not cost-free to the town,” Steinberg admits. “But once in a while we come up with creative solutions that work for everyone.”

He gives credit to the DOT. “If they weren’t on board, we’d still be battling this out,” Steinberg says.

Marpe notes, “The concept has just been presented to me. I’m working with my staff to understand the short-term and long-term implications — including finances and public safety — to the proposal. It’s certainly an alternative that needs to be seriously considered.”

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.

 

John Suggs Joins 1st Selectman Race

The 1st selectman race just got more crowded.

John Suggs has announced his candidacy for Westport’s top spot. The independent — running against Republican incumbent Jim Marpe and Democratic challenger Melissa Kane — plans a 3-pronged platform.

Suggs stresses “advocacy, common sense solutions and a nonpartisan approach.”

As a Representative Town Meeting member for 10 years, Suggs cites his leadership roles on school safety, open space and protecting neighborhoods.

A 25-year professional in asset management analysis, public policy and community development, Suggs currently works in forensic genetic genealogy. His Family Orchard business helps adult adoptees search for and reunite with their birth families.

John Suggs

Suggs says he is running as an independent because “I want to represent all of Westport — not merely the interests of any single party or constituency. In times of toxic, partisan politics, where politicians will say just about anything, true or untrue, to gain an advantage, I will always tell you the truth.”

He wants Westporters to “roll up our sleeves and work harder, smarter, better to reduce traffic congestion, sustain the quality of our schools, revitalize downtown and fill empty storefronts, and preserve our property values.”

Suggs says that local elected officials cost Westport taxpayers money as they “endlessly study our problems with exorbitant fees paid to outside consultants.”

He pledges to “place a moratorium on expensive studies, roll back onerous traffic control measures that aren’t working, refurbish (not replace) the Compo Beach pavilion, and restore (not destroy) the Cribari Bridge in Saugatuck.”

Suggs was born and raised in California. With a BA in political science from Loyola Marymount University, an MS in management and systems from New York University and an MBA from Fordham University, he has served as a public policy director, affordable housing advocate, history teacher and Jesuit seminarian.

He and his wife moved to Westport in 2003 with newborn twins, in large part for the schools. Suggs is an active Assumption Church parishioner, and volunteered as a Little League baseball and basketball coach. For 5 years, the Suggses have been a host family for A Better Chance scholars.

“Despite my long record of working on behalf of the town, I am starting the race as the underdog, going up against both established political parties,” Suggs tells “06880.”

“But having talked — and more importantly, listened — one on one to so many people these past few months, I know that my message to Westporters that we must not allow ourselves to get dragged down into the finger-pointing and blame game of toxic partisan politics by both parties resonates deeply for people across the entire political spectrum.”

He adds, “These next few years will be full of difficult challenges for all Westporters, at the state and federal level.” He urges residents to “put aside partisan bickering and pull together as one community, using our common sense to find our own best solutions to navigate through.”

Among the “common sense solutions” Suggs advocates is “fine-tuning traffic controls to mitigate traffic backups.” Adding 3 seconds to a green arrow helps clear 7 more cars from congested intersections, he says.He’d also restore right turn on red at downtown intersections.

Suggs wants to “adaptively reuse valuable town-owned assets” rather than build new ones. He believes “perfectly sound empty buildings” could be converted to new uses like municipal offices, homes for non-profits and senior housing.

“Let’s listen to our residents when they resoundingly no (or yes),” Suggs says. From railroad parking and replacing the Compo pavilion to funding schools, “local politicians should never presume” to tell Westporters what to believe. The 1st selectman should be “an honest broker to ensure all Westporters have a say, and are satisfied that decisions are being made fairly and honestly.”

Josh Suggs wants to save the William F. Cribari Bridge over the Saugatuck River.

He describes his past advocacy efforts as leading the campaign to “save the Cribari Bridge, and protect Saugatuck and Greens Farms from 18-wheelers”; fighting to restore “critical education funding” to the budget; organzing an effort to preserve nearly 6 acres of endangered land as a state archaeological preserve; being an early and strong proponent of a blighted property ordinance; helping revise guidelines that are now “free and fair to both proponents and opponents of future sanitary sewer extensions,” and leading the campaign to stop construction of a driveway from the Barnes & Noble shopping center onto South Morningside Drive, opposite Greens Farms Elementary School.

Recently, Suggs says, partisan politics has seeped down from national and state levels, “influencing substantive policy decison in our so-called nonpartisan RTM.”

He concludes, “I’ve always been true to my convictions. I’ve entered this race not just to win, but to represent the whole community, encouraging greater civic involvement that will lead to a better Westport.”

(For more information, click here.)

Party On With “06880”

Mary Hoffman supplied the balloons. Yes, they say “06880” — if you face the other direction. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

They came from Westport, Fairfield, Norwalk — and Roxbury and New York City.

They were politicians, musicians, and (probably) a mathematician.

They ranged in age from 6 years old to (at least) 89.

They mixed, mingled, ate and drank.

They talked about everything under the sun — and the sun itself. Fortunately temperatures cooled, a breeze blew in, and the sunset was one of the most spectacular of the year.

Everyone there did not agree on everything — after all, last night was a party, but it was still “06880.”

Yet everyone agreed that wherever we live, we’re lucky to be part of this amazing community — online, and in real Compo Beach life.

Thanks to the 100 or so folks who came to last night’s bash. If you missed it: See you next year!

Politics, Westport style: Republican 1st Selectman Jim Marpe and his challenger, Democrat Melissa Kane, enjoyed the evening. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

So did 2nd Selectman candidates Rob Simmelkjaer (D) and Jen Tooker (R).

Recent “06880 Unsung Heroes of the Week” — and Compo Beach regulars — Mike Calise and Tom Lowrie hung out together.

Hair they are! Photographer Larry Silever and musician Warren Bloom. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Mary Palmieri Gai and Fred Cantor are frequent “06880” commenters. They also curated the current Westport Historical Society exhibit on Westport’s rock music history. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Longtime Westport volunteers — and mid-’60s Staples High School graduates — Bill Scheffler, Ann Sheffer and Miggs Burroughs lent panache to the party. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Carter Klein took home a souvenir: The “6” balloon. He wanted to celebrate his age. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)