Tag Archives: Westport Democratic Town Committee

[UPDATE — CORRECT VERSION] Westport Women On The Move

I posted the wrong version of this story earlier today — and omitted photos. The correct date of the march is next Sunday — March 26. Here is the version with photos. My apologies!

It seems like decades. But it’s only been a few weeks since the beginning of the Trump administration.

That’s when Darcy Hicks was getting tired of her worldly concerns being confined to Facebook feeds.

She knew a few others. Soon, 10 friends assembled in her Westport home, to write postcards to politicans.

That grew to a group of 40 Westporters. All said the same thing: How can we be more active?

A couple of days later, “06880”‘s Friday Flashback highlighted Kathie Motes Bennewitz’s story about the Equal Franchise League. Way back in 1913, women demanded suffrage — and marched — right here in Westport.

As Darcy’s postcard group grew into (yes) a Facebook page — DefenDemocracy of CT — a few members reacted with nostalgia. As they met in kitchens, they shared stories of their own pasts as activists, and the role of Westport and Connecticut in activism.

Lauren Soloff, Lisa Bowman and Darcy Hicks, all actively engaged.

Lauren Soloff Malowitz — Darcy’s neighbor when she moved back here 23 years ago — had marched for women’s right to choose. Lisa Bowman — who drove to Pennsylvania with Darcy 8 years ago, to knock on doors during Barack Obama’s first presidential run — had grown up marching with her parents, against nuclear weapons.

Nita Prasad had been very active as a Berkeley student. She helped shut down the San Francisco Bay Bridge after the Rodney King verdict, and raised funds for Oxfam.

Darcy Hicks (front right) demanded that Smith College divest from South Africa — and made the cover of this Newsweek campus publication.

As a student herself, Darcy helped take over the Smith College administration building, until trustees divested from the apartheid regime in South Africa.

The women are still active, in a variety of ways.

Nita — a professor of world history at Quinnipiac University — helps mobilize students and faculty in support of the national popular vote project.

After a long career in broadcasting, Lisa has been a fundraiser for the Democratic State Central Committee and the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

Lauren, a lawyer, fundraises for Homes With Hope. Darcy teaches children in Bridgeport and New Haven in Visual Literacy, an arts and language skills program she developed at Yale.

Darcy’s group wondered what their own kids — and others — who are so addicted to social media were learning about activism and social engagement. They decided that if a group of Westport women could march in 1913 — despite what must have been formidable obstacles — then they could do the same.

So on Sunday, March 26, a “CT on the Move March to Defend Democracy — One Small State, One Big Voice” march is set for downtown Westport. It begins at noon at Jesup Green, and ends at Veterans Green. Senator Chris Murphy is the keynote speaker.

“The idea is to celebrate Westport’s history of fighting for change,” Darcy says.

“Westport has often lived up to Connecticut’s ‘Constitution State’ nickname. From our revolutionary history to the examples we set advocating for abolition, women’s rights, civil rights and more, we are a community that does not stay quiet when we want change.”

This is more than a political rally, Darcy explains. “Really, it’s a reminder to all of us that we are part of a very special community — one that is fortunate, but that cares for those who aren’t. That is patriotism.”

Since first publicizing the march, Darcy’s group has joined with many others, new and established: Indivisible, Love in Action, 203 Action, Pantsuit Nation CT, the Westport Democratic Town Committee, and Staples High School’s Young Democrats and Social Activism clubs.

Darcy and her band of once-and-future activists are excited to be back in action.

They’re even more excited that younger folks — like Staples senior Lulu Stracher — are joining them.

“This is one generation showing a younger one that real change needs to happen outside of social media,” Darcy says.

“Engagement lives on. We look forward to passing the torch!”

(For more information, click here or email darcyhicksdtt@gmail.com)

Lauren Soloff at a Planned Parenthood rally, back in the day. She’s third from the left (not counting President Reagan), standing next to Vice President Bush.

[UPDATE — CORRECT VERSION] Westport Women On The Move

I posted the wrong version of this story earlier today — and omitted photos. The correct date of the march is next Sunday — March 26. Here is the version with photos. My apologies!

It seems like decades. But it’s only been a few weeks since the beginning of the Trump administration.

That’s when Darcy Hicks was getting tired of her worldly concerns being confined to Facebook feeds.

She knew a few others. Soon, 10 friends assembled in her Westport home, to write postcards to politicans.

That grew to a group of 40 Westporters. All said the same thing: How can we be more active?

A couple of days later, “06880”‘s Friday Flashback highlighted Kathie Motes Bennewitz’s story about the Equal Franchise League. Way back in 1913, women demanded suffrage — and marched — right here in Westport.

As Darcy’s postcard group grew into (yes) a Facebook page — DefenDemocracy of CT — a few members reacted with nostalgia. As they met in kitchens, they shared stories of their own pasts as activists, and the role of Westport and Connecticut in activism.

Lauren Soloff, Lisa Bowman and Darcy Hicks, all actively engaged.

Lauren Soloff Malowitz — Darcy’s neighbor when she moved back here 23 years ago — had marched for women’s right to choose. Lisa Bowman — who drove to Pennsylvania with Darcy 8 years ago, to knock on doors during Barack Obama’s first presidential run — had grown up marching with her parents, against nuclear weapons.

Nita Prasad had been very active as a Berkeley student. She helped shut down the San Francisco Bay Bridge after the Rodney King verdict, and raised funds for Oxfam.

Darcy Hicks (front right) demanded that Smith College divest from South Africa — and made the cover of this Newsweek campus publication.

As a student herself, Darcy helped take over the Smith College administration building, until trustees divested from the apartheid regime in South Africa.

The women are still active, in a variety of ways.

Nita — a professor of world history at Quinnipiac University — helps mobilize students and faculty in support of the national popular vote project.

After a long career in broadcasting, Lisa has been a fundraiser for the Democratic State Central Committee and the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

Lauren, a lawyer, fundraises for Homes With Hope. Darcy teaches children in Bridgeport and New Haven in Visual Literacy, an arts and language skills program she developed at Yale.

Darcy’s group wondered what their own kids — and others — who are so addicted to social media were learning about activism and social engagement. They decided that if a group of Westport women could march in 1913 — despite what must have been formidable obstacles — then they could do the same.

So on Sunday, March 26, a “CT on the Move March to Defend Democracy — One Small State, One Big Voice” march is set for downtown Westport. It begins at noon at Jesup Green, and ends at Veterans Green. Senator Chris Murphy is the keynote speaker.

“The idea is to celebrate Westport’s history of fighting for change,” Darcy says.

“Westport has often lived up to Connecticut’s ‘Constitution State’ nickname. From our revolutionary history to the examples we set advocating for abolition, women’s rights, civil rights and more, we are a community that does not stay quiet when we want change.”

This is more than a political rally, Darcy explains. “Really, it’s a reminder to all of us that we are part of a very special community — one that is fortunate, but that cares for those who aren’t. That is patriotism.”

Since first publicizing the march, Darcy’s group has joined with many others, new and established: Indivisible, Love in Action, 203 Action, Pantsuit Nation CT, the Westport Democratic Town Committee, and Staples High School’s Young Democrats and Social Activism clubs.

Darcy and her band of once-and-future activists are excited to be back in action.

They’re even more excited that younger folks — like Staples senior Lulu Stracher — are joining them.

“This is one generation showing a younger one that real change needs to happen outside of social media,” Darcy says.

“Engagement lives on. We look forward to passing the torch!”

(For more information, click here or email darcyhicksdtt@gmail.com)

Lauren Soloff at a Planned Parenthood rally, back in the day. She’s third from the left (not counting President Reagan), standing next to Vice President Bush.

The Day After: Part 2

Around the world today, hundreds of thousands of people protested against President Trump. Here are some photos, taken by and of Westporters:

Sandra Long saw this sign at the Westport train station....

Sandra Long saw this sign at the Westport train station.

Anne Hardy took this photo in Grand Central. "The train ride was phenomenal," she says. "Very collaborative."

Anne Hardy took this photo in Grand Central. “The train ride was phenomenal,” she says. “Very collaborative.”

Westporters Clare Clark and Penny Pearlman attended the Stamford march.

Westporters Clare Clark and Penny Pearlman attended the Stamford march….

.... while Natasha Bowens and her crew were in DC.

…. while Natasha Bowens and her crew were in DC….

... and Staples Class of 1956 graduated David Wunsch was part of an "enormous turnout" in Boston...

… and Staples Class of 1956 graduate David Wunsch was part of an “enormous turnout” in Boston…

...and Westporter Sheila Ward sent this, from Nashville.

…while Westporter Sheila Ward sent this from Nashville.

The women's march welcomed all genders. This is longtime Westporter John Suggs and his 14-year-old daughter Rachel.

The women’s march welcomed all genders. This is longtime Westporter John Suggs and his 14-year-old daughter Rachel.

Fred Cantor was also in Stamford, with his wife Debbie Silberstein. It was his 1st protest since a Vietnam event his freshman year at Yale. Fred said the rally near Trump Parc was "definitely inspirational. A large turnout composed of a true cross-section of America. People peacefully chanted, while many brought a variety of creative homemade signs."

Fred Cantor was also in Stamford, with his wife Debbie Silberstein. It was his 1st protest since a Vietnam event freshman year at Yale. Fred called the rally near Trump Parc “definitely inspirational — a large turnout composed of a true cross-section of America.”

Also in Stamford: Audrey Rabinowitz and Bobbie Herman.

Also in Stamford: Audrey Rabinowitz and Bobbie Herman.

Staples Class of 2011 KD DeVoll (center) and friends, at the Washington march.

Staples Class of 2011 grad KD DeVoll (center) and friends, at the Washington march.

Westporter Katherine Ross took this photo in New York, and said: "This is what democracy looks like."

Westporter Katherine Ross took this photo in New York. She said: “This is what democracy looks like.”

Riley Baker is a Westporter who goes to school near Boston. She said, "It was an incredible day of speeches, activism, and coming together with 125,000 other people who share the same goals and beliefs I do."

Riley Baker is a Westporter who goes to school near Boston. She called that city’s rally “an incredible day of speeches, activism, and coming together with 125,000 other people who share the same goals and beliefs I do.”

Westporters Lisa Marriott and Pam Einarsen (right) join Laura Fishman and Marianne on "the longest line ever for the metro" in Washington.

Westporters Lisa Marriott and Pam Einarsen (right), with Laura Fishman and Marianne, found “the longest line ever for the metro” in Washington.

Among the many signs Amy Leonard saw in New York, this one stood out.

Among the many signs Amy Leonard saw in New York, this one stood out.

This final photo of Washington comes from Melissa Kane, chair of the Westport Democratic Committee. She heard that the crowd in that city alone was 1.2 million.

This final photo of Washington comes from Melissa Kane, chair of the Westport Democratic Committee. She heard that the crowd in that city alone was 1.2 million.

 

 

Marpe’s Message: “Treat Each Other With Respect And Civility”

A few moments ago, First Selectman Jim Marpe issued his annual Thanksgiving message. It includes a response to an open letter sent last night by Westport’s Democratic Town Committee, asking him to stand up to the rhetoric unleashed by the 2016 presidential campaign.

Marpe says:

Westport has always been and will continue to be a place where we live by and teach our children the values that we cherish — values that embrace equality, inclusiveness, open-mindedness, respect for each other as well as the law, and of course, education. We hold fast to these ideals regardless of political party, religious affiliation, social strata, gender, or age.  This Thanksgiving, we thoughtfully and respectfully reflect upon these qualities in light of recent events that have transported our nation into divisiveness and turmoil.

A recent “open letter” to me as the first selectman of this great community called for a response to the events in our nation related to the 2016 presidential election.  I believed that it was appropriate to do so in the context of my annual Thanksgiving message to all 27,000 Westport residents.

Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe.

Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe.

I want to start with my reflections expressed to those gathered in the Town Hall auditorium on Veterans Day this past November 11; that ceremony occurring merely days after the tumultuous election.  I confidently assured those present that the rights and freedoms for which veterans fought so valiantly are alive and well in this great nation, and in the town of Westport.

The political events of the past year have tested our collective understanding of democracy, creating conflict nationwide and anxiety at many a dinner table and social gathering throughout Westport and the rest of the country. While the outrage and despair over the problems that our nation and our community need to address remains, it is our democracy which makes this such an extraordinary country.

The 2016 election has stirred us all to reconsider our core values and our rights as Americans; rights which many in Westport may have taken for granted because we thought we had the luxury of doing so.  However, with recent events fresh in our minds, we must be cognizant that with the freedoms we cherish come certain personal obligations.

Despite differences, Westporters must treat each other with mutual respect and civility. We are no strangers to making our world, country, and our community a better place.  The town’s municipal, civic, religious and volunteer institutions operate under the mantle of these values. Our laws and our values don’t change because of the most recent political winds.

We encourage thoughtful and constructive means to embrace each other’s differences. We denounce hatred, divisiveness and manipulation by words and deeds. We remember that in Westport, we are grateful and thankful for and continue to be committed to, the values we hold so dear in our cherished town. I can assure you that this town will continue to embrace and protect all its citizens and will stand firmly against hate and intolerance, now and always.

Hundreds of Westporters volunteer each year at the Interfaith Thanksgiving Feast.

Hundreds of Westporters volunteer each year at the Interfaith Thanksgiving Feast.

Thanksgiving reminds us to be grateful for our freedoms and our good fortune.  We remain steadfast in our resolve to help those less fortunate, all the while remaining aware of the world events around us that may inhibit that resolve. We express our heartfelt thanks to those in our community that stand for the downtrodden or disenfranchised.

I am personally thankful for our extraordinary volunteers, teachers, civic leaders, clergy, and residents, young and old, of all races, creeds and ideals, who work tirelessly and diligently each and every day, at times with little or no recognition.  They share their time and talents without fanfare, so I want to acknowledge their contributions and let them know that they are valued and appreciated.

I wish all the citizens of Westport a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday. I encourage you to take the opportunity to pause and reflect on how you may contribute to making our community a place where all are welcome and respected.

Thank you.

Eli, George And Hillary

Tomorrow is zero hour for 2 candidates. For over a year, they’ve campaigned to be president. They rely on national staffs, pollsters, and family members offering free advice.

But presidential campaigns are won or lost at the local level. Phone calls drive enthusiasm and turnout. Something as simple as a ride to polls — replicated thousands and thousands of times — can spell the difference between the White House and history’s dustbin.

Since mid-August, Hillary Clinton’s most successful phone bank in Connecticut has operated from a cramped Westport storefront, across from Stop & Shop.

Remarkably, it’s organized entirely by 2 Staples High School students.

George Kane (left) and Eli Debenham run Westport's Democratic headquarters phone bank and volunteer operations.

George Kane (left) and Eli Debenham run Westport’s Democratic headquarters phone bank and volunteer operations.

George Kane rowed with the Saugatuck Rowing Club. He skis for Staples, and teaches skiing to people with disabilities.

His mother Melissa chairs the Westport Democratic Town Committee — but for years he did not share her interest in politics. “I always felt dragged to events,” he says.

In the spring of junior year though, his Advanced Placement Government class inspired him. “It just hit me,” he recalls. “I thought, if there’s anything I can do for this election, I’ll do it.”

He called Clinton’s statewide director of field operations. Soon, he was running Westport’s Democratic phone bank.

Eli Debenham — like George, a Staples senior — serves organizations like Builders Beyond Borders, and works at Gilbertie’s. He’s been fascinated by politics for a long time. Now Eli is the volunteer coordinator for Westport’s DTC.

The storefront opposite Super Stop & Shop.

The storefront opposite Super Stop & Shop.

The 12th graders work like a well-oiled machine. Together, they’ve gathered up to 40 people a night to the Westfair Center office. One evening, they logged 3,500 calls.

Not just for Clinton. Volunteers phone in support of local races. They also call voters in New Hampshire, the nearest battleground state.

A couple of days ago, I watched the phone bank in action. Our conversation was punctuated by questions — most of the technical kind. The volunteers — coming from as far as Stamford and Ridgefield, some of whom could be George and Eli’s grandparents — asked for help with the calling software on their laptops and cellphones.

The duo solved every problem. In between, they told stories of their months of work.

It’s been eye-opening. A man with military ID asked for Hillary posters and lawn signs. They apologized; there were only a few on hand.

“That’s okay,” he said. ” I just want it for target practice.”

Most other encounters have been far more positive. Though few people like being interrupted for a political call, there have been enough willing to listen that George and Eli feel like they’ve done some good.

westport-democratic-town-committee-logo“When we get a Republican who thinks Trump’s a maniac, but doesn’t want to vote for Clinton, we may be able to have a conversation,” George says. “Some people really are undecided. We’ve had 20-minute phone calls where we really think we make an impact.”

“If we have 5 to 10 calls a night light that, it makes a measurable difference,” Eli adds.

He called a 24-year-old Greenwich man, who planned to vote for neither candidate. After 25 minutes, Eli says, “he was actually crying on the phone. He said that a protest vote would help give the election to Trump.”

He and George know they won’t reach everyone. But they’re encouraged by little examples, like the volunteer who took her phone into the headquarters bathroom to speak quietly with a retired man who originally did not want to talk at all. At the end of the conversation, he said he would “think about” Clinton.

Eli Debenham, in charge last week.

Eli Debenham, answering questions last week.

With Election Day almost — and finally — here, Eli and George describe their mood as a mix of anxiety and optimism. They know the race has tightened, and it’s been vitriolic. But, George says, “I’ve seen far more positivity than negativity” at the phone bank he runs.

“I’ve made real connections with people I’m excited to share Westport with,” Eli notes. “I’ve seen a whole new layer to this town that I love.”

There’s no school on Election Day. George and Eli will be up at 3 a.m. They’ll deliver signs to polling places. They’ll oversee one final round of canvassing. Then they’ll watch the returns — maybe at the headquarters that’s been their home since August, perhaps at a bigger venue.

The 1st presidential campaign for either of them has changed them both.

George says, “I never enjoyed conflict. But this election opened me up to seeing that differences are important. I’ve seen how I can make an impact. Politics is now a love of mine. Plus, my mother is happy.”

Eli always wanted to go into politics. This experience has only enhanced his interest.

“It’s exhausting, discouraging, challenging and satisfying,” he says. “It’s what I want to do.”

[UPDATE] Remembering Dora Stuttman

Dora Stuttman — a tireless volunteer in Democratic politics for over 50 years — died yesterday. She was 90 years old.

Dora Stuttman

Dora Stuttman

Former managing editor of a national fashion magazine, Dora joined the Westport Democratic Town Committee soon after moving here in 1962. Her organizational skills were a hallmark of her more than 50 years of service.

She served 1 term as DTC chair, organized Democratic headquarters and volunteers during numerous elections, and ran several individual state campaigns.

She also headed Diane Farrell’s successful campaign for first selectman, and Farrell’s 2 unsuccessful runs for Congress against incumbent Chris Shays.

Last fall, the Democratic Town Committee honored her by creating a Dora Stuttman Campaign Leadership Award.

Dora was also a PTA president, PTA Council member, and head of several local boards and commissions.

Dora’s funeral will be held on Thursday, July 9 (11 a.m.), Abraham Green & Son in Fairfield. Following the service, internment will be at Willowbrook Cemetery in Westport. Refreshments will be served afterward at the Stuttmans’ home: 2 Cardinal Lane, Westport.

 

Click below to see Dora Stuttman and Martha Aasen talk about 50 years of local politics: