Tag Archives: Westport Representative Town Meeting

Bans Proposed For Plastic And Pot

Westport’s Representative Town Meeting is discussing a pair of proposals that may come up for a vote soon.

A ban on single-use plastics and styrofoam was put forward by RTM member Andrew Colabella and colleagues on the Environment Committee.

The purpose is to “prohibit the use of expanded polystyrene and single use plastic food service containers, plastic straws, plastic stirrers and plastic cups, and require food service businesses to transition from disposable plastic food service ware to compostable and recyclable alternatives.”

The proposal notes: “Single use plastics, whether made of recyclable material or not, and expanded polystrene pose a threat to Westport’s marine and terrestrial ecosystems. By prohibiting these items, Westport seeks to protect the environment, eliminate a major source of waste and protect the public health, safety and welfare of Westport and its citizens.”

The RTM Ordinance Committee meets this Monday (April 1) to determine whether the language of the proposal is ready to go before the full RTM for a vote at its monthly meeting the following day (Tuesday, April 2, Town Hall, 7:30 p.m.).

Meanwhile, a recreational marijuana ban ordinance has been proposed by RTM members Greg Kraut and Jimmy Izzo.

They are revising the language based on feedback from the Ordinance Committee, and hope to have it ready for a vote at the special RTM meeting called for April 23 (to vote on funding for turf athletic fields).

A variety of medical marijuana edibles.

The ordinance would prohibit recreational marijuana businesses from locating in Westport — if Connecticut legalizes it.

The checklist provided to the Ordinance Committee says, “We need this ordinance to prevent Westport from selling non-medical (recreational marijuana). It gives the town the supplemental insurance that is needs to have should recreational marijuana get legalized. The first locations for recreational will be the existing medical marijuana facilities.”

RTM Website Lets In Sunshine — And Raises Hackles

In 2011, financial arbitration lawyer Christine Meiers Schatz and her husband moved to Westport. They liked the town’s “open-minded, progressive” vibe. It seemed like a great place to raise their kids.

As she became active in the school start-time issue — she’s founder and president of Sleep For Success Westport — Schatz learned a lot about local government. She saw few people in her demographic (women with young kids, like hers: 6, 4 and 2-year-old twins) on the RTM.

She understood why: “We’re busy keeping little humans alive.”

Christine Meiers Schatz, with her family.

But Schatz also believed it’s important for everyone in town to be represented. The RTM, after all, is the Representative Town Meeting.

And, she says, in these fractious times “we may not be able to change the world. But we can make things better in our own backyards.”

She ran for a seat in District 2 — and won. She is excited to serve.

But that’s not what this story is about.

As she campaigned door to door — her district stretches from Old Hill to Saugatuck — Schatz realized that was the only good way to meet constituents, and get a sense of the issues.

RTM veterans warned her that most Westporters don’t pay attention to local government. Schatz is not sure. She thinks people want to be involved. They just don’t know how.

The only options, she says, are to attend RTM meetings in person, watch them on TV, or read the minutes. Newspaper coverage, she says charitably, is “short.”

But everyone is online. So Schatz decided to create a totally unofficial — but quite comprehensive — blog.

Her plan was to compile biographical information on every member. She’d post agendas, reports about meetings and FAQs, plus short video clips. It would all link back to the town’s quite factual — and visually snore-inducing — RTM page.

The official RTM web page, at WestportCT.gov.

She called it “The Unofficial RTM Report by Christine Meiers Schatz.” She registered the domain RTMReport.com.

Schatz researched all 35 RTM colleagues. Using publicly available information, she created profiles for each: education, profession, volunteer work, RTM committees. She offered links to each member’s personal website.

She began building the rest of the site too.

Suddenly — and to her surprise — a few members objected.

Some wanted to provide guest posts. She created that opportunity — and was criticized for opening it up that way.

Others did not want so much info about themselves provided online.

“We have a lot of really talented people on the RTM,” Schatz explains. ” I thought this would be a great way to highlight them.”

Much of the information came from sources like the League of Women Voters’ Guide. One member protested that it was incorrect — even though it’s provided by RTM members themselves.

But — in deference to those objections — Schatz stripped most of those details from each member’s profile.

A screenshot of the stripped-down member page from Christine Meiers Schatz’s website. This is for her own District 2.

The blowback continued. Some members wanted the ability to provide their own, free-form paragraph about themselves. Others thought there should be a standard template. Right now, Schatz is seeking input and consensus from members on exactly what information and format is best.

Of course, not all members objected. Nicole Klein praised Schatz’s “initiative and creativity.” Others applaud her efforts too.

In a nod toward critics, Schatz changed the name of her blog to “Christine Meiers Schatz’s RTM Report.” And she switched the domain to SchatzRTM.com.

The home page of Christine Meiers Schatz’s blog.

But she persisted.

And she emphasizes that she intends her website to be one way — among others — to get information to residents.

“I’m not trying to be the sole voice,” Schatz notes. “That’s not ideal. Not everyone agrees what should go on the town site, or this one. So let’s have not just me, but lots of people doing things like this.”

For now though, Schatz’s site is the most robust RTM page in town. To check it out, click here.

[OPINION] Suggs To RTM: Vote “No” On Coyote Trapping Law

Early this morning, John Suggs — an RTM member and independent candidate for 1st selectman — sent out this email. He says he has already received 150 responses. He writes:

Tonight (Tuesday, September 5, 7:30 p.m., Town Hall), Westport’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM) will vote on a proposed ordinance that would, for the first time in almost 50 years, permit the trapping and killing of coyotes in Westport.

This has come about because of a citizen-led initiative in response to fellow town residents who have tragically lost their beloved pets to coyotes. I’m deeply sympathetic to them. No one should have to live through such a trauma. As a parent and a dog owner myself, I am also committed to finding solutions to help keep our children and pets safe from attack.

However, when I step back and analyze the bigger picture, I remain opposed to the practice this ordinance would sanction.

The unintended consequences of this ordinance means all wild and domestic animals can be maimed and injured. In fact, research shows, on average, 5 out of 7 animals caught in foothold traps proposed by this new ordinance are so-called “non-target animals” — including dogs, cats, owls, hawks and eagles. Animals that become ensnared in these traps struggle for hours or days to free themselves; dislocated joints, broken teeth and, of course, self-amputated limbs are all part of this painful outcome.

There are environmentally friendly, science-based protocols for dealing with coyote conflicts. These sustainable, humane and effective measures include: reducing and/or removing food attractants, ensuring pets are not left outside unattended, hazing habituated coyotes with loud noises, spraying water and/or throwing objects to deter them from closer contact.

I invite everyone to educate themselves about these proven, cruelty-free strategies other communities have successfully employed, as well as the unintentional consequences of foothold traps. For a superb resource please click here.

Whether you agree with Suggs or not, you can email all RTM members at once: RTMMailingList@westportct.gov. You can also click “Comments” below. Please be sure to use your full, real name.  Tonight’s hearing will be televised live on Channel 79 (Cablevision) and Channel 99 (Frontier), and livestreamed here

Women Represent

Local elections earlier this month were low-key. Most attention focused on the Board of Finance and Planning and Zoning Commission. Both shifted control, from Republican to Democrat.

Our Representative Town Meeting is non-partisan. Still, there was one interesting — and overlooked — result: For the 1st time in memory (probably ever), there are more RTM women than men.

RTM moderator Eileen Flug will be joined by 21 other women this term.

RTM moderator Eileen Flug will be joined by 21 other women this term.

The previous legislative body was split evenly: 18 each. The new RTM has 22 women and 14 men. That’s 60% female.

A local politician wonders if it’s because so many intelligent, highly qualified women have gotten their volunteer starts through the PTA. They’ve learned about town affairs that way — and earned name recognition.

That’s one theory. Perhaps there’s another reason. Or none at all.

The bottom line is: So what?

Westport is blessed with an energetic, dedicated and very competent group of volunteers. They make our RTM go — as well as every other town board and commission.

It doesn’t matter if they’re male or female, Democrat or Republican.

As Thanksgiving nears, we owe them all our most profound thanks.

Happy 60th!

Hadley Rose’s re-election this week as RTM moderator shined a light on 1 of the town’s most important — and often overlooked — bodies.

The Representative Town Meeting — 1 of the few such governmental organizations left in the state — is 60 years old this year.  In 1949 it replaced the even older and quainter New England “Town Meeting” concept.  Westport was growing quickly, and needed a nimbler, smoother means of governing itself.

In the 6 decades since, several RTM votes have impacted Westport phenomenally. 

In 1960 the body authorized $1.9 million to buy the 191-acre Longshore Beach and Country Club.

Nine years later the RTM approved $220,000 to buy Cockenoe Island from the United Illuminating Company — preventing it becoming a nuclear power plant.  (A referendum bid to overturn the decision failed.)

In the years since, the RTM has debated land purchases including Allen’s Clam House on Hillspoint Road; the Baron’s property (now Winslow Park), and more of his land on South Compo; Gorham Island, and Hall-Brooke on Long Lots Road.

Some of those purchases were approved; others were not.  All generated controversy — and greater attendance than usual at RTM meetings.

The RTM is in the news each year when it debates — sometimes routinely, often raucously — the education budget.

In 1972 the RTM made the New York Times, with a 17-15 vote demanding an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam.  In 1982, the RTM voted 24-2 (with 7 abstentions) in favor of a nuclear arms freeze.

But most meetings are taken up with mundane matters:  health and human services, information technology, the library, parks and recreation, public protection and transit issues.

And, oh yeah, a townwide ban on plastic bags.

From its start, the RTM has been non-partisan.  A host of party activists have served, on both sides of the aisle.  Their names — Aasen, Arcudi, Belaga, Ezzes — read like a who’s who of Westport politicians.  But all ultimately had the best interest of their town at heart.

Hadley Rose is the latest in a long list of distinguished moderators.  Giants who preceded him included Allen Raymond, Herb Baldwin, Ralph Sheffer and Gordon Joseloff.

The 60th anniversary gift is diamonds.  But the 36 RTM members don’t want anything like that.  They’d be glad if you knew the names of your 4 district representatives.

That’s easy.  Just click here.