Tag Archives: Westport Representative Town Meeting

Moderator Defends RTM Against Attacks

This morning, “06880” posted “RTM 101: What It Is, And Does.” Commenters quickly weighed in, offering their views of our town’s non-partisan legislative body. 

Representative Town Meeting moderator Jeff Wieser responds:

Thanks to Nancy Kail for outlining the responsibilities of the RTM.

As the moderator, I have remained moderate when it comes to the opinions expressed over the past few months, and following her post. But I get angry when the RTM as a body is attacked, and this comment is well past due.

A small number of Westport residents has very publicly maligned the 82.8 % of the entire RTM body who did not agree with their opinion regarding petitions.

The RTM listened to over 5 hours of debate in committee and RTM meetings on the subject of public access to our monthly meetings.

We listened to supporting legal input from our town attorney (who in more than 20 years has served 2 Republican and 2 Democratic administrations in Westport, and is a former RTM deputy moderator) and our assistant town attorney (who has served the municipal legal needs of Westport for 6 years, and is a former RTM moderator).

And we listened to the petitioners.

With all that input, 29 of the 35 RTM members present agreed that our role is to act on matters that have been assigned to us under the Town Charter. Ironically, it was a petition by electors that led to the very discussion and decision that this group is criticizing.

20 electors certainly still have the ability to petition the RTM for matters on which the RTM is empowered to act. To suggest otherwise is irresponsible.

I am very proud of all the actions of the volunteer, non-partisan RTM. I hope that the vitriol applied to this group of 36 well-meaning, non-partisan legislators is recognized as exactly that: vitriol by a small vocal group of people angry that 82.8% of intelligent, responsible legislators — willing to look at all legal sides of an issue — disagreed with them.

Please vote tomorrow and know that all current RTM members, and all those willing to volunteer to serve, deserve your close attention.

RTM 101: What It Is, And Does

Nancy Kail is a member of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM).

She wants to celebrate the town’s non-partisan legislative branch, and spotlight the work the body’s 36 diverse members do. She writes:

Westport’s RTM is a key part of our town government. Tomorrow, the entire RTM membership is up for election.

Pay attention to races in your RTM district. Don’t forget to flip your ballot over. RTM races are on the back side.

The RTM is our non partisan legislative body. We represent all 28,000+ Westport residents.

The RTM enacts local ordinances. It votes on town and school budgets, capital investments, appropriations, employee contracts, and whether or not to uphold decisions made by other Westport boards.

It approves building committee members, library trustees, town appointed commission members and others.

There are 36 RTM representatives in total — 4 members in each of 9 districts.  Each RTM district has approximately 2,300 registered voters. An RTM district map is here, and below.

Why is the RTM Important?

We represent you in decisions and votes that touch on everything in town that you care about: our schools, parks/beaches/other natural resources, roads and sewers, traffic and safety, construction and development, budgets and taxes, human resources services and our many cherished town organizations such as the Library, Levitt Pavilion and Senior Center.

Party politics don’t have a place on the RTM. We are a nonpartisan, diverse and collaborative body. Because we are a large group of representatives that operates by majority vote, we have to work together and compromise in order to get work done.  What matters is effectively representing our constituents by solving problems and addressing important issues together. We are democracy in action.

Last month, RTM members celebrated Restaurant Week with a lunch at Zucca. 

We are productive

Since January the RTM has passed leaf blower and Affordable Housing Fund ordinances, and introduced traffic and safety, and public safety, ordinances that will be voted on soon.

We passed this year’s operating budget, restored funding for Wheels2U, approved the 3-year contract for Parks & Recreation and other town employees, appointed a Transit District co-director, approved the First Selectwoman’s recommended Long Lots School Building Committee members, and upheld P&Z decisions on the Hamlet at Saugatuck.

We have all attended and spoken at numerous other town board and commission meetings, such as those involving affordable housing, town development projects, the redesign of Parker Harding Plaza, the Long Lots School Building Project/gardens/fields, traffic and safety, and flood and erosion control.

We communicate with constituents, and do our best to assist them with questions and concerns. In upcoming meetings we will discuss how to expand and improve ways the public can comment and participate in RTM meetings.

Effective RTM Members

  • Follow RTM processes and the rules governing publicly elected boards, yet when necessary, can affect process or rules changes and improvements
  • Work collaboratively with colleagues, even those with whom they disagree
  • Effectively advocate for and substantiate positions and votes
  • Consider all points of view, can distinguish fact from opinion and sound information from misinformation
  • Listen to, and communicate with constituents and keep them them top of mind when making decisions
  • Hold themselves to a high standard of behavior and engage in civil discourse.

Tomorrow, You Will Choose Your RTM Reps

Get to know your district’s RTM candidates. Click here for the League of Women Voters’ guide. Follow the prompts for your district.

Vote and tell your friends to vote.

Stay in touch with your RTM members going forward, they would love to hear from you!

A map of the RTM districts. Click on or hover over to see polling locations.

Tulips Together

Westport’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM) does not always agree on everything.

That’s the messy part of democracy.

But this morning, members were unanimous: The Minute Man Monument needs more tulips. RTM member Andrew Colabella writes:

Last year, 100 tulips were planted by the Minute Man statue, as part of a beautification project.

The results were eye-popping, colorful and bountiful in beauty.

Blooming tulips.

This year, I decided to expand to 300 tulips.

Many hands made the work lighter, and smarter.

Top: Jimmy Izzo hangs with the Minute Man. Fellow RTM members include (middle, from left): Nancy Kail, Harris Falk, Seth Braunstein. Front: Don O’Day, Andrew Colabella, Kristin Mott Purcell.

The group came armed with shovels, a cordless drill, and donuts.

It was great to see families that biked, drove or walked by. A father and 3 children stopped, and asked to take part. Don O’Day lent a hand (below).

They asked about the history of the Minute Man statue, then posed with H. Daniel Webster’s 1910 sculpture.

With so much help, the work did not take long.

(All photos courtesy of Andrew Colabella)

The 300 tulips from Colorblends in Bridgeport came directly from the Netherlands. They were harvested this past summer.

Westport Hardware donated a bag of grass seed for top dressing, while Thomas Kerrigan of Kerrigan Industries provided a mixture of topsoil and compost.

I want to thank this group of green thumb enthusiasts and caring individuals for helping continue a vision I had a long time ago. It is finally coming to life.

Make sure to look for the tulips in the spring.

“06880” Podcast: Andrew Colabella

Every “06880” reader knows Andrew Colabella.

His frequent comments and fine photographs add greatly to this blog. An RTM member, he’s active all over town: helping save the Sakura trees. Seeing the recent stolen vehicle police pursuit through town, and reporting on it. Helping a resident cut through red tape at the state Department of Transportation.

The other day, Andrew took a half hour out of his busy day to chat at the Westport Library. We spoke about his love for this town; why he stayed here, when so many fellow Staples High School graduates leave; his work on the Westport PAL board; is favorite spots, and his favorite people, and much more.

Click below, to learn more about one of our most interesting neighbors.

Roundup: Israel Support, I-95 Detours, Aid In Dying Legislation …

Last Sunday — just 24 hours after Hamas’ brutal attack on Israel — 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker released a strong statement.

She said then:

The attack on Israel and its citizens is horrifying. There is no justification for senseless acts of violence.

I as the 1st Selectwoman of Wesetport, along with our residents, stand with the people of Israel as they defend their country in the face of unspeakable terrorist acts.

Many Westporters have family and friends in Israel. Our community is profoundly affected by this tragedy. I extend my deepest condolences for the lives lost.

We are with you, Israel.

She reiterated her words yesterday. In a joint statement, Tooker and TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey said:

TEAM Westport joins the Town of Westport and our First Selectwoman in offering its deepest solidarity and sorrow to the people of Israel for the unspeakable and unfathomable acts of inhumanity they have suffered at the hands of Hamas. As such, we also decry any attempts to justify or celebrate those atrocities. While there is much to be done to ensure stability over the long-term, in whatever is done, we urge the unrelenting focus on the humanity of all potential victims involved.

On the home front, we fully support the increased protection of the Jewish community within Westport and the greater U.S.  against the rising  scourge of antisemitism. Overall, we encourage all segments of our community to join as one in this support with the full understanding that when one of us is harmed, we are all harmed.

Many town officials — including 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, in the front row directly in front of Senator Richard Blumenthal  — were at Monday’s solidarity gathering at Temple Israel. (Photo/Allison Wachstein)


Plan ahead!

The I-95 northbound entrance ramp at Exit 17 will be closed beginning Monday, October 16 through Friday, October 31. The closure is part of the ongoing bridge rehabilitation project. Traffic will be detoured to Riverside Avenue, then to the Post Road, Sherwood Island Connector, and onto Exit 18.

In addition, parts of I-95 itself will be closed — as will the northbound Exit 17  entrance and exit ramps, and the southbound exit ramp — along with nearby Saugatuck Avenue, from 8 p.m. Friday, October 20, through 6 a.m. Monday, October 23.

The closures are necessary for the new I-95 northbound bridge to be placed using Accelerated Bridge Construction techniques. While I-95 northbound is closed, 2 lanes of I-95 northbound traffic will be crossed over on the I-95 southbound bridge. Traffic flow in both directions will be severely impacted all weekend.

For additional information on the project, including detours, click here.

The I-95 Exit 17 entrance and exit ramps were closed intermittently last week. Blasting helped prepare the site for the “bridge slide” coming soon.


For several years, James Naughton has been a passionate, articulate advocate for proposed medical aid in dying state legislation.

On Monday (October 16, 7 p.m., Westport Library) the Tony-winning actor and Weston resident — whose wife died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer — leads an important discussion.

“Medical Aid in Dying: Connecticut Wants It; Why Isn’t It the Law?” includes State Representative Jonathan Steinberg (former co-chair of the Public Health Committee); State Senator Ceci Maher; filmmaker Maribeth Abrams, who is producing a documentary about advocate Kim Hoffman, who died in 2022, and Tim Appleton, campaign director of Compassion & Choices.

Click here for more information, and to register.

James Naughton


“Houdini” (Jackson) and well over 100 other Club 203 guests packed the Senior Center Thursday, for the social club for adults disabilities monthly get-together.

Houdini (aka Jackson) at the Club 203 Halloween party.

This one was (of course) Halloween-themed. Attendees enjoyed Spooky Bingo, a barbecue, baked goods, candy (of course) and more.

Senior Center staff helped facilitate the event. Sweet P Bakery, Fresh Market, Stop & Shop and CVS provided donations, while MOCA led “frightening” art projects. Club 203 co-founders Stacie Curran and Sharuna Mahesh also thanked the many volunteers who helped.

Good times at the Senior Center, for Club 203 members and friends.


Speaking of Halloween:

This is the coven, at the corner of Hillandale and West Parish Roads:

(Photo/Tammy Barry)


In what has become an annual tradition, RTM members celebrated Restaurant Week with a lunch last yesterday. This year’s site: Zucca, which has replaced Tarry Lodge in Saugatuck.

On hand were 24 of the 36 representatives, plus 2 former moderators (assistant town attorney Eileen Lavigne Flug and Velma Heller), plus Town Clerk Jeffrey Dunkerton and Tatiana Plachi of the town clerk’s office.

Pro tip: Restaurant Week is actually two weeks. The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce event ends tomorrow (Sunday). For a list of restaurants and their special deals, click here.

RTM members and friends celebrate Restaurant Week at Zucca.


Amidst a gaggle of signs — for political candidates, upcoming galas, sports registration, driveway paving companies and everything else — there is a new, official looking one, in the rear of Compo Acres Shopping Center, by Compo Road South:

That’s a sign we can all agree belongs there. 988 is the new, important, easy-to-remember 24-hour hotline for people in crisis, including those considering suicide.


Fred Cantor and his wife Debbie Silberstein recently visited their former neighbors, Gordon and Dot Hall.

They’ve lived in the same house near Hillspoint Road since 1955.

Dot recently celebrated her 92nd birthday. Gordon will soon be 96.

This fall marks the 70th anniversary of the beginning of their Westport teaching careers.

Fred wonders if there are any other married teaching couples around from the 1950s?

To which I’ll add: Are there any other teachers — period — from that decade still in Westport?

Dot and Gordon Hall (Photo/Fred Cantor)


Westport was not the only artists’ colony in these parts.

Weston had a robust arts history too. On November 15 and 16 (6:30 p.m.), the Weston History & Cultural Center offers a look into their lives — along with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and insights from curator Laurie Weiss.

It’s called “Weston Illustrated: Penned, Painted and Sculpted.” Among the featured artists, who lived and/or worked in Weston during the first half of the 20th century: Wood Cowan, Charles and James Daugherty, Stevan Dohanos, John Held Jr., Ada “Johnny” Held, William Meade Prince, Laura Gardin Fraser and Stuart Benson

The event is limited to 12 people per night. Tickets $30 for members, $40 for non-members) include a signature cocktail and light appetizers. Click here to purchase, and for more information.


Aspetuck Land Trust’s next “Lunch & Learn” webinar is Friday (October 20, noon to 1:15 p.m.).

The topic is “Cultivating Backyard Habitat for Pollinators in Every Season.” It will be led by Desiree Narango, conservation scientist at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies.

Click here to register, and for more information.


Diva Showstoppers — featuring a Glinda and Elphaba from the Broadway company of “Wicked” — flies into Westport for two shows on one day this winter: January 20.

“Good Witch/Bad Witch” has entertained audiences across the US, with its vocals and banter.

It’s recommended for ages 7 and up — including parents. All tickets are $40. Click here to purchase, and for more information.


Former Staples High School assistant coach Ty Matthew Guarente died Wednesday, surrounded by his family. He was 28.

His obituary says: “the son of the late Lisa Marie Guarente and Gary Guarente faced life’s challenges with remarkable bravery, inspiring all who knew him. Despite the obstacles he encountered, his spirit remained unbreakable. He touched the lives of many with his kindness, resilience, infectious smile and sense of humor.”

Ty was a 2012 graduate of Brien McMahon High School, where he was a varsity letterman in football, wrestling and lacrosse. He earned a bachelor of science in sports management from West Virginia University. He was treasurer and head of recruiting for Theta Chi fraternity.

After graduating Ty returned home to Norwalk and began a career in coaching, impacting the lives of student-athletes at several local high schools across many different sports, including football, wrestling and lacrosse.

“Despite being involved in a car accident in 2019 that deprived him of the ability to walk, Ty endured, continuing his coaching career and remaining a fixture in the local sports community. His family and many friends from both near and far made sure that Ty was never without love and support, and he cherished every call, text, and visit.”

In addition to his father, Ty is survived by his brother Michael (Luz), sisters Jessica Guarente and Jessica Wilchfort (William), brother John Andresen (Jennifer), 8 nieces and nephews, and grandmother Ginger Sollazzo Raymond.

A celebration of Ty’s life will be held tomorrow (Sunday, October 15, 3 to 7 p.m., Collins Funeral Home, Norwalk). A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Monday (October 16, 10 a.m., St. Matthew Church, Norwalk).

Ty Guarente


Today is not much of a beach day.

But yesterday was. Lauri Weiser spotted this scene — just right for “Westport … Naturally.”

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)


And finally … Rudolph Isley, one of the Isley Brothers as well as a co-writer of many of their hits during their decades-long (and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame) career, died Wednesday in his sleep, at his Chicago home. He was 84.

The Isley Brothers pre-dated the Beatles (who had a hit with their cover of the group’s “Twist and Shout”), and lasted long after the Fab 4 disbanded. Click here for a full obituary.

Here are just 3 of their classics:

(It’s your thing … do what you want to do! But please consider a contribution to “06880.” Just click here. Thank you!)

Community Gardens: RTM Candidates’ Views

Like many Westporters, Don Bergmann has followed the controversy over the future of the Westport Community Gardens and Long Lots Preserve.

Last week, he wrote to every candidate running in November’s election for the Board of Education, Board of Finance, Planning & Zoning Commission, and Representative Town Meeting. 

He said: “All of you are to be thanked for your civic interest and commitment to Westport. Your responses to this e mail may result in an ‘06880’ story authored by Dan Woog. I am of course copying Dan.

“All are familiar with the matter of the Community Gardens and a new Long Lots Elementary School. Each of you is probably more than  familiar with the issues and the dramatic tension that has arisen. That tension focuses on the desire to preserve the Gardens and the Preserve as is.

“My belief is that all of you have a personal opinion as to what should occur, i.e. should the Gardens and Preserve be retained in place or should the Gardens and Preserve be dismantled. Some of you may believe those are not the choices but, rather, the relocation and reconstruction of the Gardens and Preserve on a new site, whether at Long Lots or elsewhere in town, is also relevant. My view is that the choice is binary, either preserve or destroy.

“As candidates for elected office, I think it is reasonable to receive from each of you your views, your positions on this issue of preserving the Gardens and the Preserve. I believe that you are obligated to publicly set forth your thinking.  The fact that you may be serving either before or after the November election in a position that has a role in the Long Lots and Gardens process should not be seen or used as a reason not to express your views. 

Westport Community Gardens & Long Lots Preserve 

“Many times, elected officials will take positions as citizens, not as a member of an elected body. Whether you choose to express your views as a citizen and not as a member of an elected body is up to you. What is crucial is that you inform all those who will or will not vote for you, your views on this issue of the Gardens. 

“I ask that you e mail me with your views. I leave it to each of you what form that will take or details to be provided. If you want to include your thinking on other important town issues of which your constituents should be informed in order to cast a thoughtful vote in support of your candidacy, that would be up to you. The more you convey, the better will be the election outcomes and the better for Westport.

“I will be convey your written responses to Dan Woog for him to use or comment upon as Dan thinks best. We all know of Dan’s integrity. I have zero concern that anything you write will be treated in any manner than with respect.”  

Don gave a deadline of last Friday. He received responses from 10 RTM candidates. There were none for any candidates for the other offices. Their unedited, verbatim responses are below.


Andrew Bloom (District 1): I recognize the importance of this issue and would defer to the building committee’s recommendation while hoping that an amicable compromise can be reached. However, as a father of 3 elementary school aged children, I would personally favor outcomes that prioritize the school and fields. 

Long Lots Elementary School and adjacent fields.


Clarence Hayes (District 4): I have been a gardener much of my life. While a student at Deep Springs College I was responsible for a garden and orchard feeding a community of 40 people.

Today I live in a condo with a 360-sf front yard in which I built two 12′ x 6′ raised beds where I grow tomatoes and basil which I use for pasta sauces I store up. These are surrounded by pollinator friendly plants such as milkweed and goldenrod which I transplanted from nearby highway margins. Attached is a picture of end of season tomatoes picked yesterday. So I certainly am sympathetic to the community gardeners.

However, regarding preserving the community gardens in the current location, my response is: “It depends.”

I have not yet digested all the relevant detail in terms of requirements, building costs, potential regulatory limitations, etc.

Regardless, from what I have been able to find so far,  the publicly available information appears insufficient to allow for a fully informed recommendation.

And not having been a committee member at an early stage, alternate designs I might prefer are not on the table  (e.g. a parking garage and minimal access roads in order to maximize usable land). Until I have access to such detail — and the opportunity to directly influence the recommendation committee — it would be mere sentiment on my part to claim the gardens absolutely must be preserved exactly as they now are, regardless of other competing interests.

I also played baseball in high school and am sympathetic to the views which the local baseball associations cogently presented in a post yesterday regarding the challenges they face.

My commitment is to do my best to listen to all Westport constituencies and to balance as intelligently as possible conflicting interests as we attempt to make decisions which maximize the long term value of town property for all of Westport.


Candace Banks (District 6): I have visited the Community Gardens and they are visually stunning.  The hard work and care of the gardeners and volunteers are evident.

I also learned from a recent “06880” podcast that this is not the first time the Gardens have faced displacement due to school construction; the Gardens were originally located on the site that became the present day Bedford Middle School. I am sure this fact only adds to the gardeners’ apprehension and frustration about the imminent Long Lots school construction.

The RTM is not going to get an up or down vote on what exactly to do with the Gardens. It will get an up or down vote on appropriating money for LLS school construction which I enthusiastically support. I hope that vote happens as soon as possible because a new elementary school  for the school aged children zoned to LLS from Districts 6, 7 & parts of 9 is much needed and long overdue. I hope the candidates for local office feel the same so that LLS gets the rehabilitation it needs asap. If they don’t, they owe to their constituents, particularly those who have young children, to say so now.

I understand even if the Gardens remain in its current location that they will be inaccessible during the 24 month construction period. That fact seems to weigh in favor of finding other (perhaps larger) spaces in Town for it so the gardeners  can maintain their community, expand their mission and their contributions to the pollinator network as well as add to their membership. 


Jessica Bram (District 6): As a mother of 3 sons who attended the Westport Public Schools, one of them Long Lots, I am a fierce advocate for the Westport Public Schools.  In my last three terms on the RTM I have voted in favor of every appropriation request brought to the RTM by the Westport Public Schools. In this case, there is no question that a new elementary school for the school-aged children zoned to LLS from RTM District 6, the district I represent, is badly needed.

However, I am dismayed that current proposals require the dismantling or relocation of the Westport Community Gardens. I believe that other Long Lots locations might have been identified, including the school’s athletic and ball fields, in any Long Lots construction design.

The Westport Community Gardens are as important to Westport as Compo Beach, undeniably our Town’s most vital asset. I do not believe that any proposal to construct a school that would jeopardize or displace access to our shoreline would ever have been contemplated. And in this case, I do not accept that relocating the Westport Community Gardens is a viable, or in any way acceptable, option.

The RTM will not conduct any vote on the Westport Community Gardens themselves. Our role is only to vote on specific appropriation requests made by the Westport Public Schools. However, with a heavy heart because I remain so fierce a supporter our Westport Public Schools, I cannot vote in favor of any plan that requires the dismantling, removal, or relocation of Westport Community Gardens.


Louis D’Onofrio Jr. (District 6): If I was in a position to vote on the community gardens I would clearly say, a vote for Louis D’Onofrio Jr in District 6 is a vote to preserve the Community Gardens.

The simple fact that our town’s administration is pushing aside our history is not what myself, or the people of District 6, stands for. I have written to the Westport Journal about my concerns of our current town administration’s approving the overgrowth of the town which strains our resources and displaces our lower socioeconomic communities and this is very concerning. To preserve the community gardens is to preserve a section of our community. There is also something pure and grand about these gardens being by our school. We need to bring nature and gardening into our classes more and what better way than to allow students to view nature on a daily basis.

Thank you for reaching out and I appreciate you collecting our thoughts and ideas on the topic.

Long Lots School Building Committee representatives (left), with Board of Education members and Westport Public Schools administrators.


Brandi Briggs (District 7): I believe it is premature to be making a decision on the gardens at this point since the Building Committee has not delivered their recommendation. However, I think coming up with a solution that is first and foremost best for Long Lots School is the top priority over other interests. All the stakeholders should continue to have a chance to have their say and find a solution that can be satisfactory to all those involved but everyone will need to be adaptable. My eventual vote will be based on the recommendations of experts on the Building Committee that have spent countless hours and hard work researching and determining the right solution for Long Lots.


Lauren Karpf (District 7): As an RTM member, I have spent countless hours over almost a decade supporting the need for a new LLS. I believe staff and students deserve an appropriate building as soon as possible.

I respect and appreciate the building committee’s diligent approach in exploring numerous options for the layout of the building and campus. It has become clear to me that it is a complex landscape at LLS, and that all involved need to be flexible and adaptable, as construction is never easy and many components need to fit in a limited space.

I have long been a fan of the gardens. I admire all that the gardeners have accomplished, and in fact bought and planted a tree in the Long Lots Preserve. While currently the gardens can only be accessed and enjoyed by approximately 100 people, I am hopeful that a partnership with the schools and other organizations, and a larger space if the gardens are moved to a different location, can allow greater use for more residents going forward, including during the two years of construction.

I look forward to hearing the building committee’s recommended plan after many months of hard work, and voting to begin construction without delay.


Jennifer Johnson (District 9): I strongly believe that the Westport Community Garden should be preserved in its current location. The garden is a wonderful piece of our town’s community soul that should be protected in perpetuity with a conservation easement to keep it a community garden for all ages and years to come.

It is time to move the discussion to other plans. Yes, it will take a couple of years of disruption. But that is what construction is. We have ball fields, and theaters and other resources across the town than can be used during construction. We can definitely build a great school and keep the garden.  So many people now know and understand this treasured town resource. Let’s continue the celebration…and let it grow!


Sal Liccione (District 9): I have reached out and worked closely with the Gardeners throughout this entire process. I have listened to their concerns and learned. I am deeply and firmly committed to the Gardens and Preserve and keeping them exactly where they are.

As such, I will only vote to support a new or refurbished Long Lots School Plan that does not disturb or destroy the existing Gardens and Preserve. In my opinion, this horrible threat to the Gardens should have been taken “off the table” by the Administration long ago.


John Suggs (District 9):  Thank you Don Bergmann for asking all of the local town candidates this vital question before the November election. Thank you, also, Dan Woog for providing us with this wonderful 06880 platform in which to answer it. Because of the importance of the question, I hope that the majority of us will choose to respond.

I wish my fellow Westporters to know that my position on the Gardens and the Preserve is one of the main reasons behind my recent decision, after taking a six year hiatus, to, once again, return to the RTM. (Dependent entirely, of course, on if the electors of District 9 decide to grant me the opportunity for another tour of service on the RTM.)

My position on the Gardens and Preserve is simple and unwavering. They must continue to be protected, preserved and celebrated as the Town Treasures that they are.  And they must remain, undisturbed, right where they have been so carefully tended and nurtured by hundreds of volunteers over the past twenty years.

As such, if I am elected, when the Long Lots Building Committee comes before the RTM, as is now expected either in December or January, I will vote against approving any Long Lots School plan that includes the destruction of the gardens and preserve in their present location.  Period.

None of us, much less our impressionable and curious school children, will ever benefit from a new or refurbished school if it is built on the backs of hundreds of gardeners who have labored in the fields these past twenty years.  We must acknowledge and honor the commitments that we first made with them. Just like a garden that is how a healthy, vibrant community grows.

I wish to offer one last point, if I might.  I have been deeply saddened and troubled by the process itself by which this whole matter of determining whether to rehab the existing school or building a new school has unfolded.  Much of the ultimate resulting controversies might well have been avoided, or at least, mitigated somewhat had there been a spirit of more openness and transparency by the Administration.

I have witnessed, as recently as this week, the negative impact of the outright refusal of the Park and Recreation Commission to so much as even place a discussion of the concerns of the gardeners on their meeting agenda. Much less to actively reach out and consult with them about their many ideas for creative ways to resolve this impasse.  By repeatedly refusing them a place on the PRC’s agenda, dozens and dozens of concerned residents, myself included, have been reduced to the indignity of pleading our case in the brief, few minutes set aside at the beginning of their meeting for non-agenda items.

This has not been Westport’s finest hour.

In conclusion, yes we must- – and will — either rehab the existing school or build a new school.  We can — and will — also identify a new location for a baseball field. But in the doing, we must also honor the stewardship, responsibility and commitment that was first made twenty years ago to maintain, protect and preserve our Community Garden and Preserve.

As for me, if elected in November, I will only vote to support a school plan that first “does no harm” and protects and preserves the gardens where they have resided for twenty years.






Roundup: Long Lots Meeting, Political Signs, RTM Candidates …

The Long Lots School Building Committee will hold a special meeting tomorrow (Thursday, September 14, 6 p.m., Town Hall Room 201/201A).

The agenda includes a work session with the design team for project status updates, review and discussion. The public is welcome to attend the work session but may not participate.

The work session will be followed by public comment and questions regarding the feasibility study project.

Drone view of the current Long Lots Elementary School.


Mimi Greenlee saw yesterday’s Roundup story on the do’s and don’ts of yard signs, and noted that non-profits are restricted to signs no earlier than 2 weeks before an event. She wondered if the same rule applied to political signs.

I asked Mary Young, Westport’s Planning & Zoning Department director. She says: “Free speech is protected and is not regulated by zoning, including political signs, distinct from signs advertising special events which are regulated as they must be removed after the advertised event is over.”

She sent over Section 33-5.1 of the Zoning Regulations, last revised in 2012:

“The following signs are permitted without a Zoning Permit in all districts, herein.

“One temporary free standing sign not over 2 square feet per side for a residential property or 9 square feet per side for a non-residential property set back from any property line at least 5 feet, advertising the sale or lease of the premises.

“One temporary construction sign not over 24 square feet in aggregate area
identifying the designers and/or builders for a lot on which a building is under construction or reconstruction. Any such temporary sign shall be removed from the premises within 10 days after the rental of the space, sale of the premises or completion of the construction.

“Temporary signs for public and charitable events which shall be removed after the publicized event.

“Signs for political purpose.”

Political signs are treated differently than those for non-profits.


Speaking of local politics: The deadline has passed to declare candidacy for the Representative Town Meeting (RTM).

Four of the 36 incumbents are not running: Liz Milwe (District 1), James Bairaktaris (4), Stephen Shackelford (8) and Lori Church (9).

Four candidates are elected from each district. There will be contested races in 5 of the 9 districts. They are:

District 1: Incumbents Matthew Mandell, Kristin Mott Purcell, Chris Tait; petitioning candidates Richard Jaffe, Andrew Bloom.

District 2: Incumbents Harris Falk, Jay Keenan, Louis Mall, Mike Perry; petitioning candidate Melissa Levy.

District 5: Incumbents Peter Gold, Karen Kramer, Dick Lowenstein, Claudia Shaum; petitioning candidates Katherina Palmer, James Mather.

District 6: Incumbents Candace Banks, Jessica Bram, Seth Braunstein, Brien Buckman; petitioning candidates Alma Sarelli, David Rosenwaks, Louis D’Onofrio.

District 9: Incumbers Nancy Kail, Sal Liccione, Kristen Schneeman; petitioning candidates Douglas Enslin, Jennifer Johnson, John Suggs, Rachel Halperin.

Districts without contested races:

District 3: Incumbents Ross Burkhardt, Lyn Hogan, Jimmy Izzo, Don O’Day.

District 4: Incumbents Andrew Colabella, Noah Hammond, Jeffrey Wieser; petitioning candidate Clarence Hayes.

District 7: Incumbents Brandi Briggs, Lauren Karpf, Jack Klinge, Ellen Lautenberg Hendel.

District 8: Incumbents Wendy Batteau, Rachel Steel Cohn, Julie Uman Whamond; petitioning candidate Ari Benmosche.


The town is seeking proposals for sailing school and boat rental operator services at Longshore.

The deadline for RFPs is October 18. Copies of the RFP documents are available here.

The current Longshore Sailing School. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)


Ms President US — a non-profit, non-partisan organization that empowers young girls through leadership development and civic education — has opened a new chapter in Westport.

Girls in grades 4-8 can join. Meetings begin September 29, and are held monthly from 4:15 to 5:45 p.m. The program includes a field trip to the state Capitol, and a campaign and election for “Ms. President US.”

Participants develop public speaking skills; gain confidence; meet with local, state and federal leaders and role models, and work with high school mentors.

For information on becoming a member or mentor, email info@mspresidentus.org.


Calling all grant writers!

A local journalistic non-profit — okay, it’s “06880” — is looking for an experienced grant writer, for an upcoming project.

If you’re interested and available, please email 06880blog@gmail.com. Thank you!


Staples boys soccer was in the house last night — in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Kyle Martino — the 1999 graduate who was Gatorade National Player of the Year, and went on to become MLS Rookie of the Year, then played for the US national team — called the USA-Oman game for TNT. Bruno Guiduli — a student at nearby Macalaster College was in the stands, and got his fellow Wrecker’s attention.

PS: The US won the “friendly,” 4-0.

Kyle Martino and Bruno Guiduli.


Speaking of soccer: Marisa Shorrock — a 3-sport athlete in Staples’ Class of 2020 — has been named to College Soccer News’ National Team of the Week. The Yale University All-Ivy selection was also named Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week, for the second time in 3 weeks.

The senior goalkeeper made 13 saves as the Bulldogs beat Seton Hall 2-1 and the University of Connecticut 1-0.

Shorrock — who began her college career as a 3-sport (soccer, basketball, lacrosse) walk-on at Bowdoin College, before transferring to Yale — will play an additional year of soccer next season as a grad transfer at the University of North Carolina. The Tar Heels have won 21 NCAA Division I national championships.

Marisa Shorrock


Last year, a Westport Rotary Club grant helped clients of Bridgeport’s Burroughs Community Center do their taxes for free. Volunteers with the VITA national program helped over 1,600 people save money in refunds, deductions and tax credits.

Yesterday, at their weekly meeting, Rotary Club members learned more about the program, from Burroughs officials.

Burroughs Community Center executive director Michael Quon addresses the Westport Rotary Club. (Photo/Dave Matlow)


Longtime Westport resident and former Representative Town Meeting member Jane Young died September 6 in Washington, with her family offering love and comfort. She was 91 years old.

The Detroit native attended Indiana University, where she was a member of Alpha Omicron Pi sorority. She and her husband James Edward Young lived in the then-territory of Hawaii, Cleveland and Chicago, before settling in Westport in 1971. Jane worked for MetLife until her retirement.

She was elected to the Westport Planning & Zoning Commission, before serving two terms on the RTM for District 4. Jane was passionate about historic preservation, at a time when Westport was undergoing pressure for new development. A founding member of Save Westport Now, she worked tirelessly to preserve the Baron’s parkland on the Post Road, the William F. Cribari Bridge, and National Hall. She also lobbied to extend the borders of the historic downtown district, to anticipate expansion in the years to come.

Jane was an active member of Assumption Church, and she and Ed were founders of a longstanding social and play reading club called the Turkeys. They traveled extensively throughout the world, including China and the former Soviet Union before they were open to Western tourism.

Jane moved to Iowa City in 2001 to be near family, and spent her final years in the Washington area.

Ed Young died in 2008. Jane is survived by her son Mark (Vicki Grassian) of La Jolla, California; daughter Gayle Young (Thomas Carroll of Washington); brother David Koval, and granddaughters Alexandra Jordan and Samantha Young.

Her ashes will be interred at Assumption Greens Farms Cemetery at a later date.


Few Westporters enjoying seeing snakes in their yard.

But on Monday, Gianni Lorenzato was fascinated by a pair of them, tanning for a couple of hours atop a boxwood shrub.

“Trusting Google (they are non-venomous Eastern garter snakes),” he says, “I let them enjoy the sun undisturbed.”

Then he sent the photo to “06880,” for today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature.

(Photo/Gianni Lorenzato)


And finally … Ray Charles was born today, in 1918.

No, not that Ray Charles.

This one — a white guy — was a musician/singer/songwriter/arranger/ conductor. He led the Ray Charles Singers (not the Raelettes) on Perry Como’s records and TV shows for 35, and made 30 albums in the 1950s and ’60s.

His biggest hit was:

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Roundup: Elliott Landon Funeral, School Security Officers, Generative AI …

The funeral for Dr. Elliott Landon — Westport’s superintendent of schools for 17 years, from 1999 to 2016 — will be held Monday (September 4, 10 a.m., Temple Israel). He died Thursday night, at 82.

Yesterday, assistant superintendent of schools John Bayers sent this message to staff:

“Elliott led the district through a very transformative period. From a facilities perspective he oversaw the reopening of Greens Farms Elementary School, the opening of the current Bedford Middle School, and the renovations of Staples High School. Those projects themselves could have pulled a superintendent’s focus away from the primary responsibility of overseeing the educational program of a district, but Elliott never wavered from keeping the focus on having excellent schools for students, staff and families.

“During Elliott’s time in Westport the words ‘Lighthouse District’ were often used to describe the strength of its schools. While Elliott had high expectations for the academic performance of students, he was always working with everyone to think about innovative ways for our schools to help students prepare for their lives after high school. He knew complacency and a focus on lofty district rankings would not serve our students, our families, our staff, and the community well. He was a true champion of meeting the individual needs of every child.

“There is no doubt stories about his incredible impact on the schools will be shared by many in the coming days, and I encourage those of you who did not have the chance to meet or work with him to listen intently as you will appreciate how his legacy is having a lasting effect on the district today. His impact is not just on our schools, but on the community as well.

“Shortly before his retirement Elliott met with the Westport News to reflect on his career. What is striking in that article (linked here) was Elliott’s realization that he had basically hired everyone in the district at that point. That is an amazing accomplishment. For those of us who were hired during Elliott’s tenure, it is also humbling.

“Please join me in keeping Elliott, his wife Joyce, their children Gillian and Judd and their spouses, their grandchildren, and their extended family in your thoughts during this difficult time.”

In 2015, students Liam Abourezk, BK Browne and Jack Sila showed Dr. Elliott Landon how they used QR codes on their smartphones, as part of a Staples High project involving art, writing and history.


On Wednesday, 3 Representative Town Meeting committees voted unanimously to recommend approval of a School Security Officers program, proposed by the Westport Police, First Selectwoman and Superintendent of Schools.

Three officers would be assigned to 2 school campuses each: Coleytown Middle and Elementary; Kings Highway/Saugatuck, and Long Lots/Greens Farms. Staples High and Bedford Middle School already have an officer on patrol.

The SSOs would work primarily outside, including assisting with traffic and deterring potential threats. They would enter schools only for emergencies.

The full RTM will act upon the request at its next meeting: Tuesday, September 5 (7:30 p.m., Town Hall auditorium).


StartUp Westport — the organization dedicated to harnessing our town’s tech and entrepreneurial talent, and making it an innovation hub — starts up the fall with a meeting September 14 (6:30 p.m., meet and greet cocktails; 7 p.m. program; Westport Library).

Westporter Dan Bikel — a key member of the AI community at Meta — will speak on “Generative AI: NLP, Machine Learning and Large Language Models.”

The event is free, but pre-registration is mandatory. Click here to claim a spot.


Sherwood Island State Park — the site of Connecticut’s official 9/11 memorial — is once again the site of the state ceremony honoring the lives of residents killed in the terrorist attack.

The event is set for Thursday, September 7 (5:30 p.m.). Family members of will participate, and the names of the 161 victims with ties to Connecticut will be read aloud. Governor Lamont and Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz will participate.

The Sherwood Island memorial is located on a peninsula. The memorial is engraved with the names of people with ties to Connecticut who died on 9/11.

On a clear day the Manhattan skyline is visible across Long Island Sound. Immediately following the attacks, people gathered there to observe the devastation in Lower Manhattan.

In the following days, the area was used by the Connecticut National Guard as a staging area for relief efforts.

The 9/11 memorial at Sherwood Island State Park.


PopUp Bagels’ tagline is “Not famous, but known.”

They may soon be shopping for a new one.

People Magazine just gave the Westport-based bakers a “Top Delicious Destination” designation.

Popup Bagels has already taken our town and county by storm. Next, they conquered the Big Apple.

Now, will it play in Peoria?

As anyone who has tried to get a good bagel outside of this area hopes: God willing.


Yesterday’s Roundup noted that Rev. Willie Salmond will be the guest preacher at tomorrow’s Saugatuck Congregational Church 10 a.m. worship — and that all Westporters are invited to share memories of longtime pastor Rev. Ted Hoskins.

That will be Rev. Salmond’s 2nd service of the day. At 8:30 a.m. tomorrow, he leads the summer’s final early morning service, at Compo Beach.

Sunday morning beach service at Compo. (Photo/Karen Como)


Speaking of Compo Beach:

This has been the Summer of Tents, on the sand.

Some people love the shade and breeze they provide, along with ease of putting up and taking down.

Others think they’re too big and intrusive. And too many.

But — in the waning days of the season — here is a new trend: tents that sprawl far beyond their footprint.

Yea or nay? Click “Comments” below.

(Photo/John Cravenho)


In 2015, the Westport Weston Family YMCA received a large and unexpected gift from the estate of Ruth Bedford.

The granddaughter of Y founder Edward T. Bedford, she had died the previous year, at 99. The board of trustees established the Ruth Bedford Social Responsibility Fund. Its endowment supports grants to organizations that provide direct or supplemental educational opportunities in Fairfield County.

The fund is now accepting preliminary applications for the 2023-24 grant cycle. The deadline is September 9.

Last year, the Bedford Fund awarded $300,000 to 31 Fairfield County organizations. Their programs support equitable education programs for students.

Click here for more information. Click here for the grant application. Questions? Contact director of development Kate Guthrie: kguthrie@westporty.org; 203-226-8981.

Some recipients of the Westport Weston Family YMCA Ruth Bedford Social Responsibility Fund.


Last spring, the Westport Library partnered with New York’s Song Arts Academy, for an 8-week songwriting workshop for middle and high school students.

This fall, adults get their chance.

The 2-hour songwriting program runs 8 Mondays (6:30 to 8:30 p.m.), beginning September 18. The course is once again taught by former Westporter Billy Seidman, an experienced songwriter and the author of “The Elements of Song Craft.”

Participants learn the techniques and mechanics of great song-writing, including critiques of famous tunes. During the final 2 weeks, participants record a song in the Library’s Verso Studio.

Previous songwriting experience is not necessary. For more information, email songartsacademy.com. To register, click here.

Billy Seidman


Marisa Zer grows flowers for florists, shops and private customers.

Today she shares a scene at her dahlia patch — “bees lining up at the flower bar” — for our “Westport … Naturally” features.

(Photo/Marisa Zer)


And finally … A tribute to Jimmy Buffett will come tomorrow. Meanwhile, in honor of Billy Seidman’s songwriting class at the Westport Library (story above):

 (I write the stories. You may or may not write the songs. But please write a check to support our “06880” work. Click here — and thank you!)

Roundup: Parker Harding Petition, Chris Paul & Lindsay Czarniak, Verso Vinyl …

A petition signed by 64 electors has been submitted to the Town Clerk, and Westport Representative Town Meeting moderator Jeff Wieser.

The petitioners — 3 times as many as required — say:

In the interest of having a full and transparent public discussion on the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee’s  goals, process and proposed plan for Parker Harding, we request that the RTM add to its September 5, 2023 agenda the following item:

A review of the DPIC’s goals, process and proposed plan for Parker Harding, to be led by the lead petitioner, with an invitation to the Chair of the DPIC to present if desired, with time reserved for RTM member and public comments following the review.

Petition organizer John McCarthy says, “This is not a step we wanted to take. But we do so to make sure the voices of concerned citizens and impacted merchants are heard.

“The RTM is the public body which most fully represents all the people in town. Letting that body hear, first hand, how people feel about the plan is vital at this stage, before it is set in stone and presented as a yes/no decision to Planning & Zoning, the Board of Finance and ultimately the RTM.

“Following the last DPIC meeting,  which included constructive comments from more than 30 members of the public that attended, the DPIC has decided to ignore all of those comments and is pushing ahead with the original plan, which is to spend $6 million, remove over 40 parking spaces and get rid of the vital cut- through road in Parker Harding. We can do better than this.”

The RTM petition follows one on Change.org, opposing the proposed elimination by the DPIC of the Parker Harding Plaza cut-through lane from Main Street to the Post Road, and the reduction of 44 parking spaces.

That petition was signed by over 1,000 residents.


Chris Paul appears (virtually) at the Westport Library tonight (Tuesday, June 27, 8 p.m.).

The basketball star discusses his life, and new memoir, with journalist, FOX Sports anchor and Westport resident Lindsay Czarniak.

The event will be livestreamed and recorded as part of her podcast, “Lunch with Lindsay.”

After the conversation, members of the audience can ask questions. Autographed copies of Paul’s “61” book will be on sale.

Czarniak tells “06880”: “Human connections are so important. I’m so excited for the audience to get a chance to see and interact with Chris Paul because his story is so impactful and he relates it so well. He is still one of the biggest names in the NBA and he has so much to share.

“I read his book cover to cover. There were so many different layers. He has so much perspective. To be able to talk to him with an audience of kids and adults will be powerful. The fact that he is starting over with a brand new team — one of the strongest in the NBA — makes this even more interesting.”

Paul’s fans are one target audience. So, she says, are anyone interested in hearing a story that goes “way beyond the basketball court. I laughed and cried reading his book because he related his experiences in such a masterful way.”

Interestingly, Czarniak was about to interview Paul for her podcast, when she learned he had been traded to the Golden State Warriors 90 minutes earlier.

“Seeing him still processing the whole thing was pretty cool,” she says.

Chris Paul and Lindsay Czarniak.


Speaking of the Library: WNYC has been promoting one segment on today’s “All Of It,” with Alison Stewart.

It’s about the Verso Studioes vinyl record released last month — the first one ever produced by a public library, anywhere.

The promo includes a great shout-out to the Westport Library.

We know it’s a special place. Now millions of WNYC listeners will know too. (Hat tips: Tom Broadbent and Mark Mathias)


When she heard about Westport’s huge July 9 party honoring our sister city, Lyman, Ukraine (click here for details), Felicia Catale wanted to help.

She’s doing it the best way she knows: by offering free haircuts.

Between now and the July 9 party, the owner of Salon Nash on Post Road West will give a cut, gratis, to anyone who donates at least $60 to Lyman.

Those cuts and blow dries — for men, women and kids — usually go for a lot more than that.

Click here to donate via the Ukraine Aid International website (under “Designation,” choose “Westport-Lyman” from the dropdown menu).

Then call or text Felicia (203-747-9753) to make an appointment. Brring your donation receipt to enjoy your free, generous hair session!

Felicia Catale


Arn Peter Berglund, a 1970 Staples High School graduate, was killed in a bicycle accident last week in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

A motorcyclist struck the University of Idaho graduate, while he was pedaling away. He was wearing a helmet, but died at the scene. An investigation is ongoing.

Arn Berglund


Joan Harper died peacefully at The Greens at Cannondale in Wilton last week, surrounded by her family. She was 92.

The Bridgeport native worked in retail before landing a job as a secretary at Sikorsky Aircraft. She met her husband Jim there.

They moved to Westport in 1960, and raised their children here. Once they were grown, Joan worked as an administrative assistant at Hall-Brooke Hospital.

Joan was an avid reader, loved crossword puzzles, and watched old black and white movies. She was an excellent cook, specializing in Hungarian dishes.

She is survived by her son Jim (Karen) of Oxford; daughter Susan Kowalsky (Daryle) of Westport; grandchildren Harley and Barrett Kowalsky, and Jessica and Caitlin Giorgio (Stefano); great-grandson, Hudson Giorgio, and brother Richard Donnelly of Stratford. She was predeceased by her husband, and sister Barbara Fritz.

The family thanks The Greens at Cannondale for their kindness, compassion and care, and her caregiver and friend Marjorie Reid for her love and support.


This deer gets its daily requirement of greens — and much more — at Grace Salmon Park.

It’s a “Westport … Naturally” scene that too many homeowners are too familiar with.

But you gotta admit: It’s cute!

(Photo/Patricia McMahon)


And finally … Doc Pomus was born today, in 1925.

You may not know his name. But you sure know some of the songs he wrote.

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RTM 101: You Keep Hearing About It. What Does It Do?

The leaf blower ordinance. Wheels2U. Affordable housing.

If you follow those stories, you may know that the RTM has a hand in them. But what is “the RTM”? Who are these people, and what do they do?

Velma Heller knows. For 20 years, she was one of them. And for much of that time, she was its leader (“moderator”).

As Westport gears up for local elections this fall, Velma gives “06880” the DL on the RTM.

As a retired member of Westport’s RTM, would like to share some of the reasons you might be interested in becoming part of this unique experience in town government.

Velma Heller

For me, getting involved in our legislative body was exhilarating, an opportunity to learn and grow as I also formed lasting relationships with my colleagues.

I, like so many before me, became a link in the lineage of town legislators that helped to shape the town we call home.

Westport’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM) became the legislative body of the town in 1949, replacing the historic New England Town Meeting with a non-partisan representative form of government. It was designed to provide effective self- rule for a growing population.

The town was divided into 6 RTM districts. Each member represented 250 electors, and serving for 2 years. Over time the number of districts and representatives per district was modified to accommodate population changes. Today there are 9 districts. with 4 members per district.

To manage its many responsibilities, the RTM formed committees that study issues in depth, then report back to the full body for debate.

Westport citizens developed a form of government that represented the unique character and history of the town. It continues to this date. All Westporters are part of the tradition. What began as a new practice has become a time-honored institution of governance for our town.

Since its inception almost 75 years ago, Westport’s electors have assembled an extraordinary body of dedicated citizens to represent them: farmers, merchants, business people, corporate executives, writers, artists, architects, journalists, engineers, lawyers, educators, stay-at-home moms and dads, doctors, dentists, retirees. People from all walks of life resolve issues facing the town.

In the early years and beyond, local legislators focused on making our town a viable, comfortable community. They created town roads and drainage, and budgeted for school buildings — addressing the challenges of expansion, changing demographics and economic factors.

Over the years they directed attention and debate to funding land acquisition for town purposes such as commuter parking lots, Longshore, Cockenoe Island (to prevent a nuclear power plant off our shore), the Baron’s North property, (Winslow Park) as open space and the Baron’s South property, now the site of the Senior Center.

As the town entered the 21st century the RTM continued exercising its powers: to approve, reduce or restore appropriations; approve ordinances; approve certain appointments, and overturn certain P&Z text amendments.

Always at top of mind has been the balancing act required to address the wide range of pressing town needs that come before the body.

The RTM has shown an ongoing commitment to funding Westport’s excellent educational system through yearly budgets or building projects: conversions, expansions, renovations, reconstruction or new construction through times of contraction and growth.

Funding the town’s infrastructure, services and amenities continues to be a major focus. The RTM approves money to support administrative requests for running the town and its departments, including Human Services, Police, Fire, Public Works, and Parks & Recreation. Those requests fund the Senior Center; equipment and technology for all departments; sidewalks; a sewage treatment plant; recreational facilities at Longshore; town beaches, and much more.

In 1967, Westport’s RTM approved a plan to buy Cockenoe Island for $200,000. The purchase scuttled a plan to build a nuclear power plant a mile off Compo Beach.

In their legislative role, the RTM continues to approve ordinances reflecting the priorities of the times. These include converting the original Saugatuck Elementary School to a moderate income elderly housing facility, creating a Blight Board and TEAM Westport, a ban on retail plastic bags, a ban on smoking in public buildings, restricting infill on athletic fields, the use of fracking waste in town, and recently restricting the use of gas-powered leaf blowers.

When all is said and done, it’s the people that make a difference by participating, sharing their views and adding insight to the decision-making of the RTM. They reflect the views of the town, resonating passion and pride, offering a voice of reason, building community.  Whether serving as elected representatives, as individual members of the public airing their observations at meetings, or running for a seat on the RTM and enhancing the work of study committees, their varied perspectives enrich the discourse. Perhaps you could be one of those who contribute to the process.

In my own experience, together we engaged in hours of discussion and sometimes messy (albeit productive) debate. We built consensus, resolved issues, and at the end of the day (hopefully) agreed to disagree. For me, serving on the RTM in a collaborative, non-partisan environment, and making decisions that impacted the welfare of our town with support from exceptional colleagues was its own reward.

While COVID temporarily changed the venue of meetings to a remote format, once again in-person meetings are held at Town Hall. I encourage you to attend upcoming meetings the first Tuesday of each month. There’s something about “being in the room where it happens.”

I hope you too will be inspired to get involved, to run for a seat representing your district on the RTM. For further information on the RTM, click here. For details on running for the RTM, contact the Town Clerk’s office jdunkerton@westportct.gov or 203-341-1105. Petitions and applications for those planning to run are due in mid-summer.

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