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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Letters

Letters

WestportNow welcomes letters from readers on matters pertaining to Westport and Westporters. Those of 300 words or less are given preference. Letters are edited for grammar, clarity, and accuracy. Publication shall be at the sole discretion of WestportNow. Third-party or anonymous letters, those signed with a pseudonym, or letters appearing in other publications are not published.

A postal address, e-mail address if available, and day and evening telephone numbers are required for verificiation purposes, although this information is not published. Letters may be submitted by e-mail to , via fax at (203) 286-2099, or by mail to 150 North Ave., Westport, CT 06880.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Letter: Takes Issue With Story Citing Staples Enrollment

To the Editor:

Your story dated August 25, 2015 appears to be extremely misleading and lacks fact-based information. The headline “Already Over Crowded, Staples will get 100 more Students” is extremely misleading to your readers. This leaves the reasonable reader to believe Staples High School will get 100 more students this school year… And that the high school is in a crisis mode with no plan to deal with overcrowding.

The Facts are below:

In 10/1/2012 SHS had actual enrollment of 1,882 students
In 10/1/2013 SHS had actual enrollment of 1,837 students
In 10/1/2014 SHS had actual enrollment of 1,855 students
In 10/1/2015 SHA was forecasted to have enrollment of 1,888

Source: Board of Education Adopted Budget

The facts show that Staples High School enrollment is forecasted to be approximately the same level in 10/2015 as it was in 10/2012. Moreover, enrollment for SHS, as forecasted by the administration for 10/1/2015, is an additional 33 students vs prior year, not 100.

The numbers and the story do not add up.

Paul Block
Member, Westport Board of Education

(Editor’s note: the original story says Staples will have 100 more students than it can accommodate. It does not say 100 more students will enroll this fall, though the headline erroneously suggests that is the case. The headline and story have been updated. The story now notes Staples has been overcapacity for several years, but the 1,900 figure cited by Landon is the highest enrollment in recent years and is 45 more than last year.

Posted 04:27 PM
(1) CommentsPermalink

Letter: Praises WestportNow Series on Senior Housing

To the Editor:

The Coalition for Westport (CFW) congratulates WestportNow for its outstanding series of articles on the lack of adequate senior housing in Westport. (Click here for series)

The series presented the history of the senior housing issue and the manner in which the Planning & Zoning Commission voted to change the zoning of the entire Baron’s South property to recreation/open space.

Our town, which is such a leader in creating and providing first class community amenities, has failed abysmally in looking after its seniors, a shocking indictment of the shortsightedness of those charged with the responsibility of ensuring that Westport welcomes and values residents of all ages.

The personal consequences of this lack of planning was highlighted by telling the stories of long-term residents who have been forced to leave Westport and find housing facilities in other towns. Many of our neighboring towns boast one or more such facilities.

More "Letter: Praises WestportNow Series on Senior Housing"

Posted 03:20 PM
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Friday, July 31, 2015

Cinema Initiative Seeks Additional Funding

To the Editor:

Dear fellow Westporters:

If you want an independent movie theater in Westport, now is the moment to make your investment in our town.

The Westport Cinema Initiative, a volunteer-driven organization, is in a crucial place in its four-year history. I am writing as a member of the board of directors.

Four years ago we began a plan to build a publicly-supported cinema in Westport. This was made possible by the support of 39 angels contributing $1,000 each towards the idea and by about 200 charter members who have contributed $100 each. Today we are a recognized not-for-profit 501(C)3 organization and an integral part of Westport’s robust arts heritage and, importantly, the town’s Downtown Master Plan.

We have regularly screened movies in locations throughout downtown to raise awareness of our purpose. We have secured a fantastic spot in downtown for the theater – the last and best location imaginable. Our architect has drafted plans for the building. The town government has expressed its support. It is now time to build the theater.

To do this, we need the community’s support. Everyone who knows about us agrees the idea of a theater in Westport is wonderful. We need more Westporters – you – to make your enthusiasm real. We need $60,000 to take the next step to provide assurance that we can raise the remaining $4 million necessary to build the theater. Your tax-deductible contribution will help make this happen.

It is essential that we raise this $60,000 in very short order, else the entire project will come to a stop and the theater will almost certainly not come about. Our president, Jonathan Steinberg, or our executive director, Sandy Lefkowitz, or anyone on the board of directors is eager to chat with you about your support.

If you already know in your heart that adding this permanent arts resource in downtown Westport is valuable to you and your family, simply write a check to Westport Cinema Initiative and mail it to Sandy at 25 Island Way, Westport 06880.

Thank you very much,
Alex W White

Posted 09:21 PM
(1) CommentsPermalink

Monday, June 22, 2015

No More Water for Kayaks?! Really?

To the Editor:

As a Westport resident for 20-plus years, I’ve enjoyed kayaking from Compo Beach where I keep my boat in a dry stall that I rent for $100+/per season. 

In the past, the town maintained a hose with available water for cleaning the boats each time they came out of the Sound.  However this year, the hose and any available water for boaters with dry stalls disappeared! 

I went looking for a hose and found several new hoses with running water for the power boats and sail boats at Ned Dimes Marina.  One of the boaters told me that the town diverted the water for the kayaks into drip lines/hoses
used exclusively for newly planted grass that was part of the “upgrade.” 

What’s wrong with this picture? For starters, I paid $100+ for keeping my kayak at a location where I could both take it into the Sound and properly maintain it afterwards. I went home and got a huge bucket which I filled with water
from new hoses at the boat docks and carried the water several hundred yards to my kayak and washed it before putting it back on the rack.

I am all in favor of exercise, but lugging a bucket full of water because no water or hose was available near the kayak stalls was not part of the deal. 

Please stop diverting the hose/water that over the years has been part of the boat launch area,  so that us dry stallers can keep our kayaks free of corrosive salt without breaking our backs carrying water that should be readily available on site.

Thank you.

June Eichbaum,
Westport

Posted 07:34 PM
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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Westport Schools: Looking Back and Ahead

To the Editor:

The Year That’s Ending

The Westport schools are finishing an outstanding year on multiple fronts.  Our students have earned achievements in math, science, language arts and writing, and their success outside of the classroom has been equally impressive.  Three of our top administrators, including the superintendent, won awards for their leadership.  And due to a budget surplus, we were able to invest an additional $500,000 in the continued maintenance of our schools.

Staples and Superintendent Searches

Westport is a very attractive district for education professionals, and we continue to hire the best people to work in and run our school system.  The superintendent, who runs the process for and selects all principals, is seeking an interim principal for Staples for the next school year.  The school administration can then take the time it needs to find the right permanent principal to lead our high school for many years.

The Board of Education hires one person:  the superintendent.  We have already begun speaking with firms to assist in the superintendent search.  Early in the new school year, we will conduct outreach to the community to hear your ideas on the qualities you seek in the next superintendent.  Your input will be important as we both recruit for and hire the next superintendent.  We will continue to update you on our process and our progress.

The Year Ahead

The Board of Ed budget for next year passed without any cuts from our funders, allowing us to continue improving on our already-great school district.  This means that we’ll have several new initiatives beginning in August, including an increase in the music program in Kindergarten, expansion of the professional development of our teachers and additional security personnel throughout the District.  We also will have four exciting new courses at Staples, three of which are in science and computer science.

With change comes opportunity, and we are excited about all that lies ahead for the Westport schools.  We wish everyone in the Westport community the best for a relaxing, rewarding summer.

Westport Board of Education
Michael Gordon, Chair
Jeannie Smith, Vice Chair
Elaine Whitney, Secretary
Brett Aronow
Paul Block
Karen Kleine
Mark Mathias

Posted 01:46 PM
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Friday, May 15, 2015

Letter: Temple Member Rebuts Protester’s Letter

To the Editor:

In response to Tuesday night’s letter by Gregory Williams, one of the two misguided young men who, whether they intended to or not, terrorized an event held at my synagogue,Temple Israel, I would like to state the following for consideration by your readers:

First, the jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes has been famously quoted to say that “a man’s right to swing his fist freely through the air ends where another man’s nose begins.”  In an astonishingly immature display of arrogance, Mr. Williams avers that, after entering the premises and reaching the second floor “We [told Temple staff] that we had come to read a statement from a Palestinian woman at the FIDF event, and that we would leave voluntarily when we were done, or when we were ordered to do so by a police officer.” 

With all due respect, the premises of my Temple are not public property where Mr. Williams and his companion are at liberty to do whatever they deem fit, including exercising their right to free speech. I appreciate that, as a Jew, he is welcome to enter a Jewish house of worship, especially this one, in order to pursue a desire to worship according to our faith and commune with other people of our faith. 

But he needs an invitation in order to express his unwelcome political viewpoints and should have deferred to the authority of Temple staff when told that he was acting inappropriately in the context that he was.  For him to claim a right to be allowed to complete his objective or only leave when told to do so by the police, betrays a complete disregard of the laws of trespass.

More "Letter: Temple Member Rebuts Protester’s Letter"

Posted 01:32 PM
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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Letter: New Haven Man Explains Temple Israel Actions

To the Editor:

Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children; the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnal house.  We could not, so help us God, do otherwise, for we are sick at heart; our hearts give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning children.
- Daniel Berrigan, S.J., 1968

At around 1 p.m. on Tuesday, 12 May, my colleague, Dan Fischer, and I calmly walked into into Temple Israel, where the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces was holding a lunchtime meeting. So as to appear as non-threatening as possible, we had no bags, no literature—I had even left the small pocketknife I usually carry at home. 

We were armed only with a written testimony by Nabila Abu Halima, a Palestinian woman who lives in the Gaza strip, who watched her son be murdered by the IDF during Operation Cast Lead, and who had to flee her home during last year’s Gaza massacre. 

Our intention was simple: to read the statement at the FIDF’s meeting, which was hosting a brigadier general in the occupying, colonizing army that is responsible for her suffering, and the suffering of so many other indigenous Palestinian women. 

More "Letter: New Haven Man Explains Temple Israel Actions"

Posted 10:10 PM
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Letter: Panic Inside Temple Israel

To the Editor:

Since 1994, the United Nations General Assembly has condemned terrorist acts using the following political description of terrorism: “Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them.”

As over 100 women and several men sat peaceably Tuesday at Temple Israel enjoying lunch and ready to listen to the planned discussion, loud clamoring and yelling which turned to pounding and screaming began by the door to the room.  We looked over and saw—through the glass cutout in the door—a large figure appearing to be wearing head garb trying to enter the room. 

Everyone around me panicked. My heart sank lower than I had ever thought possible and my instinct was to get as far away from that door as possible. Thoughts of Sandy Hook, Columbine and Paris flooded my mind as I tried to remember/determine, within seconds, whether I would be killed more readily by hiding in one of the many classrooms within the building or attempting to escape it. 

Instinct again wanted me out of that building.  But after running through the hallways and down the stairs, and opening the exit door to the outside, I saw a vast, rambling shaped parking lot ahead and I felt certain that more terrorists would be waiting outside to harm those attempting to flee. 

More "Letter: Panic Inside Temple Israel"

Posted 10:42 AM
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Friday, May 08, 2015

Coalition Thanks 20 RTMers in Baron’s South Vote

To the Editor:

The Coalition for Westport (CFW) wishes to thank those 20 RTM Members who accepted the unanimous findings of the entire RTM P&Z Committee, and had the vision and understanding to vote to overturn the Planning & Zoning decision on Baron’s South. 

While the vote fell four votes shy of the two-thirds required to reverse the P&Z decision, a very high hurdle, a majority of the RTM clearly felt the P&Z overstepped its bounds.

The Coalition’s petition was brought because the actions of the P&Z did not represent good government practice and did not reflect well on the Town of Westport.

The RTM P&Z Committee came to the same conclusion. CFW has, since its inception, advocated for open discussion and a full airing of views on all issues affecting our town.

The Coalition is a strong proponent of open space as are many of those RTM members who voted to overturn the P&Z decision, and the RTM P&Z Committee members.

Their votes recognized that the ends do not always justify the means. Good government is a shared treasure for Westporters and takes precedence over the goal of any single issue.
 
Hopefully that message is clear regardless of the final tally. Voters will have an opportunity to voice their views on restoring integrity to the process at the ballot box in November’s election. 

Jo Ann Davidson,
Secretary & Lead Petitioner, Coalition for Westport

Denise Torve
Chairperson, Coalition for Westport

Posted 12:55 PM
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Sunday, May 03, 2015

Save Westport Now Supports Senior Housing Initiative

To the Editor:

This past Tuesday the Planning and Zoning Commission’s designation of the Baron’s South property as open space was upheld. The decision by the P&Z and the RTM wisely adds Baron’s South to the small roster of open spaces left in town.

Because of this decision, residents will be able to enjoy this precious and unique space for generations.

This decision, however, also compels a new initiative for the town to actively explore options and opportunities to increase the stock of senior and affordable housing in Westport. Save Westport Now continues to support these efforts.

Save Westport Now has volunteered to participate with the First Selectman and his designees in this important process. We believe that public/private solutions can be achieved and acknowledge and support First Selectman Jim Marpe’s immediate response to form a new initiative for this purpose.

Jeff Block
Co-Chairman
Save Westport Now
Westport

Posted 06:08 PM
(0) CommentsPermalink

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Coalition Applaus RTM P&Z Committee Action

To the Editor:

The Coalition for Westport (CFW) applauds the decision this week of the RTM Planning & Zoning Committee to recommend overturning the P&Z Commission’s decision to zone Baron’s South as dedicated open space.

The Coalition appreciates that the committee agreed with the Coalition and other petitioners that the process of reaching this decision was seriously flawed and the decision impacted negatively, not only on the potential use of the 22-acre property but also, on the future needs of the heavily utilized Senior Center.

The Coalition urges RTM members to follow the Committee’s recommendation and overturn the decision so that an application for a revised proposal for senior housing on the site can be heard.

The Coalition strongly supports a compromise solution to this heated discussion with a senior housing complex created on 3.3+/- acres and the remaining 18+/- acres be devoted to safe and accessible municipal space.

Denise Torve
Chairperson, Coalition for Westport

Posted 10:41 PM
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Thursday, April 09, 2015

Coalition for Westport on RTM P&Z Committee Meeting

To the Editor:

The first of two meetings of the Representative Town Meeting’s Planning & Zoning Committee was held on April 6 to determine if the committee should recommend that the RTM overturn the P&Z decision to rezone Baron’s South property as open space. Amid considerable misinformation the need for correction and clarification is necessary.

Chip Stephens, P&Z chairman, made numerous unsubstantiated statements claiming, for example that it was “certain” that if Baron’s South was not designated open space, the senior housing project would continue to be debated for another 10 years. Sheer speculation or a veiled threat to withhold action on the senior housing proposal?

Without even having heard or seen the revised housing plan he characterized it as “half baked.” Neither the Baron’s South Committee nor the developer was given the opportunity to make a presentation of the plan.

Although Stephens argued that senior housing would remove “all open space” from Baron’s South, every petitioner made the point that a compromise was available, namely 3.3 acres for housing and 16+/- acres for open space on the 22-acre site. 

More "Coalition for Westport on RTM P&Z Committee Meeting"

Posted 12:31 PM
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Friday, April 03, 2015

Restore Transit District Funding

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Westport Citizens Transit Committee (CTC), I would like to strongly encourage the restoration of the Westport Transit District (WTD) funds initially requested in the First Selectman’s 2015 budget request. Our Committee feels that these funds are essential to enabling the Transit Directors to fulfill their mission and the promise of safe, affordable, effective and convenient transportation within and around Westport.

WTD is not simply about shuttle buses but about addressing the chronic and critical transportation issues of traffic congestion, limited parking, pedestrian safety, air pollution and even business and citizen productivity in and around Westport. In a CTC Interim Transportation Report issued in January, 2013, the CTC highlighted these issues and our recommendations specifically called for dedicating town resources and funding for transportation-expertise and marketing. We stand by these recommendations.

We applaud First Selectman Marpe’s committed efforts to work with our Transit Directors to address the day to day town transportation challenges, discuss transportation policies and for his support for the WTD during this budget process. As a town, we need to build on his transportation leadership and vision.

Transportation in Westport is a 24/7 reality that directly affects our daily quality of life and business in and around Westport. Our town needs the skilled and full time attention of a transportation professional and funds to effectively communicate and engage with Westport’s diverse community of administrators, citizens and businesses as well as Federal, State and Transit agencies who provide grants, services and funding for transportation systems like the one in Westport.

Let’s make a smart and continued investment of our resources and budget to address the growing challenge of transportation in Westport and in our surrounding region. Restoring the WTD funds is an important step in the right direction. Restore the WTD funds.

Jim Ross
Westport Citizens Transit Committee

Posted 05:06 PM
(0) CommentsPermalink

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Coalition for Westport Critical of P&Z

To the Editor:

The Coalition for Westport fears that the senior housing project on Baron’s South is on life support and may not survive if the P&Z Commission has its way. 

At last Thursday’s commission meeting, the P&Z scheduled a hearing on its text amendment 687 to rezone Baron’s South as dedicated Open Space and Recreation District. Should this be approved, the property will no longer be available for development of any kind and the eight-year project to establish senior housing on the site will be over. 

This is happening even though a revised application for the senior housing project was submitted by the developers just last month and has not yet had a public hearing. 

The Coalition questions the decision on the timing of the open space proposal even as a pre-application review for senior housing on that space has been submitted and is pending. Why is the P&Z rushing ahead with its open space initiative? What’s the hurry?

More "Coalition for Westport Critical of P&Z"

Posted 11:32 PM
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Monday, March 02, 2015

SBAC Testing and Your Parental Rights

To the Editor:

As you are aware, SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) testing will begin in the Westport Public Schools later this month.  This letter is not to debate the appropriateness of this testing or to influence your personal decision, but to inform you of your rights as parents. 

Despite Connecticut superintendents having been warned to stop harassing parents who seek to fulfill their constitutionally guaranteed right to protect their children, last week an email was sent to Westport School District parents from our superintendent stating the following:

“CONNECTICUT GENERAL STATUTES (Section 10-14n) REQUIRE EVERY STUDENT TO PARTICIPATE IN STATE STANDARDIZED TESTS.
THERE IS NO PROCESS FOR OPTING OUT OF THE TESTING.”

This email was both forceful and misleading.  To be clear: There is no federal or state law, regulation or policy that prohibits a parent or guardian from opting his or her children out of these tests.  The former Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, on March 14, 2014 stated in a videotaped hearing in Hartford that there is no consequence to students if they opt-out of SBAC testing. 

More "SBAC Testing and Your Parental Rights"

Posted 10:14 PM
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