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Monday, October 16, 2017

For P&Z, 5 Candidates, 3 Parties, Multiple Issues

By James Lomuscio

Westport’s new town plan, traffic, affordable and senior housing, businesses friendly regulations and zoning enforcement dominated tonight’s debate among five Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) candidates.

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P&Z candidates participating were (l-r) Michael Cammeyer, Greg Rutstein, John Olefson, Jennifer Johnson and Danielle Dobin. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) James Lomuscio for WestportNow.com

The P&Z Town Hall auditorium debate sponsored by the Westport League of Women Voters (WLWV) capped tonight’s two earlier presentations for four unopposed Board of Education members seeking reelection and three candidates for the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The P&Z debate was also the most heated as Democrats Danielle Dobin, Michael Cammeyer and Greg Rutstein squared off against Republican John Olefson and Jennifer Johnson, a third party candidate endorsed by the Coalition for Westport.

Johnson threw down the gauntlet at the start, calling the town Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) recently approved by the P&Z “a grave disappointment” that had little public input and for which she had to employ the Freedom of Information ACT (FOIA) to review a copy of a draft.

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Elm Street Land Swap Amendments to be Heard Thursday

Text and map amendments designed to implement the Elm Street land swap between the town and local developer David Waldman are scheduled to be heard at the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, it was announced today.

According to Planning and Zoning Director Mary Young, the text amendment aims to modify the zoning regulations to create a new Business Center Retail Residential (BCRR) district.

Simultaneously, the P&Z is set to review a map amendment rezoning property adjacent to the Kemper-Gunn House at 35 Elm St., the town’s exchange parcel, and 36 Elm St. to the BCRR designation, Young added.

She said that if the applications are approved, the next step in the approval process will require a site plan for development of the “exchange parcel” and 36 Elm St.

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Budget Fight Threatens Credit for a Third of CT Municipalities

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Wall Street today issued its loudest warning to date that Connecticut’s budget impasse will threaten credit to nearly one-third of all cities and towns.

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Moody’s Investors Service announced measures that could lead to lower bond ratings — and higher interest costs — for 51 municipalities and six regional school districts, affecting nearly $7 billion in outstanding debt. [Westport was not among them.]

The credit rating agency placed ratings for 26 cities and towns and three regional school districts under review for downgrade, potentially affecting $3.5 billion in outstanding debt.

At the same time Moody’s also assigned negative outlooks — often a precursor to a bond-rating downgrade — to an additional 25 municipalities and three more regional school districts that collectively have another $3.45 billion in outstanding debt.

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Malloy Counters With Lean, No-Frills, No-Nonsense’ Budget

By Keith M. Phaneuf, Mark Pazniokas, and Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

www.ctmirror.org

In a bid to end Connecticut’s budget stalemate and persuade legislators to abandon a legally questionable deferral of contributions to the state’s underfunded pension system, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today unveiled his fourth budget proposal for the new biennium. It asks lawmakers to reduce tax increases by accepting deeper cuts to town aid, education and social services.

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Gov. Dannel P. Malloy outlines his budget revisions. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Mark Pazniokas for CTMirror.org

The governor’s new plan would reduce spending by an additional $144 million, over this fiscal year and next combined, compared to a budget endorsed by Malloy and Democratic legislative leaders that fell short of passage when a three Democrats in the Senate and five in the House balked and voted for a GOP version.

Malloy’s revisions to the September plan maintain emergency relief for distressed municipalities by including a revised formula for redistributing education aid. It still shifts funding from wealthy communities to poorer ones, but not to the degree originally sought by the governor.

“This is a lean, no-frills, no-nonsense budget,” Malloy said. “Our goals were simple in putting this plan together: eliminate unpopular tax increases, incorporate ideas from both parties, and shrink the budget and its accompanying legislation down to their essential parts. It is my sincere hope this document will aid the General Assembly in passing a budget that I can sign into law.”

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Malloy Warns He Would Veto a Budget That Defers Pension Contributions

By Keith M. Phaneuf and Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy warned legislators today that he would veto any state budget — even one enacted with bipartisan support — if it is riddled with the same gimmicks he rejected two weeks ago.

“I think that people would be making a mistake if they totally ignored my veto message,” Malloy told reporters. “But on the other hand, a veto can be overridden, and I’m well aware of that. But I can assure you that threat won’t cause me to change my values or the like.”

Malloy also expressed doubt that legislative leaders were close to a bipartisan deal, even though House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, expressed optimism Tuesday at a news conference with Republican and Senate Democratic leaders. The governor smiled and said the body language didn’t signal agreement to him.

Aresimowicz indicated that any bipartisan deal probably would include several Republican proposals that the governor and his fellow Democrats in the legislature decried just a few weeks ago.

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Monday, October 09, 2017

Comings & Goings: Tusk Home Design to Post Road East

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Tusk Home Design has opened at 1375 Post Road East, next door to the prior location of Anthropologie. According to owner Sarah Weiland (above), she is has been a member of the American Society of Interior Design (ASID) for more than eight years. She said the Tusk staff, including four interior designers, specializes in renovation and new construction and features “vintage and one of a kind transitional furnishings and accessories.” The 4,000-square foot space was formerly occupied by Parc Monceau, a French antique design business, that operated in Westport for 32 years under three ownerships. Tracy Dwyer, the final owner of Parc Monceau, is one of Tusk’s designers. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

10/09/17 02:58 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Westporters Dominate Attorney of Year Competition

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Josh Koskoff of Westport (c) has been named 2017 Attorney of the Year by the Connecticut Law Tribune. Koskoff of Bridgeport’s Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder, is counsel for Newtown families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre. The two other finalists were retired Senior U.S. District Judge Alan Nevas of Westport and attorney Dana Hrelic, partner at Hartford-based Horton, Dowd, Bartschi & Levesque, P.C. Picking up the awards for Nevas and Hrelic were Nevas’s son, Andy (l) of Westport, and Wesley Horton (r). (CLICK TO ENLARGE) ALM photo

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Thursday, October 05, 2017

Comings & Goings: Rye Deli Aiming to Open This Month

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Rye Ridge Deli, 159 Main St., is aiming to open this month, according to Wilton resident Scott Martin (l) who co-owns the eatery with Michael Ventorino (r) of Armonk, New York. Martin, sole owner of Rye Ridge Deli in Stamford and Rye Brook, New York, said, “We’re making very good progress and our new signage was just installed.” Both Martin and Ventorino paid homage to the legacy of the late Lee Papageorge, the longtime owner of the iconic Oscar’s Deli that formerly occupied that space. “I wish I knew Lee, said Martin. “Everyone we meet talks about him with so much admiration.” The new deli will retain a mural that long decorated Oscar’s wall. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

10/05/17 01:41 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

No Budget Progress Amid a Day of Political Theater

By Mark Pazniokas and Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Connecticut’s budget drama continued today with two plot twists: the failure of the House to override the veto of a Republican-authored budget, followed by a Democratic challenge for the GOP to accept a legally suspect measure to temporarily stabilize public services while continuing negotiations.

The first was preordained, the second unexpected. Neither substantially advanced the slowly unfolding story of a state in fiscal chaos, where a Democratic lame-duck governor and a closely divided General Assembly have failed to agree on a budget for a fiscal year that opened July 1 and is now one-quarter gone.

After a brief meeting with legislative leaders at day’s end, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told reporters the search for middle ground on the budget would continue. He said, “I think everyone in the room realizes that we need to get a budget and we need to get it sooner rather than later.”

The governor added there is a recognition that the chances of getting any new budget enacted this month grow slim after Oct. 13 because of legislative scheduling challenges.

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Comings & Goings: Age of Reason Reopens

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Owner Dina Berger poses in her Age of Reason educational toys and bookstore that has reopened at 9 Post Road West, opposite the National Hall building. The business, a Westport staple since November 1983 , closed its doors down the block at 19 Post Road West in April. She said the new space, 850-square feet, is about one-third less space than its prior location. “Long-time customers are happy to see us back again,” she said. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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Monday, October 02, 2017

Comings & Goings: Savvy & Grace to Main Street

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Savvy & Grace, an eclectic gift shop catering to women, men and children, has opened at 146-148 Main St. under Tavern on Main Restaurant in the space formerly occupied by Coldwell Banker real estate. Owner Annette Monroe (above), a Monroe resident, said the store offers “a wide range of gifts, appeals to savvy customers, everything at good prices and complimentary gift wrapping too.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Malloy Vetoes Budget, Seeks ‘Honest Dialogue’

By Keith M. Phaneuf and Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today delivered on his vow to veto the Republican budget unexpectedly passed with a handful of Democratic votes.

He called it a gimmick-laden measure that would consign Hartford to bankruptcy, devastate public higher education, invite certain lawsuits from state employees and add to Connecticut’s pension liabilities.

“In sum, this budget is unbalanced, unsustainable and unwise,” Malloy wrote in his message.

The veto came as the state was wrapping its 13th week without a budget, continuing an impasse that Malloy says could continue indefinitely if not resolved in the next two weeks.

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Comings & Goings: HSBC Bank to Bedford Square

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HSBC Bank, 19 Post Road East, will relocate one block away to the recently built Bedford Square.  According to David Waldman, a Bedford Square principal, the bank will occupy a segment of the upper level facing Elm Street in early 2018. Richard Barnes, HSBC branch manager, said a 10-year lease at its current 5,500-square foot location expires soon. The Westport, Darien and Stamford locations are among 235 HSBC branches throughout the country. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

09/28/17 09:36 AM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Comings & Goings: Pop-Up Cashmere Store to Main St.

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The Cashmere Sale, a pop-up store specializing in cashmere offerings for women, men, and children, will open Oct. 22 and remain until Dec. 10 at 56 Main St. in space formerly occupied by Sperry Top-Sider. Owner Joy Schwartz, a Stamford resident, said this is its third holiday season in Westport, the first two years in a space at the corner of Post Road East and Taylor Place. Schwartz said the store offers “in season, high quality cashmere at factory-direct-to-you prices.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

09/26/17 01:34 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Monday, September 25, 2017

Comings & Goings: Nic + Zoe to Bedford Square

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Nic + Zoe, the Boston-based women’s apparel and accessories store, will open in October in Bedford Square on Church Lane, according to David Waldman, a principal of Bedford Square Development. Other Nic + Zoe locations are in Chevy Chase, Maryland, Hingham and Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, King of Prussia, Pennnsylvania, and Garden City, New York. The Nic + Zoe line of clothing is also distributed through high end department and boutique stores including Nordstrom and Saks. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

GOP, Dems Both Lack Solution to CT’s Cycle of Budget Deficits

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Despite their many disagreements over how the next state budget should look, Republican and Democratic legislators have one key element in common.

Neither of their respective plans would spare Connecticut from grappling with another massive budget deficit two years from now.

The legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis says the two-year budget crafted by Republican legislators and passed in the House and Senate late last week would balance the state’s books this fiscal year and next — wiping out a $3.5 billion deficit in the process.

But that same plan, unless adjusted, would run $3.31 billion in the red between 2019 and 2021.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Comings & Goings: PPG Paint Store Closing

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The PPG Paint Store, 413 Post Road East in the Compo Shopping Center, will close at the end of the month according to store manager Bill Hagan (above). He said the location has been the site of a series of paint stores for more than 20 years, starting as Brandman Paints in 1994 followed by Painter’s Supply in 2003 and then PPG three or four years ago. Longtime Westporter Katie J. Phillis, who shares space and rent with PPG, said she would now have to move her wallpaper/design business to her Westport home. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

09/19/17 07:41 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Ray Dalios’s ‘Principles’ in Bookstores

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The book “Principles: Life and Work,” authored by Ray Dalio, founder of Westport-based Bridgewater Associates, was released today to bookstores, including Barnes & Noble, 1076 Post Road East. Dalio is one of the world’s most successful investors and entrepreneurs.  According to the book flyer, “the book shares the unconventional principles that he’s developed, refined, and used over the past 40 years to create unique results in both life and business—and which any person or organization can adopt to help achieve their goals.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

09/19/17 05:39 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Monday, September 18, 2017

Malloy: It’s Time for ‘the Courage to Compromise’ on Connecticut’s Budget

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today reaffirmed his opposition to the new state budget, arguing it would raid the pension funds, decimate higher education and leave the City of Hartford vulnerable to fiscal insolvency.

And while the Democratic governor urged all sides to compromise — and said he probably would have to accept some GOP proposals he opposes — Malloy also said he would not accept a plan to scale back scheduled payments into the state employees’ pension fund.

“This is serious hard work to put the state back in balance with respect to its unfunded, long-term obligations,” Malloy told reporters. “And what do we get? We get an invitation to make it worse.”

That “invitation,” according to the governor, was included in the two-year budget that the Senate and House approved on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

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MGM Pitches Bridgeport Casino as Feds Delay Tribes’ Expansion

By Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

Bridgeport UPDATE MGM Resorts International launched a glitzy new campaign today to expand into Connecticut, an effort that curiously coincides with the Trump administration, at least temporarily, halting the state’s two federally recognized tribes’ from building a casino in East Windsor to compete with a new MGM resort in Springfield, Massachusetts.

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Mayors Toni Harp of New Haven and Joseph Ganim of Bridgeport talk to MGM CEO James Murren. At left, Uri Clinton of MGM.(CLICK TO ENLARGE) CtMirror.org photo

The Nevada-based gaming giant, after telling legislators for two years they would be foolish to approve the tribes’ plan without an open competition, now is seeking legislation in special session granting it exclusive rights to build a waterfront casino resort in Bridgeport, a gateway to the lucrative New York City gambling market.

“We’ve spent time, we’ve invested money, and we’ve come up with partners that will give them the best project, a project that really is shovel-ready, a project that really is already funded, a project that really already has partners and momentum,” said Uri Clinton, a counsel and senior vice president at MGM.

Led by James Murren, the Bridgeport-born chairman and chief executive of MGM, the company demonstrated its political support at a waterside news conference attended by legislators, Mayors Joseph P. Ganim of Bridgeport and Toni Harp of New Haven, union members and a local partner who owns the site, Robert W. Christoph.

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MGM Announces Plan for Bridgeport Casino Complex

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A rendering of the MGM Bridgeport casino complex.Contributed photo

Almost 15 years after former Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell led a Fairfield County coalition opposing a casino in Bridgeport, the possibility of gambling in the state’s largest city took on a new life today.

MGM Resorts International announced ambitious plans for a $675 million casino and entertainment complex in Bridgeport’s Steelpointe Harbor area that it said would create thousands of jobs.

The announcement came despite current state law that bars building a casino in Bridgeport as gaming is currently limited to the two federal Indian reservations. However, the General Assembly has approved a plan for a third casino in East Windsor that would be jointly operated by the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes.

That did not seem to dissuade MGM Chairman and Chief Executive Office James Murren, a Bridgeport native, from announcing his plan.

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

A Surprising Day Ends With GOP Budget Heading to Malloy — For a Veto

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Republican legislators sent their first state budget proposal to the governor’s desk in decades early today, capping a strange day that didn’t move Connecticut any closer to a new fiscal plan, but raised new questions about the balance of power at the Capitol.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy already had pledged to veto the GOP budget hours before it cleared the House by a 77-73 vote shortly before 3:15 a.m.

Meanwhile, leaders from both parties left the Capitol resigned to resume bipartisan talks in hopes of reaching a deal before a series of fiscal calamities strike in two weeks.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said Republican caucuses that have felt overlooked in too many budget debates in recent history, have a key role to play in crafting that final agreement.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Democratic Budget Fails in Dramatic Senate Vote

By Keith M. Phaneuf and Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

Connecticut’s state budget grew exponentially more complicated today as three moderate Senate Democrats bolted their caucus and teamed with 18 Republicans to pass a GOP budget plan that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has vowed to veto as unbalanced and gimmick-ridden.

Not only did the vote derail what Democrats saw in their best chance in months to end the budget impasse, but it raised questions about whether Democrats still have a working majority in the upper chamber. A chastened Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said, “That remains to be seen.”

With the Senate evenly divided, Democrats’ only edge has been ability of the presiding officer, Democratic Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, to break 18-18 votes in favor of the Democrats. Today, that advantage failed in the stunning defection of Democrats Paul Doyle of Wethersfield, Gayle Slossberg of Milford and Joan Hartley of Waterbury.

Bolstered by the defections, the Senate voted 21-15 to adopt the Republican plan, which now heads to the House of Representatives, where House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, is unlikely to place it before the House for a vote.

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Census Says CT Still Rich, But Wage Gap Persists and Population Stagnant

By Ana Radelat

www.ctmirror.org

Washington – Connecticut continues to be one of the highest-income states in the nation, but its population is stagnant and may even be on the downturn, and there’s a huge gap between the incomes of white state residents and minorities.

Those were some of the latest findings of the U.S. Census Bureau, which released its latest American Community Survey today. Unlike the nationwide census conducted every 10 years, which aims to seek information from every household, the ACS is an ongoing study of demographic trends that surveys about 3.5 million Americans a year.

It showed that median income in Connecticut continues to grow and was at $73,433, the fifth highest in the nation, in 2016.

Maryland had the nation’s highest median income, $78,945, followed by Alaska, New Jersey and Hawaii.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Talking Business

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More than 50 persons today attended the inaugural Chamber Morning Meet, a breakfast networking session conducted by the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce (WWCC) at the Terrain Garden Cafe, 561 Post Road East. Matthew Mandell, WWCC executive director said, “We’re trying to give business people an opportunity to find synergies and an outlet to discuss what’s up with their company, the business climate, the town and even the state … the goal is to find how to make our town even better for business and foster new collaborations while doing so.”  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Bipartisan CT Budget Talks Run Out of Steam Again

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Sputtering bipartisan state budget talks, which hadn’t produced any unified plan over the past four months, appeared to have broken down for good — around the same issues that have plagued them in recent years.

Republican legislative leaders said today that their Democratic counterparts effectively ended any bipartisan talks by meeting Sunday with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy — a meeting to which the GOP wasn’t invited.

But Democratic leaders have questioned openly for months whether Republicans ever would support the hard choices needed to close major deficits in the next two-year budget. And the GOP had sharp criticism for the compromise proposal Malloy, a Democrat, unveiled on Friday.

“If you don’t invite somebody to a room to have negotiations, you can’t have negotiations,” Senate Republican leader Len Fasano of North Haven said during a mid-day press conference. “It seems to both of us they’re not interested in having those conversations anymore.”

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Dems Shy from Sales Tax Increase in Effort to End Budget Impasse

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Democratic legislative leaders and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made progress over the weekend toward a new plan to end the state budget standoff by week’s end — one that would abandon efforts to raise the primary sales tax rate of 6.35 percent.

The leaders said it was premature to say whether they also could avert any sales tax surcharge on restaurant transactions, but compromises proposed by the governor late last week have helped push lawmakers toward a consensus.

“I think we’re actually closer than we’ve been in a long time to actually having the possibility of closing this and having a product we can pass and the governor can sign,” said Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven.

The General Assembly begins the week just four days away from a potential budget nightmare. If a deal is not struck by Thursday, the Senate’s schedule may not accommodate another gathering until after Oct. 1 — when Malloy, absent a new budget, would impose huge cuts on municipal aid.

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Comings & Goings: Williams Sonoma to Bedford Square

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Confirming widespread rumors, developer David Waldman said today that Williams Sonoma, the upscale chain offering high end cookware, house label kitchen accessories and gourmet goods, will relocate from 136 Main St. to a space in the newly constructed Bedford Square development in early 2018. He said the 8,000-square foot space in Bedford Square will be approximately double the store’s current location. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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Comings & Goings: 190 Main to Main Street

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A new eatery, 190 Main, opens early next month at Westport’s 190 Main St., next to Joe’s Pizza. The space was previously occupied by the Vine Wine Room that closed in July and the the Luxe Wine Bar, which closed in April 2016. Owner Steve Garrett (above), a Branford resident, said the new restaurant will offer a small plates menu, featuring seafood tapas. Garrett said he is a career restaurateur who operated Chao on Whitney Avenue, New Haven and another Chao in Sandy Hook, both featured Thai cuisine. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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Friday, September 08, 2017

Report: Bridgewater to Amass Huge Investment Fund in China

Westport’s Bridgewater Associates is poised to amass a huge investment fund in China, giving its founder, Ray Dalio, the kind of clout that has largely eluded Western financial firms in the world’s second-largest economy, The Wall Street Journal reported tonight.

With Chinese government approval, Bridgewater plans to use a new unit based in China to raise billions of dollars domestically to buy and sell assets in the country, the report said. The achievement reportedly has been three decades in the making.

According to the Journal, Bridgewater already manages billions of dollars invested outside China by Chinese institutions and the government itself. It also won rarely granted access to trade directly in local Chinese financial markets.

Dalio, 68, has been fascinated by China since his first trip there in 1984, the report said. 

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