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Sunday, June 29, 2003

First Sunny Summer Sunday Draws

First Sunny Summer Sunday Draws Crowds to Compo
It was the first sunny summer Sunday of the year and scores of Westporters and their guests plopped down on the beach and took the waters of Long Island Sound at Compo Beach.


Everyone into the water on first sunny summer Sunday at Compo Beach. WestportNow.com photo

The parking lots filled quickly during the day as morning rain showers gave way to picture postcard skies in the afternoon. The temperature at the beach stayed in the comfortable low 80s.

Compo Beach goers had the opportunity to purchase car passes for this ThursdayҒs annual fireworks display sponsored by the Police Athletic League (PAL).

The fireworks were held last year at nearby Sherwood Island State Park, much to the disappointment of many Westporters who liked the more intimate and crowded ֖ Compo Beach venue.

PAL was forced to relocate the display to Sherwood Island last year after being unable to secure a barge for launching of the fireworks. This year the group has hired a unit of the well-known Grucci fireworks family, which arranged for a barge.

Rain date for the fireworks is Monday, July 7.

Merritt Parkway Day Marked with

Merritt Parkway Day Marked with Classic Car Parade.


Just like the old days on the Merritt. WestportNow.com photo

They didnt go too fast and traffic backed up behind them, but more than two dozen classic cars tooled along the Merritt Parkway today to mark the 65th anniversary of the parkwayҒs opening.

The Merritt Parkway Conservancy, a group dedicated to revitalizing and celebrating the parkway, sponsored the parade. The drive was topped off with a luncheon at Westports Three Bears Restaurant.

Gov. John G. Rowland marked the anniversary by proclaiming today Merritt Parkway Day in the state.

The group hopes to improve the parkwayҒs appearance by bringing architectural, conservation, and landscaping expertise to complement the knowledge and resources of the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

The groups part-time executive director is Peter S. Szabo, a former deputy commissioner in the department.

One of the projects planned by the group is a demonstration effort to light a Merritt Parkway bridge for several months this fall.

It says the goal is to ғheighten public appreciation of the Merritts beauty by drawing attention to the parkwayҒs remarkable bridges.

The Conservancy plans to select one bridge and give it ԓsubtle, architectural lighting during the evening hours.

Media Fascination with Post-Indictment Martha

Media Fascination with Post-Indictment Martha Continues:  At Home in Westport
Todays New York Daily News takes a look at Martha Stewart and her life following her federal indictment on obstruction of justice charges in connection with her insider-trading case. Its conclusion—sheҒs happy tending her Westport garden.

Excerpt: Last week, she went about her usual high-octane schedule, checking her Turkey Hill garden in Westport, personally feeding her chow chows, Paw Paw and Zu Zu, and working the cell phone, friends and co-workers said.

“ӒShe’s going about working and living her, I guess, normal life, said one friend. ґShe’s not curled up in a fetal position somewhere. That’s just not her style.”

Saturday, June 28, 2003

jUNe Day Flags Fly on

jUNe Day Flags Fly on Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Memorial Bridge
Westport flew the flags of the United Nations today on the newly named Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Memorial Bridge to welcome visitors to town from the international body.

The annual jUNe day was begun by the late Westporter as part of her personal diplomacy efforts to break down barriers among peoples of different cultures and background.

The towns hospitality committee planned a day-long series of events for the visitors, including swimming, sports, and picnics.

Due to the large number of member states of the United Nations Җ 191 at the latest count   town public works employees had to erect extra flagpoles in both parking plazas on the east side of the bridge to accommodate the overflow.

The bridge was named for Steinkraus Cohen by an act of the state legislature last month.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Dog Days of August Come

Dog Days of August Come Early for Town Clerks Office
For the Westport Town ClerkҒs office, the dog days of August come in June so far about 1,300 times.

That֒s how many dog licenses the office has issued so far this month, according to Town Clerk Patricia H. Strauss.

The old licenses expire June 30 and anyone renewing after Monday, must pay a $1 per month penalty for each month the renewal is late. The price is $16 for each male or female and $8 for a neutered male of spayed female.

We usually issue about 2,300 licenses a year,Ӕ said Strauss. So we have a ways to go.Ӕ

All dogs six months or older must be licensed and wear a collar and tag at all times. The tags are especially useful when the dogs stray from their homes, as Strauss knows first hand.

Two years ago, the town official got a call in her office from a nearby resident who said she had found a dog with an unusual tag number No. 1.

֓I said, Oh my goodness, thatђs my dog, thats my Lucy,Ғ Strauss remembers telling the caller.

It seems her Portuguese water dog, adopted from the Bridgeport pound, is afraid of thunder and lightening, and jumped the fence one day. She was quickly returned home.

Strauss said issuing the low-number dog licenses for her pets (her other dog Red gets No. 2) is the only town perk she reserves for herself.

But she shares her insider influence with the neighborhood Ԗ Lucys good friend Mookie gets No. 3, another friend Jack, gets No. 4, and Zulu down the street gets No. 5. Other neighboring dogs round out the top 10 license holders.

They donҒt call Lucy Strauss top dog in her neighborhood for nothing.

Former Westporter Alexander Platt Selected

Former Westporter Alexander Platt Selected as Maverick Music Director
Alexander Platt, who grew up in Westport and is a Staples High School grad, has been selected as musical director of Woodstock, N.Y.s Maverick Concerts, the oldest continuous summer chamber music series in the United States.

“Woodstock kind of reminds me of Westport 20 years ago,” Platt said in an interview with the Middletown Times Herald-Record. “Woodstock is just wonderful.”

Platt, whose parents Leatrice and Bernerd still live in the Greens Farms Road home where he grew up, takes over from the late Vincent Wagner, who was MaverickҒs music director for 16 years before his death last year.

Platt, 38, studied at Yale University and then Cambridge University in England before going on to conduct the Houston Symphony, Freiburg Philharmonic in Germany, City of London Sinfonia, and Aalborg Symfoniorkester in Denmark.

He lives in Chicago, where he serves as resident conductor of the Chicago Opera Theater. He is also the music director for three orchestras in the Midwest.

Platts twin brother Russell is a classical music editor at the “Goings On About Town” department of The New Yorker and is a noted composer of vocal and instrumental works.

A third Platt son, Spencer, five years younger than the twins, is a noted photojournalist who shoots for New York-based Getty Images and recently covered the war in Iraq.

Westport Wont Experiment With Touch-Screen

Westport Wont Experiment With Touch-Screen Voting Machines
Much to the regret of Town Clerk Patricia H. Strauss, Westport will not be among eight Connecticut communities testing touch-screen voting machines this fall in municipal elections.

The only Fairfield County community chosen for the experiment by Secretary State Susan Bysiewicz was Wilton.

The reason Westport was not among the finalists out of 21 towns and cities vying for the guinea pig role was that it did not apply.

ғIt was a decision by the registrars of voters, Strauss said. ԓThey were very busy updating the voter registration list as a result of the RTM (Representative Town Meeting) redistricting and they had a lot on their plate.

ItӒs unfortunate, but we will still benefit from the knowledge gained from the other communities participating.”

Westport two years ago was one of several Connecticut communities chosen to experiment with a barcode scanning system for absentee ballots. Strauss said the system has performed well and Westport will continue to use it.

Besides Wilton, the other municipalities that will experiment with the new technology include Middletown, Griswold, Hartford, Sharon, Southington, Tolland, and West Hartford.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Westporter Arrested in NY Dance

Westporter Arrested in NY Dance Club 75 Years Ago Remembered
Oh, the perils of a newspaper morgue.

New York Daily News columnist Michael Daly, in a column commenting on New York Citys efforts to revise its cabaret law, recalls an incident at a club 75 years ago involving a Westporter.

He noted that over the decades, the law became less and less an instrument of prejudice and more a means to shutter establishments deemed too loud or otherwise a nuisance.

ғA July 8, 1928, raid on the Pulman Cafe at 361 Lenox Ave. netted 37 colored and white patrons,’” Daly wrote.

“A newspaper reporter noted that the prisoners included the ёfemale impersonator Jack Melleno and David Feldman of Main St. in suburban Westport, Conn.

“ҒMr. Feldman said he had stopped by after missing his train, The News reported.Ҕ

A 1933 Westport telephone directory lists no Feldman on Main Street but there is a Mrs. Fanny Feldman at 39 Gorham Ave.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

EPA Lists Todays Westport Air

EPA Lists Todays Westport Air as ғUnhealthy for Sensitive Groups
With summertime temperatures soaring into the 90Ԓs and return of hot, hazy, humid weather, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today listed Westports air quality as ғunhealthy for sensitive groups.

The EPA has 11 ozone monitoring stations in the state, including one at WestportԒs Sherwood Island State Park. Real-time readouts from the stations are available on the EPAs Web site.

As of 7:45 p.m. today,  the Westport station was orange, meaning ғunhealthy for sensitive groups. The EPA says that means active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.

The ranking was third worse on the EPA scale. shy of the worst air measurements of “unhealthy” and “very unhealthy.”

In last yearԒs data, the Westport station consistently registered as having the worst air quality in the state.

Westporters Opposed to Oyster Plan

Westporters Opposed to Oyster Plan Prepare for Hearing
A group opposed to a controversial plan to harvest oysters from Long Island Sound off of Westport using cages suspended above the bottom says it expects several hundred Westporters to show up at a federal hearing to voice their objections.

Recreational boaters say the plan, if approved, would obstruct public waterways used by thousands of commercial and pleasure boats.

A news release from the group, Keep Westports Waterways Open, said the Westporters are expected to attend a public hearing July 23 in Milford to oppose the 367-acre longline oyster farming business that would be located just off Compo Beach.

The group said more than 700 people have already written to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stating their opposition to the oyster farming plan of Mariculture Unlimited, LLC of Westport.

In response, the Corps agreed to schedule a requested public hearing, which is to be held at 7 p.m. in the Veterans Memorial Auditorium, 70 West River Road, Milford.

Keep WestportҒs Waterways Open, representing the interests of commercial and recreational boaters along the towns river and Sound shorelines, formerly was known as Save Scenic Westport Harbor.

The news release said the groupҒs name change reflects the growing concern among many local residents that the oyster farming operation proposed by Mariculture Unlimited would pose an additional hazard in congested waters and sound the death knell for established boating events.

At the July 23 public hearing, the Corps also will receive comments on a Mariculture Unlimited application for a similar oyster-rearing operation off the coast of Milford. Speakers can sign in beginning at 6 p.m.

The opposition group urged residents to communicate their views on the Mariculture Unlimited plan to Westport First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell and other local and state legislators.

Written comments may be submitted directly to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers until Aug. 2. Mariculture Unlimited will sponsor an information session from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. before the public hearing.

Cablevision Editorial: Ruth Steinkraus Cohen

Cablevision Editorial: Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Deserves Bridge Honor
Cablevision Connecticuts News-12 added its voice today to those approving of naming WestportҒs Post Road Bridge after Ruth Steinkraus Cohen.

In an editorial by the cable channels director of editorial services, Dianne Wildman, a Westporter, it said:

ғControversy seems to love the town of Westport, perhaps because its residents are so famously contentious. Martha Stewart comes to mind. Ruth Steinkraus-Cohen’s reputation was one of peacemaker, and yet controversy found her too.

The editorial recounted the late WestporterԒs achievements and the effort by Westport state Rep. G. Kenneth Bernhard to name the bridge after her.

But to Bernhard’s surprise—and ours—there was objection to this idea. Westporters who didn’t like the United Nations. People who thought veterans should be honored instead. Ruth would have been the first to say, if you’re going to fight over this, never mind,Ԕ the editorial said.

Fortunately, ԑnever mind never happened. The bill was approved, and the bridge—the Ruth Steinkraus-Cohen Memorial Bridge—will now stand as a testament to her bedrock belief—practiced rather than preached—that peace initiatives should begin at home.”

The Mystery of the Westport-Based Merritt Parkway Conservancy

Today’s press coverage of a Merritt Parkway Conservancy event Tuesday in New Canaan announcing new preservation initiatives includes a mention in The Advocate of Stamford identifying the organization as the Westport-based group.

But its connection to Westport is less than it appears.

Indeed the Web site of the Conservancy, a nonprofit organization established in 1999 and dedicated to preserving and celebrating the 65-year-old highway, lists its home as Westport—actually a Westport post office box.

But the telephone contact number listed on the site connects not to Westport but to the Hamden, Conn.-based Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.

John M. Lupton, executive director of the Westport Historical Society, told WestportNow he had no idea the group was based in Westport and has had no contact with its officers.

Ann E. Sheffer, a Westporter active in community affairs and who was listed on the organization’s press release for Tuesday’s event as a member of the Conservancy’s advisory board of directors, said she did not realize she was on the board until she received the press release.

Sheffer said she met with Conservancy board member Deanne H. Winokur, a Greenwich resident, about a year ago but declined an invitation to join the board of directors because of commitments elsewhere and has no contact since then.

Westport’s First Selectwoman, Diane Goss Farrell, who attended Tuesday’s press conference in New Canaan, said she did not know the organization was Westport-based until she saw it on the Conservancy’s press release.

So what exactly is the Conservancy’s Westport connection?

According to Peter Szabo, the Conservancy’s part-time executive director who lives in New York, the only Westport link is the post office box and a bank account. The same word came from Helen Higgins, executive director of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Trust had aided in establishing the Conservancy as an independent, nonprofit organization.

Szabo and Higgins told WestportNow the post office box is checked periodically by Emil Frankel, a Weston resident, who is now assistant secretary for transportation policy for the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C.

President Bush named Frankel to the post in March 2002. He is a former commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Transportation where Szabo once served as a deputy commissioner. Frankel is also a former chair of the Conservancy.

Frankel confirmed to WestportNow that he indeed does empty the Westport post office box but said that is his only connection now to the group.

“As a convenience (to the group), I literally check the box on Saturdays and forward anything there,” he said.

Additionally, Frankel expressed concern that publicly identifying him as keeper of the group’s Westport mailbox could somehow land him in hot water in Washington where he said everything has got to be “squeaky clean.”

Szabo, Higgins and Frankel all said they hoped the Conservancy would gain a higher profile in Westport and get more Westporters involved in its work.

Westporter Paul Newman is among its benefactors and is listed as a member of its “honorary board of directors.” 

06/25/03 06:10 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Classic Car Parade to Mark

Classic Car Parade to Mark Merritt Parkway Anniversary
If you happen to see a bunch of old cars making their way along the Merritt Parkway Sunday and getting off in Westport, salute them and say Happy Birthday Merritt Parkway.Ӕ

The classic car parade, involving about 30 cars, will help mark Sundays 65th anniversary of construction of the parkway.

They will head to WestportҒs exit 41 from New Haven and Greenwich beginning about 11 a.m., ending up at a luncheon at Westports Three Bears Restaurant.

The parade is being organized by the Merritt Parkway Conservancy, which held its first public event at the New Canaan Historical Society Tuesday to outline its goals and initiatives.

Peter Szabo, the conservancyҒs part-time executive director, said this weeks press conference and parade are intended to raise the visibility of the organization which was established in 1999 to ғrevitalize and celebrate the Merritt Parkway.

Gov. John G. Rowland has proclaimed Sunday as Merritt Parkway Day and Lt. Gov. Jodi Rell was on hand at the New Canaan event Tuesday to help celebrate.

Westporter Bill Scheffler hopes to be among those participating in the classic car parade—weather and readiness of his classic car willing.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

NY Times: Former Westporter Seppy

NY Times: Former Westporter Seppy Basili Comments on Affirmative Action Ruling
Todays New York Times devotes multiple stories to the Supreme Court ruling preserving affirmative action in university admissions and among those quoted reacting is former Westporter Seppy Basili.

Basili, a lawyer for Kaplan Inc., a test preparation company, said:  “You’re going to see a big increase in the number of readers at state universities” (referring to closer scrutiny those big schools will have to give to individual applications).

Basili grew up in Westport and is the son of well-known Westport real estate maven Marj Basili.

Author Stephen Kings New Yorker

Author Stephen Kings New Yorker Short Story Set in Westport
Stephen King, one of the worldҒs bestselling novelists, sets his latest short story in The New Yorker in Westport.

HarveyӒs Dream is about a conversation between a middle-aged couple in their Westport kitchen on a Saturday morning.

Known as the “Master of Horror,” King’s books have been translated into 33 different languages with 300 million copies of his novels in publication. He lives in Bangor, Maine with his wife.

Monday, June 23, 2003

Westport Public Library DistressedӔ Over

Westport Public Library DistressedӔ Over Supreme Court Internet Decision
An official of Westports Public Library says the library views with distress a divided Supreme Court decision today that Congress can require public libraries to equip computers with antipornography filters.

George Wagner, the libraryҒs assistant director, commenting in the absence of Maxine Bleiweiss, the librarys director who was unavailable, told WestportNow:

ғI think I can safely say that Maxine would be distressed by the Supreme Court decision today. 

From what IӒve read so far, it didnt make a distinction between the types of sites that filters attempt to block and valid informational sites that may be useful to adults as well as students doing research on topics.Ҕ

In its 6-3 decision, the court rejected arguments from civil libertarians who said that allowing Internet controls infringes on free speech.

The court said the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), passed by Congress in 2000, did not violate the First Amendment guaranteeing free speech because libraries will have the capability to disable the filters for any adult patron who may ask.

The law, which did not take effect pending the legal challenge by public libraries and civil liberties groups, required libraries to equip their computers with filters as a condition for receiving federal funds.

The ruling was a defeat for a coalition of libraries, library patrons and Web site operators, led by the American Library Association and the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the law as unconstitutional censorship.

We do not use filters at the Westport Library,Ӕ said Wagner. We believe that parents are responsible for guiding their childrenӒs Internet use, and we provide guidance to parents in doing so through literature and workshops. 

We also believe that users of the library, both adults and children, have the right to find information uncensored by any commercial provider of filtering software.Ӕ

Wagner said the library does not receive federal funds under the Universal Service Fund or under any other program. 

We may be pursuing grants from the National Science Foundation for a demonstration project on the public library in the Internet age, and if the CIPA requirements are part of the application, Maxine and the Board will likely uphold the freedom to read,Ӕ he said.

The New York Times, in reporting on today’s decision, noted that libraries receive $200 million a year under two federal programs, one that provides Internet access at a discount and the other that gives grants for setting up and linking to electronic networks.

It added: “Although libraries are free to reject the money and ignore the Children’s Internet Protection Act, budgetary constraints make that quite unlikely. ”

Its Beginning to Look a

Its Beginning to Look a Lot Like Summer҅Finally!
Westporters took to the beaches today as the temperature soared into the mid-80s along the shore with even hotter weather forecast for later in the week.

JoeyҒs by the Shore did brisk business in ice cream and sodas at Compo Beach as the beachgoers came out with the sun. Lifeguards at Compo measured the water temperature at 60, but that did not deter swimmers young and old from taking the plunge.

Bedford Middle Schools weather station, in the north part of town, registered a high of 90 in mid-afternoon.

Weather forecasts for the first time this year mentioned the ғthree HsҔ  hot, hazy and humid with a high Tuesday expected to be 92 inland and even hotter, possibly approaching 100, later in the week.

An accident along I-95 in Fairfield stopped and then slowed northbound traffic along the thruway in late afternoon, causing many cars to spill over to local Westport roads to try to avoid the backup.

State Developing Evacuation Plan, I-95

State Developing Evacuation Plan, I-95 May Become One-Way Northbound
Preparing for a man-made or natural disaster, Connecticut homeland security officials have begun developing an evacuation plan to move large numbers of people along the states already-congested commuter routes.

The AP, in a Stamford-datelined dispatch, quoted Vincent J. DeRosa, Connecticut homeland security director, as saying the planning is based on another major terrorist attack or natural disaster in New York City.

The AP did not say where or when DeRosa made the remarks.

Westport First Selectman Diane Goss Farrell has met recently with other municipal elected officials as well as state officials urging them to prepare such evacuation plans.

The local officials in Fairfield County have expressed concern about emergency evacuation plans also in connection with the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County.

The AP quoted DeRosa as saying one option would be to close all ramps on a major highway, such as Interstate 95, and make traffic one-way headed north. Another highway, such as the Merritt Parkway, could be used for southbound traffic and emergency vehicles heading into New York, he said.

The report also quoted Donald Petri, a program manager with the state Division of Homeland Security who is working on the initiative, as saying he hopes to have a conceptual plan ready for review by September.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

NY Post: Marthas Life Never

NY Post: Marthas Life Never Been Busier
If you think Martha StewartҒs legal problems are slowing her down, think again says todays New York Post.

It chronicled a number of her activities over the past couple of weeks aside from the twice-weekly taping of her show in her Westport studio. They included a Kmart photo shoot, dining out in Manhattan, and a Yankees game with owner George Steinbrenner.

While keeping busy and still making the occasional visit to her home in East Hampton, the newspaper said Stewart is not venturing out as much as she used to.

ғInstead, Stewart has been spending more time at her home in Westport, where she took a stroll on the beach one recent Sunday afternoon with her housekeeper and her two Chow Chow dogs, Paw Paw and Tutu.

Bonnie Adler, who chronicled the outing for the Westport Minuteman, remarked that Stewart ӑlooked as if she had put on some weight.Ҕ

The Post quote from The Minuteman erred slightly. Adlers story said it was an early morning stroll, not afternoon.

NY Times: Jack Mitchells New

NY Times: Jack Mitchells New Book ғa Surprising Little Gem
The New York Times offers a glowing review today of a new book by Jack Mitchell, chief executive officer of WestportԒs family-owned Mitchells clothing store.

Written with Sonny Klein, it is titled, “Hug Your Customers: The Proven Way to Personalize Sales and Achieve Astounding Results” (Hyperion, $19.95).

Mitchells, which also owns the equally well-known Richards clothing store in Greenwich, does a $65 million a year business selling to ordinary folks as well chief corporate executives among its 115,000 customers.

Excerpt: At a time when so many companies seem to have strayed from the core mission of serving their customers, and when others are seeking fancy customer-relationship management software to avoid eye-to-eye contact, ӑHug Your Customers is indeed refreshing.

ғMr. Mitchell describes how his company, founded by his parents in 1958, remains relationship driven,ђ rather than simply interested in selling another Armani necktie. Huggingђ may sometimes involve a bearhug, but more generally it means going the extra mile to satisfy, amuse or delight a customer.

The Times business section review wonders whether the company would be as successful if it were much larger. ԓBut all doubts aside, ” it said, “this book is a surprising little gem. The reader will almost certainly feel hugged.ђ

Mitchell, who has established his own Web site to promote the book, hugyourcustomers.com, will be at Westport’s Barnes and Noble for a book signing June 26 from 7:30 pm. to 8:30 p.m.

He and his wife, Linda, who is “women’s merchant” for Mitchells/Richards, live in Wilton.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Sunday NY Times: StudentsӒ Sleep

Sunday NY Times: StudentsӒ Sleep is a Westport Issue
The Connecticut section of SundayԒs New York Times devotes almost two columns to letters from Westporters critical of the towns Board of Education for its refusal to reverse a money-saving decision regarding a school start time.

The letters, under the headline ғStudents Sleep is a Westport Issue,Ҕ were a follow-up to a Connecticut section story last week about Wiltons decision to delay the start time of its schools to allow students to get more sleep.

The Westporters are protesting the boardҒs decision to start Coleytown Middle School classes at 7:30 a.m. in the fall, a half hour earlier than now, in order to save $158,000 on transportation costs.

The start time of the towns other middle school, Bedford, remains 8 a.m.

Westport Senior Center Construction Underway

Westport Senior Center Construction Underway
One month after groundbreaking, construction of Westports new senior center is well underway.

The $4 million project, six years in the making, is expected to be completed in about a year.

The center sits at the southern end of the 22-acre town-owned property known as BaronҒs South.

The senior center currently is located at Staples High School but must move due to the expanding student population.

Construction was delayed about a year by a lawsuit filed by a neighboring property owner.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Old-Fashioned Newspaper Circulation War on

Old-Fashioned Newspaper Circulation War on Westports Doorstep
An old-fashioned daily newspaper circulation war on Westport’s doorstep has been simmering for some time, but now it is heating up. What effect it will have on news coverage of Westport is unclear.

The latest salvo was fired today by the editor of The Advocate, based in Stamford. In an editorial page column, Joseph F. Pisani called last week’s letter to readers by Chet Valiante, publisher of The Hour, based in Norwalk, “a sad display of whining and demagoguery.”

“Chet Valiante tried to rally popular support by portraying us as interlopers and himself and his cronies as the hometown boys,” Pisani said. “The simple truth, however, is that The Advocate has been in Norwalk much longer than he and his editor.”

In his letter, Valiante said The Advocate’s push into Norwalk had the “sole objective of enriching the corporate coffers.” He said The Hour had deep roots in Norwalk, adding: “Only The Hour is this community’s voice. Don’t be fooled.”

For media buffs, the battle between The Hour, which had its start in Westport in 1871, and The Advocate, founded in 1829, is especially fascinating because it pits a little guy against a big guy.

Owned by a local charitable trust, The Hour is one of seven independent daily newspapers in Connecticut and the only one in Fairfield County. (The other 10 state dailies, including The Advocate, are group-owned.) It has no other holdings aside from the Wilton Villager, a weekly, and The Stamford Times, also a weekly.

(For circulation purposes, The Hour counts The Stamford Times as part of its Sunday edition. It reports it that way to the all-important Audit Bureau of Circulations —much to the dismay of The Advocate, which has complained to the circulation-auditing organization.)

The Advocate is owned by Chicago-based Tribune Company, whose newspapers include the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Newsday, and the Hartford Courant. It also owns two television stations in the state—WTIC-TV in Hartford and WTXX-TV in Waterbury.

The Advocate, which also publishes Greenwich Time, makes no mention of Stamford on the front page of its Norwalk edition and instead has Norwalk emblazoned in large type beneath its logo.

In addition to noting its Web address as www.norwalkadvocate.com (from which visitors are redirected to www.stamfordadvocate.com), the front-page logo includes the tagline in Norwalk, Westport, Wilton and Weston.

In its bid to increase Norwalk readership, The Advocate has opened an editorial office in Norwalk and staffed it with at least four former Hour journalists.

While The Advocate mentions Westport on its front page, its coverage of the town is sporadic. But when its reporters do cover town issues, town officials say their coverage is usually comprehensive and accurate.

First Selectman Diane Goss Farrell said she has been particularly impressed with The Advocate coverage of her efforts to deal with the areas transportation woes.

The Hour has one reporter assigned to Westport who also gets high marks from town officials for being thorough and accurate. But these same officials say they are concerned that as The Hour devotes more resources to its battle with The Advocate, coverage of Westport could suffer.

It’s unclear whether The Advocate is ready to increase its coverage of Westport. Nevertheless, Westporters are included in the same bargain home delivery subscription offer the newspaper is making to new readers of its Norwalk edition—99 cents a week for daily and Sunday editions.

With the Connecticut Post having abandoned daily coverage of Westport, there is plenty of room for competition here as well.

Update: Asked whether The Advocate had any plans to expand Westport coverage, Durham Monsma, publisher of the newspaper, told WestportNow via e-mail: “For now we are concentrating on Norwalk.

Rowland Signs Bill Naming Post

Rowland Signs Bill Naming Post Road Bridge for Ruth Steinkraus Cohen
Almost a month after it was approved by the state Senate, Gov. John G. Rowland has signed a bill naming the Post Road Bridge over the Saugatuck River for longtime Westporter Ruth Steinkraus Cohen.

The measure was contained in an overall transportation bill (HB-6404) signed Wednesday by the governor, according to the states Web site. It was one of 15 bills signed that day by Rowland, who had not signed any state legislation since June 3.

The bill passed the House on May 15 and the Senate on May 22—the latter passage came despite an effort by Westport’s Sen. Judith G. Freedman to block the legislation.

She said the bill had not had a fair hearing in Westport and that people were not aware that a naming process was underway. The legislator said there were other names that could have been considered

The bill was introduced by fellow Westport Republican Rep. G. Kenneth Bernhard and gained endorsement from the Westport Board of Selectmen by a 2-1 vote and the Representative Town Meeting by a 26-5 vote on April 1.

The act states: “(Effective from passage) The bridge over the Saugatuck River in Westport shall be designated as the ‘Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Memorial Bridge.’”

Streinkraus Cohen, an avid supporter of the United Nations and the arts, died May 26, 2002, after a long battle with cancer. She had been a Westport resident for more than 45 years.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Jan. 12 Set as Trial

Jan. 12 Set as Trial Date for Martha Stewart
A federal court judge today set Jan. 12 as the start date for the trial of Martha Stewart on obstruction of justice charges related to her insider-trading case.

U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum also set a Nov. 18 date for lawyers to make oral arguments on their pretrial motions and asked them to submit written arguments before that.

Stewart appeared at the federal court house in Manhattan for the procedural action, which some media described as “court housekeeping.”

Unlike her appearance there two weeks ago, the media was kept behind barricades and Stewart was able to enter and leave the court house without incident.

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