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Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Farrell: IӒm Trying Very Hard

Farrell: IӒm Trying Very Hard to Keep the Tax Increase at 9 Percent
Westport First Selectman Diane Goss Farrell told fellow Democrats Monday night she hopes to keep the tax increase for the next fiscal year at 9 percent.

Following up on a comment at a Democratic Town Committee meeting by Board of Finance Chair Steven L. Ezzes that taxes ԓmost likely will rise by 9.3 percent, Farrell said, ԓIm trying very hard to get to 9 percent.Ҕ

As stated previously, she said she hoped more revenue income than earlier anticipated would help keep the rate lower.

She said the town budget was going up by about 2.9 percent and the education budget by about 5.1 percent, for about a 5.6 percent overall increase. A higher tax increase was due to no reserves being available this year as in past years to keep the increase down.

No one likes to pay more taxes, including her, said Farrell. She said her family, like other Westporters, faced increased tuition costs and other rising expenses. We are taxpayers as well,Ӕ she said.

The First Selectwoman said in addition to taxes, Westporters faced another round of revaluation of real property next year, but added, the sticker shock wonӒt be as dramatic as four years ago.

As for attempts by former Representative Town Meeting member Michael Gilbertie to win a referendum to cut $5 million from town spending, Farrell said should he be successful and voters approve the proposal, one of the more interesting debates will be how a reduction would be apportioned.

She said the referendum does not specify from which budget Ԗ the town side or education side the cuts would come. ֓It should be a very interesting spring, Farrell said.

Democratic Board of Finance Chair

Democratic Board of Finance Chair Predicts More GOP GrandstandingӔ
The next election may be six months away, but already Westport Democrats, who hold a majority on the towns boards and commissions, are getting ready for the increased partisan wrangling.

At Monday nightҒs Westport Democratic Town Committee meeting Board of Finance Chair Stephen L. Ezzes denounced recent Republican attempts to seek a 5 percent reduction in the ranks of town employees as GOP grandstanding.Ӕ

He said the three Republicans on his board never raised the issue of reducing headcount through attrition by that amount in meetings in December and January, then raised it suddenly as the board was preparing to pass this years budget.

ғIt was classic grandstanding without any basis, said Ezzes. He added, ԓIt would appear as we go into the upcoming election, well hear more grandstanding statements (from Republicans).Ҕ

Ezzes also criticized former Representative Town Meeting member Michael Gilbertie, a Republican, for seeking a referendum to cut $5 million from town’s 2003-2004 budget.

He said neither Gilbertie nor Republican Board of Finance member Robert D. Graham. who led the attrition reduction effort, “has any clue what that (the effect of a $5 million cut) would mean.”

Ezzes and fellow Democrat Kevin A. Connolly are up for re-election this fall as are Republicans Graham and R. Gavin S. Anderson.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Mark Twains Forgotten Play: The

Mark Twains Forgotten Play: The Westport Connection
TodayҒs New York Times makes prominent mention of a long forgotten Mark Twain play that is causing a stir in the literary and arts world thanks to former Westporter Shelley Fisher Fishkin.

The 1967 Staples grad and 2002 recipient of a lifetime achievement award from Westports Arts Advisory Council unearthed the play, ғIs He Dead?, during her research for a book about Twain and race at the University of California at Berkeley.

Fishkin, who lauded her Westport teachers in her remarks at last yearԒs awards ceremony, is a noted Twain scholar and currently a professor of American studies and English at the University of Texas at Austin.

The Times quoted her as saying that although Twain was not especially noted for his skills as a dramatist, she was surprised to find the play well thought out, well structured and, most important, funny. The newspaper said a Broadway producer has already optioned it.

Fishkin, a graduate of Yale, regularly returns to Westport to visit family members. She and her husband are both on the faculty at the University of Texas.

Fishkin is series editor of the Oxford Mark TwainӔ and among her works is Was Huck Black?: Mark Twain and African-American Voices,Ӕ a controversial 1992 book that argued that a 10-year-old black child played a modeling role for Twain’s Huck Finn.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

WestportNow Scans the Sunday Papers

WestportNow Scans the Sunday Papers
The Hartford Courant takes a look at the Westport Country Playhouse and its efforts to remain a vibrant enterprise at a time when its rough going for many theaters. Excerpt:

ғJoanne Woodward is saving the hydrangeas. While this may not seem like a newsworthy event, it’s important to Woodward - not to mention the hydrangeas, which are planted outside the Westport Country Playhouse, where she is artistic director.

The Hour of Norwalk spotlights Staples High School junior Sam Sagnella, 16, who operates his own weather Web site. Sagnella follows in the footsteps of the late Stuart Soroka, a 1961 Staples grad who went on to become a nationally known weatherman for CNN and others (see tributes to him on the Staples alumni site.) Excerpt:

ԓSam Sagnella some day wants to chase storms much like the characters in the movie Twister, but for right now he’s working to help keep his classmates at Staples High School safe.

The New York Times, in its Sunday Styles section, highlights the romance and wedding of Westporter Darin McKeever, a 1992 Staples grad who went on to Harvard and then a job in Washington heading an organization that runs after-school and summer programs for schoolchildren. Excerpt:

When Darin Michael McKeever went condominium-hunting in the fall of 2001, he had no inkling he would fall in love, especially not with the girl next door.Ӕ

Saturday, May 10, 2003

WestportNow Hears That members of

WestportNow Hears
That members of the Wakeman family are asking the town to designate the Wakeman Farm at 134 Cross Highway a local historic landmark. Isaac Wakeman died May 7, 2000, at the age of 88 after having sold the land to the town 30 years earlier. He retained lifetime use and his wife Pearl continues to live thereŅ

That this years Memorial Day parade on May 26 will take on added significance for a number of Westport police officers and firefighters. It will be the last such event for some of them as they retire at the end of the month before a new police and fire pension plan kicks in later this year҅

That many of the local political figures attending Fridays summit on the economic development of Bridgeport gave high marks to Westport First Selectman Diane Goss Farrell for organizing the event. Many of them, Democrats and Republicans alike, wondered aloud what higher office the Westport Democrat may be setting her sights on҅

That among the absences noted by a number of attendees at the Friday summit were Congressman Christopher Shays, a Bridgeport resident who sent his regrets that the House was still in session, and Norwalk Mayor Alex Knopp, who said he had an unavoidable conflict that kept him away.

That friends of Paul Bray Jr. were upset that The Hour of Norwalk took little note of the longtime Westporter’s tragic death last Monday in a New Jersey plane crash other than a brief wire service story. The newspaper finally ran a detailed obituary in Friday’s edition under the headline “Family still grieving over loss of Paul Bray, 75.”

Friday, May 09, 2003

Westporter Leon Hirsch Funds Birds

Westporter Leon Hirsch Funds Birds Eye View
ThereҒs a new birds eye view at the Connecticut Audubon Coastal Center in Milford thanks to Westporter Leon Hirsch.

The New Haven Register reported the center has installed a camera that peeks into an osprey nest on an elevated platform perched high above Charles E. Wheeler Salt Marsh.

A monitor to view the video feed of the breeding and nesting rituals of the birds also is set up in the center, next to a large window overlooking the marsh, said Milan Bull, senior director of science and conservation for Connecticut Audubon.

The video feed is also available at

The camera and monitor, which cost $4,000, came to the center courtesy of Hirsch, former chairman of U.S. Surgical Corp., a Tyco Corp. subsidiary that makes medical devices. Hirsch is now a partner in JHK Investments, a Westport-based investment group made up of former U.S. Surgical executives, the Register said.

Blumenthal Calls for Suburbs to

Blumenthal Calls for Suburbs to Support Urban Areas, Pledges Support
State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal told a meeting on Bridgeports economic development today that the survival of Bridgeport and other Connecticut cities depends on gaining support from their suburban neighbors.

ғRegional solutions must be sought for all of Connecticut, said Blumenthal, often mentioned as a leading Democratic Party candidate for governor. ԓWe must make the suburbs aware of the role needed to support our urban areas.

Blumenthal, a resident of Greenwich, said the problems faced by Bridgeport residents were akin to those suffering from the effects of recent tornadoes in the Midwest.

ԓSometimes the people of Bridgeport feel they have been hit by a political and economic tornado, he said.

Blumenthal, who congratulated Westport First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell for organizing the summit, recalled that soon after he became attorney general 12 years ago, one of his first jobs was to prevent Bridgeport from going into bankruptcy.

ԓI pledge to you that we will join in those taking a regional approach (to the cities problems),Ҕ he said. Join us in this powerful and historic alliance.Ӕ

Developer: “The Secret of Bridgeport

Developer: “The Secret of Bridgeport is the Secret of Keeping the First Wife - it’s Cheaper
Property developer Robert Scinto told a forum on BridgeportԒs economic development today that he didnt think much of efforts to attract new residents to the stateҒs largest city.

Talk of bringing people into Bridgeport is puppy talk,Ӕ said Scinto, chairman of R. D. Scinto, Inc., of Shelton, Conn. ItӒs not going to happenWe need to find people in Bridgeport who are doing well and can do better.Ŕ

Then, in a line that drew the biggest laugh at todays meeting organized by Westport First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell, he added: “The secret of Bridgeport is the secret of keeping the first wife - it’s cheaper.Ҕ

Later, Farrell referred to Scintos remark, telling delegates as she thanked them before breaking up into small discussion groups: ғI plan to go home to my husband and remind him of the advantages of a first wife.

Bridgeport Mayor Urges Suburbanites to

Bridgeport Mayor Urges Suburbanites to Visit City
Bridgeport Mayor John Fabrizi, on the job only five weeks following the conviction of his predecessor on federal corruption charges, called on his suburban neighbors today to spread the word that times have changed for the better in his city.

Tell friends about your positive experience here,Ӕ Fabrizi told attendees at forum on Bridgeports economic development at Housatonic Community College. ғIf you can get the word out, thats half the battle.Ҕ

Addressing the meeting organzied by Westport First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell, he said suburban support for the city was essential to its economic recovery.

Come visit our zoo, baseball games, and restaurants,Ӕ the mayor said. He invited everyone to attend Rediscover Bridgeport DayӔ on Saturday, May 17, and said details of the celebration could be found on a new Web site,

At the end of the session, Fabrizi pledged in remarks to one discussion group of attendees to take steps to end corruption with a series of initiatives to be announced next week.

And he had a special message to those attending the meeting from the west of here Ӗ the so-called Gold Coast, a reference to wealthy Fairfield County towns such as Westport, Darien and Greenwich: ԓDont forget IҒm looking for buyers for a couple of Persian rugs and an SUV.

Fabrizi was referring to two expensive carpets and a Ford Excursion purchased by his predecessor, Joseph P. Ganim, that the city is now trying to auction off.

Bridgeport Economic Summit Attendees Praise

Bridgeport Economic Summit Attendees Praise Farrell, Call for End to Corruption
Attendees at todays summit meeting of regional political, business and non-profit organization leaders to discuss BridgeportҒs economic development repeatedly praised Westport First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell for calling the meeting.

About 150 persons attended the three-hour event, the Bridgeport as a Regional Asset Forum,Ӕ at the Housatonic Community College just off I-95 in the citys downtown area.

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Bridgeport Mayor John Fabrizi were among those citing Farrell for her vision in organizing the meeting.

Farrell, who leads a Fairfield County coalition opposing casinos in Bridgeport, said her goal was promoting Bridgeport as a regional center as well as increasing cooperation between the city and its suburban neighbors.

The Westport official, along with many other speakers, said it was essential that Bridgeport do everything it can to shed its image of corruption.

“Bridgeport’s future must include an active commitment to open and transparent government that radiates from the top down,” she told the meeting.

At the same time, she said it was necessary for suburbs to come to the assistance of Bridgeport and other cities. “It’s in our enlightened self-interest,” Farrell said. “We on the outside of cities must provide support. We must make cities more self-sustaining.”

She praised efforts Bridgeport is making to change its image. “Good things are happening in Bridgeport,” Farrell said. “The problem sometimes is to break through the negative noise.”

The Westport Democrat promised to compile a list of ideas and suggestions made by conference participants in breakout discussion groups and forward them to Bridgeport’s mayor as well as all those at the meeting.

Among other Westporters attending the event were State Rep. G. Kenneth Bernhard, Representative Town Meeting members Gerald Bodell, Lois Schine, and Gordon Joseloff, and Louis Gagliano, a retired business executive who does volunteer work in Bridgeport.

States Plan to Cut Back

States Plan to Cut Back Park Services Spares Sherwood Island
The stateҒs plan to strip many state parks and recreation areas of site amenities and services due to budgetary cutbacks spares Westports Sherwood Island State Park.

Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Deputy Commissioner David K. Leff said the cost-saving plan announced this week allows continued funding for Sherwood Island and Madison’s Hammonasset State Park, according to a report in the Norwich Bulletin.

He said these primary recreational areas will be the department’s main focus as far as personnel and funding are concerned.

The DEPҒs reduced spending plan allows some parks to revert back to “natural conditions” and limits access to others by restricting vehicle traffic. It also eliminates lifeguard stations at some parks, the newspaper said.

Fifty properties, many local recreation areas, will no longer have site amenities such as picnic tables, toilets and drinking water, according to a department statement.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Forty percent of Westport Households

Forty percent of Westport Households Earn $200,000 Annually
Sifting through the 2000 census data, the lobbying group for Connecticut cities and towns has come up with the statistic that more than 40 percent of the homes in Westport earn more than $200,000 per year.

According to the newsletter of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, one of every two households earns $200,000 per year in seven percent of Connecticut communities, but in others, less than one in 100 households earns that much.

The newsletter said Westport ranked fourth in municipalities in the state having the highest percentage of households earning more than $200,000 annually.

Those ahead of Westport: New Canaan 49.19 percent; Darien 48.02 percent, and Weston 43.37 percent.

In Westport, 40.44 percent of all homes, or 2,898 households, earned more than $200,000 annually.

Behind Westport in the top 10: Wilton, Greenwich, Easton, Ridgefield, Redding, Avon and Woodbridge.

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