Thursday, June 08, 2023


Second ‘Rach’s Hope’ Benefit Set for Saturday

She fought a month- long battle with Steven’s Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis Syndrome (TENS), rare reactions to common medications.

“Our family was fortunate to have had help from our family and friends when Rachel was in the Intensive Care Unit. We want to be a part of that village of support for other families because no one should go through this alone,” said Alan Doran.

Saturday’s event is an extension of that support, as the nonprofit provides essential assistance to families with critically ill children.

All proceeds from the event directly benefit families providing food, transportation and hotel accommodations so they can focus on their loved ones.

To date, Rach’s Hope has helped countless families in Connecticut and New York by providing them with love, strength and hope.

The event is also a celebration of community with generous sponsorships from Greens Farms Spirit Shop, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Two Roads Brewery, W Hair and Color, Le Rouge Artisan Chocolates, and the Abrams Group.

Fairfield’s rock band Ellis Island will perform throughout the night and photos will be taken by Venture Photography.

Last year’s playful event had 100% participation of attendees wearing PJ attire. Once again, attendees are encouraged to sport their most comfortable pajama bottoms to the event as an ode to Rachel’s childhood business, Rachel’s Rags, where she designed and sewed her own fleece pajama pants.

Lisa Doran added, “The PJ Gala is inspired by our daughter who was passionate about good food, great music, fashion, family and friends. It’s a celebration of her impact on those who knew her and of our caring community.”

Supporters can purchase tickets or donate to Rach’s Hope by going to Tickets will not be sold at the door.

To learn more about Rach’s Hope, follow them on Facebook and Instagram. Rach’s Hope, Inc. is a Connecticut nonprofit corporation in the process of applying for 501(c) (3) status.

Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020

9 a.m. – Town Hall Room 201/201A – Board of Selectmen (live on cable channel 79, Frontier channel 6020, &
11 a.m. – 6 p.m. – Westport Museum for History & Culture – “Becoming Westport”
2 p.m. – Westport Library – Language Conversation Group: Italian
4 p.m. – Westport Library – Language Conversation Group: German
6 p.m. – Westport Library – Careers on Main Street vs. Wall Street
6:30 p.m. – Westport Library – Chess Club for Adults
6:30 p.m. – Westport Museum for History & Culture – Model Drawing
7:30 p.m. – Town Hall Room 309 – Parks & Recreation Committee
7:30 p.m. – Westport Library – Library Board of Trustees
8 p.m. – 182 Bayberry Lane – Westport Astronomical Society Public Star Party (if skies are clear)

See more events: Celebrate Westport Calendar

P.A.L. Ice Rink Closes Sunday Image
The P.A.L. ice rink at Longshore Club Park closes for the season this weekend. According to staff member Kieran Winser, Sunday is the final day and, pending weather conditions, will be open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Referencing the recent spring-like temperatures, Winser said the rink was closed this past Saturday and Sunday.“So far today,” he added, “we have not had any skaters.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

Anonymous Survey Explores Town Substance Abuse, Mental Health

“One only needs to review the daily news to comprehend the rise in mental health and substance misuse issues among children, adults and seniors across the country,” Daignault said.
She encouraged residents are to take the survey at and/or contact the Department of Human Services at (203) 341-1050 for more information or assistance in accessing a paper copy.

According to Daignault, the anonymous survey, is designed to provide helpful information as the Coalition embarks on prevention and resource development efforts addressing substance misuse, mental health services and the overall wellness. She said that data will be used to advise local programming efforts.

“We are proud to continue to partner with the Town of Westport in raising behavioral health as a community priority and are excited to have this process be informed by community members in identifying and addressing the issues most important to them,” said Jennifer Hrbek, executive director of Positive Directions

Daignault said the CRS will complement youth and parent surveys administered through Positive Directions in partnership with Westport Public Schools. She added that the next youth and parent survey will take place during the 2020-2021 academic year. 

For further information and statistics, Daignault encouraged residents to visit the Regional Behavioral Health Action Organization, The Hub CT’s website.

Clement Onyemelukwe, ‘Father of Electricity’ in Nigeria, 86

His wife Catherine was president of the library board in 1999-2000, prior to becoming the director of development for the YMCA. She is an active member of TEAM Westport and The Unitarian Church in Westport.

Clement Chukwukadia Onyemelukwe was born April 1, 1933, in Nanka, Anambra State, Nigeria.

After graduating from Dennis Memorial Grammar School, a premier colonial-era boys’ secondary school, Clement attended the University College Ibadan for two years before being sent by the British colonial government to Leeds University.

He received his B.Sc. engineering degree in 1956 and worked in the power sector in UK. He acquired a second degree in economics from London University.

He had nearly abandoned any intention of returning to Nigeria when the Electricity Corporation on Nigeria, ECN, recruited him as part of the drive to fill civil service and parastatal positions after Nigeria’s independence from Britain in 1960.

In 1961, he became deputy chief and the following year was made chief engineer, taking over from the British man who had run the operations. It was on his desk that the first outline of what is now the NEPA grid was formulated.

All the chief executives of NEPA, the renamed national electricity corporation, since its inception up to 2001 were his former staff.

Although his parents had rejoiced that he had returned from the UK without a foreign white wife, in 1963 he met a white Peace Corps volunteer in Lagos and married her in 1964 after the conclusion of her Peace Corps service.

“Peace Corps Worker to Wed Nigerian Engineer,” was the headline for a brief article in The New York Times from Lagos, Nigeria on Dec. 23, 1964. The couple “went through last-minute preparations today for their wedding Saturday at St. Saviour’s Church,” the piece said.  

A second article on Dec. 27, Lloyd Garrison’s “Special to The New York Times,” announced the wedding with bios of the couple.

The marriage in 1964 aroused international attention. “Nigerian Marries Peace Corps Girl” was the headline on the second NY Times article referenced above. Interracial marriage was illegal in Kentucky which was still Catherine’s U.S. residence while she was in the Peace Corps.

When her parents returned to Kentucky after the wedding they had to change their phone number because of hate calls. The couple received telegrams from people all over the world, mostly supportive but a few critical.

A photo of the wedding appeared in Life Magazine in January 1965 and was also noted in Ebony Magazine. 

With the Nigerian civil war looming in 1967 Clem left ECN to take up leadership of Biafra’s Coal Corporation and electricity utility. He was also made executive chairman of the Biafra Airports Board.

Late in the war he became chairman of the Panel on Post-War Reconstruction. He returned to Lagos and the Electricity Corporation after Biafra’s surrender in January 1970.  

He left the electricity industry to found Freeman Engineering in Lagos in 1973. In 1976 he founded Colechurch International Ltd, a project management and promotion company, in UK.

Onyemelukwe was the author of five books: ”Industrial Planning and Management in Nigeria (Longmans UK) 1964;” “Men and Management in Contemporary Africa (Longmans UK) 1973;“ “Economic Underdevelopment: An Inside View (Longmans UK) 1974;” “Science of Economic Development and Growth: The theory of Factor Proportions (M. E. Sharpe Publishing US) 2004.” His last book, “The Decline of the American Economy”, is due out in spring 2020.

Clem was well loved by the community at the Unitarian Church in Westport and others. His warm smile, easy laugh, and joy in recounting stories of Nigeria made him an engaging conversationalist. He loved to discuss politics and economics with any and all.

He is survived by his wife Catherine, their three children, Chinakueze, Elizabeth, and Samuel, and five grandchildren, Kenechi, Nkiru, Teya, Bruche and Ikem. His brother Professor Geoffrey Onyemelukwe and three sisters also survive him. He was predeceased by one brother and one sister.

His life will be celebrated on March 7, at 1 p.m. at The Unitarian Church in Westport. He will be buried in the family compound in his ancestral village beside his parents in April.

Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020

9:15 a.m. – Westport Library – Job Search Work Team
10 a.m. – Westport Library – English Conversation Group
11 a.m. – 6 p.m. – Westport Museum for History & Culture – “Becoming Westport”
2 p.m. – Westport Library – Language Conversation Group: Spanish
2 p.m. – Westport Library – Tuesdays at Two Film: “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”
4 p.m. – 6 p.m. – Westport Library – Drop-in Tech Help
7 p.m. – Town Hall Room 307 – Historic District Study Committee
7 p.m. – Town Hall Auditorium – Zoning Board of Appeals (live on cable channel 79, Frontier channel 6020, &
7 p.m. -Westport Library – Countdown to College: Planning the College Application Process
7:30 p.m. – Town Hall Room 309 – Architectural Review Board

See more events: Celebrate Westport Calendar

BOE Narrowing Superintendent Search

“Parents are very active in Westport,” he said, “and parents want your new superintendent to see them as a partner.”

“I had a terrific, terrific meeting with parents … I believe the superintendent needs to know there are parents who truly want to hold hands and work with that new leader,” Erardi said.

As for school staff, he said, “They want somebody visible.”

“They don’t want somebody who’s not going to be sitting at Central Office,” Erardi said. “They want somebody who’s going to be in the building. They want somebody who knows kids.”

Among the 29 completed applications, 18 candidates are current sitting superintendents, with six of the remaining 11 having previously had experience in that role.

He said candidates have presented themselves from 11 different states, both men and women, though he didn’t provide an exact breakdown number.

Erardi said he held 22 separate meetings with various stakeholders, beginning in mid-October. He also entertained more than 40 individual phone calls with people wanting to share their thoughts privately, as well as collecting survey information from more than 350 people.

Along with a range of positive attributes, including honesty, intelligence, “quiet confidence,” and an “uncompromising moral compass,” people who were questioned voiced a strong desire for an individual who will stick around for a while.

“This community wants somebody who is going to stay … And they’re asking you to find a wait to insure that,” Erardi said, acknowledging that there was no real way to do that and that all candidates will indicate their intention to stay for a long time.

Some of the qualities summarized by Erardi’s findings were very general—and even vague—including “a superintendent who demonstrates best practice in all aspects of the work; thus, through her/his professional daily performance enhances climate and culture within the organization.”

Survey participants noted that additional attention should go toward enhanced partnerships with elected officials, staff retention, social and emotional needs of children, and recognition of diversity of learners.

Erardi commended the school system and community at large for being engaged, active and honest in its responses.

“This will assist us this evening in our post meeting and guide the hiring committee,” he said.

Lawmakers Advance Bill Barring New Religious Exemptions to Vaccines

A public hearing on the measure drew thousands of people last week. Nearly 500 signed up to testify at a meeting that lasted more than 21 hours. Thousands more turned up at the Capitol today to protest the committee vote, chanting, praying, and confronting lawmakers after the meeting.

Proponents who supported the legislation said it was important to begin addressing the rising number of exemptions that have led to lower overall vaccination rates. The Department of Public Health reported there were 134 Connecticut schools at which fewer than 95% of students were vaccinated against the measles in 2018-19. The 95% threshold is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to maintain herd immunity.

—Jenna Carlesso,

With CT Tolls Debate on Ice, Fiscal Issues Loom Large

“I’ve lost patience,” the governor said last week as he announced the tolls bill had fallen into political limbo. “We’re going to fix our transportation plan, and we’re ready to work with anybody who has a constructive alternative.”

What does that mean?

For the short term, the governor said, it involves shifting priorities.

On paper, the budget’s Special Transportation Fund — which repays the borrowing that sustains highway, bridge and rail upgrades —  is in fine shape, projected to run modest surpluses through 2024.

But appearances can be deceiving.

Those numbers only hold up if Connecticut keeps fixing infrastructure at its current pace that barely maintains a state of good repair — and leaves very little for strategic projects that enhance traffic flow.

The transportation fund currently supports roughly $800 million per year in state borrowing, which in turns leverages about $750 million in matching federal grants.

But DOT officials say as aging, overcrowded highways and bridges demand more costly repairs, $1.5 billion-to-$1.6 billion won’t get the job done, and something closer to $2 billion per year will be needed.

Based on that assumption, the transportation fund hits insolvency around 2025 or 2026.

As a stop-gap measure, Lamont said he favors taking about $200 million in borrowing supported by the budget’s General Fund — borrowing currently used to support school construction, conservation efforts, state building maintenance and economic development — and shifting that to transportation.

“I hate to do it this way,” Lamont said. “It’s bonding in place of other things that are priorities, but right now there’s no other option on the table.”

But another $200 million per year isn’t a long-term fix. It only postpones insolvency for a few more years, administration officials say.

Truck toll receipts would have added $150 million-to-$200 million per year.

Equally important, they would have helped Connecticut qualify for low-interest federal transportation loans.

This means Connecticut could have borrowed significantly more for infrastructure repairs.

If legislators won’t consider tolls, they could consider raising fuel taxes for the first time in seven years.

But Connecticut has two taxes that impact the price of gasoline — not to mention one of the highest fuel tax burdens in the nation.

When distributors bring fuel to local gas stations, the state applies an 8.1% wholesale tax. [A state-approved surcharge effectively raises the rate to 8.81%.]

This equates to nearly 15 cents per gallon, based on current wholesale prices, according to the according to the Connecticut Energy Marketers Association. But when oil prices skyrocketed in 2007 and 2008, the tax generated as much as 26 cents per gallon.

Regardless of the amount, gasoline station owners say they build the entire cost into the base price charged motorists, who also face a flat, 25-cents-per-gallon retail tax.

The wholesale tax last increased in 2013, following a schedule adopted in 2005. The retail tax last was changed in 2000, when legislators and then-Gov. John G. Rowland lowered it from 32 to 25 cents per gallon.

Neither Lamont nor any legislators have proposed any fuel tax hikes to date this year. The governor often has said tolls and other user fees were more reliable than increasing gasoline taxes, given the increasing fuel efficiency of vehicles.

The two fuel taxes together provide roughly half of the revenue for the $1.73 billion Special Transportation Fund.

Another option to mitigate the absence of toll receipts would be to increase sales tax revenues dedicated to transportation.

The sales tax currently provides about 30% of the STF’s revenues, and legislators passed a bipartisan plan in 2017 to increase that share steadily through the mid-2020s.

Lamont and his fellow Democrats in the legislature voted in June to scale back that increase, and Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said officials should not deviate from that schedule any further.

More importantly, the tolls-centered transportation plan Lamont supports also was counting on sales tax transfers to the STF to ramp up again in 2022, jumping by more than $180 million that year.

In other words, maintaining that transfer plan wouldn’t push off the projected insolvency of the transportation fund. It just would stop it from happening even sooner.

And there’s also no guarantee legislators will accept the governor’s proposal to redirect $200 million in bonding away from non-transportation projects and into highways, bridges and rail lines.

Connecticut has one of the highest debt burdens, per capita, of any state, prompting Lamont 13 months ago to propose a “debt diet.”

The governor relented two weeks ago, proposing $1.77 billion in new general obligation bonding for this fiscal year — borrowing to bevrepaid out of the budget’s General Fund and not the STF.

That was more than $400 million beyond what the governor wanted, much of its focused on economic development priorities of Democratic legislators. And administration officials made it clear this was an olive branch to build support for tolls.

Now that tolls are on hold, sources say the “debt diet” is back in play.

Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, co-chairman of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, said he hopes the administration’s bonding proposal from two weeks ago is still on the table.

“I take the administration at its word,” the Hartford lawmaker said. “I thought those decisions were based in good [borrowing] policy.”

Fonfara, who says bonding is a key tool for economic development and to help poor communities in lean fiscal times,  introduced a bill last year that would have wrested control of the State Bond Commission from the Executive Branch and given it to the legislature.

It sailed through the finance committee, but legislative leaders then tabled it and instead tried to negotiate a middle ground with Lamont.

But if the bonding debate gets heated, the Democratic governor may have allies on the other side of the aisle.

Senate and House Republicans have argued for the past decade that state borrowing is too high, and Fasano warned last fall that if Democrats sent a bloated borrowing plan to Lamont — and if the governor vetoed it — Senate Republicans would not support an override.

“I would still hold to that position,” Fasano said. Democrats lack the two-thirds’ majority needed to override a veto by themselves.

“I think the Republicans recognize we have to prioritize and keep borrowing within our limits, keep it as lean as possible,” added Rep. Chris Davis of Ellington, ranking House Republican on the finance committee.

The battle over the state’s credit card also extends to borrowing for school construction. And sources said another dispute between Lamont and legislators — which was put on hold during the tolls debate — is now coming to the forefront.

Who controls borrowing for school construction?

Legislators from both parties balked last November when the administration unilaterally moved the Office of School Construction Grants and Review — which annually oversees hundreds of millions of dollars in construction grants to school districts — from the Department of Administrative Services and into the Office of Policy and Management.

A high-profile agency that houses the governor’s budget staff, OPM is seen as closely involved with implementing the administration’s political agenda.

Critics said the move threatens a process that not only works well, but has traditionally been immune from politics.

“This reeks of politics,” Deputy House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, said at the time. “There is not a good reason to make this move.”

Administration officials said the move only was about increasing efficiency, but conceded it would require legislative approval, and submitted a bill this month to retroactively endorse the switch.

But the legislature’s Education Committee raised a bill this week to block it. Though full language hasn’t been drafted, the bill’s title starts with “An Act Prohibiting the Transfer of School Construction from DAS to OPM.”

This consternation surrounding the transfer comes at a time when the flow of money funding new school construction projects or major renovations has been significantly scaled back in recent years.

The administration has insisted that this is the result of making sure that only projects that are close to being shovel-ready are brought before the legislature for approval, and eventually by the State Bond Commission.

But Kostantinos Diamantis — who heads the school construction unit — told the Education Committee that the downturn is going to continue because of a “self-imposed cap” of about $400 million in grants per year.

Education writer Jacqueline Rabe Thomas contributed to this report.