Thursday, March 23, 2023



Budget Deal Struck, Doesn’t Contain Tax Hike on Wealthy

By Keith M. Phaneuf

Gov. Ned Lamont and Democratic legislative leaders today announced a tentative, two-year $43 billion budget deal that does not contain the income tax hike on the wealthy sought by progressives in the General Assembly.

Despite this, House Majority Leader Matt Ritter predicted that liberal Democrats would back the package.

“It’s a budget I’m proud of on many fronts,” Lamont said during a late afternoon news conference in his Capitol office, flanked by Democratic legislative leaders. “We’re going to get this vote on … early and on time, a budget that shows we’re living within our means and a budget that invests in our future.”

Neither the Democratic governor nor legislative leaders disclosed all the details of the agreement, most of which had been hammered out late last week.

Comings & Goings: Pokeworks to Compo Acres Image
Pokeworks, a rapidly expanding fast food eatery featuring Hawaii-inspired cuisine,  has opened at 396 Post Road East, near Trader Joe’s, in the Compo Acres shopping center.  According to store manager Craig Drimal, the Westport location is the second in Connecticut, a Pokeworks having opened in Wilton in August.  He said the California-based operation now has 35 locations across the country and projects 100 by the end of the year.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

Finance Board Keeps Mill Rate Flat Image
For the fourth year in a row, Westport’s Board of Finance tonight unanimously kept the mill rate flat at 16.86.That translates into $16.86 of taxes for every $1,000 of a home’s assessed value determined by the revaluation three years ago. But members expressed concern that keeping the mill rate flat will be difficult in future years. Said Lee Caney: “Pulling rabbits out of the hat next year may not be doable.”  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

Spotlight on Westport: In-Depth Look at Affordable Housing

This article was produced through a partnership between ProPublica and the Connecticut Mirror, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network. The following version is text only. For the full article with pictures, go to

By Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Westport — A dirt field overgrown with weeds is the incongruous entrance to one of America’s wealthiest towns, a short walk to a Rodeo Drive-like stretch replete with upscale stores such as Tiffany & Co. Image
The lead photograph on the CTMirror story on affordable housing focused on Westport.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) From

But this sad patch of land is also the physical manifestation of a broader turf war over what type of housing — and ultimately what type of people — to allow within Westport’s borders.

It started when a developer known for building large luxury homes envisioned something different back in 2014 for the 2.2 acre property: a mix of single- and multifamily housing that would accommodate up to 12 families. A higher density project is more cost efficient, he said, and would allow him to sell the units for less than the typical Westport home.

But the site was zoned to hold no more than four single-family houses, so he needed approval from a reluctant Westport Planning and Zoning Commission, which denied his plan. Residents erupted in fury each time he made a scaled-back proposal, and it took the developer four years after purchasing the property to win approval to build two duplexes and five single-family homes.

Senate Sends $15 Minimum Wage Bill to Lamont

By Mark Pazniokas and Keith M. Phaneuf

Connecticut’s minimum-wage workers will see their hourly wages rise from $10.10 to $15 over the next four-and-a-half years under legislation passed early today by the Senate and sent to Gov. Ned Lamont for his promised signature. Image
Supporters of the minimum wage celebrate in the Senate gallery after passage at nearly 3 a.m. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Keith Phaneuf for

The final passage by the Senate on a party-line vote of 21-14 delivers on the first of two major labor bills promised by Democrats in campaigns that won the governor’s office and produced strong legislative majorities for the party in 2018, the other being a paid family and medical leave bill that is tentatively scheduled for a vote next week.

“All these combined are going to make a huge difference in people’s lives,” said Sen. Julie Kushner, D-Danbury, who unseated a conservative Republican last year. She led the debate as the co-chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee.

As was the case last week in an overnight debate in the House, the parties sharply split over whether the raises will provide an overdue boost to 332,000 low-wage workers or another blow to small businesses in a state with a weak economy. The senators also debated overnight, beginning at 8:22 p.m. Thursday and finishing more than six hours later.

House Passes Bill to Ban Sale of E-Cigarettes to Youths Under 21

By Kathleen Megan Image
Rep. Jonathan Steinberg of Westport: one of the most important bills to be considered this year. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) photo

After more than three hours of debate, the House today approved a bill that would raise the age from 18 to 21 for anyone purchasing cigarettes, tobacco products and electronic nicotine delivery systems.

Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport and co-chairman of the legislature’s public health committee, said the bill was one of the most important to be considered this year.

“This bill seeks to address what has become a national epidemic — this scourge of nicotine addiction and vaping among young people,” Steinberg told his colleagues.

“You don’t have to take my word for it. After a 78 percent increase nationally in youth’s e-cigarette use, the surgeon general dubbed this a national epidemic.”

Eyeing Westport Fashions Image
Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe and wife Mary Ellen (r) were among guests at tonight’s “Fashionably Westport,“ an inaugural event celebrating fashion and beauty retailers and salons downtown and in Playhouse Square. The fashion show was held at Branson Hall in Christ & Holy Trinity Church. Portion of the proceeds benefited Homes With Hope, which serves young, homeless women. The event continues Friday with special in-store events. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

Comings & Goings: Sitting Pretty Opens at Sconset Square Image
Sitting Pretty, a home furnishings store, has opened at 6 Sconset Square in the space previously occupied by DuPont Jewelers, which closed in November. Laura Mason (above), the owner, a former Westport resident who now resides in Weston, said a grand opening celebration is planned for June. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

Forum Explores Challenges Facing Downtown Westport

By Jarret Liotta

It was a packed house tonight for what the Coalition for Westport (CFW) hopes is the first in a series of community forums focused on the future of downtown. Image
About 75 persons tonight attended the Coalition for Westport’s forum on the future of downtown, held at The Visual Brand on Church Lane. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jarret Liotta for

The event by the CFW, a nonpartisan political party focused on Planning & Zoning matters in Westport, was held at the office of The Visual Brand on Church Lane.

The company is operated by Randy Herbertson, president of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association, who was also a panelist.

About 75 persons were in attendance, including town officials, developers, retail landlords and citizens.

Comings & Goings: Golden Pizza Opens Image
Golden Pizza has opened at 1759 Post Road East, in the strip of stores across from Stop & Shop, in the space previously occupied by Jordan’s Pizza. Owner Matt Maras, 50, co-manages the eat-in/takeout eatery with his brother Kerem, 35 and son Max, 20. A family business enterprise, they also operate the Red Tomato pizzeria in Madison since 1994. The shop is open weekdays until 10 p.m. and 11 p.m on weekends. Jordan’s pizza restaurant, which opened at the Post Road East location in December 2010, continues to operate at two locations in Norwalk, 369 Westport Ave. and 252 Flax Hill Road. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for