Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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Letters

WestportNow welcomes letters from readers on matters pertaining to Westport and Westporters. Those of 300 words or less are given preference. Letters are edited for grammar, clarity, and accuracy. Publication shall be at the sole discretion of WestportNow. Third-party or anonymous letters, those signed with a pseudonym, or letters appearing in other publications are not published. WestportNow does not publish letters endorsing or opposing any political candidates.

A postal address, e-mail address if available, and day and evening telephone numbers are required for verification purposes, although this information is not published. Letters may be submitted by e-mail to editor@westportnow.com, via fax at (203) 286-2099, or by mail to 150 North Ave., Westport, CT 06880.

“Y Doesnt Speak for the Community”

To the Editor:

The YMCA has repeatedly stated that it is open to hearing the opinions of Westport residents about its proposed move to Camp Mahackeno, in the remote, residential northwest corner of town.

Its interesting, therefore, that upon learning about a survey being conducted by an independent group of citizens (not related in any way to our group, Y Downtown), to determine WestportersҒ viewpoints about the Ys proposed move, Y Director Dick Foot hastily issued a condemnation of the survey to Y members and the papers.  We can see from the slick PR campaign that the Y has underway that the Y board is going to great lengths to control public comment and shape media coverage of its planned move.

Mr. FootҒs panicked note also raises some questions:  If the Y is open to public comment, why are the Y directors so jittery and so quick to fire back at any and all questioning of their plan?  It seems that the growing, vocal opposition to the Ys intended relocation, which any informed Westporter can see as ill-conceived, is striking a nerve.

To counter the idea that members of the Westport community would refute the Y directorsҒ plan, Mr. Foot in his letter invokes the idea that the Y speaks for the greater community.  In fact, the Y does not speak for the community, and saying it does belittles every residents opinion and discredits the YҒs position.

The Y directors say they have listened to and are willing to listen to the communitys concerns, but based on their attempt to ғhead off the survey, itԒs clear that they are choosing not to hear.  And when they say that the community does not want public land used by the Y, it begs the question as to why so many people are asking to reopen the Barons South issue or to look at other centrally and accessibly located alternatives.

Camp Mahackeno is not an appropriate place for a 100,000 square foot fitness facility.  In fact, a few years back, Mr. Foot said himself that the property was not an ideal location for a full-service YMCA.  Repeating how wonderful the new Y facility would be does not justify its location at Mahackeno.  Informed people can see through the spin and realize that a new Y on BaronҒs South or the Imperial or Baldwin parking lots also would achieve the same benefits, while at the same time bolstering downtown and preventing sprawl, traffic congestion and the overdevelopment of a residential section of Westport.

Y directors—the community is speaking; the townspeople of Westport are saying even more clearly now: Do not relocate from downtown.  Listen to them.  Work with them and do what is right for everyone.  For more information, visit http://www.YDowntown.com.

Debbie McGinley
Y Downtown
http://www.YDowntown.com
Westport

YMCA CEO Regrets Any Misunderstandings Over Telephone Survey

To the Editor:

It has come to our attention that a telephone survey is being conducted in Town regarding the new YMCA at Mahackeno.  I am writing to inform the public that the Y is in no way involved with this survey and does not condone its content or style whatsoever.  We understand that it is being conducted by private citizens.

Regrettably, many people who were contacted believed that the Y was conducting this survey and they contacted us to express various concerns about the nature of the survey and the manner in which it was conducted.

We regret that some may have mistakenly but understandably ֖ thought the Y had commissioned this survey.  Although we did not, we welcome the opinions of all at any time and we invite you to learn more about the new Y at Mahackeno by visiting our website at http://www.westportymca.org/imagine.

The YMCA is a private organization that serves a very public mission.  Although it receives no Town or other public funding, the Y is very much a community organization, dedicated to serving a community mission and meeting the needs of the community.  As a result, we solicit community input every day regarding the programs and services we provide and we have done so in numerous ways regarding the need for a new Y.

For the past 10 years, the Y has engaged with the community in an effort to find a new home for the Y.  This has included countless meetings, public hearings, informal conversations, membership and other surveys, personal interviews, and more.  Throughout this process, several things have become very clear:

The community recognizes the vital role played by the Y
Օ The community recognizes the desperate need for a new Y facility
The community does not support using public property for private purposes

For this reason and others, our search for a home for the new Y focused on Mahackeno Ֆ a 32-acre piece of property abutting the Merritt Parkway at Exit 41 that we have owned for more than 50 years.  When we looked closely at Mahackeno, we realized what an ideal location it is for the new Y.  It will not only be a fantastic facility, it will be a truly one-of-a-kind resource that offers programs and a setting that will be unrivaled in all of New England.

Although we are pleased with the broad support for the new Y at Mahackeno that exists within the community, what is most encouraging is that the more people learn about the project its environmental design, its placement in the most removed part of the property, its potential for truly innovative programming, its integration with the camp, the opportunities for outdoor recreation and more ֖ the more they share our incredible enthusiasm for this new community resource.

So, although it is always helpful to receive input, we doubt that a survey at this point will yield any new insights, particularly when it presents an option locating the Y on Town-owned Baron֒s South property that is simply not viable and that has already been thoroughly opposed and decided against by Town residents and elected officials. 

Again, I regret any misunderstandings regarding this survey and hope that anyone who has been upset by this survey will not hold the Y responsible.

Thank you for your understanding in this matter.

Richard A. Foot
YMCA Executive Director / CEO
Westport / Weston YMCA

Serve Future Generations by Preserving Open Space

To the Editor:

How can a town founded on preservation even consider the destruction of acres of land in a remote, residential area to construct a new fitness facility? The YMCAs desire to place a Wal-Mart sized building in the middle of one of the last parcels of open space in Westport would be a crime.

What exists at Camp Mahackeno today is miraculous, enchanted woodland that every child who passed through camp there, or just passed the day there, remembers for the rest of his or her life.  Remember: Inner cities allocate hundreds of thousands of dollars to send underprivileged children to facilities like Camp Mahackeno.  Have we forgotten how privileged we are to have such a beautiful resource in our town?

It is time to reconsider for whom we wish to construct a new facility: the children….or the YMCAҒs Board. We will best serve our children by preserving Camp Mahackenos pristine open space for future generations. The YMCA belongs downtown in a central and accessible location such as Baron’s South, to name one of several possibilities.  For more information, visit www.YDowntown.com.

Karen Fernandez
Westport

Kings Highway Elementary Third Grade Size “Disproportionately High”

To the Editor:

This letter is to bring to your attention a matter of critical concern to Kings Highway Elementary Parents.  As you may not know, the average class size in the third grade at Kings Highway School is disproportionately high versus the other Westport elementary schools and is dangerously close to the legal limits set by the Board of Education.

As concerned parents, and taxpayers, we ask you, should where a district line is drawn be the determinant for optimizing our children’s education? 

khstable.jpg
As you can see, Coleytown has the closest number of students to Kings Highway, yet their class size is significantly smaller.  To further add to this huge imbalance, many of the current Kings Highway students were redistricted from Coleytown on the pretense of reducing class sizes.  Obviously, this was not true.

Study after study confirms that one of, if not the most, critical factor in education quality, particularly in elementary school years, is class size. Our children are suffering with teachers who are stretched thin by class crowding and cant afford to provide the kind of attention and focus they want, we demand and the kids need. 

Additionally, Kings Highway has become known throughout the Westport system as having one of the best Special Education programs.  Children from other school districts and communities are being placed at Kings Highway without the benefit of increasing our staff.

We as concerned parents want to know what plan the BOE has in place to deal with the class overcrowding issue for the fall semester. When will additional teachers and classes be allocated to normalize KHS to the balance of Westport?

We have respectfully requested a formal advisement or meeting with BOE to discuss the matter. To date no response has been received.

I strongly suggest, that before the BOE approves millions of dollars for “nicer” offices, this issue be reviewed, discussed, and resolved!

Gus Fernandez
Westport

Staples Principal Denounces Education Secretary on Anti-Homosexual Stance

To the Editor:

The newly appointed Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings, recently encouraged PBS to withdraw an episode of Postcards From Buster,Ӕ a popular children’s cartoon (and was successful) because in that episode a child was shown to have two lesbian mothers. 

She said that she did not believe that any public money should be spent promoting the homosexual lifestyle and that parents would not want their children exposed to this material. This recent event prompted me to write to Ms. Spelling to share my opinion on the matter.

          February 1, 2005

Ms. Margaret Spellings
Secretary of Education
U.S. Department of Education
Building FB6, Room 7W301
Mail stop 0100
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202

Dear Secretary Spellings:

I recently retired as a high school principal, but was asked to serve on an interim basis for a year in a neighboring high school. I remain, therefore, surrounded by teenagers for a 36th year. The decision to become a teacher and then a principal is something I have never regretted. I truly believe that teaching is a noble profession and is sorely underrated by the general population.

Ladies Lunch This Year is Ladies Tea

To the Editor:

For the past 14 years, I have hosted a Ladies Lunch Ӗ for the ladies who dont have time to lunch.Ҕ Hundreds of women have come to lunch and contributed thousands of dollars to local non-profits.

This year, the ladies dont have a place for lunch (the usual venue is unavailable) so IҒve decided to have a tea instead, on Sunday, March 6 at 3 p.m. at the Westport Historical Society, 25 Avery Place. 

This will be a wonderful setting for tea, especially due to the current exhibit Hilla Rebay: A Baroness in Westport.Ӕ

The beneficiaries this year will be Legal Momentum (formerly the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund), which is the nations oldest WomenҒs Rights Legal Advocacy organization; the Arts for Youth Fund, a new fund for arts education at the Fairfield County Community Foundation; and Dress for Success: Mid-Fairfield County (Suits to Self-SufficiencyӔ.)

If you did not receive an invitation or have any other questions, please call Ann Sheffer at 227-5522 or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Ann Sheffer
Westport

Izzo Reiterates Opposition to Underage Drinking Ordinance

To the Editor:

At the Jan. 12, 2005, Board of Selectmen meeting a “sense of the meeting resolution” on the underage drinking ordinance was discussed. That simply means the Board of Selectmen has no legal authority to vote on such a ordinance only the RTM can legally implement it.

Because of my apparent lack of support, [First Selectwoman] Diane [Farrell] asked that I attend a forum on underage drinking before taking this SYMBOLIC VOTE. I did so on Wednesday.

For the public record, I am holding to my original position and do not support a new underage drinking ordinance for some of the following reasons in no particular order of the importance:

1. The police did not request this ordinance.
2. The PTA maintains a neutral position and did not endorse this ordinance.

Basically, this ordinance would allow the police to enter private property and ticket underage drinkers. If that drinker is under 16 he (she) must pay a $90 fine and must go to juvenile court. If over 16, pay a $90 fine only. No court appearance.

Here is a possible fallout: Perhaps only one or two children are drinking—do the police ticket everyone? Most likely, yes. So certainly innocent kids will be ticketed. A record will exist and newspapers may print their names if 16 years of age or older.

I have not seen any police records that indicate any frequency of such parties. Ordinances on the books already allow any adult to be ticketed for serving minors. The key words here are PRIVATE PROPERTY and POLICE POWER

I could go on at some lengt, but I see no need. My position remains the same, “parents should parent and police should police.”

When my sons were growing up my wife, Joan, and I had a curfew for the boys. It, of course, grew later as they grew older, but we always made sure we were awake when they came home. I’ll bet the same tactics will work today.

In my view, we shouldn’t be in any hurry to turn our parental responsibilities over to the police.

Selectman John Izzo
Westport

Deliquent Notice Received, Too: “I Smell a Rat”

To the Editor:

I was surprised, but then again, after the reval fiasco, not(!), to receive an e-mail from my neighbor across the street, stating that she, along with at least six other families in our area, had received a notice this past Friday, alleging that they had neglected to pay the sewer assessment fees that were supposedly billed last August.

Below is my e-mail response to her upon receiving the news that we were indeed not alone:

Dear Susan:

Amazing! I had even remarked to Steve I wondered if this was intentional (as in:  “Can you imagine the revenue they can generate if they simply say that notices were sent and can levy 1,000 interest charges. Multiply times $15.48 and voila, they can make $15,480 with no effort!!!”). 

We both wondered if anyone else had the same problem. We got our delinquent notice on Friday. Steve called immediately and spoke to someone at Town Hall who defensively gave Steve the same story: that original notices were sent in August and by law, he could not “waive the interest.”

He also said “he cannot be responsible for the post office. Quadruple “hmmmm!” Likewise, we are also extremely conscientious and would not have let a bill just sit around unpaid!! We did not under any terms receive a bill in August. I smell a rat!

I’m going to write the same to WestportNow,and perhaps we should send letters/e-mails to Westport News as well.

Lisa and Steve Alter
Westport

Reval Revisited?

To the Editor:

I am hoping that you will post this letter prominently on WestportNow.com as I would like to find out if other Westport residents have encountered this problem.

On Friday, I received a Town of Westport delinquent sewer/special assessment bill with an interest charge of $15.48. I was surprised, as I had not seen the original bill. I am in the habit of paying bills as they come to get them out of the way.

I called the office and was told that even if I had not received the original, it was state law that I was required to pay the delinquent charge. Hmmm. I couldn’t quite believe it, so I called back. I was told emphatically that I really had no say in the matter. The bottom line—just pay.

At a neighborhood party this evening, the topic of delinquent sewer/special assessments actually came up and no fewer than six people said they had had the exact same experience. Double hmmmm.

The neighborhood is Compo Beach. We are all interested in learning whether we are alone in being singled out by this latest example of Town Hall ineptitude. Is this a “reval revisited” problem looming on the horizon?

Susan Farewell
Westport