Saturday, May 21, 2022

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What’s in a Name? In Westport, Always Controversy

State Rep. Ken Bernhard, a Republican whose 136th District now includes only Westport, wants to name the Post Road bridge over the Saugatuck River in honor of the late Ruth Steinkraus-Cohen.

Ms. Steinkraus-Cohen, who died last year, was a longtime Westporter and friend and supporter of the United Nations.

Each summer, the bridge is decked out in flags of the U.N. members on “jUNe Day” when the town hosts U.N. delegates, mission members and U.N. employees and their families for the day. But nothing is ever easy in Westport.

Because the bridge is state-owned, Bernhard proposed state legislation to make the name change.

“Ms. Steinkraus-Cohen was a remarkable woman with an extraordinary commitment to public service and was active in promoting peace through the United Nations,” Bernhard said.

Bernhard’s bill (House Bill No. 5272) called for the bridge to be named the “Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Memorial Bridge.”

Bernhard asked First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell to have Westport’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM) endorse the proposal to make sure the townspeople were supportive of the effort.

As RTM Moderator, I suggested to the First Selectwoman that the Board of Selectmen (which includes her, fellow Democrat Carl Leaman and Republican John Izzo) take up the matter first, as it would under the town’s “Policy for Naming Town Property,” which deals with town-owned property.

The Board of Selectmen considered the issue Tuesday (March 4, 2003). The motion passed 2-1 and will go before the RTM next month. Izzo voted against it.

According to the Westport News, “In a statement released after the meeting, Izzo said he didn’t know Ruth Steinkraus-Cohen, but explained he felt that it wasn’t fair to other Westport notables who might be worthy of such an honor.”

You can’t say party politics was a factor. Or was it? Perhaps Izzo for some reason looked at it as a partisan issue (as he does with many things). But Steinkraus-Cohen was a registered Republican. And it is a Republican rep who is asking the state to approve the name change.

Before Izzo’s vote, some Westporters anticipated opposition might come from those unhappy with the U.N. Security Council’s stance on efforts to disarm Iraq.

Bernhard says he has time to “derail” his proposal before it gets to the General Assembly if Westporters don’t back it. Never take anything for granted in Westport.

Update: At its April 1 meeting, the RTM voted 26-5 in favor of endorsing Bernhard’s bill to rename the bridge.

Main Street’s Battle of the Sexes

Westport continues to be the testing ground for national retailers pushing into new gender territory.

First it was button-down Brooks Brothers which chose Westport five years ago for one of its first freestanding women’s stores. It continues to operate at the end of Main Street opposite its men’s counterpart in Brooks Corner. Now Talbots, which took over the old Remarkable Book Shop for its women’s and children’s lines, is putting the final touches on its first men’s store a stone’s throw down the street.

The store, opening next month, is in space formerly occupied by The Limited. Westporters with long memories will remember it as the site of a one-time Mobil gas station.

While Brooks Brothers and Talbots battle it out with separate his and hers stores on Main Street, Mitchell’s continues to woo the same customers in its all-in-one location, also undergoing renovations, a couple miles up the road on Post Road East.

Mitchell’s, of course, may have an advantage in that it has the ability to host school car washes as well as the DMV license renewal bus. Try those on Main Street.

Update: Talbots Mens (that’s the way they spell it) is having a grand opening Thursday evening, April 3. The champagne benefit will feature informal modeling by members of the Westport Police Department and friends of the Junior League of Eastern Fairfield County. At least that’s what the invitation says.

A portion of the evening sales will benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Connecticut and the Westport Country Playhouse.

Arnold B. Zetcher, chairman, president and CEO of Talbots, is hosting the event.


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Congressman Shays Westport Town Meeting Now on Web

No matter your views on a possible (likely?) war in Iraq, you had to be impressed with the “town meeting” Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.) hosted last week (Feb. 23, 2003) at Westport’s new Bedford Middle School.

Despite the frigid night, several hundred turned out for the four-hour meeting. Unknown thousands more watched the first two and a half hours live on C-SPAN. The complete recording of the session is available on the C-SPAN Web site.

Few people seemed to know in advance that the session was to be nationally televised. First Selectwoman Diane GossFarrell says she didn’t know and got a scolding from her parents who found out afterward they missed her on TV.

One viewer from Cody, Wyoming, sent a note to me as Moderator of the Westport Representative Town Meeting saying how much he enjoyed the session and how impressed he was with questions from Westporters and others.

“Great comments and insight by all,” he wrote. But he added: “It is a shame that one lady had to lower the quality of the program by venting her own personal vendetta against the President.” (He apparently confused “town meeting” and RTM, but his comments were interesting nevertheless.)

Don’t hold me to it, but the session may have been the longest nationally televised live broadcast from Westport since Edward R. Murrow interviewed Martha Raye on CBS-TV’s “Person to Person” in the 1950s—and that was only 15 minutes.

Here a Levitt, There a Levitt

Pasadena, Calif., gets a Levitt Pavilion, too.

According to Pasadenastarnews.com, Westporter Mortimer Levitt donated funds to Pasadena to create a Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts.

It’s said to be modeled on Westport’s Levitt Pavilion. The newspaper says similar Levitt Pavilions are planned in Harrisburg, Pa., and Lenox, Mass.

Be interesting to see whether the Westport clones have as much trouble with their benefactor as Westport did. But then again, we seem to have controversy over everything.

Brookstone Does Westport Westport’s Main

Westport’s Main Street welcomes another national retailer—Brookstone.

The store opened March 1 in the long vacant site at the end of the street leased but never occupied by Ralph Lauren. Handsome store. Those knowledgeable about Westport commercial real estate say with the signing, Westport’s Main Street hangs out the “no vacancy” sign.

The nation’s slowed economy has taken its toll on Westport like many other places, but local retailers say the town’s upscale residents have softened the impact.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be howls aplenty when a double-digit tax increase goes into effect July 1.


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WestportNow.Com Blog Begins

By Gordon Joseloff

I’m not sure how many blogs (short for “Web Logs” for the uninitiated) there are related to Westport, Conn., but thought I’d give one a try.

I’m also not sure whether Dan Woog’s site qualifies as a blog, but he does write regularly about Westport—both online and in print.

A bit of my background. I am a longtime Westport resident and I currently serve as Moderator (chief honcho) of Westport’s local governing body, the Representative Town Meeting (RTM). (For more on the RTM, go to Westport’s official Web site.)

I began my journalism career in Westport as a teenager working for the now defunct Westport Town Crier. After several decades working for a news agency (UPI) and a network (CBS), mostly as a foreign correspondent, I’m back where I started, observing events in Westport. The more things change etc.

I intend this to be news snippets and some random musings about Westport as well as items I think will interest fellow Westporters (and those anywhere with an interest in our town). It is not intended to be a site for all Westport news; there are local newspapers for that.

I registered the WestportNow Web site some time ago with the thought that one day I might use it for some kind of Web venture. Let’s see how it goes. Comments are always welcome. Just click on “comments” below each item or e-mail me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).