Saturday, January 07, 2006

Busy Week

Drop Cap Letter: It’s early Saturday evening and yes, I’m in the office, trying to finish what I didn’t do during the week and trying to get a head start on next week.

Here’s a quick review of some of the things that I was involved in this past week:

--Sally Harold of the Nature Conservancy dropped by to fill me in on efforts being led by her group to protect the aquatic resources within the Saugatuck River Watershed. Westport is among the 11 towns in the watershed.

--I went across the street and toured the town-owned historic 99 Myrtle Ave. property which we will renovate and hopefully make a home for a town employee. Members of the Historic District Commission are working with the Public Works Department on developing a plan. We’ve formed a special committee to oversee the efforts.

--I swore in Town Clerk Patty Strauss for another four-year term. Patty has done a terrific job bringing the town clerk’s office into the modern age using technology to preserve important documents and records and make them easily available to the public.

--My efforts to bring Westport into the digital age took some tiny steps with a meeting with a manufacturer of equipment necessary for the broadband installation. There’s been a terrific response to my call for volunteers to work on a technology task force. Next step is to determine the best way to take advantage of all the available talent.

--Had a good discussion with Barbara Butler, director of the Human Services Department, and Steve Daniels on efforts to develop more senior, affordable, middle-income, and workforce housing in Westport. It’s tough to find suitable space, but the need is great. We want to do all we can to keep seniors and empty-nesters in Westport plus provide homes for municipal workers.

--Took a tour of the Aquarion Water Co. property on Canal Street. The water company moved out of the offices a year ago and they would be ideal for some Board of Education needs, especially for its maintenance workers and vehicles.

On tap for the coming week: a brown bag Wednesday (Jan. 11) at the Westport Center for Senior Activities where we’ll talk about our senior tax relief proposals. The same day there’s a Board of Selectmen meeting and a Board of Finance session. Hope you have a good week.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!

Drop Cap Letter: Westport welcomed in the New Year with a spectacular First Night Westport Weston. Congratulations to all involved, especially Rozanne Gates, the executive director.

The late afternoon snowfall only added to the fun. Special thanks to Westport’s Public Works Department workers for clearing the roads efficiently, as always.

Many hours of planning went into the First Night effort and scores of people were involved. Westport is grateful to all of them.  (WestportNow has a sampling of some of the evening’s events.)

But don’t take too long to catch your breath—only 364 days left to plan the next one!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Busy Days

Drop Cap Letter: Time flies when you’re having fun. Today marks the one-month mark in office for Shelly and me. On one hand, it seems like we’ve been there for ages. On the other, it’s like we just moved in.

People still are asking me how I like it, how I’m doing, etc. The honest answer is I’m enjoying it immensely. What a thrill it is to be working with the best municipal workforce you could find anywhere – and the best team of citizen volunteers.

Sure it’s been frustrating at times. On some days it seems I go from meeting to meeting with hardly anytime to do anything in between. Other days, there’s a chance to make a call, pay a visit, write a letter or e-mail that I know means a lot to the recipient.

One of the nicest moments I had was some days ago when I went to visit longtime Westporter Alice Vornkahl on the occasion of her 100th birthday. Alice is in a senior care facility in Fairfield now but is alert and sharp as she was during her days working in the food service area at Coleytown Middle School.

She was clearly touched by my visit and had tears in her eyes as I presented her with a bouquet of flowers on behalf of the citizens of Westport. She was deeply appreciative.

Tonight I visited another longtime Westporter and dear friend Edna Yergin, former secretary of the RTM, who is recuperating in Norwalk Hospital. I learned only at lunch today that she had been taken there Tuesday.

More "Busy Days"

Monday, December 19, 2005

Beautifying Westport

Drop Cap Letter: I had a good meeting today with three members of the hard-working Westport Beautification Committee.

Keeping our town neat and pretty does not happen without a lot of work by members of the committee as well as by employees of the Parks and Recreation and Public Works Department.

Committee Co-Chair Nancy Carr told me that Westport currently has seven “adopt-a-spot” locations with sponsors, down from a high of 47 in recent years.

We need to boost these locations. This is an opportunity for local firms, non-profits, and even individuals to pitch in to help keep Westport looking good.

Nancy says it’s a two-year commitment on the part of the sponsor. There are guidelines for sponsors and investment in the projects range from minimal to elaborate.

If you are interested, please call her at 227-6833.

Committee member Bob Weiss has been vigilant in getting rid of those pesky signs people put up illegally on utility poles, etc., but could use some help, especially from younger people.

Scouts looking for an Eagle project or others with some time available should contact him at 222-7146.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

What a Lovely Party

Drop Cap Letter: The Westport Police Athletic League (PAL) did it again – drawing a packed crowd today to the Inn at Longshore for its annual holiday children’s party.

More than 250 kids and their parents turned up for the event. Each child received a gift and a chance to chat with Santa.

Afterwards, there was free ice skating at the PAL Ice Rink at Longshore.

Well done, PAL.

Candlelight Marks its 65th

Drop Cap Letter: The Staples Music Department presented the annual Candlelight Concert Friday and Saturday nights, the 65th, and it was as spectacular as ever.

One can only imagine the challenge to find the fresh material to mix with the traditional each year, but the department obviously is up to the task.

The community is grateful for your effort.

Friday, December 16, 2005

League of Women Voters and Volunteerism

Drop Cap Letter: One of the highlights of the holiday season for those involved in Westport public affairs is the annual holiday lunch of the League of Women Voters of Westport.

Today’s lunch was at the lovely home of Laura Gallagher and there was a big turnout (not to mention the delicious goodies to eat).

It was a good opportunity to corner a number of Westporters and ask them of their interest in serving on various appointed town boards and commissions.

There are a number of opportunities open for interested Westporters – ranging from the Beautification Committee and the Golf Advisory Committee to the Human Services Commission and the Public Site and Building Commission.

For a full list of appointed boards and commissions, go to the town Web site at www.westportct.gov

If you are interested in serving, please send me an e-mail at selectman@westportct.gov and tell me what you would like to do, why you are interested, a little bit about your background, and perhaps mention if you have some special expertise in the area.

Many thanks. Those who have served on these boards and commissions have found the service an especially rewarding way of serving our community.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Y's Men Celebrate

Drop Cap Letter: Went to the annual holiday gala luncheon of the Y’s Men of Westport/Weston today at Continental Manor in Norwalk (too bad we don’t have a place large enough in Westport for them) and there was a great turnout, as always.

The Hoot Owls—led by Ted Simons—performed as they have for the past 16 such holiday luncheons. It’s great to see so many Westporters—and ex-Westporters who have moved away but still participate—involved in the singing group.

The indefatigable Bill Meyer, the Y’s Men president, did the welcoming remarks while Jon and Dorothy Fox handed out some goodies.

It was good to see so many friendly faces and it was especially nice to see Diane Farrell there as well.  It was a nice break in the day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Today's Brown Bag

Drop Cap Letter: Tax Assessor Bill Gaffney addressed today’s brown bag lunch and explained the ins and outs of the reval.

He also showed a very interesting map that highlights the changes in valuation of each individual property in town. Properties along the shore and on the Saugatuck River appreciated the most.

There was also a jump in value of many commercial properties which Bill feels may have been assessed too low in the last round.

Brown baggers came up with many good questions. Bill encouraged all Westporters to give us feedback on properties or areas where you feel the values are too high or too low. Don’t forget the value is as of Oct. 1, 2005.

While every effort has been made to make the effort as accurate as possible, it is inevitable with so many properties involved that errors were made.

Our aim is to make adjustments where necessary and have a grand list ready to certify by the end of January.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Reval Reaction

Drop Cap Letter: Getting some early reaction on the reval information posted on the Web. One caller said he felt his assessment was “right on.”

But heard from several others that there seemed to be a wide disparity on some neighboring properties that should have been much closer.

As we said in advance of the notices going out, we know that there will be some errors on this one. Given the enormity of the task, they are inevitable.

Residents should bring them to the attention of Tax Assessor Bill Gaffney. We won’t have instant answers but you can be sure they will be investigated.

Bill will be at Wednesday’s Brown Bag lunch to talk about these and other related reval issues.

Update on Menorah etc

Drop Cap Letter: After conferring with the town attorney, we decided we would replace the large menorah in the lobby near the tree with a smaller one that had been used in previous years. The large menorah will not return to its place on the third floor.

Also, we will include a similar-size Christian symbol in a holiday display that will include the traditional Santa, snowman, etc., near the lobby tree.

The problem is that the courts have been inconsistent over the years about religious displays. Westport’s government ought not to endorse any specific religion, obviously, but we must be sensitive to all religions.

This is a short-term solution and we will review the policy for the future.

A Day in the Life of the First Selectman

Drop Cap Letter: Many well-wishers have asked me repeatedly in the three weeks I’ve been in office how I like the job. I’ve told them I’m enjoying it but still am getting accustomed to the pace.

To give you an idea of what it’s been like these past couple of weeks, here’s a rundown of how my day went Monday (with some excerpts from my notes and memory, such as it is).

8 a.m. – Reported to the headquarters of the Norwalk Transit District for my first meeting of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, known as the MPO. For those unfamiliar, the MPO is the federally-mandated transportation planning agency for our region that works hand-in-hand with the South West Regional Planning Agency (SWRPA).

Staffers briefed area CEOs on the status of various projects, ranging from the big (new rail cars on the New Haven line – coming in 2009, ugh) to the small (Westport’s Saugatuck train station will get a backlit display showing the Westport Transit District routes).

9:45 a.m.
- After the formal meeting, Pamela Kilbey-Fox of the Connecticut Department of Health briefed us on an April exercise that simulates a bioterrorism incident. The Westport Weston Health District is participating and will go through an actual drill involving dispensing medication to residents at Bedford Middle School. (They need volunteers to participate – contact Sue Jacozzi at the district to sign up.)

More "A Day in the Life of the First Selectman"

Monday, December 12, 2005

Welcome!

Drop Cap Letter: It’s taken a little time to get up and running, but I am pleased to debut “Gordon’s Journal” as Westport’s first selectman.

I am the first Westport first selectman to blog and intend to use this to communicate with Westport residents in a more direct, timely manner.

During the recent campaign, I also had a “Gordon’s Journal.” It was an effective way of letting voters know my thoughts and those of Shelly Kassen, who now joins me on the Board of Selectmen.

Some of the entries here will be quick takes on something that has crossed my desk or something I found interesting. Others will be longer as the issue warrants.

In any case, I welcome comments and feedback. Send them to me at selectman@westportct.gov