Protest vote

I have been asked by a number of people why I was the only vote against the $37,000 appropriation of funds for last fall's republican primary for first selectman. The BOF vote was held at last week's Board of Finance meeting. Let me explain.

The election between Gavin Anderson and Joe Arcudi has been funded by the town. The money has been spent, and therefore my vote was for protest only.

I protested the expenditure, since it is just another example of how local government is either unaware or incapable of eliminating excess. Here are some facts relating to this election's cost. The total cost of this primary was $37,000, which when divided by the number of primary votes of approximately 1,400, resulted in a cost per vote cast of $26.50. Democracy does not come on the cheap, but by any sensible standard this cost was over the top.

There a number of causes. First, we have nine election districts with a paid staff of seven to nine per district. Each staff cost of about $200 for the day. On average (excluding absentee ballots), that is 150 total votes per location, or 17 votes per employee, recorded over a period of 14 hours. Obviously, this is not very productive.

Second, we pay nine policemen overtime for overseeing one of the most peaceful assemblages in town. There is always 9-1-1 if there is a disturbance.

Third, we insist on the utilization of election machines with their associated software costs verses the paper alternative. I would volunteer to count the paper ballots myself! Remember, there were only two names on the ballot.

To be fair, many of these costs have their roots in history, unfunded state mandates, and town regulations, but at some point we have to say "time out, these costs are out of proportion to the project at hand." Even within the State law, by reducing workers and police, we could have easily cut the expenses by 50 percent.

It appears that we follow the same protocol for elections regardless of projected voter turnout. I am sure both Anderson and Arcudi would have agreed to a scaled-back polling process. I doubt they were even asked. The election process is controlled by Secretary of State, the town selectman, the town registrar of voters, and the town finance director. Individually these officials can claim, "Not my fault," but collectively they are responsible for this waste.

This is a small matter. My vote at the BOF was a protest against continuing waste in Westport.

Brian Stern,

Board of Finance,

Westport

Food drive success

The Food Drive Westport Sunrise Rotary conducted on Saturday, Feb. 6, at the Super Stop & Shop in Westport was a huge success.

Club members collected 197 bags of groceries and donated them to our two designated food pantries, the Norwalk Open Door Shelter and The Westport Woman's Club Food Closet.

We thank everyone who made our drive a success -- our fellow Westport shoppers, our neighbors from nearby communities and to the management of the Westport Super Stop & Shop for letting us have the event at their store. These are difficult times, and the generosity of so many in our community made this drive so successful.

Thank you to all for your support.

George Masumian,

Chairman, Winter 2010 Food Drive,

Westport Sunrise Rotary

Response

For the first time since I ran against him in the 2008 primary I have respect for Congressman Jim Himes. Himes, thanks for signing the letter opposing Israel's cruel starvation siege against Gaza. Gaza was a massacre. Barbaric Israel punished an entire city for the actions of a few. The 23-day massacre killed more than 1,414 people, 90 percent were civilians, including 312 innocent children. Thousand were maimed by phosphorous that burned off limbs. The siege, since the massacre a year ago, continues to inflict widespread suffering. Many will die. How can Israel justify such cruelty?

Regarding the op-ed critical of Himes by Lester Freundlich (Stamford Advocate, Feb. 1): Regarding the "threat" -- these were tin-can rockets dropping in the desert. Just one of the massive Israeli tanks could have taken out all eleven rocket launchers in five minutes. It was an excuse. Everyone knows the Gaza massacre was nothing more than Tzipi Livni using violence as an election ploy. The British have since declared Livni a war criminal and for good reason. Ariel Sharon also used violence as an election ploy; his purposeful provocative on Sept. 28, 2000 shuffled in the bloody Second Intifada. Our own Sept. 11 was part of the Second Intifada.

Until American politicians stand up to the powerful Israel lobby (AIPAC) and stop the $10 million-a-day funding nothing will ever change for Israel's under-class and for us. Israel's bad behavior is fuel for anti-American sentiment. Thanks to the Internet, the old propaganda of Israel as the "victim" is gone, the hugely lopsided death-toll of Israel's under-class versus Israeli citizens speaks the real truth.

Freundlich, I urge you to see the cause and effect of massacre, oppression and discrimination. Open your eyes. Your blindness makes us all less safe. And really, Freundlich, Israel as a "free and open nation" for whom? There are 4 million Christians and Muslims who exist trapped behind the walls in the occupied territories; they are not even allowed citizenship in the country of their birth. Israel's domestic problems will never be resolved until we stop American selective blindness and the endless flow of American money to Israel.

Lee Whitnum

Greenwich

Why do we fight?

Would someone please tell me why we continue to send our young men die in Iraq and Afghanistan? I have searched through newspapers, magazines and TV to find the answer. What can our country possibly gain that is worth this cost and sacrifice? Why is our government following a path of national suicide?

How can we Americans claim to believe in freedom, liberty and justice while sending bombers, rockets and our brave young men to inflict deadly destruction on innocent men, women and children across oceans -- thousands of miles distant.

All children of God, our brothers and sisters, with the same right to live their lives as they choose. To work, to enjoy, to raise their families in peace and love as we wish for ourselves. How did we become oppressors showering a nation thousands of miles away with robot weapons?

Oppression leads to death, poverty, misery, revenge, retaliation and the certainly of increased terrorism against us. Religion teaches us to love and help others, not hate and fear them because them of their appearance, race, nationality, religion or lack of religion.

I believe we must question ourselves, our assumptions, each other, and authority. Blind obedience is a fine quality in dogs and young children, but not in adults. Big government should not be blindly trusted. There would be equal treatment under law. War must be a last (not first) resort, Big business can not be blindly trusted.

I believe it's wrong to arrest people for what they think, believe, look like, wear, eat, smoke or drink. It is wrong and immoral to imprison or torture people out of some selfish fear without a just trial.

We Americans fought many wars for liberty, justice and freedom.

Why won't anyone tell me why our brave young men die in Afghanistan?

Dick De Witt

Fairfield