Follow the money

The dreadful state of our economy has not been linked directly to the billions that have been spent in Iraq and Afghanistan. The struggling Connecticut state budget and cutbacks of federal programs have not been related to the cost of these wars. One of the problems that the economy and the wars share is money. Follow the money!

Westport is affected by this war. Directly. To date we have paid over $413 million dollars in taxes to help finance these two wars. The whole state of Connecticut has paid over $24 billion. Since 2001 this country has now spent over $1 trillion dollars and the costs go up and up every minute. That is $1,000,000,000,000! (See the National Priorities.org website.)

With a trillion dollars we could:

1. Feed every hungry man, woman and child in America for a year.

2. Create a clean energy economy and begin to solve global warming.

3. Pay the salaries of 2 million teachers for 10 years.

4. Provide 300 million people with health care for a year.

What is happening in Westport due to the economic downturn? From 2007 we have had 44 homes in foreclosure. In the same time frame we have 62 houses listed as Lis Pendens. That means that there is a real possibility that they will also be foreclosed. One-hundred-six families in our town have lost or may lose their homes.

The unemployment rate in the Southwest Region of Connecticut is over 7.8 percent. This figure does not include people who have given up looking for a job and who are no longer receiving unemployment compensation.

Barbara Butler at Human Services tells us that we have large increases of requests for help with payments for fuel, food, clothing and housing. A 29 percent increase in children served and a 32 percent increase in heating assistance. The census data shows that the increase in the poverty rate in Connecticut between 2007 and 2008 was greater than any other state in the country.

The huge increase in poverty clearly points out the need for continuing aid to help the unemployed and states that are struggling to maintain vital services in the face of growing need. Connecticut needs money.

There are three problems that any number of additional troops and billions of dollars don't seem able to solve:

1. The corrupt Afghanistan and Iraq governments.

2. The growing Taliban enriched by poppy crops and growing in number because of the anger created by our occupation of their country.

3. The unfindable (is that a word?) Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda.

President Obama is listening to the wrong people. Secretary of Defense Gates must cover his years of making bad decisions when he was in the Bush administration by urging more bad decisions on the president. More troops and we win! Where have we heard that before?

President Obama should listen to the people in these countries who want us to leave. President Karzai doubts that the we can defeat the Taliban. Even Vice President Biden spoke out against sending more troops to Afghanistan. Obama must show the world that he didn't get the Nobel Peace Prize for nothing.

Of course money is not the really important loss. We have tragic loss of life, disabling life long wounds and troops profoundly damaged by post traumatic stress. One more life of a young soldier is too high a price to pay!

Estelle and Manny Margolis

Westport

Simmons should be a man of honor

It's time for Rob Simmons to live up to his own rhetoric and be a man of honor. Linda McMahon won the nomination at the Republican convention on May 21 and continues to garner overwhelming public support from Connecticut Republicans, Independents and Democrats. Linda is the only candidate who can win against Blumenthal. This is based upon McMahon's demonstrated success as a businesswoman and her proven track record of being a fiscal conservative who can cut spending and support policies that decrease taxes and give small businesses and individual tax payers in Connecticut the tax breaks we desperately need in this economy.

Simmons said he would respect the decision of Connecticut Republicans and support the Republican nominee so it's time for Simmons to be a man of honor and keep his word and enthusiastically endorse Linda McMahon for Senate. Simmons needs to endorse Linda not only to maintain his own personal integrity but even more importantly to avoid sabotaging Connecticut Republicans' only real shot at winning this important Senate seat. It's time for Simmons to let go of his personal ambition and live by his own words and "put the public good ahead of private gain."

Nicole Pappas, Esq.

Westport

Well done

Just wanted to commend first selectman, Gordon Joseloff, on a well-conceived event for the Minute Man Statue's 100th anniversary on Thursday, June 17. In particular, Tom Sephen of the Connecticut 5th Regiment not only looked like Westport's Minute Man, but his three-shot salute brought home to those watching the realities of combat at that time.

Even for an expert, only one shot at a time was possible, accuracy was imperfect and reloading demanded plenty of time elapsed between shots. No wonder that Patriot militias were told to take cover behind stone walls, not to fire until they saw the whites of the enemy's eyes and to pursue a strategy of "hit and run" swarming and selective engagement. No wonder, either, that the Minute Men who fought at Compo Hill, who did not have bayonets and were outnumbered 3 to 1, dispersed when confronted by a full-blown bayonet charge from the British, striving desperately to return to their ships.

And, as we know, never again during the American Revolution did British troops venture inland in Connecticut.

Well done!

Dorothy E. Curran,

President, Westport Historical Society

Thanks

On behalf of the committee for the Westport Historical Society Hidden Garden Tour, Garden Marketplace and Toast the Tour pre-event party, our sincere gratitude goes out to the spirited community individuals and businesses whose generosity and support made the success of our recent Hidden Garden Tour fundraising event possible.

Heartfelt thanks go out to the garden owners who so graciously opened their hearts and properties to the attendees, sharing the unique perspectives reflected in their landscape creations. We're very appreciative to the scores of willing volunteers who offered their time and energy to the many facets of the event. And we're enormously thankful for the outpouring of support and generosity extended by WHS Lead Sponsor: BNY Mellon; WHS Annual Sponsors: Bercham, Moses & Devlin Attorneys at Law, The Fresh Market, Kowalsky Bros., Leigh Overland Architect, Patriot National Bank, The Betty R. and Ralph Sheffer Foundation, and Weichert Capital Properties & Estates; Event Media Sponsor: Connecticut Cottages & Gardens; Event Sponsors: Contour Landscaping Company, Peter Romano and Robin Tauck, Fat Cat Pie Co., Fountainhead Wines & Distillations, Green Village Initiative, HSBC, SIR Development/Westport Residential, Venture Photography, Catamount Wealth Management, Cindy & Rob Citrone, Darton Insurance Company, Goldman, Gruder & Woods, and William Pitt Sotheby's International Realty; and Garden Patch Sponsors: Gibbons Group, James Love Lee of William Pitt Sotheby's International Realty, Mary Ann Laurita of Prudential CT Realty, Frank Mattera & Daughter Landscaping Contractors, Janice Parker Landscape Design, Plantscapes Organics, Trek Bicycles of Fairfield, Trillium Architects, and Ruth Watson of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

Special thanks to all who showed their support by attending the various benefit events, bringing the much needed enthusiasm, curiosity, and participation that make fundraisers happen. We sincerely hope you enjoyed the experience.

Our sincere appreciation to builder Garrett Wilson and architect Joseph Schott for bringing us the outstanding venue in the heart of Greens Farms enjoyed by the guests of our pre-tour festivities. And to Fountainhead Wines & Distillations, a great big thank you for hosting the wine tasting and treating our valued guests to a wonderful wine experience. Many thanks to all who contributed to our live and silent auctions, to our droll auctioneer, Jim Clerkin, to longtime Westport resident and artist Lee Greenberg for offering a generous portion of sales of sculptures from her collection to the Westport Historical Society, and to the returning and new vendors who brought their creative aesthetic to the Artisan Craft and Garden Marketplace.

It was an honor to work with the dedicated volunteer committee members who pooled their talents and vision to create the 2010 Hidden Garden Tour events: returning committee members Joni Andrews, Donna Brody, Katie Chase, Jenny Clerkin, Maggie Feczko, Mary Friedman, Deborah Herbertson, Paula Leonard, Rose Anne Preston, Larry Untermeyer, and Pat Voris; and courageous new members: Leo Cirino, Mary Lee Clayton, Dorothy Curran, Stacey Danielson, John Harris, Patricia Hines, Joan Isaacson, Mary Ann Laurita and Ellen Luckman.

All proceeds from events related to the Hidden Garden Tour support the educational programs, exhibits, archiving expertise and innumerable services provided by the Westport Historical Society, an educational organization dedicated to preserving, presenting, and celebrating the history of Westport, Connecticut, and increasing awareness of the importance of preserving our town's heritage and its historic buildings and landmarks.

Cynthia Lee and Nancy Sherter, co-chairmen,

Westport Historical Society Hidden Garden Tour

Budget process,

town manager

Even though I believe our school budget, including interest on school-related bonding, should have been reduced beyond the $500,000 favored by a one vote majority of the Board of Finance, this letter does not concern money.

Recent comments about the 2010-11 budget process were critical of the town budget process and complimentary of the School process. My sense is that the manner in which the town budget was developed, presented and defended is viewed by many as not very "professional". The school budget process was not similarly criticized.

If this divergence is accurate, the reason seems fairly evident to me.

Our schools are run by a superintendent, supported by a staff of professionals. From the perspective of achieving educational excellence, those individuals do their jobs well. In addition, the Board of Education, acting much like a Board of Directors of a well run corporation, performs its defined and developed responsibilities with competency and commitment. This structure has long existed and is institutionalized under state law and our town charter. The roles of the Board of Finance and the RTM serve primarily only to advise the Board of Education and the Superintendent that each budget proposed is either too high or about right. The Superintendent and usually one other have great knowledge of all "the numbers" and other details pertinent to the "business" they operate. Together with the Board of Education, the school budget is developed, presented and defended with skill. Indeed, the skill is so great that no one on the Board of Finance or the RTM can really get "behind" the numbers.

The town budget process is inherently different for at least two reasons. First, there is the importance of the roles of so many Department heads. Second, we have only one full time, paid employee with overall responsibility, the first selectman. Without a position comparable to the superintendent of schools and staff support, and with the Board of Finance and RTM having a limited and sporadic oversight role, the town is destined always to be administered in a way inferior to our school system.

One obvious alternative is a town manager. Westport's charter provides for the first selectman to hire a town operations manager, though without operational responsibility for police, fire and of course the schools. Consideration should be given to the hiring of a town operations manager. Consideration should also be given to amending the town charter to establish the position of town manager, with day to day responsibility for all aspects of town government, other than schools. Either position should be fairly paid and should result in a commensurate reduction in the salary of the first selectman. A transitional approach would be first to higher an operations manager, with a view to a charter change and a town manager.

Only with a full time professional, with day to day operational responsibility, including budget preparations and presentations, will Westport become well managed. The Board of Finance and the RTM will continue in their present oversight roles. The first and second selectmen will be able to address policy and will be far more likely to accomplish the kinds of longer term, sometimes visionary, goals for which we elect our leaders and which should be the "fun" part of political leadership.

Don Bergmann

Westport

Solidarity with Israel

The Jewish community of Eastern Fairfield County, Connecticut, stands in solidarity with the State of Israel in the aftermath of the recent violence instigated by the "Free Gaza" flotilla.

As a community that loves and values peace, we regret the loss of life and personal injuries that resulted from this incident, and we wish that this provocation could have been handled in a way that avoided violence of any kind. We wish that Israel had not been forced to assert her internationally recognized sovereignty by needing to intercept an unauthorized set of shipments headed for Gaza. We decry the fact that Israeli soldiers were violently attacked on one of these vessels -- with premeditation, lethal weapons, and live ammunition -- forcing the surprised soldiers to fire back in order to defend themselves. We welcome Israel's stated commitment to investigate these events.

We also grieve for the larger tragedy of the region caused by Hamas' violent takeover of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority, after Israel withdrew from the territory. We lament Hamas' incessant attacks upon Israel, and their use of Gaza as an armed base from which to launch rockets and other attacks against Israeli citizens. We wish Hamas would join the PA, Israeli and international efforts to bring peace to this troubled region.

Notwithstanding Hamas' violence against both Israelis and Palestinians, Israel transfers 15,000 tons of humanitarian aid, per week, to the people of Gaza. If only Hamas desired to improve the lives of Palestinians more than they desire to murder Jews and peace loving Palestinians, there would be no blockade on Gaza. It is well documented that Israel has intercepted on numerous occasions huge caches of lethal weapons on the open seas and within underground tunnels. As such, Israel at this time simply cannot allow any un-inspected cargo to pass into the Gaza strip.

The flotilla's organizers claimed to be unarmed peace activists. In fact, many were armed and dangerous, planned for violence, and were organized by militant-Islamic groups. Israel repeatedly offered to deliver the donated goods through the port of Ashdod, using normal search procedures. The organizers rejected these Israeli offers. The father of Gilad Shalit, the kidnapped Israeli soldier who has been denied every humanitarian right, and who has been kept in secretive silence by Hamas for years, asked the organizers to deliver supplies to his son. Yet, the organizers refused this peaceful, purely humanitarian request as well.

Since 2005, Hamas has launched more than 8,000 rocket attacks at communities in southern Israel out of Gaza. Hamas intensively smuggles weapons into Gaza to continue this war, openly opposes any efforts for peace with Israel, rejects all compromise and negotiation efforts, and systematically incites the Gaza public to hate and kill Israelis. Under these conditions, no government would allow deliveries of any kind to such a region, without careful screening for harmful weapons or other contraband. Under normal conditions, no government allows unidentified people and goods to flout border regulations and enter their countries freely. The flotilla effort violated international law, directly attacked Israel's sovereign rights, and was intentionally designed to result in a violent confrontation.

Our hearts go out to the innocent civilians of Gaza and this region, and we stand with the State of Israel as it struggles to cope with these enemies of peace, and protect the lives of its citizenry.

Rabbi Simcha Berger, Dean, Yeshiva Gedola, Bridgeport; Rabbi Jack Bloom, Fairfield; Rabbi Colin Brodie, Congregation B'nai Torah, Trumbull; Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz, Congregation B'nai Israel, Bridgeport; Rabbi Edward Harwitz, Head of School, Jewish High School of Connecticut; Rabbi Shlame Landa, Chabad of Fairfield; Rabbi Jacob Mendelson, Congregation Bikur Cholim, Bridgeport; Rabbi Shaul Marshall Praver, Congregation Adath Israel, Newtown; Rabbi James Prosnit, Congregation B'nai Israel, Bridgeport; Rabbi Mitchell Rocklin, Congregation Ahavath Achim, Fairfield; Rabbi Dan Satlow, Congregation Beth El, Fairfield; Rabbi Stephen Shulman, Director of Pastoral Services, Jewish Home for the Elderly, Fairfield; Rabbi Israel Stein, Congregation Rodelph Sholom, Bridgeport; Andrew H. Banoff, President and CEO Jewish Home for the Elderly, Fairfield; Laurie Gross, Director of Community Relations and Israel Advocacy, Jewish Center for Community Services Eastern Fairfield County; Eli Kornreich, President and CEO, Jewish Center for Community Services Eastern Fairfield County; Harvey Paris, President, Jewish

Family Service, Bridgeport