To the Editor:

I am writing on behalf of the Westport Library Board of Trustees, staff, donors and friends to express deep gratitude to the Town of Westport, the State of Connecticut and the community at-large for the extraordinary, tireless support that has been shown to our organization as we embark on an historic reimagining of our town library.

On Thursday, September 14, we held a groundbreaking ceremony in the Library’s Great Hall to officially kick off a transformation that has been more than a decade in the making. Throughout this lengthy planning process, the Town, and the community, have stood by the Library offering input, perspective, expertise and considerable financial support without which this project would not be possible.

There are simply too many entities and individuals to name individually in this letter but particular acknowledgement must be given to our Library Board of Trustees, Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe, the Westport Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance, RTM and the Town Planning and Zoning Committee. Additional thanks must also go to the Library’s Cornerstone Society and all Library donors and volunteers who give their time, talent and treasure to benefit the Library and the community.

When construction is complete in 2019, the reimagined Library will feature an expansive Forum capable of supporting every day work and study as well as seating for up to 600 people for larger events. There will be beautiful panoramic views of the Saugatuck along the Riverwalk with quiet spaces for reading and study. This new expanded Riverwalk will also house the majority of our adult book collection. The new building will also include an increased number of conference rooms and quiet areas, an enlarged Library Café, a professional, state-of-the-art recording studio, a larger dedicated MakerSpace and a HackerSpace workshop with prototyping equipment and co-working space. With facilities like these, we know the possibilities are endless!

Over the next 18-21 months of construction, we are committed to keeping the Library and our services as accessible to the community as possible. With that in mind, the work is being done in carefully planned out stages so that we can continue to operate during the renovation. We encourage you to visit us at the Library and learn more about the project. You can also learn more about the project and how you can be involved by visiting the project website:

See you at the Library!

Bill Harmer

Executive Director

Westport Library

To the Editor:

I’m writing to express my enthusiastic support for John Suggs, independent candidate for Westport’s First Selectman.

I first met John several years ago when I was in a Davy vs. Goliath situation with the Town of Westport regarding a historic preservation issue I felt strongly about. Though many Town officials tried to swat me away, John learned about my efforts and he embraced and supported them. Most impressive was that John reached out to help me even though I didn’t reside in his RTM district. This not only lead to an important preservation accomplishment but it also created a great, collaborative working relationship between the two of us going forward.

John is indefatigable, brilliant, innovative, ethical, and honest. Most of all, he cares deeply about this town. He will work hard for ALL Westporters; there will be no phoniness, no partisanship, and no exclusivity. This is the guy we need at the helm. He’s got my vote.

Wendy Crowther


To the Editor:

I am responding to Jim Cameron’s commentary titled “Hidden turbulence in air travel safety” that you published on the opinion page Sept 23. I know that Mr. Cameron writes about commuting issues and I suggest that he limit his “opinion” to trains, buses and Highways. His opinion on Air Safety was filled with alleged facts which were, in order, partially true, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong. He was restating urban myths, outdated practices and participating in the all too common sport of airline bashing. I am a senior Captain with one of the three major U.S. airlines, with 34 years of experience and prior to that I spent nine years as an Aircraft Commander for the USAF flying cargo jets. I would like to correct the record.

Rear facing seats. Mr. Cameron is correct on the research and that the Military fly cargo/passenger planes with rear facing seats. Please consider that these planes are designed to fly their passengers into hostile airspace and land at airfields that may be in war zones. Their chance of coming under attack and landing with “incident” is many times greater than on any airliner. Furthermore, airlines cannot force passengers to buy tickets for rear facing seats whereas the Military does “order” its personnel onto flights whether they prefer forward facing seats or not. Rear facing seats have been considered by airlines but the flying public objects and the increased safety benefit is not significant enough to force the issue.

Seat Belts. Mr. Cameron objects to the term Bumpy Air. I never use it and most of my colleagues don’t either. I report light or moderate turbulence. In 34 years of airline flying, I have never experienced severe turbulence nor the worse level called extreme. This is mostly because the FAA prohibits flying U.S. based aircraft into know or forecast areas of severe or extreme turbulence. On a very rare occurrence, some aircraft inadvertently experience severe turbulence when forecasts and reports are wrong or conditions in the atmosphere change. Yes, we try not to scare our passengers with announcements that suggest doom and gloom and most passengers would not know the exact delineation between “light” and “moderate” so some pilots might simplify their terminology to the very basic “bumpy air”. But when there is turbulence of any level, passengers are told to return to their seats and wear their seat belt. Most airlines recommend wearing seat belt whenever seated just as is required of the pilots on the flight deck. There always is the chance for un-forecast turbulence. As for “Clear air turbulence”, which Mr. Cameron seems to think describes all turbulence, it exists but is only one of many types of turbulence that an aircraft may encounter. My company is spending hundreds of millions of dollars per year on forecasting, reporting, and disseminating information on turbulence to its flight crews in a real-time, worldwide basis. Every passenger should understand that the plane flies just as safely in light or moderate turbulence as in calm air. This is a matter of comfort not safety. The only risk is for passengers not belted in if the aircraft is “bumpy.” So, take safety into your own hands and WEAR YOUR SEATBELT AT ALL TIMES!

Life Jackets. I am exposed to accidents reports for all major and most minor aircraft accidents and incidences. As far as I know, during the Jet age (mid ‘60s onward) only one jet aircraft has ever ditched and as you and I saw on TV, Captain Sullenberger’s plane floated very nicely. I’m sure the passengers on that flight were very happy to know where the exits were, and to have their life vests on, as they waited in ankle deep 31 degree water for the ferries and police to rescue them. So far, all planes that have been ditched (1), have floated. I’m not sure why you state that “Planes don’t float”. And your dismissal of detachable slides is equally disturbing. This is a self-inflating device capable of carrying up to 70 people at sea equipped with boarding ladders, heaving rings, survival tools, signaling equipment, repair kits, storm canopies and more. It doubles as the egress slide for land evacuations and is quite an engineering marvel. If you look at the pictures US Airways Flt 1549, you will see many passengers awaiting rescue while standing or sitting on the slide/rafts in the freezing Hudson river.

Evacuations. You state that the certification tests are rigged. Sure, the tests are rigged, so that a threshold of performance can be established for a newly designed aircraft. If the tests work in 90 seconds, it indicated that a real evacuation will not be hindered by design flaws. Every load of passengers is different, including age, fitness, language, and attitude. Every evacuation will be different. The common factor is the flight attendants are professionals and experts at conducting aircraft evacuation and will get you off a plane as expeditiously as possible, when the need occurs.

In-flight snacks. Since I can’t see how this topic impacts safety, I will place this in the category of Airline bashing, but will still respond. Your suggestion that airlines push the booze and turn down air recirculation to “keep passengers sedated” is not only wrong but more urban myth. Air entering the aircraft is reduced at cruise to reduce fuel burn, which is an automated feature of the pressurization system, designed by the aircraft manufacturer. It is not to sedate the passengers. Electric Recirculating fans and HEPA filters compensate for this and the result is that air is refreshed in the cabin many time more often than in your home, office, or a crowded theater. The last thing that flight attendants want is a 12 foot wide metal tube flying through the sky with 200+ drunk passengers aboard. They never “push the booze”. Most flight attendants that I work with take pride in providing great service to our passengers and your suggestions are inappropriate, to say the least.

Security. Sir, you just don’t have a clue as to what goes on behind the scenes with respect to cargo and baggage and I would need a book to describe it and clearance to do so. I will simply refute your statement that “a person can easily ship a bomb.” It is a ridiculous oversimplification that is simply not true.

Liquids. You state “The real explosives-perfumes and duty free booze-are still allowed.” Sorry but these are both flammable liquids, not explosives. There is a big difference. Yes, they could hurt someone if used as a weopon, but they could not cause a plane to crash or be taken over to be used in a 9-11 type attack. Almost any item that you carry onto a plane could be “weaponized” in some way or another. Every aspect of our lives has a level of risk and flying on an aircraft is no different. We work to reduce the risk of major catastrophes to the lowest possible level and recognize that some minor risks will always exist. These in turn can be mitigated by our well-trained flight attendants and onboard security officers. What you suggest, an attack using a bottle of liquor or an ounce of perfume is not a significant threat. These liquids are prohibited from the outside, since TSA cannot expeditiously differentiate these liquids for much more dangerous explosive liquids. They are then made available from airport vendors, after security screening, who are selling secure and sealed known products, that travelers desire.

Your conclusion is that you “hate to sound like a grouch, but flying is no longer fun. It is neither glamorous nor safe”. Not fun and glamorous is your opinion, but not Safe is absolutely wrong. American aviation is absolutely the safest industry there is. The industry is currently boasting amazingly good safety statistic. We have gone for quite a few years without a significant air crash or death caused by an air accident. That is millions of flights and billions of passengers carried safely. As far as fun and glamour, it is all there for a price. If you shop at Walmart, you have a particular type of shopping experience, probably not glamorous, yet at Mitchell’s, I’m sure it would be glamorous. You might pay 10-50 times as much for a suit, and that would be your choice. MacDonald’s vs. Don Pietro’s at dinner time would be similar. So if you want glamour and fun, just move to the front of the cabin. The executive airport lounges with all the amenities are superb. The lie flat beds with duvet covers and home size pillows are spacious and comfortable. The wines are great, and meals are tasty, preferential boarding, free checked luggage, and even Porsche Cayenne gate transfers. It’s all there for the full price, it can be quite glamorous and fun and you are welcome to give it a try. However, when you prefer, the airlines offer discounts, big discounts, and even bigger discounts, with each level of price discount offering less space, less privileges, and less services. It is your choice to forgo some or all of the glamour and fun, and just get from point A to point B. That is your choice, but I guarantee that you will get there in an ultimately safe manner.

I am immensely proud of working for my company and equally proud of our safety record and of the product that we provide the flying public. The United States Airline industry is one of Americas greatest industries. My guess is that 99% of my passengers are happy and satisfied or even delighted with their travel experience on my flights. I take great pride in that statement. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what to do for the 1% who are grouches.

Captain Lawrence Rehr


To the Editor:

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Westport is doing very well. Property tax is flat, department reduced 27 percent, enhanced senior center, improved Compo beach, improved golf course, schools ranked high in state and on and on. Why would you want to change leadership?

Vote Marpe-Tooker

Otis L. Crawford


To the Editor:

It is a great honor to support Melissa Kane for Westport’s First Selectperson. Melissa is dedicated to this town that inspires us all. She understands our community and possesses the experience, management skills, and energy to build upon our collective achievements.

Melissa spent summers here during her younger years. In 2002 the Kanes chose Westport as their special place to plant their roots and raise a family.

Melissa became immersed in the things that make Westport unique; first the Library, then Green Village Initiative, and Westport Arts Center. She joined the RTM in 2011, from my District 3, and was asked to become involved in Earthplace and the Downtown Planning Committee.

Melissa’s artful management skills became clear when she led the Downtown Planning Committee through a maze of opinions, concerned town bodies, interested merchants, real estate owners anxious to protect value, and finance bodies that said we didn’t have the money.

Out of all this came a vision, a plan and a quantified path forward for Downtown. We are on that journey now. The banana skins are still being thrown into Melissa’s path but, undaunted her vision remains.

Melissa understands that progress must be sustainable, a difficult task, due to the fiscal weakness of our State. She will aggressively reduce unnecessary expenses and simplify processes. A sustainable budget will maintain Westport’s tax base, and enable investment in what keeps our town great; our schools, families, seniors, the beach, arts, and recreational assets.

To achieve this we need an energetic proactive leader who can articulate a clear vision, and develop detailed achievable plans. We need Melissa.

Melissa is a practical progressive with a set of values that in this unfortunate of times has, for me, become so important.

Please vote for Melissa in November.

Brian Stern


To the Editor:

This afternoon, I went to Compo Beach. As you can imagine, mid-week this time of year, it was not very busy, with perhaps 50 people as far as the eye could see. What I found interesting, although when I think about our budget issues, not surprising, was that the parking lot guards were on duty while there were barely any cars in the lot. At the same time, there were no lifeguards on duty.

Martin Cooperman


To the Editor:

Westport has been blessed to have Jim Marpe as our First Selectman the last four years.

Under his leadership our town has flourished, all the while weathering our State’s fiscal storm/crisis making Westport the envy of many Town’s. Under Jim we have seen an ever-growing Grand List, improved commercial real estate base, minimal growth budgets and near zero tax increases over four years, while providing high quality services. All this did not happen by accident, but rather through Jim’s strong leadership, management skills and dedication to the job.

While Jim is making tough management decisions, he also cares greatly about the citizens of Westport. This is what truly keeps him going and willing to “re-up” for another term when he could easily just enjoy his time playing golf, travelling and spending time with his family. Instead, Jim is on the job seven days a week and into late evening meetings regularly. In every Town meeting and community group gathering I have attended, Jim is always there lending his support, listening and answering questions. The depth of his dedication to the job and the Town is astounding. He has done this non-stop for the last four years and has set a high bar for commitment to the Town and helping citizens. This is not a quality easily replaced. His experience will only add up to more great things.

Jim Marpe along with Jen Tooker will continue to protect our world class schools, be fiscally responsible and enhance the quality of life for all.

The choice is clear… Democrat, Republican or Independent ... Jim and Jen are the non-partisan choice of proven competency, experience and excellence.

Alan Phillips


To the Editor:

I wholeheartedly support Melissa Kane for First Selectman. A long time Westport resident and active member of our community, Melissa exhibits an effervescent passion for Westport and its future. She has been connected to the town since childhood when her family spent summers here. She is a member of the RTM and served as the chair of the Downtown Steering Committee and is currently the Co-Chair of the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee. She has also served on the boards of the Westport Library and of the Green Village Initiative. Melissa understands the needs of our community, she has the ability to envision its prosperous future and the drive and leadership skills to take us there.

Melissa will be an effective leader for all Westporters. She has an uncanny ability to engage absolutely everyone. She connects with people immediately with her smile, her poise, and her genuine interest in whomever she is speaking to. Melissa is truly open to everyone.

And Melissa is passionate. This passion was best on display in the wake of the presidential election. Melissa immediately acted and rallied everyone around her to the cause of protecting our democracy. As one of the organizers of the Women’s March CT Melissa led us to raise our voices in Washington.

Melissa Kane is the right leader for Westport now.

Candice Savin


To the Editor:

I have been waiting for Melissa Kane to run as a First Selectman candidate for years. Her intelligence, experience and grace are invaluable in leading our town’s future. Her successful experience with Westport’s RTM process for six years, and with political organizations like the DTC (as chair) have provided exposure to local as well as state government protocol. Democrat or Republican citizens, she will work tirelessly to improve your town as a better place to live. She already has great, actionable goals.

I have known Melissa since she moved to Westport in 2002. She has known Westport her whole life, watching our town’s growth increase in different ways. Melissa understands what is important to older residents, young families, and those in between. She has a grass roots knowledge of our community through her advocacy and volunteering efforts with Earthplace, A Child’s Place, The Downtown Steering Committee, and the PTA. Having Melissa lead our town will ensure that it improves, while remaining fiscally healthy. When Melissa is in charge, you can be sure Westport will continue to prosper and grow.

Georgiana Platt


To the Editor:

I am writing to convey my wholehearted support for Rob Simmelkjaer as Westport’s next Second Selectman. Rob and I have been professional colleagues and friends for nearly seven years. During that time, I have witnessed first-hand Rob’s exceptional intelligence, creativity and ability to bridge differences between people. Rob served as a board member for a media joint venture that I led as chief executive, and on several occasions helped to resolve seemingly intractable disputes between shareholders while ensuring that everyone’s voice was heard.

I believe that Rob has the vision, temperament and energy to help lead Westport into a brighter future. Since becoming involved in local government, he has demonstrated his commitment to properly funding our schools, growing the corporate tax base and taking a reasoned approach to zoning and development issues. He has also taken a firm stand against any kind of prejudice or expression of bigotry in our community. I was proud to serve with Rob on the organizing committee for the Anti-Defamation League’s recent “Voices” concert against hate at Levitt Pavilion.

Rob and his running mate for First Selectman, Melissa Kane, are exactly the leadership team our town needs in this time of unprecedented fiscal and social challenges. They have my enthusiastic backing, and I hope they can count on the votes of your readers as well.

David Sternberg