Letters to the Editor: There are black people working in America, Get involved in bridge debate
Taking nothing away from the exceptionally talented cast of the Staples Players recent production of “Working,” I feel compelled to share my observations. It is not the fault of the cast that there was not one black actor in the show.
Evidently, the producers of this Staples production aren’t aware that when Studs Terkel wrote his book, upon which the musical is based, that he interviewed workers of all ethnicities. There are black people working in America, too, but you wouldn’t know it from this Staples production.
Micki Grant did not write the song “Cleaning Women” to be sung by a white woman. The Staples audience was deprived of experiencing the true meaning and impact of that song as originally and intentionally performed by the magnificent Lynne Thigpen, a black Tony Award-winning actress.
There have been many productions of “Working” since it first appeared on Broadway (with 3 of my clients in the original cast and on the original cast album) and I would venture to guess that this is the first all-white production of what Studs Terkel intended to be a multi-racial show. Speaking of white privilege in Westport, this show is a blatant example of that very concept. Shame on the producers of this show.
To the Editor:
Last week, Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe announced his intention to walk away from approximately $40 million in transportation funding earmarked for Westport that could be used to renovate and improve the Cribari Bridge in Saugatuck. In support of his decision, Mr. Marpe cited a purported lack of clarity as to the specific application of the funds, and the notion that there were too many strings attached. Mr. Marpe’s decision reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the process and may well jeopardize our town’s ability to manage the flow of traffic in the future.
Mr. Marpe’s vote comes in connection with an upcoming meeting of eight southwestern Connecticut towns (Westport, Darien, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Greenwich, Weston and Wilton) which will convene on August 17 to consider the Transportation Improvement Program (“TIP”). In short, the TIP is a list of transportation-related projects complied by state and local authorities that are eligible for possible Federal funding. Inclusion on the list is the only way to secure potential future benefits. For southwestern Connecticut, the current 2018-2021 TIP includes over $1.7 billion in proposed projects ranging from support for mass transit systems; rail, highway and state road upgrades; ADA services; sidewalks; and greenways. The current proposed TIP earmarks $40 million to explore ways to address the deterioration of the Cribari Bridge.
Mr. Marpe’s decision appears to have been calculated to respond to well-intentioned preservationists fond of the historic, albeit deteriorating, current span (which was built in 1884 but substantially altered in the course of renovations in 1991). These individuals have claimed that any modernization of the bridge would lead to massive 18-wheeler trucks barreling down local roads in lieu of I-95 (ignoring the fact that the Bridge’s current vertical clearance of about 14 feet is already high enough to accommodate nearly all such vehicles). Playing upon these fears, they have convinced Mr. Marpe to walk away from the money in the hopes of deferring for another day the fate of this troubled crossing.
But as part of state Route 136, Connecticut (not Westport) owns and controls the Cribari Bridge. Connecticut, not Westport, is obligated to keep the road and river crossing in good working order. And Connecticut is also obligated to address the growing air quality problems in our region — problems that have been exacerbated by the traffic congestion arising, at least in part, from the Cribari Bridge’s obsolete design.
The 133- year old bridge’s exterior cage and truss systems are visibly crumbling. It can take upwards of 30 minutes to open and close the rusting structure to allow oversize vessels to pass through the channel while a line of cars stands idly by; modernized bridges spanning navigable waterways in our region can accomplish the same task in about 5 minutes. According to state studies, one of the bridge’s piers is in critical condition. Cars going across the bridge in opposite directions must carefully and slowly navigate the narrow crossing, creating constant backups on Bridge Street and Riverside Avenue. At peak commuting hours, it can take 10 or 15 minutes just to get across the river. Bikers and walkers have little or no place to safely travel.
In light of this situation, the State has responsibly begun an extensive multi-year review process which begins with the money earmarked in the TIP. These funds are intended to generate and ultimately implement a wide range of possible design alternatives, including retaining the current structure; modifying the design; or replacing the bridge altogether. Creating bike lanes, improving pedestrian access, and widening the roadway to permit better traffic flow all will be on the table for consideration.
Westport can be part of this ongoing process, if the eight town leaders (including Mr. Marpe) collectively vote to keep the placeholder money in the TIP. By acting in concert with the state, we can play a role in improving the current bridge. We can negotiate height, width, lighting and many other critical elements. We can reject any unacceptable configurations that might encourage truck traffic. But if we pull the plug now, as Mr. Marpe wants to do by deleting the funds from the TIP, we are walking away from our chance to influence the process.
Westport is a river town and our bridges are an integral part of daily life. To protect what we love about our unique town, while also ensuring a safe and viable future, we need to explore all of the various options for the Cribari Bridge. Inclusion on the TIP is a pre-requisite to that process; without it on the list, we are left with an unacceptable status quo.
I urge all interested citizens to participate in a public hearing on this issue to be held in Darien on July 31 and to contact Mr. Marpe to let him know that Westport needs to keep the $40 million in TIP funds in place.
Editor’s note: Jennifer Johnson is a District 9 Representative in the Westport RTM.
To the Editor:
“Gambling is not the basis either for a successful economy in this state, or for a stable state government financial system. You can’t rely on gambling as a way to really sustain your government.”
That’s how state Rep. Arthur O’Neill in June effectively summed up the so-called “sweetener” bill that cleared the way for a possible expansion of casino gambling in Connecticut. His comments shined a bright light on the need for a sustainable state budget — one which gives confidence to the business community.
Rep. O’Neill’s sensible words fell on deaf ears. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed the “sweetener” into law this month.
For Rep. O’Neill and those of us who strive for more predictability, reliability and transparency in our state’s finances, there really was nothing “sweet” about the sweetener.
Gov. Malloy has placed his bet. He signed a bad bill.
The legislation increases the number of off-track betting sites to 24, up from the current 18. It also directs the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection to adopt regulations for legalized sports betting if Congress repeals a 1992 federal law which outlawed sports wagering.
The bill was “sweetened” in order to capture the necessary votes for the new East Windsor casino. That’s a poor way to craft public policy. It ignores the societal costs that gambling has brought to Connecticut.
The human consequences.
The families that have been torn apart.
The lost hopes.
In signing the “sweetener,” Gov. Malloy doubled down on the gambling industry. His signature spoke volumes. As our budget crisis continues, don’t be surprised to see more and more calls for expanded gambling in any way, shape or form.
As for me, I will continue to raise awareness about the costs of expanded gambling and speak out for the victims. A diverse coalition of religious and grassroots groups have joined me. The Coalition Against Casino Expansion in Connecticut (www.NoMoreCasinosInCT.org) is comprised of Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Muslim, Methodists and Baptists. We have undertaken what many call a “David vs. Goliath” fight. But make no mistake: this is a fight worth having.
The forces that want expanded gambling in Connecticut are extremely powerful, but their victories only serve to renew our focus on preventing future addiction from taking hold and growing in our state.
State Sen. Tony Hwang
Editor’s note: State Sen. Tony Hwang represents Easton, Fairfield, Newtown, Weston and Westport.