Westport Republicans pick nominees for November election
The party will field three nominees for the Board of Finance. Tom Lasersohn, a private investor, will run for his first full term after joining the board earlier this year to finish the term of Charlie Haberstroh, who is now a selectman. Representative Town Committee member Michael Rea, a vice president at the General Re re-insurance company, and John Pincavage, a financial consultant, will run for their first terms on the board. Incumbent Ed Iannone will not seek a second term.
For the Planning and Zoning Commission, Catherine Walsh, an executive in the international steel industry, will run for her first full term. Walsh has served on the P&Z since 2008, replacing Helen Martin Block, who resigned. Chip Stephens, director of business for Chembio Diagnostics, and Jack Whittle, a lawyer for Odyssey Reinsurance, will run for their first terms on the P&Z. Incumbents David Press and Michael Krawiec, who have respectively served on the P&Z since 2003 and 2007, will not seek re-election.
Elizabeth Wong, a medical practice administrator, and Bill Harris, executive director of the Army Aviation Association of America, will run for re-election to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Wong and Harris have served on the board, respectively, since 1997 and 2007.
Republicans hold minorities on the Board of Finance, Board of Education, Planning and Zoning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and Board of Assessment Appeals.
"The Democrats control absolutely every board and commission, and there're absolutely no checks and balances," said Rea, who chairs the RTM's Finance Committee. "With our economic crisis that we've been living through with the taxes and questions about our OPEB [Other Post-Employment Benefits] liabilities, we feel that town government needs to be much more accountable and much more transparent."
Pincavage also identified the town's OPEB fund, which covers retired town employees' health-care costs, as a major fiscal concern.
"You can't just say, `Now we have an X million more liability each year that we have to cover. Gee, the only way we can do that is to raise taxes,' " he said. "I don't think that's acceptable."
Walsh said the P&Z's review this year of a text amendment that allows development of a senior complex proposed by First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, a Democrat, at the town-owned Baron's South property raised questions about the evaluation process for municipal projects. While the P&Z approved the text amendment, Walsh and fellow Republican Michael Krawiec voted against it.
"How can you evaluate a project when they come before you and haven't even done an evaluation of the land, and here they want to give it away?" she said. "The first and second selectmen came in without having done an appraisal of the land, without having a business plan, without having one number on the table."
The Republican Town Committee will vote at an Aug. 16 meeting for another nominee for the P&Z and two nominees for the Board of Education. Republican Sandy DeFelice will not seek a second term on the education board. The RTC is interviewing candidates for the P&Z and education positions, RTC Chairman Bob Zappi said.
Only RTC members voted Tuesday as local Republicans do not hold a caucus at which registered party members ballot to choose their nominees.
Despite the Democrats' recent success in town elections, Zappi said he is confident that Republicans would have a strong performance at the polls in November.
"The Democrats have majorities now, which I think you can attribute to the fact that there are more registered Democrats in Westport," he said. "But you need leadership from both parties to ask the tough questions."