Woody Klein: Looking to the year ahead in Westport

In 2017, I am anticipating more activity than ever in Westport in a long time. That is saying something, considering the quickening pace of change in our rapidly modernizing town in 2016.

Topping the list of local events coming up, of course, is the election slated for November, featuring a townwide campaign for the Board of Selectmen. If the vigorous, 70-year-old Republican First Selectman Jim Marpe decides to run for a second four-year term — something he could announce any day now — that race would be accompanied by the second and third selectmen (loser of the race for first selectman). The second selectman is normally the running mate with the first selectman, who garners the most votes. The election will take place Nov. 7.

Next year should be a time for Westport to examine some dormant issues that have already sprung up as a result of the dramatic transition between the Obama and Trump administrations. The hot contemporary topics are:

1. How up-to-date are the ethical standards to hold public office?

2. Are our conflict-of-interest regulations clear for all public employees, from regular entrance-level workers to top officials?

3. Which body examines the conflict-of-interest laws and rules on them?

4. What rules and regulations does the town have regarding nepotism or the inheritance of family fortunes?

5. What are the guidelines for conflict-of-interest rules on the purchase of stocks and other investments?

6. Is there a guide for use of public property by town employees for private purposes, such as automobiles, cellphones, etc.?

While the local election will, no doubt, stir a great deal of civic competition, there will be a focus on issues such as the education budget, diminished as a result of the reduction in state aid; affordable housing, an ongoing struggle to build or convert apartments for poor families; expansion plans for the Westport Library, the Arts Center and the Senior Center; more outstanding exhibits at the Historical Society (full disclosure, I am a member); continuation of the redevelopment of downtown Westport; and a flurry of activity by the P&Z, the RTM, the Parks and Recreation Department and other town agencies. All will guarantee an exciting year ahead for our town.

Woody KIein is an award-winning columnist with the Westport News for the past 49 years. He is the author of “Westport Connecticut: The Story of a New England Town’s Rise to Prominence” (Greenwood Press, 2000).