Letters to the Editor
Thank you to
a `fine' community
With the 37th annual Westport Fine Arts Festival now in the history books, I want to thank everyone in the Westport community who braved the hot weather to attend and support this year's festival, where more than 130 artists displayed their art for the Westport community to enjoy.
I also want to thank all of the volunteers associated with the Downtown Merchant's Association who worked immeasurable hours over the last year and throughout the weekend to assure a successful festival for the community. I want to thank our very generous sponsors for their support this year. And, a special thanks to Pepperidge Farms for being our lead sponsor this year.
I want to thank the Westport Police Department for providing the manpower to assure that we had a safe and secure festival throughout the weekend both during the event and after hours.
Thanks, too, to the Westport Arts Center for creating such an enjoyable experience for all of the children who attended the festival. I can assure you that their parents also appreciated the arts center's efforts to create such a wonderful experience for the kids.
The Westport Art Center also provided five judges who spent all of Saturday visiting and re-visiting the artist's booths to decide who would earn top billing in seven categories, plus Best in Show; not an easy job considering the heat and number of artists in the festival. A special thanks to each of the judges for your serious thoughtfulness in your decision-making process.
Congratulations to the eight artists who placed at the top of their respective categories. Each of these artists will be invited to attend next year's festival and will be exempt from the jury process. Visit www.westportfineartsfestival.com for a list of this year's award winners.
And finally, I spent a lot of time talking to the artists this weekend. Time and again the artists told me that the Westport community is involved at a totally different level with the artists than other events they attend. The community actively engages in meaningful conversation with the artists regarding their particular style or medium. The artists recognize and truly appreciate that the Westport community supports the arts with such a high level of sophistication and interest.
Thanks again to the entire Westport community for a successful event. It could never have happened without your continuous support. Until next year...
Westport Fine Arts Festival chairman
Owner, Rockwell Art & Framing
is doing its job
If anyone doubted Helen Garten's earlier editorial this year that "Business as Usual" is over in Westport, they only have to look at the recent 7-0 vote turning down the administration's request for adding additional fire fighters. This is significant in several respects.
First, the Board of Finance (BOF) is coming to realize that there are no partisan issues facing Westport. The over-arching financial issues are, and always have been, non-partisan. The seven, financially-astute BOF members are all coming to the same conclusion that our model for delivering services is antiquated ... and how we deliver and pay for the services we enjoy requires reorganization.
The Westport Fire Department, despite all best intentions, is the most aggresious of all. The cost of town services, when benchmarked to Darien (the closest peer we have in Connecticut), has systemically been 400-500 percent higher ... while police, library and eveneEducation have been in only a 10-40 percent higher range.
Despite the fire department's eloquent PowerPoint presentation on why Westport is so different, there is no acceptable reasoning other than the lack of volunteers in our active fire-fighting mix. This will require management by the current administration, which includes the leadership of the fire department. It is inconceivable that every neighboring town to Westport has active volunteers while none exist in Westport.
On a broader note, the Board of Finance should now start requesting ideas for substituting capital investmnent for labor expenses; the reorganization of commonly shared services between town and BOE departments; take a serious look at all underying assumptions driving the town and BOE budgets (not a comparison to last year, but some real, zero-based soul-searching on the driving assumptions); and have a look at our pension plans, with an eye toward introducing defined contribution plans for all new hires.
None of this is news. Businesses and now even governments globally have been forced to adopt these measures. It is only now really coming home to roost in Westport. But it's unfair to those who run or work in businesses under these new conditions in order to earn money to pay their taxes, not to hold the town and BOE to the same standards.
Former vice chairman,
Westport Board of Finance
Book sale a success
thanks to volunteers
Sizzling hot heat and storms did not keep thousands from attending the 17th annual Westport Library Summer Book Sale.
Not only was the sale larger than ever, with 100,000 books offered, there were seven tents to browse through in addition to the special books in the inside library's McManus room. More than 550 people were waiting in line on opening day. All ages from many different towns in New England attended during the four-day sale, resulting in wonderful profits that will enrich and support the programs at the library.
What is most special about this event is that it is truly a community effort. It starts with a five-day set up of more than 300 volunteers of all ages. Organizations such as Sunrise Rotary; Y's Men and Women; Woman's Club; SLOBS; NCL; NEON; churches, temples and schools; scouts and Staples High School athletic teams lift and shelve. Once the solicitation was sent to local community organizations, volunteers came in groups or as individuals willing to put in many hours of service.
One father brought his 7-year-old son to work along side of him to introduce his son to the meaning of "giving back." The Gillespie Shelter also provided wonderful men and women for the physical labor needed to unload 4,000 cartons of books.
Local merchants, most willing to be part of this event, provided 3,000 paper bags, 900 wood shims, trucks, snow fencing and tents. Many thanks to Cheryl Scott Daniels of ERA Select Homes; Torno Lumber; Trader Joe's; Whole Foods Market; Westport Parks and Recreaction; fire and police department; Delehanty Pick Up; the Mathias family; the Jacoby family; and Kowalsky Brothers -- you all made a difference.
The reputation of our book sale has increased to be rated as one of the top three in our state, all due to the donations that this community gives. The Westport library accepts donations every day of the year. When you donate, more than 35 category sorters label, price and box each book for the next sale. Mark your calendars for Dec. 4 and 5 and for mid-March.
Our website, www.westportlibrary.org, will always have information, or sign up to receive e- newsletter notices.
Many thanks to all participants whatever your role: shopper or volunteer. Happy summer reading.
book sale coordinator;
Suzy Hooper, Dick Lowenstein and Sal Porio,
book sale co-chairmen