by Jarret Liotta

EDITOR’S NOTE: Apparently the author of this column was so stupid as to not realize that the town of Westport has NOT officially implemented an indoor mask mandate for businesses at this time. We apologize for their stupidity, but we still found the content of this chipper piece funny, so we’re leaving it up as is with this clarification …

WESTPORT — Well, another week has come & gone — no thanks to any of us — and the new year (2022) is already presenting us with a pernicious panoply of public pickin’s for our communal plate …

Poor Marketing

To begin, I’d be grossly negligent if I didn’t share about my experience Thursday night at Stop & Shop — out of respect to both the majority of locals who adhere to the mask (law)* (see Editor’s Note above) and, of course, the lovely and somewhat fetching blue-eyed blonde woman with whom I commiserated near the apples.

Stop & Shop’s parent company, Ahold Delhaize, tells us on its website …

She and I were jointly dumbfounded — not only by the excessive repair work going on during business hours (which involved the greater part of the produce section jumbled into an inaccessible, noisy, and rather dusty maze of chaos, replete with a screaming floor sander) — but also because all but one of the half-dozen laborers were unmasked (as were more than one-third of the customers and a sprinkling of the grocers).

Stop & Shop last Thursday night — faces blanked, but the shirt says it all!

“Nobody enforces it,” one masked grocery worker told me of the mask mandate* (see Editor’s Note above).

I have great fondness for many of the people who work at Stop & Shop. I respected their strike several years ago and didn’t shop there, even though I needed cat litter. I see most of them adhering to the town law* (see Editor’s Note above), even while some of their customers disrespectfully don’t* (see Editor’s Note).

Thus, I wasn’t even going to report on this whole disappointing incident, but minutes after witnessing all of this, when I went to buy some cheese I found several pieces expired by more than two weeks … Well, that was the camel-cracking straw!

Dec. 21, 2021-expired cheese for sale at Stop & Shop photographed on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022.

Come on, Ahold Delhaize (parent company), get “a hold” of your subsidiaries and instruct them to frickin’ follow the laws in our town* (see Editor’s Note above), if only out of simple courteous respect.

(As Emmet Fox once wrote so eloquently — and I think this is the exact quote — “If you really love your country, obey her laws.”)

More importantly, I hope my fetching blue-eyed friend reads this and agrees we should meet again to discuss it in further detail …

EDITOR’S NOTE: The author pointed out that the fetching blue-eyed woman is obviously also to blame for this error in content.

School of Crock

Speaking of expired cheese, Westport Public Schools has added a new chapter to its never-ending manifesto of pointless pedagogical plans and hifalutin administrative mumbo jumbo.

As I’ve written before, I don’t question anyone’s commitment to improving things amongst our well-paid educational brass — and I do believe most of the school administrators want to do what they sincerely believe is best — but that doesn’t mean these high-level bureaucratic planning exercises, like Strategic Planning, serve any real purpose when it comes to impacting student lives.

In fact, they’re more likely to impact staff lives by creating more pointless paperwork, fatuous “brainstorm” meetings and irrelevant quantification-based hoops through which they’ll be forced to jump.

Instead, why doesn’t Superintendent Scarice — who I sincerely believe is a caring and intelligent man — just take 15 minutes and simply tell his staff to prioritize student well-being and mental health over test performances and competitive chicanery. He can tell them he trusts their professional judgment in striving to prioritize commonsense care over content, and humanity over humanities, and leave it at that!

Scarice can then focus his administrative skills & resources on helping staff do their work without untoward parental interference, as well as finding new hires that won’t (allegedly) pass out in the middle of the work day!

A Flood of Good Information

Cheers to Town Engineer Ted Gill, who gave a remarkably interesting presentation to the Flood & Erosion Control Board last week.

In short, Gill outlined how the town’s unchecked development throughout the second half of the 20th century was a — perhaps the — primary reason there are so many issues with flooding.

Now, no one wants to point I-told-you-so fingers — Well, I kind of do, because it’s sort of fun! — but (to quote a forever-disheartened Linus Van Pelt), “How Long, Great Pumpkin, How Long?!!”

I was a cynical, vocal teenager in the early years of the Reagan regime, when the first large commercial projects (Wright Street and Gorham Island) — coupled with the arrival of the first McMansions — heralded a gruesome phase in Westport’s gluttony-driven growth and development.

I knew, for Kripe’s sake! It was obvious! All this building begged for dramatic environmental consequences down the road, even from just that single decade of super-development … and I was just a stupid, insolent, pimply, pot-smoking teen! Where were the grownups?!

Sadly now, solutions will seem (or be) more dramatic than ever, so no one is going to want to do them, of course — especially the grownups!

First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker, however, will presently be put on the spot to possibly start an enormous ball rolling …

Let’s see what happens …

The Once-lers and The Lorax

Speaking of paying the price years later for dumb decisions … (or perhaps just thoughtless ones … or maybe callously greedy ones … or perhaps some combination thereof) … more dramatic legislation aimed at curbing whole-scale tree cutting is finally being discussed.

While large trees help purify our poisoned air, and while established root systems amidst long-standing lawns help dissuade water runoff, and while established lawns don’t require toxic chemicals to achieve growth, and while old trees and established properties are monumentally more gorgeous and aesthetically pleasing to anyone with some semblance of taste … Westport still somehow struggles with preserving character and nature amidst development.

The dissuasive plan being discussed could make the killing of old trees more costly to the various lumberjacks.

Surprisingly, developers of enormous houses that are built on clear-cut properties with synthetically reconstituted lawns may not be in favor of it.

“Downtown! (Don’t Wait a Minute More) Downtown! (No Finer Place for Sure), etc.”

… Nor do some developers like capping downtown store space at 10,000-square feet, including local developer-about-town David Waldman.

Perhaps it’s an unreasonable request. If we’re going to build McMansions exceeding 10,000-square feet, we likely need the larger retail stores to service the occupants.

Perhaps Waldman, who is designing something at the site of the former Save The Children, could create a Walmart-like megastore along the river — but a really high-end one with designer googaws, valet parking and surly security guards to discourage local riffraff — and call it Waldmart?!

Hey, Westport, isn’t it time we start thinking outside the box & greet the future?!!

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