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Letter: Lasersohn For Westport Finance Board

To the Editor:

I strongly support Tom Lasersohn's candidacy for Westport's Board of Finance. Tom is an experienced and practical financial executive who is highly committed to bringing more transparency and sounder fiscal management to Westport.

As Warren Buffet likes to say, "When the tide goes out, you see who is not wearing a bathing suit." Recent stressful economic times have certainly exposed and aggravated serious long-term problems both with the town's fiscal situation and our approach to financial management. We really need Tom's expertise.

I was particularly impressed with Tom in the Board of Finance's recent discussions on our serious Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) liability and its associated challenges. There has been a tendency, even among those with financial expertise, to treat the OPEB issue as a "black box" in which, basically, a gaggle of actuaries and accountants load numbers into a computer and an answer pops out.

Unfortunately, the result of this "analysis" isn't a solution or even the basis of a solution to the problem. Rather, it is an abstract (and very big) number which the town's leadership, taxpayers and employees fail to understand.

Tom boiled this complex issue down for me and others in a manner enabling us to understand its practical implications, which are severe but which can be addressed with the right approach. (For those who are interested — and all taxpayers should be — he posted a great paper, "OPEB Made Simple(r)" at www.westportbof.com .) This approach starts with more transparency, including a commitment to inform taxpayers what is at stake with OPEB, how we got here and how we're going to change.

Tom is a proud member of the Westport community with children in its school system. He understands the desire of its residents to maintain high levels of municipal services. But Tom also brings a fresh perspective to the management of the town's finances. If elected, I have no doubt he will continue to work intelligently and diligently to ensure that we are spending tax dollars efficiently.

James Westphal, Westport

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