Perloe: Pathway Pollinator Mural Standstill Is an Alice in Wonderland Moment

Submitted by Jonathan Perloe, RTM District 8

As I learned more about the controversy that erupted last June around the Pathway Pollinator mural project, I felt an Alice in Wonderland moment. The mural on the concrete wall running along the Post Road across from Greenwich High School was put on hold when members of the Greenwich Representative Town Meeting (RTM) asserted that the privately-raised money used by the Greenwich Conservation Commission to fund the mural was a gift to the Town, and therefore required RTM approval.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” Alice asks during her adventure into the absurd. The Cheshire Cat replies, “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”

I submit the place we want to get to is a town that beautifies its public spaces, a town that creatively uses art to educate us on important topics at hand, a town that finds opportunities to engage youth in experiences that let them build skills they’re unlikely to gain in the normal course of instruction and a town that encourages civic engagement and volunteerism by its residents.

The mural project achieves all of these objectives. Nelson Rivas, the chosen artist, is a Chilean street art pioneer whose works appears in cities as varied as Paris and Sao Paulo. How many of us know that one of every three bites of food we eat is made possible by pollinators? Greenwich High School students will get hands-on experience working with the artist. We’re lucky to have a local chapter of Pollinator Pathway, the nationwide grassroots movement that boasts the membership of 125 conservation commissions in Connecticut and New York alone.

A lot has been said about the untenable precedent that would be made if the RTM votes to approve the project. To that, my guess is, Alice would have said, “curiouser and curiouser!”

For the sake of exercising its power, the RTM stopped the project in its tracks and has delayed it for months. Even if the RTM votes to approve the “gift,” which I hope it does, how is that an invitation to run afoul of the RTM in the future?

No, the precedent I fear the RTM is setting is that no good deed goes unpunished. I believe in process as much as anyone, but I also believe in flexibility, adjusting to circumstances and not creating mountains out of molehills.

In good faith, the Conservation Commission, the First Selectman and Town employees relied on Resolution 18 in this year’s budget which authorizes the Commission “to apply for and accept grants offered by…non-profit corporations and foundations, for the purposes of natural and cultural resource conservation, environmental protection and/or restoration, and related programs.” They went through a thoughtful and rigorous process; the project has been thoroughly vetted by state and local officials. The RTM should have the humility to give the project its blessing and then get out of the way. 

I urge my fellow RTM members to vote yes so that we can get to a place where creative, committed, civic-minded and conscientious citizens can continue contributing to conservation efforts.  

Jonathan Perloe, RTM District 8


The RTM will take up the pollinator pathway mural on Monday evening, Sept 27.
Here is the link to speaker sign up sheet. Item 5 is the mural. 
Deadline to sign up is Monday, September 27 at 12:00 noon.