By Richard Kaufman
Greenwich Point Beach served as the perfect backdrop on Tuesday evening for current State Rep. and Greenwich First Selectman candidate, Fred Camillo, as he hosted a public conversation on the environment.
Over 20 people gathered at the Sue H. Baker pavilion for Camillo’s event, which lasted roughly an hour. It was supposed to focus mainly on what’s happening at the state level with regards to the environment, but attendees were curious how Camillo would tackle the issues if he became the chief elected official in Greenwich.
Camillo was asked what his environmental priorities would be if elected, and he outlined several points of interest.
One area involves a preemption law in Connecticut which prevents municipalities from passing an ordinance to ban toxic pesticides on private property. Camillo said he’d like to lead the charge in educating residents about the dangerous pesticides and the harm they cause.
Camillo said that his last two dogs died from cancer, and he’s not sure if they were exposed to pesticides on his street.
“Whoever is in the First Selectman’s office, he or she should be leading on that. Whether it’s something put in your tax bill, or something saying, ‘Remember, what you’re putting on your lawn is poisonous. If you have animals or little kids, they’re close to the ground,'” Camillo said.
If legislators overturn the preemption law and towns are allowed to regulate and ban pesticides, Camillo would like to meet with the Representative Town Meeting to develop a plan. Camillo said hopefully a bill on the issue will get a public hearing next year in the Connecticut General Assembly.
“If I were [in office], I would try to meet with every member of the RTM and spell out an agenda I would like to see done and listen to see their concerns and find areas where we can work together,” he said, adding that he’s in support of private property rights, but the dangerous chemicals don’t always stay in one place.
Camillo also said he’d like to see solar power used more in town.
“We’ve done a lot of things over the years on alternative energy. We need to do a lot more, even in the Town of Greenwich. Some day in the future, we’d like to see solar panels on all our buildings,” he commented. “We have to pursue solar. Not only is it the right thing to do environmentally, but economically, too.”
Recycling is another issue that Camillo is passionate about. He said he’d like for Greenwich to be 100 percent recyclable in the future.
“To quote the great Vince Lombardi, ‘Always shoot for perfection. You’re never going to obtain it, but you may catch excellence,'” Camillo said, adding that the town would have to incentivize haulers to pick up recyclables as part of their back-door service.
“I was in the recycling business. I know most of the haulers. I certainly have a good rapport with all of them,” he said.
As First Selectman, Camillo said he would create an “Enhancement Committee” to be the ears and eyes of the town to help spruce up the environment. The committee would report to the Board of Selectmen every 30 days.
“For example, the Cos Cob Mill Pond; that has never been dredged. You’re not going to get the government to do it because it’s not commercial, but you could get some private money [for it]. You could dredge it, circulate it, and put a fountain in and light it up at night,” Camillo suggested. “How nice would that be in the middle of Cos Cob? To me that shouldn’t be that hard. If you pay attention and make it a priority, then it will happen.”
With regards to athletic fields in Greenwich, which continues to be a hot button issue in town, Camillo said he’s in favor of grass.
“I’m not convinced turf is totally safe, but I’m willing to listen. Natural grass is always better for your body,” he said, noting that there have been studies on certain cancers and illnesses in athletes from exposure to turf fields.
Camillo urged attendees to contact their local representatives to advocate for environmental issues, and said it all starts at the local level. For those who see conflicting reports on climate change and aren’t sold on what might happen down the road if systematic changes nationwide aren’t made now, Camillo said it’s better to be safe than sorry.
“Do the right thing. Any time you see studies come out, it’s common sense. The weather has changed. Even if you’re not 100 percent sure and you’ve seen conflicting studies, err on the side of caution,” he said.
Going forward, Camillo said a lot can be accomplished in Greenwich with the environment if everyone works together.
“Is [Greenwich] perfect? No. No town is. But that’s why we do what we do. We want it to be better. We want it to be the best in all areas,” Camillo said. “I think there’s a great opportunity to get people working together on issues like the environment and other initiatives. Ronald Reagan said, ‘A lot gets done if you don’t care who gets the credit.'”