Donna Holt's blog

Questioning the Messianic Conception of Smart Growth

This is an analysis by Wendoll Cox, senior fellow of The Heartland Institute, of a recent paper in the Journal of the American Planning Association.

A new analysis from the United Kingdom concludes that smart growth (compact city) policies are not inherently preferable to other urban land use policy regimes, despite the proponents' claims.

Sustainable Communities - A Transformation of Virginia

As Governor McDonnell's plans for sustainable development, referred to as "sustainable communities", continues to gain momentum, it is worthwhile to step back and take a long look at the big picture, painted with a broad brush to reveal what Virginia might look like as his vision for the Commonwealth is more fully implemented over the next 20 years or so.

Combating Agenda 21 in Your Community

Now that you understand what Agenda 21 looks like on a global scale, I’m sure you are wondering if things you have been seeing and reading about in your community are somehow involved. Chances are, if you have questioned it, the groundwork has been laid and the process has begun.

Where do I start?

The History of Sustainable Development - Connecting the Dots

The concept of sustainable development arose after the 1974 United Nations adoption of a Declaration for the establishment of a "New International Economic Order" (U.N. A/RES/S-66/3201 - 1974)

The document was written by developing countries and called for:

• The regulation of multi-national Corporations
• Authority to nationalize foreign property
• Authority to establish commodity monopolies
• The transfer of technology and technical assistance

The document showed clearly that the delegates to the U.N. General Assembly accepted the idea that governments should virtually control the economy. That equity was the primary objective. This document was largely ignored by developed nations. But many of these U.N. Delegates took these ideas to other U.N. conferences.

For example, the 1976 U.N. conference on Human Settlements (Habitat I).

Here is an excerpt from the Preamble:

"Land...cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market.  Private land ownership is also the principle instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth, and therefore, contributes to social injustice..."

This preamble sets the stage for 65 pages of very specific land use recommendations. Among the many recommendations are:

• A-1. Redistribute population in accord with resources
• D-1. Government must control the use of land to achieve equitable distribution of resources
• D-2. Control land use through zoning & land-use planning
• D-3. Excessive profits from land use must be recaptured by government
• D-4. Public ownership of land should be used to exercise urban and rural land reform
• D-5. Owner rights should be separated from development rights which should be held by a public authority.

This established the direction of the U.N.'s recommendation.

Among the signers on behalf of the United States were Carla Hills, Secretary of HUD and William Reilly, Conservation Foundation and later the Administrator for the EPA. Also in attendance were:

• Nine agencies of the federal government
• Sierra Club
• National Audubon Society
• Friends of the Earth
• Conservation Foundation
• League of Women Voters

The term "sustainable development" entered the vocabulary during the 1990's and has virtually permeated every facet of American life. The term was first defined in the United Nations 1987 report of the World Commission on Environment & Development called "Our Common Future". The Commission was chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland who was also Vice-Chair of the World Socialist Party.

Our Common Future defines sustainable development to be:

"Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

Sustainable development is illustrated to depict the proper balance between social equity, the environment, and economic development. Note that what is called sustainable is the perfect balance between policies related to these three all-encompassing areas of life.

The United Nations General Assembly asked the World Commission on Environment and Development, also called the Brundtland Commission, to "...propose long term Strategies for achieving sustainable development by the year 2000 and beyond...".

Five years later the plan called Agenda 21 was unveiled at the 1992 Conference on Environment & Development. The conference was chaired by Maurice Strong who was also a member of the Brundtland Commission.

In it's 40 chapters, Agenda 21 addresses virtually every aspect of life. Each chapter presents many policy recommendations that member nations are expected to adopt.

Some of the more important chapters are:

5. Demographics & Sustainability

7. Human Settlements (the foundation for "sustainable communities")

10. Planning & Management of Land

18. Management of Water

30. The role of Business & Industry

38. International Mechanisms & Institutions (are seen to be the coordinators of worldwide sustainable development)

Agenda 21 calls for the creation of:

"...National strategies, plans, policies, and processes which are crucial in achieving a sustainable world."

Note: The ratification of the Biodiversity Treaty, Agenda 21, was never voted on by Senate after Dr. Michael Coffman presented this map of the proposed development of the "wildlands" under Agenda 21 in the United States.

Six months after his inauguration, President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order #12852 which created the President's Council On Sustainable Development on June 29 1993.

The Councils Membership included:

• Twelve Cabinet-level Federal Officials
• Jonathan Lash, Pres. World Resources Institute
• John Adams, Ex. Dir. National Resources Defense Council
• Dianne Dillon-Ridgley, Pres. Zero Population
• Michelle Perrault, International V.P., Sierra Club
• John C. Sawhill, Pres. The Nature Conservancy
• Jay D. Hair, Pres. World Conservation Union (IUCN)
• Kenneth L. Lay, CEO, Enon Corporation
• William D. Ruckelshaus, Chm., Browning-Ferris Industries & former EPA Administrator

Their purpose was to translate the recommendations set forth in Agenda 21 into public policy administered by the federal government. They created the American version of Agenda 21 called
"Sustainable America - A New Consensus".

The ideas that came out of the U.N. conferences mentioned above, are emerging in public policy in the United States.

The Consensus Process - The most important dimension to the implementation of sustainable development policies.

Using the consensus process, an initiator carefully selects members of the affected group to participate on a decision making committee. The decision making committee never votes. Consensus is the process by which objections to the proposal are extinguished. This is contrary to the democratic process in which the affected group elects representatives. The representatives debate and then vote. The affected group then abides by the decisions. If the affected group is dissatisfied with the decision, they can elect new representatives to reflect their wishes. Using the consensus process, the affected group has no voice in choosing the decision makers.

Sustainable development was brought to America when President Clinton (initiator) initiated the President's Council on Sustainable Development. This decision-making committee began with Agenda 21 as its proposal. Its goal was to translate Agenda 21 into public policy.

An early achievement of the council was the development of 16 "We Believe" statements among which is No. 8.

"We need a new collaborative decision process that leads to better decisions, more rapid change, and more sensible use of human, natural, and financial resources in achieving our goals."

This new collaborative process is the "consensus process".

The PCSD operated from 1993 - 1999. Their first major publication was "Sustainable America - A New Consensus". It contained more than 150 policy recommendations taken directly from Agenda 21.

At the eleventh meeting of the council, after the recommendations had been developed, then Secretary of the Dept. Of Commerce, Ron Brown, said that his agency could implement 67% of the recommendations administratively using rule making authority. Other department secretaries reported similar numbers.

The recommendations covered a wide range of public policies. Among the most important are land use policies. Sustainable America says:

"Private land use decisions are often driven by strong economic incentives that result in several ecological or aesthetic consequences... The key to overcoming it is through public policies...(p.112)."

The 1990's saw an expansion of government control of land use. In 1997, the federal government already owned about 1/3 of all the land in America. State and local governments owned another 10%. The federal government designated and expanded 21 National Monuments, designated 43 million acres of "roadless" areas, and appropriated millions in grants to states and local governments and land trusts for the purpose of acquiring more private property. These activities were promoted by the land management agencies, all members of the PCSD.

Millions in grants were awarded to the American Planning Association between 1997 - 2000. The EPA and other agencies issued millions more in challenge grants to local governments and organizations for "visioning" projects.

During the 1990's there emerged a rash of visioning projects in towns and cities across the nation. They were typically called something like "Yourtown 2020". They were all the result of the PCSD and funded by grants by an agency of the government who was a member of the PCSD.

The EPA, for example, would issue challenge grants for visioning projects to NGO's (non-government organizations) and to local governments. The grant recipient would designate an initiator who would select the visioning council. Those selected would be politicians, agency bureaucrats, bankers, NGO leaders, and Businessmen. Those selected would be known in advance to support the goals of the initiator and most stand to gain financially from the implementation of the goals.

To spread this process across the country, the EPA coordinated a Smart Growth Network consisting of dozens of non-government organizations which included:

• American Planning Association
• The Conservation Fund
• The Natural Resources Defense Council
• The Sierra Club

All of these organizations have promoted government control of land use since the 1976 U.N. conference.

In each of the communities where visioning councils were established, their starting proposal was the recommendations of the PCSD. Their objective was to:

• Present PCSD recommendations as local goals for the community
• Through the consensus process, remove any objections that might arise
• Develop specific recommendations to achieve goals

The result became the "Yourtown 2020 Plan of Action".

This process takes typically 12 - 18 months during which the local initiator begins to issue press releases and to involve local media to introduce the idea of building a sustainable community. The idea is to build so much public support for the sustainable community as defined by the "Yourtown 2020 Plan of Action", that elected officials will have no choice but to rubber stamp it.

Funding continues to flow from government agencies to local governments and non-government organizations for the purpose of implementing sustainable development. For example, HUD's Sustainable Community Regional Planning has recently awarded nearly $100 million for innovative regional planning proposals.

Hundreds of NGO's were funded to launch the "visioning process" in communities across the country. An NGO (initiator) will begin the visioning process by carefully selecting representatives from various stakeholder groups (environment, business, education, agriculture, government) to serve as the visioning committee or council. Those chosen to serve on this council are well-vetted and known to support the goals of sustainable development.

The visioning process consists of series of meetings in which a trained facilitator leads the group of stakeholder representatives, to suggest goals for the community that will create the best possible future. These suggestions are typically written on a chalkboard, then organized into categories.

Since Agenda 21's 40 chapters and the hundreds of policy recommendations from the PCSD cover virtually every aspect of human existence, the visioning councils' ideas are easily organized into categories addressed by sustainable development documents.

Once the goals are identified and organized, the next step is to develop consensus. Consensus is NOT agreement. Consensus is the absence of expressed opposition. Testimony by attendees of such a meeting reveals that objections are put off by the facilitator. The questions are never answered and the objections are never made public and all are dismissed, ignored, or discredited.

Agenda 21 is the Bible for Sustainable Development as outlined in its four sections:

Section I: Social and Economic Dimensions (8 Chapters)
Section II: Conservation and Management of Resources for Development (14 Chapters)
Section III: Strengthening the Role of Major Groups (10 Chapters)
Section IV: Means of Implementation (8 Chapters)

The PCSD's Sustainable America is a revised version of Agenda 21 that focuses directly on transforming domestic policy to implement the recommendations of Agenda 21. To bring about the perfect balance between the environment, the economy, and social equity (redistribution of wealth) in all developments.

Ironically, most of the people involved with the process have never heard of Agenda 21 or Sustainable America. But the sponsoring NGO or agency knows exactly what it is and what his role is in implementing its policies.

That's why every recommendation in the final land use development plan and the procedure for developing the plan can be traced back to the recommendations in Agenda 21 and Sustainable America.

ICLEI, the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, is an international association of local governments as well as national and regional local government organizations who have made a commitment to sustainable development.

ICLEI provides technical consulting, training, and information services to build capacity, share knowledge, and support local government in the implementation of sustainable development at the local level. Their basic premise is that locally designed initiatives can provide an effective and cost-efficient way to achieve local, national, and global sustainability objectives.

There are 609 dues-paying members (counties/cities) of ICLEI in the United States. There are 18 members (counties/cities) in Virginia.

ICMA, International City/County Management Association, is an organization of professional local government leaders building sustainable communities worldwide. The ICMA partners and works in concert with ICLEI.

ICMA provides technical and management assistance, training, and information resources in the areas of performance measurement, ethics education and training, community and economic development, environmental management, technology, and other topics to its members and the broader local government community.

The American Planning Association is one of many members of the PCSD. They partner with ICLEI & ICMA in the implementation of sustainable development. The APA published "Managing Growth and Development in Virginia: A Review of the Tools Available to Localities" to provide the tools necessary to implement sustainable development in Virginia.

The Renaissance Planning Group is an urban planning firm. They played a critical role in Florida's "Forever Program". The Forever Program is Florida's premier conservation and recreation lands acquisition program. Florida Forever is the largest public land acquisition program of its kind in the United States. With approximately 9.8 million acres of conservation land in Florida, more than 2.4 million acres were purchased under the Florida Forever and P2000 programs.

In 2007, the Virginia state legislature passed HB 3202 mandating that counties with the prescribed growth rate establish high density urban development areas.

To date, 67 counties in the Commonwealth of Virginia are required to implement the very same policies called for in Agenda 21's biodiversity plan. This requirement by the state forces local governments to compromise your private property through rezoning measures called for in the Smart Growth program for sustainable development.

The comprehensive land use plan is being steered by planning groups under the guise of "protecting the environment" through manipulation by facilitated stakeholder consensus councils. Though their meetings are open to the public, they are void of any public input. The predetermined outcome severely restricts land use and compromises private property ownership in an already distressed market.

The Renaissance Planning Group is currently working with APA and ICMA to implement the policies of Agenda 21 and Sustainable America and to meet the requirements of HB 3202 in Virginia. If successful, this is what Virginia and the surrounding states will look like on the biodiversity map.

The Renaissance Planning Groups's current project is creating the vision and development of Chesterfield County's Comprehensive Land-Use Plan. Their local stakeholder representative group is called the "steering committee". Videos of most, but not all, of their "Steering Committee" meetings can be found here. In viewing the videos, one can see that while the facilitator seems genuinely sincere in wanting to address concerns and answer questions that arise, he really never does.

Despite the Senate's refusal to ratify the Biodiversity Treaty in 1994, the Agenda 21 policies called for by the convention, are being implemented nationwide. No matter where you live, rest assured Agenda 21 policies are being implemented in your community.

Rest assured that Yourtown 2020 Action Plan will have a negative impact on private property rights, economic prosperity, and will result in a regulatory taking of your land. Western states that are further along in the implementation of sustainable development have been negatively impacted by the:

  1. Sharp increase in the cost of housing in urban areas - Revitalization plans in the higher density urban areas displaces many through gentrification and always results in sharp increases in the cost of housing.

  2. Rationing of water, electricity & fuel - Higher density puts more strain on local resources. To meet the needs of these high density urban areas, regulations to restrict individual use of resources are imposed. These new regulations are also a requirement to receive federal funding made available for sustainable projects. Such restrictions would force the expensive retrofitting of a home in order to meet ones' daily need for water, electricity, and fuel. Many who could not afford such expensive upgrades to their homes were forced to leave their home and the community.  

  3. Higher property taxes and additional “unearned enrichment tax” - The new higher density development sharply increases the value of property, increasing the amount you pay in property taxes. You further stand to be assessed an “unjust enrichment tax”. If you choose to stay in your home and it happens to be on one acre of land in an area that is rezoned as an urban development area that calls for 4 units per acre, you will be enriched by the increased value of your property as the direct result of this new zoning. In other western states, it is common practice to charge property owners who realized such enrichment an “unjust enrichment tax” in addition to the higher taxes assessed on their property at whatever rate was decided upon by the state legislature.

  4. Decrease or total loss in value of property in rural areas - If you own a parcel of land in a rural area that is not yet developed, you may find that your land loses its entire value. For example, if you purchased a 5 acre parcel of land that has not yet been developed in an area that calls for 25 or more acres to build one home under the new zoning plan, your land would be deemed worthless. Don't be fooled by claims that you are grandfathered in if you purchased your land prior to new zoning requirements. Property owners are commonly denied building permits if they have less than the required acreage.

In short, sustainable development policies can and will ultimately lead to the regulatory taking of land. If you are of the notion that you can successfully challenge these actions in court, think again. Any challenge in the court will prove very costly and will result in a cost that is far greater than you stand to gain even if you are successful, which few ever are.

Does Virginia Senator Richard L. Saslaw Need a Lesson in History?

In a stunning remark made by Senator Richard L. Saslaw in the Commerce and Labor Committee yesterday afternoon, he made it obvious he does not understand the role of state government. It brings into question whether he is qualified to do his job as a legislator of the Commonwealth.

Delegate Robert G. Marshall’s Virginia Healthcare Freedom Act, HB10, which had already passed in the House, was being considered by Chairman Saslaw’s senate committee. The bill states that “No law shall restrict an individual’s natural right and power of contract to choose private health care systems or private plans”. Delegate Marshall argued that “never has Congress mandated that individuals buy anything”. Senator Saslaw stunned members of the tea party movement in attendance in support of the measure with his comment “you’re telling me that we’re going to tell Congress what to do? Congress can do whatever it wants.”

Senator Saslaw demonstrates that he doesn’t know that it was the states that created the federal government, wrote the U.S. Constitution, and insisted on a Bill of Rights to spell out what the government can do.

Senator Saslaw makes it clear that he believes his role as a state legislator is to serve as an arm of the federal government and administer to it rather than defend state’s rights against the overreaching power by the federal government to ensure the sovereignty of the state.

History tells us that the states didn't want to lose the ability to make regional decisions nor to be subject to a greater authority. The Framers wanted to assure that the states would remain largely in charge within their own borders.

They felt so strongly about this principle that they codified it in law as the Tenth Amendment:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

When legislators of the Commonwealth do not understand the job they were elected to do, it is questionable whether they should keep it. Perhaps Senator Saslaw should take a lesson in history.

To the surprise of supporters of the HB10, Senator Normant first vote "no" effectively killing the bill. Delegate Marshall's appeal to the Senator to move to substitute the language for the language of Senator Vogel's SB417, already passed by the committee, put it up for a second vote and was reported with a vote of 8 - 7.  It will now go to the Senate floor for a vote.

Marshall to propose 'healthcare freedom' constitutional amendment

In a recent interview by Washington Post blogger, Rosalind Helderman, Delegate Bob Marshall announced his plan to introduce an amendment to the Virginia Constitution.

Marshall's plan of attack includes introducing a bill to accompany the amendment reaffirming "healthcare freedom" for residents. It would be written purposely to conflict with the federal law, making it easier for Virginians to sue the federal government over the mandate if it is passed.

Read more....

Virginia Is Taking On The Feds

A new campaign called the Virginia 10th Amendment Revolution is sweeping the state of Virginia. This movement is targeting the federal government’s over-reaching powers not delegated to it by the states.

Citizen activist groups are banding together to take this revolution to the 2010 legislative session of the Virginia General Assembly. They are calling on legislators to defend state’s rights under the 10th amendment with the Virginia Firearms Freedom Act (VFFA) and the Virginia Healthcare Freedom Act (VHFA).

Delegate Charles (Bill) Carrico will lead the charge in the House on the VFFA, a 10th amendment challenge to the powers of Congress under the commerce clause that prohibits the federal regulation of firearms, firearm accessories, and ammunition manufactured and retained in Virginia.

Delegate Robert (Bob) Marshall will stand up to the feds with a VHFA in the House to challenge the powers of the federal government to mandate the purchase of federally approved healthcare coverage by every citizen under the threat of steep fines and jail time.

This effort to reassert the state’s constitutional authority did not begin with the 10th Amendment Revolution. There had already been widespread opposition to the Real ID Act, dubbed Dangerous ID, in Virginia that resulted in legislation that was passed into law in the 2009 session that would prohibit certain provisions in the law that would compromise the economic privacy, biometric data, or biometric samples of any resident of the Commonwealth.

News of the 10th Amendment Revolution is going viral and is sure to shake things up in the 2010 session of the General Assembly. Members of this movement will not be silent any longer. They aim to make their voices heard at a lobby day/rally to be held on January 18th on capitol grounds in Richmond.

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