By Benjamin J. Gohs, Editor
The Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners, last week, voted unanimously to support a resolution which rejects the United Nations’ 1992 non-binding resolution Agenda 21 and any similar local or state measures.
The concern over Agenda 21 stems from fear by some that the United Nations seeks to control nations worldwide by affecting zoning laws through sustainable growth measures that could include population control, stringent pollution standards and numerous other infringements on personal and property rights.
“I’m really concerned about Agenda 21 in our state; how it’s rapidly growing to the point of detriment of private property owners,” said Charlevoix County resident Roger Conaway who presented the board with a draft resolution condemning the agenda and calling for the commission to perform “due diligence” when dealing with any issues pertaining to personal property rights. “The United Nations has no business controlling our country in any way, shape or form—we are a sovereign nation.”
The resolution unanimously adopted by five board members—Commissioner Bob Drebenstedt was absent—states Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of extreme environmentalism, social engineering and global political control that, “is being covertly pushed in local communities … through local sustainable development policies such as smart growth, land use planning, zoning, wild lands project, resilient cities, regional visioning projects and other green or alternative projects.”
The resolution goes on to state that the county will reject the agenda’s policies and any grant monies attached to it and, “further endorse the continued effort to overturn any Agenda 21 enabling laws and restrictions already in existence.”
Charlevoix County Commissioner Shirlene Tripp said she would have liked to see more information on the issue beforehand.
“If it’s non-binding then why do we want to approve it?” she asked.
Charlevoix County Commissioner Chris Christensen said it was similar to a “letter of support.”
“We’re supporting the idea that Mr. Conaway has put forward that the citizens’ private property rights be taken into consideration as we clip along,” Christensen said.
Christensen said he believes the term “sustainable development” was what most worried some people; Conaway agreed.
Ironically, shortly after the board voted unanimously to support a version of Conaway’s resolution, the board then voted to support a Brownfield Redevelopment grant application—two things which Agenda 21 opponents say are directly linked.
“Concurrent with implementation of the Brownfields Action Agenda, two other key initiatives and campaigns were rapidly developing that spurred new ideas and approaches directly related to Brownfields economic redevelopment: these were the United Nations Agenda 21, a global action plan for sustainable development, and President Clinton’s Community Empowerment Agenda,” their Brownfields handbook states. “These national and international initiatives are promoting the development of an all-encompassing framework of values, policies and processes to help guide communities in their Brownfields redevelopment and community revitalization efforts.”
The county’s move comes on the heels of the introduction of similar legislation in the Michigan House of Representatives.
Michigan 105th District Rep. Greg MacMaster (R-Kewadin) introduced H.B. 5785 earlier this July.
If passed, MacMaster’s bill would seek to protect private property rights by prohibiting: “Any Michigan governmental entity from adopting, or implementing policy recommendations originating in, or traceable to, the United Nations Agenda 21 or any other international laws that would infringe or restrict private property rights without due process, and to prohibit certain transactions with certain entities that assist in implementing United Nations Agenda 21.”
In his recent opinion column “Agenda 21, The Road Map to Global Governance” MacMaster stated that Agenda 21 and related policies and groups will put life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in jeopardy.
“As if the elimination of private property ownership, population control and education based on U.N. standards were not enough, Agenda 21 will eventually affect our lives in other ways like the relocation of people from rural areas into cities, limiting the type of vehicles we drive, higher gas prices, changing routes of transportation, banning human access to land, seizure of private property, restrictions on water usage, quotas on harvesting, prohibitions on plowing the soil, limitations on raising animals for meat, regulations on what we eat and drink, control of home energy usage, increased taxation, and even forced community involvement,” MacMaster wrote.
According to MacMaster, Agenda 21 is not being implemented directly by the United Nations but instead by local groups such as California based consulting firm ICLEI—Local Governments for Sustainability USA.
According to ICLEI.org, Agenda 21 is not a treaty or legally binding document and does not infringe upon the sovereignty of any nation, state or local government.
“Agenda 21 does not advocate for abolishing private property or have any bearing on U.S. local and state land-use decisions,” their site states. “In other words, it isn’t being forced on anybody, anywhere, by any organization.”
MacMaster introduced the legislation in question after recognizing other states experiencing problems addressing private property rights violation issues some feel stemmed from Agenda 21 and its proponents.
“Court action in a few states were putting a hold on further movement of Agenda 21 until the private property rights issue was answered and in some instances better defined,” MacMaster wrote in an e-mailed response to the Boyne City Gazette on Sunday Oct. 28. “When asked about rights Americans derive from the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights clashing with Agenda 21, Harvey Rubin, vice chair of ICLEI’s executive board, is on record as stating, ‘Individual rights must take a back seat to the collective.’”
According to ICLEI Communications and Marketing Director Don Knapp, conspiracy theories concerning sustainable growth are nothing new.
“There is no truth to this conspiracy theory. ICLEI is a nonprofit with no authority over its local government members whatsoever, and we do not work in secret or in any way circumvent public input in decision-making processes,” ICLEI states on its website. “We do not mandate, impose or enforce any national or international policies or initiatives. All ICLEI programs and projects are voluntary, and local governments decide for themselves which programs they wish to participate in; they define their own goals depending on local circumstances, interests and abilities.”
Nonetheless, MacMaster said he won’t hesitate to step in any time he feels the Michigan or U.S. Constitutions may be compromised.
Examples of Agenda 21 encroachment, MacMaster illustrates, include the Oak Park woman who was arrested for growing a vegetable garden after the city claimed it was unsuitable for a front yard.
Another example MacMaster gives is of a New Jersey property owner who had his land severely restricted by the EPA after they instated rigid regulations on a stream thereon, apparently causing an incredible reduction in property values.
While the U.N.’s measure was passed nearly 20 years ago, there has been a recent surge in opposition to local planning efforts from high-speed trains to highway improvements nationwide because some believe there is a connection to Agenda 21.
Among the seemingly sinister goals of Agenda 21 are some measures that include future goal-setting sessions, walkable communities and energy efficiency programs.
“If the goal-setting is based on ICLEI or other organizations that help draft Agenda 21 type mandates, then it’s connected,” MacMaster said. “I feel there are many communities that have only the best intentions at heart and include taxpayers and local citizens in their planning from the ground up and without leading them in a direction that infringes on their rights.”
MacMaster said that, while the U.S. Constitution protects private property without due process there are no specific laws to protect land owners from reclassification of wetlands and numerous other potential threats.
Whether initiatives like Charlevoix County’s Recreation and Solid Waste plans and Boyne City’s goal-setting sessions or projects like the non-motorized path between Boyne City and U.S. 31, Brownfield Redevelopment projects like One Water Street and public-private partnerships like the Wolverine-Dilworth Hotel will be shunned in the future as manifestations of Agenda 21 remains to be seen.
According to Boyne City Planning Director Scott McPherson, he is not too worried about Agenda 21 or H.B. 5785.
“There are already regulations in place that deal with planning and zoning,” McPherson said. “I don’t see how it has any affect on anything the city plans to do.”
MacMaster said that, as a long-time Northern Michigan resident, he is a firm believer in responsible environmental stewardship.
“But, (I) feel issues regarding development and growth should be done respecting the rights of its citizens and our Constitution,” he said. “While the goals of the U.N. appear noble, social engineering and redistribution will hurt the people of Michigan.”