Monday, July 9, 2012

Thankfully, no anti-Agenda 21 activism here, yet.

Last Tuesday the Metro Council approved two resolutions authorize the issuance of "qualified energy conservation bonds in an amount not to exceed $10,000,000 to make energy saving retrofits and improvements to the Bridgestone Arena. These bonds take advantage of the federal Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (QECB) program, which was expanded as part of the federal stimulus plan. Under the QECB program, the federal government pays 70% of the interest on the bonds in the form of a direct credit to the local government as long as the bonds are issued for energy efficiency capital projects in public buildings." (link)

These resolutions passed on a consent agenda without discussion. These are the kinds of bills that when they go before the Council get little scrutiny. Reading the agenda and analysis and being generally well informed, I still do not know if these resolution were a good move for the city or not. I am fairly well educated and stay informed, but I cannot become an expert on everything and neither can members of the Council. Yet bills like this must pass the Council.  This is where individual Council members must defer to experts.

If I had been on the Council, and not a member of the Budget &Finance Committee, I would defer to that committee's recommendation. If on the B&F, I would try to understand the resolutions but would defer to the judgment of the administration and the City's finance department and city consultants. Unless something raised a red flag, I would go along. That is what usually happens.  Metro is on a pretty sound financial footing, so deferring to the experts has worked out pretty well.

I do worry however about a continuing increase in debt obligations of the city. The city has gambled on the convention center being self supporting and to increase revenue to the city from the convention business. I hope the gamble pays off. I also worry about the pension obligations of the city. The Council needs to be cautious about expanding the debt obligations of the city and I would wish the Council would reform the defined pension system to a matched contribution, employee invested, employee owned, retirement system. I hope the Council while deferring to the experts on issues like the QECB bond issue, pays close attention to the overall fiscal health of our government.

QECB is a program that offers a federal government incentive for local governments to go green. According to a Department of Energy description of the program this funding mechanism can be used to fund qualified energy conservation projects. What is that?

The definition of "qualified energy conservation projects" is fairly broad and contains elements relating to energy efficiency capital expenditures in public buildings; green community programs (including loans and grants to implement such programs); renewable energy production; various research and development applications; mass commuting facilities that reduce energy consumption; several types of energy related demonstration projects; and public energy efficiency education campaigns (see 26 USC § 54D for additional details). Renewable energy facilities that are eligible for CREBs are also eligible for QECBs.

This is the kind of program that across the county is being denounced as part of Agenda 21. Here is some news from Houston:
It's just after 10:30 a.m. inside the cavernous Houston City Council chambers when CouncilMember Helena Brown, who has held office for only four months, scrunches her small, cherubic features into a scowl and requests the right to speak. The matter before the council involves the construction of a $26-million maintenance facility. Ordinarily, this sort of item would whisk through the city council amid a chorus of yes votes and self-congratulation. But this isn't an ordinary gathering at City Hall, and Helena Brown isn't an ordinary council member.

"Let us see what this is all about," Brown reads from a prepared statement, voice soft and nasally. "This is a company that wants to take advantage of a $30 billion initiative that our president has approved to rebuild schools and outdated buildings, according to Agenda 21."
In city after city, things that used to be routine are being denounced as part of Agenda 21. Planning studies, bike lanes, high density housing zoning, membership is planning organizations and multi-county planning commissions are being denounced and in some cases the anti-Agenda 21 advocates are being successful in killing what used to be routine government actions. 

In Georgia, there is a proposed 1-cent state sales tax to fund a new highway and bike lanes in metro Atlanta. One may oppose that tax for many reasons, but the Chairman of the Cobb County Commission is denouncing it as an agenda 21 proposal. 

It is also happening here in Tennessee. In Sevier County where I was raised and still have family, county residents are accusing a group called Our Smokies, Our Future, of  being part of  the Agenda 21 plot. Our Smokies, Our Future appears to nothing more than an organization concerned with things like water quality and meeting the needs of a growing county, and preserving the natural beauty of the county that adjoins the Smoky Mountains. 

People who have been "educated" by the John Birch Society and their fellow travelers to be aware of Agenda 21 look for anything with the certain words used in the description, words such as: "Smart Growth, Wildlands Project, Resilient Cities, Regional Visioning Projects, STAR, Sustainable Communities, Green Jobs, Green Building Codes, “Going Green,” Alternative Energy, Local Visioning, Facilitators, Regional Planning, Historic Preservation, Conservation Easements, Development Rights, Sustainable Farming, Comprehensive Planning, Growth Management, Consensus." (link)

Facilitators? Historic preservation? Consensus? Yes, I am afraid it is true.

If any government program or piece of legislation contains these words, they oppose it believing that these are code words for taking away our property rights, depopulating the rural areas and suburbs, forcing everyone into compact cities, taking away our cars, and maybe even killing off 96% of the worlds population. 

Despite a strong Anti-agenda presence and several anti-Agenda 12 training session occurring in Davidson and  Williamson County, and despite our State legislature passing a resolution giving a green light to the anti-Agenda 21 hysteria, the anti-Agenda 21 political activism has not yet reached our area. 

During the recent Council budget hearings, none of the opponents of a tax increase argued against funding the Planning Commission because it was part of Agenda 21 or argued against sidewalks and bike paths as being part of Agenda 21 or argued against Nashville's participation in the regional planning commission. The Metro Planning Department can still hold neighborhood planning session without being bombarded with anti-agenda 21 rhetoric and denunciations. 

Thankfully we do not have anyone like Helena Brown in the Metro Council wasting time on a phantom threat. Thankfully we do not have citizen activist disrupting the normal operation of governing. Governing, being fiscally responsible, and making informed difficult decisions about complex funding mechanisms can be hard enough without mucking up the water with nonsense.

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1 comment:

  1. An anti "Agenda 21" zelot has graced the late night ufo hunters hangout recently. But they're back to chasing bigfoot now. Not much of a splash. It's just part of the expected pushback to global warning concerns. It will all be moot soon, once a few more "Irene" events hit.