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Thread: New code = Agenda 21???

  1. #1

    New code = Agenda 21???

    We are a county government currenty updating antiquated land use codes into a Unified Development Code. We are taking the opportunity to modernize language and incorporate a handful of new provisions, such as an optional Traditional Neighborhood Development pattern and a requirement for basic architectural standards in gateway corridors.

    As we move through our public review process, we are hearing talk of Agenda 21. Before the Agenda 21 voices get too loud, we want to craft a message that tells the general public that this desperately needed code update is not a secret plot by the United Nations to get our small corner of the world to fall into a global conspiracy.

    Do any of you have suggestions on the message? Even more importantly, do you have any sucess stories to share? Any information would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    I think you'll be hearing about the Agenda 21 stuff no matter what you do. I would definitely steer clear of using the word sustainability though.

    From what I've seen, they're just a very vocal minority you have to deal with in the planning process. Normally cooler heads prevail in the process and most people don't buy into the conspiracy theories.

    Like around here, two of the county council members buy into the Agenda 21 stuff but the rest of the council shuts them down. Those two have been pushing to get rid of the building codes department though...

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Very interesting post. I have not run into this yet but do have one suggestion.

    Do not fall into the trap of determining what people are for or against. Ask genuine questions that seek to reveal what a person's limits or preferences are.

    For example, someone might state, "I'm against zoning! It violates my property rights!" In reply, ask them what their preferences for a neighbor are: (a) home; (b) night club; or (c) sewer treatment plant. Most folks will pick (a) and then you can ask them what their thoughts are on addressing (b) and (c). And so on...

    Looking forward to seeing how other folks are addressing the conspiracy theorists.

    Cheers.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Before I reply, are you referring to Agenda 21 the United Nations developed in 1992 and how that would be implemented at the local level; or something completely different?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    That's the only context I've heard it in. They just interpret it (and sustainability) as the UN trying to strip property rights from individuals and attacking a country's sovereignty through environmental regulations and social engineering. I've even heard some say the UN's eventual goal with Agenda 21 is to create a one world government.

    I honestly think the facts on the issue should stand on their own. There's not a whole lot you can do to convince the fringe who believe in conspiracy theories.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Maybe it would be a good idea to ask some of these people if they have actually read, in depth, Agenda 21. I'll bet most of them haven't. All it says is that basically, in order to meet the definition of "environmental sustainability" you should take into consideration X, Y, and Z. It says nothing about how you should do this or even why. It also says several times that nations are free to use their economic and environmental resources as they see fit.
    "It's human nature, you can't do anything about that" - Alan Greenspan

    Check out my blog!

  7. #7
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    We have a vocal group that always brings up Agenda 21. Before that the same group carried around the book " The Late, Great USA."

    I read the book because it kept coming up. It was basically about a port in Mexico that will supply the USA and Canada with goods from China. The author is from New Jersey and his real beef seems to be that this port will get around the long shore-man's union. Anyway it had nothing to do with anything we were doing.

    We have recently finished a Strategic Plan and this same group is talking about Agenda 21. I agree that sustainable is a buzz word to be avoided. Resilient is a good alternative and in our case is probably more accurate.

    It seems that these groups are getting there talking points from a national (or at least regional) source. This source has no idea about local matters so they focus on national and international topics (this gets really old at local meetings). Our group (they call themselves the Tea Party but it is more of a NIMBY group) brought in a man named Henry Lamb who wrote a report about how our Strategic Plan was right out of Agenda 21. His local facts were almost all wrong and the similarities were so vague that it could have just as easily blamed the Holy Trinity on Agenda 21.

    No success story yet. We have mostly let them talk for themselves and in the process hang themselves with there own words.

    This is a the address to the most vocal persons blog post on our plan: http://bradleycountynews.wordpress.c...radley-county/

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Paul C View post

    No success story yet. We have mostly let them talk for themselves and in the process hang themselves with there own words.
    "It's hard to make a man understand something when his job depends upon him not understanding it" - Mark Twain
    "It's human nature, you can't do anything about that" - Alan Greenspan

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  9. #9
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    #1: the folks bringing up the Agenda 21 argument are your tin-foil hat types for the most part. You likely cannot convince them, so the next best thing is to simply marginalize them with facts about what the new code will do and won't do rather than responding directly to accusations of being a U.N. pawn. They pack a lot of emotion and rhetoric into their statements, which is designed to get a rise out of you, the "U.N. pawn." Stick to the asserted 'facts' of their statements and respond directly to those with documented facts. If you feel the need to issue a general response, stick to simple statements that these local actions have nothing to do with the U.N. and, in fact, support the notion of local control & governance rather than an edict from a state or federal government, or international organization. They will eventually discredit themselves--they love the sound of their own voices and build arguments that are quite easy to dismantle.

    #2: stay away from the term sustainability. I've had better success with "stewardship" down here in the bible belt, and resilience also works well.

    The Agenda 21 crowd is becoming a significant annoyance in my area. They have yet to get any traction, but are certainly irritating.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman GŲring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    This may spur a separate conversation, but to what extent can pro-market concepts and keywords be worked into the discussion of new planning efforts, highlighting how allowing for greater densities in the right places, etc. actually allows the market to better meet demand.

    I wonder, though, to what extent are these arguments are even effective? I find that while the "Tea Party" folks would nominally claim to be free-market, their rhetoric shows they are more NIMBY/local control/low-density folks and actually, as Kevin points out, very pro-zoning without realizing it. Perhaps highlighting market-friendly aspects of "smart growth" (without using these words) appeals more to centrist conservatives? Just as financial arguments can be made for health benefits of trails, traffic reduction and safety for kids of Safe Routes to Schools, etc.

    For example, when I was working on downtown revitalization initiatives, we chose to highlight some of the pro-market ideas contained in "smart growth" (not that we used those words): i.e. update zoning to "make the right thing easy" (make redevelopment easier by removing caps on density, minimum parking, etc.). I worked with a fairly conservative council, with one of our key allies being a moderate conservative who was a developer and therefore didn't buy into simple NIMBY arguments. Although I philosophically and professionally disagreed with Council's stance of deeply subsidizing retail/big-box sprawl (considered the "moderate Republican" stance in our area), we had a very positive working relationship around downtown issues.

    The Tea Party folks, on the other hand, were highlighting how bicycle racks downtown furthered Agenda 21, and of course opposed subsidies both for new big boxes and for infill development, affordable housing, etc. Luckily, the 1 or 2 councilors who had courted these folks during the election cynically dumped them once the conspiracy theories got too out there.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by docwatson View post
    This may spur a separate conversation, but to what extent can pro-market concepts and keywords be worked into the discussion of new planning efforts, highlighting how allowing for greater densities in the right places, etc. actually allows the market to better meet demand.

    I wonder, though, to what extent are these arguments are even effective? I find that while the "Tea Party" folks would nominally claim to be free-market, their rhetoric shows they are more NIMBY/local control/low-density folks and actually, as Kevin points out, very pro-zoning without realizing it. Perhaps highlighting market-friendly aspects of "smart growth" (without using these words) appeals more to centrist conservatives? Just as financial arguments can be made for health benefits of trails, traffic reduction and safety for kids of Safe Routes to Schools, etc.

    For example, when I was working on downtown revitalization initiatives, we chose to highlight some of the pro-market ideas contained in "smart growth" (not that we used those words): i.e. update zoning to "make the right thing easy" (make redevelopment easier by removing caps on density, minimum parking, etc.). I worked with a fairly conservative council, with one of our key allies being a moderate conservative who was a developer and therefore didn't buy into simple NIMBY arguments. Although I philosophically and professionally disagreed with Council's stance of deeply subsidizing retail/big-box sprawl (considered the "moderate Republican" stance in our area), we had a very positive working relationship around downtown issues.

    The Tea Party folks, on the other hand, were highlighting how bicycle racks downtown furthered Agenda 21, and of course opposed subsidies both for new big boxes and for infill development, affordable housing, etc. Luckily, the 1 or 2 councilors who had courted these folks during the election cynically dumped them once the conspiracy theories got too out there.
    Developer, land use strategist, and University of Michigan Real Estate professor Christopher Leinberger has some good material on this. His views are well-respected in the real estate development field, and several of his arguments have been picked up by the likes of CNU, ULI, etc., to argue for increased densities and better design from a market-based perspective.

    http://www.cleinberger.com/

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Thanks, TexanOkie. I always appreciate when someone on Cyburbia points me to some resources!

  13. #13
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman View post
    #1: the folks bringing up the Agenda 21 argument are your tin-foil hat types for the most part. You likely cannot convince them, so the next best thing is to simply marginalize them with facts about what the new code will do and won't do rather than responding directly to accusations of being a U.N. pawn.

    #2: stay away from the term sustainability. I've had better success with "stewardship" down here in the bible belt, and resilience also works well.

    The Agenda 21 crowd is becoming a significant annoyance in my area. They have yet to get any traction, but are certainly irritating.
    Here the nutters haven't found a toehold with the 'Gender 21' conspiracy theories. But they will. I agree they won't be convinced and should be allowed enough rope. And I also agree that 'sustainability' is a bad idea, as nothing humans do is sustainable. Our societies aren't resilient either, but that's another thread.

    Quote Originally posted by bsteckler View post
    Maybe it would be a good idea to ask some of these people if they have actually read, in depth, Agenda 21. I'll bet most of them haven't. All it says is that basically, in order to meet the definition of "environmental sustainability" you should take into consideration X, Y, and Z. It says nothing about how you should do this or even why. It also says several times that nations are free to use their economic and environmental resources as they see fit.
    They haven't read it. They heard Rush or Hannity blather on about it and that's all they need to know.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian
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    Is "sustainability" really such a controversial term in the USA? Up here itís the buzz word everyone is using to promote themselves. Many communities are undertaking Community Sustainability Plan to show how advanced they are in order to attract jobs and investment. The thinking around here is if you arenít sustainable then you are wasting resources and thus losing money in the long run.

  15. #15
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Howl View post
    Is "sustainability" really such a controversial term in the USA?
    It hasn't been until the Tea Partiers started screaming about it. Even then, it's not really that widespread.

    Here's a pretty good article from Mother Jones magazine about the phenomenon: We don't Need None of That Smart Growth Communism!
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  16. #16
    Cyburbian
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    Is "sustainability" really such a controversial term in the USA?
    I think it really depends on what type of community you are in ... there are certainly places where it is central to what they do and a big part of comp planning, and others where it was considered a "left wing" term even before we had a "tea party." (worked in such as community ca 2007...) I'm not sure where the "center" stands on this ... probably supportive of the concept but ambivalent depending on what sustainability policies we're talking about.

    Having had the pleasure of working with a Canadian and checking out some cities in the "old country", I suspect (and forgive me for generalizing) that there are subtle things that may be more acceptable in Canada than down here. For example, the visceral reaction to mid-rise housing in one "progressive" U.S. community I worked in was that this type of housing was simply "inhuman" and the people who lived there were suffering. On the other hand, my Canadian social planner friend's visceral reaction was, "those people must have a great view!" Likewise I noticed a majority of Canadian cities permit ADU's (secondary suites), to the point that there are tax credits for finishing an accessible suite for relatives.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by docwatson View post
    I think it really depends on what type of community you are in ... there are certainly places where it is central to what they do and a big part of comp planning, and others where it was considered a "left wing" term even before we had a "tea party." (worked in such as community ca 2007...) I'm not sure where the "center" stands on this ... probably supportive of the concept but ambivalent depending on what sustainability policies we're talking about.
    I agree with that. The acceptable language depends upon where you are. I would advise to stay away from the word "sustainability" unless you are working on the west coast, where environmentalism is second nature to most. It's also true that nothing humans do can truly be sustainable, so there might be a little bit of perceived false advertising as well.

    I wonder how synonymous the planning movement is with the environmental movement, both among professionals and the public. One of my consistent gripes is that New Urbanism is often described in overly-environmental terms, leaving those who promote it to be perceived as "tree hugging liberals". I'm all for environmental protection, but I think it might be going a bit too far...
    "It's human nature, you can't do anything about that" - Alan Greenspan

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  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    I think the relationship between the environmental movement and the various urbanisms/smarter growth movements is a complicated one, an evolving one, and one worthy of ongoing dialogue. While New Urbanists may be seen as "tree hugging liberals" by some, a few real-world tree hugging liberals don't particularly like any kind of urbanism (example of literal tree-huggers trying to stop Eugene, Oregon's downtown infill project, as a dramatic example). I have found in some circles, especially in the Pac NW cities, the link between environmentalism and urbanism is second nature, as you say. But I've found elsewhere that environmentalists don't always understand the link. A recent controversy around an office park near where I live illustrated this. I was hoping the office park would be required to be walkable, compact and transit friendly. But others in the public wanted it to have lots of "open space" within the office park to literally make it green, making it look like every other auto-dependent edge city we have along our highway corridor (and, being a semi-arid clime, much of this open space is irrigated ...). I think its an evolving relationship. A classmate who worked for Sierra Club said the leaders got it, but they had to be careful encouraging urbanism with the "rank-and-file."

    Of course, where environmentalists AND urbanism are pariah to begin with, this might not make a winning coalition!

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