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Sedgwick County Commissioner Tim Norton walks out of staff meeting during sustainability discussion

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, April 2, 2013, at 10:11 a.m.

Emotions ran high during a discussion Sedgwick County commissioners started Tuesday morning about sustainability with one board member, Tim Norton, walking out of the commission’s weekly meeting with staff.

The debate began when Commissioner Karl Peterjohn suggested changing the name of the county’s sustainability committee to the “Ad Astra” committee, which would reflect the state’s motto of “ad astra per aspera” – to the stars through difficulties. Peterjohn brought out a thesaurus, and Commission Chairman Jim Skelton then read out loud definitions of “sustain.”

That led Commissioner Richard Ranzau to express his displeasure for using a definition of sustainability that he said comes from United Nations Agenda 21. Ranzau has voted consistently against participating in a federal sustainable communities grant, saying it is based off Agenda 21. He said he was “pissed off” that commissioners haven’t taken his concerns seriously, saying that he had given them reports that supported his viewpoint. He also said people in the meeting were laughing at him.

At that point, Norton, the lone Democrat on the board and a supporter of the sustainable communities grant, walked out of the meeting.

“You guys can have this conversation,” Norton said.

He rejoined the meeting later for a presentation by health director Claudia Blackburn about public health and the commission’s role as the county’s board of health.

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