Last week’s showdown at the Sedgwick County Commission over a regional planning grant may have been the first that many people had heard of Agenda 21. But it won’t be the last.
Inexplicably, many conservative Republicans in Kansas and other states are riled up about this obscure two-decade-old nonbinding United Nations document.
Judging from the talk at the county commission meeting – including some comments from the bench, regrettably – Agenda 21 is a U.N. plot to turn our electricity on and off, force us to give up our cars for bicycles, and make us all live in cramped high-rises.
It sounds as improbable as it does awful. But a resolution condemning Agenda 21 is scheduled to be the subject of a House hearing when lawmakers return to Topeka on April 25.
House Resolution 6018 is “opposing and exposing the radical and destructive United Nations Agenda 21,” calling it a “comprehensive plan of extreme environmentalism, social engineering and global political control.” The legislation claims that Agenda 21 is being “covertly pushed into local communities” via “sustainable development” policies using terms such as “smart growth,” “regional visioning,” “green” and “alternative.”
It also claims the “United Nations Agenda 21 plan of radical so-called ‘sustainable development’ views the American way of life of private property ownership, single family homes, private car ownership, individual travel choices and privately owned farms as destructive to the environment,” and that it seeks “social justice” through “socialist and communist redistribution of wealth.”
That language resembles a resolution passed in January by the Republican National Committee, which some want to see adopted into the party platform later this year. GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has mentioned Agenda 21 and linked it to President Obama. The tea party movement, the John Birch Society, talk-show host Glenn Beck and countless websites have promoted the shadowboxing against Agenda 21. The Tennessee House voted to condemn Agenda 21 last month; other states have similar measures in play.
Speaking out on behalf of property rights and freedom is one thing – and a good thing. But an old nonbinding U.N. document seems like a flimsy basis for so much paranoia, especially when it risks disrupting local debate and policymaking on important long-term issues related to water, transportation, infrastructure, the environment and economic development. No matter what a 20-year-old U.N. plan says, the power belongs to the people and their elected representatives.
State lawmakers will reconvene in Topeka with a long list of unfinished business, including a 2013 budget and once-a-decade redistricting. However long the Legislature’s consideration of the anti-Agenda 21 resolution lasts, it will be more than it deserves.