Environmental Agenda 21 Program gets 86’d in Crystal

Written by Nancy LaRoche.

12/30 Update: Andrew Richter posted videos to learn more about the GreenSteps Cities program and how he & Community Solutions fought its adoption in Crystal. View 1, 2 and 3.

The GreenStep Cities program resolution seemed innocuous and positive on a two-page flyer handed to Crystal council recently. The Mayor and 2 councilmembers were up front about passing it at the Dec. 4 council meeting, before public opinion weighed in.

Andrew Richter of Community Solutions MN downloaded the council’s agenda before the meeting , and found the GreenStep Cities resolution. In Part 1 of his series:

I asked my self “what is the Green Step Program?” I had never heard of it. I had never heard this item discussed and here the council was set to vote on it!  So I spent part of the afternoon doing some research on what the Green Step program was and I was shocked at the content.

I found out that the Green Step Program is being pushed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. It is an all-encompassing program to force change in our cities — energy, housing, transit, roads, land use, parks, and economic development. It has 28 “best practices” and hundreds of “sample ordinances.”

Once he read their sample ordinances, he and Community Solutions MN quickly mobilized citizens to speak to the council during the public forum.

One PDF download highlights: Rather than responding to increasing demand by building more road and parking infrastructure, or by restricting development until infra­structure is adequate, the community (or developer) can invest in infrastructure and programs that get people out of their cars.

We all spoke on various things that had to do with the GreenStep Program including land use, housing, proposed ordinances, transit, transportation, parks, and streets. The information we spoke about came directly from the GreenStep Program itself.

This Travel Demand Management requirement (for any new development or an existing business that’s expanding) is particularly over-reaching:

Fifteen percent of employees on any given day should travel to the location using a mode other than single occupancy vehicle. Alternative modes include transit, bicycle, walking, car-pooling, and telecommuting.

Once Richter read that ordinance, there was an audible reaction in the Council’s chamber.

After giving the Council more info on GreenStep Cities, Mayor Bowman’s husband and councilmember Joe Selton voted no, ending in a 3-3 tie and 1 abstention.  The outgoing Mayor’s reaction is telling:

Bowman: “Well let’s just hope, I gonna keep my eye on this myself because if we end up having the concept of the environment hijacked and shot down by [Agenda] 21 people, I’m gonna be really upset with this community. So I will also be keeping my eye on this particular piece.”

Andrew Richter summarizes in Part 3:

So citizens "hijacked" an issue and now you [Mayor Bowman] are going to keep your eye on us…..Perhaps you should be mad at the four people who didn’t vote for this rather than us the citizens. Since we don’t get a vote I don’t know how we can hijack an issue.

Of course we all know that three or four years ago. this issue would have been passed with two minutes of discussion. but now there are engaged citizens who don’t blindly accept whatever environmentalists say. And this council has to deal with us.

I’d like to publicly thank the four members who didn’t vote for this, and hope that the new mayor will take a hard look at this program and have a long public discussion before bringing it up again. And hopefully we can also be treated better. It’s a victory for our city and for local control…..for now anyway.

Watch the Dec. 4 Council meeting in its entirety. Skip to the half-way mark for the GreenStep discussion and vote. In particular, note the Mayor's contempt for these residents.

As a Crystal resident, I applaud Andrew Richter, Community Solutions MN, and other citizens who showed up and reminded the leadership that they work for us, and we will be heard. The biggest lesson: read the small print before passing any program. I also thank the Mayor’s husband, City Councilmember Joe Selton who voted “no.”

This is another wake-up for us to pay attention. Many in leadership were sold on a shiny feel-good flyer without reading the small print in the Green Step Program. If the program has not yet been adopted in your city, forward the info to your city representatives. If it has been adopted, fight any future ordinances (like the transit requirement shown above) that might be adopted.

In the meantime, here’s a toast to one city who 86’d this Agenda 21 initiative. I'll also toast to my newly elected Mayor Jim Adams, who will bring back respect for citizens of the City of Crystal.