By Angie Bado, TSB Staff
Mention the word sustainability in certain circles in McKinney and you may witness the same polarization that occurs with regularity in our nation’s capital. On the one side, sustainability is planned progress necessary for ensuring our city’s survivability into the future; on the other, sustainability is a plot by the United Nations to take away our freedoms.
Matt Frankel of Gresham, Smith, and Partners (GSP), the consulting firm engaged by the city, presented the Draft Sustainability Plan to council on Jan. 23. The plan is the culmination of four years of research and planning, gathering input from McKinney residents, community businesses and consultants. Its primary purpose (per the City’s website) “is to identify essential elements of community sustainability and provide analysis and guidelines for the implementation and/or furtherance of community initiatives to ultimately achieve a more sustainable McKinney.”
Sounds like a good idea, right? Well, not so fast, say some McKinney Tea Party members. It’s time to call it what it is, they say. “Sustainability” is a code word for Agenda 21, or is a stepping stone for a United Nations conspiracy plan to create a one world government that will usurp property rights and deprive Americans of their constitutional rights in order to ensure sustainable development.
Sound crazy? Not to them. These Tea Party members, or Agenda 21’ers, appear to be on a mission to stop all sustainability plans in communities across the Nation, often infiltrating sustainability planning meetings and displaying disruptive behaviors. And it’s happening right here in McKinney, Texas.
Many times, the Agenda 21’ers who attend these meetings don’t actually live in the community, but that doesn’t stop them from espousing their opinions. Personally, I resent the fact that individuals who don’t live in my community feel like they have the right to influence our own city leaders and citizens. Really? Isn’t this a rather hypocritical commentary on one of your most common arguments – it’s the right of citizens and leadership who governs to make decisions that are best for us because we know what is best on a local level better than anyone else? But, I digress.
The City of McKinney has gotten caught in the middle of the fray with Tea Party members expressing their dissatisfaction at Council meetings and emailing letters putting pressure on their Council representatives to vote against the Draft Sustainability Plan.
Some Tea Partiers view phrases in McKinney’s plan like “green space” or “comprehensive plan”, “sustainable development” as part of the conspiracy to take away their freedoms and property rights. They feel theses phrases put the community above the individual. The central Gov. wants to push citizens out of their property and into higher density developments. The tentacles of fear strangle reason like the vines of Kudzu slowly choking the life out of a healthy tree.
I asked local Tea Party leader Charles Molyneaux, who is a resident of Parker, to fill me in on why he feels the local Draft Sustainability Plan is so reprehensible.
After responding that he was too busy to answer my questions and that I needed to first do my homework, Molyneaux replied, “I am greatly concerned of the ramifications of any city that proceeds with Agenda 21 in any form, and so also should you. I am strongly against the infringements of personal rights. If you think that this plan was developed by the citizens of McKinney or by the citizens of other cities around the world that have endorsed similar plans you are very naive. Please do your research on Agenda 21, then ask yourself if this is something you would endorse. “
I may be naive, but the reality is that the one thing that we can always count on is change. With the higher gas prices, walking and biking to destinations is more on our minds than it was perhaps even 10 years ago. Locally, our experiences with last summer’s unrelenting high temperatures combined with drought has resulted in a greater awareness of water shortages that can potentially effect not only our home life, but the economics of our city and our state. Downtown McKinney has been evolving. It’s not the same downtown that it was 5 or 6 years ago, and that can be difficult for residents to embrace, particularly if it’s not the type of downtown that attracted them to McKinney in the first place.
Fear becomes pervasive. Fear of change, fear of the unknown – all understandable – begins to drive decisions and responses. Fear mongering, or scare mongering, doesn’t make for open communication and collaboration. Instead polarization increases.
But isn’t it imperative that our city, which was selected as the second best place to live in the country (2010) make plans to preserve the quality of life that is so important to our residents?
Businesses have to have plans in place to survive. I don’t know any successful businesses that simply throws spaghetti against the wall once a week to see what sticks in order to decide what to do that week. Planning is preparation – identifying priorities, providing clearer focus and producing more efficiency and effectiveness.
As I recently heard local futurist Carolyn Corbin say, “The future is never a continuation of the present.” Planning, as in a city’s comprehensive plan, is fluid. It is ever changing, with an eye on a particular goal. The way we arrive at that goal will change over the years.
What do some of the McKinney residents who participated in putting the Sustainability Plan together think?
Rick Moreno: I believe that attention to sustainability by individuals, companies and government entities is essential for stewardship of God’s creation. This plan contains concrete and common sense ideas for helping our city save money and conserve resources. I have felt included in the process of developing this plan, and I feel the citizens of McKinney have been presented with a plan that gives us a good understanding of what can be accomplished.
I encourage the City Council to approve the plan, and I plan to attend meetings and communicate with the Council regarding a citizen’s point-of-view.”
Laurie Jay: We all live in different rooms under the same environmental roof if you will. Since our water, air and land are all shared resources that as we grow in numbers, more is consumed, I feel it’s imperative that a blueprint exist that relates future impact with decision-making. It’s a health and awareness issue; by conserving our natural resources we’re protecting our health. Preserving our “unique by nature” green canopy and designing safer bike path options for better air quality, seeking renewable energy options like wind and solar to reduce consumption and future costs, having guidelines in place to protect our water sources, all of these matter to me as a resident.
I don’t see how McKinney can remain competitive for economic growth without an intentional focus on protecting its citizen’s health. It’s been shown that businesses are only as healthy as the people that work there, so there are obvious productivity issues to consider. Neighboring cities seem to be developing more strategies to protect their environment. I want to know that I live in a city that is pro-active in conservation and values the well being of its residents and the earth.
Respectfully, because our Council was elected by citizens, and this plan was written from citizen input, I think it should be adopted in its entirety. I don’t believe we have to choose which part of the plan is more important, that’s like saying we all don’t depend on clean air, clean water and valuable open space for a healthy quality of life. Different parts of the plan will be implemented at different times dependent on the areas they affect, and from I understand from attending all three sustainability conferences, this has been written as a fluid plan that may evolve as our city grows and changes.
Dave Clarke: I strongly support the plan for many reasons, as it is imperative to the City’s long-term growth. I also serve as Chairman of the McKinney Parks and Recreation/Open Spaces Board. As an Engineer, I realize how critical these issues are to our long-term growth.
This plan provides positive direction to both City staff and it’s residents to better utilize our limited resources such as water and electricity by providing a blueprint for prudent use of these limited resources. It is critical for our successful growth to better utilize these and other limited resources to reduce waste and work together to be self sustaining and less dependent on outside resources.
Andrew H. Whittemore, an Assistant Professor of City and Regional Planning at the University of Texas, writes in an article entitled, “Why Planners Need to Take Agenda 21 Criticism More Seriously”, …planners shouldn’t shy away from providing lessons on what a laissez-faire approach to development actually means. It does not mean miles upon miles of detached housing with green lawns, dependent as that is on zoning, federal mortgage insurance, tax deductions, utility subsidies, eminent domain and other expenditures involved in road and water infrastructure, and more.
It’s imperative that the City prepares for our future. We need a plan in place to ensure that our City’s natural resources, economic sustainability and quality of life are intact for future generations. Don’t let fear be the driving force in the decision making – finances, yes, but fear, no. I want my children and their children to experience a McKinney, Texas, should they choose to remain here, that can support their needs, don’t you?