By Brian Bearden, TSB Contributor
City Councilman Ray Ricchi gave the McKinney Tea Party the news they wanted to hear on Tuesday night: The city will no longer have an Office of Environmental Stewardship.
The McKinney tea party has been battling against what it calls the “intrusion of the United Nation’s Agenda 21 into local city governments. The closing of the office in charge of “Sustainability” is being cautiously greeted by the local tea party as an important local victory in a bigger war against Agenda 21.
Even so, tea party members say the fight must go on as more “tenacles” spread into the daily life of Americans.
Ricchi told the tea party gathering which included all age groups between teens and senior citizens that the closing of the city office comes as money from a grant expires. McKinney received $1,071,500 from the Department of Energy (DOE) as part of that federal organization’s Energy Efficiency Conservation Block grant.
Sources have told Town Square Buzz that one of the problems citizens had with the office is people saw it turning into one person overriding the wishes of elected officials and other community programs. The tea party chalks it up as one more czar or kingdom overthrown to ensure individual liberty and freedom.
Tea party members feared that if not checked McKinney’s Sustainability program would begin making decisions over much of life in the city. The grant made possible a renewable demonstration project, a bicycle study, an urban canopy study, a water conservation program and other components of the city’s sustainability plan.
Based on community input, the Office of Environmental Stewardship operated under a philosophy that “A sustainable, diverse McKinney understands our community is loaned to us by our children. It balances economy, the natural and built environment, and societal needs to achieve a high quality of life today and tomorrow.”
The Environmental Stewardship office to-do list included projects on Water Conservation
* Built Environment, Complete Streets, Town Center, Hwy. 5 Corridor, Land Use, Environmental Justice.
* Bike Plan.
* Community Culture & Outreach, Historic District, Parks, Main Street Events, Community Services
* Air Quality, Energy Conservation, Green Building.
* Natural Environment, Open Space, Community Gardens.
OES manager Julie Smith had high goals for the office, saying on April 1, 2011: “We are planning a future community for the next generation, the residents of tomorrow. It is critical that we ask McKinney’s Millennial generation what they want. If we don’t listen to this often overlooked group and include them in the planning process, young people may choose to live in places where the amenities they want already exist. We need to make sure McKinney is situated to meet the expectations of our young people and will be their community of choice when they decide in the future where they want to live.”
The city has closed the office, but will continue to ensure that McKinney lives up to its “Unique by Nature” motto, Ricchi said.
“We don’t need government telling us how to do everything,” Ricchi said. “We will continue to do it because it is right. All of us on the council want to take care of the environment. Government doesn’t have to be involved in everything and dictate how we lead our lives.”
McKinney tea party leader Mike Giles said, “He was right on. He represents the city of McKinney well and made some great points.”
Ricchi said he encourages citizens to be involved locally and said everyone can run for office.
Ricchi also said that involves a financial and time commitment.
“What’s important is accountability and be accessible,” Ricchi said. “You are really at who can do it, who can serve, because not everyone can. It is like a marathon. It is taxing on your families. I am not suggesting we need any kind of pay for elected officials.”
Ricchi said groups that want to be more involved must identify and build leaders.
“You have to go out and cultivate that next generation of leaders,” Ricchi said. “And, when you do that and get in office, you may have to compromise, but you don’t ever give up your values. And, you must hold whoever you vote for to be accountable and accessible.”
Taxes rising for ranchers, farmers: The tea party alerted all rural Collin County residents that they have learned taxes will be rising dramatically (50 percent) for anyone trying to enjoy the country life around McKinney, Celina, Prosper, Weston, Anna, Farmersville, Princeton and New Hope.
Smart meters: Ricchi said that smart meter installation did not come through the city. One tea party member said smart meters are a tenacle of Grid 21 and Agenda 21. Local tea party members are part of a suit against the Public Utility Commission over smart meters.
“That’s on the state level,” Ricchi said. Locally, tea party members are in contact with McKinney Chamber member Michael Baldwin, area manager of Oncor.
Ricchi said that he came home one day to find a meter installed with notice that he’ll get energy free a night.
“That’s great if I want to go get a night job,” he joked. “Smart meters are something homeowners will have to bring up with Oncor.”
Oncor began installing new smart meters in homes and small businesses in its Plano metering district which includes the City of McKinney this summer.
The installation is part of Oncor’s Advanced Metering System (AMS) rollout to more than three million homes and small businesses in its entire Texas service area by 2012 and is expected to be one of the broadest deployments of technology on an electric grid in the nation.
The deployment includes replacing the electromechanical meters in use, containing 50-year old technology with limited capabilities, with new digital smart meters that will provide more valuable information than ever before.
Oncor states that the new smart meters will enable numerous benefits for consumers and small business owners including energy consumption control, greater cost savings on electricity, carbon footprint reduction and greater electric delivery reliability.
“Once the new smart meters are deployed, the opportunities for how we manage our energy consumption are remarkable,” stated Baldwin, who was not at the tea party meeting. “Consumers will be able to take an active role in how much they are spending on electricity and understand their patterns of consumption so they can change behaviors that could result in lower electricity costs and reduced environmental impact.”
Baldwin’s comments came in an Oncor news release that also said until now, consumers have played a more passive role in their energy consumption. Electric bills provide little information and are delivered days after consumption; but once the AMS deployment is complete, electricity consumption and pricing will be transparent.
“Michael Baldwin and Oncor have been quick to respond every time we have outages in McKinney,” Ricchi said.
Oncor says consumers will ultimately be able to track energy consumption online in 15-minute increments and soon Retail Electric Providers (REPs) will offer in-home energy monitors so consumers will know how much they are spending on electricity at any given time. The new AMS will also provide greater reliability by enabling Oncor to proactively respond to problems and outages faster and more effectively, reducing the overall impact of outages to consumers and small businesses.
That worries tea party members.
Republican State Rep. candidate Scott Sanford said Tuesday night at the tea party meeting that he will be working to develop a state government firewall between the public utilities and government. Tea party members and Republicans are concerned that meters will begin monitoring what happens inside a citizen’s home.
TSB will have more on smart meters and the fight by the tea party Plano State Rep. Van Taylor in a future report.
The national campaign: Kathy Hebert said that a group of eight from McKinney and Collin County just returned from campaigning for the Romney-Ryan ticket in the “battleground” states. In Virginia, the team went to 1,900 homes to encourage voting for the conservatives.
“What we found was that the people who are voting for President Obama have no idea why,” Hebert said, adding that the only one who knew why he was voting said Obama would be better for Women’s Rights. “We are in these states fighting 24/7. They are out there every day.”
Next weekend, 17 more from North Texas will fan out to recruit voters, she said.
CCCR Oct 15: Dinesh D’Souza, author of the book The Roots of Obama’s Rage and director of the new film “2016: Obama’s America” will be speaking at an event hosted by the Collin County Conservative Republicans.
The 8 p.m. D’Souza speech and question and answer sessions will be in the Allen High School Performing Arts Center at 300 Rivercrest Blvd. The movie is showing in theaters across the country. Tea party members warned not to believe emails or rumors that the film will be shown on TV, calling that a trick to keep Americans from seeing the movie in the theater.
The VIP reception starts at 6 p.m. followed by a general meet and greet at 7 p.m. A book signing is scheduled for 9:30 p.m.
McKinney citizens have already bought up many of the tickets.