McKinney’s local Tea Party is trying to put pressure on the City Council to scrap the sustainability plan that will be presented to Council for consideration at their regular meeting on Tues. Jan. 23.
The group invited the City Manager, Jason Gray, to their meeting on Tuesday evening, Jan. 10, at the Roy and Helen Hunt Library in downtown McKinney. The intent of the meeting was to have Gray field questions from the approximately 50 individuals in attendance – mostly members, or sympathizers, of the Tea Party – regarding the sustainability plan that the city’s Office of Environmental Stewardship initiated last year.
As part of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, the City of McKinney was awarded a grant to undertake the task of putting together a sustainability plan for the city. Part of the process included several workshops held across the community where input about sustainability was gathered from residents. The Dallas firm of Gresham, Smith and Partners, a leading national architecture, engineering, interior design and planning firm, facilitated the community meetings.
So what’s all the brouhaha with regard to the sustainability plan?
The McKinney Tea Party made clear its concern that “sustainability” is a code word for “Agenda 21”, a UN initiative designed to by-pass congress and infiltrate communities at the local level. Agenda 21 is a result of the United Nations global initiative to implement a plan to mesh the present environmental, economic and social needs of our society and the needs of future generations.
While the Agenda 21 initiative sounds like a step in the right direction to many McKinney residents, Tea Party members view it as a threat to freedom, adding more government regulation and control.
“We don’t need a sustainability plan controlling the life of the community, to plant trees or to put in bike paths,” said one citizen who attended Tuesday’s meeting.
Prior to Mr. Gray’s arrival at Tuesday’s meeting, those in attendance were told by the meeting facilitator that
the City had decided on the sustainability plan behind closed doors before any community input was gathered. The facilitator urged citizens to “pin down Mr. Gray on the facts,” stating that there are a number of things in the sustainability plan that don’t make sense. He also reminded the audience to attend the City Council meeting on Jan. 23 to speak during citizen comments.
Several individuals present, who had attended McKinney’s community meetings to draft a sustainability plan, said that the plan should be scrapped because it came from a template that was drafted by the consulting firm. They claimed that the consulting firm basically just changed the names of the city in the plan.
“This sustainability plan was brought in by a group who just wants to sell the plan,” a citizen commented.
City Manager Gray fielded questions from the audience for approximately 90 minutes, during which time he was clear, calm, concise and professional. He made it clear to those citizens in attendance that he didn’t have all of the background as to who the consulting firm was, how the decision was made to go forward with putting together a sustainability plan since he was not city manager at the time the program was instituted.
He began by giving his personal comments on sustainability.
“Sustainability means to me leaving this community better than we found it,” Gray said. “It makes sense to have a plan and the plan that is coming before Council is a comprehensive plan to help guide, it is not set in stone.”
Gray was barraged with questions concerning Council’s involvement with putting the sustainability plan together.
Gray responded that no members of City Council were assigned to participate in, or oversee, the development of the city’s sustainability plan. He said that some Council members did attend the meetings, but that he was not aware of any input or closed door meetings on the part of Council.
Other major concerns of those citizens who attended the meeting are that the city’s sustainability plan is an assault on personal freedom and leaves out the importance of private property rights.
“It’s not Council’s intent to erode property rights. We have a smart Council who can discern the pieces of the plan that make sense,” Gray said.
Gray stated that the current draft of the sustainability plan that will be presented to City Council on Jan. 23 is a list of opportunities and that it doesn’t mean that the city will incorporate all of the plan in its entirety.
McKinney has to manage the growth that is unavoidable Gray said. Regulating private property to manage that growth is part of what cities do. There are codes, as well as planning and zoning regulations in place that allows the city to manage growth. Gray cited that there are economic, environmental and community issues to consider. The city must make certain that fifty or one hundred years down the road, our resources, such as water, are still available.
“We want to avoid making our quality of life go down in any way”, Gray reminded citizens.
Other points Gray made during the questions and answer session were:
The green space that is part of developments in the sustainability plan will be established from land as it is development. The city will not be taking away anyone’s land to developed green space.
- The city will not be doing away with the concept of planned communities.
- The communities that have the highest value have diversity.
- The sustainability plan is not set in stone – there is flexibility.
Wayne Richard, a Plano resident who attended the meeting, said he was there to lend support to the group and to encourage people to get educated with regard to Agenda 21.
“Agenda 21 is an affront to the U. S. Constitution and eliminates our freedoms,” Richard said. “I’m meeting with members of city councils to make sure they understand Agenda 21.”
One woman in attendance, who refused to be identified, commented, “I’m not afraid, I’m smart. What they (citizens) don’t understand is that this (the sustainability plan) is part of a bigger plan.”
McKinney resident Greg Strange said he came to learn and find out more information about the sustainability plan and Agenda 21. “The information is too thin to support a conspiracy. There aren’t a lot of facts,” he said.
Council will receive the presentation at their regualr meeting at 6 p.m. on Jan. 23 and start the process of review and decision making. Council can accept, reject or amend the proposed plan, however, the earliest it could be adopted would be at the Feb. 7 meeting.
What do you think about the city’s draft sustainability plan? Download it here.