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A green battle begins

Some say the city's push for bike lanes and roundabouts are more sinister than you might think.

Remember back during the spring campaign, when I wrote about the “green grenade” I expected Republicans might throw at Mayor Chris Beutler?

Well they never did really go after Beutler for pushing green initiatives, but now, it turns out, LIBA is.

LIBA wants the mayor to drop out of that group I wrote about in March — the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, or ICLEI. (Read LIBA’s press statement here: EPA Position Statement)
ICLEI is an international association formed in 1990 to promote sustainable development. More than 1,200 cities, towns and counties and their associations are members of ICLEI.

Mayor Beutler quietly signed Lincoln up with ICLEI in July 2010, saying the group would help Lincoln city government reduce its energy use by 20 percent and the city reduce its energy use by 10 percent over the next two years. LIBA doesn’t like it, saying,

Unfortunately, under the guise of being green, some special interest groups attempt to use the
environment as a weapon to defeat private property rights, curb individual choice, and promote
“social justice.”

LIBA says groups like ICLEI support regulations that would impose unnecessary controls and costs on business and property owners. The city of Lincoln recently hosted a meeting about sustainability goals, during which an EPA official said, “walkability is the issue, non vehicle travel.” He said the keys were more trees, fewer vehicles and strong air quality agencies.

Another consultant said during the meeting, “Lincoln’s development codes have to change to deal with sustainability” and said Lincoln should make the following code changes:

• Adopt a clothesline bill of rights, “The Right to Dry.” (Some homeowners associations don’t allow clotheslines. A law would override homeowner covenants to block clotheslines.)
• Require bicycle parking and bike lockers in all apartment buildings.
• Adopt outdoor lighting regulations that give each project a “lumen budget.” Once you have reached your “lumen budget”, you are not allowed to have any more lighting.
• Require showers in office buildings to encourage people to bike to work.
• Require separating our household waste prior to putting it into the trash.
• Allow gardens in homeowners front yards.

LIBA says Greg Shinaut, of Black Hills Energy, has been loaned to the city half time to promote a green city. Greg said when he met with Mayor Beutler, “The Mayor told me to inject green into all the codes.”

All of this may be music to some people’s ears. Not to LIBA’s.

“Environmental activism must be balanced with respect for private property rights and freedom of choice,” they said.

Lincoln’s membership in ICLEI is up for renewal in July, and LIBA wants Beutler to drop out, saying, “We feel that the citizens of Lincoln are best suited to manage our city’s needs rather than having to take direction from ICLEI, an organization connected internationally with entities like the United Nations and the EPA that seek to implement an agenda that is counterproductive to Lincoln’s business climate.”

Some cities and counties have dropped out of the group due to controversy like the one swirling beneath the surface in Lincoln — including Albemarle County, Charlottesville, Va.; Carroll County, Westminster, Md.; Edmond, Okla.; Spartanburg County, Spartanburg, S.C.; Garland, Texas; and Montgomery County, Norristown, Penn.

I learned just how suspicious some people are of the green movement and the way Beutler is spending $2.4 million in federal stimulus money for green initiatives when I went to a meeting about it in March at a local church. About 60 people were there, including almost all of the Republican candidates for city offices in the spring election — mayoral candidate Tammy Buffington and council candidates Melissa Hilty and Travis Nelson.

The meeting was hosted by the Rev. John Morrow, who calls himself “a right-wing, radical, flag-loving, God-loving, conservative, Bible-believing pastor” and Don Raskey, a local accountant.

Morrow talked about the history of the sustainable development movement — noting that a Seattle planner advises cities to call it “comprehensive planning” or “smart growth” to avoid controversy. He said often city officials hold “visioning sessions” with facilitators or “change agents” to “give the appearance of public buy-in” to their goals.

He said individual rights take a back seat to ICLEI goals, and the ultimate goal is international redistribution of wealth and “public-private partnerships” and “putting nature above man.”

Morrow talked about a plan to eliminate humans on at least 50 percent of land, population control and mobility restrictions. He talked about groups that want to limit water consumption to five gallons per day.

“That sounds like a stinky deal to me,” Morrow said.

Raskey noted that Milo Mumgaard was hired to be Lincoln’s point man on spending the federal green money — without being “subject to the usual hiring review.” He talked about how the city’s “traffic-calming measures” like bike lanes and roundabouts and city lighting upgrades and smart meters (LES) and the solar-powered stoplight at 84th and Highway 2 are all part of this sinister movement.

“They want you out of your car, folks,” he said.

He said Beutler’s Cleaner, Greener Lincoln’s goal is to make Lincoln the “green capital of the Great Plains.”

It was clear most of the people in the audience were on board with the idea that the green movement has sinister underpinnings. People ate it up with Amens and oohs and aahhs.

Frankly, I’m not sure which side is right. My parents are pretty conservative and my Dad loves his Fox News and so they’d probably believe a lot of what the anti-Greenies are saying. However, my Mom is more green than most Obama-lovers and taught me to:

• Save rainwater and use it to water plants (long before rain barrels became cool)
• Recycle Ziplock bags and aluminum foil, when possible.
• Use plastic grocery bags as garbage bags.
• Shut off the A/C and open the windows at night in the summer to let the cool air cool the house, rather than electricity.
• Never waste food if you can avoid it.
• Open and close the window shades to keep the house cooler in the summer and use the natural light, rather than electric lights, whenever possible.
• Plant a huge garden and can as much as she could to feed our family.

I knew I’d taken her conservation mantra too far when I found myself debating the most frugal way to delete words on my computer one day at work.

She’s a conservative Republican, but she’s also practicing green principles every day, in a thousand ways. Not to over-simplify, but that tells me there has to be a sensible middle ground on this issue.

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