So its Sunday of Labor Day weekend, a gorgeous Sunday mind you and yet I’m inside writing a blog. Well, when the youngest offspring is home from college for the first time and shopping is on her list, its mom that goes and not dad. Typical Mars and Venus stuff. So instead, I decide to relax and read. Not anything heavy like a novel but something related to work. I can’t help it. And of course reading such material gets me to thinking… a dangerous state for me, just ask my family or co-workers.
That’s the setup. What I was reading was Governing magazine. It’s a great magazine for those involved or interested in state and local governments. And a small article in the August issue (ok, I’m a bit behind) discussed the controversy over “Agenda 21”. What is Agenda 21 and why is it controversial? A recent poll shows that’s what 85% of Americans would like to know that as well.
Agenda 21 is the name given to a non-binding resolution adopted by the United Nations in 1992 that encourages sustainable growth through development in dense areas while encouraging conservation of open land. Key phrase here… NON-BINDING. Nonetheless, those who believe there are plotters among us seeking to create a one-world government through the United Nations have drawn their focus on the measure, to the point where the national Republican Party platform has strong language against Agenda 21.( “We strongly reject the U.N. Agenda 21 as erosive of American sovereignty, and we oppose any form of U.N. Global Tax,”)
Now, from where I sit a non-binding resolution is just that, non-binding, meaning you don’t have to do anything to follow it. On the other hand in an era of scarcer and scarcer financial resources and a growing federal deficit, shouldn’t we have a honest discussion about where those resources are to be placed and how? Of course we should, the message of having to make tough decisions was a constant at the recent Republican national convention. And yet, when it happens and government seems to do the right thing, its still wrong.
Case in point, the new $14 billion levee system that seems to have worked and saved New Orleans form major flooding during Hurricane Issac. But, water has a tendency to create its own path and when it was essentially blocked from New Orleans, it found its way to smaller communities who were not hit as hard from Katrina. That has led to an outcry and proclamations from elected officials to seek a full investigation and ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
You know the old saying about not being able to have it both ways. Well, if there is an expectation that, given scare financial resources, we want government to act like a business and get the biggest bang for the buck, then there will be winners and there will be losers. This too is part of the tough discussion. The levee system is a classic case in point. Spend money and improve infrastructure where it will make the most difference.
That seems to me be the real the point of Agenda 21… develop plans, strategies and programs that will yield the most efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars, especially when it comes to land use planning and infrastructure. Actually seems quite similar to the Michigan Municipal League’s “Center for 21st Century Communities” initiative. Quite frankly one would think such a school of thought would be supported by all, but especially by conservatives.
Hurricane Issac provides a great opportunity for the leaders in both parties to have that “tough discussion” with Americans in an honest manner, even in an election year, and not in 30-second sound bites. It’s crunch time folks, pay close attention.