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Someone is planning your future

By Henry Lamb
web posted May 9, 2005

What could Marion County, Indiana, and Lincoln County, New Mexico, possibly have in common? In Marion County, nearly a million people are packed into 403 square miles, with a density of 2172 people per square mile. Lincoln County stretches over 4,831square miles, and on a good day, can muster only 19,411 people - that's four people per square mile.

Nevertheless, both counties - as is the county where you live - are targets for transformation into "sustainable communities," as defined in Agenda 21. Neither Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, nor Lincoln County Planning Technician Curt Temple will admit that their efforts to transform their communities have anything to do with Agenda 21. They probably don't even know that it does.

Agenda 21 is a policy document adopted at the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development, by more than 170 nations in 1992. It was implemented in the United States by President Clinton's Commission on Sustainable Development, created by Executive Order, with no Congressional debate or involvement. The agencies of government set out to implement the recommendations of Agenda 21 by rule, and by economic "incentives and disincentives." This means, simply, that grants are available to states and communities that do what the feds want, and penalties and fund withdrawal await those communities that resist.

Throughout the 1990s, communities everywhere began to create "visioning councils," with special grants from the feds. These visioning councils set out to transform local communities, and protect them from environmental and social disaster, by adopting "smart growth" policies - directly out of Agenda 21.

One of the high-priority recommendations of Agenda 21, and the PCSD, is to create a "new decision process." This means - take the policy-making process out of the hands of elected officials, and put it in the hands of professionals.

This is exactly what Mayor Bart Peterson is trying to do. Indianapolis/Marion County Indiana already has a consolidated government - of sorts. Four communities, and the sheriff, and a few other elected positions remain outside the Mayor's control. The Mayor wants to further consolidate his government by eliminating these elected decision-makers, and appointing their replacements.

The sales pitch is always the same: more efficient government, reduce the cost of duplicated services, and on, and on. Lost in the argument is the idea that government is most responsive to the people governed, when the decision makers are accountable to the people who are governed. Government officials who are appointed - whether appointed by Bart Peterson, or Fidel Castro - are responsive to the people who sign their paychecks, not to the people they govern.

Another high-priority recommendation of Agenda 21 is to get people to live within "growth boundaries" instead of wherever they want to live. Despite the fact that Lincoln County's population has declined steadily since 1980, Curt Temple believes 600,000 people will invade his county by 2025, and therefore, the county must plan now to prevent "urban sprawl." He, and his planning commission are deciding where these people may, and may not live.

Curt Temple says: "There is broad consensus in our society that land use and development should be controlled." If that consensus exists, it exists only among planners and bureaucrats. In the West, and elsewhere, there is a broad and growing consensus among Americans that government should get out of the way, and leave people alone. In America - the land of the free - people should be able to live wherever they choose, and can afford to live.

For government to tell a person, "no, you cannot build a home here," because a planner drew an "urban boundary line" on a map, is ridiculous - especially in a place like Lincoln County, New Mexico.

The planning craze afflicts virtually every community. The so-called problems these plans are supposed to prevent, often become problems that future generations have to correct. The first wave of planning in the late 1960s and 1970s produced high-density housing for low-income families. These high-rise, low-cost apartments became the slums and gang-headquarters in Chicago, and other cities, which ultimately had to be destroyed.

Planners have no sacred wisdom, they only have authority. Every time government attempts to engineer society by shaping and molding market forces, the result is failure. Nothing shapes the future as efficiently as a free market.

Elected officials, in Lincoln, Marion, and all other counties, would do well to listen to the people who elected them - not to the professional planners and agency personnel whose first obligation is to justify their own existence. Many Americans are content to plan their own future, and don't appreciate being told what they can and cannot do by government bureaucrats.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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