On June 8 at 6:00 pm, in Lane Auditorium of the County Office building, it will be important for as many citizens as possible to attend the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors work session.
At this meeting, the county’s commitment to environmental stewardship and long-range regional planning will be under attack. It is extremely important to attend this meeting, because the Jefferson Area Tea Party has pushed the Board to the brink of making some decisions that could have devastating consequences to our local community.
Tea Party members have been attending meetings in force, insisting that the Thomas Jefferson Planning District—an organization of local governments that provides information and ideas to guide decisions of our local region—is a “massive central planning endeavor;” that the County’s participation in the “Cool Counties” initiative is part of a UN plot to take over the world; and that “sustainabilty” is a code word for a socialist agenda to abolish private property.
The Tea Party’s recent mobilization—showing up at Board meetings in numbers of 30 or 40 at a time—has cause some members of the Board to take them seriously. In fact, Rivanna Supervisor Ken Boyd has jumped on the bandwagon, stating that the objectives of sustainability were part of an “international agenda” — “a cancer that is infiltrating our local government here.”
It may appear that the Teapartiers are too extreme to be taken seriously, and that they are being influenced by outside groups such as AFP (http://www.americansforprosperity.org/) and the “Campaign for Liberty” http://www.campaignforliberty.com/, but they are nonetheless serious. They are determined to undo years of progress—decisions that have made Albemarle a vital, well-managed community, balancing agricultural needs, environmental concerns, residents’ expectations and development interests. They mean not only to impede our progress, but to reverse it.
The two issues the Board will consider in response to Tea Partiers’ agitating:
- The board will reconsider the County’s adoption of a voluntary resolution called “Cool Counties,” and the tools to implement it. The resolution is a non-binding goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Tea Party members have convinced some Board members that this voluntary resolution, signed in 2007, is part of an international conspiracy threatening personal property rights: http://cvilletomorrow.typepad.com/charlottesville_tomorrow_/2011/05/boyd-iclei.html
Numerous local governments, including Albemarle and the City of Charlottesville, have joined a group that supports local governments who are attempting to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission. The group is called ICLEI: Local Governments for Sustainability (http://www.iclei.org/index.php?id=about), and it provides members with software that compiles data so progress towards the goals can be tracked.
2. The Board will consider refusing money that is being offered to our region to help with long-range collaborative planning with regional partners, because the grant is part of an initiative that includes the word ‘sustainability.”
Virginia mandates that local governments update their Comprehensive Plans every five years, but provides no funding for doing so. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District commission won nearly a million dollars from a federal grant to partially fund staffing for the City, County, and the Metropolitan Planning Organization (our long-range transportation planning body) to help with the 3-year project. The Tea Party argues that the TJPD threatens citizens’ property rights, insisting we reject these funds—which will then come out of our County budget.
The Sustainability Accords being decried by the Tea Party were developed by a group of local citizens from the six localities of the district—a “diverse group of farmers, business people, foresters, environmentalists, developers and elected officials” who were charged with creating a vision for “a future where our economic, human, social, and environmental health are assured.” Over a period of four years, the group developed a mission statement, with goals, objectives, indicators and benchmarks, through a public process with forums and working groups. The Accords were presented to the public on June 16, 1998, were signed by citizens and local elected officials, and included as part of the comprehensive plans both Albemarle and Charlottesville.
It is important to reiterate that all the county’s actions on these matters are undertaken through decisions made in public votes of our democratically-elected supervisors.
Because the Tea Partiers have been so vocal, it is important that the Board hear from us. Even if you can’t come to the meeting, you can call your supervisor, or email the board (firstname.lastname@example.org). Your input really does make a difference!
- Charlottesville Tomorrow: read Boyd’s comments (http://cvilletomorrow.typepad.com/charlottesville_tomorrow_/2011/05/boyd-iclei.html).
- Jefferson Area Tea Party’s website: http://www.jeffersonteaparty.org/
- Surveys of Albemarle residents show overwhelming support for spending tax dollars on environmental protection (http://www.albemarle.org/upload/images/forms_center/departments/county_executive/forms/2006-citizen-survey-report.pdf (98.2% said it is important to protect natural resources and environment, 96.7% said it’s important to manage growth).
- The Sustainability Accords (http://www.tjpdc.org/home/sustainability.asp).
- Coordinated planning by the county, the City and UVA through the Livable Communities Planning Project (http://www.1-community.org/).
- The Albemarle County Board unanimously joined Cool Counties and agreed to the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. (Fairfax County page regarding the Cool Counties program: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/news/2007/178.htm).
- ICLEI provides the County the means to measure progress, learn from other counties, and software to track CO2 emissions (http://iclei.org/).