A City Council Workshop to share ideas about sustainability was abandoned midstream Monday night amid protests about the City of Edmond’s involvement in sustainable conservation efforts.
The Edmond Sustainability Forum was created by the Planning Department and designed for Edmond residents to share their ideas and priorities for sustainable conservation efforts in their community, said Shannon Entz, community development manager. Police at the event estimated the audience to number about 200 people.
“It’s about saving money, saving energy, reducing waste, which the City of Edmond and many of you have been doing for many, many years,” Entz said.
Forum participants were asked to form discussion groups to share ideas regarding water conservation, greenspace parks and energy efficient buildings to save money. City staff would then take those recommendations to implement in a grass roots community plan, Entz said.
“We’re telling you we don’t want to do that. We want to talk about sustainability — its history — where it comes from,” Edmond resident Robert Semands said amid widespread applause.
Dr. David Newsome asked if a preliminary discussion about sustainability with the entire audience could occur before the groups were formed.
“I’m a little confused about it, and what I do know, I’m a little worried about it,” Newsome said. “And if the unknowing are going to be leading the groups, we’re not going to get anywhere fast.”
Environmental planning or sustainability can be applied to water conservation, land use and transportation planning, green jobs, waste management, energy consumption, parks and green space, public and alternative transportation, green infrastructure, building retrofits, alternative fuels and education programs, according to the Planning Department.
Sustainability planning is funded by nearly $1 million in Recovery Act funds from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, Entz said. Funding also helps develop energy-saving technologies for city facilities and water wells, CNG conversion kits, energy building code training and equipment for inspectors, she added. The CityLink bus service is an example of stimulus money put to use by the city.
Handouts titled “Why Edmond is concerned about U.N. Agenda 21/sustainable development” were handed to participants entering the Downtown Community Center.
The reading material states, “U.N. Agenda 21 is a 1,000-plus page, 40-chapter document spelling out how all activities on the planet, including in the USA, are to be brought under the control of the United Nations.”
Breaking into groups to discuss sustainability is about controlling what is said, one man in the audience said.
“We don’t even know what you’re talking about with Agenda 21,” Entz said. “This isn’t part of our conversation at all. It’s absolutely not. We’re not part of that; we’re not interested in that.”
Semands said the language of sustainability comes from Agenda 21 which is a U.N. agenda.
“Edmond did not sign off with any international agenda,” former Mayor Dan O’Neil said.
Newsome told The Edmond Sun that the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) is a sub-group of the United Nations. The reading material provided by the group protesting the forum compared ICLEI to a Marxist document. He said the city is implementing Agenda 21 plans that have never been ratified at the national level.
“We feel like we’ve been essentially ambushed by all this,” Semands told The Edmond Sun. “We just found out about it a few days ago. When they post meetings it’s kind of hard to find out about them.”
City of Edmond meetings are posted at www.edmondok.com.
“My concern is ‘sustainability’ and ‘sustainable development,’ the words come from UN Agenda 21,” Semands said. He said former President George H. W. Bush signed the U.S. up for U.N. Agenda 21 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janerio in 1992.
“Bill Clinton with an executive order created a governmental infrastructure to push this stuff as far as they could push it from a government level,” Semands said.
Local homeowner John Springman said conservation is fine, but he’s concerned the ICLEI movement is tied to the U.N.
“Who is the U.N. and ICLEI to tell we the people in the U.S.A. what to do?” Springman asked.
The City of Edmond has been working on a sustainability plan for better land use practices and energy conservation, Assistant City Manager Steve Commons told The Edmond Sun.
“Most of it’s about education and what areas we should emphasize to make people more aware of how they can have a positive impact at their homes and their businesses, and find ways to save money,” Commons said. “We’re trying to find out where we should put our emphasis in our planning process.”
City Manager Larry Stevens said he was pleased by the sizable crowd indicating a lot of interest in the subject of sustainability. The magnitude of differing opinions among the audience led him to set up more discussion on the topic in January.
“We’re going to cancel for tonight and after the first of the year, we’re going to have a general forum to discuss and answer some of your questions,” Entz announced.
Heath Hartman came to the forum to support sustainability, he said. The word “sustainability” is not owned by a particular group and is being “thrown around by a lot of different organizations,” he added.
“By sustainability we can survive and keep our quality of life up to the standard we’ve gotten it without destroying the world — without polluting our rivers — without killing the animals and the trees.”
He said he is more weary about large corporations using sustainability as a false facade to make people think they’re making a difference.
“I feel like this is awesome that they’re just inviting people to talk about it,” Hartman said of the City of Edmond. “If it was the city saying here’s what we’re going to do and this is how it’s going to be — that would make me weary. But they’ve just invited us to come talk about it. I think that’s awesome.”
Andrea Palmer said she wanted to learn about code requirements the city could mandate for making buildings more energy efficient.
“My agenda was to come and try to move Edmond forward so I volunteered to talk more about energy efficiency,” Palmer said.
Palmer said she came to the forum because she wanted to improve the quality of life for Edmond citizens and future generations.
“Long-term durability and being responsible for our resources — that’s what I came here for,” she said. “I feel ideas were twisted and turned the moment opinion was spoken to bring it back to the sustainability issue and no progress was made whatsoever.
“My voice wasn’t heard at all and it’s no fault to the City of Edmond.”
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