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Local or Global Agenda?

The Tech Valley Infrastructure Forum brings out some smart-growth ideas, but also raises controversy

by Michael Bielawski on November 14, 2013


The Tech Valley Infrastructure Forum came to the Capital Region Oct. 30-31 at the Desmond Hotel in Colonie, co-sponsored by National Grid and the Center for Economic Growth. Hundreds of local leaders participated on drawing boards, presentations and idea sharing about how to develop infrastructure in a way that benefits citizens, the economy and the environment.

“It’s about trying to figure out how we as a region are at the ready for growth. And there’s been a lot of attention paid to making sure that we create opportunities and having the intellectual infrastructure to grow New York state,” said Linda Hill, lead economic developer for National Grid. “But the premise of this is that unless you have the physical infrastructure at the ready, while you may have created those opportunities, you may lose those opportunities because they are going to go forward at the speed they need to go forward.”

One of the event’s hosts, Dr. David Cooperrider, has been working to promote sustainable development for more than 25 years. He’s a professor of organizational behavior at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, and faculty director at the Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit. “I started creating this Appreciative Inquiry summit methodology in about the early 1980s,” he said.

Appreciative Inquiry refers to the conference format which stresses that all people involved in a process are brought in for participation and input. He’s also done work with the Navy and United Nations. “Especially regions that want to prepare for the 21st century infrastructure of our digital world, sustainability and going green, and that’s what’s happening here,” he said.

He added, “We did something like this with the city of Cleveland in [2011]; the topic there was designing a green city on a blue lake. They came out of their summit with 27 initiatives like creating the first freshwater offshore wind energy system. Following the teams that imagined that effort, they continued and they formed a corporation to guide that effort and then they got a five-and-a-half-million-dollar grant to do the engineering study. And now they are about to get a $47 million grant to carry out the first pilot.”

Listening to Cooperrider, it might seem like all of these initiatives are noncontroversial. However, one representative of participating sponsor CEG (Center for Economic Growth), who did not want to be named, was adamant that this conference was not about “smart growth” but rather was an “infrastructure forum.” She added that National Grid (not CEG) contacted Cooperrider. National Grid’s Hill also stressed that this was a locally initiated conference.

Why is the distinction between “infrastructure forum” and “smart growth” so important? The phrase “smart growth” is interchangeable with many of the buzzwords from the conference, such as sustainable development, going green, economic regions, etc.

Rosa Koire from San Francisco, a lifelong Democrat and gay- and women’s-rights activist, said, “What’s a city/NGO [non-governmental organization]-sponsored neighborhood summit, you ask? It’s a trumped-up group of handpicked ‘neighborhood leaders’ who have been instructed in Asset Based Community Development and the Delphi Technique. Their goal? To create neighborhood associations that are managed and manipulated by facilitators who have learned ‘consensus building’ and are using it to further the [United Nation’s Agenda 21] plans,” she said.

Representatives of both CEG and National Grid have denied that any larger or outside organization initiated the conference.

“We want to be able to attract a company to stay here and not to go out of state and look for another site,” said National Grid’s Michael DiAcetis.

When Cooperrider was asked if this conference was a part of United Nations Agenda 21, he answered, “It’s not separate, but it’s really zeroing on the infrastructure needs so that we develop an agility as a region to be able to take advantage of all the opportunities . . . the economic opportunities, the quality-of-life opportunities. For example, preparing for a future where the precious waterways are protected and used for people and parks and so on. Thinking ahead about the infrastructure needs for the next 21st-century energy system, like smart grid.”

Kiore’s website (postsustainabilityinstitute.org) explained how her career put her in the middle of the issue: “Rosa Koire is a forensic commercial real estate appraiser specializing in eminent domain valuation. A former District Branch Chief for the California Department of Transportation, her twenty-eight year career in litigation support on land use has culminated in exposing the impacts of sustainable development on private property rights and individual liberty.” She is also author of the book Behind the Green Mask: Agenda 21.

The Delphi Technique that Koire referenced was created by the Rand Corporation in the 1950s, and according to Koire, it is the process of bringing people into an event to make them feel like they have a say in a process when in reality the outcome is predetermined.

Cooperrider said of Appreciate Inquiry, “We are saying that we can be more effective if we can bring the whole system into the room. So if we are working with a trucking company we’ll make sure that the costumers are in the strategic planning, we’ll make sure that the workers and truck drivers and the CEO. . . .This is about interactive collaborative planning.”

According to the first line of the UN Agenda 21’s Wiki page, it is “a non-binding, voluntarily implemented action plan of the United Nations with regard to sustainable development.” While officially “non-binding,” Koire stressed how large conferences, not unlike the Tech Valley Infrastructure Forum, are used to persuade local communities to sign on while making it appear like a grassroots effort.

“It’s the blueprint, it is the action plan to inventory and control all land, all water, all plants, all minerals, all information and all human beings in the world. It is a completely comprehensive plan, it’s global and it is implemented locally. What you have to do is recognize it, because it doesn’t come with flashing lights and it’s not called Agenda 21. That’s how they can say that, ‘Oh you are kind of crazy or a tin-foil hat’ when you bring it up,” Koire once said in a radio interview.

The history of Agenda 21 began with Maurice Strong, former Under Secretary General to the United Nations. Strong was asked by the U.N. in 1986 to write a report on how to fight poverty and protect the environment, which is often cited as the foundation of Agenda 21. Because of his prominent role in shaping such a global initiative, quotes like this one which he made to National Review Magazine in 1997 have caused concern. He said, “If we don’t change, our species will not survive. . . . Frankly, we may get to the point where the only way of saving the world will be for industrial civilization to collapse.”

Agenda 21 was signed in 1992 as a “soft treaty” by President Geoge H. W. Bush at the Rio De Janeiro Earth Summit. “Soft treaties” are international laws that don’t override sovereign laws. However, in 1993, President Clinton signed an executive order to create the President’s Council on Sustainable Development, whose purpose is to implement Agenda 21 through all federal agencies.

And just this week there was a major move in Washington on sustainable development. “Through the stroke of a pen, President Obama on Friday used his executive powers to elevate and take control of climate change policies in an attempt to streamline sustainability initiatives—and potentially skirt legislative oversight and push a federal agenda on states,” reported Perry Chiaramonte of Fox News.

The definition of sustainable development by the International Institute for Sustainable Development is: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts . . . ‘the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given’ and ‘the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.’”

DiAcetis was asked if they discussed concerns over private-property rights and the rural character of much of the Capital Region. He said, “Absolutely, one of the focuses today, one of the break-out groups was to think regionally so that we help each other but still remember that we are a patchwork quilt of individual towns and communities and each one of those has great and unique qualities and together as a whole we are even better. So we still want to respect the integrity and the needs of the individual communities.”

Hill added, “Well we certainly want to address those concerns but it all comes back to what does that jigsaw puzzle [the neighboring communities] look like and how do you maintain that cover because as you know nothing in life is created and just stays like that, it has to be maintained. So if you are one municipality and your goal is to remain rural, okay what’s the math behind that? How do you maintain that rural character and still have a healthy vibrant community?”

According to Koire’s group, Democrats Against Agenda 21, community development is just one aspect of our lives affected by Agenda 21. Her website indicates that Agenda 21 is also associated with the new Common Core Curriculum in schools, and Codex Alimentarious, a major set of food regulations. “You are going to have to look long and hard to find anything that isn’t Agenda 21,” Koire said in a past radio interview.

“I think the future of a community depends on that community itself, they possess the ability to shape their future,” said DiAcetis.