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Nancy Smith

Seven50: It's Agenda 21's Baby Cousin in Florida

October 9, 2013 - 6:00pm

The folks behind Seven50 swear up and down their "blueprint for growing a more prosperous, more desirable Southeast Florida during the next 50 years" is no reincarnation of widely reviled Agenda 21.

Maybe. But it sure walks like a duck and quacks like a duck.

Remember Agenda 21? By its authors' definition, it was "a nonbinding, voluntarily implemented global action plan to bring about sustainable development."

Seven50, on the same hand, is a "voluntary" regional action plan to bring about sustainable development.

The similarity is upsetting a lot of Floridians -- and not just the ones liberals like to label right-wing kooks.

For many people in this country, sustainable development is code for "cluster of low-income, HUD-inspired, stack-and-pack housing units with demographic quotas, built without garages, adjacent to mass transit -- with personal use of automobiles out of the question."

Agenda 21 scared the pants off Americans when it came out of a 1992 United Nations conference inRio de Janeiro -- a plan of largely un-American ideas that called for an end to national sovereignty, the abolition of private property rights and top-to-bottom "social re-engineering."

Seven50 is Agenda 21's baby cousin. It was born in the U.S.A., in Washington, D.C. somewhere, when the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) gave a partnership of South Florida regional planning councils a $4.25 million grant to make "sustainable development" happen.

That's seven counties --Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River -- all under regional control within 50 years.

Oops. I just called Seven50 Agenda 21's baby cousin. I'm sure the Southeast Florida Regional Partnership (SFRP) -- the folks pushing this time-warp of an endeavor -- will marginalize me by claiming I'm a tin-foil-hat tea bag spreading misinformation. A conspiracy theorist. I hope I'm none of the above. I lived in Britain and Europe for 10 years and loved the lifestyle under socialist governments that happily adopted many of Agenda 21's components.

But this isn't Britain or Europe. What may be their utopia isn't America's.

The unelected leadership driving Seven50 believes that without coordinated action, Southeast Florida is looking at a future of congestion, declining quality of life and economic deterioration.

"Go to the meetings and listen to them," Bill Paterson, chairman of the St. Lucie County Republican Executive Committee, told me. "The coordinated action they're talking about is regional leadership making all the decisions for the dozens of local governments in the seven counties. They aren't looking for our ideas, they have their own and they just want to get on with implementation."

The fact is, we're not just talking about Florida as an isolated case here. Federal agencies HUD, EPA and DOT are financing the restructuring of local government divisions all over the country. Whether it's Seven50 in Florida, Plan Bay Area in California, or Granite State Future in New Hampshire, they are one and the same, based on the same principles.

In dismissing Seven50's resemblance to Agenda 21, the Seven50 website has this to say: "(Seven50) is a process for producing a new plan, currently being created, based on input from the public to help enable each of the seven counties in Southeast Florida to help guide future investment into the region. Lets nip in the bud the wrong rumors that there is any link between Seven50 and the United Nations. It is unfortunate that some people are spreading these nonsense rumors in order to further their own political agendas, and that some people are paying attention."

Here's the problem with a whine like that: If these planners don't want "nonsense rumors," why didn't they caution their benefactor to be a little less incendiary during the Seven50 rollout?

In a press release, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said, "During the months ahead, in the most ambitious social re-engineering project ever undertaken by the federal government, racial mapping in every neighborhood, in every community in the United States, will begin."

The language used to describe Seven50 goals, never mind the sentiment behind it, falls somewhere between unsettling and downright terrifying.

Vero Beach Mayor Craig Fletcher attended plan presentations at the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. After the last one, he said he's heard enough. He described it in detail to his council during its May 21 meeting -- take a minute to look at the short YouTube video.Fletcher isn't tea party, he's just concerned.

Here are excerpts Fletcher repeated from Miami planner Andres Duany's Seven50, "transcending local control" address at a May Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council Meeting:

  • "'Cities are less important, counties are less important, only mega-regions are important.'"
  • "'They aren't going to put up with the American education system' -- he was talking about Europeans."
  • "'Fascism is a good form of government to implement this plan.' That isn't even funny."
  • "'We shouldn't have any more of these meetings, let's just pass this thing and be done with it.'"
  • "This guy is an arrogant, pompous ass ... Don't have anything to do with Seven50."

Indian River County was already out; now the county seat is out, too. Vero Beach has gone as far as it's going with Seven50.

Treat yourself to a 7-minute speech -- the full argument against Seven50 -- by retired airline pilot Phyllis Frey of Indian River County. She spoke eloquently after Duany at the Regional Planning Council Meeting. And, no, she isn't tea party either.

St. Lucie County soon may be out. A Seven50 protest organization called the St. Lucie County 912 Group has put together an impressive fight-back force by pointing out in thousands of handouts that planners have targeted St. Lucie in their "Social Equity Analysis and Opportunity Index." In part 2, page 70, downtown Fort Pierce is identified as "very weak in social equity."

Land tracts high on the "opportunity census study" include tract 3821.9 (PGA Village and Country Club to you) and tract 3812.04 (a barrier island with three state parks). These properties are noted with the following analysis: "These areas are deficient and are high priority target areas for implementing the 'Sustainable Communities' plan," as are all gated communities which are "deficient in social justice planning."

Before you tell me it's too tin-foil-hat to talk about the mass federalization of living spaces and the "vilification of private property rights under the guise of racial equality" as a major Seven50 goal, please watch one more video when you have time. You won't be sorry. It's Stanley Kurtz, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and author of "Spreading the Wealth," talking about President Obama's part in regionalism, including his goal of emptying the suburbs, repopulating into cities. (Hint-hint: You do it by taxation and withholding federal dollars from important highway projects, for example.)

I'm not over here waving a flag or quoting the Founding Fathers. But I don't think Seven50 is a good idea for America in general or Florida in particular -- especially Southeast Florida, where counties are as different as night and day.

With this plan in force, I envision a day when Treasure Coast county commissions and municipal governments are advisory only, when decisions are made "for the common good" in the big cities -- Miami or Fort Lauderdale or later on, even Washington -- where any chance of swaying opinion is lost somewhere along the under-construction rail line between towns and between ideas that will never meet in the middle.

The more federal and regional governments are jointly involved in any problem, the more taxpayers' money goes out of the window and the less chance there is of getting anything done. Look at the Everglades.

Every Floridian I know -- make that every American I know -- wants to choose their own lifestyle, they wouldn't want it dictated to them. They like a local government, where they can get up and speak their mind. They like to drive cars, if not every day, at least on occasion. They like to be able to tweak their own comprehensive plans, help fix the world just beyond their doorstep. Sustainable development, defined in Seven50's terms, is not a priority for a single one of them.

Looking back, I'm more than grateful for Ken Pruitt, who back in 1992 powered down Florida's regional planning councils. Maybe he had a premonition this day would come, who knows? While serving in the Florida House -- when the regional planning councils were up for sunset review -- he pushed through a bill that ended their regulatory powers. Until that time they served as a kind of second county commission. How far could they go on this Seven50 mission with those powers today?

Finally, I agree heartily with Toby Overdorf, the rational president of Crossroad Environmental Consultants in Martin County, who told me he can't get over "the incredible waste of money, waste of staff time on Seven50, hours and hours, all on planning what? Every community has a comprehensive land use plan, it's all broken down. The planning already done and approved is enough to focus on, it seems to me."

"Frankly," he said, "I'm hoping (Seven50) just goes away."

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423.

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