Local activists call for public action on environmental and sustainability initiatives
By Brian Wheeler
Thursday, June 2, 2011
When the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors hold a highly anticipated work session next Wednesday evening on local planning initiatives, two interest groups are hoping to sway the board by showing that public opinion is on their side.
The Jefferson Area Tea Party has been beating a steady drum of opposition to what it describes as a United Nations-linked effort to infiltrate local government and erode individual liberties and private property rights.
Meanwhile, the newly formed Albemarle Responsible Citizens’ Alliance is seeking public support for environmental stewardship and long-range regional planning efforts. Specifically, the alliance wants the community to sign on to a three-year federal grant allowing joint planning with the city of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia.
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Carole Thorpe , chairwoman of the Jefferson Area Tea Party, said at a press conference Thursday that she supports “a reasonable, responsible, common goal of environmental standards designed to maintain healthy and adequate resources.” Thorpe said that was how she interpreted the term “sustainability.”
“When Sustainability is spelled with a capital ‘S,’ I interpret the definition as a radical political agenda that strives to impose big government-style central planning under the guise of well-intentioned environmentalism,” Thorpe said. “It hijacks the commonly known meaning of ‘sustainability’…and twists it as a deceptive means to an end.”
The Tea Party is calling for Albemarle and Charlottesville to reject a $1 million federal grant for the Livable Communities Planning Project , an effort being coordinated by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission . The three-year project would contribute to updates of the city and county comprehensive and transportation plans and make recommendations on how to implement the community’s 1998 Sustainability Accords .
The Albemarle Responsible Citizens’ Alliance was organized over the past several months in response to activities, initially of the Albemarle Truth in Taxation Alliance , then later of the Tea Party. It’s organizers say it is a “non-partisan group of citizens dedicated to preserving and improving our quality of life in Albemarle County.”
Former Supervisor Sally Thomas is the group’s honorary chairwoman. Thomas said in an interview she was a contributor to the 1998 Sustainability Accords and was involved as a citizen in the original formation of the TJPDC in 1972.
“I and others are concerned that decisions to be made on June 8 may take the county in a new direction, one that ought to get a lot of citizen input before being taken,” said Thomas.
“I was involved in writing the sustainability goals and objectives, and winnowing them down to the Sustainability Accords,” said Thomas. “That’s a home-grown effort that I hope people will recognize set the county in a direction that we are proud of. Protecting the community’s natural resources is not a minority opinion, it has had a local and long history here.”
Thorpe says the Tea Party wants its 100 to 125 active members, and other like-minded citizens, to join together and call for the Albemarle supervisors to address the community’s planning needs through local resources and decision-making.
Thorpe called Thursday for the board to drop its membership in ICLEI — Local Governments for Sustainability and to repeal its December 2007 decision committing Albemarle to a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
“Sustainability has had much of its ‘science’ debunked as elaborate fraud,” Thorpe said. “Despite all of this, brazen practitioners of this radical agenda continue to promulgate alarmist warnings crafted to whip up the irrational fear that our planet is on the brink of destruction.”
Albemarle staff says the ICLEI membership of $1,200 annually provides them access to software to baseline and measure the community’s carbon footprint. Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd has been unsuccessful in two attempts this year to have the membership eliminated from the county’s budget.
Thomas says the Albemarle Responsible Citizens’ Alliance is still getting organized and recruiting board members. Current board members include Waldo Jaquith , Graham Paige and John Dean.
Thomas was asked what she hoped the public would say at Wednesday’s meeting.
“I would hope people would speak in support of the TJPDC, sustainability and planning with the university and city,” said Thomas.
Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said in an interview Thursday that she was expecting a big turnout for the board’s Wednesday work session. The meeting will be held in the County Office Building at 6 p.m.
“A huge majority of the email we have received has been in favor of completing the activities we have been doing to preserve the quality of life,” said Mallek, a supporter of the ICLEI membership, energy efficiency efforts and the livability project. “Everyone has been very supportive of the three components.”
“Citizens will probably have at the most two minutes for comment,” added Mallek. “We want to try and encourage a good interchange between the public and the board.”
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