Sustainable Development in Santa Cruz County and Across the Country

By Nick Peros – 

Posted on Freedom Advocates on February 20th 2003 

If there is a bedrock principle upon which our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and our nation was constructed, it is this: “government is empowered by the Consent of the governed”… There are people among us in Santa Cruz County and other portions of the United States and other nations that believe this method of public policy development is obsolete.


If there is a bedrock principle upon which our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and our nation was constructed, it is this: “government is empowered by the Consent of the governed”.

To translate this principle into self-governance, our Constitution provides for public policy to be enacted by elected representatives of those who are governed. To further protect those who are governed, our Constitution ingeniously balances the power of government among the legislative, administrative, and judicial branches. Balance occurs as the result of continuous competition among the branches of government, and among the three levels of government, federal, state, and local. American society is organized around this bedrock principle. The first foundation layer of our government, however, is the requirement that public policy be enacted by officials elected by those who are governed.

There are people among us in Santa Cruz County and other portions of the United States and other nations that believe this method of public policy development is obsolete. Indeed, o­ne local city manager has publicly stated that our form of government no longer works. The President’s Council o­n Sustainable Development, for example, says: “We need a new collaborative decision process that leads to better decisions; more rapid change; and more sensible use of human, natural, and financial resources in achieving our goals.”

We are beginning to witness in Pajaro Valley, Santa Cruz County as a whole, and across America a shift in the way public policy is being made. The power to make public policy is shifting away from elected officials to non-elected individuals who are using a “new collaborative decision process” to reorganize society around the central principle of “protecting the environment”.

Neither the change in the decision process, nor the adoption of “protection of the environment” as society’s central organizing principle, are initiatives that arise from the people who are governed. Both ideas arise from the international community, crafted into policy documents by the United Nations and presented to the world through United Nations Conferences, particularly the United Nations Conference o­n Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

“Agenda 21”, a 288-page “soft law” (non-binding) document adopted by 179 nations in Rio, set forth very specific public policy objectives designed to reorganize societies around the central principle of protecting the environment. The process called for is “a new collaborative decision process” called “consensus building”. To comply with the UN’s recommendation, Executive Order 12852 was issued June 1993, creating the President’s Council o­n Sustainable Development. The Council, consisting of 29 non-elected federal officials and selected representatives of major environmental organizations and industry, proceeded to translate Agenda 21 into 154 public policy recommendations to be implemented throughout America.

The purpose of the policy recommendations is “to achieve our vision of sustainable development.”

The Council adopted the UN’s definition of sustainable development: “… to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

In Pajaro Valley and other communities throughout America, urban and rural areas are being transformed into “sustainable communities,” through the implementation of public policies that originate in “Agenda 21”, and other UN documents, Americanized through the President’s Council of non-elected officials, and brought to local communities through a coordinated program of “collaborative consensus building” facilitated by trained experts.

The Congress of the United States, “elected by those who are governed”, has not enacted legislation that defines or authorizes a national policy of sustainable development. No state legislature has enacted legislation that defines or authorizes a policy of sustainable development.

Action Pajaro Valley is a non-governmental organization (NGO) formed earlier this year to bring residents of the Pajaro Valley into the world of “sustainable development”. The birthing of Action Pajaro Valley and the “visioning process” which has formed the beginning stages of the sustainable development program follow a formula used in other towns and cities across America over the past several years.

NGO’s initiate a consensus process which is designed to appear to be a purely local initiative resulting from the demands of the local community – ostensibly, the people who are governed. The initiating organization does not identify itself with Agenda 21, or any of the international NGO’s which have provided the framework for the process and the agenda to sustainable development.

The first step is to identify other individuals and organizations in the community known to be sympathetic with the goals of “Agenda 21”. Those individuals are invited to participate in the organization of the effort. A “visioning counsel” will emerge, consisting of individuals selected because of their predisposition of support for the aims of the effort, and to reflect “representation” from across the community spectrum. The Council then holds a series of meetings to solicit input from the community. The first series of meetings, a Visioning Festival, was just completed October 10, 1999.

Two important problems arise from this process: first, the participants who comprise the initial core group are often carefully selected, especially in the formative stages, and second, the input solicited is in response to a predetermined agenda. Often, the participants are not aware that the agenda has been predetermined. The facilitator at these initial meetings is often a trained professional, hired for the purpose. The facilitator’s purpose is to “build consensus.” Consensus is not agreement; it is the absence of expressed disagreement. As the process continues, the local media is recruited to report the wonderful work of “citizens” of the community to develop a “vision of the future”.

Following the “visioning” process, a vision document is unveiled. Occasionally, professional public relations consultants are used to develop a positive community context for this unveiling. By the time the final document is presented, local elected officials have little choice but to support the program. Politicians, as well as individual citizens, who express concerns about the program, are labeled as “anti-environmental,” or worse. The consensus process is an ingeniously designed and skillfully implemented process to by-pass local elected governing bodies and the larger community of people who are governed.

The final step is implementation. No policy document developed by non-elected officials carries the weight of law. Therefore, it is necessary to find ways to get the policies written into enforceable law. Early in the process, federal, state, and local administrative officials are brought into the process at the local level. Federal agencies have long ago found ways to reinterpret existing legislative authority to allow for the implementation of “Agenda 21” objectives. Where existing authorities cannot be stretched enough to accommodate the objective of “Agenda 21”, Pajaro Valley Vision, 2020, or whatever title is affixed to the grand plan, new incremental legislation is proposed, or administrative rule changes are initiated.

To ensure overall compliance with the community vision developed by the local Visioning Council, or in our area Action Pajaro Valley, a favored technique is to develop a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Visioning Council, or a quasi-public entity created to succeed the council, and the various governing bodies within the multi-jurisdictional area embraced by the plan. The MOA typically requires any development approval by any of the local governing agencies to be approved by the Council as a means to coordinate implementation of the plan throughout the plan area.

The local plan often takes several years to complete. The Action Pajaro Valley is in the beginning stages of the plan. When complete, the transformation of society around the central organizing principles contained within the “Agenda 21” document are well established and the central organizing principle of “government empowered by the people who are governed” is effectively destroyed.

In addition to destroying our bedrock Constitutional principles, the Sustainable Development movement uses well-meaning people as fodder. While the people who form the core planning group state the citizen’s ideas or visions form the “consensus” upon which the plan is built, facilitators and the core group have already pre-written the final document, formed around the United Nations Agenda 21.

Simply put, the Sustainable Development process is a killer of business prosperity, representative government based o­n our Constitution, and the freedoms established by the Declaration of Independence. Personal, business, or political ambition which would drive anyone to support this destructive movement must be set aside, and the platform of our Federal and State Constitutions must be preserved.

I urge you to take the lead in exposing the nature of Sustainable Development and confronting those who support this heinous plan for our community.

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