If you’ve been shopping for a sizable reason to vote against metro Atlanta’s transportation sales tax next month, but have been unable to find one that’s XXL or larger, try this on:
The tax and the people behind it are part of a United Nations plot called Agenda 21.
Laugh if you like. The topic is now center stage in Cobb County, as part of the debate over the penny sales tax, and the contest for chairman of the county commission as well.
Those who aren’t hardcore GOP will need a bit of background. Agenda 21 is also known as the “Rio Declaration on Environment and Development,” and was adopted in 1992 at a conference in Brazil.
In most languages, the report is a vacuous U.N. document that declares the need for a “sustainable” world environment. But to a certain segment of those who speak Republican, it is a secret declaration of war.
At the state GOP convention in Columbus last month, delegates overwhelmingly condemned Agenda 21 as an attempt to “outlaw private property and redistribute wealth.”
At a debate in Paulding County two weeks ago, state Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, criticized Republican challenger Bill Carruth for labeling Agenda 21 a mere “conspiracy theory.”
“It’s not a conspiracy. This is the real McCoy,” said Heath, in dead earnest. “Their vision is to essentially conquer the world through limiting everything we do, incrementally taking our liberties away from us.”
Revolution through rezoning and land-use restrictions, in other words. In these circles, “sustainability” is no longer a friendly word.
Which brings us back to Cobb County and the contest for county commission chairman. Republican incumbent Tim Lee, one of those who helped create the project list for the transportation sales tax, has three challengers.
The most prominent is former commission chairman Bill Byrne, who has taken aim at Lee and the Atlanta Regional Commission, the planning agency that attempts to coordinate growth in the 10-county metro area. The agency also did much of the behind-the-scenes footwork on the transportation sales tax.
In an interview, Byrne all but declared the ARC to be an agent of the United Nations and its plan to erase suburbia.
“The T-SPLOST is an ARC-driven agenda. It is not a Georgia [Department of Transportation] or General Assembly-driven agenda,” said Byrne, a 2002 GOP candidate for governor.
The ARC has designated the U.S. 41/I-75 corridor as a future path for high density, high-rise growth, Byrne pointed out. “That’s Agenda 21 101.”
Another example: As commission chairman, Byrne was an advocate for constructing four-foot wide sidewalks along county roads for use by pedestrians and joggers.
The county is now constructing an eight-foot wide multi-use trail along Dallas Highway in west Cobb. “That’s Agenda 21,” Byrne said. “Bicycles and pedestrian traffic as an alternative form of transportation to the automobile.”
According to the former commission chairman, the architects of the Agenda 21 blueprint in metro Atlanta are Tad Leithead, the current chairman of the ARC and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, whose city would benefit from increased centralization.
Byrne also singled out Sam Olens, the former Cobb County commission chairman who is now attorney general, as an Agenda 21 activist – for his alleged advocacy of a regional government.
At this point, we lack enough evidence to summon Leithead, Reed or Olens, and demand to know whether they are now, or ever have been, card-carrying participants in a U.N. cabal.
And some conservatives might wonder whether a United Nations famous for its bloated bureaucracy and incompetence can also be the force behind a cunning, 20-year plot aimed at world domination of this nation’s zoning boards.
But strip away talk of the United Nations and what you have is an argument for preserving the sovereignty of metro Atlanta’s many, many local governments. I was the moderator at a Tuesday forum hosted by the Cobb County Republican Women’s club, which featured Lee, Byrne and two other candidates – financial consultant Michael Boyce and retired businessman Tim Savage.
Is regional cooperation and coordination good for Cobb? I asked.
“Regional cooperation is essential, but is not mandatory,” said Byrne. “When you take an approach of regionalism, or regional government, you lose the concept of local control.”
Lee delved into metaphor. “I have a home, which I take care of. It’s my responsibility. But being part of a neighborhood, it’s important to me that my neighborhood thrives as well. It’s my responsibility as a citizen to not only take care of my place first, Cobb County, but it’s also my responsibility to see that the region is succeeding as well.”
And that’s as clear a line in the debate over metro Atlanta’s transportation sales tax that we’re likely to see.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider