Fear global, act local

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In January, when Fifth District Republican Congressman Robert Hurt opened his new Charlottesville office, Jefferson Area Tea Party (JATP) Chair Carole Thorpe told C-VILLE that the group planned to turn from the federal government to local issues. Representatives of the local tea party, part of the national swell of groups calling for reduced government oversight, would attend local government meetings and offer their perspectives, said Thorpe.

Dr. Charles Battig, a member of the Jefferson Area Tea Party, asked during a recent forum whether local government staff would attend an ICLEI conference at the Virginia Military Institute. “If so, I wonder at what county or city cost?”

During the last month, Dr. Charles Battig made a few such appearances at a meeting of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. Battig, a JATP member and president of the Piedmont Chapter of the Virginia Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment, asked county supervisors to withdraw from ICLEI—the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, now simply called “Local Governments for Sustainability.”

Both the city and county are dues-paying ICLEI members; Charlottesville pays $600 annually, while Albemarle pays $1,200. Both governments also used ICLEI software to calculate baselines for local greenhouse gas emissions. In 2006, Charlottesville signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement and pledged to reduce emissions to 7 percent below 1990 numbers by next year. In 2007, Albemarle signed a similar pledge to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050, as part of the Sierra Club-sponsored Cool Counties program.

For Battig, those goals equate to big government intrusion—specifically, the United Nation’s Agenda 21 sustainable development program—in local affairs.

“These ICLEI based groups have their eyes on revising the County Comprehensive Plan to codify their self-determined energy and land rationing quotas and levels of imposed sacrifice,” Battig told supervisors in February. One month later, he was back to ask supervisors to “save funds spent on the ICLEI agenda.”

Last week, Battig brought his message to a likeminded crowd, a group of 90 or so local residents assembled for a JATP forum called “The Deceptive Agenda of Sustainability in Local Government.” The event was billed “non-partisan.” But Battig and his fellow speaker, American Policy Center President Tom DeWeese, preached the same message to a crowd that seemed uniformly receptive to nixing local support for ICLEI.

“The root of sustainable development is about a planned central economy and redistribution of the wealth,” claimed DeWeese. Global warming, he added, is the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated” on humanity, and the threat by which groups like ICLEI exert greater control over individual property rights.

The only elected officials in attendance were Republican supervisors Ken Boyd and Duane Snow. Boyd told Charlottesville Tomorrow last week that he regretted voting to join the Cool Counties initiative, and elaborated to C-VILLE that he was concerned the program would restrict energy consumption by locals. “I don’t think that big government should dictate that to our citizens,” said Boyd. “Or regulate it, for that matter.”

Now approaching its second anniversary, the Jefferson Area Tea Party is “not so much a block of votes as people engaged in the process,” Boyd told C-VILLE. Near the conclusion of the event, one of the attendees chose to engage Republican Supervisor Snow.

“Duane, you voted for a raise in our taxes,” said the man, referring to a failed vote by Albemarle officials to raise the property tax rate by 1 cent per $100 assessed value—a Tea Party no-no. “Eliminate ICLEI and you’ve got your money.” 

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