Minnesota cities need to beware of the GreenStep Cities Program.
First they need to know that although it is promoted as being funded by nonprofits, foundations and grants, in order to promote sustainability, the fact that the primary funding source for the program is the Met Council is left out of their presentation. The GreenStep Cities website lists all the nonprofits that supposedly promote the program but what they don’t tell you is the Met Council funds all the staff positions in these organizations that promote the GreenStep Cities program.
GreenStep lures unsuspecting Mayors and Councilmembers with promises of recognition, awards and eligibility for grants if they follow the “steps” which are designed to replace local autonomy over a city’s planning process and turn it over to the Met Council, a central planning authority of unelected officials with taxing authority that is known for its overreach and insatiable desire to expand it’s base.
GreenStep sample ordinances are designed for more central government control over building regulations and private property use. Based on Agenda 21/Kyoto Protocol (that part is left out too) these recommended ordinances guide cities to restrict economic development to their strict guidelines, impose mandatory building codes for residential and commercial development and restrict land use which all drive up the already exorbitant costs of affordable housing.
A resolution signed by the city council is required to enroll in the program to qualify for awards at the League of Minnesota Cities annual meeting. Once the resolution is signed it is mandatory the city provide Met Council access to the data it collects implementing each “step.” Some of this data collected will likely be municipal, commercial and residential energy usage. That raises some serious privacy issues.
The City of Plymouth was ready to enroll in the program last month with a proposed resolution on their consent agenda. After pulling the item from the consent agenda and listening to several speakers articulate their concerns about GreenStep Cities, the council decided to take no action that evening.
This is not a program to casually enter into without understanding the ramifications on privacy and local government autonomy. Of course cities should implement best practices to conserve energy, promote recycling and plan development. They are free to review and implement any of the GreenStep Cities “steps” if they really make sense for their city without signing anything. The best council decisions are based on what’s best for constituents, not awards and recognition. The grants come with strings as well. Let’s hope cities do their homework on this before passing a resolution they’ll regret.