GreenStep Cities Program Exposed

GREENSTEP CITIES EXPOSED – As I was about to publish this today I discovered that the GreenStep Cities program has removed the Metropolitan Council logo from their “About” page where this, below, was captured last month. Yep, it’s gone. Now they have it in small type in parentheses, to obscure it even more. Read on…

GreenStep Met Council

 

I was asked to speak last month at a Victoria city council meeting on concerns regarding the Met Council’s GreenStep Cities program. The program had recently been rejected by the city of Plymouth and had received less than glowing coverage in the press of late due to transparency issues and the Met Council’s agenda to extend control throughout the state by getting local governments to adopt their “model ordinances.” A GreenStep Cities representative presented as well.

The video below speaks for itself and highlights the deception and clearly partisan agenda of this program. For those that want to see the unedited version it is available on the city of Victoria’s website.

GreenStep Screenshot

The city of Minnetrista has not joined this program but the council has not voted not to either. The program is marketed as being voluntary but once adopted cities are pressured…or “encouraged” to progress through the steps as they compete with each other for awards at the League of Minnesota Cities annual meeting. Mayors are lured by recognition and awards and staff ends up spending their precious time measuring and reporting data to the Met Council instead of tending to city matters.

If you’d like to express your concerns about the program you may contact Minnetrista council members: lwhalen@ci.minnetrista.mn.us; mmolitor@ci.minnetrista.mn.us; pmortenson@ci.minnetrista.mn.us; jtschumperlin@ci.minnetrista.mn.us ; sbruce@ci.minnetrista.mn.us

 

GreenSteps voted down in Plymouth

Packing the council chambers with people wearing green t-shirts, green Hawaiian leis and green bead necklaces wasn’t enough to convince the Plymouth city council to adopt

a resolution implementing the Met Council’s GreenStep Cities program last night. In a 4-3 vote the council voted not to pass the resolution.

I was struck by the openness of the council’s proceedings giving everyone, on both sides of the issue, ample time to address the council. Many went over their allotted time and others yielded their time to others so they could speak longer. There was a genuine interest on the part of the council to make sure everyone, absolutely everyone, was heard.

I was struck as well by the discussion that followed by the Plymouth council members. Each councilor was recognized and given the opportunity to express their position, uninterrupted, for as long as they needed. No one’s motivations were questioned or discredited.

Issues like GreenStep Cities are polarizing for communities in the metro area. It was a testament to Mayor Jeff Wosje’s leadership that he allowed everyone the opportunity to be heard and expressed a sincere appreciation for each and every voice.

Ultimately the council decided to prioritize it’s own environmental agenda for Plymouth residents rather than adopt the Met Council’s GreenStep Cities agenda. To their credit the majority believes council decisions and policies should be made based on what’s good for Plymouth rather than getting awards and recognition from a Met Council program.

Councilor Prom, speaking about the controversy around the program being truly voluntary, commented “This is the most impressive push for a voluntary program that I’ve ever seen in my life.”

The city of Minnetrista has not adopted a resolution to join the GreenStep Cities program and my hope is they will choose, as Plymouth has, to put city residents first above an agenda driven by an outside, unelected organization that is pushing it’s reach into local governments to enforce what they subjectively believe are “best practices.” I think Minnetrista can judge that for itself.

Thank you to all the people that cared enough to show up, speak or just attended. It was nice to see a community involved and concerned for it’s future. Even nicer to see our representative government work the way it’s supposed to.

Cities still wary and apparently weary of GreenStep Cities program

I’ve been a vocal advocate protecting private property rights in Minnetrista from the overreach of the Met Council’s GreenStep Cities program. Some good work today from our friends at the Center of the American Experiment:

american experiment

Communities Still Wary of GreenStep Cities Program at 10 Year Mark

This week the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) heralds the ten-year anniversary of the GreenStep Cities climate change program that presses local governments to factor environmental sustainability into everything from budgets to ordinances, land use and long-range planning.

The program offers more than two dozen so-called Best Management Practices with 175 actions and lots of paperwork for participating communities. The recommendations include options that could significantly alter daily life like limiting parking places, reducing salt use in winter, mandates and bans on consumer products and packaging,  monitoring wood burning in fireplaces, encouraging keeping chickens and bees, even phasing in “bike, foot or horseback modes for police, inspectors and other city staff.” And that’s just the beginning.

On the GreenStep website and Facebook page, state officials tout the 131 cities and three Native American tribes involved in the program aimed at reducing communities’ “carbon footprint.”

Yet an American Experiment analysis reveals that a decade into GreenStep only a handful—a total of 15 Minnesota cities–has completed all five levels of the program. All but two did so within the last year.

At the same time, several cities have postponed or rejected participation in the increasingly controversial GreenStep program. Pushback from a group of concerned citizens led to a contentious public meeting in Little Falls that convinced local elected officials turn down GreenStep last year.

“We went in with about a dozen people and made a big stink,” said Greg Smith, a Little Falls resident. “We did our homework, we knew what we were talking about. We brought up all these issues and they promptly shut it down.”

The East Grand Forks City Council also recently discussed GreenStep but ultimately had as many concerns as the last time they passed over the program in 2014.

“At this point, it’s not on our front burner,” said David Murphy, East Grand Forks City Administrator. “We’re way up here in the northwestern part of the state and we try to stay off their (MPCA) radar as much as possible. We don’t go out of our way to invite them up here.”

RELATED: Plymouth Steps Back From Controversial GreenStep City Program

MPCA dangles the prospect of recognition by the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC), grants and voluntary membership and compliance to entice city officials to join the program. Major funders and supporters include the Met Council and McKnight Foundation, along with leftist environmental organizations like the Great Plains Institute and Izaak Walton League.

But the program’s demands on city staff time, risk to taxpayers and threat to local control led the suburb of Minnetrista to avoid making the commitment.

“What many don’t understand is that the League of Minnesota Cities, the Met Council and the city engineering and law firms on LMC’s advisory boards all work together to promote these initiatives by unelected officials which are designed to grow government, increase taxes and give these organizations more control over private property,” said Minnetrista City Councilor Shannon Bruce.

The vast majority of cities and tribes that do join GreenStep—nearly 85 percent—remain at the program’s lower three levels with benchmarks often already met like tree planting and LED lighting for street lights and buildings.

The GreenStep Cities website indicates Nisswa has remained at the entry level since 2012. St. Cloud, one of six cities where the MCPA will celebrate GreenStep this week, has been on hold at step two since 2011. Hopkins and Newport have remained at step three since 2013.

Very few communities advance to the last two levels of GreenStep, where the program that bills itself as voluntary, imposes requirements to measure, report and show improvement on numerous “city performance metrics.”

“I think cities just find that it puts a lot of pressure on staff and they just abandon it once they realize that,” Bruce said. “That was one of my objections when they came to speak to us.”

A decade into GreenStep Cities, many Minnesota communities clearly remain wary of the program’s objectives and likely impact on their quality of life.

Minnetrista on top 10 list of safest MN cities, but will we stay there?

We learned at our council meeting Monday night that Minnetrista is #6 on the list of top 10 safest cities in Minnesota according to the FBI’s uniform crime report analyzed here. Aside from an error in our population count (shows we’re over 10,000) the analysis confirms why people want to live in Minnetrista and being safe is up there on everyone’s list.

One of the reasons for our low crime rate is the fact our population is spread out over a large geographical area and we don’t have the density that’s found in cities with higher crime rates. Our population is more educated and our median home values are higher than many of the cities lower on the list. Our public safety department does a great job too.

bad guyLet’s hope Minnetrista can resist the pressures of unelected influences (Met Council, League of Minnesota Cities, MN Dept of Housing) pushing for higher density housing in Minnesota cities that will most assuredly affect not only our crime rate but our traffic volume as well. Minnetrista doesn’t have many options for accommodating more traffic as our land is constrained by lakes and waterways with new or widened routes being all but impossible. High density housing, crime and traffic are things to avoid, not invite.

Minnetrista is a special place, a safe place to raise a family where most people feel comfortable taking an evening walk down a trail without a can of mace in their hand. That could all change.

 

 

 

 

What’s wrong with the Met Council and Minnetrista?

What’s wrong with Minnetrista and the Met Council? One little word, “may,” that appears in our 2040 Comprehensive Plan mandated by the Met Council. Here’s the sentence: “The City of Minnetrista…will not permit activity that may conflict with the Metropolitan System Policy Plans.” That little word, “may,” tacitly gives the Met Council the right to shut down absolutely anything, any activity, they think “may” conflict with their plans, now or in the future. This overly vague term is intentional and designed to make Minnetrista comply with this unelected body’s vision of what it should be.

Whats wrong with Met CouncilWatch this excellent history lesson on the Met Council and how they’ve grown from a small, regional governing body for water & sewer to usurping local control over your city. I’ve asked the city council to consider removing this word from our 2040 Comprehensive Plan before adopting it.

 

Preliminary tax levy increased 5.87% and 2040 Comp Plan to come back for study

Monday was a long night for the city council with a full and challenging agenda. Unfortunately for Minnetrista taxpayers the council chose to adopt (4 to 1) the highest increase (5.87%) presented by staff for the 2020 preliminary tax levy, despite having hundreds of thousands of dollars that have been sitting in unused special funds for years with no foreseeable liabilities against them. We continue to raise taxes and debt special fundswhile cannibalizing our fund reserves, all the while having access to these public funds which, in my opinion, belong in our general fund reserves to give an accurate view of the city’s balance sheet. If the city needs to buy trees we can budget for them. If the city needs to purchase additional emergency sirens we can budget for them. Setting up “special funds” keeps this money out of the public’s view and, more importantly, out of the general fund and gives a distorted view of the city’s finances, which is used to justify tax increases year after year.

The preliminary levy increase may be lowered before the final levy adoption in December but it cannot increase any higher. December 2, 2019 was the date set last night for public comment on the 2020 final levy adoption. You’ll hear some council members defend their votes citing that the preliminary increase was reduced last year before the final levy was adopted. What you won’t be told is that it was done without cutting a single penny of spending and irresponsibly dipping into our general fund reserves.

The city’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan was on the agenda for final approval Monday night. I had some serious concerns about it noted here having to do with private wells, GreenStep Cities, inaccurate numbers projecting future water demand, and making commitments to revise or adopt future ordinances without the council having access to the wording of these ordinances. Council agreed to bring the plan back to a work session in October for discussion.

 

MN Cities beware of GreenStep program

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 Met CouncilGreenStep 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.