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.

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.

 

“Private wells must comply with water restrictions”: Minnetrista 2040 Comp Plan

A private well ordinance to force compliance with city watering restrictions is intended to be adopted by the City of Minnetrista according to its 2040 Comprehensive Plan. The water-restrictionsplan is on the council’s agenda Tuesday, September 3 at 7pm for final adoption.

I’m assuming Minnetrista residents on private wells do not support this because they are already financially incentivized to restrict water usage. Many rural homeowners on private wells have their own personal water treatment systems with iron filters and water softeners that require the use of bleach and salt. They typically are frugal with their water use because it’s expensive not to be. There is absolutely no reason to impose this regulation on private wells that don’t impact the city’s water system.

private well ordinance
Page 227 Minnetrista 2040 Comprehensive Plan

“GreenStep Cities” wants control over your property

A huge turnout at last night’s presentation on the Met Council and League of MN Cities’ backed program called “GreenStep Cities” indicates widespread concern over the program that bills itself as a voluntary, harmless program promoting sustainability. The problem is the steps in the program whittle away at a city’s autonomy and their residents’ property rights and open the doors to even more central planning and social engineering by the Met Council.

crowd greensteps mtgThirty cities were represented at the meeting last night with mayors, council members, state representatives, and citizens coming together to learn about how to protect their cities from the lure of recognition and awards their public officials get when they sign on to the program. Awards and recognition eventually turn into promises of grants to entice cities to turn over their autonomy as they progress through the GreenStep steps.

slide from gs meetingMinnetrista has been considering the GreenStep Cities program and actually lists it as a goal in their strategic plan but so far has not signed the resolution the program requires for official enrollment. Hopefully seeing the concern around the region will make them aware that this “voluntary” program is more than what meets the eye.

Thank you CD3 Republicans and Northwest Metro Republican Woman for taking the initiative to bring awareness about this program and the harm that results from it.

 

Resident with short term rental concerns gets personal meeting with mayor and city staff members

Just wondering how many residents in Minnetrista have called the city to complain about their neighbor and had the mayor and several staff members show up to help.

Minnetrista July 15 council meeting
City Administrator announces staff meeting with resident

The city passed an ordinance last year banning short term rentals of less than 30 days duration anywhere in the city. So far there have been no citations for violating the ordinance, however a resident has been complaining about the rental property next door which, so far, appears to be complying with the ordinance.

The mayor and several staff members scheduled a meeting this week with the resident to discuss his “concerns about what’s going on at the home next to him.”

Now that’s what I call service.

Related story: Minnetrista considers short term rental ban

 

GreenStep Cities Red Flags

GREENSTEP CITIES RED FLAGS: Mayor Whalen invited a representative from the GreenStep Cities program to address the city council last August. Enticed by the lure of recognition and their seemingly benevolent mission, “Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a voluntary challenge, assistance and recognition program to help cities achieve their sustainability and quality-of-life goals,” it gained legs with staff and was advocated again at the city council’s strategy meeting in February.

When the GreenStep representative was asked last August about where their funding came from they said it was primarily nonprofits, foundations, and grants. What they failed to disclose is they have two major funders, one of which is the Met Council. And we all know the Met Council’s allegiance to local government autonomy.
GreenStep Met CouncilRed flag number one: Not being transparent when asked a direct question about funding sources.

In conversations over the weekend I learned from one of our state legislators that the GreenStep Cities program is “Repackaged from what was formerly known as Agenda 21 (for the 21st Century) GreenStep appears to be an obfuscated friendlier name for the same thing.”

Those unfamiliar with the United Nations Agenda 21 need only know it didn’t receive a warm welcome in the United States, with states passing resolutions condemning it and one even passed legislation prohibiting government involvement in the program.

Red flag number two: Changing the organization name when it’s reputation is exposed as undermining federal, state, and local autonomy.

The GreenStep Steering Committee is comprised of representatives from several nonprofits that are all climate change evangelists working together with the University of Minnesota, League of MN Cities, and various state agencies.

GreenStep Steering CommitteeRed flag number three: Human caused climate change is a controversial topic and there is no diversity represented on the steering committee.

This is not a program that will benefit the Minnetrista electorate. In fact, the sample ordinances they provide to cities appear to be designed for more government control over building regulations and private property use.

No award from the League of MN Cities is worth this.