Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In Response To Michael Nicastro's Criticism of Agenda 21 Conspiracy Theorists

On August 1, 2014, former President of the Central Connecticut Chamber of Commerce, Michael Nicastro, wrote an article in the Bristol Observer where he criticized those residents, and elected officials, of the city of Bristol who are calling for a referendum, or a public vote, on the Renaissance proposal for the redevelopment of the downtown area.  As a Bristol resident, I have my own views on referendums, as well as what I would like to see happen in the downtown area, however, I would like to use this posting to address another issue that Nicastro brought up in his article: United Nations Agenda 21.

In the article, Nicastro denounces an unnamed group of Bristol residents, who are opposed to the Renaissance proposal, calling them "conspiracy theorists", for their concern about Agenda 21:
"One of the more vocal anti-investment in downtown groups is born out (and now tries to downplay or hide) of the UN Agenda 21 conspiracy theorists.  You know the ones where the government of the world (code the UN) is trying to steal our homes, force us all to live in dense urban environments, take away our cars, and mandate that we all use public transportation"
Nicastro suggests that this group "seriously find a different hobby", "stay off the internet", and concludes by calling Agenda 21 "bunk", or nonsense, saying "it has no place in the discussion about our downtown".

It is important to point out why Agenda 21, and its associated programs, and organizations, do have a place in the discussion of major redevelopment projects taking place across the state of Connecticut, including Bristol's downtown.


Agenda 21

If someone were to do a quick search, in an attempt to try to find an easy answer, in regards to the explanation of Agenda 21, they would most likely come across a description that simply explains Agenda 21 as a "non-binding, voluntarily implemented action plan of the United Nations".  This sounds harmless, until you take the time to read Agenda 21, learn the principles, and find out how the recommendations are being implemented in your area.

Many people do not have the time, or patience, to read, take notes, and analyze, all 351 pages of the Agenda 21 .pdf online document, as well as the associated conventions and reports.  (Sidenote: The hard copy print version of Agenda 21 is also available through the United Nations.)  The report A Critical Analysis of Agenda 21 - United Nations Program of Action was written, with quotes from the actual agenda, to give interested readers a summary view of some of the key points of the program.  These key points include: the collectivization of land, the reduction of national sovereignty, population control, and much more.  To give just one example of how this Agenda has made its way into Connecticut, we will use one of the other key points of Agenda 21: the reduction of private motor vehicles.

In an effort to begin transitioning local development projects away from a focus on private motor vehicle use, Agenda 21 recommends governments promote the use of "non-motorized transport", "high-occupancy public transport", and "safe cycleways and footways".

Agenda 21 in CT

There are organizations in Connecticut, which have the same stated objectives as Agenda 21, lobbying the state legislature, in an attempt to pass laws, and regulations, that would conform to the agenda.  Many of these organizations have direct connections with the people, and organizations, responsible for the creation of Agenda 21.  One such organization, in the area of private motor vehicle reduction, is the Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC).

The TSTC describes itself as a "non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to reducing car dependency in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut".  As pointed out in the analysis Agenda 21 in Connecticut: The Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the TSTC is funded by many foundations with direct connections to Agenda 21, including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF).  In an official document obtained from the RBF website, it is clearly described how the RBF has financially supported various climate change propaganda-efforts, including strengthening the implementation of Agenda 21 up to, and exceeding, the 1992 Earth Summit, the conference which resulted in the Agenda 21 document.

Seeing as how most people can not be persuaded to give up their personal vehicle, voluntarily, a critical thinker should be asking how exactly these organizations, working in conjunction with local governments, plan on getting people out of their vehicles, and onto bikes, walkways, and public transportation.  The answer is that they will force you out of your vehicle, by supporting laws, and regulations, that would increase the cost of owning, and operating, a private motor vehicle.  This can be done in a number of ways, such as increasing the tax on gas, or cars, or increasing the overall cost of obtaining a drivers license.  The Tri-State Transportation Campaign has their own tactics to increase the cost of owning, and operating, a private motor vehicle, which includes lobbying to have tolls put up on all Connecticut interstate highways, pushing for the state to install red light cameras at intersections across the state, and winning passage of legislation which increases the amount of traffic tickets given out by police officers.

While you are slowly being forced out of your vehicle, the infrastructure is being set up to accommodate this future society of limited mobility, and mass public transport.  One major project that has been the cause of controversy in the state of Connecticut, which relates to this discussion, is the New Britain-Hartford busway, also known as CTFastrak.  CTFastrak is a bus rapid transit line currently under construction between Union Station in Hartford and downtown New Britain.  It is essentially a road built exclusively for buses, no private motor vehicles.  To build this busway, the state has had to take people's properties through eminent domain, even building the bus line straight through a cemetery (picture below):

Photo Courtesy of Building Debt Downtown

The main goal of CTFastrak, according to the State of Connecticut's official website, is "to reduce traffic congestion on I-84, which in turn will reduce energy use and air pollution."  To the average person, "reducing traffic congestion on I-84" would mean expanding roadways and/or creating other roadways, but when the state's goal is to "reduce energy use and air pollution", that means they are looking to take/force many people OUT of their vehicle.  A supporter of the busway, Connecticut Representative Tony Guerrera stated, in an interview with local news, that the real goal of the busway is about "getting people off of the roadway", and continued, "that was the most important. About 18,000 per day."  I wonder if these bureaucrats like Rep. Guerrera plan on counting themselves as part of the 18,000 people that will willingly give up their personal vehicle, for public transportation?

Important to note is the connection between CTFastrak and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.  Not only did the TSTC support the busway because it will take cars off the roadway, but the TSTC had also sponsored a trip for local, and state, officials, to visit areas where Transit Oriented Development (TOD) has already occurred, in an effort to persuade the officials to support CTFastrak.  One sample area shown to the unnamed state officials was Lowell, Massachusets, where "smart policies have helped", according to the TSTC.  The goal of this project is to "maintain the walkable environment", meaning "the city basically take[s] parking out of the development equation", according to Assistant City Manager Adam Baacke.   In the city of Lowell, the article continues, "No parking is required for non-residential uses in downtown."

As previously quoted, Michael Nicastro ridiculed the people who believe that there are plans to "take away our cars", however, it is obvious that the current government trend is in fact to force us out of our cars.  Quite interestingly, Nicastro once gave a presentation which was critical of the CTFastrak busway, where he seemed to be aware of at least one government policy intended on reducing private motor vehicle usage, the Federal CMAQ Improvement program.  In the presentation (video below), Nicastro mentions how the CTFastrak busway is partially funded through CMAQ funding, which is intended on reducing motor vehicle usage, or as Nicastro puts it "If you take carbon based automobiles and trucks off the road, you can get CMAQ money."

 (Around the 8:45 mark, Nicastro discusses Federal CMAQ funding)

Through CMAQ funding, the Federal government looks to "influence trip-making behavior", "reduce vehicle trips", and "induc[e] drivers to change their transportation choices."  The Federal CMAQ Improvement Program states that any plan for a transportation project that would "add new capacity for SOVs" (Single-Occupant Vehicles) would be ineligible for this funding.  Examples of programs that would be eligible for CMAQ funding, as stated in the federal document, include:
  • "programs to limit or restrict vehicle use in downtown areas or other areas of emission concentration particularly during periods of peak use"
  • "programs to limit portions of road surfaces or certain sections of the metropolitan area to the use of non-motorized vehicles or pedestrian use, both as to time and place" 
  • "restriction of certain roads or lanes to, or construction of such roads or lanes for use by, passenger buses or HOV"
  • "programs and ordinances to facilitate non-automobile travel, provision and utilization of mass transit, and to generally reduce the need for SOV travel, as part of transportation planning and development efforts of a locality, including programs and ordinances applicable to new shopping centers, special events, and other centers of vehicle activity; and programs for new construction and major reconstructions of paths, tracks, or areas solely for the use by pedestrian or other non-motorized means of transportation when economically feasible and in the public interest. "
Of course, as previously pointed out, the plan is not to simply persuade you to reduce your vehicle trips, but to force you out of your vehicle, by making it too expensive to drive.  In this context, the CMAQ program has suggestions which include adding tolls to roads that do not currently have tolls, taxing drivers by every mile that they drive, and more.

Terminology 

One aspect of this Agenda that makes it difficult for the average person to connect it with events occurring in their local community is the term 'Agenda 21' not being used by politicians, planners, etc., when advocating Agenda 21 policies.  This secrecy is a deliberate tool used by the top level planners, to mask their true goals.  Don't take my word for it, read what J. Gary Lawrence had to say.  J. Gary Lawrence served as an adviser, under President Bill Clinton, on the President's Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD), and when giving a presentation in London, England, June 29, 1998, titled, "The Future of Local Agenda 21 in the New Millennium", he explained how the terminology of Agenda 21 must be changed, when attempting to influence local legislation, to prevent conspiracy theories about a UN takeover, or a one-world government, from arising:
"Participating in a UN advocated planning process would very likely bring out many of the conspiracy-fixated groups and individuals in our society such as the National Rifle Association, citizen militias and some members of Congress. This segment of our society who fear ‘one-world government’ and a UN invasion of the United States through which our individual freedom would be stripped away would actively work to defeat any elected official who joined ‘the conspiracy’ by undertaking LA21 [Local Agenda 21]. So, we call our processes something else, such as comprehensive planning, growth management or smart growth." [emphasis added]
The American Planning Association (APA) is another top level planning group that attempts to hide their affiliation with Agenda 21.  The APA went as far as to put out a document titled, "Agenda 21: Myths and Facts", with misleading information, in an attempt to convince the reader that they have no affiliation with the United Nations, or Agenda 21, and that Agenda 21 "does not infringe on the sovereignty on any nation or the independence of the local planning process."

This denial by the APA is questionable, seeing as how an official APA newsletter, from 1994, two years after Agenda 21 was introduced, describes how Agenda 21 policies are being used by planners at the levels of federal, and local, government.  In an article titled, How Sustainable Is Our Planning?, land use planner Robert Odland, discusses the origins of the term 'sustainable development', how it is being used more frequently by planners, and it's connection to Agenda 21:
"[A] new family of terms is appearing more frequently in planning : sustainable development, sustainable cities, and sustainable growth.  What do these terms mean and what are the implications for planners?   The concept of sustainability and sustainable development came into the public debate with the publication of the World Commission on Environment and Development report, Our Common Future, (often known as the Brundtland Report).  This report defined sustainable development as the ability to meet the needs of the current population without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." 
Important to note, the report mentioned by Odland, Our Common Future, is referenced in the children's version of Agenda 21, Rescue Mission: Planet Earth, as an integral part of the overall agenda, mainly for setting out the idea of sustainable development.  (For a more in depth look at the children's version of Agenda 21, read the report Children's Edition of United Nations Agenda 21: Blatant Anti-Human Propaganda.)  Sustainable development is an important term to understand the origins of, because nearly every part of the Agenda 21 program revolves around the idea of creating, what they refer to as, "a new global partnership for sustainable development."  You can go as far as to say that sustainable development is Agenda 21, and on the official APA website, it is stated that "The American Planning Association and its Chapters support planning policies and legislation at all levels of government that support and implement sustainable development policies." [emphasis added]

Continuing with the article written by Robert Odland in the APA newsletter, Odland goes on to explain the connections with sustainability and Agenda 21, as well as how various groups have been formed in the US to implement Agenda 21:
 "Vice President Gore’s book, Earth in the Balance addressed many of the general issues of sustainability. Within the past year, the President’s Council on Sustainable Development has been organized to develop recommendations for incorporating sustainability into the federal government. Also, various groups have been formed to implement Agenda 21, a comprehensive blueprint for sustainable development that was adopted at the recent UNCED conference in Rio de Janeiro (the ‘Earth Summit.’).”
Downtown Bristol

Now that we have a basic understanding of how Agenda 21 makes its way into local planning projects, and the terminology used, let us explore the current downtown development proposal for the city of Bristol.  Michael Nicastro tell us that Agenda 21 "has no place in the discussion about our downtown", however when we juxtapose the various documents that relate to the downtown project, with the terms earlier shown to be connected with Agenda 21, we can see a clear association.

The APA associated Renaissance Downtowns is the organization that was designated by the City of Bristol as Master Developer for the Revitalization of Downtown Bristol Project in May of 2010.  Renaissance has over ten billion dollars in downtown development agreements with local governments, throughout the east coast, and was looking to receive $6 million from the tax payers of Bristol, just for the first phase of their master plan for the downtown area, which includes the construction of new apartment buildings with a total of 100 units.  The full master plan looks to concentrate thousands of housing units in the downtown area.

The stated goals, and objectives, of the Renaissance proposal are filled with Agenda 21 concepts, and terminology.  As pointed out earlier, the term 'sustainable development' is synonymous with the Agenda 21 plan, and Renaissance states that their master plan will "demonstrate the downtowns true capablities [sic] for a transformative & sustainable development plan." [emphasis added]

Referring back to the quote by J. Gary Lawrence about having to call Agenda 21 by other names, "smart growth", and "comprehensive planning", are two more terms that are synonymous with Agenda 21, and the official website for Renaissance in Bristol has a section discussing, and advocating, "smart growth", which includes a section on "Comprehensive Planning as a Tool to Attract Funding".

Renaissance explains why they use comprehensive smart-growth redevelopment principles in this way:
"The Presidential Administration and Congress, through their Sustainable Communities initiative amongst other efforts, is looking to award federal dollars to large scale, smart growth redevelopment efforts, especially those that focus on transit oriented development within our nation’s downtowns...With this in mind, a comprehensive downtown redevelopment designed to meet these objectives stands a far greater chance of receiving significant funding dollars and/or resumption of rail than smaller, isolated efforts. In short, the government is not looking to provide just streetscape grants and sidewalk benches – they are looking for transformative projects focused on our nation’s downtowns that will serve the triple bottom line of social, economic and environmental responsibility."
Another Agenda 21 concept that is used in the Renaissance plan is the idea of "complete streets".  Complete Streets is a program guide in the area of street construction, and design, which de-emphasizes the use of motor vehicles in it's planning designs, and attempts to include more 'sustainable' means of transport, like public transportation, bicycling, and walking.  Complete streets legislation passed in the city of New Haven in 2008, after being lobbied for by the previously mentioned Tri-State Transportation Campaign.  The Complete Streets design manual for the city of New Haven describes how "enforcement efforts are a crucial component to achieving safe, complete streets", and even encourages the police to issue more tickets to help the implementation of the program.

The Renaissance concept plan also says that they "will employ the principles of complete streets", which will "reduce the need for use of the auto."  The Renaissance plan says that "Bristol has very limited transportation options", and even bemoans the, in their opinion, high level of car usage in the city.

Another term used by Renaissance, that is more Agenda 21 jargon, is 'livability'.  In the analysis Agenda 21: The Rockefellers Are Building Human Settlement Zones In Connecticut, it is shown how the terms 'livability' and 'complete streets' are essentially the same concept, even used interchangeably by various associations.  The previously mentioned Complete streets manual states that "Complete streets plays an important role in livable communities."  Livability, like the complete streets program, focuses on street design that reduces automobile use.  Former Secretary of the US Department of Transportation, Ray LaHood, describes livability this way:
"Livability means being able to take your kids to school, go to work, see a doctor, drop by the grocery or post office, go out to dinner and a movie, and play with your kids at the park, all without having to get into your car." [emphasis added]
Regional Planning

The city of Bristol's downtown development plan is not an isolated project, as most people would think, instead, it is part of a much larger 'comprehensive' plan that stretches across many towns, and cities, as well as across the state border.  As pointed out in the analysis, A Critical Analysis of Agenda 21 - United Nations Program of ActionAgenda 21 looks to override, or limit, the sovereignty of local democratic government, blurring, or even erasing, the existing boundaries that separate cities, municipalities, states, countries, etc., and create new, or strengthen existing, regional boundaries.  The decision making authority of these regional organizations will supersede that of your elected governments.

The power of these regional organizations comes from the authority granted to them to allocate federal, and state, grant money.  Because these regional organizations control where the grant money goes, they are able to use this power to persuade towns, and cities, to go along with their plan, otherwise the town, or city, will have to pay for the cost of maintaining their infrastructure themselves, without receiving any of the resident's tax money back from the State and Federal government.

An essential report to read, to understand how these regional organizations are reducing the sovereignty of local towns, and cities, is the 2007 Connecticut General Assembly's Legislative Program Review
& Investigations Committee report on "Connecticut’s Regional Planning Organizations".  In this report, it states that "[i]n some towns, local officials are concerned about a loss of autonomy", in regards to signing on to a Regional Planning Organization (RPO), and describes the tactics used by the RPO's to overcome the will of these towns who may want to go rouge, and not follow the RPO plan:
"In those types of situations, the property tax burden on the individuals in the town that goes it alone can become very heavy. However, until the town reaches a financial tipping point where efforts to balance the provision of services with the cost of those services cannot be maintained, there may be little desire to seek out a regional solution. Only then will the town and its citizens be ready to give up some independence and join together with other towns for the provision of goods and services in order to stabilize or reduce local property taxes. "
Let us take a look at some of the ever-expanding regional organizations that are continuously gaining more decision making authority, which are affecting the city of Bristol.  Bristol is a member of the Central Connecticut Regional Planning Agency (CCRPA), which allocates federal and state grant money, as well as plans and promotes regional policies and programs, for two cities and five towns in the area.  (Sidenote: Michael Nicastro is listed as a member of the Transportation Committee of the CCRPA.)  Interesting to note, the thirteen regional planning organizations in Connecticut, will soon be merged into eight organizations, further separating and restricting the decision making power of local elected-government.

It is important to realize that these regional organizations are not democratically-elected institutions.  Giving more power to these type of non-democratic organizations, is another goal of Agenda 21, which views elected, local, public representatives, as a threat, because these representatives have the power to make, or change, laws, thus having the power to interrupt the Agenda.  Local government making their own decision, or "unilateral policy action", is viewed as an endangerment to the system that is being set up.  Agenda 21 calls for countries to "restructure the decision-making process" and "overcome confrontation" in order to "remove the barriers to progress caused by bureaucratic inefficiencies."

It is not a coincidence that the Renaissance plan is very similar to the CCRPA's Long Range Transportation Plan, both having goals to create 'livable' cities, implement 'complete streets' policies, as well as other Agenda 21-related terms and concepts.  The CCRPA has openly stated, in their annual report for 2012, that they have coordinated with Renasissance Downtown on the development of downtown Bristol.

To blur the distinction of current borders even more, the CCRPA has become part of an even bigger regional organization called the Sustainable Knowledge Corridor.  The Sustainable Knowledge Corridor is an area that covers 80 cities and towns, over 1.5 million people, and includes areas in Connecticut, as well as Massachusetts.  The CCRPA has begun coordinating their regional plan, with the consortium of the Sustainable Knowledge Corridor.

The Sustainable Knowledge Corridor was funded into existence when the Obama administration created the Sustainable Communities Initiative.  The Sustainable Communities Initiative was formed out of a partnership of three federal agencies, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  (As a side note, the previously mentioned Ray LaHood, was the secretary of the DOT at the time.)  The goal of this initiative is to combine, and coordinate, federal plans of transportation, with housing, and environment, as well as develop 'livability'.

The lead organization coordinating the federally backed Sustainable Communities Initiative, in Connecticut, is the Regional Plan Association (RPA).  The RPA is funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a foundation that, as previously detailed, played a role in the creation of Agenda 21.  The Sustainable Communities Initiative operating in Connecticut calls itself The New York-Connecticut Sustainable Communities Consortium.  This Consortium marked "the first time that a bi-state consortium of cities, counties and regional planning organizations from the two states have come together to support coordinated regional planning and implementation."  This Consortium receives "support and encouragement" from the One Region Funders Group, an organization funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, and says on their website that "the Consortium will expand economic opportunity by developing livable communities and growth centers around key transit nodes in the most extensive and robust transit system in the nation." [emphasis added]

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD)

The concept of focusing development around "key transit nodes", or Transit-Oriented Development (TOD), has been mentioned a couple of times in this analysis, but requires its own brief explanation, and connection to Agenda 21, Connecticut, and the downtown development of Bristol.  TOD projects are being built in preparation for a future where the vast majority of people will be forced, by various increases in the cost of living, to move into multi-unit housing, along a transit line, whether it be bus, or rail.  In the Connecticut section of the NY-CT Sustainable Communities Consortium's website, it is stated that through "transit-oriented development projects" these livable communities will "provide much of the area's job and housing needs for the next generation." [emphasis added]  Notice the use of the word "much".  Again, these livable communities are places where people will be forced, financially, to live in, and where mobility will be severely limited.

Interestingly, the Hartford Business Journal, in a story discussing the drastic change being implemented to the transportation infrastructure, essentially reveals the plan:
"This vision for Hartford — and, largely, Connecticut — seeks to create a city where people can move around freely without cars, either walking or biking short distances while fully developed transit networks can take them longer distances inside the city and beyond. Driving a car, particularly without passengers, would be discouraged as parking, highway congestion, and the rising price of fuel makes it less economical."
The previously mentioned CTFastrak bus line, and the surrounding development taking place, is an example of, and is described as, Transit-Orientated Development.  In anticipation of a mass migration of people to this area, there are hundred-plus unit high-rise residential buildings being constructed along the bus route.

Connecting this to the downtown Bristol project, Renaissance has stated that they develop TOD projects because they stand a higher chance of receiving federal funding through federal programs like the Sustainable Communities Initiative.  The Renaissance downtown Bristol project is described as "transit oriented", and the CCRPA has designated the area as future a TOD site.  The CCRPA has also helped secure funding for CTFastrak.  The CTFastrak busway appears to be the means of transit that development will be oriented around in the area, as there is plans to have direct service to Bristol, stopping at City Hall, directly across from the Renaissance Depot Square Downtown project.

This analysis is meant to provide a basic understanding, and explanation, of how the downtown redevelopment project in Bristol is part of a much larger vision being implemented at the state, federal, and international level, and not just an isolated project as many would believe.  This larger vision is of a future world with extremely limited mobility, where the majority of people will be living in small, high-rise apartments, in densely-populated communities.  To gain a greater understanding of this Agenda, an interested reader should follow the links provided, and read the suggested literature.

(This is a video presentation of the article you have just read.)

Related Articles:

  • Agenda 21: The Rockefellers Are Building Human Settlement Zones In Connecticut - March 26, 2014 (link)
  • Children's Edition of United Nations Agenda 21: Blatant Anti-Human Propaganda - February 02, 2014 (link)
  • Parents Beware: The United Nations Looking To Give Children of Connecticut Special "Rights" - December 28, 2013 (link)
  • A Critical Analysis of Agenda 21 - United Nations Program of Action - November 01, 2013 (link)
  • Agenda 21 in Connecticut: The Tri-State Transportation Campaign - August 22, 2013 (link)