Editor’s note: This commentary is by Lynn J. Edmunds, of Wallingford, Vermont.
The Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) is coming to Wallingford in 2018. It is a nonprofit organization whose method of operation greatly resembles the way Vermont’s regional planning commissions interact with local communities when establishing town plans.
First there are local meetings and the survey of residents to determine what they would like to see in their town. This is followed by the forming of a local committee or commission that is charged with the development of action items to pursue the newly established agendas. At this point town government has become invested in these causes, and while residents may have selected them, most likely they were taken from a menu of topics the regional planning commission is promoting and came from outside the community.
At present Wallingford is working on its revised town plan. Leaders are guided by state planning manual Module 1, which says Vermont law requires the inclusion of 12 elements in any adopted municipal plan, and encourages inclusion of other topics like public health or climate change. We are assisted in this task by Rutland Regional Planning Commission, our local planning commission, which is charged with inserting these agendas into local government. While VCRD mirrors RRPC’s method of operation, it is more of a community organizing organization. The council’s job is to expand on and expedite agendas given towns by their regional planning commissions, and if possible solicit more through participation and involvement of town citizens. They claim to convene venues that empower citizens to contribute their ideas, dreams, goals and strategies, but whose ideas do we peruse when they provide the categories and topics?
One of VCRD’s stated goals is to model effective change at a rapid rate in two Vermont communities each year. But to understand the impetus for its existence, we must look at the United Nations and its global Agenda 21 and Agenda 2030.
At the United Nations Earth Summit in 1992, President George H. W. Bush signed on to Agenda 21, a non-binding action plan on the environment and development. Because it was not a legally binding treaty, the U.S. Senate did not debate or vote on it. However, the House of Representatives Resolution 353 supported its implementation. The following year an executive order known as the President’s Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD) was formed and the concept of a “sustainable America” was born. Vermont Council on Rural Development was an offspring of that conception, having been conceived in 1992. The groundwork for this concept had been laid many years earlier, around 1968, when Vermont established regional planning commissions throughout the state to work with local governments.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in 2015 established 17 “sustainable development goals”(SDGs) to further build on U.N. Agenda 21; this intensified effort was dubbed Agenda 2030 and set a time frame of 15 years for enacting these goals by participating member countries. That same year VCRD spun off The Vermont Climate Change Economy Council (VCCEC), which would acknowledge our commitment to U.N. Agenda 2030 and ensure our participation of its goals.
Good planning can be an important part of how our Legislature responds to changing times as lawmakers create laws and regulations that govern and protect us. But there is a danger in laws and regulations that come to us from outside our communities and seek to insert agendas in our name. This is when we become governed by special interest and not protected by our Republic.
The existence of VCRD and VCCEC bears testimony to the global goals of the United Nations, and the quest to establish them here in Vermont should cause us to reflect on how they could render the protections of our Republic useless. They bring us their dreams, then ask us for permission to achieve them; they tell us they are a neutral, nonpartisan mediator, yet they advocate for an agenda. Why are we being solicited?
Lynn J. Edmunds is a resident of Wallingford, Vermont.