A clash occurred May 17 (2012) between city official Dave Crockett and his hosts, the Chattanooga Tea Party, over whether his efforts at the Office of Sustainability are simply saving taxpayers money in disposing of rainwater or part of a concerted effort by multilateral foreign entities to subvert American liberties and bring Chattanoogans under a mesh of rules much like Gulliver’s being tied to the ground by tiny Lilliputians.
By David Tulis / Noogaradio 1240 AM 101.1 FM
The worldview struggle is not that at all, according to Mr. Crockett’s presentation. It’s more like a misunderstanding. The objections of the conservative activists about United Nations policy undergirding the city’s climate action plan and other programs are, simply, misfires, overeager readings of U.N. policy papers and international agreement paperwork.
They are irrelevant to the work of his office and overlook an important consideration for taxpayers: The saving of dollars by reasonable proposals to handle stormwater runoff.
The suggestion of arguments at cross purpose came at Mr. Crockett’s lecture to 30 tea party members. The talk was followed by an extended rebuttal presentation by Gregg Juster, a member of the group. A hostile Q&A session followed, with each side making efforts to be forbearing and patient.
The activists’ main concern is preservation of constitutional liberties, property rights and a reversal of a process in which the federal establishment and its private owners make a show of ceding control of the levers of power to organizations of foreign jurisdiction, namely under the auspices of the United Nations. Their civic labors to corral and delimit “sustainability” are largely reactive and defensive. They are as much about exposing U.N. policy threads as about trying to win converts with a positive approach, a defense of free markets, self-government and the blessings of constitutional limitations on the state.
MR. CROCKETT’S method was one of indirection and identification. Mr. Crockett’s personal manner is very country, very genteel, even courtly. There was a sort of soliloquizing from Mr. Crockett in private conversation that seemed to deflect sharp questions or curveballs, a sort of friendly burble that suggests he is a man of good faith, like a small town trader in a William Faulkner novel whom you can trust up to a point.
So loquacious is Mr. Crockett that we were among the last people to exit the hall from the last table left apart by a cleanup volunteer.
He sought to create identification by offering credentials as a small-town Southerner with roots in the world of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon. Town government was on the shoulders of members of the Lions Club and churches, he said, with nary an officer on the payroll.
In his lecture he formulated a nuanced, detailed argument with data about grants, outlays, proposals and money-saving schemes here and in other cities. Though it may have appeared outside the scope of tea party anxiety, his talk was all business, laden with references to 25 years of city public works.
So distrustful were members of the audience that at least three zingers fell flat from Mr. Crockett’s lips. Complaining about top-down bureaucracies, he said: “A lot of these big federal agencies *** the ideal meeting is where no one shows up. And they don’t do it until they’ve already formulated the plan. So if they want you to have an opinion, they’ll give it to you.” I may have been the only one to chuckle.
His focus is less on environmental results than on the taxpayer dollars saved by pursuing the green agenda, he said. So dismissive is he of scientific conflicts in environmentalism that he said about global warming, he said, “I don’t care if the tooth fairy is causing it.” The job of his office is to do sensible things, saving money the main one. He doesn’t care what people believe about the green agenda. “I’m a business guy,” he insisted. For example, he cares less for water saved than the money pocketed in drying up a wastewater problem. He cares less for reducing waste to the landfill than for counting cash from savings in reduced waste flow.
“I’ve gotten involved in water because I believe we’ve wasted F$100 million, and I was there arguing for doing it a different way 15 years ago. Now we’ve got another chance.” He said that as long as his office endures (not past the end of the year, he indicated), he will work on the water problem and the climate action plan.
TEA PARTY ACTIVISTS pointed with concern to the city’s membership in Iclei, the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, a club of governments interested in the sustainable development idea. Tea party members view city involvement with the group as a betrayal of genuine local interest and localist perspective.
“Iclei ain’t got anything to do with me,” Mr. Crockett bellowed. “I’m Scotch-Irish. I vote in Republican primaries, but I vote for Democrats. I’m not taking a cue from either party. One doesn’t have the answers and the other doesn’t know the questions are. I’m just not a party guy. I’m Scotch-Irish independent, and I am going to do what I want to do. I don’t know what Iclei does, and I guarantee you, it doesn’t have a darn thing to do with my office, or with me, or with any of our people. That’s just the way it is. If you don’t like Iclei — that’s fine. I don’t like a lot of stuff. But it hasn’t got a dang thing to with me.”
He said he doubts critics of Iclei would be mollified if the city dropped its membership.
MARK WEST AND HIS FRIENDS are willing to listen to the genial city official with the long greenie record. But they have done too much reading into the goals of the global elite, who act not in secret, but very publicly and with great charity. The patriots have been supported for years in their labor by the work of a notable Tennessean, Henry Lamb, who has published since the 1980s the journal Eco-logic in Hollow Rock, Tenn., west of Nashville, and who operates Sovereignty International, a environmentalist group that favors private property. Two of Mr. Lamb’s many essays were among the tea party handouts.
Since the early 1990s the federal government has been overseen by people who contend that their control of landowners is vital to national security and planetary survival, that federal and global control of the economy is vital for favored industries, and that “sustainable development” means only development approved by proper authority. So fear property rights activists.
Messrs. Crockett and West squabbled up to the end of the event whether the green agenda really injures local people’s rights. “We won’t solve these discrepancies tonight, but they are here,” Mr. West insisted as Mr. Crockett grumbled about an earlier point. “In this instance,” Mr. West went on, “I will take what is black and white in print versus what is an interpretation of an issue.”
Mr. Crockett may be a man of good intentions, he said, but Mr. Crockett isn’t a permanent fixture on the scene. The tea party has been doing its tedious chore of reading the record and connecting the dots, as it were. Mr. Crockett seems partly to admit the accusations, but also to deny them. He doesn’t treat them seriously.
The Agenda 21 program, he said, is a way of localizing a national environmental agenda, he indicated, allowing for local government input. To a question about bringing Agenda 21 to Chattanooga, Mr. Crockett made an offhand nolo contendere: “Guilty I guess. I don’t know.”