Co-sponsored by Futurewise and Sustainable Connections (the lucrative non-profit that’s so heavily subsidized by local government), our local left-leaning friends were treated to the “Complete Streets Livability Forum and Walk” featuring Road Diet proponent Pete Lagerwey. WE wondered at the time, “Why here, and why now? Is there a back-story?"
We did some dredging, and oh-boy – yes, there is a back-story. Here’s the scoop, and it's a very deep dredge. It may take more than one sitting to take this all in and connect the dots. There are a lot of links, but they're all worth following. Check as much as you can, and you'll get the big picture pretty fast.
You will find that "complete streets" and "streetscape" programs say transportation accessibility, safety, efficiency, and convenience, but proponents’ professed end game is social equity and a major makeover of our culture. This has an Orwellian flavor, if not Aldous Huxley's Brave New World totalitarian stamp on it.
Did WE find something behind the timing of the July "Complete Streets" event? Yes, and it didn't long to discover. The Washington State legislature passed a new “Complete Streets” funding bill this spring (see H.B. 1071) that had been in the works for over a year. It was signed by Gov. Gregoire on May 5th. Bingo! This workshop was held July 13, and the new bill went into effect July 22. What's in the bill? It offers 50:50 cash grants from DOT for community makeovers. And, it's written in a way that gives non-profits and community activists an inside track, lots of influence, in community planning. So that’s why the panhandlers -- whoops, experts – were trolling here.
And WE discovered that Pete Lagerwey didn’t just visit for the Futurewise-Sustainable Communities walk around town and the Pickford Theater event. He found time to make an “informational” pitch to the Whatcom County Council of Governments (WCOG) Transportation Policy Board while he was here. He was paving for policy.
Players: We discovered that Lagerwey was dismissed by the City of Seattle in 2007, to the chagrin of his progressive fans. We don’t know why...but that’s interesting. How long he's been connected to "Toole Design Group" we don't know. But we discovered that his long-time “Road Diet” pal Dan Burden (Glatting Jackson-Walkable Communities, Inc., which is a non-profit) began seeding the “complete streets” (post-carbon) mission here in Whatcom County in 2005. See Burden’s “Living/Walkability Audits” report that was a big hit with local “it takes a village” control interests. It's offered at the Birch Bay and east county "community organizer" sites, maybe others too. Read through Glatting Jackson's sustainability chatter. If you can bear a 35MB download, look through this highly revealing 143-page “webinar” dated 2009 to see what Dan Burden and the ilk have in mind when they talk about "the Next America" (see Page 42). [For an eye-opener, see "Road Diet" at this site's Buzzwords page.]
So, without a doubt this transportation improvement and “complete streets” movement goal is about far more than folks getting from one point to another. They want to change more than cities; they have their sights on rural areas too -- to change people's lives, to save the planet. Small wonder that Transition Whatcom, the anti-petroleum, post-carbon group promoted Lagerwey's visit and mission here. A growing band of folks are bent on making Whatcom County suit a singular vision -- their vision. But this isn't local by a long-shot. There's a National Complete Streets Coalition, plus a very partisan push for "complete streets" as a tool for change.
Political Connections: During our dredge, we discovered that "complete streets" is far from non-partisan. Check out the state House Democrats caucus blog post on the topic, about H.B. 1071. Jim Moeller who proposed the bill has been deeply connected to Transportation Choices Coalition for quite some time. Other politically plugged-in groups like Futurewise want the world to walk, bike, and take “transit.” WE found this grand 2009 Futurewise plan (remember the buzzword and acronym "Transit Oriented Communities," TOC's). We had a feeling it would be dished up to us in glowing terms -- and WE just learned today that Futurewise Whatcom is doing just that, loaded with endorsements as it's leader Cathy Lehman campaigns for a seat on Bellingham City Council. Surprise?
The long term goal of illiberal progressives is to transition the world away from private transportation as we know it. If the people resist, prepare to be framed as selfish people polluting the planet in toxic petroleum guzzling cars and trucks no matter how efficient or catalytically-converted the exhaust is. The left is planning for a post-carbon world and an overall “energy descent.” This goes far beyond "energy independence." It means to change our behaviors and lifestyles willfully, through governance.
National push: WE learned that ‘Complete Streets’ is part of a bigger – national and global sustainability movement. Browse this 2006 program package from this 'walkability" Pro Walk/Pro Bike conference package that “Walkable Communities” was involved in, along with Pete Lagerway’s “Toole Design Group." And of course, ICLEI has a dog in the hunt too. Watch for ICLEI's "Sustainable Transportation Guidelines" and/or "Transit-Supportive Guidelines" - ICLEI had a "complete streets" conference earlier this year in Toronto, Ontario. In the same vein, the Futurewise program is ready to roll. They've been getting a lot of practice pushing this into Spokane, using every justification imaginable from climate change, green energy (and transit worker) job creation, to public health. Whatever it takes they'll say, WE guess. It seems to be the "coin of the realm." It also appears that politicians in DC may be making wild assertions like "dangerous by design" to justify a "second stimulus" round of deficit spending for infrastructure, whether or not states and locales have unfit streets and roads. Much of this may arrive on our local doorstep through unfunded mandates.
What’s Already In Place Here: A lot of “complete streets” theory and lingo have been gradually adopted in city and county policy, ordinances, resolutions, and code. The Whatcom County Pedestrian And Bicycle Plan that was adopted by Whatcom County February 8th (by a 7-0 vote) included boilerplate that came straight out of the “complete streets” playbook. Almost every “project” in it calls for state and federal funding – a huge amount of funding, and taxes. And there’s no doubt that the advisory that worked on this plan update knew that "complete streets" H.B. 1071 was in the works – they framed the entire update to fit the pending “complete streets” bill. It was the major topic of those minutes - including a strategy for responding to resistance. There's a long history of similar chatter at other meetings, if you search you'll find the other minutes. Point: all this has been very political.
The word “streetscape” is already imbedded in Whatcom County Code – tied in many places to (surprise!) density transfers and other development “mitigation” schemes. This will flange quite nicely into Ruckelshaus and the "natural resources marketplace" that the "conservation" dream team wants to collaborate. There are so many references to "streetscape" in county code (the WCC's) we can't list them all here. Go to Whatcom County Code and search the word "streetscape." And here's the 2009 "streetscape ordinance" that was framed in a contorted way as an incentive, but it will be milked for all it's worth in the long haul. For another example, read these County Council "Board of Health" committee minutes to see how "complete streets" and transportation jump the track into the county's policy discussions about education and the health benefits of exercise.
The point is – what’s being presented as "simply improving transportation" carries a lot of water with it. It intends a virtual tsunami for social, cultural, and "economic" change. Just how 'voluntary' is all this? When only anointed/appointees and non-profits presume to represent the public, it's very involuntary. H.B. 1071 "making it so" doesn't excuse this serious assault on our individual liberty, to move freely about our daily lives in the manner of our choosing.
"Complete streets" and streetscapes are tools of heavy-handed control freaks eager to take hold of some very important reins (with a friendly smile), eased away from the grip of our elected representatives. Outsiders have a vision for our communities, and H.B. 1071 gives these groups money and the mechanism to do it.
Our elected officials have got to get wise and start saying "no" while the people of Whatcom County can retain an identity of their own. Abandoning us to the will of special interests through abrogation mustn't occur, however sweetly the lobbying sirens sing. We trust our officials to protect and defend our right to self determination. There's nothing more fundamentally American than that, and it must never be sold cheap for money and promises connected to these insidious "community makeover" transportation grants and social designs.