WHAT IS AGENDA 21?
Agenda 21 is an action plan adopted by the United Nations during a 1992 conference on the environment and development held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. The number 21 refers to the 21st century, and the plan centers on sustainable development while preserving the environment.
A 20-year-old United Nations plan has crept steadily into the local public discussion, with some local officials saying it is nothing more than a suggestion on how to make a community better.
But others say it is something to be feared, a guide to world domination and a guiding tool of Chattanooga government.
It is called Agenda 21.
The man who leads Chattanooga government said Agenda 21 is not the guiding principle for his administration and called the group leading the charge a "conspiracy theorist" group.
"When I first heard about it [Agenda 21] a few months ago, I had never heard about it and had to look it up," Mayor Ron Littlefield said.
The Chattanooga Tea Party has been talking for months about Agenda 21, an action plan adopted at a 1992 conference of the United Nations. The action plan calls for governments worldwide -- national, state and local -- to focus on sustainable development.
But tea party groups and others say there is more to the plan that intrudes on the private rights of individuals. They say the agenda proposes such things as trying to make people live closer to cities instead of giving them free choice, guiding such things as annexation to give cities more control of individuals and cities using code enforcement as a way to trump individual rights.
Mark West, president of the Chattanooga Tea Party, said the Republican National Committee passed a resolution last month on Agenda 21. The resolution said Agenda 21 is "a comprehensive plan of extreme environmentalism, social engineering and global political control."
West said if his group is made of "conspiracy theorists," then that should point to the RNC as being a conspiracy group as well.
"I guess we're all in this conspiracy boat together," he said.
Agenda 21 has been cropping up in political circles for months. Last week, the Chattanooga Tea Party hosted two speakers on Agenda 21. The topic also came up during a meeting at the Ooltewah-Collegedale Council of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce concerning the formation of the proposed city of Hamilton in the northeastern part of Hamilton County.
Agenda 21 also came up in November during a long-range regional growth plan meeting held in Chattanooga with government and nongovernment entities. During that time, tea party officials derided the meeting as a way to implement Agenda 21.
Littlefield said the tea party is starting to create more chaos than good.
"They're getting far more extreme," he said. "They're against anything that mentions governance or sustainability."
Chattanooga has a direct connection with Agenda 21. Dave Crockett, director of the city's Office of Sustainability, said Friday he attended the 1992 U.N. meeting in Rio De Janeiro as a local businessman. He said the idea of Agenda 21 was simply a way for governments to look at how they could do things better and think of how things could be "greener" in the process.
Examples include putting energy-efficient light bulbs in street lamps, trying to promote consuming food grown within 100 miles and also community issues such as crime or poverty, Crockett said.
Agenda 21's goal is to get measurable goals to make human life better.
"The only conspiracy is making the town better and saving some money," he said.
Crockett said he did not care if the tea party or other groups tried to use his presence at the U.N. convention as a way to suggest that Chattanooga is Agenda 21-driven. He said he never picked up on anything that seemed controversial.
"Don't tell me; hell, I was there," he said.
West said he sees things differently and knows that Crockett had direct involvement with Agenda 21.
"He's part of the reason we're struggling with this," West said. "He was at the scene of the crime, so to speak."
West said there is no question that the city knows about Agenda 21 because a high-level city administrator participated.
"It removes the implications for the mayor to say he was unaware," West said.
SERIES OF MEETINGS
Two men from Alabama, Ken Freeman and Don Casey, made a presentation to the Chattanooga Tea Party on Thursday night about Agenda 21. Casey said he's been informing people about it since 1992, and Freeman has been on the road discussing it since 1997.
Freeman likened the environmental sustainability movement to a religious worship of the earth. In his presentation to the Chattanooga Tea Party, he explained "how future generations are being educated to replace you. Our children and our grandchildren are being propagandized and brainwashed.
"Agenda 21 is their Bible, and the elimination of private property and individual rights is their goal," Freeman said.
Casey told the tea party members that Agenda 21 is real and "nothing here is conspiracy," and urged members to "dismantle progress" by talking to local officials about the U.N. plan.
The men displayed studies of wildlife migration and scattered memos from various states dealing with sustainability and suggested that the ultimate goal is to rid the continent of all non-native species, including wheat, barley and cattle.
During a meeting Wednesday at the Ooltewah-Collegedale Council, Chris Matthews, president of Friends of Hamilton, said he had heard about Agenda 21 and listed it as just another reason for residents to form their own town.
He said his group wants to make sure Chattanooga doesn't gobble up their community. He thinks Agenda 21 is helping to push Chattanooga's growth boundaries.
"I think there's certain people driving it," he said.
Littlefield also gave a presentation to the Ooltewah-Collegedale Council. After the meeting, he said the talk sounded familiar to him.
"I felt like it was 1971 and I was out in rural Tennessee and had to tell people, 'You have to be stewards of God's earth,'" he said.
Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...