A work session of the Wake County Board of Commissioners on Monday turned into a debate about whether proposals to control the county's rapid growth are part of a one-world movement to deny individual freedoms.
What ignited the debate was the work session's first order of business: a task force report on "sustainability" that recommends how Wake should approach its future energy and resource needs.
Paul Coble, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, used the topic to propose a Wake County property rights commission. He said it would ward off any chance that United Nations-style notions of sustainability could infringe on individual rights in Wake.
"We'd far rather err on the side of property rights than on collectivism,'" said Coble, who is campaigning for the Republican nomination for the seat in North Carolina's 13th U.S. Congressional District.
Task force members denied any one-world influence and said they had only responded to the board's request for the study, which still faces a vote in a regular meeting at an undetermined date.
Commissioner Erv Portman, a Democrat from Cary, called the idea of international intrusion into Wake citizens' constitutional rights "crazy" and "cockamamie."
"I think it's just blatant grandstanding," Portman said, who had a heated exchange with Coble, then proposed endorsing the entire task force report.
Republican and Tea Party groups across the country have recently stepped up opposition to local efforts to direct growth and conserve energy. They say such rules are part of an international effort to curtail individual rights as expressed by "Agenda 21," a broad, but non-binding resolution passed in 1992 as part of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Tom DeWeese, a Washington, D.C.- based activist for individual liberty, spoke on the topic at a November meeting of the Tea Party-affiliated Triangle Conservative Union.
"Sustainable development is not a local idea or a local policy," DeWeese said, according to a video on the Triangle Conservative Union website. Instead, it's about government control of virtually every aspect of life, he said.
Coble's recommendation, which was strongly questioned by the board's Democratic minority, came in a package of responses that he proposed for a later board vote.
The meeting was packed with a combination of supporters of the 60-member task force and those who viewed its report as a violation of individual rights and part of international agenda.
Coble said that while he endorsed some of the task force's conclusions, the board should make clear that it rejects the findings of Agenda 21. The U.N. resolution made recommendations on the environment and social justice under the umbrella of sustainability.
The task force was directly and indirectly influenced by the international body's notions of sustainability, Coble said during a break.
The county should instead base its decisions on local factors, with a new, commission-appointed board to watch for violations of individual rights, he said.
Majority Republicans Coble, Tony Gurley, Joe Bryan and Phil Matthews generally supported Coble's proposed resolution, while the board's three Democrats - Portman, Betty Lou Ward and James West - raised questions about the proposed response.
"I'm hearing something about a worldwide agenda," West said. "Is there a worldwide agenda in this report?"
Matthews, a Tea Party supporter, said it's a good idea to be on the lookout for international movements that seek to influence local actions. There's no mention of the United Nations in the task force's report.
"We spoke to the issues that were given to us," said Karen Rindge, a task force member and executive director of the grassroots advocacy group WakeUp Wake County.
WakeUp Wake County is nonpartisan, but generally supported positions taken by the Democrats who overturned a Republican majority on the county school board.
The report contains two minority opinions, one from a scholar at the conservative John Locke Foundation and one from Wake County Taxpayers Association member Wynne Coleman, both of whom served on the task force.
"The philosophy and definition of sustainability, or sustainable development, is incompatible with and destructive to the principles and nature of our Constitutional Republic," Coleman wrote.
Audience member John Markham, of Knightdale, said at the meeting that the "one-world movement" quietly infiltrates local governments to influence their actions. Markham was one of several members of the Wake County Taxpayers Association, an anti-tax group, who attended.
"They sneak around and don't go up front," Markham said. "They will not approach the federal government."
Before the task force report, county officials made a case that Wake already pursues sustainable practices, from environmentally sound construction to LED lighting to paperless billing.
Items aimed at improving the environment are supposed to have a four- to six-year payback.
"If it doesn't make financial sense, generally we don't do it," said David Cooke, county manager.