Florida Tea Partiers: Urban Planners Are Using Mind Control, Tyranny in Sustainable Development Project Seven50
The latest bugaboo troubling local Tea Party groups is Seven50, a long-range (50-year) plan for sustainable development in the seven South Florida counties from Indian River through the Keys. Though the planners of Seven50 have no enforcement power whatsoever, the Tea Party sees the hidden hand of a "tyrannical" federal government at work, acting on behalf of a U.N. scheme, no less, to rob them of property and "liberty."
The planners are alleged to use a form of mind control, "the Delphi technique," to brainwash the public. A flash point of Tea Party concern are remarks made by Seven50 consultant Andres Duany, a world-renowned, Miami-based architect/urban planner. Some environmentalists on the political left are also Seven50 skeptics. But the big noise and paranoia comes from the political right.
Still under development, Seven50 is the creation of the Southeast Florida Regional Partnership, a collaboration of counties, cities, and civic and business groups that originated in 2010 with $4.2 million in funding from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. It describes itself as:
a blueprint for growing a more prosperous, more desirable Southeast Florida during the next 50 years and beyond... to help ensure socially inclusive communities, a vibrant and resilient economy, and stewardship of the fragile ecosystem in what is quickly becoming one of the world's most important mega-regions.
Since June 2012, Seven50's planners have met with the public in a series of "summits" and workgroups. Meetings of its executive committee have also been open to the public. The planners make heavy use of social media.
Opposition to Seven50 in Indian River County emerged last fall around a conspiracy-minded group called the American Coalition 4 Property Rights, which propagates the U.N. "Agenda 21" charge. (Seven50's response to that claim is here.)
The group's claims have the support of Vero Beach Mayor Craig Fletcher, who at a May 21 City Council meeting denounced Seven50 as "a bunch of radicals" and planner Duany as "a clown." (Here's video of his version of what he heard at a May 17 Seven50 meeting.) Indian River County Commissioner Bob Solari has voiced similar complaints. The City of Vero Beach, Indian River County, the Town of Indian River Shores, and the Indian River School Board have opted out of the Seven50 process.
Duany's May 17th remarks have become a Tea Party talking point. Brilliant and imperious, the planner expressed his frustration with tax burdens and regulatory red tape (which conservatives should love) but spoke incautiously, using the phrase "ruthless capitalism" and referring to the supposed efficiencies of fascism. Of Seven50, he said, at one point, "You should just trust us and pass it."
We reached out to Duany for comment on the Tea Party rebellion. In an email he replied:
As it happens, after a few months (in a a somewhat hostile listserv) of making the case FOR the standing of the Tea Party, I had some recent experiences that forced me to better understand the challenges. I found that about 10% of them are extremely thoughtful and well informed; they are essentially correct in their concerns. Then at least 50 percent are active because they have undergone some awful personal experiences with red tape. They will respond to any prospect of reducing bureaucracy*. And there are the rest who, I was shocked and disappointed to find out, are simply inaccessible to reason and act like maniacs. Incidentally, the Left seems to have similar ratios in its makeup. Fortunately, I think that I can probably engage with that 10-60 percent that is open to reason.
Seven50's critics on the left include the Sierra Club's Drew Martin, who has diligently attended planning group meetings. His take is diametrically opposed to the Tea Party's, arguing that planners are "driving the process to the right." "The flavor of the discussions is very developer-driven," he told New Times, "and not so much on environmental concerns."