Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 2, 2013

Second Leelanau commissioner cites conspiracy theory

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — SUTTONS BAY — A second Leelanau County commissioner cited a United Nations-based conspiracy theory as a reason for killing a jobs-creation plan in the county, an audio recording shows.

Commissioner Debra Rushton cited the Agenda 21 conspiracy theory during an April 8 meeting about a plan for economic growth in Leelanau County. The county was considering contracting with the Traverse Bay Economic Development Corporation on a new jobs strategy for county residents.

Rushton, after listening to presentations from economic development officials, said she heard "buzzwords" from Agenda 21, which warns against a one-world government controlled by the United Nations.

“Somebody mentioned the word Agenda 21, the so-called theory of Agenda 21,” Rushton said during the public meeting. “But when I listen to you people speak, some of (our) board members, some of the guests, some of the facilitators, I hear all the buzzwords. Words have meaning. Words have meaning.

“So, to say that that theory or that agenda is not present here today, I disagree,” Rushton said.

The recording of Rushton's comments was obtained by the Record-Eagle from Leelanau County through a Freedom of Information Act request. She did not respond to a phone message and email seeking comment for this story.

The recording shows Rushton made her comments about Agenda 21 buzzwords moments after listening to presentations from Doug Luciani, president of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce, and John “Chip” Hoagland, managing partner of Cherry Capital Foods. They had asked the county to partner with the Traverse Bay EDC to develop the plan, which called for being a “national leader in smart, sustainable economic development” and to explore job growth in “clean applied technologies."

The plan required a $25,000 payment from the county over two years to craft a thorough economic development strategy.

The commission instead killed the idea, then disbanded the county’s long-running economic development corporation.

Agenda 21 is a conspiracy theory promulgated by radio talk show host Glenn Beck, which centers on the fear that the United Nations is seeking a one-world government to encourage biodiversity and sustainable development. Beck since wrote a book about the theory. His website that promotes the book states "a violent and tyrannical government rules what was once known as America. The old, the ill, and the defiant all quickly vanish. Babies belong to the state."

Rushton is the second county commissioner to cite Agenda 21 in their decision to vote against the economic development proposal. Commissioner Karen Zemaitis, in an interview with the Record-Eagle, also cited Agenda 21 as one of the reasons she voted no.

“The things that they have produced in their strategic plan, they are for many of the things in Agenda 21 — the same language,” Zemaitis said. “It is something I do not want in my area. They want to have people live in cities only, which would eliminate living in our county because we don’t have any cities here. They want us to use public transportation only, which again is unworkable in our community.”

Luciani said he was disappointed in the commission's decision to reject the contract with the EDC, noting the premise that the EDC is following Agenda 21 principles is not true.

"The first I had ever heard of Agenda 21 was within the last year; I’ve not read anything about it," Luciani said. "This proposal was simply an economic development proposal."

"I really couldn’t believe what I was hearing," Luciani said of Rushton's comments. "It couldn’t be any further from the truth."

Luciani said he hopes to reignite job growth discussions with county officials.

"We are not abandoning our economic development efforts in Leelanau County," Luciani said. "We will work with the townships and chambers of commerce …we know not everyone feels this way."