Probably too much has been written about the Tea Party movement already--which may be emerging as a distinctive voice in land use politics (see CP&DR Vol. 26, No. 15 August 2011)--but sometimes the urge to comment is irresistible. 

In a few short years the Tea Party movement has already proven itself as much a celebration of negativity as it is a political movement, no more so than when it dabbles in land use policy.  The latest comes from Lodi, where Tea Party activists last month convinced the city council to delay the acceptance of a $120,000 federal grant to help it implement SB 375.  That's right: the Tea Party hates Washington so much that it won't accept its money, even when that money is free. 

Why would they do such a thing? Because they do not want Lodi to come under the sway of nefarious undemocratic powers. 

Somehow the ghosts of Hamilton, Adams, Franklin, and Hancock have convinced Tea Party activists that SB 375 -- and seemingly all other manifestations of smart growth -- is a tentacle of the United Nations' "Agenda 21." I have to hand it to the Tea Party for a moment. "Agenda 21" does sounds menacing. What it really should be called is "Some nice things that countries and cities can do to ensure that they don't starve to death, exhaust their energy supplies, or fall into the ocean--but only if they want to."  

Be that as it may, the Tea Party seems to be confusing "conspiracy" with "something that's just a good idea." There are lot of good ideas floating around out there. If the U.N. were to say, promote nutrition, women's rights, education, and democracy, should we reject those things too? Oh yeah, it does

I'd say that this kerfuffle about smart growth is the opposite of a conspiracy. The last time I checked, the road to global domination did not being in Lodi. Crying about the UN is like praying that you'll sink the next putt. Jesus doesn't care about your golf score, and, well, I think it's safe to say that the UN cares even less about Lodi. 

If the creation of compact cities is really a conspiracy, then we can find its influence in slightly less obscure places. Maybe, New York, Tokyo, and London, for starters.  

We can certainly debate the merits of smart growth. In fact, we can debate the merits of SB 375. In fact, it would be a lousy piece of conspiracy mainly because many people think that it's not strong enough. Rather than force residents into urban high rises, it calls for 8% reductions in per capita greenhouse gas emissions. Eight percent means carpooling to the stock car races instead of driving in a caravan.  

Back to that $120,000. These funds aren't just for Lodi to conduct a grand experiment on an unwitting population. It's to fulfill a state mandate to implement SB 375, which assumes that managed growth is probably better than haphazard growth. That means that it's going to have to spend the money one way or another -- and if Lodi is like the rest of the cities in California, then it doesn't have the money. 

The reason it has to spend it is that a few years ago something called the democratic process wrapped its icy fingers around the State of California and caused the passage of SB 375. That process included open debates and votes by legislators (of both parties) and approval of the dude who was then the state's Republican governor. 

ArnoldBut it's no wonder that none of this fazes the Tea Party. The website of the California Tea Party Patriots still features that same governor on its website. It even urges citizens to "tea bag" him. I hate to break it to the Patriots, but Arnold is no longer in office. And has almost certainly been tea-bagged already. 

And if they don't know what that means, well, they probably can't figure out what smart growth is either.