The suburb of Victoria would become the first Minnesota city to withdraw from the controversial GreenStep Cities program overseen by the state Pollution Control Agency under a resolution Mayor Tom Funk plans to introduce at tonight’s city council meeting.
The MPCA program urges local governments to factor environmental sustainability and reducing their “carbon footprint” into everything from budgets to ordinances, land use and long-range planning. Yet a growing network of citizens and local elected officials view GreenStep as an unnecessary drain on city resources, risk to taxpayers and threat to local control.
“They make it sound like it’s really good but what they don’t tell you the whole time is it’s really taking local control away from the city and giving it to the Met Council and the people that write these policies,” Funk said in an interview. “The worst thing about this is it’s the taxpayers’ money being used to give the government bureaucracy more control over their money.”
Currently, 131 Minnesota cities and three tribal governments participate in the ten-year old program. But in recent months at least two cities, Little Falls and Plymouth, have voted down GreenStep in the face of heated opposition from residents. The suburb of Farmington also apparently no longer participates in the program with its status listed as “inactive” on the GreenStep website as of May 2019.
The GreenStep program includes more than two dozen so-called Best Management Practices with 175 potential actions and lots of paperwork. It starts out as voluntary but monitoring and reporting become mandatory about halfway through the program. Examples of recommended options to adopt include limiting parking places, reducing salt use in winter, mandates and bans on consumer products and packaging, monitoring wood burning in fireplaces, keeping chickens and bees, even phasing in “bike, foot or horseback modes for police, inspectors and other city staff.”
Victoria joined GreenStep Cities in 2012 and remains on step 2 of the 5-step program. Residents on both sides of the issue will be invited to make their case tonight to the Victoria City Council. It’s not clear if and when city councilors will vote on whether to make Victoria the first city to withdraw in GreenStep’s ten-year history.
“GreenStep takes time and effort and we have so many other things going on that I don’t want to put our limited resources into something that leads to losing control and transferring it to these unnamed unelected bureaucrats,” Funk said.
In addition to the MPCA, the program’s most prominent proponents and funders include the Met Council, Minnesota League of Cities and McKnight Foundation, along with leftist environmental organizations like the Great Plains Institute and Izaak Walton League.