Sustainablists Behaving Badly, Part I
by Carole Thorpe

Guest Editorial Graphic Schilling Show BlogOn June 8, roughly 300 people packed Lane Auditorium for a work session held during the regularly scheduled Albemarle County Board of Supervisors meeting to discuss several items relating to Sustainable Development in our community. This work session was called directly as a result concerns raised by the Jefferson Area Tea Party during its five-month fight to end County membership in ICLEI – International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives. While hiding behind a façade of benign environmentalism, ICLEI promotes the implementation of a radical political agenda called U.N. Agenda 21 that seeks to establish big central planning in local governments, effect behavior change through local Codes and Ordinances, eradicate individual liberty, and destroy private property rights.

In conjunction with its battle against ICLEI, the JATP also encouraged the County to rescind its participation in the Cool Counties initiative and reject its partnership in a County/City/UVA consortium under the administration of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC). The TJPDC applied for and was selected to receive a $999,000.00 federal grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to fund a three-year joint implementation plan of the recently re-branded “Livable Communities Planning Project” in our region.

Needless to say, the JATP stirred up a hornet’s nest in this community with its first foray into local politics – and the tone for many Sustainability proponents was set in the weeks and days preceding the work session.

Several weeks ago, Supervisor Dennis Rooker openly snickered at the JATP during more than one BOS meeting at which its members presented their concerns with supporting evidence to the Supervisors in a respectful, responsible manner. He referred to the JATP (which has many members who are taxpaying, home-owning County residents) as an “outside group”. Mr. Rooker hypothesized and warned that the real agenda of the Tea Party might be to infiltrate local government. And he repeatedly pronounced our assessment of ICLEI and its goals as “ridiculous”.

Jack Marshall (President of ASAP – Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population) stood before the Charlottesville City Council on June 6 to ridicule and demean the JATP with a pompous presentation rich in political rhetoric, but poor in meaningful factual information. Amazingly, he did not repudiate or challenge one iota of what I said to the Councilors just moments before he spoke but instead unwisely chose to adhere to his prepared hit-piece, which resulted in making him sound rather foolish.

Later in the same meeting, Mayor Dave Norris took an opportunistic swipe at the JATP, saying he was “very disappointed in its embrace of some pretty extreme conspiracy theories regarding organizations like ICLEI…” and he hoped “…that the Tea Party will return talking about some very legitimate issues regarding spending and overspending and debt.”

I have a message for Mayor Norris. He should resign himself to being perpetually “disappointed” by the JATP since we will continue to focus on more than just fiscal matters, especially whenever our founding principles of limited government and individual liberty are under attack by organizations such as ICLEI. I recommend that he and his fellow City Councilors remove their own “ideological blinders” (a term he used towards the JATP during the same statement) to seriously examine the true agenda of ICLEI and kick it out of the City of Charlottesville.

But back to the County work session, where the noticeably high turnout of Liberal-Progressives could be reasonably attributed to the call for non-County residents to descend on Lane Auditorium to protect City and UVA consortium interests. Together with a veritable Who’s Who from seemingly every Sustainability or Progressively minded organization in our area, the typically more conservative County residents were outnumbered roughly three or four to one.

The behavior of this majority in the auditorium was appalling. They regularly joined together to mock, jeer, and demean those who thought differently from them. The hypocrisy of those who often presume to exalt themselves as the standard bearers of civil discourse—especially above those in the Tea Party movement— was on public display in disgusting and revealing fashion.

Chairwoman Ann Mallek, presiding over what she announced would be a safe zone for free expression, did precious little to intervene throughout the evening to shield the twenty-one citizens who spoke in opposition to the Sustainability agenda from ridicule. Laughs, hisses, and other noises underscored the statements of nearly every citizen who came to share their concerns. Incredibly, a number of Sustainability advocates actually turned their backs on these citizens as they spoke—many of them also added snide prefaces when they themselves spoke, identifying themselves as being from the U.N. and making other tea-party-mocking allusions—without even a hint of reprimand from the Chair. I’m not suggesting that anyone’s freedom of speech should have been violated, but clear rules for etiquette were established and announced prior to the first speaker’s comment. These rules along with the instruction for every speaker to identify his or her local area of residence disappeared quickly.

Throughout the evening and continuing for several days after the meeting, members of the JATP have related to me their individual accounts of being called names or receiving offensive gestures in the auditorium and lobby. During a break, I witnessed two women approach two JATP ladies seated in the row in front of me, demanding that they put down a sign that had an innocuous saying on it. And unbelievably, one man speaking at the podium spun 180 degrees around to extend a firm arm and pointed finger directly at me in the center third row, yelling something to the effect of “THERE’S the problem!” I had to chuckle because despite over thirty years of theatre experience and having “seen everything,” I still can’t abide to watch an overacting ham.

On a night during which many conservatives endured unwarranted, unprovoked, childish, offensive, and intrusive incidences, I, personally would not be immune to being a target. However, my incident was unique in that it occurred at the hands of prominent public official. Details to follow in Sustainablists Behaving Badly, Part II.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Ms. Thorpe, in regards to Dennis Rooker referring to JATP as an outside group possibly infiltrating local government, are you willing to state that your group takes no money from David Koch or other outside sources, and are you willing to pledge that you won’t?

    And if you can say yes to both of these – Charlottesville-Albemarle being a moneyed area, and Tea Party “populists” by and large being well to do themselves – are you willing to criticize Tea Party organizations that do take outside funds while advocating local rule? And are you willing to criticize Rob for regularly mocking and demeaning Mayor Norris, Tom Periello, and other political figures who think differently than he does?

    As someone who is liberal on environmental issues and finds specious your argument that voluntarily cooperating with the ICLEI amounts to submitting to centralized planning, I’m embarrassed and disgusted by the treatment you and your friends received in Lane Auditorium from people on my side. I certainly don’t remember hearing you speaking of your opponents in such an offensive way. But many people on your side do it all the time.

  2. MS Thorpe,

    I am shocked by the accusations you make on your editorial. I had heard that the Tea Party was prone to rewriting history when it did not suit their program but I did not realize it was also employed on RECENT history.

    I was at that same BOS work session. I was impressed and at times annoyed with what strong control Supervisor Malleck held over the crowd. She repeatedly gaveled down the crowd when EITHER side behaved badly. There were plenty of mutterings and snickers and glares from the Tea Party side as well.

    At the beginning of the meeting, I was handing out talking points and placards supporting sustainablity and was told by a member of your delegation that I looked like I was from the UN. When I spoke, I mentioned the encounter saying that I was not from the UN and in fact I lived in Scottsville. I suggested that Superviosr Dorrier who has known me most of my life could vouch for me. I heard many many other people say they were from the local area. (There is some question about your county of residence…is it Albemarle or Greene?) I sited the “outsiders” I had heard speak, they were from Charlottesville and Nelson County…all our neighbors and all effected by decisions made our BOS._

    I agree that it was an emotionally charged meeting. However, the behavior you described simply did not happen. I believe you owe Supervisor Malleck an apology and should realize that people who do not agree with you read this blog as well and will hold you to a higher standard called the truth.

  3. Excuse me.. I was there and what Carole said was the truth.. If anybody there can really, an I mean, really look in the mirror and say to themselves that the above,i.e the cackles from the crowd, the one woman who stood up and said, Unlike the person that was before me I don’t hate the government..(I heard that and thought Where did that come from??) that Dennis Rooker was not rude and that Ann Mallek was doing her duty to keep order, didn’t happen. Well I can truly say that you do not know the difference between truth and lies…

  4. Ken:

    You have my word that the JATP has never requested nor received one dime from the Koch Brothers or any outside group, including national tea party organizations such as Tea Party Patriots or Tea Party Express. I am not Queen of the Tea Party and others in leadership have a vote in our decision-making, but I can pledge that as long as I am the chairwoman I will vote against accepting such outside funding and strongly encourage others to do the same.

    Each local-based tea party is an independent organization. As such, it is the decision of their leadership whether to accept or decline outside funding. But I would hope and encourage any group or individual to “walk their talk” and act in ways consistent with their stated policies.

    I am not Rob’s Keeper and his radio show is the domain of himself and WINA. My responsibility is with the JATP. If you have issues with Rob’s conduct, they will be more suitably directed toward him.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree about ICLEI.

    Ken, it speaks well for you are able to set aside your political views to objectively assess and criticize the behavior demonstrated by “your side” on June 8. I trust that you are fair enough to not hold me responsible for the behavior of any conservative-anywhere-anytime (I’m not THAT powerful :), but I am proud to say that the conduct of the members of the JATP – which has been under particularly intense scrutiny in this community since its inception over two years ago – has been proven to be exemplary.

    Thank you for your comments.

  5. Ms. Rogers:

    I resent your implication that the Tea Party rewrites history. This is a hyperbolic statement for which you offer no supporting evidence.

    I stand by my assessment of Chairwoman Mallek’s inconsistent control of the June 8 BOS meeting. I did not say she failed 100% of the time, but the majority of outbursts of laughter and such passed by without her comment or intervention. Your standard may be different from mine, but I would hardly describe her control of the meeting as “strong”. I do not know where you were seated or for how long you stayed at the meeting, but I sat in the third row of the lower center section and never left the auditorium from the beginning to the very end.

    I don’t know what “mutterings and snickers and glares” you witnessed from Tea Party members. If individuals behaved in such a manner, I am unaware of it — and I do not recall any group outburst from our side other than some early applause in support of a comment from a speaker (which did not mock or insult anyone, but was nonetheless swiftly and justly quieted by Chairwoman Mallek), and some understandable groaning later in the evening in weary response to the ongoing group laughter and mocking from Sustainability supporters. As a group, the Sustainability opponents behaved in a respectful manner and it was viewed favorably by the BOS in contrast to the behavior of Sustainability supporters.

    I am disappointed that someone made the comment you described about the U.N., but I cannot confirm that it was made by someone associated with the JATP. There were other-affiliated conservatives in attendance that night. Regardless of the source, I do not approve of such behavior. Thought I cite a few individual incidents in my editorial which were brought to my attention, the crux of my comments address the collective behavior on display in the auditorium during the work session. It would be less than fair of you to deny that the repeated source of group-generated disruption came from the Sustainability advocates who outnumbered conservatives roughly three or four to one.

    I am sorry you were not paying attention or did not hear me state my street address and status as Mr. Rooker’s constituent in the Jack Jouett District before I gave my statement to the BOS. I do not know why there should be any confusion about my place of residence but for the record, I have lived in Albemarle County since moving to Virginia in 1995.

    I expected that part of Chairwoman Mallek’s control of the meeting was to uphold the rule that everyone signed up to speak to the BOS would state their place of residence prior to making their statements. She failed miserably in this and prompted this information only a few times early on from people who failed to state it outright. By my tally – which I wrote on paper beginning with the first speaker – 50 of the 80 plus speakers DID NOT state where they lived, nor were they asked where they lived in follow-up by Chairwoman Mallek. The remaining speakers said they lived in either Albemarle County, another county, or Charlottesville City.

    Some of those 50 people who did not identify their residence may have been County residents…but we’ll never know, will we?

    In my opinion, this was negligence on her part. Everyone attending had a viable interest in knowing how many speakers represented the opinions of the residents of Albemarle County, to whom the BOS owes its PRIMARY obligation of representation. While their decisions on the matters discussed at the June 8 meeting will undoubtedly impact Charlottesville City, the priority of the Supervisors is to represent the County residents who elect them. The residents of Charlottesville City elect Councilors to City Council to represent them. While collaboration and cooperation are worthy aspirations – in my opinion, they are only so when they do not compromise the autonomy, integrity, and responsibilities of the independent parties involved.

    Ms. Rogers, for you to deny that the behavior I reported in that meeting ever happened is frankly astounding. I assure you I neither owe nor will make an apology to Chairwoman Mallek. It’s nothing motivated by my personal or ideological opinions, but my honest account of what I saw and heard.

    Furthermore, I not only expect but invite others to hold me to “a higher standard”, as you say, in the leadership of the Jefferson Area Tea Party. I think my record of conduct and credibility with the JATP speaks for itself. I have received consistent praise from the media, ideological opponents, and most notably elected officials -including former Congressman Tom Perriello and Mayor David Norris – for the responsible manner in which I serve as chairwoman.

    Thank you for your comments.

  6. Ms. Thorpe obviously makes partisan assessments of people’s behaviors. There was an astounding level of disrespect on the tea party side.

  7. Thank you for your comments.

    And thank you for yours, Carole. I respect your intention to keep JATP free from outside money and influence. No, you’re not Rob’s keeper. It’s just ironic that the guy who gives you this forum to complain about incivility is so routinely incivil himself.

  8. Cville Demon-Cat:

    I gave numerous, specific examples to back up my statement. Where are yours? How can anyone take your two sentence hit-and-run statement seriously without a shred of detail?

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