CASPER, Wyo. — The logic in this debate shifts like snow in the Wyoming wind.
A handful of citizens met Friday night in Casper to hold an informational meeting on a proposed city zoning ordinance change. They believe that the change is driven by policy proposals from the United Nations to increase regulations on American citizens.
When challenged that the changes will actually relax regulations, opponents of the zoning change say that just means there were too many regulations in the first place.
Some opponents say they actually would support the change if the policy statements -- a short description of reasons for the change that do not become part of the city's code book -- are removed.
The proposed ordinance change would make it possible for personal service shops, small businesses or grocery stores to site themselves in residential neighborhoods, though they first must get approval from the both the city Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council.
But the change has been delayed by opponents who contest that "smart growth," the language describing the proposal, is part of a U.N. conspiracy -- a set of policy recommendations known as Agenda 21 -- to increase government regulation and erode personal property rights.
They also implicate the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and other government agencies.
Much of theory comes from a website, www.sovereignty.net. When pressed Friday night by Councilwoman Kim Holloway at the informational meeting, opponents could not say who wrote it or where their facts came from.
Holloway even asked one vocal opponent if he had read Agenda 21.
"How could you have read all of Agenda 21?" John Broome said in response. Holloway, however, said that she had.
Broome is a federal government employee himself -- he works for the Transportation Security Agency, a branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that has lately been criticized for violating the constitutional rights of airplane passengers by using see-through full-body scans and giving young children extensive pat-downs.
According to the United Nations website, "Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment." The purpose of the plan is to integrate environmental and development concerns which in turn will lead to "the fulfilment of basic needs, improved living standards for all, better protected and managed ecosystems and a safer, more prosperous future."
Despite delaying the vote, a majority of City Council members have said they will vote to approve the ordinance change, with the final vote scheduled for Tuesday night. But the council and the opponents are generally talking past each other. Despite each side's attempts to convince the other of its position, the debate blows round and round.
While the ordinance is likely to pass, the opponents may continue to work on bringing to reality their idea a more local, more independent government. Linda Bergeron, one of the nascent movement's organizers who ran for a council seat last year, has said she intends to circulate a petition to switch Casper back to a popularly elected mayor.