Archive for June, 2013

Johnson County got a deal on King Louie. Turning it into a national suburbia museum won’t be a bargain

Turning King Louie into a national museum won’t be a bargain.




Photo by Sabrina Staires

Mindi Love has an encyclopedic memory of Johnson County’s history. Off the top of her head, she can say what year Country Club Plaza developer J.C. Nichols completed his studies at the old Olathe High School.

As she leads a tour through the narrow corridors of the Johnson County Museum of History’s cramped Shawnee house, she summons facts about Johnson County and offers context for its suburban past, from the time it was settled through the post–World War II development boom that would eventually make it one of the country’s most affluent counties.

Some exhibits in the museum are generic — the faux raspberries and potatoes that demonstrate the once-agrarian nature of Johnson County. Some are sobering — the exhibit that covers deed restrictions, which sought to keep out blacks and Jews and Syrians in some of Johnson County’s developing neighborhoods unless they were there as servants.

Love has been the director of the Johnson County Museum since 2000, and for all of that time she has worked in its 19,000-square-foot building at 6305 Lackman Road. It’s not as easy to spot from the road as the nearby Target-anchored shopping development, off Shawnee Mission Parkway and Interstate 435, but it attracts about 30,000 visitors a year.

Many of those museumgoers are children, whose smaller size is an advantage here. Exhibits line hallways not much wider than those found in an average residence.

“You can’t give a tour to a large group of people,” Love says. “Can you imagine a group of 90 third-graders in here?”

On the day she leads The Pitch through the museum, her voice competes with the din of children clattering through various interactive exhibits designed to give young people a simulation of 20th-century suburban life.

But the museum has more problems than a high decibel level. For one, it’s largely static. Its main feature is an exhibit called “Seeking the Good Life,” which was erected in the late 1990s after a fundraising campaign. It remains mostly unchanged.

The gallery devoted to rotating exhibitions is a space the size of an average home’s dining room. At the moment, it’s taken up by a show of editorial cartoons by Bob Bliss, of the defunct Johnson County Sun newspaper. (One of them takes a jab at Johnson County’s bus system, depicting a Jo bus with two people in it and the caption “The Jo’s ridership doubles!”)

It also has flooding problems. The building’s foundation kept rainwater out during a modest May 30 storm, but a 2009 downpour damaged exhibits and records in the basement. That event accelerated the county’s search for a new Johnson County Museum space.

Love may be on her way to getting that wish, if the county remakes the museum in the old King Louie West building, in Overland Park.

Johnson County bought the dormant bowling alley in 2011, and the proposed budget for the 2014 fiscal year contemplates spending more than $5 million to ready the dilapidated building for use. The museum is calling for another $5 million in the following year’s budget to remake King Louie in the museum’s image.

The Johnson County Museum Foundation also wants to raise $2 million for new exhibits in time for a Johnson County Museum opening at King Louie in 2017.

That’s a big goal for a small foundation.

The nonprofit fundraising arm of the Johnson County Museum has raised $23,000–$38,000 a year since 2007, according to the most recent tax records available.

Love says those records don’t include grants that flow through the county books. One such grant: a $120,000 stipend to study a 2011 interpretive plan for what a future museum would look like. Another study was done to explore the feasibility of raising $2 million in time to get the museum moved into King Louie by 2017.

That study purports to describe how the foundation might grow from a five-figure fundraiser to a seven-figure one. Larry Meeker, president of the foundation, declined to share that study with The Pitch. He says: “The bottom line is, we’ve settled on a very doable plan for moving in, building a base for further fundraising starting with a base of $2 million to freshen things up, get us moved in [to King Louie] and, if all goes well there, begin the fundraising for expanding the fundraising.”

The expanded fundraising that Meeker is talking about would move the foundation toward a much bigger goal: Putting together another concept museum that backers want at King Louie, the National Museum of Suburbia and Suburban Policy Forum.

The museum would pay homage to the phenomenon of suburban sprawl, cul-de-sacs, The Feminine Mystique author Betty Friedan, and other testaments to the out-migration from urban centers.

To do that — and to develop a museum that may have to sustain itself — the museum would have to raise almost $10 million on its own.

The Johnson County Museum today receives more than $600,000 a year from the county to support its operations.

“I’m firmly convinced, no doubt in my mind whatsoever, that this is a good idea,” Meeker tells The Pitch. “That it is something that will be acted upon at some point in the future, here or somewhere else.”

Others don’t envision a Johnson County–based national suburbia museum as a slam dunk.

“If activities can be fully funded by the private sector, that’s good,” says Johnson County Chairman Ed Eilert. “I think it’s a concept that, if it were to happen, needs a lot more work. I hate to discourage somebody who is thinking outside of the box. There are realities to making those kinds of concepts come to pass. It’s going to be very, very difficult.”

Eilert insists that Johnson County didn’t buy King Louie to house a national museum of suburbia.  (NOlathe note: 2011 documents and video transcripts previously posted show “suburbia museum” was the major factor in purchasing a property that must be sold prior to 2012.  Interviews with The Wallstreet Journal confirmed and documented in 2012.)

But the county’s decision to buy the property at 8788 Metcalf raised eyebrows among those who pay attention to Johnson County politics.

Built in 1959, the 70,000-square-foot King Louie is the sort of structure that local officials call, perhaps euphemistically, “iconic.”

Its architecture, then and now, seems more like a ski chalet in Loveland, Colorado, than a bowling alley. But, with its dozens of lanes and its ice-skating rink, the place was a popular suburban destination for decades, until it fell on hard times in the late 2000s.

The building was owned by Western Development Co., a Shawnee real-estate entity controlled by John Mitchell, who lives near the Country Club Plaza. By the end of its life as a teen hangout, the building was riddled with codes violations, ranging from an assortment of electrical hazards to frozen sprinkler pipes to chicken wire covering exterior windows. It closed for business in 2009 and went up for sale.

Not long after, Johnson County staffers started looking around for a new museum site.

King Louie was on the county’s shortlist, but Mitchell’s $3.5 million asking price seemed exorbitant. The bargain shoppers at the county crossed the bowling alley off the list and moved on, exploring dozens of possibilities for the new museum site, mostly in the 20,000- to 30,000-square-foot range (with an eye to an eventual expansion).

Among the six locations toured by county officials was the developing Lenexa City Center at 87th Street Parkway and Renner Boulevard. Former Johnson County Commissioner Doug Wood wanted to combine the museum with the Oak Park Branch of the Johnson County Library. None of the ideas gained consensus.

Then King Louie’s sellers, who were represented by real-estate firm Kessinger/Hunter, lowered the asking price to $2.5 million and indicated a willingness to perhaps go down even further. Joe Waters, director of facilities for Johnson County, brought the idea of buying the discounted King Louie to the Johnson County Board of Commissioners in November 2011. He said the sellers wanted to close the deal by the end of 2011 for tax purposes.

So the Johnson County Commission did Western Development Co. a solid and voted to have the building purchased by the end of 2011 — just one week after the deal was first presented.

Commissioners, concerned that the upcoming holidays would prevent a December quorum, quickly voted November 17 to buy the building for $1.95 million; they also voted to allocate another $1.6 million to protect the building from the elements. Then–Johnson County Commissioner David Lindstrom, whom Kessinger/Hunter employed in the 1970s and ’80s, was among those who voted to approve the purchase.  (NOlathe note: Commissioners voted when to purchase this property without concensus of how to pay for it.)

Western Development’s $193,000 mortgage on the property, dating back to 2003, was paid off shortly after Johnson County Commissioners voted to approve the deal.  (NOlathe note: NOlathe contends the purchase contract was used as a ‘bankable note’ to acquire funds to release the mortgage providing a clear document prior to JoCo’s purchase).  The $1.95 million initially came from the county’s reserve fund, basically a savings account for the county government to pay for unexpected costs such as, say, a damaging ice storm.

A loan was later taken from UMB Bank to replenish the reserve fund, as rating agencies were warning governments about keeping up adequate reserve levels.

Michael Ashcraft, a Johnson County commissioner whose district largely covers Olathe and Lenexa, had reservations about the way the building was bought and the county’s plans for it.

Johnson County was still in belt-tightening mode from a deep recession. Officials had begun publicly contemplating closing libraries and cutting staff across various departments — only to throw seven figures at a building for a possible county museum.

“I really have become much more ardent and much more concerned about the acquisition,” Ashcraft tells The Pitch. “Before, I was willing to talk about it and learn and see what the deal was. I had hesitancy at first. I’m just not in the game in terms of being a supporter of it. I think there are lots of other things we can do to support the museum and the history of Johnson County. The acquisition of a facility like that — because we had no plan and we’re trying to make a plan, we’re trying to rationalize the acquisition now to put a bus stop there or a bus park there and move other agencies in there. It’s like, no wonder people question how we do government when we make acquisitions like this and we don’t have a clear direction and clear utility for precious resources.”

Ashcraft would rather send resources to Johnson County Developmental Supports, which assists people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD). The cost to serve someone needing that type of assistance is $35,000–$40,000 a year, with 60 percent covered by the feds. The waiting list for services is a lengthy six to eight years.

“I like museums,” Ashcraft tells The Pitch. “We’ve got limited resources. That [IDD] population is the gold standard.”

Eilert says the county bought the right building at the right price.

“I had a chance encounter with a local real-estate developer on an airplane flight to D.C.,” he says. “This individual was going to look at some property on the East Coast, and the story was in the newspaper a day or two earlier. He said, ‘I’ve been watching that property,’ and he said, ‘You got a heck of a deal.’ ”

The old King Louie building won’t house just the Johnson County Museum. It’s expected to become the new advance voting center, replacing the location at Metcalf South Mall, which is due to be razed for redevelopment.

It’s also expected to have space for the Enterprise Center of Johnson County, a business incubator hosted by the county that pays $200,000 in rent to Lenexa. Other county agencies might move in, too.

It’s not certain whether the proposed National Museum of Suburbia, coupled with a scholarly Suburban Policy Institute, would take space in King Louie.

Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, is home to the National Center for Suburban Studies. It’s seen as the pre-eminent location for academic research into suburbia and related issues, such as problems associated with planning and redeveloping aging suburban towns. Few other academic programs for suburban studies exist outside Hofstra other than an on-again, off-again center at the University of California–Riverside.

Christopher Niedt, academic director for Hofstra’s center, says the concept of a suburban museum has to extend beyond sentimentality.

“It also needs to be about more than suburban nostalgia,” he says. “It has to ask hard questions about what was good and what was bad about suburban living.”

There hasn’t been a market study or a feasibility study to determine the demand for a national museum of suburbia in Johnson County. A 2011 master plan for the idea envisions theatrical exhibitions; re-creations of old suburban model homes, such as Sears & Roebuck houses; and maybe an “interpretive car wash experience.” Installing all of this would cost, the plan says, about $7.7 million.

The plan predicts 60,000 visitors a year and goes on to describe that figure as a conservative estimate. But no source is cited for that guess. Ticket prices would range from $2 to $6 a person (the Johnson County Museum doesn’t charge for admission), with projected revenue of $193,000. Food sales, museum-store income and fundraising events — and $1 million in county operational support — raise the plan’s total projected revenue to $1.5 million a year.

Steve Klika, a Johnson County commissioner whose district covers the southeastern corner of the county, doesn’t see the concept as viable. Klika, who was elected to the commission after the purchase of King Louie, says, “I know when I ran for election … there was zero support for trying to promote this.”

Museum officials say they’re not really analyzing the prospects for a national-scope museum yet. They’re more focused on raising the $2 million necessary to help move the current museum out of Shawnee and into the King Louie building.

“I wouldn’t say we’re on the back burner,” says Love, director of the Johnson County Museum. “It certainly wouldn’t be realistic for us to raise $10 million in three years.”

The last major fundraising campaign for the Johnson County Museum, from 1996 to 1998, to build the current “Seeking the Good Life” exhibit, raised $800,000.

And though the Johnson County Museum’s fundraising drive to move to King Louie hasn’t started in earnest yet, it’s likely to face competition from another museum in Johnson County.

Fred Merrill Jr. is developing the Museum of Prairiefire, at LionsGate, a mixed-use project at 135th Street and Nall Avenue that includes a museum. It would book traveling exhibitions from New York’s American Museum of Natural History.

Merrill has established a foundation to support the museum via donations. Its campaign aims to raise $5 million–$6 million. Merrill says the campaign has reached about 20 percent of that goal. “It just takes a lot of work when you’re raising money for something,” he says.

Whether the work would be worthwhile for a national museum of suburbia, given the absent analysis of demand, is anyone’s guess. But Ashcraft and other county commissioners remain ambivalent.

“Is that a venue that would draw me or my family repeatedly?” Ashcraft says. “I’m not seeing that. I may be surprised.”


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The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC), then called the National Service to Regional Councils (NSRC), was created in 1965 by the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties to respond to the professional and legislative needs of America’s emerging, multi-purpose, multi-jurisdictional organizations of local governments. By 1967, the more than 350 Regional Councils in the country were at the forefront of forging regional alliances for the purpose of addressing common, multi-jurisdictional challenges. These organizations are known as regional planning agencies, development districts and councils of governments, among other names. It was in 1967 that NARC became an independent entity for regions.

Today, Regional Councils have retained their identity but their role has changed dramatically. Of the more than 500 Regional Councils throughout the country, some include Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO).  At least 350 MPOs have been established to serve as urban regional transportation entities in areas with a population of 50,000 or more. Some MPOs are extensions of Regional Councils, and slightly more than half are stand-alone organizations responsible for fulfilling federal and state metropolitan transportation planning requirements. A board of elected officials and other community leaders typically governs each Regional Council and MPO.

NARC supports its membership by advocating and representing their interests on national issues, with the U.S. Congress and the Executive Branch. The function of the Regional Council and the MPO has been shaped by changing dynamics in federal, state and local government relations, and the recognition that the region is the arena in which local governments must work together to address challenges – social, economic, workforce, transportation, emergency preparedness, environmental and others. Additionally, Regional Councils and MPOs are often called upon to deliver various federal, state programs that require a regional approach, such as, transportation or comprehensive planning, services for the elderly and clearinghouse functions.

Regional Councils and MPOs have learned to be entrepreneurial due to shifts in priorities for federal funds. These organizations are experienced collaborators, adept at bringing people together and getting results. States are relying more on these organizations as vehicles for engaging local governments and delivery of programs.

Regional Councils and MPOs are a national network of experienced professionals dedicated to solving problems the regional way!

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Kansas Legislature pulls rug out from under Johnson County landfill plan

June  3, 2013


The Kansas City Star

        Thanks to the Kansas Legislature, Johnson County finds itself with a surprising hitch in its plan to extend the life of its major landfill.

      And thanks to legislators, it looks as if Wyandotte County residents won’t have to separate their yard waste from their trash after all. At least not for  a while.

More than a year ago, the Johnson County Commission  planned to require yard waste to be separated from any trash being dumped in Deffenbaugh Industries’ Shawnee landfill. That applied to private haulers and anyone else, including residents living outside of Johnson County whose trash goes to the landfill.

But in late May, the state Legislature put the skids on the county’s law.

The Legislature, in the waning days of its session, quietly passed a bill that prohibits any city or county, such as Johnson County, from passing laws that affect  the laws of another local government regarding solid-waste disposal.

“This was a bill developed in response to Johnson County’s waste ban,” said Bill Bider, director of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s waste management division. “This bill now says you can’t do what Johnson County did. They can only regulate their own people.”

Reaction was quick — possibly setting up a legal fight.

Johnson County had worked out a delicate agreement with Wyandotte County requiring those residents to separate yard waste. The commission had even given Wyandotte residents a year-and-a-half extension despite heavy criticism.

D-day was July 1, but the date has been canceled, said Mike Taylor, a spokesman for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan.

“I can tell you we won’t be implementing a yard-waste ban come July 1st,” Taylor said. “We have five brand new members of the commission, and it’s an issue that none of them have had time to get up to speed or talk about. I told my boss this is going to take a pretty extensive communications campaign because it is a massive change for our residents.”

Johnson County officials were surprised when they learned the agreement had been broken and said Wyandotte officials had not yet contacted them.

“We have not been notified of anything to change that,” said Lougene Marsh, Johnson County health director. “It would be imprudent to comment at this juncture.”

Marsh said she had been advised by county attorneys that there was nothing in the state law that affected current agreements.

“Our understanding was there was nothing in the language of the law that made it retroactive,” she said. “If there are arguments to be made to the contrary, then those will have to be made.”

A Deffenbaugh official said he also was surprised by Wyandotte County’s announcement but said they would be speaking.

“I’m … confident we will arrive at a solution that all parties can embrace,” said Tom Coffman, senior vice president.

Johnson County and Kansas have lagged the nation in recycling and yard-waste bans. For example, Missouri has banned yard waste from all landfills for decades.

Johnson County officials first began talking about banning yard waste from the Deffenbaugh landfill almost seven years ago.

The landfill in Shawnee is regional with trash and yard waste coming to it from not only Johnson and Wyandotte but also Miami, Leavenworth, Osage, Atchison and Jefferson counties.

At the time the commission was developing the ban, citizens were told that the landfill was going to have to close in 2027 because it would be full. (Eventually the public learned  the landfill would be open until at least 2043, creating more mistrust among Johnson County residents about the genesis of the ban.)

Residents also raised concerns about having to pay an increase in their waste bill.

The county’s ban was delayed a couple years and then finally implemented in January 2012.

Just before the ban was implemented, Wyandotte County officials said they did not plan to follow it. Officials said their contract with Deffenbaugh did not require yard waste to be separated. After haggling, Wyandotte agreed to join the ban when its contract ended this July.

The controversy again erupted over the ban last summer after the program was well underway in Johnson County, when The Star learned that Deffenbaugh was still putting yard waste in the landfill.

Deffenbaugh was turning the yard waste into compost and then using it to layer the trash in the landfill.

“We are aware (Deffenbaugh) is doing it,” Marsh said this week. “There is nothing in our current code to prohibit their use of compost that way.”

Some Johnson County residents questioned why they had to pay Deffenbaugh to pick up the separated yard waste if it was still being put in the landfill.

“That is in conflict with what we were told,” said Dennis Batliner, a resident who has opposed the ban.

With the new state law, it remains to be seen what will happen to the county’s yard-waste ban.

Some but not all the other counties and towns in the Deffenbaugh service area are following the ban.

To reach Karen Dillon, call 816-234-4430 or send email to  kdillon@kcstar.com.

    Copyright 2013 The Kansas City Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

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June 10, 2013 8:53 AM

State Department memo reveals possible cover-ups, halted investigations

Updated at 2:59 p.m. with comment from the State Department.

(CBS News) CBS News has uncovered documents that show the State Department may have covered up allegations of illegal and inappropriate behavior within their ranks.

The Diplomatic Security Service, or the DSS, is the State Department’s security force, charged with protecting the secretary of state and U.S. ambassadors overseas and with investigating any cases of misconduct on the part of the 70,000 State Department employees worldwide.

CBS News’ John Miller reports that according to an internal State Department Inspector General’s memo, several recent investigations were influenced, manipulated, or simply called off. The memo obtained by CBS News cited eight specific examples. Among them: allegations that a State Department security official in Beirut “engaged in sexual assaults” on foreign nationals hired as embassy guards and the charge and that members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s security detail “engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries” — a problem the report says was “endemic.”

The memo also reveals details about an “underground drug ring” was operating near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and supplied State Department security contractors with drugs.

Aurelia Fedenisn, a former investigator with the State Department’s internal watchdog agency, the Inspector General, told Miller, “We also uncovered several allegations of criminal wrongdoing in cases, some of which never became cases.”

In such cases, DSS agents told the Inspector General’s investigators that senior State Department officials told them to back off, a charge that Fedenisn says is “very” upsetting.

“We were very upset. We expect to see influence, but the degree to which that influence existed and how high up it went, was very disturbing,” she said.

In one specific and striking cover-up, State Department agents told the Inspector General they were told to stop investigating the case of a U.S. Ambassador who held a sensitive diplomatic post and was suspected of patronizing prostitutes in a public park.

The State Department Inspector General’s memo refers to the 2011 investigation into an ambassador who “routinely ditched … his protective security detai” and inspectors suspect this was in order to “solicit sexual favors from prostitutes.”

Sources told CBS News that after the allegations surfaced, the ambassador was called to Washington, D.C. to meet with Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy, but was permitted to return to his post.

Fedenisn says “hostile intelligence services” allow such behavior to continue. “I would be very surprised if some of those entities were not aware of the activities,” she said. “So yes, it presents a serious risk to the United States government.”

A draft of the Inspector General’s report on the performance of the DSS, obtained by CBS News, states, “Hindering such cases calls into question the integrity of the investigative process, can result in counterintelligence vulnerabilities and can allow criminal behavior to continue.”

John Miller spoke with Mike Pohelitz, a retired Senior Agent at the DSS who was involved in one of the cases listed in the Inspector General’s memo. Pohelitz said he was told to stop investigating one of the cases and that the order likely came from the upper ranks of the DSS.

“I got the information through my DS channel,” he told Miller. “But it had to come from somebody higher than DS, I’m sure.”

According to Fedenisn, when a high-ranking State Department security officials was shown a draft of their findings that investigations were being interfered with by State Department higher-ups, he said, “This is going to kill us.” In the final report however, all references to specific cases had been removed.

“I mean my heart really went out to the agents in that office, because they really want to do the right thing, they want to investigate the cases fully, correctly, accurately … and they can’t,” Fedenisn said.

Fedenisn, a DSS agent for 26 years, was a part of the team that prepared the draft report and is now a whistleblower who has taken her concerns to Congress.

Two hours after CBS News made inquiries to the State Department about these charges, investigators from the State Department’s Inspector General showed up at her door.

Speaking at a press briefing Monday, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said: “We hold all employees to the highest standards. We take allegations of misconduct seriously and we investigate thoroughly. All cases mentioned in the CBS report were thoroughly investigated or under investigation, and the — the department continues to take action. Finally, the department has responded to the recommendations in the OIG report regarding the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s of Investigations and counter-intelligence. Diplomatic Security has taken the further step of requesting additional review by outside experience law enforcement officers on top of the OIG inspection so that officers with law enforcement experience can make expert assessments about our current procedures.”

Psaki went on to say the “notion that we would not vigorously pursue criminal misconduct in a case, any case, is preposterous … ambassadors would be no exception.” Without speaking about specific cases, Psaki described any misconduct as “hardly endemic.”

A statement provided to CBS News by the Inspector General’s office said:

OIG does not comment on drafts of reports.

On its own initiative, OIG Office of Investigations has been conducting its own independent review of the allegations made. This is our standard procedure.

We staffed it independently and appropriately and they were people hired specific for this review at the end of 2012. They are on staff. We staffed it with the best people we can find at hand to do the job.

DS does not speak for us.


© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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EPA acknowledges releasing personal  details on farmers, senator slams agency


Published April 09, 2013


Read more:  http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/04/09/epa-acknowledges-giving-out-personal-info-in-request-that-included-data-on/


The Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged Tuesday that it released  personal information on potentially thousands of farmers and ranchers to  environmental groups, following concerns from congressional Republicans and  agriculture groups that the release could endanger their safety.

According to a document obtained by FoxNews.com, the EPA said “some of the  personal information that could have been protected … was released.” Though the  EPA has already sent out the documents, the agency now says it has since  redacted sensitive details and asked the environmental groups to “return the  information.”

But Sen. John Thune, who originally complained about the release, slammed the  EPA for trying to retroactively recover the sensitive data.

“It is inexcusable for the EPA to release the personal information of  American families and then call for it back, knowing full well that the  erroneously released information will never be fully returned,” he said in a  statement to FoxNews.com. “While EPA acknowledging that it erred is a first  step, more must be done to protect the personal information of our farmers and  ranchers now and in the future. I will continue to demand answers from the EPA  on how this information was collected and why it is still being distributed to  extreme environmental groups to the detriment of our farm and ranch  families.”

The information on livestock and produce farmers was sought through a Freedom  of Information Act request by the groups Earth Justice, the Natural Resources  Defense Council and the Pew Charitable Trust. They were given information on  roughly 80,000 farmers and ranchers.

Pew returned the original information, per the agency’s request Thursday,  according to documents obtained by Fox.

The agency acknowledged the information included individual names, email  addresses, phone numbers and personal addresses.

Thune, of South Dakota, where 500 farmers and ranchers had their information  made public, sent a letter Monday to the EPA requesting the agency answer a list  of questions — including whether agency officials reviewed the information to  see whether the release complied with the federal Privacy Act of 1974.

“The EPA has threatened the health and safety of agriculture producers and  their families and has damaged the security of our food system,” Thune said. “There is a growing gap of trust between America’s farm and ranch families and  the EPA. Much of this lack of trust is due to EPA’s aggressive regulatory  agenda.”

Other concerns expressed by Thune, farm bureaus and others include whether  the EPA first consulted with the departments of Agriculture and Homeland  Security, which had already advised against compiling a public database with  similar information and whether the EPA still intends to create such a  record.

“Does the EPA intend to gather any more personal information on livestock  producers?” Thune asked in his letter to agency Acting Administrator Bob  Perciasepe.

The EPA said the data was related to farms in 29 states with “concentrated  animal feeding operations” and that the released information was part of the  agency’s commitment to “ensure clean water and public-health protection.”

The groups wanted the information, they say, because such large-scale  operations are a major source of water pollution and they want to hold the EPA  accountable for enforcing the Clean Water Act.

Critics have characterized Earth Justice and the organizations as being “extremist groups” and say the released information included data on family  farmers who feed fewer than 1,000 animals, which excludes them from having to  comply with the Act.

“This information details my family’s home address,” J.D. Alexander, a  Nebraska cattle farmer and former president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef  Association, told FarmFuture.com. “The only thing it doesn’t do is  chauffeur these extremists to my house.”

In response, Jon Devine, an attorney, wrote in a blog for the Natural  Resources Defense Council: “The most irresponsible charge made by NCBA is that  providing this information to public interest groups somehow may facilitate  criminal acts against facilities. That accusation is entirely unwarranted. NRDC  and Pew condemn such illegal activities.”

The EPA said the majority of the data was already publicly available through  state databases, web sites and federal and state permits, or is required to be  released under federal or state law.

However, in response to privacy concerns raised by agricultural groups, the  agency redacted sections of information from 10 of the 29 states that contained  some personal data, the release said.

Read more:  http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/04/09/epa-acknowledges-giving-out-personal-info-in-request-that-included-data-on/

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June 1, 2013 by ,

Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Property rights vs. UN Agenda 21

ICLEI attendees dismayed over growing grassroots opposition

(Bonn) For years Green campaigners have been quietly waging an effective campaign to advance the more radical aspects of the UN’s Agenda 21 at the local government level, but the stealth phase of their effort appears to be over.

Delegates gathered for the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) in Bonn, Germany, are expressing anxiety over the effectiveness of free market and property rights groups like CFACT and the Tea Party in calling attention to their activities. By sounding the alarm at city planning meetings, in the media, the internet and at grassroots rallies, property rights activists are successfully hampering ICLEI’s UN Agenda 21 program for local government and, as CFACT staff has learned, these challenges have them worried.

CFACT attended a reception for ICLEI hosted by the city of Bonn at the Bonn Art Museum, where ICLEI members shared with CFACT staff their frustration with conservative legislators, free market and Tea Party activists, and even Glenn Beck. Michael Schmitz, Executive Director of ICLEI USA, admitted to CFACT staff members that while the council has been able to get “roughly 450 communities” in America to join ICLEI, they are predominantly in liberal states. In more conservative states where the Tea Party is active, he confessed and lamented their inability to implement UN sustainable development programs.

ICLEI was formed in 1990 for the purpose of promoting the UN’s vision of “sustainable development” as embodied in a document called Agenda 21. It now counts more than 1200 cities in its membership, the vast majority of whom use taxpayer money to pay membership dues to participate. The ICLEI conference in Bonn was coordinated with a meeting of New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, as well as the UN’s Climate Change Conference next week, also in Bonn.

ICLEI members from other countries also expressed their frustration with the growing opposition. Beth McLachlan, Senior Sustainability Officer for the City of Melbourne, Australia, and former employee at the Australian EPA, said that critics of climate change policies, headed by Tony Abbott, appear to be headed for electoral victory in her country. The political shift away from Julia Gillard’s global warming policies is why she left the Australian EPA, she confided. If the climate realists succeed on the national stage, she sees her mission as “carrying on the fight” at the local level. “This reveals the persistence and determination of ICLEI,” said CFACT Executive Director Craig Rucker, “to use unelected, local government bureaucrats to implement the most radical and unpopular aspects UN Agenda 21 policies regardless of the political winds.”

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