PLYMOUTH — The city of Plymouth once again faced a decision and a long evening of testimony about the GreenStep Cities Program at its Jan. 28 City Council meeting.
The City Council ultimately voted down a resolution to join the GreenStep Cities Program by a 4-3 vote.
The council last spoke about the program in a work session on Oct. 22, 2019, when it decided not to join the program but use it as a guideline to implement environmental policies.
The City Council decided it wanted to bring the program back to the City Council agenda on Jan. 28 to hear from citizens on both sides of the issue, Public Works Director Michael Thompson told Lakeshore Weekly News.
“Being local officials, we report directly to you and we want to be very transparent about what we do,” Mayor Jeffry Wosje said during the Jan. 28 City Council meeting. “We wanted to give everyone a chance to express their opinions. This is a very polarizing issue. I received lots and lots of emails about this issue. I just want to remind everyone that we are all Plymouth, we are all a community, we are all neighbors."
The council discussed the issue in a special work session before the City Council meeting, laying out the city’s history with GreenStep.
Then the City Council heard more than an hour of passionate testimony from people on both sides of the issue, most of whom are residents of Plymouth. Those hoping for the city to adopt the GreenStep Cities resolution donned green outfits, lays and hats.
“Because it is not on autopilot, it is the council, the Environmental Quality Commission keeping on top of things instead of ignoring economic savings and reducing tax burdens on citizens like me,” a member of the city’s Environmental Quality Commission, Clark Gregor said at the meeting.
Those who spoke against the program included Minnetrista City Council member Shannon Bruce and Isaac Orr from the Center of the American Experiment.
“Anyone who has worked with OSHA or the EPA knows that these programs all started out with good intentions but once the bureaucrats got to work we ended up with a burden on the community,” Gary Porter, a Plymouth resident said at the meeting.
Diana McKeown, a staff person from the Great Plains Institute, a partner of the GreenStep program also testified. She said she was not attempting to sway the city either way but wanted to clear up misinformation spread about the program.
“There has been a lot of misinformation that has been stated tonight and through the emails and so I really wanted to address some of those issues,” McKeown said. “The city can leave the program at any point. The program is a voluntary program, you go at your own pace, you make decisions.”
The council then discussed the program and the testimony it had heard and the division it has caused within the city of Plymouth.
“We don’t need to volunteer for something that people wearing certain outfits are telling us if you don’t vote for this voluntary program we’re somehow wrong or shamed. I don’t like that,” Council member Jim Prom said during the meeting. “I do agree that the global climate is changing. What effect man has on it, I have no idea but it’s probably pretty minuscule and I don’t think we can change it. And some of these things that people have a lot of beliefs into are as questionable as to whether or not when I take the host, it’s the body of Christ. I get what half of you are saying, but it is a belief system.”
City Council member Jim Willis refuted Prom’s thoughts on climate change, saying he believes firmly in human-caused climate change and that it wasn’t just people in green shirts who brought GreenStep Cities to the council but that it had been on the council's agenda for over a year. He said he’s in favor of the program and the city should “disagree, agreeably.”
Council member Ned Caroll said he decided not to move the resolution to a vote because he didn’t think he had the votes but Prom asked the council to do a roll call vote.
Council member Jim Davis then made a motion to amend the resolution to join GreenStep so any decision made by city staff about the GreenStep program would have to be approved by the City Council. The amendment passed with a 4-3 vote.
The resolution to join the GreenStep Cities Program, including the amendment, failed with a 4-3 vote. Wosje and Council members Alise McGregor, Nick Roehl and Prom voted against the resolution. Council members Davis, Caroll and Willis voted for the resolution.