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What's Their Real Agenda? (and why you can't trust what they say)

It is important to distinguish between sincere environmental protection groups and those whose real agenda is to stop growth and development in our region.

There are certainly examples of organizations who are genuinely motivated by a concern for the environment. They seek reasonable environmental protections without abolishing the rights of their fellow citizens who own homes or land.

On the other hand, there are groups who attempt to assume the mantle of environmentalism as a cover for a much broader agenda.

How can you tell them apart? (Or, can a leopard really change its spots?)

Sooner or later, they always give themselves away by promoting policies that would stifle or completely halt economic growth and development.

Here's one example.

Recently, after sharp criticism from BARD and other pro - economic development groups, the Cahaba River Society (CRS) has attempted to remake its image as an organization that is not opposed to growth in our area. At this writing, their website stresses that they would not support ordinances that shut down growth.

But, what they don't tell you is that, in the recent past, they have consistently supported low or no - growth policies, including overlapping ordinances whose primary effect would have been to severely limit growth in our community. (Refer to the "History" section on this website.)

Until the mid - summer of 2006, when CRS began to come under increasing fire for its no-growth policy stands, the CRS website asked (and answered) this question:

Question: "Many people are questioning whether it will be possible to have any more greenfield development in the upper Cahaba watershed."

The old website made its real agenda quite clear when CRS answered the question with this statement (Italics added):

"We must greatly reduce the extent of potential greenfield growth in the Upper Cahaba watershed."

(That is a 550 square mile area, by the way!)

Finally, recognizing that such an extreme view would not sit well with the citizens whom it would deprive of economic growth and opportunity, CRS has now begun a propaganda campaign to position itself as more centrist, less radical and more reasonable.

Their site now says:

"The Cahaba River Society recognizes that more economic and population growth will occur in the upper Cahaba watershed."

Oh, really? That, to be charitable, is known as a 180 degree turnaround.

In another dramatic about face, the CRS website amended its prior position advocating the taking away of rights of property owners to develop their land, stressing that ordinances that do not restrict property rights "must be applied to ensure that communities can meet their overall economic as well as environmental needs."

Compare that current position with this 2005 statement from their website, which answered their question about how much economic growth in this area CRS would support:  "The answer would be, not much more."

An image makeover?

Now, after being stung by charges of no growth, CRS has come up with a clever plan to fool the public into thinking it is changing its spots.  You see, we know that the Society recently hired a local consulting firm to interview business and civic leaders about the Society's image.  Apparently, the consultant's report wasn't very good and the Society has decided it needs a makeover into a more positive, friendly organization not opposed to growth and development.  So it has helped create a new organization, "Cahaba Riverkeeper."

The idea is the old tried and true "good cop - bad cop" routine.  Under its new plan, the Society will morph into the good cop (always talking positively, giving awards to businesses for green development, sponsoring school education programs and the like) while the new group, the Cahaba Riverkeeper, takes on the dirty work of opposing growth and development projects.  Here's a direct quote from the website of another of the Society's spinoff organizations, the Black Warrior Riverkeeper, announcing the new organization: "While excellent watershed organizations such as Cahaba River Society...provide fantastic education and advocacy for the river...Cahaba Riverkeeper is positioned to take a more litigious role...".

In other words, the bad cop does the dirty work, thus freeing the good cop to polish its newly minted image. (Or, as the case may be, to touch up its newly painted-on spots.)

Remember the old adage: a leopard cannot change its spots.

This Op/Ed piece from the Birmingham News provides additional insights.

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