“This is a very clever mix of socialism and fascism,” says one activist.

“It takes an incentive-based, voluntary approach to provide needed federal resources,” says another.

The two are describing the same piece of federal legislation – The Community Character Act – from two different points of view.

Take your pick – boon to mankind, threat to civilization.

As it awaits its turn for a vote on the Senate floor, those who oppose the bill label it as a scheme for more federal government control and pray that it will never see the light of day. Those who support the bill, S.975, were pleased when it passed through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in April and see indications of further Senate approval.

The Community Character Act, if passed, would provide federal funds to assist state and local governments with community planning and development. Those at the state and local level who choose to accept the federal grants must meet certain “eligibility guidelines.” Having to meet federal guidelines for community growth and planning laws doesn’t sit well with many.

“Once the community takes that grant, they then have to comply with the federal government outlines,” said Tom DeWeese, president of American Policy Center, an organization “dedicated to the promotion of free enterprise and limited government regulations.”

“This is really a very clever mix of socialism and fascism,” he told WorldNetDaily.

The purpose of S.975, as the bill states, is “to improve environmental policy by providing assistance to state and tribal land-use planning, to promote improved quality of life, regionalism, and for sustainable economic development, and for other purposes.”

DeWeese wants the public to be aware of this bill and all that it entails, believing it is a threat to local and state government. He says people that oppose it should contact their senators and representatives to rain down a “constant chorus” against S.975 and its counterpart in the House, H.R.1433.

“Anytime a bill is sitting there pending to be voted on, it’s a danger if you’re not watching, because they know how to bring these things up when nobody’s looking,” he said.

Jason Jordan, government affairs manager of the American Planning Association, says APA has been involved with the Community Character Act since its inception. He does not see the bill as a threat to local government and says it isn’t a “federally mandated planning regime,” as some claim.

“We specifically support the Community Character Act, because it takes an incentive-based, voluntary approach to provide needed federal resources,” Jordan said.

Seeing the “outdated” planning laws of many local governments as an impediment for community growth, Jordan welcomes legislation that he says will bring federal help to those communities that are “suffering from a lack of resources.” The bill will not mandate reforms or planning practices, he says, but only offer “incentives” for state and local authorities.

“I think there’s been a lot said about the legislation that has no basis in what the legislation actually says,” Jordan said.

According to S.975, one factor that would be considered before a federal grant is given is “the extent to which a grant would facilitate development or revision of land-use plans consistent with updated land-use planning legislation.” The state or tribal project being considered should promote, among other things, “environmental protection,” “social equity” and “sustainable economic development,” as the bill explains, to be within federal grant eligibility.

“By creating prescriptive criteria in which federal grant money is awarded for state land-use planning, this legislation has the potential to upset the federal-state balance,” Gary Garczynski, president of the National Association of Home Builders, said in a statement released after S.975 passed the Senate committee.

“The federal government should not be in the business of promoting local land use planning,” he stated.

The sustainable development mentioned in the Community Character Act is nothing more than the federal government pushing its agenda on businesses and private properties, says DeWeese. The government agencies and “non-elected bureaucrats” from environmental groups like the Sierra Club will have the authority through sustainable development to tell companies what they can produce and how, he claims.

“Under sustainable development, there can be no free enterprise, and there can be no private property,” said DeWeese.

When S.975 talks of social equity programs and preserving natural resources, he says, it relates back to the Clinton administration’s agenda for land grabs and sustainable development outlines.

“According to sustainable development literature, the things that are not sustainable are things like fast foods, air conditioning, cars [and] suburban housing,” DeWeese said.

Applying for the federal grant would be voluntary, says Jordan – communities won’t be forced to take federal money. The program is competitive, he explains, and the amount of federal funds being discussed for S.975 – $25 million a year – isn’t all that much.

“If anything, the money that would be available is insufficient to the need,” Jordan told WND.

DeWeese fears if S.975 gets passed, there will be similar legislation to follow, only adding more federal funds to the mix and more federal guidelines to follow. He says with all the lobbying power environmental groups have when it comes to state and local politics, it makes accepting federal grants and policies less than “voluntary.”

Refusing to believe the Community Character Act will push federal mandates at states, Jordan says the bill is a “step in the right direction” and won’t allow the rights and decisions of states to be ignored.

“We think there are plenty of safeguards in place,” he said.

Jordan points out that the bill states that Congress finds “land-use planning is rightfully within state, tribal and local governments.”

The Community Character Act, voted on by the Senate committee in a room not open to the public, passed 12-7. DeWeese feels certain senators are trying to hide the bill from full public attention, because if people found out what the bill really entails, he says, the senators know it would never get the necessary votes.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., voted against the bill. He said in his written statement: “I would like to express my strong opposition to S.975. I believe this bill raises potential constitutional questions under the 10th Amendment, where powers not expressly granted to the federal government in the Constitution, like zoning and land-use decisions, are reserved to the local and state governments. This legislation threatens to usurp local jurisdictions’ ability to make their own decisions on economic development, housing and transportation – all of these things being unique to different localities.”

Said DeWeese, “When a piece of legislation this bad, this all-encompassing, this radical in changing our country is sitting there, having passed the Senate committee … that makes me very nervous. Anything can happen.”

Related stories:

Senate panel moves hearing, bars public

Federal land-use planning in the works?

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