Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Planning Theory

Charles Robol Midterm CRP 712
Spring 2010 Jennifer Evans-Cowley


I would write a plan for my home Columbus, Ohio. Columbus is where I have grown into an adult, and it is home to all the organizations that are part of my identity. Being involved in these groups helps me know what resources and networks already exist that help improve our community. Why work anywhere else?
Many models dealing with different possible contingencies would be incorporated into my plan, including economic and demographic models. The events which may significantly alter the plan’s projections include but are not limited to wars, an oil crisis and continued hardships on the middle class due to deindustrialization. Economic models would inform our knowledge of how and why citizens are employed; demographic models would inform our understanding of the socioeconomic differentiation of our community. (Brooks) We would work to educate and organize both the populace—at least its engaged members—and the local and state level political actors as to the findings of our studies. We would give the participants an understanding of the forces that affect our community using perspectives from economics, sociology, planning and political science among other disciplines. Creating and supplementing networks of citizens so that they may more easily participate in the political system would help us accomplish our shared goals by creating new dialogues and helping to make their advocacy easier. By making everyday citizens more knowledgeable of the forces that shape their collective destiny, we enable them to give more input to the process and exponentially increase the possible solutions to their problems. (Baer, Checkoway) Though satisficing may still occur, the new plural participation helps us find more solutions than we would have due to boundedness II and III. (Baum)
Organic solutions from the community are more likely to deal with the problems as perceived by the community, as well as receive more public support than top down proposals of outsiders from the community. (Baer, Krumholz) One of the mechanisms to help organize the populace and create a dialogue is to create community festivals. These parties could be fundraisers with cheap beer and food where residents raise funds that could be allocated to improve the neighborhood. Creative mechanisms such as private parties that help increase community capacity can help provide services that are independent of the city’s budget. (Krumholtz) Essentially these would be decentralized forms of Comfest. Mayor Goldschmidt of Portland in the 70’s created the Office of Neighborhood Associations, and established a blanket insurance policy for block parties. (Putnam, 254) Goldschmidt’s administration made it easier for citizens to create their own public events. These not only created dialogues but each event increased the social capital of the participants. Goldschmidt’s administration helped counteract boundedness II, and III, and worked to alleviate the problems by helping organize the populace, which is a solution to boundedness IV. (Baum)
My vision would be threefold. (Baer) For the first part of the plan, I would act as a rational planner and develop accurate projections and meta-narratives to help define the forces that affect my constituency. (Brooks) Next, I would educate the public and political actors to help them decide what they want to accomplish and the most effective way to make their goals a reality. This organic means of implementing the plan should assure that any conflicts would be resolved before the plan is fully conceptualized thus maximizing the efficacy of implementing the plan. (Baer, Krumholz) Initially I would function as an applied scientist using a centralized rational model, then I would function as an advocacy planner for whatever initiatives or plans with which the public wants my help, then I would incrementally help the new cadres of leaders to face the evolving and changing conditions of the city. (Baer, Brooks) Essentially my style of planning is a decentralized form of Mixed Scanning. (Brooks)
In 'plural planning', planners submit plans that deal with specific community area(s) of interest. In the film Versailles many kinds of ‘plural planning’ occurred. The film discusses these three actors: the city, the residents of Versailles and the federal court system. The city had just been devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and the nation was not ready to handle the crisis. To deal with these efforts, the city established a waste disposal area in an eastern neighborhood of New Orleans. The Vietnamese residents did not want this dump to further devastate their community. The federal government wanted to mediate the situation and ensure justice for all US citizens. In the end, the residents of Versailles preserved what was left of their community, and continued rebuilding their home.
The city’s plan was to open another dump where debris could be put from the destruction of commercial and residential zones. Having this additional dump would help let the city more quickly put central business districts and their surrounding neighborhoods back into efficient operation. By helping the city reorganize, this dump could help revive and revitalize the city. If the dump had to be in Versailles, I would have the city take ownership of the resident’s property with the use of eminent domain law. Because residents’ property values would be lower after the rebuilding than before the storm, due to the area being sacrificed for the city as a whole, the residents should be justly compensated. I would use a rational model to explain and justify the land taking. (Baum, Brooks)
The residents of Versailles also wanted to help get the city running again but they wanted their neighborhood to be included as a vital area to be repaired and revived within the first cleanup effort, not as an expense of it. Planners from California as well as the old and young citizens of Versailles worked against this eyesore in the community. Initially, the residents did not successfully shut down the dump. But after a successful public relations campaign and court case, the dump was closed. If I were working for the residents of Versailles, then I would have used an advocacy planning approach just like the residents did. I would have solicited local community organizations such as churches, and civic groups for support in the formation of an overarching coalition to move the garbage to a pre-existing or new dump in a different area-- even if it were much further away. I would argue with as large of a group as I could organize—solution to boundedness IV--, of residents, businesses and collaborators that we should not allow a dump in that neighborhood. (Brooks) I would have used Alinsky style tactics to win public support and the court case if neither the legislative nor executive branches of government remedied the situation. (Alinsky, 152, Krumholz)
The court case concluded with the city closing the dump, so the Versailles residents won. Perhaps as the movie suggested, it was because the city did not want the information of how hazardous the materials in the dump were to become public record. (Versailles) Courts are generally a fair hearing of the facts; the courts ruled that the risks to this community of having the hazardous waste did not outweigh the benefits to the community at large. If I were a federal judge on this case, then I would use also use rational cost benefit model to justify my position. (Baum)
As implied earlier in this writing, how I would have planned would have been predominately determined by who my constituents were. (Checkoway) For whom would I be an advocate, the residents of Versailles, New Orleans or the American people at large? I would weigh my options and chose the best for my constituency, with respect to being a good citizen of the city, state and nation as well. (Checkoway) If I were a public official besides an appointed federal judge, then I would have held public meetings and let the city as a whole decide. If it appeared that I chose wrong, then at the next election cycle the public would be able to replace me. With the material as presented, I likely would have supported the dump never being in Versailles.
Planners will seek to implement the values of their constituency. (Krumholz, Checkoway) If a planner is working for a private developer, then she will seek to maximize the utility of the resources she controls to a desired profitable goal. Hypothetically, if the planner is creating a mall complex with condos above the mall, then she might create a voluntary association of residents who will keep the area nice. The planner though is paid by the developer, thus she may make mechanisms and processes that allow for continued use for a set amount of time. After that amount of time, redevelopment may be necessary, for example will the neighborhood association be able to fix the collective expensive roof when it starts to leak? If a planner is working for a local government they will likely plan into an indefinite future. (Checkoway) They may try to create solutions to fix a perceived problem, or help create a desired goal.
Various theories differentiate planners into many roles and functions. In rationally based models, the planner functions to use knowledge to organize the future in beneficial ways to their own constituency. (Brooks, Checkoway) Incrementalism, a pragmatic centralized non-rational model, understands that any empirical condition is emerging in nature; thus rather than try to organize action in one step it sections it off so that it can evolve with knowledge of the praxis between implementation and conception. (Baum) Models opposed to the centralized planning are informed by the fact that the planners’ role is not top down-- at least in a capitalistic-democracy—perhaps societies characterized by statism would value the planners’ input more. (Brooks) These models such as advocacy planning and the communicative approach embrace that planning is to help advance the public interest. (Checkoway) The public interest is an “urban mosaic.” (Fischer, 235) There is not one American consciousness. (Baer) Rather, we are made up of many cultures interacting with one another. Non-rationally based models embrace this fact. We best serve by helping our constituents interact with the myriad of obstacles preventing their solutions and goals from becoming realized. (Brooks) Essentially these theories agree with Saul Alinsky that organizing is nothing more than “institutional jujitsu.” (Alinsky, 152) I agree with Alisnky:
As an organizer I start from where the world is, as it is, not as I would like it to be. That we accept the world as it is does not in any sense weaken our desire to change it into what we believe it should be—it is necessary to begin where the world is if we are going to change it to what we think it should be. That means working in the system.
(Alinsky, XIX)
Our system requires understanding how the system works; decisions are not simply meritocratic.
Alinsky keeps us cognizant that the planning process is inextricably linked to the position of the planner. (Baer) If the planner is a billionaire who is funding the entire plan then she can do anything she wants and a rational model is the best choice. (Brooks) Unfortunately for me and most other planners that is not the case; an organization whether private or public is paying the planner’s salary, and for the project. Therefore, the project will be nothing more than a function of the groups represented and affected by the plan. When the plan is to develop a previously non developed area with no preexisting communities or interests, it will also give the planner great freedom to implement their goals with little or no energy toward having the public approve the plan. In reality there are no vacant areas, nearly everything including forests have communities or interests guiding them. In the great majority of cases, a planner will be working to change a pre-existing developed area into a new area. The reality that myself and other planners operate within includes other communities and interests, therefore the planner is most effective by working to create a dialogue between different interests. Using positive theoretical rational models is still helpful, especially as a methodological tool to explain why and how things are and will be, but it is inextricable from the context of explaining and hypothesizing concepts and the relationship between concepts—rarely if ever does conceptualizing a problem fix the problem itself. (Baum, Brooks) With a dialogue, diametrically opposed goals may be accomplished in tandem. For example, say group A is concerned with litter, group B is concerned with creating a party with a purpose. Group A probably would not want group B to have a party in the neighborhood. But once they have a dialogue, perhaps group B may make their purpose discouraging litter. Thus both groups would have a synergy together that they would not have were it not for the planner. I feel my style of decentralized mixed scanning is the ideal form of planning, because the educated academic can still help with theoretical conceptualization of the problem and efficiently advocate for a change. In conclusion, the rational model is not extinct, but we must focus on the process of getting the plan implemented. (Baer, Brooks, Checkoway)
Alinsky, Saul D. Rules for Radicals. New York, New York: Vintage Books, a Division of
Random House. 1989.

Fischer, Claude S. To Dwell Among Friends: Personal Networks in Town and City. Chicago,
Illinois: The University of Chicago Press. 1982.

Putnam, Robert D. Better Together: Restoring the American Community. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster. 2003.

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