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Thread: Is there any hope?

  1. #1

    Is there any hope?

    Is there any hope for planners like me who only have undergraduate degrees? I've had two planning jobs: one doing current planning (zoning) for a rapidly developing suburban county, and one(my present employment) doing long range planning (redoing the comprehensive plan) for a fairly large but unfashionable city. I'm gaining great experience, but find that my lack of advanced schooling can be a hindrance. I'm pretty old (36) and have children so quitting work to get a Master's would be a hardship. I am taking the AICP exam in 1999. Assuming I pass, do you think this will be adequate or should I bite the bullet and go back to school (argh). There are no planning schools anywhere near me, only public administration. Those who have experienced this situation please enlighten me!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian pandersen's avatar
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    Don't kick yourself too hard, and don't feel too bad about turning down graduate school back in 1995. If I was luckly enough to get a job straight out of university after completing an undergraduate degree in planning, I probably would have made the same decision you did.

    In fact, when I completed my undergraduate degree, I had had enough schooling at that time. I was sick of being lectured at, with professors spoon feeding my their particular brand of academic dogma. Fast forward two years into the future. After being unsuccessful in securing a planning job with my undergraduate degree, I approached grad school with the proper mindset. I was eager to return to school (during an economic downturn in Canada) get my advanced degree as quickly as possible and get the hell out of there as quickly as possible to start earning a living.

    Now that I am working in a professional capacity, I still am unsatisfied as the types of jobs I have been successful in obtaing don't really match my long term career objectives. While I am working in a project management capacity (current planning), I really want to be involved in policy planning i.e. long range planning studies, comprehensive plan updates etc. Do you enjoy your work in this area of planning?

    : As for where I work, right now I am employed by the City of Detroit "Building a World Class City" - what a laugh! Sure, there is a lot of development activity in the city right now e.g. (3) casino developments, (2)new stadiums and brownfields redevelopment, but the administration seems all to willing to accept any and all forms of development with little thought to some of the negative long term consequences associated with certain forms of development. One of my personal pet peeves involves the amount of land the city is willing to sell (dirt cheap) to store front church operators. Sure the City is excited about divesting itself of vacant non-assessment generating properties, but when the development entity is a church, they pay no taxes.

    By the way, where do you work? What are some of the particular development challenges facing your department?

    Regards,
    (Planner in Purgatory)

  3. #3

    Reply: Is there any hope?

    Hey:

    Thanks for the response. Sorry for the delay in answering, but I was at the annual Texas Planning Association conference in Austin. It was pretty good. In answer to your question, I work "out in the west Texas town of El Paso." If you're not familiar with El Paso, its a border city of approximately 750,000 located at the extreme west side of Texas. The climate is great (unless you like rain and cold) but the city is very poor and thus there is very little room for creativity or innovation in planning. As to whether or not I enjoy long range planning, I'd have to say I really miss the rough and tumble of zoning and current planning. This long range stuff is too abstract and conceptual and frustrating, since most of what we propose just gets shot down. I look at the prior comprehensive plan and see policies and recommendations, good ones, that were never acted upon. I know that El Paso is unlikely to ever be another Portland, but it's still irritating to listen to the short-sightedness of the city leaders. And the developers! This city gets more sunshine than any other city in the U.S. But do we lead the nation in usage of solar energy? No! Not only that, but the builders build cookie-cutter houses on cul-de-sacs with no thought to building orientation (to take advantage of the sun) and with such features as big windows, vaulted ceilings, refrigerated air, and minimal insulation, NONE of which makes sense in a high desert setting like this. Adobe construction? You know, what the earliest people here used for hundreds of years? It was not even ALLOWED by the building code until a couple of years ago. Go figure. Still, it beats the suburban Atlanta hell-county I was in for three years. Boy, the stories I could tell . . .

    The local university here offers a Masters in Public Administration. It's a couple of miles from work and where I live. I get mixed opinions as to the MPA's value. Any thoughts?

    Let me know if you want my e-mail address so we can exchange information.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian pandersen's avatar
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    Reply: Is there any hope?

    Hey Back at Ya!

    You're lucky, my department doesn't financially support my membership or participation in professional conferences.

    As to your question related to the value of an MPA. My feeling is that it has a much worth/value in the workplace/job market as an advanced degree in planning. The path to career advancement in this field is very broad. The key factor seems to be pocession of an advanced degree (any degree). In some of my past positions, some senior staff had advanced degrees in public administration, journalism, planning, socieology, history, etc. Another interesting trend I have encountered is that many of my superiors had fewer academic qualifications than I do. I guess this trend as a result of the increasing trend towards credentialization of many professions.

    As for my familiarity with El Paso, sorry, my travels in Texas have been restricted to the eastern portion of the state right down to the Gulf Coast. My last trip down there was back in 1884/85 just after a hurricane hit the coast. I remember the trip because at one point, we were forced to drive on the beach for 20-30 miles because the road washed out. I can well believe you get a lot of sun down there and didn't envy you this summer when temperatures swelled thanks in large part to El-Nino (sp). As my relatives on the Canadian praries would say, however "yeah but it's a dry heat". As for the weather here in Michigan, the most common saying is as follows: "you don't like the weather, wait a minute". Personally, what I hate about the climate here and in Ontario is the damned humidity in the summer (must have something to do with my nordic blood - as Dad is from Denmark).

    Oh yeah, before I forget, here is my personal e-mail address so I can correspond from home rather than contine to write on "company time". My e-mail address is as follows:

    (e-mail deleted)

    Regards,
    Planner in Purgatory.

  5. #5
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    My very first job as a professional planner was for the City of Las Cruces, New Mexico. I thought we had it tough, but whenever I felt down about my job and the city's gawd-awful built environment, I would take a thirty minute drive south on I-10. After seeing the jungle of high-rise signs, the formless sprawl, and the widespread use of "Texas landscaping" (i.e. concrete), things didn't seem so bad. I still get a good laugh out of Section 20.66.140 of the El Paso Sign Code, which reads:

    "Portable signs are permitted for a period not to exceed three hundred sixty five days."

    It seems that the quality of urban design and consideration of the natural environment is inversely proportional to the affluence of the community. El Paso is poor, therefore, a retail business will have a hard time in an environment where there is less disposable income. Let's make it easy on 'em - we'll allow huge signs so they can increase their customer base. We'll decrease landscaping requirements so they don't have to spend so much on maintaining their site. We'll have no architectural regulations, so businesses don't have to shell out big bucks on such things like four-sided design and vernacular detailing. This attitude makes for a crappy visual environment, which does nothing to eliminate the city's national reputation as an "armpit," thus driving away potential residents and high-end businesses that care about more than the bottom line.

    In poorer cities, people seem to care less about the quality of the built environment. Their priorities are more about getting food on the plate, and having enough money to pay the rent this month, not landscaping at Sunland Park Mall or solar exposure in the gringo subdivisions on the West Side. The Anglo middle class is pretty much transient - work in management at a maquiladora, and hope to get transferred in a few years. To them, El Paso will never be considered a permanent "home." With regards to planning issues, neighborhood participation is practically nonexistent.

    I could go on for hours ... I feel your pain. I'll just say it feels great to be working in a place that has design review, strict sign and landscaping controls, and very active citizen participation in the development review process.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Plus
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    "The more things change, the more they stay the same."


    *bump from over 15 years ago*

    Lisa's question was originally posted in SEPTEMBER, 1998.



    We often talk about how things were so different "in the good old days". Yet Lisa's question is eerily similar to the questions in Cyburbia's Student Lounge of today.

    And with employment updates and a few modifications, Dan's answer probably would be similar to the answer he'd post today.

    Just bacon food for thought......
    Last edited by Shellac And Vinyl VelocitY; 12 Feb 2014 at 3:23 AM.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Seana View post

    *bump from over 15 years ago*

    Lisa's question was originally posted in SEPTEMBER, 1998.



    We often talk about how things were so different "in the good old days". Yet Lisa's question is eerily similar to the questions in Cyburbia's Student Lounge of today.

    And with employment updates and a few modifications, Dan's answer probably would be similar to the answer he'd post today.

    Just bacon food for thought......
    Sadly, I would agree with the addition that communities in decline often axe the zoning requirements first. This only speeds up the decline.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  8. #8
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Seana View post

    *bump from over 15 years ago*

    Lisa's question was originally posted in SEPTEMBER, 1998.


    Off-topic:
    but she registered in 2005?


    to revive the question - I do not have a graduate degree, I am 49 yo, graduated college in 86 - it did hurt advancement at one town I worked at but otherwise, it's been fine - actually, though, now I wish I had it as I wouldn't mind teaching, now that I feel I have something to say after almost 30 years of doing this stuff, but I can't because I don't have an advanced degree

    so if you can get an MPA, I think it's worth it

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    I thought I just read recently that El Paso just passed one of the best smart growth plans to date?

    That said, if you are in the 19th largest city in america your strength for upward mobility lies there. Many cities like to hire folks who have worked in similar (or sometimes larger) cities. I would work on your resume to lower your education in the order and raise your experience to the top.
    @GigCityPlanner

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian View post
    Off-topic:
    but she registered in 2005?


    to revive the question - I do not have a graduate degree, I am 49 yo, graduated college in 86 - it did hurt advancement at one town I worked at but otherwise, it's been fine - actually, though, now I wish I had it as I wouldn't mind teaching, now that I feel I have something to say after almost 30 years of doing this stuff, but I can't because I don't have an advanced degree

    so if you can get an MPA, I think it's worth it
    LP, I think we are one of the last ones to be able to pull off being PD without a Master's degree.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  11. #11
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian View post
    Off-topic:
    but she registered in 2005?
    Moderator note:
    We created dummy accounts for posters from the pre-vBulletin era that we couldn't associate with members who registered after the message board was converted to vBulletin in 2000. This was intended to make it easier to associate those posts with the original posters should they ever return.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  12. #12
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Moderator note:
    We created dummy accounts for posters from the pre-vBulletin era that we couldn't associate with members who registered after the message board was converted to vBulletin in 2000. This was intended to make it easier to associate those posts with the original posters should they ever return.
    Oh that's right - you posted that before - sorry!

  13. #13
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Obi Wan may be able to offer assistance.

    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    I think that people can still make a living as planners without advanced degrees. It's harder, but with a little luck and a little work, it can still be done.

    A masters' degree helps, no doubt, but not in the "minimum price of entry" way. I have hired folks without advanced degrees when they are the right people for the specific job.

    And, wow, 1998.

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