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Thread: Does anyone sit on a planning commission?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Does anyone sit on a planning commission?

    I do not work for the City of Detroit, but I live there. I work for an agency that does work with the City and suburbs. If I abstain from things that directly relate to my job, do you see any conflict?

  2. #2
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    and why would you want to? another night out?

    what do you do?

    from the info you posted, i think it sounds a little too close for comfort myself and i wouldn't get on the commission at all -

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    People will perceive it as a conflict even if there isn't one.

    A former concilman here owns a business that does work for the City. People were always screaming 'conflict of interest'. No one ever took the time to truly investigate the situation. If they had, they would see everything was on the level and the City was actually saving money. None the less, he did not win re-election because of his perceived conflict of interest.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    A former boss told me once...

    "If you even have to ask whether or not something is ethical, don't do it. Even if it's on the up-and-up, the mere appearance of a conflict of interest could harm your career."

    This is hard to do, because it means swallowing your pride or giving up on a situation you think and know you could help. To use a cliche, it's always better to ere on the side of caution.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  5. #5
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    I sit on a planning commission in one state and work in another. I have learned so much sitting on the decision making side. Mostly I've learned how to tell when the planning staff is being pressured to recommend a project, and when they are to overloaded to make a good staff reccommendation. It really changes your perspective about your own planning commission you work for as a staffer. You learn to anticipate the small things that make their job as commissioners easier.

    I've been on my local PC about two years now and it has been my greatest planning teacher since Mike Gurnee told me to always steal a lot of office supplies if you think you are about to get canned.

    That was a joke. In all truthfulness Mike taught me a great deal about how to be a good planner and person.

  6. #6
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    I would say that if the agency you work for is part of a project that you review on the Commission, then you should just abstain, but that should certainly not preclude you from becoming a commissioner.

    Don't feel you need to ere on the side of caution, because you live in a City that needs as many educated experienced professionals serving on the decisiion making bodies.

    Go for it!
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

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  7. #7
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Your situation is a bit too close for my liking....I personally wouldn't be comfortable.

    I used to be on the Zoning Board where I live, but had to give it up when my Planning Board meetings where I'm staff starting to conflict with the ZBA meetings where I live.

    I can sum up my ZBA experience pretty simply....I was on the short end of a lot of 4-1 votes.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  8. #8
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman
    I would say that if the agency you work for is part of a project that you review on the Commission, then you should just abstain, but that should certainly not preclude you from becoming a commissioner.

    Don't feel you need to ere on the side of caution, because you live in a City that needs as many educated experienced professionals serving on the decisiion making bodies.

    Go for it!
    This is what I figured, for the record I work for the MPO and do not work on the day to day site plans and ordinances that are enjoyed by many of you. I do not see much of a reason to abstain from many decisions as it is more micro than what I am used to doing.

    I am also an AICP member, so even though I am dealing with only one type of issue, I do know enough about the field to do other things, but I enjoy my job tremendously. I know that this City is clearly deficient of solid middle-class folks who are educated in planning. Those that do live in the city often hold positions within the City Planning or Economic Development. I would see them as having more conflicts than I.

    My manager wants us to be invovled in our local community planning efforts (where we live) and yet only a few of us actually live in the city, as Detroit is mostly a City of Suburbs, much like Chicago.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian big_g's avatar
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    I probably would not in i were in your shoes. It was different for me when I sat on a my city's planning board, I worked for the next county over.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian dankrzyz's avatar
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    There's no doubt that experiencing situations from the two different perspectives would not be a valuable experience, but I'd have to agree with a lot of what was said on this thread. Perception is reality in so many cases regarding ethics and conflict of interest. It's not a knock on your personal ability to separate the two and act ethically.

    I've always heard amongst this field that it's questionable or even outright unethical to be influential of a neighboring jurisdiction's politics and policies.



    But that raises an interesting question - which is more ethical - or rather, which situation raises the chances of a poor ethical decision to be made - the developer on the Commission/Board or the trained planner on the Commission/Board? One happens a lot more than the other, that's for sure. I think we could talk for days on this question and I don't want to change the topic of this thread, but it's just an interesting rhetorical (to me, at least).

  11. #11
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    I don't think that you should necessarily give up on this. Many planning commissions have members who are in similar positions. In fact- sometimes it is difficult to get anyone who would actually be qualified except for people who sometimes do business with the city/county. So long as you are clear about it and abstain as appropriate I do not see it as a problem.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Update: Planning Commission

    I wanted to report for all whom I have bored, annoyed or just plain bugged with my Detroit obsession that dispite my efforts, the current planning commissioners have expressed an interest in staying on.

    I'm actually happy to see that I am not the only one staying with the ship. I thanked the Council President for his consideration and offered my help as either a citizen or though my professional experience.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  13. #13
    Cyburbian DecaturHawk's avatar
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    I can think of quite a few planning commissions that I would like to sit on.
    SOME say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice.
    From what I’ve tasted of desire
    I hold with those who favor fire.
    But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate
    To know that for destruction ice
    Is also great
    And would suffice.

    Robert Frost (1874–1963) (From Harper’s Magazine, December 1920.)

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