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Thread: Stimulating public participation?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Stimulating public participation?

    Some jurisdictions have community plannning initiatives that try to get the local community involved in the planning process. A county I know of in Florida has employed growth management "agents" that do outreach work which includes informing residents of development projects that may affect their neighborhood. These programs clearly go beyond the minimum requirements of state and local laws which generally require publishing notices in the paper and sometimes sending letters to neighboring properties owners (such as in the case of a variance).

    The question this brings to mind is: what responsibility should we as planners have in dealing with public participation, or lack thereof? Is it really our responsibility to encourage public participation if the public really doesn't seem to care?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller
    Is it really our responsibility to encourage public participation if the public really doesn't seem to care?
    I tend to think so. But many of the pitfalls and difficulties are explored in this thread, and I think Lee Nellis and SW MI Planner had some good points about the very question you are exploring.

  3. #3
    How is "public participation" any better for the public than getting calls from their banks about credit card offers? Why does the public have to be involved in any way? Aren't you looking out for their interests?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    How is "public participation" any better for the public than getting calls from their banks about credit card offers? Why does the public have to be involved in any way? Aren't you looking out for their interests?
    You've posed three interesting questions (though somewhat dismissive ones, at that), yet I do encourage you to share your perspective on all three. Please enlighten us.

  5. #5

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    Stimulating public participation is an affirmative responsibility. It is part of what makes planners different from architects and engineers, for example, as well as part of a realization that plan implementation normally requires at least some people to care.

    As for jaws' comment: If you view people as passive consumers, as 'sheep' whose only influence on the world is measured by the size of their bank account, and thus the ability to consume goods and services, then there is no difference. I, however, despite a lot of recent evidence to the contrary, view people as citizens, as people who have their own responsibility to make the community work. That means those of us who are entrusted with public service have a definite responsibility to give them opportunities to exercise their citizenship.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    As for jaws' comment: If you view people as passive consumers, as 'sheep' whose only influence on the world is measured by the size of their bank account, and thus the ability to consume goods and services, then there is no difference. I, however, despite a lot of recent evidence to the contrary, view people as citizens, as people who have their own responsibility to make the community work. That means those of us who are entrusted with public service have a definite responsibility to give them opportunities to exercise their citizenship.
    Citizenship has nothing to do with how roads and pipes and squares are going to be built, anymore than citizenship entitles you to decide how everyone's shoes are going to be made. You've appropriated the notion of citizenship into a sphere that is completely irrelevant.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Plannibelle's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    How is "public participation" any better for the public than getting calls from their banks about credit card offers? Why does the public have to be involved in any way? Aren't you looking out for their interests?
    That's the real point. Most of the people who attend these meetings, aka, "stakeholders" are gadflys, who have nothing better to do. It's their HOBBY to attend these planning charrets and get all mouthy and demanding. Most of the time their thoughts hardly reflect their community. And of those who do attend. are these people really a representative example of the community collecdtive thoughts that is the majority? And if opinin has merit, how much does it have in regards to good planning when it conflicts with our own best judgments?

    From observing the meetings I attend, we get your NIMBY folks ,who dispite the obvious evidence that our city has to tend to the incoming of new residences and demand for housing, they will say "DOWN ZONE!" "DOWN ZONE!"

    An euridite boss of mine said something interesting to me. She is of Chinese desent born in Viet Nam, who then grew up in France. She made an official visit to China to meet with the Planning Director--. I don't recall the province. When she came back she told me that there two major insights: Planning itself was more technical and efficient in mainland China in that communist China did not permit public input and therefore plans were viewed in the context of what worked for the area and how it will affect the area long range. It was very comprehenisv planning. She also said pollution was horrible because of the lack of public input.

    It's a double edge sword. If humans weren't so self -centered and more altruist then we would get better, realistic, thoughful, and compassionate planning input from the public.

    Now there's the rubL: how do you get a bunch of people who live in NIMBYland to step outside their own universe?

  8. #8
    Quote Originally posted by Plannibelle
    An euridite boss of mine said something interesting to me. She is of Chinese desent born in Viet Nam, who then grew up in France. She made an official visit to China to meet with the Planning Director--. I don't recall the province. When she came back she told me that there two major insights: Planning itself was more technical and efficient in mainland China in that communist China did not permit public input and therefore plans were viewed in the context of what worked for the area and how it will affect the area long range. It was very comprehenisv planning. She also said pollution was horrible because of the lack of public input.
    Pollution in socialist countries is always terrible. It's the absence of well defined property rights that causes it, not an urban planning problem.

  9. #9

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    Ah, the technical delusion.

    Citizens should have EVERYTHING to do with where new roads, pipes, squares, etc. are to be built. They are the ones who are going to use them. They are the ones who will be impacted by them. That is why planners are not technicians (and why engineers who listen poorly, if al all, have messed up so many communities), but facilitators and educators.

    There is, of course, a technical aspect to all of these facilities. Citizens are not going to have much to say about the actual piping schematic of a sewage treatment plant, but they are/should going to have a lot to say about the impact a new plant will have on the pace of growth and the quality of life. The reality is that efficiency cannot and should not be our goal in planning (in the actiual construction of a plant, of course). Our goal has to be to help folks actualize their citizenship - and that is a messy, inefficient process.

    It is fascinating isn't it, that this thread has two similar critiques of public participation coming on the one hand from a totalitarian state and on the other hand from what is alleged to be a pure market perspective. It certainly confirms my conclusion that there is little difference between the tyranny of the market and that of any monarch or dictator.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    The NIMBY gadflies will always be involved. The more you get "normal" people to become involved, the more you will come closer to what most people in the neighborhood really want.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Don't forget the code of ethics. "Our primary obligation is to serve the public interest and we, therefore, owe our allegiance to a conscientiously attained concept of the public interest that is formulated through continuous and open debate." Nothing more to say.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller
    The question this brings to mind is: what responsibility should we as planners have in dealing with public participation, or lack thereof? Is it really our responsibility to encourage public participation if the public really doesn't seem to care?
    I think often there is a tension between momentum needed to get a project done (a sector plan, transportation plan, etc.) and the sloppy, messy process of citizen involvement which can really slow things down.

    I think one of the strongest arguments from a city's standpoint about why to involve the public is that it may cost the city (or whatever municipality) a lot of money and time on the other end if they DON'T involve them. Opposition by local groups who feel hoodwinked or otherwise sidestepped (whether legitimate or not) on major planning issues can make life very difficult. They can block projects, tie up developer's who then may think twice about investing in the community, etc.

    Taking extra time with the public to get a majority on board will mean 1) projects may go through more smoothly, 2) the projects are more likely to be in line with local desires, 3) local communities can get on board with a larger vision for a community and marshal their own resources (local organizations, the formation of citizen committees, etc.) to address larger issues at the local levels (organizing citizen watch groups to address crime, for example) and 4) local communities benefit from the "therapeutic" process of identifying major issues of concern and unearthing the underlying causes.

    In Albuquerque, the city planning staff is often inadequate to do all of this themselves, so they often contract the community process out to private firms. They then send a single planning staff member to be present and participate in local meetings. In general, neighborhood associations (which may require actually getting on the meeting agenda and announcing that a certain process is about to begin) and direct mailings to area residents are the primary means be which community involvement is garnered. They may also identify stakeholder groups (major institutions, business associations, etc.) and meet with them as well.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  13. #13
    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    Ah, the technical delusion.

    Citizens should have EVERYTHING to do with where new roads, pipes, squares, etc. are to be built. They are the ones who are going to use them. They are the ones who will be impacted by them. That is why planners are not technicians (and why engineers who listen poorly, if al all, have messed up so many communities), but facilitators and educators.
    I use my clothes, my car and my computer but I don't have the slightest idea how these things are made or should be made. I trust the clothing, automobile and computer companies to do it on my behalf, to use their expertise to forecast what my needs are going to be. They in turn trust everyone else to provide the best of their respective specialization. That is the foundation of an advanced, even democratic, civilization.

    The reason engineers have messed up so communities was that they weren't working for the communities, they were working for themselves and their own technical fantasies. By placing supreme importance on what the public tells you to do regardless of how ridiculous it is, simply because you want to believe in a mystical citizenship, you are making the same mistake as these engineers. You are placing your fantasies ahead of the general welfare.
    There is, of course, a technical aspect to all of these facilities. Citizens are not going to have much to say about the actual piping schematic of a sewage treatment plant, but they are/should going to have a lot to say about the impact a new plant will have on the pace of growth and the quality of life. The reality is that efficiency cannot and should not be our goal in planning (in the actiual construction of a plant, of course). Our goal has to be to help folks actualize their citizenship - and that is a messy, inefficient process.
    So your goal is to waste people's money on a process that doesn't get good technical results? No wonder people hate planners.

  14. #14
    Zoning Lord Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    So your goal is to waste people's money on a process that doesn't get good technical results? No wonder people hate planners.
    You know jaws, I'm growing to hate you.
    Last edited by Richmond Jake; 24 Jul 2006 at 9:03 PM. Reason: grammar
    Annoyingly insensitive

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    There is a point you step beyond when you start looking like you are begging for public input. My view: you meet the legal requirements for notification, then you stop right there.

  16. #16
    Zoning Lord Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Zoning Goddess
    There is a point you step beyond when you start looking like you are begging for public input. My view: you meet the legal requirements for notification, then you stop right there.
    "The price of democracy is eternal vigilance."
    Annoyingly insensitive

  17. #17
    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake
    You know jaws, I'm growing to hate you.
    I don't know what puzzles me most, that you hate me for pointing out the obvious or that you thought announcing to everyone that you hate me was a good idea.
    Quote Originally posted by Zoning Goddess
    There is a point you step beyond when you start looking like you are begging for public input. My view: you meet the legal requirements for notification, then you stop right there.
    There's a lot of good that can be achieved by getting feedback on your work, legal requirement or not. That's why restaurants have those suggestion cards that you can leave at the desk. However this feedback must be volontary and not demanded of the residents, and it must not be forgotten that ultimately the experts are in the best place to judge what is or isn't a good idea.

  18. #18
    Zoning Lord Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Based on your comments, youíve insulted my profession, my staff, and me. You ever had a real job in the read world? Or are you just sucking off your parents and regurgitating the textbook crap? You really need to develop an understanding of how things really operate. People like you simply piss me off. Always negative. Never offering solutions. Never finding common ground to find a solution. Iíll tell you whatís funny; I stomp all over people like you every day. And it feels good because I represent the majority of the community I work for. Yup, feels good.
    Annoyingly insensitive

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Jaws, don't be absurd. Of course it behooves consumers to know enough about what they are getting to lessen the chance of getting a **** deal. You seem to imply that he only economic levels of product knowledge is binary, 0 or1. I couldn't manufcture a shirt, but I know the difference between twist-weave Italian poplin and cheap, fuzzy stuff from Turkish mills and therefore whether a GBP 50 shirt is a deal or a ripoff.

    The idea that citizens should completely adbicate all technical knowledge and not get involved is ridiculous, particularly as the net empowers basic information gathering to an unprecedented extent.

    Also, take it easy or RichmondJake is going to blow a gasket in his coronary and then how will you feel
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  20. #20
    Quote Originally posted by Luca
    Jaws, don't be absurd. Of course it behooves consumers to know enough about what they are getting to lessen the chance of getting a **** deal. You seem to imply that he only economic levels of product knowledge is binary, 0 or1. I couldn't manufcture a shirt, but I know the difference between twist-weave Italian poplin and cheap, fuzzy stuff from Turkish mills and therefore whether a GBP 50 shirt is a deal or a ripoff.

    The idea that citizens should completely adbicate all technical knowledge and not get involved is ridiculous, particularly as the net empowers basic information gathering to an unprecedented extent.
    Specialization is inevitable. By putting more information at the hands of people, the internet is only going to unleash a new wave of specialization. People are going to learn the technical information that they expect will benefit them, and the net makes it easier for them to do it.

    What it all comes down to is that there is a significant difference between knowing what makes a good shirt and knowing how a good shirt is made. People are only interested in knowing what makes a good shirt, because that is what will allow them to make the right decisions as to clothing themselves. They are not interested in learning how a good shirt is made, because what the hell are they going to do with this information? It's all cost and no benefit.

    "Public participation" confuses these two forms of knowledge. Placing decisions of how cities are to be made into the hands of people who aren't interested in knowing how to make a city is only going to create a mess, empowering rageaholics like RichmondJake to bully around people critical to the business of the city.

  21. #21
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Moderator note:
    Posts have been reported in this thread. Cool off the personal attacks jaws and RJ.

    "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

  22. #22
    Cyburbian
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    The public are a silly bunch and should not be encouraged to speak up. It is a rare occurance that a member of said bunch would ever have the heightened level of intelligence that the common city planner posesses. City planners always know what is best.

    Also: God bless S. Florida - Lord knows we need it.

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