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Thread: What the APA needs to do to get professional planners held in higher regards

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    What the APA needs to do to get professional planners held in higher regards

    IMHO, I think the APA has it all wrong. The AICP test is a start, but only a start. The members of the APA need to push for stronger regulations and standards for Professional Planners. Altogether, what I am proposing would garner more respect (and money) for the Planning Profession and its Professionals. This is taken from the Engineering model set forth by my state:

    1. Have a real-life test which tests on everyday planning principles, not the history of the "art" or "science" or case law of planning, but an actual test of how to apply the education and practice of planning. I know it is not an exact science, like engineering, but testing on dealing with situations, what is needed to facilitate the various facets of planning would be useful.

    2. Have a stamping process, by which the planning professional would have to stamp studies, reports or otherwise (best practice) recommendations, so that they would be held responsible and accountable for decisions made.

    3. Have a lobbyist at the state level that pushes to regulate and promote the importance of the profession. Make it evident to the Governmental "powers that be" that the planning profession is a much needed and useful profession.

    This would keep planners honest and instill a new level of integrity and waryness of the consequences of decision-making. I don't know if this can be accomplished by a simple letter-writing campaign, but it would be a start. It won't happen overnight, but is a worthy cause.
    I'm just trying to help your profession's cause, so forgive me if I'm way off base here. Do you have any suggestions to make your professions held in higher regards, and garner that respect that your profession gets? I think the salaries and responsibilites of doing such a thing would be commensurate to Professional Planners and the profession alike.
    Who's gonna re-invent the wheel today?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ssnyderjr View post
    Do you have any suggestions to make your professions held in higher regards, and garner that respect that your profession gets?
    Yeah, install the continuing education requirement for AICP members. The lack of the CE is the only professional criticism I've ever received. Although I've got some criticisms of the current CE proposal, I'm strongly in favor of the concept.
    Maintaining enthusiasm in the face of crushing apathy.

  3. #3
    Good discussion topic, for sure. I and other AICPs are certainly in favor of the current proposal to require continuing education. I think I've heard of 2-or-so states that register planners: New Jersey? & another? I agree that state lobbying efforts to encourage the same in others would be beneficial to the profession. Imagine planning after the 25th state required planners to be registered.

    Instinctually, I like the idea of stamping, but there's a huge difference between stamping construction documents (engineers, architects, landscape architects) and plans: Plans by nature will not reflect exactly what is depicted. Costs, materials, precise location, etc. will change, placing a would-be stamp-wielding planner in a world of trouble if the designer/budgetmaker/politician changes it some degree before construction. The interpretation of plans would pose challenges in legal defense. Just imagine explaining the differences between a comprehensive plan, master plan, corridor study, conceptual plan, etc. before a jury, and why someone didn't follow it.

    That said, I've seen an engineer place a stamp on the front of a conceptual plan (eek).

    Any experiences/knowledge with state registration out there?

    BikePlanIt, AICP

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    In my experience, it's licenced professionals that stamp documents. AICP isn't a licence, it's a certification, and although many employers prefer it, AICP isn't required for a planner to call himself a planner. You can't call yourself an engineer without a licence though.
    Maintaining enthusiasm in the face of crushing apathy.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BikePlanIt View post
    Good discussion topic, for sure. I and other AICPs are certainly in favor of the current proposal to require continuing education. I think I've heard of 2-or-so states that register planners: New Jersey? & another? I agree that state lobbying efforts to encourage the same in others would be beneficial to the profession. Imagine planning after the 25th state required planners to be registered.
    Michigan has a certificiation program, you have to have AICP before applying. There is a 6 year experience requirement and a 90 question test. Apparently there are 130 in the state. (Professional Community Planner)

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SW MI Planner View post
    Michigan has a certificiation program, you have to have AICP before applying. There is a 6 year experience requirement and a 90 question test. Apparently there are 130 in the state. (Professional Community Planner)
    Wow, I can't believe I've never heard of this before. It's an interesting idea. Have you completed this exam?
    Maintaining enthusiasm in the face of crushing apathy.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally posted by SW MI Planner View post
    Michigan has a certificiation program, you have to have AICP before applying. There is a 6 year experience requirement and a 90 question test. Apparently there are 130 in the state. (Professional Community Planner)
    Sounds like a good start, however there should be some uniformity nationwide in these professional certifications, so that it can become better known. This practical test I am proposing, should be standardized across the country. Otherwise, the professional status in one state (Michigan) may be meaningless in another (say, Indiana). Only after making this certification process uniform nationally and pushing for and mandating this new certification by the APA and planning publications and websites, will pay increase for planners and a more mutual respect will be gained by other professions.
    In engineering, there is reciprocity (transfer) from state to state (except Calif.), so that engineers may practice professionally across state lines (without taking another test) by paying a nominal fee to that state's professional registration board.
    Who's gonna re-invent the wheel today?

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    The stamping idea misses the point. Planners do a million other things besides review plans. They facilitate, analyze, present, negotiate. That\'s the real value we bring to the planning and development process.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally posted by gkmo62u View post
    The stamping idea misses the point. Planners do a million other things besides review plans. They facilitate, analyze, present, negotiate. That\'s the real value we bring to the planning and development process.
    Does it????
    A million other things, so do engineers, but we (engineers) still must stamp studies, estimates, plans and other output to show that we stand behind our work. Engineers also facilitate, analyze, present, negotiate on development projects - but they have stamps too.
    I'm saying that the disparity between engineers and planners is that planners have no way of being at fault for making a bad decision. Engineers have stamps that can lose them their jobs (and lose lives) if a bad decision is made - planners don't. This difference in responsibilty (and owning up to it) is the difference in salaries. I'm not saying it's right, I'm saying how it is....
    Who's gonna re-invent the wheel today?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    I just had to submit signed/sealed site capacity calcs this AM. Nothing more than an Excel spreadsheet provided by the twp. All we did was fill int he blanks.

    No reason why an Open Space Plan shouldnt be signed/sealed by a professional planner.....

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Rumpy Tunanator's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ssnyderjr View post
    Does it????I'm saying that the disparity between engineers and planners is that planners have no way of being at fault for making a bad decision. Engineers have stamps that can lose them their jobs (and lose lives) if a bad decision is made - planners don't. This difference in responsibilty (and owning up to it) is the difference in salaries. I'm not saying it's right, I'm saying how it is....
    Last time I checked if I make a bad decision I'm at fault.

    Quote Originally posted by ssnyderjr
    1. Have a real-life test which tests on everyday planning principles, not the history of the "art" or "science" or case law of planning, but an actual test of how to apply the education and practice of planning. I know it is not an exact science, like engineering, but testing on dealing with situations, what is needed to facilitate the various facets of planning would be useful.
    It was probaly a little different for everyone that took the exam, but most of the questions I saw on the exam related to dealing with everyday scenios.
    A guy once told me, "Do not have any attachments, do not have anything in your life you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner."


    Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro): Heat 1995

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Fat Cat's avatar
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    Fat Cat

    Am currently a Profesional Community Planner in the State of Michigan, took the test a couple of years ago. (Passed) We can use our seal on certain documents.
    I agree that this should be practiced in all states.
    Perhaps a state reqiurement of a Profesional Community Planner seal be placed on certain documents.

    This would diffinitely bring about a degree of professionalism to our profession.
    My current employer pays for my renewals. But I am not sure if they understand what it is.

    The way it stands currently anyone can use the term "planner".

    Good discussion topic.

  13. #13
    And yet Michigan does not have better quality cities than anywhere else.

    If anything it's even worse.

    Quote Originally posted by ssnyderjr View post
    I'm saying that the disparity between engineers and planners is that planners have no way of being at fault for making a bad decision. Engineers have stamps that can lose them their jobs (and lose lives) if a bad decision is made - planners don't. This difference in responsibilty (and owning up to it) is the difference in salaries. I'm not saying it's right, I'm saying how it is....
    The difference in salary is the difference in productivity. Engineers are much more productive and do more useful work in general. It has nothing to do with a stamp.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Fat Cat's avatar
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    Fat Cat

    Before my time here But I understand that the engineers did a good job on the Zilwakee Bridge

    Good example of productivity

  15. #15
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    I disagree about the standardization and uniformity of planning certifications. Planning related laws are vastly different from state to state - only the consitutional and federal requirements are the same- and on an everyday level most planners are not dealing with those.

    The reason (IMO) why planners are generally not held in higher regards and why certfication and a stamp is silly is because planners are by nature not experts at anything - we are supposed to be very knowledgeable about everything but experts in almost nothing. Also- many planning regulations are not clear enough on their face- which not only makes professional planners sound silly sometimes but makes otherwise intelligent people thing we have no idea what we are doing.

    State certification is a good thing - but unless federal requirements start to completely supercede all state planning laws there is no need or justification for a national certification.

    Having a stamp is silly - should it be required that someone puts his/her official stamp on a policy that says "Connectivity of pedestrian trails should be encouraged"?

  16. #16
    Quote Originally posted by Rumpy Tunanator View post
    Last time I checked if I make a bad decision I'm at fault.
    True, but you don't lose your job for making a bad decision and people don't lose their lives due to poor planning.

    Quote Originally posted by imaplanner View post
    I disagree about the standardization and uniformity of planning certifications. Planning related laws are vastly different from state to state - only the consitutional and federal requirements are the same- and on an everyday level most planners are not dealing with those.

    The reason (IMO) why planners are generally not held in higher regards and why certfication and a stamp is silly is because planners are by nature not experts at anything - we are supposed to be very knowledgeable about everything but experts in almost nothing. Also- many planning regulations are not clear enough on their face- which not only makes professional planners sound silly sometimes but makes otherwise intelligent people thing we have no idea what we are doing.

    State certification is a good thing - but unless federal requirements start to completely supercede all state planning laws there is no need or justification for a national certification.

    Having a stamp is silly - should it be required that someone puts his/her official stamp on a policy that says "Connectivity of pedestrian trails should be encouraged"?
    I didn't say to test on case laws or state laws, I said practical everyday planning uses. Like story problems with analytical answers, not regurgitation of dates and names of case laws. That has already been done in 8th grade history class.
    Most civil engineers don't claim to be experts in any specific thing either, but when someone has a generic technical question, who do they ask? The engineer. So in that sense planning should still be held in the same regard as engineering. I cannot attest to planning regulations, but only that engineers have sciences backing up their rationalle.
    A stamp is only silly if you are not proud enough to put your name and credentials (and potential livelihood) behind a work (study, project, etc.) of yours. FYI - I mean only formal-type documents, recommendations and studies. Not memos.
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 12 Dec 2006 at 12:20 PM. Reason: double reply
    Who's gonna re-invent the wheel today?

  17. #17
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ssnyderjr View post
    True, but you don't lose your job for making a bad decision and people don't lose their lives due to poor planning.



    I didn't say to test on case laws or state laws, I said practical everyday planning uses. Like story problems with analytical answers, not regurgitation of dates and names of case laws. That has already been done in 8th grade history class.
    Most civil engineers don't claim to be experts in any specific thing either, but when someone has a generic technical question, who do they ask? The engineer. So in that sense planning should still be held in the same regard as engineering. I cannot attest to planning regulations, but only that engineers have sciences backing up their rationalle.
    A stamp is only silly if you are not proud enough to put your name and credentials (and potential livelihood) behind a work (study, project, etc.) of yours. FYI - I mean only formal-type documents, recommendations and studies. Not memos.
    I think a stamp would be silly because as planners we rarely have the final say over a matter. We might feel that something should be a certain way and be willing to put our name and credentials behind it but then it will likely get changed around by the politicians in charge. So ultimately- our best judgement is not always reflected in the final work product. How many times do we see planners recommending against something and even advising the politicians that their course of action might even be unconstitutional - and the politicians take that course of action anyways. A general plan or zoning ordinance is rarely solely the work product of a planner - whereas a building plan may be solely the work of an engineer.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally posted by imaplanner View post
    I think a stamp would be silly because as planners we rarely have the final say over a matter. We might feel that something should be a certain way and be willing to put our name and credentials behind it but then it will likely get changed around by the politicians in charge. So ultimately- our best judgement is not always reflected in the final work product. How many times do we see planners recommending against something and even advising the politicians that their course of action might even be unconstitutional - and the politicians take that course of action anyways. A general plan or zoning ordinance is rarely solely the work product of a planner - whereas a building plan may be solely the work of an engineer.
    Point taken, however, wouldn't you feel better on the site plan approval comment sheet stamping next to your comment recommending against it, so that down the road people will know that a professional planner sided against or had recommendations against said project. It is impressive and shows your conviction to political figures. May make them take a second look at your comment. In the small-ish city I work, being an engineer is OK, but people actually listen to you when you get the P.E. put after your name.....coincidence???? maybe.

    Your reports and projects could still be stamped and signed denoting the work was done by a "professional" planner. Your stamp would signify that the work your stamp is affixed to is (to the best of your knowledge), the best-practice way of doing something based on city codes, past experience and even case law.
    Who's gonna re-invent the wheel today?

  19. #19
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    I'm not in favor of perpetuating our society's cult of expertise. I'm a planner partly because I value the role of the generalist.

    But, from day one in this business, I've had a lot of frustrations with the planning profession and the dissatisfaction over not being like engineers is one of them.

    If I wanted to stamp plans, I would have been a civil engineer. But I'm more interested inbuilding communities than I am in paving roads, so I'm a planner.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Fat Cat's avatar
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    Fat Cat

    Keep in mind that as you progress in your career you are expected to know budgeting, including cost accounting. If you become a dept head, you have personnel issues as well scheduling. If you are in the private sector and work as a project manager, you are held accountable for people, cost containment, revenues and people assigned to your project and billing and some times you have engineers (PEs) work for you.
    You will be deposed for court cases and give expert testimony in court, and your will be cross examined Quite often your testimony is the key to the case. This can be for zoning issues or other land use issues.
    Economic development quite often comes into play as you work to retain existing businesses and attract new businesses.

    Dont sell yourselves short.
    Most of us became planners because we believe that we can make a difference

  21. #21
    Quote Originally posted by Fat Cat View post
    Keep in mind that as you progress in your career you are expected to know budgeting, including cost accounting. If you become a dept head, you have personnel issues as well scheduling. If you are in the private sector and work as a project manager, you are held accountable for people, cost containment, revenues and people assigned to your project and billing and some times you have engineers (PEs) work for you.
    You will be deposed for court cases and give expert testimony in court, and your will be cross examined Quite often your testimony is the key to the case. This can be for zoning issues or other land use issues.
    Economic development quite often comes into play as you work to retain existing businesses and attract new businesses.

    Dont sell yourselves short.
    Most of us became planners because we believe that we can make a difference
    Engineers do much the same work Department head wise and even division head wise. I'm not trying to sell planners short, I'm trying to get them the recognition and pay that the profession deserves. I'm only offering up suggestions on how to advance the profession and keep integrity and ethics in the planning profession.

    Quote Originally posted by aporitic View post
    I'm not in favor of perpetuating our society's cult of expertise. I'm a planner partly because I value the role of the generalist.

    But, from day one in this business, I've had a lot of frustrations with the planning profession and the dissatisfaction over not being like engineers is one of them.

    If I wanted to stamp plans, I would have been a civil engineer. But I'm more interested inbuilding communities than I am in paving roads, so I'm a planner.
    I'm sorry you had no interest in getting professional planners held in higher regards, you probably shouldn't have posted as that was the topic of this thread. I'm suggesting engineering as a model because it has been successful in keeping its professionals held to a highly accountable, strict standard. How planning gets from point A to point B is the discussion, or maybe Planning doesn't want to go to point B, maybe it is happy at point A. That is what this thread is for. Thanks anyway.
    Who's gonna re-invent the wheel today?

  22. #22
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I am a planner who works mainly in the community development arena - and mixing it with the arts as a social catalyst, no less. While certainly still "planning," it is pretty far from what many here may deal with on a regular basis (in terms of compiling and reviewing plans). Still, we do work from an already established Metropolitan Redevelopment Area plan and apply planning theory in our work. So, I still think that this is a good idea because, whether you are involved in implementing plans, reviewing them, or putting them together, you still need to understand how it all fits together, what constitutes "best practices" and what current theory is regarding differtent ideas.

    One of the struggles I think planning has had historically is that the idea of zoning is perceived as potentially threatening to personal property rights. The long history of legal battles around "takings" is testament to this, whether in response to Oregon's Urban Growth Boundaries or all the way back to Euclid.

    Because of this, I think states, and certainly the feds, have been very reluctant to take a concrete (no pun intended) stance on planning policy or even standards. In my personal opinion, a lot more could be accomplished by state-mandated planning principles and policies to help guide development in more responsible, energy efficient and otherwise sustainable ways that could impact the quality-of-life for many people. In fact, many of the cities that planners admire were established under these types of conditions - medeival towns, Spanish towns of the New World (that had to suibscribe to the Laws of the Indies). Specific rules about layout, materials, scale, amenities, etc. are historically what has lent such a unique and desirable to character to many great places. Today, though, there is a great fear of legal wrangling and most state's do not have any kind of enforcable planning policy. In fact, I only know of Oregon which requires an Urban Growth Boundary be established for all municipalities (over a certain size?). Maybe there are others, but they are few and far between.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    I think the whole point of this thread is another discussion of how worthless the AICP really is. AICP means nothing, while PE is Gospel.

  24. #24

    Well Said.

    I think you hit it on the head.
    Forechecking is overrated.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    The planning profession is very unique because of many factors, some of which lead to questions of legitimacy:

    1. For municipal planners, we don't really decide what happens. Appointed citizens (Planning Commission, ZBAs) or elected officials do. It makes us look bad, stupid, etc. when recommendations are consistently denied by lay-persons.

    2. In some states, there are "citizen planner" programs where the average citizen can become a "planner". I understand that the intent of this is to educate the citizenry and appointed officials, but it gives the false impression that becoming a professional planner is easy. Think about it...are there "citizen engineers", "citizen doctors".

    These questions of legitimacy have been haunting professional planners for decades. I don't think anything will change unless professional planners are given more power on the state and/or federal level.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

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