Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 13 of 13

Thread: Proactive vs reactive planning

  1. #1
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 2004
    Location
    on my 15 minute break
    Posts
    18,989

    Proactive vs reactive planning

    AnvilPartners brought up an interesting point in one of the social forums when he posed the question why wouldn't a planning director/department proactively address a use or regulation and draft/adopt code before a community is actually facing a situation/application, we are planners after all - shouldn't we always plan for every contigency?

    There are situations where 'proactive' planning does not pay dividends and I was wondering if any of my fellow practicing public sector planners might provide some examples where they think reactive planning is preferable to proactive and why?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
    Registered
    May 2005
    Location
    Metro Detroit
    Posts
    6,420
    Quote Originally posted by AnvilPartners View post
    NO -- I'm not marketing here...(trembling from the mere thought of a BanHammer appearance) Who wants to try and practice in a place where they aren't really wanted?

    But I am trying to understand the perspective because I run into it a lot, and to me, it seems to run counter to what planning really is all about...

    The perspective I'm hearing is that planning management is a -- keep your head down, just keep the machine running, don't make changes until you're told to do so by the political leadership -- kind of role, and I'm hoping that's really not the case...

    That kind of response is what I really hate to get back, because I don't think that's what planning should be.

    If there's a need for something, and a way to do it, why wouldn't planning managemet bring it on? Aren't we the professionals that help localities know which way to go?

    In terms of demonstrated need, if other communities similar to yours are clearly benefitting from the regulation of a particular use, and it's apparent your community would too, why would there be a question -- wouldn't you suggest it to leadership?

    Are times really that rough that planning management is hunkered down in the bunker and taking all orders from the top?
    As a Planning Director, I have to pick my battles. I have to read the political winds and know when to strike. I have a family to feed, and in the end, keeping my job is more important than rocking the boat. I'll rock the boat and I'll make suggestions, and I'll fight for what I believe in, but only if I know it has a chance to succeed. Don't confuse this with planners who are simply apathetic about their job and the profession.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  3. #3
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2005
    Location
    in a meeting
    Posts
    8,809

    shields up

    hey, whoa - beep beep!

    we do get out there ahead of things a lot -

    but we have to do the following:

    pick our battles - you can only save the world a little at a time - if you come in strong on everything, people stop listening to you and then you lose credibility because they think you are some wing-nut - so we tend to go carefully and assuredly on everything

    I don't know the specific case you are talking about but your generalizations of planning directors in the public sector simply are not true - I put myself out there on many things, but not everything; I get heard with better clarity if I let go on somethings and set my foot down on others - it's life, really, in a way...

    and yes, in reality, planning zealots often either don't make it or burn out - but that doesn't mean all your clients are lazy bureaucrats either -

    the realities of public leadership is they get to decide in the end and we have to pick carefully or do baby steps to make real changes that we know will pass the vote especially if we know the political leadership at the moment is not into planning issues, and typically, we know that

  4. #4
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2007
    Location
    more West now
    Posts
    3,252
    As a public sector planner, I find that even though we absolutely prefer to be proactive when it comes to certain policy changes, it is almost always reactive because we know the Town Manager or Town Council will not approve the change unless there is an issue that needs to be fixed. Also, when staff stands up and recommends changes, the Council will take citizen comments with just as much consideration as their paid staff...no matter if its for or against the policy change. What btrage said about picking your battles is true, I am going to use my professional "capital" to work towards something I am very passionate about instead of a minor issue or something that can wait...its all about the timing.
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Ocean to the east, land to the west
    Posts
    1,113
    Proactive planning has a role, but remember that every planning/zoning change takes 2 things- time, and political capital. Every bylaw I change takes hundreds of hours of staff time, even if it ends up not passing. There is no way I could fix every problem I see in the zoning bylaw, let alone the planning issues facing me in other areas.

    Our office spent three+ years developing a Comprehensive Plan which is now rarely consulted and routinely ignored. Ironically, its not just routinely ignored by its opponents, but by people who worked on it. Because things change over time- what looks like a good long-term recommendation in 2004 may not be so good in 2008. The process of developing the plan was cathartic for the community, but the plan itself is not timeless.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
    Registered
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Oklahoma City
    Posts
    2,904
    If we planned for every contingency up front, what incentive would our employers have to keep us employed? To be paper pushers? I don't want to be a paper pusher...

  7. #7
    Cyburbian H's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 2003
    Location
    MKS
    Posts
    2,847
    In a literary sense – I don’t think “reactive planning” even makes sense (but I aint no American language expert or noth’n), but for some reason “reactive planning” sure does seem to be more politically viable compared to "proactive planning."

    in other words, in my experience, most people dont really want planning until they need it.
    "Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan." - Winston Churchill

  8. #8
    Dan Staley's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Front Range, CO
    Posts
    294
    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post

    why wouldn't a planning director/department proactively address a use or regulation and draft/adopt code before a community is actually facing a situation/application, we are planners after all - shouldn't we always plan for every contigency?

    There are situations where 'proactive' planning does not pay dividends and I was wondering if any of my fellow practicing public sector planners might provide some examples where they think reactive planning is preferable to proactive and why?
    I don't see how we can always plan for every contingency. This is why environmental management and many corporations are moving away from forecasting and instead are using projections and scenario analysis.

    Reactive planning is a fact of life, but is hard to live with. The trouble here is - especially in this economy - that proactive planning takes time and resources; the best time to do your code rewrites and plan revisions is now. But how many places are doing this?

    That is: reactive planning is preferable to Councils and budget people, as it is a form of just-in-time governing. Is it preferable to planners, LArchs, PW folks, etc? Yeahright.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2001
    Location
    West Valley, AZ
    Posts
    3,895
    Knowing that politcal capital is important to make effective planning, why does it seem that some of the past directors I had avoided the lobbyist or advocate role around politicians. There is a way to sell planning to reluctant politicians. I do expect that when I venture into management that I will establish mutually beneficial relationships with politicians, advocate the role of planning in the economic and societal health of the community, and pick my battles accordingly. However, I plan to establish enough credibility and integrity with the politicians that they know I'm not looking out in my best interests, but in theirs and most importantly the interest of the community. My proactive planning agenda will not be pushed until the relationship has been sufficently founded.

    Proactive planning has produced the many of the most desireable places in the country. Central Park and the Chicago Lakefront Parks were not accidents. You don't react to make those places happen.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
    Registered
    May 2004
    Location
    Grand Rapids, Michigan (Detroit ex-pat since 2004)
    Posts
    4,862

    Here comes the cell tower!

    And oh wait, we don't address it in our ordinance.
    -or-
    our ordinance is so vague/restrictive as to be comical.
    -or-
    we picked up some boilerplate language that worked just fine in another muni, but somehow doesn;t quite fit this jurisdiction's situation.

  11. #11
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
    Registered
    May 2003
    Location
    Staff meeting
    Posts
    8,867
    Quote Originally posted by boiker View post
    Central Park.. not accidents. You don't react to make those places happen.
    To nitpick:
    Central Park was actually very much a reactive plan. The 1811 Commissioner's plan for the subdivision of Manhattan did not provide for any parkland, but by the 1850s a "central" park was desperately needed. Also, the area on which the park was placed had many residents/structures/settlements that needed to be relocated/force off in order for the project to happen.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2001
    Location
    West Valley, AZ
    Posts
    3,895
    Quote Originally posted by mendelman View post
    To nitpick:
    Central Park was actually very much a reactive plan. The 1811 Commissioner's plan for the subdivision of Manhattan did not provide for any parkland, but by the 1850s a "central" park was desperately needed. Also, the area on which the park was placed had many residents/structures/settlements that needed to be relocated/force off in order for the project to happen.
    I have become a dishonor to the profession. I must take my life by sword as sanctioned by the APA.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian AnvilPartners's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Glendale, AZ
    Posts
    157
    Blog entries
    12

    Seems to be a season of revisions...even for me...

    From what I see (and the planning department heads I talk to), many departments are taking advantage of the slack economy to look at standing codes and see if things need to be adjusted -- that is, if they aren't facing RIFs or significant budget crises.

    That, to me, would seem to be the perfect time to consider new approaches, or to think about new ways to do things...but I'm not in their 'political shoes' and can't know the constraints they operate under.

    Suffice it to say, I'm more sympathetic to the planning managers out there (given the conflicting vectors they must navigate) after reading more in these boards.

    When I was in City Management, it wasn't much different, but I always pushed forward regardless of political tides (thus the shorter tenures at my posts). I just decided I would push for what the community needed as long as I was there, and so I was sometimes at odds with some of the political leadership. And, folks will only take so much change in any given period, and after you pass that limit, it's usually time to go. For me, at the time, I wasn't patient enough to try for the long term relationship, and frankly, those kind of posts are so few and very far between for city managers anyway...I figured the all out approach was better...Get in, lay the bricks you can, and when they want you out, get out..and find the next place to get to work...

    The older I get, the less I like this approach...and it's not surprising that my public service career didn't last. I've got a lot of respect for folks who learn how to balance that issue...

    RES
    "Sometimes you have to get medieval with it...hammer, sparks, sweat, the whole nine yards...so don't forget your asbestos suit."
    Aphorisms on Public Hearings, Planning Guild Handbook (2001).

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Proactive Health and Wellness
    Friday Afternoon Club
    Replies: 3
    Last post: 05 Oct 2007, 11:56 PM
  2. Replies: 8
    Last post: 10 Jul 2007, 5:41 AM
  3. Replies: 3
    Last post: 16 Mar 2006, 8:53 AM
  4. Replies: 14
    Last post: 16 Feb 2006, 12:54 PM
  5. Replies: 7
    Last post: 23 Nov 2004, 11:27 AM