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Thread: Public versus private sector planning in Illinois?

  1. #1
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    Public versus private sector planning in Illinois?

    Do public sector city planners do any work? ?

    Or do they just have boring policy jobs? What about private sector planners? I notice that many municipalities outsource the land use maps, comprehensive planning & everything else interesting to the private sector! Do public sector planners really have any responsibilities or interesting work???

    When I had an internship w/one NW Suburb, it seemed that all the planners did was say: Yes or No to citizens or developers. I want a creative career where you actually make plans that get implemented.

    Are mature communities different from growing fringe areas?

    How difficult are the respective job markets?

    About Me: _My BA is in Urban Planning 3.4 GPA and my MA in Real Estate (UP concentration) 4.0 (Currently Pursuing)

  2. #2
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by anandwisc View post
    Do public sector city planners do any work? ?..... Do public sector planners really have any responsibilities or interesting work???....
    No we don't. We just sit around all day pushing papers, posting on bulletin boards, and counting paper clips.

    Spend some of your valuable research time looking through this forum before you ask such irresponsible questions.

    Oh, and welcome to Cyburbia.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    You must be the bastard love child of Gov Ron and Dr Phil.

    Public sector planners, well, anywhere but Chicago, spend a gazillion more hours on the job that private planners. And we don't take bribes!! Or sell Senate seats!!

    Go with Real Estate. You can cast aspersions and still make money.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by anandwisc View post
    Do public sector city planners do any work? ?

    Or do they just have boring policy jobs? What about private sector planners? I notice that many municipalities outsource the land use maps, comprehensive planning & everything else interesting to the private sector! Do public sector planners really have any responsibilities or interesting work???

    When I had an internship w/one NW Suburb, it seemed that all the planners did was say: Yes or No to citizens or developers. I want a creative career where you actually make plans that get implemented.

    Two questions for you:
    Who do you think implements the plan? (I will give you a hint its not the consultant)
    Why would you ask a group of people for help then insult them with your first line?

    The most creative plans I have seen were driven by the public sector worker; if we sit back then we get the consultant boiler plate from their last project or its so creative that it has no chance of being implemented. As you will learn it is a partnership. The best consultants have worked in the public sector.

    The planning field is so large that it is what you make it in relation to the job that you seek. Best of luck!
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  5. #5
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    Public versus Private Sector Planners, clarification

    Sorry, I didn't mean to be insulting!

    Could you please elaborate on the type of responsibilities you carry out. For example, could you present a run-down of your typical week? I actually enjoy learning about planning-- maybe I just had an experience in a community where there wasn't much left to plan?

    I appreciate your insights!


  6. #6
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I spend about 20 hours week on the phone talking to people about projects.
    I spend about four hours in meetings.
    I spend about 15 hours working on data management issues.
    I spend about 10 hours on policy work and writing.

    I get paid based on a 37.5 hour week. You do the math.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    I work as a consultant in Illinois, with previous public sector planning experience in Illinois at the municipal, regional, state, and federal levels.

    In better times, the high number of building permits have kept current planners very busy with plan review. Larger projects in many, but not all, communities here have been outsourced (comprehensive plans, design guidelines, zoning ordinance updates, etc.). However, this has plummeted over the past 2 years. More and more communities in northeast Illinois are now doing much more work in house, leading to fewer RFPs for consultants.

    ZG, planners can't sell senate seats, we can only take bribes in Illinois
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

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  8. #8
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Also, consider smaller metro areas around the state for less permit review and more comprehensive work. I worked in central Illinois and had a chance to do permit review, enforcement (ugh), form-based code/plan creation, historic preservation, public interaction,interaction with elected officials, multi-jurisdictional projects, policy and code work. This was in the public sector during bad times and good over 5 to 6 years.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    I'm a city planning director in Illinois, Chicago metro even....and still smarting a bit about your first post. I advise spending more time in the field and more time with municipalities to understand that each one is different in how they value planning and the way that staff is involved in the development process.

    And to tell you the truth, I think that success in planning, whether in a municipality or in the private sector, has a lot to do with the individual. However, I do think that universities tend to sell a brand of planning that is based in the philosophical world, whereas real life practice has a lot more grey areas. If you think that planning is all about fighting sprawl, fighting evil developers, and building Utopian communities (as I did when I graduated), then you'll have a rough time in the real world of planning practice.

    I spend about 20 hours in meetings or preparing for meetings - with developers, city manager, my staff, other departments. This also includes a 4 hours studio we do in-house with staff.
    I spend about 10 hours a week doing research or writing reports/memos or preparing presentations for public meetings
    I spend about 3-5 hours a week on the phone with board members and planning commission members talking about projects and plans
    I spend about 5 hours a week on management tasks, such as work flow scheduling, editing minutes and reports, budgets/bills, development team preparations.
    I spend at least another 10 hours a week (for a total of 50) doing other things like doing special projects for the City manager, staying late to catch up on something, checking and responding to e-mails, etc. etc.

    My job is sometimes really exciting and sometimes really boring. I will say that after being in the private sector for 4 years, I'd much rather work for municipality. i feel like I'm personally impacting the community I live in...I'm bringing them the best of the profession and we're doing great planning. But I also have a political bug and enjoy the political process.

    Illinois has much less consulting that Michigan, the prior state I lived/worked in. In Michigan, nearly all municipalities (except the larger ones - Grand Rapids, Lansing, Detroit) outsource planning or some part of planning -- this also includes Townships, which have the power to plan and zone.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    There is a kernel of truth in what you say, and that is that the public sector planners often don't have the resources to do a lot of the nuts and bolts planning reports themselves - although there are exceptions in places with the will and resources to do things in-house.

    BUT.... the public sector planners manages the consultant, and basically guides what recommendations go into a final plan - at least, the public sector planner should do this if s/he is doing her/his job. The public sector planners has to live with the recommendations and they have to be appropriate to the place and time and politics.

    So if you like making reports and maps, perhaps the private sector is better. If you like getting your hands dirty and actually trying to implement change in a complex world (which often involves less esoteric and theoretical aspects of planning and more political maneuvering) the public sector is probably more your cup of tea.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I gathered from your comments that you are really getting to a question of current planning versus long-range planning. If that is the case, then yes, staff planners at municipalities tend to do more development review and code work, while we consultant types tend to do more of the specialized planning like comprehensive and neighborhood plans, economic development plans, and special studies. Larger communities may have a long-range planning division that does some or all of this work.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

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