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Thread: Changing your town or moving to a town already like you?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    Changing your town or moving to a town already like you?

    As planners we are usually more progressive than non-planners, at least in terms of land use, transportation issues, and the like. What do you think is a better career choice or will benefit the most people: going to a non-progressive town and trying to adjust the usual thinking they have or going to a more progressive town where most people already buy-in to it.

    For example, if you want growth boundaries, mass transit, and mixed use, moving to Portland is great. However, you personally may make little difference because what you want they already have - you're just another fish in the sea. On the other hand, if you moved to a more suburban small town would you have more influence since you theoretically have more power? Ultimately, where do you think you could do the most good?

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    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    As planners we are usually more progressive than non-planners, at least in terms of land use, transportation issues, and the like. What do you think is a better career choice or will benefit the most people: going to a non-progressive town and trying to adjust the usual thinking they have or going to a more progressive town where most people already buy-in to it.

    For example, if you want growth boundaries, mass transit, and mixed use, moving to Portland is great. However, you personally may make little difference because what you want they already have - you're just another fish in the sea. On the other hand, if you moved to a more suburban small town would you have more influence since you theoretically have more power? Ultimately, where do you think you could do the most good?
    Given those two choices, I would say moving to a more progressive town.

    If you like a challenge and are willing to slog along for years to reach your goal of bringing the heathens to the fold and facing the distinct possibility (more like probability) of failing to convert them, then move to the less progressive town.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  3. #3
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    IMO, working in a progressive town would allow a planner to really get a good tenure going, while taking on a basket case of a community, while it could be exciting and uber-challenging in the short term, will most certainly become a drag at some point and will burn you out sooner or later. Just a matter of time - one can only fight a guerrilla action for so long, you know?

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    Cyburbian southern_yank's avatar
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    I have experience with both kinds of places - progressive and not-so-progressive. If you're starting out as an entry level planner in a backwater town with an entrenched good ol' boy network, you'll have no power to influence things, even with your newly minted Masters. The powers that be - who in all likelihood have been in their positions since before you were born - make the rules. They may smile and nod politely as you explain your ideas about form-based zoning and abolishing minimum parking requirements, but it won't change things. I've seen classmates burn out within 2 years in places like these - myself included.

    You are better off starting out in a progressive city with like minded coworkers. Gain experience, then if you want, move to a less progressive city as a director where you can have more influence. Being in a place where your ideas are accepted will build your confidence. Fighting policy wars at the very beginning of your career is suicide.

    A big part of the job burn-out I read about on this forum has to do with this kind of situation. A young planner moving to a conservative city hoping to change the world. When he/she realizes that the administration would rather get their arm chewed off by a shark than make (needed) city planning policy changes, the profession doesn't look so rosy anymore.

    You have to research beyond the city planning department when applying for public sector jobs. What are the mayor's policies? Has the municipality done anything innovative in the past? How do agencies work together? A city planning department which is marginalized and demonized by other agencies will have NO power.

    Hope this helps.

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