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Thread: How do you do public outreach to a generation who hates meetings?

  1. #1
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    How do you do public outreach to a generation who hates meetings?

    I just held a series of meetings in pubs as a way for outreach for the comp plan - a few new folks did come but no one from the 20 something population came except one couple and I asked them why their peers weren't there and they said our generation hates to go to meetings, we want to do something

    this sounds all wonderful and righteous but if millenials hate going to meetings, how do we, as planners, find out what they want for their future?

    get off my lawn notwithstanding

  2. #2
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    Is there a "flash mob" version of Charette Planning? I'm actually being semi serious. Maybe you need to set up a booth at local places where under 20s hang out so they get the idea that a planning meeting isn't a "meeting" in the most traditional of senses. You "do" a lot more in a planning workshop.

    I'm lucky in that the local HS and JR HS civics and government teachers make it an assignment for their classes to attend a municipal meeting. You'd be surprised how many of the kids come ask me questions afterward. Maybe talk to the local teachers and see if you can teach a class?
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  3. #3
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian View post

    this sounds all wonderful and righteous but if millenials hate going to meetings, how do we, as planners, find out what they want for their future?
    Solve this problem and you'll be an immediate FAICP, be lauded in all the usual places, get an interview on Atlantic Cities with a catchy headline, and go to all the meetings for free. You may even make a little money off of a book or two (especially if you sell thru APA).

    Aside, but relevant: no one likes going to public meetings. The adults have all been bred and trained/acculturated to sit thru boring, time-wasting meetings. The municipal planners for the fair city in which I live are so bad at it, the adults break with their training/acculturation and don't attend either. And have you ever been to a scientific conference in the EU? OMG, snooze-fest. Meaning: that's how they've all been trained.
    -------
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    Cyburbian Plus dvdneal's avatar
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    I used to go to spring training games to catch people. I had to be aggressive and flag down each person. It's not like they'll come to you. I also had fun watching the game!
    Other than that, have a BBQ at city hall, set up a booth at the local arts fair/car show/what ever. Work your message into a local battle of the bands, do what ever it takes and the more fun you're having the more likely it will work and the older generation will be angry at you for going against their percieved role of a government official.

    Good luck and I'll read that book when it comes out (unless it's from the APA then I can't afford it).
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Well, I'm one of those Millennials who thinks planning-related meetings are mostly BS and at best just a waste of time (esp. those related to fatuous "master plans").* In this respect ColoGI hit the nail on the head. So, for what it's worth, here's why one millennial doesn't bother to show up:

    *To refer to your example: what is a "comp plan" anyway and what does it even accomplish? Is it just like one of those dime-a-dozen "master plans" gathering dust on some municipal shelf? Does it contain ideas so broad and feel-good ("we want our community to be green and sustainable") that it's inherently meaningless, thus dampening any incentive for participation?

    1.) So many of these meetings - even those putatively organized for "public input" - merely seem to be presenting predetermined solutions. Why should I show up to provide "input" to a situation whose solution has already been determined? To provide photographic proof that some proposal has "public support?" (Traffic/roadway proposals are the worst offenders in this regard.)

    2.) Regardless of age, most planning-related meetings seem to attract only those at the extremes of a pending decision - i.e. both those vociferously opposed to and in favor of some proposal. So if you're fielding a meeting over vague generalities - "master planning" - don't expect a lot of public participation, because these are too meaningless to attract attention. But if you're fielding a meeting over a transit line or some major proposed infill in a neighborhood, hoo-boy, then you can expect some rowdy participation!

    3.) At the risk of generalization, there may indeed be differences in how generations participate in the public process. I won't deny that there's a substantial "meh" factor behind my generation's indifference to such meetings, mainly because - as ColoGI pointed out - we've seen older generations run through the public meeting ringer with nothing to show for it. The "twitter" method of public participation isn't all that great either, but I think the top-down, postwar, static method of public lecture-style meetings has outlived its usefulness. Like them or not, the New Urbanists have had enormous success with the Charette model of public participation instead.

    Which gives the public more control over local planning: asking them to list "concerns" to some bureaucrat, who writes them down on some community center blackboard, disappears for three years, and then reappears with a grand solution that looks like it has ignored all the "concerns?" Or being asked to engage in the actual design process via sketching, debate forums, lab-type workshops, and other hands-on Charette tactics that are actually incorporated into the final proposal? Laypeople may not have the technical skills/knowledge to do the actual technical design, but urbanism is hardly an alien concept - all of humanity is inherently familiar with its fundamentals to some extent - so they can easily contribute basic design ideas themselves. So I find it all the more curious that abstract, technocratic reports, charts, and diagrams are commonly disseminated to the public at conventional meetings (save for the occasional, washed-out, five-second Sketchup rendering), when the visual representation of design ideas is far more important to the layperson (is it because the planners can't draw anything?). Which do you think would resonate with the public more: Discussing the concept of a "complete street" for one hour at a public meeting using text and statistical charts, or showing the concept clearly and concisely in five seconds and moving on? ColoGI said that typical planning meetings are boring - they're boring because the jargon-dependent specialists haven't learned how to communicate with the public on its own terms! (And no, this is not the same thing as "dumbing things down.")

    By the way, young people are already participating in planning via "tactical" and "lean" urbanism, and they are doing this specifically to work around bureaucratic and regulatory obstructions to common-sense design interventions. That is, there's a disconnect between the conventional sluggish, bureaucratic, meetings-based planning process and a younger generation that just wants to get things done!

    For example: Screw the hysteria-dependent process for opening up a storefront or granny flat - I'll just start a food truck and rent out rooms via Airbnb! Screw the fossilized DOT with its precious overengineered, gold-plated minimum regs for streets, bike lanes, and crosswalks - I'll just paint my own! Screw the lobotomized parks and recs department on getting a new park approved - we'll just appropriate this lot for our own parklet! Screw the official, closed-door, monopolistic process for taxi registration - I'll just sell rides from my own car! Why should any of these actions take five years' worth of traditional, timid meetings to undertake?

    In short, I'd argue that Millennials are not interested in the fossilized manner of public participation currently undertaken by planning departments. This is an antiquated relic from the Moses era - when highway planners arranged token meetings for show to ram through decisions that had already been made in back rooms. It's hardly that brutal anymore, but I think planners will need to engage younger generations on their own terms (i.e flexibly accommodating suggestions as they pop up rather than deferring everything to linear meetings and carefully-structured procedures like some kind of courthouse trial)... or get bypassed into irrelevance, especially in an ongoing era of municipal financial hardship in which expensive, time-consuming, procedure-dependent proposals will have to take a back seat to immediate, local, as-needed interventions.
    Last edited by marcszar; 19 Nov 2013 at 3:50 PM.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Faust_Motel's avatar
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    My main advice would be learn how to move more quickly. I live in a community that has been planning for its downtown core (currently a dirt road through a swamp in the middle of town) for 30 years. Over the last 5, the same 10 people have dominated the process, because those are the people who are willing to give up a night to eat crappy pizza in a stuffy room and get talked at by some CNU-type who flashes pretty pictures of 100 million dollars worth of infrastructure we can't afford.

    It all looks really nice but it is all just as speculative and out of reach as it was 30 years ago. Everyone in the room, and more importantly, those not in the room, already know that. That's why they stayed home.

  7. #7
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    awesome responses!

    Quote Originally posted by ursus View post
    Is there a "flash mob" version of Charette Planning? I'm actually being semi serious. Maybe you need to set up a booth at local places where under 20s hang out so they get the idea that a planning meeting isn't a "meeting" in the most traditional of senses. You "do" a lot more in a planning workshop.

    I'm lucky in that the local HS and JR HS civics and government teachers make it an assignment for their classes to attend a municipal meeting. You'd be surprised how many of the kids come ask me questions afterward. Maybe talk to the local teachers and see if you can teach a class?
    I love the flash mob theme - like "flash plan" - seriously, I want to work with that

    Quote Originally posted by dvdneal View post
    I used to go to spring training games to catch people. I had to be aggressive and flag down each person. It's not like they'll come to you. I also had fun watching the game!
    Other than that, have a BBQ at city hall, set up a booth at the local arts fair/car show/what ever. Work your message into a local battle of the bands, do what ever it takes and the more fun you're having the more likely it will work and the older generation will be angry at you for going against their percieved role of a government official.

    Good luck and I'll read that book when it comes out (unless it's from the APA then I can't afford it).
    when I worked in a bedroom suburb of Boston, I used to grab my then toddler out of daycare and hit the playgroups and playgrounds - I learned a lot and it was easier for them to talk to me - this is why I did the pub routine where the younger set in the town hang out

    Quote Originally posted by marcszar View post
    Well, I'm one of those Millennials who thinks planning-related meetings are mostly BS and at best just a waste of time (esp. those related to fatuous "master plans").* In this respect ColoGI hit the nail on the head. So, for what it's worth, here's why one millennial doesn't bother to show up:

    *To refer to your example: what is a "comp plan" anyway and what does it even accomplish? Is it just like one of those dime-a-dozen "master plans" gathering dust on some municipal shelf? Does it contain ideas so broad and feel-good ("we want our community to be green and sustainable") that it's inherently meaningless, thus dampening any incentive for participation?

    in my fair state, however shocking, we actually have a state mandate to prepare a comprehensive plan, and your zoning must have the policy genesis in the comp plan so it has real credibility (case laws to boot) - so it's very important to me, anyway, to get it right and it has t be more specific, at least as to land use issues, than the usual master plan you describe

    1.) So many of these meetings - even those putatively organized for "public input" - merely seem to be presenting predetermined solutions. Why should I show up to provide "input" to a situation whose solution has already been determined? To provide photographic proof that some proposal has "public support?" (Traffic/roadway proposals are the worst offenders in this regard.)

    I do work hard to make sure the comp plan reflects what I heard, unless it's illegal, I try to put it in there - but yes, someitmes the chief elected officials edit stuff out but it's up t folks to say "hey don't take that out" - the staff draft has it all in there at least

    2.) Regardless of age, most planning-related meetings seem to attract only those at the extremes of a pending decision - i.e. both those vociferously opposed to and in favor of some proposal. So if you're fielding a meeting over vague generalities - "master planning" - don't expect a lot of public participation, because these are too meaningless to attract attention. But if you're fielding a meeting over a transit line or some major proposed infill in a neighborhood, hoo-boy, then you can expect some rowdy participation!

    Well, this isn't a development proposal, it's a plan for future development - it's figuring out how development should proceed before the applications come in - it's asking where the transit line should go, where should infill go - maybe I need to better communicate this to folks, if you, as a professional planner, don't understand what the plan means, then how will lay people?

    3.) At the risk of generalization, there may indeed be differences in how generations participate in the public process. I won't deny that there's a substantial "meh" factor behind my generation's indifference to such meetings, mainly because - as ColoGI pointed out - we've seen older generations run through the public meeting ringer with nothing to show for it. The "twitter" method of public participation isn't all that great either, but I think the top-down, postwar, static method of public lecture-style meetings has outlived its usefulness. Like them or not, the New Urbanists have had enormous success with the Charette model of public participation instead.

    I can't get younger folks to come to a charrette either - on another project, I have a grant to clean up a brownfield and redevelop it but I can't get the money if I don't have a plan and yeah, only the usual suspects (all older than I am!) come

    Which gives the public more control over local planning: asking them to list "concerns" to some bureaucrat, who writes them down on some community center blackboard, disappears for three years, and then reappears with a grand solution that looks like it has ignored all the "concerns?" Or being asked to engage in the actual design process via sketching, debate forums, lab-type workshops, and other hands-on Charette tactics that are actually incorporated into the final proposal? Laypeople may not have the technical skills/knowledge to do the actual technical design, but urbanism is hardly an alien concept - all of humanity is inherently familiar with its fundamentals to some extent - so they can easily contribute basic design ideas themselves. So I find it all the more curious that abstract, technocratic reports, charts, and diagrams are commonly disseminated to the public at conventional meetings (save for the occasional, washed-out, five-second Sketchup rendering), when the visual representation of design ideas is far more important to the layperson (is it because the planners can't draw anything?). Which do you think would resonate with the public more: Discussing the concept of a "complete street" for one hour at a public meeting using text and statistical charts, or showing the concept clearly and concisely in five seconds and moving on? ColoGI said that typical planning meetings are boring - they're boring because the jargon-dependent specialists haven't learned how to communicate with the public on its own terms! (And no, this is not the same thing as "dumbing things down.")

    hhmmm, this 5 second thing might work with the flash mob idea Ursus gave me....

    By the way, young people are already participating in planning via "tactical" and "lean" urbanism, and they are doing this specifically to work around bureaucratic and regulatory obstructions to common-sense design interventions.

    what is the result of this work?

    That is, there's a disconnect between the conventional sluggish, bureaucratic, meetings-based planning process and a younger generation that just wants to get things done!

    so the change has to happen beyond the local level - most grants, statutues, and the like are based upon having a plan - if you think about it, does it make sense to just walk by a vacant property and say hey, let's put a park here (or whatever) without stepping back and thinking about it - I am not sure a let's go do something is always the right way - I think we can change the planning process to make results more action oriented but it can't change without help from the next generation of future government leaders

    For example: Screw the hysteria-dependent process for opening up a storefront or granny flat - I'll just start a food truck and rent out rooms via Airbnb! cool

    Screw the fossilized DOT with its precious overengineered, gold-plated minimum regs for streets, bike lanes, and crosswalks - I'll just paint my own! wow, maybe I am old but that's not your individual property, it's everyone's - granted DOT can drive me crazy sometimes but I think that's extreme

    Screw the lobotomized parks and recs department on getting a new park approved - we'll just appropriate this lot for our own parklet! what if it's not your property?

    Screw the official, closed-door, monopolistic process for taxi registration - I'll just sell rides from my own car! Why should any of these actions take five years' worth of traditional, timid meetings to undertake? yes, the taxi system is a little weird but I wouldn't get in a car for a ride without that taxi emblem

    In short, I'd argue that Millennials are not interested in the fossilized manner of public participation currently undertaken by planning departments. This is an antiquated relic from the Moses era - when highway planners arranged token meetings for show to ram through decisions that had already been made in back rooms. It's hardly that brutal anymore, but I think planners will need to engage younger generations on their own terms (i.e flexibly accommodating suggestions as they pop up rather than deferring everything to linear meetings and carefully-structured procedures like some kind of courthouse trial)... or get bypassed into irrelevance, especially in an ongoing era of municipal financial hardship in which expensive, time-consuming, procedure-dependent proposals will have to take a back seat to immediate, local, as-needed interventions.
    so, how should we do this?

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    lp, check your e-mail. I'm forwarding you something I received this morning about a public discussion to be held via cell phone and text messaging. This is one way to reach the millennial crowd. Maybe something like this can be applied to planning.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian View post
    I can't get younger folks to come to a charrette either - on another project, I have a grant to clean up a brownfield and redevelop it but I can't get the money if I don't have a plan and yeah, only the usual suspects (all older than I am!) come.
    Yeah, this kinda reflects the scenario that Faust_Motel described: the misuse of tools; i.e. their application to scenarios in which they might not be so useful. When it was first applied, the charette was used only in those cases where development was raring to take off, and anxious citizens wanted a say in how that inevitable development was going to take shape. So in the Sunbelt you got a bunch of charettes over "new towns" that actually influenced how those new towns were built. But the point was those areas would have been built up even if the charettes had never occurred: the development demand was there.

    In recent years, however, I think the success of those charettes was misinterpreted to conclude that charettes are great in all situations. So consequently we're now seeing "visioning" processes and fancy-image charettes being used in scenarios where they're not really appropriate, like the situation Faust_Motel described: creating grand visions for places in which people instinctively understand the grand visions are meaningless because (1) the development demand isn't there and hasn't been for generations and (2) the "ideal" conditions proposed are too unrealistic and expensive to be taken seriously. So no one shows up. For every early-2000s Sunbelt boomtown that required public generation of a grand development image, there are thousands of moribund municipalities that merely need to accommodate modest, incremental changes - no master plan necessary.

    With all respect, I still fail to see the relevance of a "comp plan." FWIW I'm not a planner and so cannot cite contemporary examples in which comprehensive plans have actually proved to be viable, useful, necessary templates for accommodating development. I can only think of older examples - the 19th century surveying grid and semi-autocratic proposals by figures like Haussmann or in places like Portland - that served as actual chassis' for development. Otherwise most modern plans seem to be considered irrelevant: every now and then I run across some well-intentioned municipal plan from the 70s or 80s to discover that (1) the ideas were too vague to be useful or (2) the proposals ran counter to actual development needs and were consequently discreetly ignored.

    Again, I think Millennials would be far more receptive to proposals designed to accommodate immediate action. Don't waste time composing an "ideal" vision that reflects best-outcome decisions fifty years from now; try to facilitate ideas that can be acted upon cheaply and immediately.

    For example, when it comes to that brownfield, you could promote a sort of pop-up farmers'/thrift market square surrounded by pushcarts and food trucks, and over time make the square fancier; i.e. incrementally replace the provisional liner stalls and trucks with modest liner buildings, and then grand liner buildings, all the while leaving the square in the middle intact to build up a critical mass over time, so that by the time the "climax" infill is built, the square is already a popular destination and not one of those unwieldy "Towne Centres" built in the climax condition from the get-go, anxiously waiting to attract people.

    So initially you might start out with something modest like this:
    http://www.andrewalexanderprice.com/images/blog16-5.jpg
    http://www.andrewalexanderprice.com/blog20130820.php

    And eventually you could build up to something like this:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/19695834@N00/3538383537/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/thecourtyard/3594365302/

    And if the market fails to garner a critical mass, well at least you won't lose that much money and physical investment, and can just try something else. IMO this approach is far better than the top-heavy "plan it for the climax condition at once" approach dictated by the grant money. You might just end up with an expensive boondoggle, and have to throw in additional TIFs/PILOTs to juice development.

    Work to accommodate incremental urbanism again, and the meetings won't even be necessary: the people showing up to start the project themselves will actually be the meeting! Otherwise most people have far more pressing things to do than provide input on far-off theoreticals.
    Last edited by marcszar; 19 Nov 2013 at 5:28 PM.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Plus dvdneal's avatar
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    I think part of it is what you want and how you use the plan. Most comp plans I've used as just a set of values to inform decisions and maybe point out some expected growth areas or at most where to put some effort in development. I can show you all the pretty CNU type pictures, but let's face it, it ain't happening for 50 years. Just give me a set of values and point me in the right direction.

    Now if it's some kind of area plan, I want pretty pictures and charettes to guide what development might look like. Something like that can be done with the next project.

    Either way I think we need to be more aggressive and start the conversation with people. Sometimes you have to be like that annoying Direct TV salesman I ran into at Walmart and don't take no as an answer. You just have to keep going where people are and try to make a game of it. Set up a dunk tank or throw pies at the mayor. If it gets people to have fun and tell you what they think it's worth it. We also need to provide some kind of reward for playing. Slapping the mayor or telling him off is its own reward. There is no reward for the regular question and answer or twitter. I should say the plan is the reward, but as we've read and we all know, I want something better.

    One thing I did was work on a wildlife plan and grab people passing by at the library with a line like, hey you look like a hunter, let me tell you what the city is doing that will affect hunting...then I tell them I'm with the city and show off the plan. A nice bait and hook move.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  11. #11
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    This issue isn't new; participation in government has been a struggle at every generational transition. There are all kinds of articles & studies talking about the millenial generation's approach to leadership and institutions.

    marcszar makes some critically important points that really get to what I hate to say are some major failings of this profession. And I certainly don't profess to know all of the answers. What I can tell you is that the best thing you could do is get a millenial on your planning team to help you better understand that perspective. They will inject creativity into your process and point you toward means to reach that group.

    Overall though, you have to take the message to them and build things into your outreach process. With prior generations you could essentially take proposals for feedback; with millenials they are exceptionally turned-off and very sensitive to efforts to begin with the end in mind. They want to create. They want to know, without a doubt, that you are listening to them & taking them seriously. I've seen crowdsourcing systems do this fabulously. I've seen cities do "TedTalks" sessions that invite the community to speak about what they are passionate about. I've seen tactical urbanism integrated into long-range planning efforts to help people understand the link between plans and the desired outcomes.

    If you are just looking for ideas, I'll suggest a look at this comprehensive plan visioning process. You can skip directly to the document here. I participated in this as part of the speaker's bureau as the Director from another city, and was pretty impressed by how it was able to get more than just the usual suspects. Each technique they used resulted in a completely different mix of people participating, particularly younger demographics. They also recently did a pecha-kucha style event where people could live text/tweet, with it streamed on the Internet as well with the same interactive capabilities.

    The big thing is to make everything you can interactive & experienced in the field. Don't just show a powerpoint of pictures--take a bus tour. Let them experience things and allow you to link those things they like/don't like into how the planning process addresses them.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  12. #12
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman View post
    This issue isn't new; participation in government has been a struggle at every generational transition. There are all kinds of articles & studies talking about the millenial generation's approach to leadership and institutions.

    marcszar makes some critically important points that really get to what I hate to say are some major failings of this profession. And I certainly don't profess to know all of the answers.
    Every few years this question comes up in some form: "how come so few people come to our meetings?" Then the comments - in whatever forum - inevitably state "the meetings are almost always boring, pre-determined and just like the last public meeting".

    If the powers that be at the top of the profession were actually interested, things might get done. Maybe that's why the LArch profession is moving forward.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    Every few years this question comes up in some form: "how come so few people come to our meetings?" Then the comments - in whatever forum - inevitably state "the meetings are almost always boring, pre-determined and just like the last public meeting".

    If the powers that be at the top of the profession were actually interested, things might get done. Maybe that's why the LArch profession is moving forward.

    First of all, most people are terrible public speakers. I can't tell you how many workshops and seminars I end up sneaking out of because the speaker is putting me to sleep! Why would any resident want to work a full day at a job, and spend their free time in the evenings, on a regular basis, providing public input on a plan that won't get built? I have worked as an environmental planner on road projects where public input was required but was seldom incorporated into what really mattered: a DOT road design manual. Now I do physical site design. Sorry, but I don't need to have a comprehensive plan or design guidelines telling me what is important. I use my best judgement, break out the pencils and markers, CAD it, plat it, record it, wait 3-5 years to hear the planners in the long range division of the same municipality complain that my work is sprawl, wait another 1-2 years for some Indesign bullet-point list of recommendations with a Sketchup complete streets graphic (that looks terrible by the way) about how my street is going to change, wait another 3-4 years, go back on Google Earth, crank on the timeline, and see no changes to 10 years of aerial photos on my subdivision design. Scratches head....

    I work with two millennials, one is an entry-level planner and the other is a soon-to-be college graduate. Both are far more interested in the tangible, hands-on aspects of planning. Yes, its technical. Yes, there is a high learning curve. Yes, I am exacting. But people my age and younger want to see results sooner rather than later. We live in an ADHD world, Leslie Knope, and no one wants to sit in a public forum.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

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  14. #14
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    First of all, ...and no one wants to sit in a public forum.
    We can't git 'er done, we have to follow process (and at the same time inflict Death by PowerPoint)!

    Aside but relevant: there's a big meeting happening soon about a looming and costly environmental issue in the area. No planners are invited to present or discuss action options. I think there may be some in the audience, but wouldn't wager on it - the presentations have to be short and things have to get done quickly.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I once did a comp plan in a city of 75,000, where we never had more than a single digit showing for any of our meetings, which averaged one a month for over a year. Finally at the end we had a dozen people show up for one specific issue; putting in a bike path along a stretch of road thast was not even in the city's jurisdiction.

    Aside from comp plans, most of the time we are not needing the whole community to get involved, but those people most directly affected. So what do we do? We ask them to attend a meeting at an inconvenient time and somewhere else. I prefer to use other tactics

    - Web. Have a site for the project. Use a wordpress blog and a distinct URL, not http://www.cityname.gov/departments/...d.blahblahblah. Then advertise it in the area being planned. Put up signs. Print business cards and put them at the checkouts in stores.

    - Speaking of signs, use them to interact with people. Print up a billboard with options A and B and stick it up in front of the redevelopment site. Put up signs in the park asking people what activities they want to be able to do there. Then engage. Provide the URL and put up a survey. Use a mobile app to solicit responses. Note that I am not talking about some official notice, but a big image board.

    - Guerilla participation. I use Canine Assisted Participation all the time. It works particularly well in planning business districts, and I wrote about it in a rambling article earlier this year. ( http://issuu.com/urbanplanninganddev...nt/docs/issue6 ) When I was working on a project in North Dakota a couple years ago, I walked away from a dog park reailizing that I had just spent an hour talking with a whole cross-section of the community, picking their brains on the project. People will approach me when I have a dog along, whereas they run from me when I am holding a clipboard. A walk up and down the street, three or four times and at different times of the day, gives me some of the best information I collect.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Faust_Motel's avatar
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    New England
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    What marcczar said about incremental urbanism.

    That gets away a little bit from the question about getting people to meetings, but I love the idea that the development is the meeting. You're always going to be bound by law to hold some kind of public hearings, or in my state, to update the Comp Plan every five years with new economic, demographic, transportation, and land use information- BUT you can do a lot around that process to keep people (not just millenials, lots of people hate meetings) to keep the community engaged. In the last five years, in the community where I work, I have found the best method has been to build personal relationships with people in the community- I know a couple of the farmers on a first-name basis, all of the big commercial and residential developers know that can't come in for a permit without getting quizzed on market conditions, demand, what they are seeing, where their guys are living and where they have to commute from, etc. Talk to everybody, all the time. You're not going to convince somebody a roundabout is the right solution for an intersection in one meeting.

    All of my staff has gone to talk to the local Rotary at least once in the last year. Corener stores are good places to pick for information as well. One woman let me know that half of the people at hwer store getting coffee in the morning were commuting through our town on some local roads because that was the easiest way to get where they worked after the factory changed their shift schedule around. I wouldn't have ever found that out if I didn't stop by there from time to time to ask questions and buy their crappy gas station coffee!

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Plus dvdneal's avatar
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    An opinion from the paper talking about this issue. They do a decent job of calling out the public, but we need more than just a couple engaged people.
    http://www.salina.com/editorials/Com...-Nov--20--2013
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Beer... no really.

    There was a recent project in my City were they had public open houses at local pubs and restaurants. (Link to project)
    There is no such thing as failure, only learning experiences. However, it is our choice to learn the lesson and change or not.

  19. #19
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    I did the pub thing - 6 different locations -advertised by a billboard in our downtown! Like I said, we did get folks who normally don't go to meeitngs but not the population I was hoping for...

    I like a pecha kucha - the theme could be what you love about this town and what you want it to become?

    open mic TED-like talk?

    I appreciate everyone's comments - it's made me think more creatively but don't bash a comp plan - it's only useless if it's, well, useless - and my comp plans are never useless...

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