Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Page 1 of 3 1 2 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 72

Thread: Are all planners liberals?

  1. #1

    Are all planners liberals?

    (Posted as Matt Giles)

    Is everyone here a liberal? Are you automatically in favor of an environmentalist point of view, or do you weigh cost/feasability factors?

    Would you agree most economic development folks are conservative? is anyone against(or able to criticize) New Urbanism? Is sprawl and commuting so bad? Where are the pragmatic reality driven planners? Let's discuss.

    BONUS QUESTION:
    I voted for Nader in 2000, and I consider myself a moderate- can anyone guess my reason?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 1998
    Location
    Greensburg, Kansas
    Posts
    2,949
    Let's go back to the old days before liberal=democrat and conservative=republican. A liberal was idealistic, saw a better way of dealing with things, and wanted to see change. A conservative was cautious, followed the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" rule, and was always aware of the costs of change. With these definitions, planners probably do have a liberal bent. But there is room for both philosophies, and often in the same person.

    When we put on our zoning administration hats, we are conservative. Zoning is geared to maintaining the status quo (protect the neighborhoods). When we change hats to revitalizing a declining area, we are often liberal, because change is necessary.

    I do not think the profession can be pegged to a certain political label. If I were to try to label us, I would say "somewhat to the left of middle, but nowhere near the extreme".

  3. #3
    Matt, I'm not sure if most planners are liberals, though the desire to want to work in the public sector may indicate that a preponderance of liberal-types may indeed be planners. Of course, I don't want to over-generalize here, but my experience is that most planners tend to be left-of-center. But then again, there are those who don't think sprawl is bad at all. I'm personally not 100% sold that sprawl is such a huge societal problem. From a personal perspective, I get tired of long commutes and congested roads. Professionally speaking, I support efforts to find out what the community values and plan for their vision; I'm not a big fan of forcing my biases to a community. Instead, I like to facilitate discussions to help them find what they value and what they want.

    In regards to criticisms on new urbanism, see the following Cyburbia thread, "Can New Urbanism really work today?" at:

    http://cyburbia.ap.buffalo.edu/cafe/messages/6/637.html

    I think you will find a thorough discussion on the NU phenomenon. As you will gather from the thread, I'm not a big fan of new urbanism.

    Voting for Nader back in November was an interesting choice. Instead of us guessing why you voted for him, why don't you tell the audience your reasons. Everyone has their own reasons for voting for their favorite candidate, and considering the level anonymity available to posters here at Cyburbia, I would find it quite difficult to guess your reasons.

  4. #4
    I work in an office full of conservative republican planners, a weird change to what I'm used to. They scoff at my liberal/environmentalist views. However, in the immortal words of one of my colleagues, "people in gated communities need planners too!"

  5. #5
    Big Pinko Here!

    It's hard to say, but judging from the political bents of my planner-fellow-co-workers and class-mates, I'd say, that, quite simply, the overwhelming majority are liberals (by today's defininitions). Of course, that means they are actually the only ones on target regarding the reality of society and economics.

    (the one conservative in my class this past year was advocating that sprawl was okay -as long as you put subways in (i'm not kidding) - he was perpetually the laughing stock (it didnt help that he wasnt the brightest, either (coincidence (conservative=not bright?).

    I only became interested in planning after having moved south (from the NY area) to go to school, and became completely horrified and outraged at what a landscape shaped by and dominated by unhindered corporate power and financially-driven interests looks like.

    Up north, we have such things as community character, history, and environmental concern that has kept our towns pretty much the way I like 'em - quaint, walkable, historic, and our countryside - mostly wilderness - uncluttered by the whores of our highways (outdoor advertising), or big-business monocultural genetically engineered-bland-scape.

    Planning, to me, is about giving the people their communities back and reigning in the influence that moohla has over our cityscapes and countryside.

    Glad to be working this summer prosecuting billboard/signage violations as a planning-lawyer in N.Y.C.

    Sound typical?

    Later
    Judd

  6. #6
    Seems like this discussion echoes the identity crisis that our profession has. Many of us, want a "feel good" job, tyring to do whats "right", such as promote sustainable development and environmental justice. Very often I read (within these threads) that planners are trying to educate their commissioners or the public, but end up being very frustrated. Even worse, some planners have the gall to blame the private sector for what are perceived failures such as stating "big-business monocultural genetically engineered-bland-scape (see above)".

    Rather than "talking the talk" (being liberal) and then being primarily forced into conservative mode (zoning) for implementation why don't more planne types consider a move to the other side? Thats right, instead of being a reviewer, be the doer an work for a developer or better yet become a developer. Wouldn't this be the most effective manner in which ones views could be implemented?

  7. #7
    Member
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    68
    It depends on what you mean by liberal and conservative. I consider myself a pragmatist. I am sure that some of my views are considered liberal, and others are conservative. Generally, we should try to figure out what we need, and then figure out the most practical way to get it.

    I support protecting the environment. We've only got one world, lets not screw it up! Let's try not to destroy any more of the ecosystem than we have to in order to survive.

    Is sprawl bad? It depends! Most of the land surrounding our cities is already ruined for wildlife and native vegetation (having been cultivated for decades and criss-crossed by highways). However, I don't want us to pave over the best farmlands in the country. I really think that we should make an effort to predict the peak population of the country, and make sure that we are preserving enough arable land to support such a population. The rest of the land should be either developed, or preserved in as pristine a state as possible. Feed humanity first, then we can either sprawl out or preserve nature as we choose.

    Are economic development folks conservative? I don't know. My guess would be yes, in general, but frankly I don't know many people in that field. I always figure that people with money tend to be more conservative since they are afraid of losing it. Those without money don't have such worries.

    Everything has a cost, and sometimes the cost outweighs the benefit. The difference between liberals and conservatives is merely how much they are willing to pay for specific benefits.

  8. #8
    Take a look at the AICP code of ethics. It states that "A planner's primary obligation is to serve the public interest." And it specifically mentions the obligations of planners in regard to citizen input, disadvantaged groups, and the natural environment. Doesn't say much about private property rights or the free market.

    Planning is a communal activity. I don't see how a true-blue conservative could do the job. If you really believe that the free market cures everything, why would you need a comprehensive plan?

    And Matt, I also voted for Nader, because I couldn't see much choice between Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dumber. Maybe you did the same.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    South Milwaukee
    Posts
    8,935
    Ah, Planzilla, I can just see Adam Smith's invisible hand extending an invisible middle finger...

    Just kidding. I consider myself a conservative planner, and strongly defend private property rights often at the expense of our poorly crafted and ancient local zoning codes.

    I always say that you don't become a conservative until you have something to conserve. Given that most planners aren't in it for the big $$$ and status, I would agree that you can draw some broad assumptions that as a profession we mostly lean to the left...

  10. #10
    (Posted as Matt Giles)

    Planzilla, I voted for Nader for the same reason you did. Two morons (Bush/Gore and a guy with no chance (Nader). I wanted Nader to get 5% of the vote so his party would have more resources in '04. Well, that didn't happen, but the Nader voters surely got rid of Gore's chance.

  11. #11

    Registered
    May 1997
    Location
    Williston, VT
    Posts
    1,371
    I gave up on either term describing anything useful years ago. All the conservatives I worked with were desperately seeking federal subsidies for what they valued, with no hint that such behavior was out of step with their stated values. Most of the liberals were seriously confused, and many just as biased and close-minded as any "conservative." Both are devoutly centralist in behavior if not in words. On my bad days I see the modern dialectic as being simply between problem-solvers, who can't afford an ideology, and consumers, who are simply taking up space. On philosophical days, I come back to the centralist-decentralist axis. And if that's where the heart of our problems is, we are in trouble. Both D and R, liberal and conservative are on the centralist end of the axis. I think planners who really want to solve problems have to decide where they fit on the axis of community v corporate ways of heading into the future. The corporate way is winning right now (and equally supported by both conservatives and liberals), but my own conclusion is that any desirable future will result from a return to and revitalization of community values.

  12. #12
    It has always boggled me that the "free market," unfettered by zoning regulations, has produced the compact 18th and 19th Century New England coastal towns that adorn so many post cards and calanders. Nowdays, these same New England communities have professional planners (mostly of a liberal bent), who enforce regulations that stamp out cookie cutter homes on 1 and 2 acre lots and commercial strip development that rivals that found anywhere else in the Nation. Yet look at the prices -- real estate values of the older, compact villages are so great as to be unaffordable. I think the "conservative" developers -- guided by market demand -- would build with an imagination that reflects older designs found in these areas if the rules guiding building line setbacks, minimum acreage, etc. were relaxed. The bottom line is that "liberal" does not imply "forward thinking" when it comes down to aesthetics, design or settlement pattern.

  13. #13

    Registered
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Solano County, California
    Posts
    6,468
    WRH: You have a point. However, many of these older communities were built slowly, one house at a time, by individuals or single carpenters. Even the early subdivisions that we admire from the arts and crafts era were built by relatively small builders.

    Homebuilding today is increasingly, at least in California, a province of national and large regional builders that have the capital to accumulate the expensive land and pay the high up-front impact fees and costs. These companies will not build true small towns. They are specialized at popping out one "product" that can be easily marketed as having "high resale value." It may be a failure of imagination, but it goes beyond the "liberal versus conservative" debate.

    And, don't forget the great postwar determinant of urban form-the private automobile.

    Combine car-centered developments with very large national homebuilding firms, and what do you get? Modern suburbia. I don't think a conservative, market-only approach would recreate the traditional village. Modern economic forces and transportation systems have evolved beyond that-at least for now (read Kunstler's website for his polemical insight into the post-cheap oil era)

    Not that liberal planners can avoid responsibility. Local highway and street departments impose the huge street requirements that destroy any pleasant streetscape. Onerous impact fees make it difficult for all but the largest homebuilders to survive. And, liberal immigration policies encourage rapid population growth that makes "build-it-as-quick-as-you-can" the only realistic approach to housing.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally posted by Dan
    Originally posted by Hug a Tree

    I work in an office full of conservative republican planners, a weird change to what I'm used to. They scoff at my liberal/environmentalist views. However, in the immortal words of one of my colleagues, "people in gated communities need planners too!"
    Christopher Alexander's "A Pattern Language" recommended gateWAYS be part of a neighborhood entrance. Maybe the aforementioned planners should just figure out how to plan better subdivision entrances. Or, is that a new thread?
    Quote Originally posted by Dan
    Originally posted by Planzilla

    Take a look at the AICP code of ethics. It states that "A planner's primary obligation is to serve the public interest." And it specifically mentions the obligations of planners in regard to citizen input, disadvantaged groups, and the natural environment. Doesn't say much about private property rights or the free market.

    Planning is a communal activity. I don't see how a true-blue conservative could do the job. If you really believe that the free market cures everything, why would you need a comprehensive plan?

    And Matt, I also voted for Nader, because I couldn't see much choice between Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dumber. Maybe you did the same.
    Yeah, this definitely raises a few ethical questions. I'd like to think that the Republican party has just swung too fiscally conservative in the short-term. Hopefully, fiscal conservatism is not always synonymous with social conservatism. Some legislation can foster advocasy planning without taking the hard-earned dollars from the legislators.

    I think a big job of our is to manage these decisions with public input and personal knowledge to prevent issues like exclusionary zoning, and promoting transportation equity. In other words, yes, a fiscally conservative planner can do a great deal of social good in our field.

    New York Times:
    "Hypomanic? Absolutely. But Oh So Productive!"
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/22/he...eca084&ei=5070
    Last edited by nerudite; 24 Mar 2005 at 6:48 PM.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian sisterceleste's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2004
    Location
    No Where Man
    Posts
    1,519
    Pink Commie here...socialized medicine, gun control, LAND USE CONTROLS!!!!!!!!!
    You darn tootin', I like fig newtons!

  16. #16

    Registered
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Solano County, California
    Posts
    6,468
    Quote Originally posted by sisterceleste
    Pink Commie here...socialized medicine, gun control, LAND USE CONTROLS!!!!!!!!!
    Homeland Security will be dragging you from your cubicle any day now!

    I am pretty liberal in many ways politically but have some cosnervative personal behaviors (not views, behaviors).

  17. #17
    Cyburbian H's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 2003
    Location
    MKS
    Posts
    2,847
    I actually like to think of myself as 'in the middle'.

  18. #18
    Member Nor Cal Planner Girl's avatar
    Registered
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Sunny, California
    Posts
    185
    Left, left, left, left... hey, I'm from 'hippiesville' man

  19. #19
    Member Wulf9's avatar
    Registered
    May 2003
    Location
    Near the Geysers
    Posts
    922
    Social progressive.

    Free market economist after accounting for socially progressive goals. (The market will adjust.)

    Anti monopolist and anti oligopolist

    Give power to the smallest level of government that can do the job.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Oct 2004
    Location
    New Orleans, LA
    Posts
    368
    Quote Originally posted by Dan
    Is everyone here a liberal? Are you automatically in favor of an environmentalist point of view, or do you weigh cost/feasability factors?
    Personally, i'm conservative.
    Would you agree most economic development folks are conservative?
    No, I met a couple who were liberal.
    is anyone against(or able to criticize) New Urbanism?
    I dislike New Urbanism. I think that it is an artificial attempt to force a model which is more idealized than effective. I don't like suburban sprawl with large lots, big setbacks, and long drives to get to anywhere, but I feel that our zoning and financial structure is to blame for that and simply trying to legislate a Disneyland style variant of a "Leave it to Beaver Haze" imaginary town is not going to create an effective place to live and work.
    Is sprawl and commuting so bad?
    The problems of sprawl and commuting are often overrated, and some people seem to feel as though consumer choice should be forcibly removed from the equasion entirely. (They would be happier in a tiny apartment in downtown and there aught to be a law forcing them to!)

    I do get disturbed when I hear people talk about the 'conservative=stupid' connections and such. While advocating massive sprawl and subways is pretty moronic, I can think of similarly absurd and unrealistic viewpoints held by liberal planning students. (I think someone I remember was suggesting that the road system - including freight hauling - could be refitted for human powered vehicles, for one.)

  21. #21
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2003
    Location
    East Coast
    Posts
    713
    Quote Originally posted by JusticeZero
    I dislike New Urbanism. I think that it is an artificial attempt to force a model which is more idealized than effective. I don't like suburban sprawl with large lots, big setbacks, and long drives to get to anywhere, but I feel that our zoning and financial structure is to blame for that...
    Well, that about covers it all; seems you don't like anything.

    Must feel bad.

  22. #22
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
    Registered
    Jun 2003
    Location
    at the neighboring pub
    Posts
    5,279
    Quote Originally posted by Wulf9
    Social progressive.

    Free market economist after accounting for socially progressive goals. (The market will adjust.)

    Anti monopolist and anti oligopolist

    Give power to the smallest level of government that can do the job.
    This is pretty close to what I am. Actually, I really like the "free market economist after accounting for socially progressive goals" part - I may borrow that in the future.

    I see New Urbanism as an improvement, but not a solution to America's planning ills; I think it is part of the solution. I believe in housing choice, meaning that if people want sprawl, fine. They just need to accept the consequences of that decision (lower service levels, traffic, gas costs, etc.) and stop complaining. As planners, we need to make people aware of the consequences/benefits and let them decide for themselves. I would like New Urbanism more if it was done properly. Many of the supposed "New Urbanist" developments have the same traits as their suburban counterparts, just with a prettier form. New Urbanism in conjunction with Transit-Oriented-Design seems closer to answering many of our concerns. I don't like government regulations "forcing" alternative design, but they should make it easier to create alternatives or even incentivize.

    Of the ecodev folks I've met, it's been about 60/40 conservative-leaning.

    "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)

  23. #23
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
    Registered
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Someplace between yesterday and tomorrow.
    Posts
    12,284
    Conservative that supports mixed use urban developments, shirts and ties, the creative class, gun rights, alternative transport, street rods, fast cars, and form-based coding.

    I don’t support Euclidean Zoning, Wal-Mart, Michael Jackson, or alternative fluids in super soaker water guns.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  24. #24
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 2004
    Location
    on my 15 minute break
    Posts
    17,804
    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    Conservative that supports mixed use urban developments, shirts and ties, the creative class, gun rights, alternative transport, street rods, fast cars, and form-based coding.
    and don't forget CDBG program funding....

    So, I am a liberal who supports civil rights, a strong military, am a virgo, using public funds to combat poverty, birth control, long walks on the beach, believes gun control involves steady pull and even breathing, alternative energy research, slow enrgy efficient cars, and World Government. Oh, and have a nice day.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  25. #25
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
    Registered
    May 2003
    Location
    Northwestern Ohio
    Posts
    9,327
    This Bear is a card-carrying Libertarian. Supporter of significantly reducing penalties for drug use (fill the over-crowded prisons with people who did real crimes), believer that gun control is a waste of time ( a requirement for entrance into the U.P., right michaelskis ?), downsize government.....in other words serve and protect and ONLY serve and protect. Serve and protect doesn't mean snooping in my bedroom, censoring my habits, wasting government time and effort (and my tax dollars) on supplying "pork" to any congressperson with a big mouth.

    This Bear is a fiscal conservative and it bugs the hexx out of me that so-called Republican "fiscal conservatives" are OK with huge deficits.

    I step OFF the Libertarian ride to say that I also supported the war in Iraq, which goes against my party's view. I figure that the world needs a "cop" and, despite all our problems, I feel a whole lot better with the USA as the "cop" as opposed to countries such as Syria, Iran, France, Japan, or (the new and improved) Russkiland.

    For the past few years the Libertarian Party has been considering a name change because so many people confuse the terms liberal and libertarian with each other.

    Bear
    Occupy Cyburbia!

+ Reply to thread
Page 1 of 3 1 2 ... LastLast

More at Cyburbia

  1. Replies: 52
    Last post: 03 Nov 2008, 10:48 PM
  2. Replies: 62
    Last post: 31 Aug 2004, 11:58 AM
  3. Is this how LIBERALS do business?
    Friday Afternoon Club
    Replies: 5
    Last post: 16 Apr 2004, 11:11 AM
  4. Replies: 14
    Last post: 15 Nov 2002, 4:19 PM