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Thread: Best (and worst) Places to be a Planner.

  1. #1
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    Best (and worst) Places to be a Planner.

    Okay, I may know the worst... I was a planner in a rural county in Arkansas. I was on the militia hit list. It's better in my current municipal position, but at least half of the City Council is clueless when it comes to planning. Either they become enraged when you try and plan a road across Ol' Zeke's back field (Yes, this happened last week), or they just sit there like a poleaxed cow staring as you explain a simple concept.

    And I'm damned tired of it!

    So, in everyone's opinion... Where are the best places to be a planner?
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  2. #2
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    As far as worst places to be a planner, probably a basket case municipality, one with a built environment and political will that is so far gone, the planners act as little more than figureheads.

    Best? I'll predict that people will probably start rattling off city names in Oregon. Actually, I think I've got it pretty good -- a sole planner in a small, increasingly affluent town, with a nearly blank commercial slate, and elected and appointed officials that place "preserving character" at the top of their agenda. No, it's not perfect -- my office space is a bit makeshift, and we don't have sewers (resulting in a limited scope of potential commercial uses, something I'm trying to resolve). Self-imposed mission creep is resulting in longer hours, but I enjoy it.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  3. #3
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    Well...

    I've been offered a job in Oregon. I'm looking very hard at taking it... Even harder since last week!
    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    C'mon and get me you twist of fate
    I'm standing right here Mr. Destiny
    If you want to talk well then I'll relate
    If you don't so what cause you don't scare me

  4. #4
          Downtown's avatar
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    I think that there is a lot of very different variables involved when deciding what is your best and worst. Although Planning where I am now is much more respected and effective than when I was in South Carolina, we have a much weaker APA chapter here, South Carolina APA was much more supportive and involved. But then again, a chapter meeting was basically a big Clemson reunion since almost every planner there had graduated from CU.

    Anyway, back on topic: I agree with Dan, I think that smaller sized towns and cities where there is much more control and support of the planning process. I personally was highly impressed with Sanibel Island when I was on vacation in Florida this spring. I also would think it would be highly cool to be a planner in one of the cute little ski towns in Vermont and NH.

  5. #5

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    basket case communities

    I used to work in one of the worst cities. I can't even begin to list the things that were so bad about it. The planning department is really just a joke. I was one of the only planners working there (out of 300!) most of the people had no college education and had been promoted through the ranks from lower positions. My boss was a former secretary who had been 'very close' with the higher-ups. Most important decisions were based solely on what option would piss off one population of the city less. The city was very racially divided, and race was often a determining factor in political decisions, even if it was clearly the wrong choice.

    The planning department was more like the anti-planning department. We spent out days demolishing lovely old neighborhoods to replace them with ugly suburban-style houses that never sold. We demolished large blocks of commercial buildings to replace with K-Marts and Home Depots, with seas of parking in the front.

    The City Council was (is!) clueless, and the Mayor's office was worse. The Comprehensive Plan was a secret and we were not allowed to see it, though it did not really matter because nobody would have followed it anyway.

    Seems to me that the cities in the midwest are the worst to work for, and the cities in the west are the best. Not only because of the politics involved but also because of the seemingly overwhelming amount of problems that the rust-belt cities have.

    Like I said, I don't even know where to begin to describe how bad it was.
    Last edited by planasaurus; 12 Dec 2001 at 2:19 PM.

  6. #6
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    > I also would think it would be highly cool to be a planner in one
    > of the cute little ski towns in Vermont and NH.

    Be careful about this....particularly in NH. Most of those little towns in the northern part of NH have no zoning, no professional staff, and are staunchly property rights obsessive. The northern part of the state pretty much relies on their regional commissions (which have little real power outside of transportation) to act as "consultants" or "circuit riders."

    Vermont is better, politically, for a planner in a ski town (Stowe comes to mind as a place that has done relatively well)...but I'm sure many of them have never had planners either.

    Don't get me wrong...if possible I'll never leave Northern New England, but I would believe that the northern climbs might not present the "optimal" working environment for planners.

  7. #7
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    "Little real power"

    Wow.

    Those three words sum up a great deal of what I see is wrong with planning. The power is actually in the hands of the political entitiy set up above the administration.

    You can come up with an outstanding strategy, get all the peices in place, get ready to move... and be thwarted by a couple people on a Council or Board who are simply against this stellar plan because some distant cousin or somesuch is a NIMBY.

    A shame there is no way to override such idiocy... Getting four out of six people on my City Council to agree on something in concept is difficult, but put a few naysayers in the audience against a particular issue, and it's done like dinner.

    Mastiff (Oregon or bust?)
    Last edited by Mastiff; 12 Dec 2001 at 4:23 PM.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    C'mon and get me you twist of fate
    I'm standing right here Mr. Destiny
    If you want to talk well then I'll relate
    If you don't so what cause you don't scare me

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Am I the exception to the rule?

    OK - I guess I've gotta be in one of the best! I have to say that my little corner of suburbia is extremely pleasant to work in, aside from "the usual" one or two insane citizens and one occassional sleeping or unprepared alderman. Our Council is objective and fair and look to do the right thing. There is usually concensus in decision making. They have a problem, they dont knee jerk to fix it and instead allocate the resources to do the job right. As a result, we have a top notch GIS team in my department and *gasp* we have the funds to implement! The only area that I see room for "improvement" is in Economic Development, but this 'lil suburb doesnt particularly want a Business Park and wants SLOW growth, so the ommission is - for the moment - both deliberate and debated.

  9. #9
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    I hope I didn't mislead anyone....central and southern NH are for the most part good places to work (I love my job and the community I work for)...and Vermont, should I ever leave NH would be my next choice.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    LIttle Real Power

    Those 3 words are the phonetic spelling for Pennsylvania

    Here along a 1 mile stretch of highway which is the entranceway to the county (which was only 3 years ago beautiful farmland) we have a movie theater, a bunch of those pad site restaurants (TGI Fridays etc.) Lowes, Home Depot (across the street from Lowes) Target, LA Fitness, strip malls, a proposed CVS (in final plan stage). I'm sure there is more than that but I stopped paying attention anymore.

    Of course all intersections in the area operate at LOS F. We've brought up several concerns with traffic, stormwater issues (this development caused severe flooding of adjacent neighborhoods in June), and aesthetics that are too numerous to list.

    Anyway, I'll quit rambling on and on. What I am trying to say is planning in Pennsylvania simply sucks because the county planning commissions are an advisory board. The municipalites have no obligation to even read our review of proposed developments, and sad to say, alot of municipalities don't. But then again alot do, because they realize the valuable opinions reflected in our reviews.

    Well to sum it up...don't come to PA. The pay sucks too.

  11. #11
    Here are some cesspools for you.


    Orland Park, Illinois. A crudscape of malls, fast food fry pits, auto dealerships, and pop-and-fresh tract houses. A cesspool of overpaid and underworked yuppie scum. A snarling mess of teeth-gnashing traffic radiating in all directions.

    Sylvania, Ohio. Historic areas rapidly disintegrating, being replaced by bloated, out of scale, phoney-colonie administrative offices and condos. Greenspace being torn up for office parks. Nationally significant Underground railroad site - Lathrop House - in danger of demolition by a church....the most unHoly St. Joseph's.

    Stone Harbor, NJ. 1920s through 1950s bungalows being torn down and replaced by 20 room McMansions by rich Philly and New York a-holes. I'd wish for a hurricane would wipe all this crud out, if we didn't all have to pay for it though FEMA.












  12. #12
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    I looked at Johnstown...

    I grew up in Philly, so I know how that goes... Worked for a firm that was the "County Engineer" for a suburban county... ouch.

    I'll always be a Flyers and Eagles fan, but I'm sure not coming back.

    By the way, is $42,000 for a Community Service Director with a Bachelors and 5 years in planning reasonable? What do y'all think? The cost of living is shown below the national average by over 10%...
    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    C'mon and get me you twist of fate
    I'm standing right here Mr. Destiny
    If you want to talk well then I'll relate
    If you don't so what cause you don't scare me

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Mastiff is that salary for a Philly Metro area postition??

    If so then absolutley not! That's the salary for a planner with a BA and 2 years experience in Bucks County.

  14. #14

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    $42,000 for 5 years of experience for a director position. I think that is too little unless the pay advancement is pretty fast.

    I once took a position making less $25,000, but I knew that the pay would increase by over $10,000 in less than a year, so that seemed to make is O.K.

  15. #15
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    Small town in Oregon

    Not Philly...

    Just a little town in Oregon. Being there might be worth it. It's *still* a 6k jump from this midwest job.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    C'mon and get me you twist of fate
    I'm standing right here Mr. Destiny
    If you want to talk well then I'll relate
    If you don't so what cause you don't scare me

  16. #16
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    What about....

    Has anyone ever worked overseas with a US military community as a community planner? I know these jobs exist - I've seen the advertisements on the fed web sites. I have yet to meet someone that has held a similar position though. My wife and I are considering relocating overseas for a few years after my son graduates High School.

  17. #17

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    I didn't know that these jobs exist El Guapo. What web site did you see it on? Do you have to enlist? That sounds very cool.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Budgie's avatar
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    Worst

    Two Words !!!!

    WEST TEXAS

  19. #19
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    Saurus,

    Sorry, I never got back to you.

    Go to: http://www.usajobs.opm.gov/

    Go to job openings.

    Pick professional positions, type keyword "planner" and area is all.

    That will get you a list of all federal planner vacancies.

    In 6 to 12 months you could be planning in paradise, or Nevada.

    I suggest Europe, its nice.

  20. #20
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    A lot of fur'iners register on the Cyburbia Forums, but they never seem to post anything.

    There's a list of countries that I call "planning compatible" with the United States -- English-speaking places where the planning process, both current and comprehensive, is very similar to that of home. Planning-compatible countries include Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. (The UK planning process is very different than what's encountered in other English-speaking countries, and I'm told it's impossible for a US planner to land a job across that direction of the pond.)

    Canada -- urban dynamics are different, but on our side of the counter the current/comp planning process is almost identical to the US. High-rise residential is much more common than in the States, even in suburban areas. In those same 'burbs, though, most commercial districts I've seen appear to be very similar to somewhat average U.S. style "strips."

    Australia and New Zealand -- more state/regional control over local planning and land use, but there's still conventional zoning, variances, PUDs, and so on. The built environment is silimar to that of the US -- dense central cities, and sprawling vehicle-oriented suburbs. Actual municipality sizes are very small. Public transit in medium-sized cities rivals what would be found in a much larger US city; the limited access road system is equivalent to what would be found in the U.S. in the early 1960s, and surface streets are more congested, and similar to a mix between what would be found in the U.S. and U.K. I don't know if there's an equivalent to planning commissions Down Under.

    South Africa -- current planning is almost identical to what would be found in a US county with lenient land use regulations but more red tape, I've heard. Excluding the townships, the built environment of Jo'burg supposedly resembles a somewhat greener but meaner Los Angeles. Public transit is almost nonexistent, and limited access highways are as common as American cities. The 'burbs have strip retail, and enclosed malls are more common than in the U.S. The ZA zoning codes I've seen are difficult reads -- poorly organized, with lots of legalese. Subdivision regulations are primitive (i.e. like what you would see in an Arizona, Texas or New Mexico county), and lots are called "erfs."
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  21. #21
    maudit anglais
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    Ya know, it feels really weird to be called a "foreigner" by an American...I definitely don't consider myself as one. Living so close to the U.S. it's really hard to not succumb somewhat to a feeling of "we're all in this together". But it is funny how things up here are so very similar to the U.S., and yet so different.

    I agree though that the "current" planning process is similar in the U.S. and Canada - if I remember my planning 101 classes, we basically invited an American up to introduce the concept of zoning, etc. to Canada in the early 20th century (another thing we have to thank you guys for...).

    At least our beer is better!

  22. #22
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    We love you Canadians!

    I like my "Friendly Neighbors to the North." I still don't get the whole Royal Family/British Empire thing, but hell I didn't undersand the Clinton administration either.

    Luckily, our French population parties with us. Your's just seems pissed all the time.

    And thanks for all the great TV shows and plus sized comedians!

  23. #23
    maudit anglais
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    Ever see "The Canadian Conspiracy"?

    I never really bought into the whole Monarchy/Empire thing either, and my parents came here from the UK... I must say though, that I tend to prefer our parliamentary system over the U.S. one... I think you might find it a little too...uh...dictatorial(?) though - if you're the party in power, you pretty much get to do what you want.

    Great Canadian TV shows? Up here, that's considered an oxymoron. Unless you count "Hockey Night in Canada".

    I wish I knew where the hell you get all these pics from El Guapo...keep 'em coming though!

  24. #24
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    Humm.....?

    "I wish I knew where the hell you get all these pics from El Guapo...keep 'em coming though!"

    El Guapo has broadband, photoshop and a government job!

    These pictures? Why, they find El Guapo!

  25. #25
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Other Places not to be a planner...

    ...
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

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