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Thread: Long vent....need advice/consoling/beer

  1. #1
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Long vent....need advice/consoling/beer

    I love my job, but after last night I'm ready to quit and make knick knacks the rest of my life.

    Had a PC meeting last night. Everything was fine until 'New Business'. One of the boardmembers, who has a reputation for being crotchety, starts in about Home Depot. How is looks like hell and is an embarrassment and how it's clear that the developers aren't from around here, blah blah blah. I ask him whats the problem? He says, trash, trees, etc. How there is no grass there (mind you, it was built last summer, seeded, had a drought, grass didn't grow and right now there is 6 inches of snow on the ground). He's ranting for what seems forever about all this stuff and how nothing is being done about it, blah blah blah.

    So, when he finally stops, I ask him about the tree's. He says "there are none out there". So, I must have gave him this quizzical look as I wondered what the hell he was talking about. So he goes off on me "you sit there rolling your eyes, but that site looks like hell, there are no tree's out there". So I say "I've done three site plan reviews based on your complaints about the trees - every single tree on the site plan is in the ground, plus, there are actually like 10 additional trees.". He says "oh" and shuts up. This whole scene lasts for about 10-15 minutes.

    Now, I am *the* planning, zoning, and grants person. I have a lot of stuff to do, and I don't pretend that I catch everything. I welcome people calling me up and letting me know if there is a problem. But don't call me out during a PC meeting that has a buttload of people there, not to mention the press. Plus, I have a BIG problem with people talking like that to me. I'm not an idiot and a do a damn good job - don't imply otherwise. If there is a problem, talk to me or the City Manager about it. Not in a public forum.

    I'm sure this is probably something that 99.9% of planners deal with, (par for the course?). It's happened to me before, but not to this extent. I don't know why people have to be like that? Should I do/say anything whether to him, the chair, the mayor, etc? Just ignore it?

    Anywho, I needed to vent. If you made it through this, bless you!

  2. #2
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    I think you handled it as well as you could given the situation. Yes, these things happen to a lot of us, it's part of being a planner in small town America....so you're not alone.

    Hang in there, and feel free to use us as a sounding board whenever you need to!

    Edit: In terms of how to respond further, I'd start with the chair of the Board if you have a good relationship with him/her. Having the chair speak to the member on the side before a meeting might be helpful.
    "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

  3. #3
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    I've been there before, as well.

    Was this commission member trying to get you to lose your cool? If that's was his intent, just keep up your professional composure and responses. That will hopefully deflate him a bit....

    If he brings the tree thing up again, offer to go out to the site w/ him sometime with the approved site plan. Many planning commissioners haven't any idea how different an approved project on the ground looks from the two dimensional plat they approved. It could be a good educational moment for this member.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Yeah, I have seen the same thing every place I have worked. The worst I remember was when someone made innuendos about the court; something like "they take in all of this money from fines and it never shows up in the city accounts. Something is rotten in the City of W---------." She went on to continue to allege wrongdoing, and to say that fines should be a source of income for the city.

    1. It is illegal to use fines as a source of income. The fine must be in line with the cost of enforcement.

    2. Fines levied by the municipal court are (mostly) turned over to the county and do not go to the city treasury, which is why they do not end up in the city accounts.

    This person showed up at a Common Council meeting where the judge made a very elegant rebuttal and then the Council turned on her as well. Par for the course, she never apologized.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Take it with a grain of salt....

    I remember I was once accused of being an "accessory to vehicular homicide" because I wasn't doing enough to build bike lanes along every road in the county, and I was somehow responsible for little Johnny getting hit by a car and killed.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    I hear you and can sympathize with you.

    What I end up doing when a peson goes off like that is look at the chair with a puzzled look. It is the chair's responsibility to make sure everyone is civil and to protect staff and others from personal attacks. if your chair is not willing to do this then you may have to do other things to reduce the attacks.

    I also have filed complaints (on areas related to protected grounds) with respect to how an elected official has treated me in a public forum.

    Finally, from the CIP Professional Practice Manual ( I love this Section and have used it)

    "...each of us must approach our work with pride and principle. We should be ready and willing to listen and take advice, but we should not tolerate rudeness in the delivery of "advice". We should challenge rudeness rather than ignore it. ignoring rudeness condones it."

    From your description it sounds like this guy is a jerk and a bully, just remember that most bullies will back down if you are principled and right in your dealings with a specific case.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  7. #7
    maudit anglais
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    Sounds like you handled it well...

    If in doubt, say you don't have an answer right now, but that you'll look into their concerns and respond when you have more information. Offer to meet with them on the site, if that's what it takes. Anything to address their concerns, yet not get bogged down right then and there.

    It's also helpful to try to cultivate a friendly relationship so they don't blindside you at public meetings...

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Tom R's avatar
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    PC

    It sounds like your PC member has what I call "Delusions of Competancy," a common affliction and unfortunately uncurable. I think you handled it well, especially the beer part.
    WALSTIB

  9. #9
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    Sorry Christine

    We all sympathize because we've had similar circumstances. I think the idea of talking to the chair about it would help.

    We are having problems with out PC too... we have two lawyers on the Commission that treat staff like crap. Usually they use a "tone" and a bunch of sarcasm when asking questions of Administration. Last night after sitting there for two and a half hours, they canceled my agenda item (which they made me rush and work overtime to get out by *this* meeting) and said I'd have to present it on the weekend. A little slap at the end of a long, evil day.

    The good part is that usually the crotchety ones burn out or don't get put up for renewal at the end of their term. So hang in there, and think of all the reasons you love your job.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Habanero's avatar
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    I think you handled yourself very well, that's all you could do. You did it with grace too, so bravo to Christine. I would talk to the Chair about it, it you feel comfortable in doing that, and see where that can get you.
    When Jesus said "love your enemies", he probably didn't mean kill them.

  11. #11

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    Re: PC

    Originally posted by Tom R
    It sounds like your PC member has what I call "Delusions of Competancy," a common affliction and unfortunately uncurable. I think you handled it well, especially the beer part.
    I couldn't have said it better myself. Keep your head up!

    I once had a presentation to give to a big-city mayor "well known for his tempestous behavior", as a local paper once put it. The presentation was for the mayor and about 3-4 of his high-level staff, and it was to describe redevelopment concepts for a long arterial roadway in the city. I prepped for the presentation with my boss and the planning commissioner, and we had a basic premise -- seek to relocate or eliminate much of the obsolete commercial development along the street, replace it with housing where applicable, and concentrate new commercial development at major intersections. Our recommendations were done with the blessings of my boss and the planning commissioner.

    As I pointed out on a map where this could take place, I see the mayor turning fire-engine-red. He looks at a handout, throws it across the table and says, "THIS IS B&[[$#!T!!!" That would've been bad enough. But then the planning commissioner, who agreed to this strategy, said, "You're G@d-D@^# right, Mayor!" Turned out the mayor wanted to see new development like on another side of town, even though the market didn't support it.

    I left there (on my own, thank you) three months later.

    We all have our battle scars, and I think you handled your conflict well.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Re: Re: PC

    Originally posted by pete-rock
    But then the planning commissioner, who agreed to this strategy, said, "You're G@d-D@^# right, Mayor!"
    Few things tick me off any more than this. The PC might have either agreed with you or disagreed with you (or at least been undecided), but should make their opinion known from the start. I don't care if they later change their mind, but do so because of valid arguments. They should never undermine you as this A****** did. You did right to leave.

    Incidently, your strategies for redeveloping the strip are identical to what I recently suggested to someone. A good plan, but also not well received.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    My philosphy: Rant in private (like you are) and publicly, its "water of a ducks back".

    He was upset, something triggered him, you've admitted he's crotchity, so let it go, he's not worth it. The smart ones will see his antics and ignore the criticism of you. The rest, well f*ck em.

    People like that used to really bother me too. I learned long ago that you've just got to roll with a punch now and then. (And occassionally use logic to your advantage - that really gets 'em!)

  14. #14
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    If you can smile when you answer their questions, it makes it much better for you...

    How do I manage that? Well, I envision myself hopping up on the table, flashing the big full moon, and shouting, "How's this for a development, eh?!"

    Very thereputic.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------
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    If you want to talk well then I'll relate
    If you don't so what cause you don't scare me

  15. #15
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    These comments/suggestions about water rolling off a ducks back, ignoring them or thinking of something else lead me to the question...

    How thick does our skin have to be and how much respect/civility should we expect from our employers and teh memebrs of the public?

    After my incident with a council member I was blamed for allowing it to happen and reacting poorly, until I pointed out how over the line he had been in reacting to me. (tipping a table over at me and inferring things about my ethnicity and place of birth) No matter how out of line or how I acted these items where definitely over the line and needed to be addressed by someone other then me.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Originally posted by bturk
    My philosphy: Rant in private (like you are) and publicly, its "water of a ducks back".

    He was upset, something triggered him, you've admitted he's crotchity, so let it go, he's not worth it. The smart ones will see his antics and ignore the criticism of you. The rest, well f*ck em.

    People like that used to really bother me too. I learned long ago that you've just got to roll with a punch now and then. (And occassionally use logic to your advantage - that really gets 'em!)
    I somewaht disagree. I don't like to let it slide. I usually try to find some way to acknowledge them while subtly turning the criticism back onto them.

    "Staff has confirmed that they did accomplish everything you required. The plan you approved did include blah, blah, blah.... As the approving body, you can certainly require better design and landscaping on future submittals."

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Originally posted by donk
    tipping a table over at me and inferring things about my ethnicity and place of birth
    That is very inappropriate. This person should have been censured, removed from the Board, and perhaps even cited for disorderly conduct.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Tom R's avatar
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    A**h***

    Originally posted by Michael Stumpf


    That is very inappropriate. This person should have been censured, removed from the Board, and perhaps even cited for disorderly conduct.
    Or, alternatively, a quick right cross to the chops.
    WALSTIB

  19. #19
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Tom R's response is what the rest of Council said I should have done.(Miramichi Justice) As this item was heating up, members where leaving as fast as they could to avoid having to be a witness to me possibly punching the fool out.

    I ended up getting a written apology from the person, a verbal apology at a council meeting, an apology from the mayor and a loonie for the settlement. This member still takes pot shots at us and tries at every opportunity to undermine our work, he just does not make it personal anymore.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  20. #20
    maudit anglais
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    Originally posted by donk

    I ended up getting a written apology from the person, a verbal apology at a council meeting, an apology from the mayor and a loonie for the settlement.
    Note: A loonie is a Canadian dollar coin, not a crazy person.


    Sorry crazy person.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Thanks guys - I feel much better, especially hearing the horrible crap you've dealt with.

    This member still takes pot shots at us and tries at every opportunity to undermine our work, he just does not make it personal anymore.
    He's still there? What a bunch of BS.

    How thick does our skin have to be and how much respect/civility should we expect from our employers and teh memebrs of the public?
    I try to treat everyone I meet with civility and respect, but I expect that back. Naive, I know. Once they f*@% with me though it's gloves off baby!

    "If you don't expect too much from me, you might not be let down".((Hey Jealousy - by the Gin Blossoms))

  22. #22
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    I'm with you on the civility until pushed too far.

    We have a saying in our office - there are two choices in life - f---er and f---ee.

    For the most part we recognize that we are the "ee's" most of the time, but watch out if you push us into becoming the "er's".
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  23. #23
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    I think y'all heard my story...

    But when a CC questioned my integrity (angrily) in front of the Mayor and City Attorney, I told my boss I expected an apology.

    I didn't get it, resigned, and moved to Oregon a few weeks later!

    My old boss, who's still a good friend, said he regretted now calling out that councilman in a meeting about it. Moral of the story? You can lose real good people if you don't back them up when they are attacked by the public, commissioners, council members, or other staff.

    Not that I'm one of the good people, mind you...
    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    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

  24. #24
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    GLOAT / VICTORY

    This thread seems like a pretty good spot to gloat and tell people the system works, slowly, but it does work. It is also related to my previous post in this thread and is related to many of the characters involved.

    We finally got a decison yesterday from the Court of Queens Bench with respect to a garage that was built illegally and the subsequent orders to comply. The judge found that we acted properly and ordered that the contravention be removed.

    The good part of this is that the person involved is the one that provided the fuel for the attacks on me and my employer to a certain council memebr. The judge was pretty pissed, he ordered that we receive $500 court costs associated with this item. I know this does not sound like much, especially considering we are around $3000 in fees and such, but this judge in the past has awarded us $50-$150. Only 18 months in the making, but we won and were shown to have been reasonable and fair at every step of the process. Ahhh, to have righteous indignation on your side and to know that you always told the truth and acted fairly.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  25. #25
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Ohhh I can relate

    We have the same thing here with our PC. But the bad part is we also have a former staff person who tends to go off on the smallest thing, TO the current staff!!! Oh and if that is not enough, he comes into the office at least 3 times a week, and says that everything we are going is wrong, he gets upset when some one is at the "extra desk:" because he needs a place to sit, and finally, he will request words changed on the minutes, because he does not like how they sound, (even if it was a quote)

    It has become a tradition to go out to a local bar, drink more than needed, and clear our heads.

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