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Best (and worst) Places to be a Planner.

Mastiff

Gunfighter
Messages
7,181
Points
30
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?
 

Dan

Dear Leader
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
17,693
Points
57
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.
 

Mastiff

Gunfighter
Messages
7,181
Points
30
Well...

I've been offered a job in Oregon. I'm looking very hard at taking it... Even harder since last week!
 
Messages
3,690
Points
27
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.
 

planasaurus

Cyburbian
Messages
215
Points
9
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.
 
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NHPlanner

Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
9,879
Points
38
> 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.
 

Mastiff

Gunfighter
Messages
7,181
Points
30
"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?)
 
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Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,624
Points
34
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.
 

NHPlanner

Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
9,879
Points
38
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.
 

Jeff

Cyburbian
Messages
4,161
Points
27
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.
 

Super Amputee Cat

Cyburbian
Messages
2,119
Points
28
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.











 

Mastiff

Gunfighter
Messages
7,181
Points
30
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%...
 

Jeff

Cyburbian
Messages
4,161
Points
27
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.
 

planasaurus

Cyburbian
Messages
215
Points
9
$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.
 

Mastiff

Gunfighter
Messages
7,181
Points
30
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.
 

el Guapo

Capitalist
Messages
5,984
Points
29
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.
 

planasaurus

Cyburbian
Messages
215
Points
9
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.
 

el Guapo

Capitalist
Messages
5,984
Points
29
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.
 

Dan

Dear Leader
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
17,693
Points
57
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."
 

Tranplanner

maudit anglais
Messages
7,903
Points
35
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!
 

el Guapo

Capitalist
Messages
5,984
Points
29
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!
 

Tranplanner

maudit anglais
Messages
7,903
Points
35
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!
 

el Guapo

Capitalist
Messages
5,984
Points
29
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!
 

NHPlanner

Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
9,879
Points
38
Other Places not to be a planner...

...
 

NHPlanner

Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
9,879
Points
38
Above images courtesy of the APA Small Town and Rural Planning Division website's picture of the month feature. :)
 

Dan

Dear Leader
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
17,693
Points
57
Re: We love you Canadians!

El Guapo said:
And thanks for all the great TV shows and plus sized comedians!
"Great Canadian TV show" is a phrase that reminds me of "gourmet British cuisine." So, there's SCTV, The National, Hockey Night in Canada, The Red Green Show, Degrassi Junior High, Kids in the Hall, the MuchMusic cable channel (carried by my cable system in Orlando!) and .... uhhh ... porn late at night on the French channel and ... uhhhh ... SCTV ... did I say that already? Red Green? Oh.

The very best thing on Canadian TV is uncut HBO original programming on CTV. The Sopranos, complete with profanities, on free over-the-air TV ... hella sweet! Still, seeing uncut shots of the inside of Bada Bing doesn't make up for Beachcombers, King of Kensington, Road to Avonlea, Starlost, The Fifth Estate, the Hinterland Who's Who PSA (always the moose, goose or the woodchuck), Headline Challenge, and pretty much 95% of what's on CBC ... not good, not horrible, just ... well, like British food. There's also the Sport of Champions! SWEEP! SWEEP, DAMNIT, SWEEP! ROCK THE HOOSE!























(Hey, gotta' get back for every time some Torontonian said "See any good fires lately?" when I told them where I was from.)


Attached -- photo of a St. Catharines Planning Commission meeting. Looks like they're registering their approval of the site plan for the new co-branded Petro-Canada/Tim Hortons! "All in favor, extend your brooms and say aye, eh?"
 

IPlan

Cyburbian
Messages
60
Points
4
Canadians eh

I have to agree, Canadian Television is a world of its own. Got to love it!

Though I would like to point out, I have never curled in my life.
 

Tranplanner

maudit anglais
Messages
7,903
Points
35
"Oh yeah ... cold Toronto girls. What is it with them, anyhow?"

I've been in Toronto most of my life, and I still don't know.

And I've never curled either, although I like to watch it. I think I've figured out the purpose of the game - get blasted and heave big rocks down the ice to hit other rocks. What's not to like?
 

el Guapo

Capitalist
Messages
5,984
Points
29
Canadian TV ist wunderbah!

I see a few shots at Canadian programming here. It is a masterwork compared to German TV. I lived on the economy there for a few years in the late 80's and I would say their relative unsophistication and inability to produce a coherent commercial or decent TV show is famous throughout Europe. Whenever I see those stupid Mentos commercials here in the states dubbed into English I want to chuckle. There are soooo German! When I see them I flash back to the land of the big stein.

The only thing worse was the US Military’s Armed Forces Network (AFN). Instead of Commercials we got “The history of the woman’s army headgear” or the “energy rapper:” “I BE the Energy Rapper and I’m BE here to say: Turn it OFF – Bup Bup Bup Bup – Turn it DOWN - Bup Bup Bup Bup –That’s the Army way - Bup Bup Bup Bup – WORD!”

I came home an angry and confused man.
 
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