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Planning, Chicago-style

pete-rock

Cyburbian
Messages
1,551
Points
24
This short article in the Chicago Sun-Times underscores the difficulty of planning in Chicago, where planners are viewed as "bookish" and "lacking common sense" by many aldermen. This is the chief reason I got outta there.

My role as a planning consultant to suburban municipalities could not be more different. But Chicago may be like other big cities, too.

What's your relationship like with elected officials?

Edit: notice that one alderman says that the problem with planners is that "they want to plan your community." Can you believe that?
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
12,763
Points
43
Toothless planners

Thanks for the link to that article!

My experience so far has been that elected officials here want everything "Joe Friday" style: just the facts. It has been made explicit to us that we are not to make any recommendations at all. We are simply here to do the grunt work. It is particularly difficult when your facts make it obvious the petitioner does not need the variance, but it is approved anyway.

I wonder how these elected officials would like it if they didn't have staff to do the analysis for them. They might appreciate the professional expertise a little more.

But I don't know how Chicago Planning Dept. works, so they could be a stumbling block for all I know.
 

pete-rock

Cyburbian
Messages
1,551
Points
24
Chicago aldermen reserve the right to plan of the development of their ward, and generally believe that any kind of city-wide coordination of planning and development is an infringement on their right to "run" their ward. That's not always the case (there are exceptions to every rule), but aldermen generally decide where and what type of development will be put in their ward, and will often use staff only to support their opinion.
 

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,850
Points
24
As a consultant it is similar.

My job is to find facts (written code or law, public opinion, theoretical, etcetera) to support or discredit a project. We gather and then said client (politician, developer, business leader, whomever) uses (Though we are often “expert witnesses”). That is the job.

Unfortunately, sometimes clients only use facts that support their goal and wont listen to change it. No matter what is “right or wrong”.

However, it is not the planners’ job to decide “right and wrong” either.

My theory is, if you get enough citizens participation and educate THEM on the issue, they will be the voice that politicians often listen to. If they don’t listen to that voice, they wont be around long.
 

pete-rock

Cyburbian
Messages
1,551
Points
24
Huston said:
As a consultant it is similar.

My job is to find facts (written code or law, public opinion, theoretical, etcetera) to support or discredit a project. We gather and then said client (politician, developer, business leader, whomever) uses (Though we are often “expert witnesses”). That is the job.

Unfortunately, sometimes clients only use facts that support their goal and wont listen to change it. No matter what is “right or wrong”.

However, it is not the planners’ job to decide “right and wrong” either.

My theory is, if you get enough citizens participation and educate THEM on the issue, they will be the voice that politicians often listen to. If they don’t listen to that voice, they wont be around long.
I agree with you wholeheartedly here. My job was (and still is, in this new position) to gather facts on a proposed development, and to present the facts for evaluation.

Usually, the evaluation that follows is done within a larger context. But what if there is no plan to provide direction? What if zoning is not a planning implementation tool, but a negotiation tool? What if one elected official says, "I want a strip center in my district like his, I don't care if his is just one mile away?"

My contention in my previous job was that we planners could help provide direction to elected officials, but doing so was an affront to them.
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,624
Points
34
pete-rock said:
[BWhat's your relationship like with elected officials?
[/B]
Mostly good, but I am not nearly anonymous enough on this board to venture a hearty response.
 

pete-rock

Cyburbian
Messages
1,551
Points
24
Re: Re: Planning, Chicago-style

Chet said:
... I am not nearly anonymous enough on this board to venture a hearty response.
Hence the limited number of responses.
 
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