STYLES OF PLANNING

We have suggested that the planner works in an environment of widely distributed power, conflicting interests, and less than total agreement. How, then, are planners to conduct themselves? Styles of planning vary among individuals and also among places. Few planners will fit exactly into any one of the types that follow but rather will display different amounts of the several pure types in their professional roles.

  • 1. The planner as neutral public servant. In this role, planners take a politically neutral stance and fall back on their professional expertise, which they will use to tell the community how best to do what it wishes to do. They will not, in general, try to tell the community what it ought to do. The advice and technical work they present to the community, subject to law and personal and professional ethics, will largely be confined to "how to" and "what if" and not "should" or "should not."
  • 2. The planner as builder of community consensus. This is essentially a political view of the planner. It became more popular in the postwar period as it grew very clear to most planners that the older view of the planner as nonpolitical public servant was at great variance from the way in which planning questions actually are resolved.3

In this view, planning cannot be separated from politics. Politics is the art of taking divergent views and divergent interests and bringing them into sufficient harmony to permit action to be taken. The role of the politician, then, is that of broker between various interests.[1] Since no plans can be implemented without political will and political action, the planner, too, must be very close to, or perhaps a part of, the political process. The advocate of this view, for example, would hold that the older notion of having the planner report solely to a supposedly nonpartisan lay planning board is a prescription for impotence: It is better to make the planner an integral part of the bureaucracy or the political structure where the decisions are made. How much planners can move the community in their own direction varies. The planner who is visibly at great odds with the main values and desires of the community often becomes an unemployed planner.

3. The planner as entrepreneur. This is not a role that planners originally envisaged for themselves but one in which many find themselves. When the planners run an agency that is particularly task-oriented, they very often become entrepreneurs. For example, in Urban Renewal programs, public funds were used to clear and prepare sites, which were then sold or leased for development by private capital. The planner who ran an Urban Renewal Agency had to market sites, find developers, and negotiate contracts. Local economic development programs have as their primary goal increasing private investment in the community. Thus the economic development planner is necessarily drawn into an entrepreneurial role involving marketing, negotiation, and financing.

particular interests. The concept of advocacy planning, which developed in the early 1960s, sprang from the view that there are groups in society that lack the political and economic strength to advance their own interests adequately. Thus they need to be specially represented in the planning process. Specifically, advocacy planning cut its teeth on the issue of exclusionary zoning (see Chapters 9 and 19). Advocacy planners, the best known of whom was the late Paul Davidoff, took the position that suburban zoning laws locked out the poor and minority-group members and then set about to change such laws by means of persuasion and, more importantly, litiga- tion.5 The advocacy planner, like the attorney, does not generally claim to represent the majority but rather the interests of a particular client. Those interests may or may not coincide with the interests of the majority of the community or, for that matter, of the nation.

In general, advocacy planners who represent less prosperous subgroups of the population have at least some element of a radical political perspective. It is the view that society exploits, mistreats, or otherwise abuses some of its citizens that is likely to propel one into an advocacy role. If, on the other hand, one views society as generally fair and just, one is not likely to see much need for advocacy planning.

The notion of advocacy may also be used in a slightly different sense. Rather than serve as the advocate of a particular group in society, the planner may advocate a particular cause or program, such as parks, mass transit, highways, or environmental preservation. The planner who represents a cause may have a somewhat easier time of making a claim to serving the public interest as a whole than does the planner who represents a particular group. But even here, if one picks almost any goal, it will generally turn out that accomplishing it creates some gainers and some losers.

5. The planner as agent of radical change. This is a view held by only a few practicing planners. Planners who hold a full-blown radical perspective are likely to find the day-to-day work of planning in most organizations frustrating and painful because they will have to cooperate on a daily basis with a system for which they have little respect. Among planning academicians there are a fair number, though definitely a minority, who take a neo-Marxian or critical theory position and see the promotion of radical political and economic change as a proper long-term goal for planning. This subject is discussed further in Chapter 19.

  • [1] The planner as advocate. In this role the planner acts as a representative for certain groups or certain positions and chooses to advance
 
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