Have you ever met an old grizzly cop or an even fairly young but disillusioned cop who has been mentally and emotionally beaten down by the job that all they fail to see anything positive?
Well at times, I feel that city planning can lead to the same disillusionment. Almost any job that deals with the public, probably tests your faith and patience in the democratic political process…and people in general.
What is the source for this bitterness and cynicism? I believe the source for most planners is that many planning offices are reactionary and not proactive. This is a particular problem for young planners who come out of planning schools feeling like social activists and often become frustrated by the seemingly slow pace of government. Older planners have seen it all…and believe in nothing now. Just joking, but there are more than a few planning veterans who have turned from skeptics into cynics.
To be fair, I do know a fair share of planning vets who are also positive and are strong advocates of new planning theories that can improve the way we plan our environments. Strangely I find these planners never-ending hope to implement new planning theories to be slightly disillusioned as well. Maybe I’m a cynic too.
The problem with cynicism in planning is that you believe no new planning theory will work because everyone is stupid (yes, we think highly of ourselves). No, we do not think everyone is stupid but we do feel that there are a lot of people in the planning process who do not have the best of intentions that often effect plan implementation. In every plan you will have people ranging from other government agencies to the public that are meddling, self-serving, small minded, biased, looking for the quick fix, discriminatory and fearful. Working alongside these different factions can definitely turn you into a cynic.
The problem with being a cynic in planning is that you fail to see the full picture of what can be done. Any new planning theory that is being proposed is automatically torpedoed because we see all the problems of what could go wrong.
Here’s the deal, planning is a very intuitive profession. Planners figure out how to make things work in sometimes very unconventional ways. Since this is not a technical profession there endless amount of ways to solve and attack a problem. In fact, planning forces you to be creative because communities are never exact carbon copies of one another. We have to be creative in finding the best end result for each individual community. The end result maybe similar to another community but never the same. So the minute we become cynics we limit our creativity we fail to find the best solutions for communities.
So how do we help young planners or just planners in general avoid becoming cynics? My guess is through a bottle of Jack Daniels. I’m sure you have better solutions…all comments on this matter are welcome.
Thanks for reading!