Trends For Planning Management
Dear Management Doctor:
I am Dory Reeves and teach Management for Planners in Auckland, New Zealand. I am curious to know what planners in the US see as the key trends for planning management over the next 5 years. Here, the key issues will center around a major restructuring of local and regional government which will create the supercity of Auckland. At a more micro level, local authorities have postponed recruiting due to the economic downturn and so there will be the effects of this.
Great question. I am eager to see what some of my emailers may think about your question. I have these observations:
The Management Doctor
P.S. My wife and I have been thinking of a trip to Australia and/or New Zealand. I'd love to do some management training for planners as part of a trip. Maybe you could give me a hand in finding an invite and adding planners to our free email service.
The Management Doctor
These are longer-term trends, but these are three trends that dominate the planning manager's day in one form or another in the US:
The first trend is a state of permanent fiscal crisis in local governments. The recession has put a finer edge on it, but in many parts of the US, local governments were in trouble long before the housing bust. Its from a convergence of four major factors:
The second trend is a growing disconnect between the the scale at which planning problems manifest themselves and the scale at which most planning authority rests. Planners are increasingly being asked to address problems that manifest themselves as cumulative effects that operate on a regional or even global scale. Water resource management and climate change are only two examples of larger scale issues in which land use is implicated. One could certainly add traffic congestion and affordable housing to the list of problems that operate on a regional scale.
Most of the tools we use are implemented at the individual site scale through the development review process or the infrastructure design process. Most of the decision making on how these tools work occurs at the local government level. Many of the struggles planners face are a struggle to successfully bridge this ever widening gap.
The third trend is the inability of public sector decision making to keep up with the accelerating pace of change occurring in the private market. The legislative process is engineered to be deliberative. New legislation at the local, state, or federal level is easier to stop than to move. This is embedded deep in the DNA of American democracy and is mostly a good thing, but as the pace of change in our operating environment increases, the public sector gets left behind. Over time, American government has responded in four ways that I have observed:
These are pretty abstract, but I would propose that most of the tough challenges we face have these factors in them, if not as underlying causes, certainly as features that are the dominant constraints.
Dave Andersen, AICP
Both your predictions reflect my expectations for our profession. Here in California, we've seen the increased role that local planning is playing in the implementation of state policies. This will probably continue to increase, sometimes at the expense of local needs and plans.
Here in California we have also been decimated financially, although our small city has held up relatively well so far.
I would be interested to know more about how Auckland incorporates zoning/coding into the planning process and what successes or failures have resulted. I've studied the UK model in the past and have gained a lot of insight on how it has resulted in both good and bad planning.
Final note, my younger brother is leaving, this summer, for a two year church mission in Auckland and will be soon enjoying the beauty and hospitality of your country. We are excited for him and hope he can show us around when we are able to get out there for a visit.
Benjamin A. Kimball