I am beginning to have hope that there will be productive dialogs between those planners who would like to make great communities happen and those of us who live in communities we love and wish to retain that which is great about them.
These words from Jeryl Rose Phillips, AICP, President, APA Virginia and the following essay give me hope, even while they reveal a lack of understanding of the power of open communication on the Internet:
More and more, we as planners will be confronted with a new form of political activism that is challenging the basic premises of why we plan for communities and the value of planning. This growing activism not only here in Virginia, but all around the country, necessitates we be informed and be rationale, not emotional, in our response to it. The following has been prepared by our Chapter VP for Legislation & Policy at the recent encouragement of the APA Virginia Board of Directors and we hope you find it a useful resource.
Dealing with the New Activists—What Planners Should Know
The newly‐energized and politically active citizens who have begun to dominate the American political landscape over the past several years will continue to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. It is impossible—and would be unfair—to try to paint them with a single brush, but there are some things that the planning community should be cognizant of as we move forward in this changed political landscape. At the risk of oversimplification, here are some thoughts to consider.
Who are the new activists?
To a great extent the new activists truly are new to the process. They are not old political hands and to a remarkable—and laudatory—degree, they seem to be being relatively immune to being co‐opted by existing parties or the political establishment. Indeed, “None of the Above” seems to be the favorite electoral choice of many of these new activists. This means that they are not familiar with the norms and vocabulary of the established political process and frankly find both to be problematic for what they believe are the requirements of American democracy. Thus, the folks who continue the same old vocabulary will be tarred as being of the same old politics marked by pluralism, compromise and delay in making critical decisions on issues and policy directions for which the new activists want to see a change from the status quo.
What are the issues?
Again, it would be unfair to settle on a single issue as the situation is far too complex. However, to the extent that there are three unifying issues they are the national debt, an overreaching federal government and fear of diminished property rights, each of which is viewed under the lens of the changing demographics of America. And, many are truly passionate about these things and see in them a threat to the freedom of choice and the American Dream as we have thought of it since WWII. Politics and politicians of all parties are viewed as a major part of the problem and by extension government at all levels is seen as the enemy. This has spurred a renewed interest in the concept of “states rights” and the 10th Amendment to the Constitution. Planning appears to be serving as a lightning rod for these core issues.