As a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), I often find myself talking about the importance of planning—specifically municipal planning. I have always tried to explain planning in terms of infrastructure and land use regulations, but lately I have found myself returning to talk about why I chose this profession. When I change the conversation and talk about quality of life issues such as safety, healthy living conditions, mobility and the environment, and how in Pennsylvania it is the local elected officials who control development, people quickly grasp the concept of planning and understand how important it is to the livability of their community.
So, why do you plan? When I entered the workforce, I thought I would be a social worker fighting to right injustice and injury. This career path began with managing food banks, and transitioned to preventing juvenile delinquency, and then infant mortality prevention. During this time, understanding the fragile nature of the challenges faced by many of these families, I became increasingly frustrated by the conditions of disenfranchised communities, children without a place to play, subsidized housing built without consideration of access to services, and development allowed in flood-prone areas—all of which can, and should, be addressed by our elected officials.
Planning is a local government responsibility. Municipalities must ensure that residents are protected, that community facilities are in place to meet the needs of residents, that our water is safe to drink, that we have access to goods and services, and more. Local Governments have immense power when you consider that their decisions regarding where water and sewer lines are extended, how roads are built, the type and location of housing or industry, and how they will protect the environment, controls your quality of life. This is especially true in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the sheer number of local governments that make or influence these decisions. Vibrant and healthy communities do not just happen, they are planned.
So, why do you plan? Is it for a desire to change the world and right injustice? Are you working in a municipality that wants to reinvigorate its downtown? Are you a planning commissioner who wants to promote sustainable development? Whatever it is, tell us! Share your story and LGA will enter you into a raffle to receive a free registration to an upcoming workshop of your choice. E-mail your story to Joy at email@example.com.