The Oregon APA Board of Directors recently received an inquiry as to whether we were going to take any position on new policies and directives emanating from the Federal Government that impact the people and communities we serve as planners. We deliberated over the topic in two meetings, attempting to set the appropriate tone for the diverse membership of OAPA. We on the Board of Directors share varying degrees of concern but ultimately agreed that if there are residents in the communities that we serve living in fear or with the perception of intolerance, those conditions are a barrier to participation. They are a barrier to the inclusive communities we strive to build.
In light of the foregoing, the OAPA Board of Directors asks that our members particularly keep in mind the following ethical principles recommended by the American Planning Association (https://planning.org/ethics/ethicalprinciples.htm):
- The planning process must continuously pursue and faithfully serve the public interest; and
- Planning process participants continuously strive to achieve high standards of integrity and proficiency so that public respect for the planning process will be maintained.
Additionally, whether or not we are certified planners, we should all strive to exemplify the following principles of the AICP’s code of ethics:
- Always be conscious of the rights of others.
- Give people the opportunity to have a meaningful impact on the development of plans and programs that may affect them. Participation should be broad enough to include those who lack formal organization or influence.
- Seek social justice by working to expand choice and opportunity for all persons, recognizing a special responsibility to plan for the needs of the disadvantaged and to promote racial and economic integration. We shall urge the alteration of policies, institutions, and decisions that oppose such needs.
- Promote excellence of design and endeavor to conserve and preserve the integrity and heritage of the natural and built environment.
- Deal fairly with all participants in the planning process. Those of us who are public officials or employees shall also deal evenhandedly with all planning process participants.
While we should remain hopeful that the new federal administration will work for the public good, we, as planners, are in a unique position to work to make our communities inclusive and equitable.
Accordingly, the OAPA Board issues the following call to our membership:
- Begin by examining the demographics of your community. Go beyond a cursory look at age and ethnicity. Seek to understand characteristics that shape everyday life in your community: topics like income distribution; housing affordability; proximity to employment; access to parks and nature; and transportation cost burden. Pay special attention to language spoken at home, household constructs, and educational attainment.
- Next, evaluate your public engagement. Who is involved? More importantly, who is missing? For those who are missing, make a concerted effort to reach out to them in venues that are convenient for them – not you as a planner. For many groups, building trust and relationships will take time, but it is worth the effort. Use local leaders in minority communities. Make sure your outreach provides a safe environment for all to voice their opinions and concerns.
- More than just public outreach, look at your advisory committees, volunteer positions (i.e., planning commissions) and elected representatives. Can you get more individuals from otherwise underserved and underrepresented communities involved at a volunteer level and grow their interest in running for elected office? Does your jurisdiction have leadership programs you can recommend outstanding individuals to so as to help grow a diversified talent pool? In short, how can you reach out to underserved communities to let them become aware of avenues for involvement and help foster such involvement? Finally, how are you engaging youth?
- Do you have concentrations of minorities in certain areas? If so, make sure their needs can be met without having to travel long distances and that local amenities are not counter to their culture and/or beliefs.
- For long-range planners, make sure your plans are for inclusive communities. This is not one-size-fits-all, but needs to be customized to meet each jurisdiction’s demographics (see bullet No. 1). Don’t just plan for today’s population, but for the population you expect to see over the planning horizon.
- USE GOOD DATA! Verify facts, don’t just repeat what you see, hear, or read. Make sure you counteract any biases in how you present (and analyze) data, or in the conclusions that you are reaching through your analysis.
In summary, the Oregon APA Board is asking our membership to lead by example, by honoring and embodying the principles of inclusivity and equity that are at the core of our profession!