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Polls show that "politicians" are held in very low esteem by the electorate and yet most incumbents are re-elected. Many citizens have a difficult time reconciling the need to be governed from the desire to be free from government interference.
Local planning commissioners and their staffs are among the few regulatory bodies with which citizens are in touch. Planning board members are appointed by political bodies. Are you, then, a "politician"? If a majority of the following apply, you can be sure you are in politics.
- You are accosted in the supermarket by strangers who press their case about a particular zoning or planning matter.
- You are cornered at a party by a friend who does the same.
- You are reminded gently by the mayor or a city councilperson of a favor you might return by leaning in a certain direction on a matter coming before the planning commission.
- You are mentioned critically in a news story or editorial in the local paper or on television.
- Your children come home from school with stories about what other children or their parents are saying about you.
Whether or not you accept the title, "politician," as a member of the planning board, you certainly are an important actor in the political processes of your community. ...
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Elaine Cogan, founding principal of the Portland, Oregon planning and communications firm of Cogan Owens Cogan, has consulted for more than 36 years with communities undertaking strategic planning and visioning processes. Cogan has been honored for her work on a variety of citizen involvement projects.