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The Effective Planning Commissioner

How Broad Is Your Planning Horizon?

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A statue honoring a planning commissioner. Illustration by Marc Hughes for PlannersWebThere probably is not a community in this land that has erected a statue in honor of a planning commissioner! Mayors, yes; and untold numbers of war heroes. But people, such as yourself, who devote hours of earnest effort to keeping your communities livable and unique, often go unnoticed.

You may not mind, for with notice comes notoriety, and with the mood of today's voracious media, sometimes too much prying into personal affairs. Still, when you finish your term of office on the planning board, for what would you like to be remembered? You are setting your sights too low if all you can take credit for is a particular subsection in the zoning code. Think again. You take part in some of the most important decisions a community can make and have the opportunity to help broaden its horizons and aspirations, even in the midst of the tough, day-to-day decisions that must be made.

One of the best ways to do this is never to lose sight of the fact that you have another life (though you may wonder sometimes after an interminable zoning hearing). Conflict of interest laws protect the community from flagrant misuse of power or position, but they should not be misinterpreted to mean that we ignore all we know or who we are. ...

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photo of Elaine CoganElaine 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.

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