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What do kids know about planning -- and what can they contribute to the planning process in your community? Plenty! But in their own language and in their own way.
Never expect them to use the jargon that is so familiar to professional and lay planners.
Zoning ... setbacks ... conditional use ... words that we use every day are sure to turn them off.
But talk about putting a large retail store across from their favorite park, or whether to build a bicycle path around the high school or restrict parking downtown, and you will get their attention and their opinions.
Many communities are undertaking "visioning," a process that encourages citizens to think about what they want their communities to be like in the future and decide what they need to do to reach their goals. Planning departments are often the catalysts for such visioning, and planning commissioners the citizen leaders. Though it is the buzzword for the nineties, visioning is like any other planning process. It can open up people's eyes to creative and innovative ways to deal with important community issues -- or become just another report gathering dust. Success often depends on the commitment of the political leadership and the inclusiveness of the process.
Some of the most successful visioning processes reach out beyond adults to involve the youth of the community. These also require planning and follow-through. ...
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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.