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NIMBYs (Not in my Backyard). They're either coming to your community or already there -- the self-annointed protectors of (check one or more) their neighborhoods, the community, the public good, or their own self-interest. Many areas suffer from the added infestation of NIMEYs -- timid public officials who are heard to say, usually privately, "Not in my Election Year." Faced with a potentially controversial issue such as multi-family housing, what's a conscientious planning commission to do? First, try not to panic. Second, consider these strategies.
Move decisively to defuse fiction, gossip, and innuendo. Be aware of issues that may inflame your particular community and take the initiative to provide the facts frankly and clearly before the ugly rumors get around. Why is the planning board considering multi-family housing? Is there really a need? Just who are "those people" who will live there? What will the development look like? ...
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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.