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The Effective Planning Commissioner

Minor Irritants Can Become Major Problems

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It would be extraordinary if planning boards or commissions, whose members rightly are chosen for their particular talents or backgrounds rather than their compatibility or congeniality, were to function smoothly without real effort. Most likely, you were not fast friends before you were appointed, and you may not have social or political relationships outside the commission.

Still, the public has the right to expect that you get along with each other. Several minor irritants, however, can add up to major problems and impede the smooth functioning of a planning board. Unfortunately, board members themselves often (sometimes unwittingly) trigger the problems by:
line drawing of an angry, irritated man

  • regularly arriving at meetings late and/or leaving early.
  • holding side conversations during the meeting.
  • purporting to speak for the board as a whole, even when no official vote or stand has been taken.
  • talking to each other and/or the public in rude or patronizing tones.
  • expounding with a long-winded opinion on every subject.
  • demanding excessive amounts of information.

If there were to be a diagnosis of the problems in all these circumstances, it is that this behavior shows the perpetrator either lacks respect for the other planning commissioners, the public, and for the process itself -– or is uninformed about the norms of behavior at planning board meetings. ...

End of excerpt

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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