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Every city has its "major players" who have considerable impacts on the community and the local economy. They may include large corporations or manufacturers or institutions such as hospitals or schools. They usually become visible only when they have their own grand plans … and are more likely to want to write their own rules than adhere to seemingly arbitrary local ordinances or processes. They are well aware they are key contributors to the community's economic well-being. Often, their CEOs or board members are tied in closely to the social and/or political power structure and consider themselves and their entities good citizens.
Yet, these same institutions or large businesses may be planning an expansion that would severely affect a low-income neighborhood, or require additional roadways or transportation links the community cannot afford. How can planners and planning board members work with these major players in a way that is fair and equitable to them and still serves the best interests of the entire community?
Your job as a guardian of sound planning is much more difficult if your first contact or awareness occurs when representatives unveil their big ideas to the city council or the media. This approach, especially if it attempts to deny or ignore the careful tenets in the comprehensive plan or zoning code, may be designed to give them leverage while it immediately puts you on the defensive.
To be most effective dealing with major players, the groundwork for cooperation and collaboration must be laid far in advance.
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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.