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We create models of the world to understand how things work and to predict how they will work in the future. The better our model; the better our ability to forecast and shape the future.
Models that are universally accepted are paradigms. There is a significant paradigm shift occurring in physics — the science that deals with matter, energy, motion, and force — that has a direct correlation to planning commissions.
The Renaissance saw the creation of a new model of the universe which has an analogy to a watch: the world is comprised of millions of parts that collectively form a working mechanism. This analogy is often used in describing the need for species protection. If a critical part is removed, the entire mechanism stops.
A newer model is replacing this mechanical view. It focuses on the relationships between parts and not the parts themselves. It views nature as a series of systems. An analogy often drawn is to the “Butterfly Effect,” first postulated by Edward Lorenz, which describes how a seemingly insignificant action — like the beating of a butterfly’s wings in one place — can trigger an unexpected chain of events — perhaps resulting in a tornado in another part of the world.
Whew! But now it’s time to stretch our minds even further, and consider how these two different models — the mechanical model and the systems model — relate to public bodies, such as planning commissions.
Several years ago planner Frank Wein suggested tongue-in-cheek that most public hearing bodies followed the “Rule of Five.” They were comprised of five distinct personalities:
The Reader: Reads everything, understands nothing. Comments often like: “On page 32, second paragraph, I believe you meant a colon and not a semi colon. Also, on page 45, third line from the bottom, I believe it should read ‘effect’ and not ‘affect.’ Just some of my thoughts about the report.”
The Sleeper: One of the highest attendance records. Responds to roll-call, “Here,” but that may be the last sound from this member for the entire meeting.
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