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The Effective Planning Commissioner

Let’s Talk About Followship

Mother duck and ducklings in a row

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Each member’s thoughtful and reasoned participation makes an important contribution to the proceedings.

… In many ways, the roles of planning board members are more subtle and not as easily defined as the role of the chair. Members do not have the title nor, for that matter, the gavel to establish authority. However, without a certain number that constitutes a quorum, no business can take place. Most importantly, each member’s thoughtful and reasoned participation makes an important contribution to the proceedings. How, then, can a planning board member be most effective?

Prepare yourself. Beforehand, read all the pertinent written material you have received, review anything you do not understand with the planning director, and be ready with questions or comments as the meeting proceeds.

Be prepared at the meeting. Come to every meeting on time. Having reviewed the agenda, you should have a good idea what you would like to say, on what topics. Then, listen intelligently to the discussion and participate actively.

Know the facts. Recently, in a small community on the West Coast, a new planning commissioner, attending his first meeting, launched into a long speech castigating staff and the commission for perceived egregious past procedures. If his purpose was to receive notoriety, he met his goal, for his remarks were headlines in the next issue of the local newspaper. But unfortunately, he not only made instant enemies of colleagues he needs to work with the next four years, he also was proved wrong when the planning director and chair cited facts and figures contrary to his allegations. …

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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