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The Effective Planning Commissioner

Teaching “New Dogs” New Tricks

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“I know this is my first meeting and you’ve probably covered this before, but…”

This is a common opening remark by some newly appointed planning board members who then go on to ask questions or cover material the board has, indeed, discussed before. The rest of the members are polite but understandably restless. Why does the newcomer expect us to stop the action during the meeting so that he can catch up? Why hasn’t he done his homework ahead of time?

Another type of new member is so reticent to speak up at all that you do not hear from her for the first six months. When asked for an opinion, she answers modestly, “I really don’t know enough yet to say anything. I’ll just have to pass.”

In both cases … the eager beaver who has no compunction about holding up deliberations until she understands everything, or the nervous newcomer who does not say a word until she is completely comfortable…the planning board is handicapped by not having its full complement of informed, participating members even though all the seats have been filled. …

End 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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