Planning discussion

Planning. How is it practised? The good discussion on Wolfville town planning going on in the comments [Do read!] reminded us of pertinent comments on planning, particularly City planners, in Solwell’s book Intellectuals and Society.

City planners like other experts are also well aware that their incomes and careers depend on providing ideas that are saleable to those who employ them, including politicians, whose goals and methods become the experts goals and methods. Even where experts go through the formality of weighing costs against benefits, that can remain only a formality in a process where a goal has been chosen politically…. In other words, experts are often called in, not to provide factual information or dispassionate analysis for the purpose of decision making, but to give political cover for decisions already made and based on other considerations entirely.

This is exactly our feeling about “planning” decisions in Wolfville. Solwell includes this quote which is uncanny in its resemblance to Wolfville’s method of obtaining input on such matters:

Planners often call for visioning sessions in which the public are consulted about their desires for their regions.

In a typical visioning session, members of the public are asked leading questions about their preferences. Would you like to have more or less pollution? Would you like to spend more or less time commuting? Would you like to live in an ugly neighbourhood or a pretty one? Planners interpret the answers as support for their preconceived notions, usually some form of smart growth. If you want less pollution, you must want less auto driving. If you want to spend less time getting to work, you must want a denser city so you live closer to work. If you want apple pie, you must oppose urban sprawl that might subdivide the apple orchard.

This book is so full of insights that it must be read over and over to digest and appreciate the thoughts fully.


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