The Commissioner — Spring 2013

Commissioner's Voice

The Importance of Training

By Ann Cooke Bagley, FAICP
City Plan Commissioner
District 7, Dallas

For over 35 years, the Texas Chapter of the American Planning Association has provided training for planning commissioners, elected officials, and interested parties. APA Texas recognizes the importance of training for citizens who willingly give their time to provide input and guidance in current and long-range issues facing cities.

Each year at the annual state conference in October, specific sessions, called the Short Course for Appointed and Elected Officials, are provided especially for planning commissioners. Usually there are 10 sessions that include an Introduction to Planning in Texas: Roles, Responsibilities, and Ethics; Introductions to Zoning and Subdivisions; Comprehensive and Areas Plans; and topics of current and local interest. Presenters include chapter and national leaders along with local planners and planning commissioners. The Short Course is coordinated by the chapter’s planning official development officer.

A Guide to Urban Planning in Texas Communities, first published in 1978, is an extensive collection of articles that cover all aspects of planning in Texas. Written by experts and regularly updated, the Guide includes the basic topics and more technical approaches to a wide range of issues. In addition to being the basis for the Short Course, it has been used as a textbook at several universities. It can be found at http://txplanningguide.utexas.org/txplanningguide/index.php/tpg/issue/current.

In 2000, APA Texas initiated regional workshops to take planning education to diverse locations. The workshops were coordinated through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs and Councils of Governments across the state. For seven years, speakers who were experienced planners traveled outside of their own geographic area to hold the workshops. With reasonable costs and box lunches, these workshops were popular, providing training to those who were not able to attend the state conference. A set of PowerPoint presentations was developed to provide the same training across the state. The workshops were held for six years and reached more than 400 commissioners and staff.

The downturn in the economy in 2008 meant that many cities no longer sent their commissioners to the state conference or workshops. Therefore, full-day, half-day, and even a two-hour sessions were offered to communities and APA Texas sections. Volunteers, generally those who presented at other workshops, were invited to provide the consistent message of the value of planning and training in a smaller venue.

APA Texas continues to support planning commissioner training to assist commissioners not only do a better job, but to enjoy the time they spend serving their community.