#PlanningMonth: A Planner’s Bully Pulpit

Last week's Great Places in America announcement marked the official start of National Community Planning Month, and with it one of the best opportunities planners’ have to promote the importance of planning and the policies that make communities stronger, healthier, and more just.

Planning Month represents a time planners can collectively grab the megaphone from legislators, and use the bully pulpit to advocate for the type of investment and initiatives communities large and small need to make our towns, neighborhoods and cities thrive.

While it’s been little more than one week since Planning Month 2017 launched, we’ve already seen an unprecedented level of eagerness from planners ready to engage with their legislators to bring attention to the issues most important to our field. During last month's policy conference, planners with APA Great Places in their home states talked with legislators about the ways in which these neighborhoods, streets, and public spaces demonstrate the value of planning.

Attendees at APA’s 2017 Planners’ Day on Capitol share news of North Carolina’s newest Great Places designation with staff from the office of Sen. Tom Tillis. From left, Penelope Karagounis, Lisa McCarter, Todd Okolichany, Rodger Lentz, Tyler Williams, and James Rhodes. Photo by Thomas Van Veen, Documentary Associates.

Members of APA's Planners' Advocacy Network pledged to connect with legislators at the local, state, and federal levels in October by scheduling in-district meetings, posting on social media, and encouraging chapter members to propose Planning Month proclamation in their municipalities — to name a few.

Communities across the country are leveraging the momentum set in motion by the 2017 Great Places announcement, and the Great Places 10 year anniversary by highlighting the planning stories behind the 275 neigbhorhoods, streets, and public spaces recognized since 2007.

Great Places are a product of thoughtful and deliberate planning and engagement of legislators, planners, and citizen advocates. Great Places, including Congress Street in Tucson, Arizona, Main Street in Waterloo, New York, and Commercial Street in Portland, Maine, are all examples of places that, with the help of federal grant funding, add value to their communities.

This month, a greater number of communities than ever before have declared October as Community Planning Month — and in fact, the governors of Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Virginia have already made statewide declarations. Proclamations are an effective and easy way to draw your legislators' attention to planning needs of their constituents. While it may not equate to the adoption of a streetcar or affordable housing policies, it helps to open the door and facilitate dialogue with influential policymakers.

Now that it is officially Planning Month, let's use our collective voice to educate the public and policymakers about the value of planning. What will you do this October to educate others about the role planning plays in creating stronger, more vibrant communities?

Check out our online Planning Month toolkit to start, which features media materials, promotional graphics and more, and be sure to let us know what you have planned by contacting APA at jsmith@planning.org.

Top image: Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds proclaims October to be Community Planning Month in her state. Photo by Ali Boettcher, Administrative Assistant, Office of the Governor.

About the Author
Jerah Smith is the communications fellow for APA's Great Places in America program.

October 10, 2017

By Jerah Smith