2010 National Planning Conference: Closing Keynote Address

Adolfo Carrión Jr

By Kimberley Hodgson
Manager, APA's Planning and Community Health Research Center

In an inspiring speech that closed the 2010 APA National Planning Conference on Tuesday, White House Urban Affairs Director Adolfo Carrión Jr outlined the Obama administration's support for smart planning, innovation, and sustainability to make cities, towns, villages, and the nation a better place to live.

Carrión and New Orleans Mayor Elect Mitch Landrieu presented their remarks to a crowded, enthusiastic room of planners.

"I bring you greetings on behalf of the President of the United States of America," said Carrión. "I think you know more than most associations, professions, or interest groups that the President really gets this profession. He understands the importance place planning plays in the national and global conversation."

In an inspiring speech, Carrión explained the administration's support for smart planning, innovation, and sustainability to make our cities, towns, villages, and country a better place to live. He explained that now is the time to "return the UD in HUD," break down institutional silos, and ultimately collaborate around a central issue that overlaps across local, state, and federal government agencies: sustainability.

"Planning and planners are essential to the success of the American enterprise going forward," said Carrión. "Smart planning doesn't have a party label."

He explained that it is the job of the federal government to support our local communities and help create a better quality of life. Carrión outlined three major goals of the administration: economic competitiveness, environmental responsibility, and opportunity. He explained that the administration wants to a robust economy that ensures jobs; a better place for future generations of this country; and a country that is rich with opportunity. Seventeen agencies across government have organized and are collaborating around these three major "policy baskets" to come up with strategies and solutions to address the challenges and opportunities faced by local communities and regions across the country.

For the first time in American history, Carrión explained that there is now funding for planning. From the Fresh Food Financing Initiative, to the Sustainable Communities Initiative and the Livable Communities Act, Carrión presented the administration's plan for supporting local and regional communities. He also outlined the administration's strategy for breaking down silos not only at the federal level, but also at the local and regional levels. The concept, he said, focuses on building the assets of a region, making regions competitive locally and globally, sustainable, and rich with opportunity. "The planners, designers, architects, landscape architects and all the professions in this arena ... are central to the success of the American public."

Mayor Elect Mitch Landrieu

New Orleans Mayor Elect Mitch Landrieu delivered a sobering yet insightful speech about the past struggles and future vision for New Orleans. He explained the need for our local, state, and federal government to not just focus on the what, or the current problems, but the how, or the solutions to the problems. In the case of New Orleans, he explained that it is "the most immediate lab of democracy in this moment in time. ... [New Orleans] is a place where America is going to find herself again or get lost." He offered New Orleans as a challenge to planners, to seek innovation and sustainability, while considering the importance of place. "Place is not a state, not a city, not a region, but the place is spot where a young boy gets on his bicycle and begins to ride to school. It's the place where the young girl walks to an enrichment program. It's the place where you can walk to the store safely to pick up milk."

Planning decisions ultimately, are not just "intellectual exercise," but will affect the day to day living of American citizens. Therefore to be successful is to implement smart and sustainable practices.

The session ended with a question from a University of Buffalo student for Mr. Carrión on the future of planning in the U.S. "You are coming into a time where there is a definite and compelling need for smart planning ... the profession is coming of age." Planning, he explained, is interdisciplinary, interconnected and the "holistic" way to approach a variety of economic, environmental and social issues.

Send an e-mail to WebsiteEditor@planning.org for permission to reprint this article.