2011 National Planning Conference: Policy Plenary

Stephen L. Lynch

By David Morley, AICP
Planning Advisory Service Coordinator

At Monday's 2011 Policy Plenary, Massachusetts Congressman Stephen L. Lynch offered his perspective on the theme of the long-term orientation of planning and how it is sorely lacking in current federal legislative debates.

Rep. Lynch is a member of the Financial Services Committee, which oversees banking, insurance, and housing.

"Legislation is the software of our society — it's how we organize ourselves," he told the audience at APA's National Planning Conference in Boston. "Planning has a value; it helps us ensure that these complex systems we're designing are robust and stand the test of time."

Unfortunately, he sees the current Congress as a collection of 535 well-intentioned people without a plan.

A Boston native who was raised in the Old Colony housing project, Lynch has deep, personal connections to the debate surrounding funding for affordable housing. Given the severe ideological and financial divisions in Congress, every program is under close scrutiny, and there are efforts within the Financial Services Committee to phase out public housing programs.

Lynch explained that closing the deficit with the least amount of pain will mean both higher taxes for the wealthy and service cuts for the less wealthy. Speaking of the recent fight over the FY 2011 budget, he said that the basic approach of shared sacrifice has been rejected in the House.

"What I'm seeing and hearing right now is a narrative that says that shutting down the government would be a vindication or a re-affirmation of why we were elected," he said. "Sometimes you learn from mistakes, and some folks will have to learn from their mistakes."

Lynch reminded planners that housing, financial services, and health care are complex systems. The federal government cannot do everything for everyone, he said, and suggested that the need for balanced approach to our financial crisis in order to reach a long-term solution.

"People often view our challenges as a resource problem," Lynch said, "but there's a much larger debate. We have to come together as a country."

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