Creating Staff Reports With Pizzaz

Zoning Practice — June 2023

By Bonnie Johnson, FAICP, PhD, Stephanie Kisler, AICP


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Staff reports assess proposals set before an elected or appointed governing board charged with looking out for the present and future of communities, including the land, nature, and humans. The scope of the proposal might be anything from small changes on a single parcel of land to a grand plan or policy affecting the entire jurisdiction or region.

Each staff report is an opportunity to think about our connections with other people and nature and a chance to give thanks for the very land beneath us. Staff reports can help us appreciate what we have and how to best work together for the general health, safety, and welfare of our ecosystem. How do we unleash the power of staff reports? Creativity.

This issue of Zoning Practice brings creativity to the staff report by drawing on research about how to foster creative work within organizations. It describes and uses two different exercises based on proven creativity-training programs. These two creative thinking skills processes can assist planners in finding their way to what is most valuable for their technical and empathetic expertise.


Page Count
Date Published
June 1, 2023
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Authors

Bonnie Johnson, FAICP, PhD
Bonnie J. Johnson, PhD, FAICP is Director and Professor in the University of Kansas’ Urban Planning Program within the School of Public Affairs and Administration. She teaches planning theory, politics, and public management courses. Research focuses on the profession of city planning and the roles and ethics of being a planner. Contributions to the field include the use of new media for neighborhood organizing, creation of the civic bureaucracy model, groundbreaking research on staff reports, and comparative studies of public service professions and their codes of ethics. Before returning to school for her doctorate, Johnson was a practicing city planner for eight years designing citizen engagement processes for neighborhood, corridor, and city/countywide plans. At the City of Liberty, Missouri, she was project manager for Liberty’s award-winning Blueprint for Liberty: Land Use Plan. The plan was awarded the American Planning Association’s “Outstanding Planning Award”. She is the elected Professional Development Officer for the Kansas Chapter of APA and member of the Planning Accreditation Board representing the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning. She served on the Ethics Committee for the American Institute of Certified Planners and was inducted into the AICP College of Fellows in 2020.

Stephanie Kisler, AICP
<p>Stephanie Kisler, AICP currently works for the City of Lenexa, Kansas as the Planning Manager within the Community Development Department. She is a proud graduate of Kansas State University with more than ten years of municipal planning experience. She has worked in city planning roles in communities within the Chicago and Kansas City metropolitan areas. Some of her favorite types of projects include code writing, document formatting, and current development review.</p>