Straight Line Blog Post
The Planning Department’s Rethink effort started last night with a blogger panel featuring David Alpert of Greater, Greater Washington; Dan Reed of Just Up the Pike; Barnaby Zall of Friends of White Flint; Cynthia Cotte Griffiths of RockvilleCentral.com; and Eric Robbins of ThayerAvenue.com.
Two ideas in the discussion struck me. The first was Dan Reed’s passion for his community and the sense of justice that prompted him to start blogging. His reporting recounted Maryam Balbed’s some success in connecting the Silver Spring skater kids to the planning process through his blog. This is the kind of outreach planners know that must do to create a valid plan, but don’t always achieve.
Connecting to a larger community through blogs may be one way to get beyond the “white, middle-class, retired” people who Reed sees as making decisions for communities they may not be part of.
But even if you can engage a community, you need to be able to talk to them. One of the bloggers pointed out that “three quarters of planning lingo is unintelligible.” Barnaby Zall admitted he didn’t know what FAR meant when he started blogging about White Flint. And David Alpert explained that blogs allow the time to educate and build a constituency over time. He urged planners to share the “micro-decisions” that go into a plan or project, rather than just delivering a final document.
Planners will protest that they send notices, set up committees, and have community meetings, but if you can’t transcend the bureaucracy, says Reed, you won’t be able to transcend the anger it can generate.
The panel provided good insight into techniques, communication, and community that I hope we can incorporate into our work.