When Organization’s Go Political

If you read any of your news feeds, you are likely to believe that the world has gone completely mad. Between “Fake News”, Tweets, Chocolate Cake, or Unexpected Results, it seems that we have all lost focus. Our efforts to make better places, are focused on political tailwinds and not on making better places.

I am a member of numerous organizations that support traditional town planning. (You can review my feeds, so I will not name names). Over the past year, many of these groups have picked political allies, and have turned their resources towards the politics and away from the City.

I have worked in both the public and private sectors, and cannot stress how dangerous this trend is to all of our work. Cities are complex, and our world will always be polarized. However, Town Planning lasts longer than any political party. Our Cities, and the work we do in our cities, lasts beyond a 2 or 4 year term of an elected official. We need to pull ourselves out of politics and focus on peacemaking.

Our elected officials are an important part of the management of cities. We must not forget that elected officials are responsible for the moment. , while citizens are responsible for the long term development of their community.

Urbanism is not red or blue. The full political spectrum cherish and support communities. As hard as it is to believe, the elected officials are citizens from your community, and were selected for the job by your neighbors. Despite the talk of the pundits, politicians are people to.

As Urbanists, we should have a very clear focus: supporting contextual investment into our community. We should not lose sight of this focus and get pulled into a giant political hairball.

Here are a couple of thoughts and observations to progress our goals:

  1. Seek Common Ground. Organizations and Associations promoting urbanism need to find common ground with the Trump Administation. We have a developer in the White House who grew up in most vibrant and dense urban city in America.
  2. Document Successes. Our professional Associations need to promote the programs and funding of programs that really work. The members of these groups need to document the fiscal and social benefits of these programs. We need to explain in detail all aspects from the initial idea to the final implementation. This must then be distributed broadly with these organization’s members. Do not rely on the report published in 1992.
  3. Be Critical of Programs not People. Our Organizations need to be critical of the programs and funding that do not work. Focus on the workings of the programs. Be honest with the facts, the true costs, and the bureaucratic hoops required to administer a program.
  4. Bundle the Benefits. We need to start bundling the benefits of our projects and programs to be multi-displinary. This allows or groups to offer non-political solutions that address multiple issues.
  5. Engage the Leadership. Each of our Organizations and Associations need to make very public requests for meetings with Cabinet Members and Appointed Directors. These could be requests to participate in “Listening Sessions” or requests to have these decision makers on panels at these organizations National Gatherings.