For the People: Land Use Leadership Initiative Explores Citizen Engagement in Planning

On April 22, 1000 Friends staff, Land Use Leadership Initiative participants and Rebooting Democracy conference attendees had a conversation about changing practices and trends in public engagement, considering strategies for enhancing the value of public involvement in land use planning and decision-making.

Panelists provided insight about measures being taken at the state level and by local jurisdictions to improve the quality of public input in long term planning processes. Then attendees had the opportunity to strategize about garnering better public input, as well as strategies to help local governments with limited resources expand their capacity for public involvement in planning.

Kendall Clawson (right), Governor Kitzhaber’s Director of Executive Appointments, described her goal to fill and diversify the hundreds of state advisory committees that make meaningful policy recommendations. (Learn more about how you can apply to serve on these committees.) Land Conservation and Development Commissioner Greg Macpherson shared his insights on how the commission gets public feedback, and how they work to connect with the public about land use issues. Land Use Leadership Initiative Advisor CJ Gabbe then discussed some of the strategies that Fregonese Associates, the planning firm he works for, have been collaborating with local governments to expand outreach efforts and attract a broader range of participants to meaningfully participate in crafting the future of their community.

Finally, Marty Stockton, Community Outreach Coordinator for the recently completed Portland Plan, discussed the lengths her staff and the City of Portland went through to build partnerships with traditionally under-represented communities, and also to ensure their opinions were heard and represented. She discussed that by prioritizing these relationships, city planners demonstrated that public engagement is meant to be a mutually beneficial learning process, rather than merely checking off a box that the public was heard. Participants then engaged in small group discussion to consider some tools and strategies to ensure that just such an outcome can occur in every Oregon community.

Land Use Leadership Initiative participants continued the conversation over lunch, discussing whether current regulations under Goal 1, the statewide planning goal that discusses public engagment, were sufficient to ensure the public is adequately involved in decisions affecting their communit. Many jurisdictions do not prioritize forms of public engagement that create mutual learning, and ultimately better, more informed decisions. Participants and advisors discussed whether stronger regulation is the best strategy to ensure better engagement outcomes, and considered whether other strategies, like incentives, informational toolkits and education about the value of meaningful public engagement might be more effective in building support for the principles of Goal 1.

1000 Friends believes strongly that when the public is fully engaged in planning, better plans are made--and they last longer. To ensure that public input is meaningfully integrated into all long term planning efforts, 1000 Friends will continue to advocate for policies supporting public involvement at the state level and locally. We’ve just begun participating in a new public policy consensus initiative, Oregon’s Kitchen Table, to improve access to public policy decision-making across the state (to learn more or sign-up to participate, click here: http://oregonskitchentable.org/). In the Portland Metro area, 1000 Friends has been working with Metro on updating its Public Engagement Review process, and our regional staff work across the state to connect local residents with their leaders and planners in projects of all kinds. If you’re interested in learning more about changes we’re advocating for in this process, contact Outreach Coordinator Tara Sulzen at tara@friends.org.

Recap by Tara Sulzen, Outreach Coordinator.