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From Jocelyn Almy-Testa –
This is long, and is for Lynn residents. It’s about our need for a city planner.
While I appreciate the op-ed piece recently in the Item [and LynnHappens 10/24] about the differences of the Mayoral Candidates, I respectfully disagree with his argument that Lynn does not need a city planner. According to the American Planning Association, community planning can be described as:
“The goal of planning is to maximize the health, safety, and economic well-being for all residents. This involves thinking about how we can move around our community, the businesses and attractions in our community, where we want to live, and opportunities for recreation. Most of all, planning helps create communities of lasting value.
While architects often focus on a single building, a planner’s job is to work with residents and elected officials to guide the layout of an entire community or region. Planners take a broad viewpoint and look at how the pieces of a community — buildings, roads, and parks — fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Planners then make recommendations on how the community should proceed. One of the greatest challenges for planners is to imagine what can and should happen to a community: how it should grow and change, and what it should offer residents 10, 15, or even 20 years into the future.”
While I agree that the city has paid for many plans over the years that end up dusty on shelves, having a planner would reduce the number of ineffective planning from outside sources by working day by day in the city, developing a more realistic set of expectations and an understanding of resources and limitations, and more importantly, have an ongoing relationship with community members and stakeholders to build the city that we envision.
A planner would also specifically be focused on livability and sustainability, including environmental concerns, infrastructure and economic viability over the long run. They would create a vision plan and overarching goals for future development to build a better city that suits the real life needs of its residents, not just the financial goals of increasing the tax base through structural and economic development. Creating the tax base we need to support the schools and infrastructure depends as much on the pride in ownership of individual homeowners as it does a reliable business tax base. While we are heavily focused on development and an increase of living wage jobs (very necessary,) a planning department would also keep focus on livability and increased desire to not only own homes in Lynn, but for people to live well in the houses they own.
Cohesive city planning can break down the walls of inequity from one neighborhood to the next, ensuring that we are inclusive in our planning and do not create neglected islands within our own community. Saying that we live in one ward or another shouldn’t mean more than saying, and being proud to say, “I live in Lynn.” Period.
Community and economic development offices would work with the city planner to ensure that the efforts of the multiple facets of a large city are working in a more cohesive rather than unilateral fashion.
Funding a planning office would actually help create a more sound capital financial plan in with consideration towards future infrastructure needs of public properties, such as schools, and create a realistic plan for unused public owned properties, which are often quickly sold to meet current financial needs, instead of considering the long term fiscal health of the city, and the opportunities that municipal property ownership and retention can offer in the long term.
We have been in survival mode for too long. Dilapidated schools, confusing street flow, lack of modernized parking regulations, and constant threat of land grabs on Lynn Woods, to name just a few of the issues we face, are all due to lack of planning while we try to survive year in and year out. We need a cohesive vision for Lynn that includes the well being of the entire city. One-off projects that are loaded with tax relief for the developers, and create short term jobs that come and go quickly, are not a sustainable plan for the city’s long term health.
Lynn lacks a city wide cohesive vision that considers our development, social and infrastructure needs, both current and future. We need a planning department to work with city stakeholders and citizens who can hold our city accountable for the implementation and fiscal resourcing to create sustainable development goals.
We need to stop drowning in our problems and start realizing solutions. We are living in a time of unlimited possibilities, and increasing inequalities. The economic inequalities within our city walls, and inequalities between our city and surrounding communities will only worsen unless we collectively rise together as a whole. Electing people who understand this need is the first step to a better Lynn.
I encourage you to visit the American Planning Association’s Great Places page and see what a city planning department can accomplish.
I also encourage you to read this article about the economic advantages of urban planning(PDF.)