Five Things This Planner is Thankful For

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ve compiled a list of five things that I am thankful for as a planner.  It is only right that half of them aren’t “hard, tangible” things since planners are often visionary in nature rather than literal.  That’s my excuse anyhow.  Here goes:

1.  I am thankful for my mentor.  I know, I know.  It’s a cheesy, predictable answer.  But the reason it’s predictable is because it should always come in number one on things we are thankful for as professionals.  My mentor has been a man named Wayne Sabo.  He is currently the City Manager of Webster, TX.  I worked with Wayne when he was Planning Director at the City of La Porte, TX and I was Assistant to the City Planner and City Engineer.  Over the years, this guy has written me countless letters of recommendations (and I do mean countless), made introductions for me where I would have had none, and influenced the way I handle myself professionally.  In fact, it is because of Wayne that I have my current position at Knudson, LP.  Wayne has taught me that in order to be a leader, one must acknowledge and embrace the strengths of others.  He has taught me to acknowledge my own strengths, and encouraged me to find consistency so that I may be more effective.  If there’s one thing I am thankful for, it is the guidance of my mentor.  This year, I have been blessed with two new mentors, Betsy Arriola and Patti Joiner.  I am thankful for the opportunity to learn even more! If you don’t currently have a mentor, I strongly suggest that you seek out the opportunity to learn from a prominent person in your field.  Only good things can come of opening yourself to new learning opportunities.

2.  I am thankful for GIS.  When I first started in planning, GIS was a speck in a planner’s eye.  Now, it is the foundation of everything we do in the Planning Division at Knudson, LP.  We develop SmartMaps on almost every one of our projects.  Because the term was coined by our founder, Patti Joiner, the nickname around the office for these is “Patti Maps.”  Our Patti Maps are multi-layered beauties that tell the story of an area from the ground up. We look at all of the typical stuff (streets/roadways, land use, property boundaries, etc.), but we also look at a full sociodemographic profile:  where are people spending their free time?  What are the foot traffic patterns?  How much space is currently open and unused?  What does the City own that could be used for the public good with minimal expense?  In our public meetings, we actually allow people to interact with these maps and drop pins on problem areas or wish list areas.  In looking at data in this way, we are able to tell the story of the people living in the communities we aim to serve.  Patti is always saying, “Planning is about looking to the future and deciding whether you like it or not.”  GIS enables us to do that with far greater precision than we could have ten years ago.  Thanks ESRI!

3.  I am thankful to be of service.  Whether working in the private sector or the public sector, all planners have the same common goal of service.  It is what binds us together as planners.  We see a vision for the future of a community, and we work our fingers to the bone trying to grasp it and show it to those who may not be able to see it for themselves.  We walk the tightrope between architects, engineers, developers and policymakers to form balanced projects.  We sit through long public meetings and listen to sometimes angry citizens vehemently vent their frustrations.  We take those frustrations and catalogue them, analyze them, and see if there is a way to rectify them.  It is the ultimate privilege to shape the built environment of those we serve.  And we love every minute of it.

4.  I am thankful for Municode.  This little tool is so simple, but it makes my job as a planner and policy analyst SO much easier!  It is a simple one-stop-shop for planners researching other cities’ development codes, building regulations, and ordinances.  The only way it could be better were if it had some method of comparison between similar sections of code.  Hmmmm… maybe they will read this and get the hint.

5.  I am thankful for clean public water in my community.  Here are some facts from Water.org for your consideration:

  • Every 20 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease.
  • 884 million people lack access to safe water supplies; approximately one in eight people.
  • An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than a typical person in a developing country slum uses in a whole day.
  • More people in the world have access to a cell phone than to a toilet.
  • The ancient Romans had better water quality than half the people alive now.

What is your city doing to encourage safe and sustainable drinking water practices?  I am thankful that my city has adequate infrastructure to meet our clean water needs.

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