Planning Board Diversity

Fred Black's picture

Last November I made a comment here on OP about someone who observed that recent appointees to the Chapel Hill Planning Board had close ties to those on the Council and their campaigns for reelection. You can follow the thread to see the reactions. Today, George C reported that a UNC professor was recently added to the Planning Board. I think that's great!

But what I was talking about was this: after researching Council minutes, the numbers say that from May 05 to Jun 07, there were 67 people who applied to serve on the Planning Board and 9 were selected. A number of the 67 applicants were repeaters, like unsuccessful Mayor candidate Kevin Wolfe. Most important, each of the nine the Council appointed was the person recommended by the Planning Board, and usually the PB recommendation was unanimous. The Council ratified their recommendations in every case. This is nothing illegal or even new. But the original point was that the person who made the original comment was accurate about their concerns. If those who were chosen were only those close to the members of the Planning Board and the Council, how do we achieve what Ruby wrote about here?

My main concern is that instead of incorporating new and varied ideas, plans that sprout from the same minds will share too much of the same principles and process if not the same actual ingredients. It's sort of like the argument for biodiversity - it's more robust and healthy to have a diverse makeup. Similarly, I think we will get the best plans when a wider range of ideas are considered and when we utilize a wide variety of planning techniques. We risk getting in a rut with the same vision and the same voices time after time.
So George, I think this "new" diversity on the PB is great. I also think it could use even more diversity!

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5 Comments

George C's picture

Planning Board Diversity

Fred,

One of the statistics you use is perhaps misleading (through no fault of yours, I'm sure). Of those 67 candidates who applied to be on the Planning Board, many listed the PB as their second or third choice (Kevin Wolfe was one such person. I believe the PB was his third choice). One of the things the members of the PB consider in looking at candidates is how strong their interest is in serving specifically on the PB. Another thing we look at is whether they have any prior experience on any town advisory boards. This isn't a requirement but helps. It gives us some indication as to whether they might be familiar with the amount of time that might be involved in serving on the PB. PB service requires, on average, about 6 hours a month. This figure does not include the amount of time required for reading staff reports, visiting sites, etc. In addition PB members serve as liaisons to other boards, etc. requiring even more time.

And finally, we ask candidates for the PB to attend at least one meeting to make sure that they are still interested in serving (Our meetings aren't always terribly exciting - sometimes we sit through some long presentations that require a concerted effort to remain attentive). We also want to hear first-hand why candidates want to serve. What gets jotted down on the back of the application form might not always give an accurate representation of the candidate's reasons for wanting to serve.

Anyhow, I think Tim (Dempsey), Ruby and I have all tried to encourage the PB members to keep an open mind about candidates and the value that individual candidates might bring to the PB based on their backgrounds and their interests.

Fred Black's picture

Thanks, George

That's good info to know, especially understanding how the PB decides who they will reccomend to the Council. But I hope that you and the other members can understand why someone might connect the dots the way they do when they see the outcome of a series of appointments. Thats why I agree with Ruby on why it's good to have diverse points of view. Like the person said to me, what's the point if the PB members seem to basically appear to agree with Council members on things because they are connected to their campaigns.
Ruby Sinreich's picture

Actually

When I was on the Planing Board I felt that the Council did not usually heed our advice on the big issues, especially policies and priorities. I don't think anyone who attended our meetings regularly would ever think we were acting according to the Council's wishes. Quite the contrary, in fact.

BTW, I think the quotation of mine above is out of context, but I'm not sure because I don't know where you took it from.

Ruby Sinreich's picture

People who care get involved in more than one way

Ah. (That link was not working for me earlier, maybe you fixed it?) My comments were regarding using the same staff to implement policies, not exactly the same thing, but I see your point.

A lot of us have worked hard to try to recruit more downtown residents, more young people, more non-white people to the Planning Board and other advisory boards. There's always more we can do, it's an on-going effort. The fact is that the people who are motivated to serve the town as volunteers are often the same people who are motivated to support candidates that share some of their goals for the community. I guess it's a vicious cycle.