City Crafting in a Contested World: An Elected City Councilman’s Perspective

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Very few planning scholars have served as elected officials. I have, twice: first in the mid-1990s and most recently from 2012 to the present. Service as an elected official generates a very different perspective from the one typically available to planning scholars and professional practitioners. In brief, it enables one to see that urban planning as typically practiced (at least in the U. S.) addresses only some of the factors that shape the transformation of cities. This broader perspective available to elected officials might point the way toward inventing a new practice, which could be called “City Crafting.” This paper explores city crafting in a small city located in the Midwest of the United States, with a special focus on a rapidly redeveloping area just south of the city’s downtown. After briefly explaining what I mean by city crafting and how it differs from conventional planning, I narrate a story based on my own personal experiences as a scholar engaged in practical action. The story focuses primarily on the City Council’s May 20, 2014, meetings and the Council’s consideration of a several interrelated topics, including proposed adoption of a new “Form Based Code” for the new “Riverfront Crossings District” south of downtown. After briefly recounting the aftermath of this new Code’s adoption, I conclude by considering the implications for planning and planners.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Definite Space – Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, 13-16th July, 2015
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