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Don’t Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste

March 18, 2020 by admin

This is such an unusual time! This headline really hit it home for me just this morning:

In the near term, the Utah League of Cities and Towns has compiled a very helpful list of resources as we all address the demands of the pandemic. Here is the key link:

There is an old cliche:

Don’t let a serious crisis go to waste!

For planners, there are at least three threads of things that we can progress largely because the Novel Coronavirus pandemic (multiplied by the reminder of sudden earthquakes) either forces us to progress or gives us an opening.

Improve online public engagement
Reduce travel demands through telework
Plan places to be resilient in the face of uncertainty

1) Improve online public engagement

We all know as well that those that show up to in-person open houses or public hearings are those that are the most motivated. The most motivated in turn tend to be those with the most negative attitudes towards a plan, policy, or project. Broad public engagement is essential to hear from a broader cross section of the population in order to give our decision-makers a truer sense of actual public sentiment. We have known this for years. With the coronavirus, we can explore investments and protocols to reach out better electronically. We can also use the pandemic as an excuse to experiment with what works.

2) Reduce travel demands through telework

The need to be socially distant or isolated to reduce the speed at which COVID19 spreads is causing many that haven’t tele-commuted before to do just that. This experience alone will likely linger and cause ongoing reduction of travel demands. As planners we can establish better structures for telework to be productive. Think of meetings not just between staff, but between various departments, partnering agencies, and in communications with decision-makers. This is the time to perfect ways to have effective online meetings. The one one one electronic conversation is easy. Getting it to work well for 10, 20, 30 people including the ability to effectively converse, field questions, utilize images and shared documents is another animal.

3) Plan places to be resilient in the face of uncertainty


Some cities will be able to weather a variety of external forces better than others. Pandemics, earthquakes….. What about a sudden recession, the spread of new technologies like autonomous vehicles, climate change affects on agriculture or tourism, or spikes in energy prices? Increasingly a great city will also need to be resilient, enabling economies and households to function despite the influence of external forces. This topic is not one for a single paragraph. The main point for this article is that the COVID19 pandemic enables us to explore the creation of a resilient city (or region) with a much more interested populace and set of decision-makers! This can and should be a real objective of our long range planning and implementation steps.

In the coming months I encourage you to write about your experience and submit it for
APAUtah will also be setting up sessions (maybe online!) when the time is right to share best practices. In the meantime, I wish you all safety, good health, and financial stability in these uncertain times!

~Ted Knowlton, APAUtah Chapter President.

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