The “Planning for Equity” event (October 5, 2017, at UIC’s Great Cities Institute) was APA-IL Diversity Committee in partnership with the APA-CMS, the UIC College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, UIC Urban Planning and Public Administration Alumni, and the UPPSA, and focused on the challenges and best practices for planning in communities of color communities struggling with disinvestment. The event drew a standing-room-only crowd, and Chicago's CAN TV came out to record it.
Our stellar panelists made brief remarks, touching on how planning for equity shapes their work and discussed a range of topics. The panel consisted of the following professionals (pictured left to right, photo by Justin Keller):
Ciere Boatright, Project Manager of Real Estate for Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives (CNI)
Elizabeth Scott, Associate Planner for the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP)
Tameeka Christian, Program Officer at Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)
Kimberly Porter, AICP, Program Manager in the Planning Department at the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA)
Dawn Thompson, Director of RainReady Community at the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT)
Marcella Bondie Keenan (moderator), Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), Chair of the APA-IL Diversity Committee
The event lasted two hours and a wide range of topics were explored. Some of the takeaways include:
Community outreach is key. Remember that these are communities struggling with disinvestment, and residents may be wary of outside intervention. Conversely, or perhaps simultaneously, residents may assume you are simply going through the motions before rubber stamping an already completed plan. To make sure you are coming across as sincere, reach out to as many people as possible, and be deliberate about it. Meet people even if it is at a time that is not be convenient for you (nights, weekends, whatever it takes). Go to block clubs and church meetings; these are the people with boots on the ground who can help you take the pulse of the community. Also, as one panelist stated, track down that person you always see watering their lawn but never at your planning meetings. Be deliberate about reaching as many people as possible.
During the Q&A portion, the topic was raised of consultant firms having fewer resources and a tighter deadline. How can the planner do extensive outreach when they’re just one person? Be deliberate about getting a representative sample. Specifically, rely on the relationships that already exist. Get in touch with the community groups, and also bounce feedback from one community group off another, i.e., “This is what I’ve been hearing. Is this correct?” Since time is limited, do your homework; find those groups at the beginning of your process. They’ve already been there “in the trenches”, so to speak, and can help the consultant planner get up to speed more quickly.
The panelists also cautioned against having a “token African American” or “token Latino” on the planning committee. This as it can be offensive to the community for which you are planning. This “Planning for Equity” event and other similar events are really for people who have never experienced the effects of disinvestment personally or who have never worked in those communities. Whatever your race, you can plan for disinvested communities! How can you show that you actually care about the people? Actually care! Show up, be there, listen.
To hear more details on these and many other topics, you can view the Can TV video below or visit CAN TV’s site: http://cantv.org/watch-now/planning-for-equity/
Following the panel discussion, professional planners stuck around for a networking event with students from UIC’s SBUP, LPODER, and WPPA student organizations. Feedback after the event indicates that both events were a unanimous success!