County Board Journal--Hand on the shoulder


John Street Watershed charrette

John Street Watershed charrette                        Champaign County Board meeting

Posted 19 October 2011

Dare to Plan: An Essay on the Role of the Future in Planning Practice and Education

Dare to Plan is the title of an article written by Andrew M. Isserman in 1985 and published in Town Planning Review, 56, 4, UK. The purpose for writing this post is as a challenge to all who read this blog. This challenge surfaced due to the tragic and sudden death of Andy during an evening pickup basketball game with colleagues and graduate students last spring. Andy was once my professor and then my colleague in the UIUC Department of Urban and Regional Planning. He made such a big impact on the discipline that there were two special sessions at the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning conference, just held, and an upcoming two-day symposium the first week of November at the Alum Center. All of this focus brought back to mind the importance of the article, Dare to Plan.

Even though the article is a quarter of a century old, the application to how planning is done today is profound. As Isserman, who engaged in population projections as a regional economist, writes "The basic premise of this essay is that planning has lost sight of the future. The planning profession today proclaims its problem-solving orientation and its pragmatism. In the meantime, planning is sacrificing its roles as visionary and idealist about what might be and what ought to be. Population forecasts and their use in planning practice are analyzed to illustrate that the relationship between planning and the future is askew. Courses of study are recommended that are designed to help planning schools rediscover the future and in the process restore our confidence in planning and our pride in its accomplishments."

When he writes about the future and planning education, he challenges planning academics to take students back into planning history to better understand the planning foundations laid and appreciate those who "dared to plan" and the difference this made in our country.

The neglect of the future has four causes argues Isserman. The third listed is "budget cuts and a climate that makes idealism, vision, and inspiration seem anachronistic." I argued this during a session at the conference. To this I added the fear of job loss and thus health insurance have laid a governor over planners to such an extent that they do not do the job of "daring to plan."

He writes "I fear that we are surrendering too quickly, that planning is becoming a form of general trade training in a mix of skills with enough specialization to allow planners to undertake activities which leave them indistinguishable from other professions." Or planning graduates go into economics, law, real estate, engineering, bankers, social workers, hospital administrators, etc.. Adding these degrees to one in planning, it is argued, increases job possibilities; yet, most of these professions work in counter to planning.

As a last point among many that he makes " The planning profession has lost sight of the future and is abandoning its responsibility in the design of cities and oriented more toward social sciences and scientific method. Work of other professionals is not being properly coordinated." He bemoans the lack of publications 25 years ago and still today that put into perspective in depth planning mistakes so we can continue to learn from these.

Whether you are a citizen planner, such as a member of a planning commission, zoning board of appeals, school board, etc. or one of the professional planners in the community, a reread of Andy's article might move us all to "Dare to Plan" and discover the future.

Here is where you can read the article   The article can also be found in the stacks at the UIUC library.

Posted 8 October 2011
Town Hall for Champaign County District 6 constituents

I have now served as one of the three representatives for Champaign County District 6 for 10 months. This is sufficient time to have voted on items put before the board, learned and still learning about the many functions and committees to which the board takes action and appoints, and presently the board is going through the annual budget review process. Plus the historic and histrionic redistricting of the county mandated to be done after the census.

On 6  November 2011, Sunday, I will be available to meet with, listen to, and discuss with the district 6 constituents. The Town Hall will be held in Room C at the Champaign Public Library from 1-2 P. This is an open forum not only for the constituents of the present district 6, but also the newly drawn district 6, and any other residents of the county.

If you would like to look at the boundaries of the 2002-2011 district, go to

If you would like to look at the boundaries of the 2012-2021 district 6, go to

I look forward to meeting and talking with constituents. For a conversation starter, here are some of the issues before the board: plan for stormwater management on the county campus; a new jail; the county budget; a comprehensive plan for the county campus; explore more ways to save energy in the county-owned buildings; the reduced size of the board and the development of new rules.

Posted 21 September 2011
Green Streets Philadelphia and Greenways

Perfect time to write about what is happening in the city of Philadelphia since both Champaign and Urbana are in the throes, using the same consultant, to establish a stormwater management fee, though with different means of implementation. Philadelphia has been leading the country in implementing such a fee. First the decision makers determined what was needed; then how to get the "biggest bang" for implementation, in other words applying the fee to the largest land owners with impervious surfaces first--local examples Farm and Fleet and O'Briens; then the fee was applied to multi-unit buildings; and finally individual land owners. As part of the implementation is an opportunity to mitigate part or maybe all of the fee if the land owner implemented "green solutions" for stormwater management, such as cisterns, rain barrels, pervious surfaces as driveways and walkways, rain gardens, green roofs, etc. This was a clearly thought out program. Now Philadelphia has stepped even further in "outside the box" thinking by creating a master "green street" plan for the whole city that has been submitted to the EPA for approval. Approval is expected any time soon because the EPA has laid down and is laying down even more clean water rules related to the handling of stormwater. There is an outstanding article in the September issue of the American Society of Landscape Architecture magazine, LAM, about this plan and comparing it with the approach being taken by Washington, DC of using the CE approach of putting in stormwater storage pipes 23 feet in diameter and buried 100 feet below ground. At this juncture DC is beginning to rethink their approach because the cost is in the upper billions.  You can read an excerpt of the article here   This magazine can be read at the city planning and landscape architecture library within the UIUC ACES library.

Here is an article about the Philadelphia approach in the Washington Post

This url will take you to a page where you can view a video about the project and learn about what other cities are doing

The last web site about the project

The approach is most exciting and a demonstration of moving from the old paradigm of moving water away from a site as fast as possible to understanding the importance of holding water on a site to percolate slowly back through the soils that will clean the water before it enters whatever waterway.

Now onto greenways as a means of creating healthy and connected communities by blending urban and conservation design. Randall Arendt writes about this in the Aug/Sept 2011 issue of the American Planning Association magazine, Planning, which also may be read at the above mentioned library. Here is the article online  This is NOT a new design idea; just one that got lost in the shuffle of new trends. This idea had a start in Great Britain, copied here in Radburn, NJ, the Green Towns developed under FDR's administration, such a Greendale, WI--just outside of Milwaukee and Greenbelt, MD--just outside of DC.  Columbia, MD, designed by James Rouse who also designed Harbor Place in Baltimore, uses the same principles.

You can read more about Randall Arendt and his ideas here

The reason for mentioning these two concepts now is directly related to the fact that Champaign County is close to making a decision about the stormwater management on the county campus. Two proposals were presented to the CB--one the typical concrete pipes, move the water faster and faster, and a "best practice" plan, essentially using green solutions. As I began to research the situation, I discovered back in 2001-2003, the CB was in the throes of considering developing a master plan for the campus. But this went into hiatus when the nursing home bottomed up and became a "cause celebre"  This just might be the time to dust off that plan/concept/idea before whatever is planned for stormwater management is decided plus a new jail might be on the horizon. Further research brought to my attention that when Weaver Park was planned and designed by Tim Bartlett, Urbana Park District, and Doug Eppich to handle stormwater from the campus and mitigate the flooding in Scottswood part of the conversation was to integrate the campus stormwater management design to that of Weaver Park and eventually create a greenway from the campus south to Meadowbrook Park. What a very nice contribution this could be for the whole community and a very forward thinking approach to stormwater management.

Thinking even further ahead, there are tremendous possibilities to create a greenway on the western side of Champaign going all of the way to Monticello and Lodge Park. All of this can be viewed not only as creating a livable community, but also tourism as people come to the county to hike and bike these wonderful trails.

Always I welcome ideas and thoughts from readers of this blog.

Posted 12 September 2011
Paulo Freire's book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Even though the following essay focuses on education, there are applications to any decision-making role. As I always, arguments for and against the essay would be interesting. Should you be interested in the web site, here is the url   Other resources    and

Lessons to be learned from Paulo Freire as education is being taken over by the mega rich: Henry A. Giroux

At a time when memory is being erased and the political relevance of education is dismissed in the language of measurement and quantification, it is all the more important to remember the legacy and work of Paulo Freire. Freire is one of the most important educators of the 20th century and is considered one of the most important theorists of "critical pedagogy" - the educational movement guided by both passion and principle to help students develop a consciousness of freedom, recognize authoritarian tendencies, empower the imagination, connect knowledge and truth to power and learn to read both the word and the world as part of a broader struggle for agency, justice and democracy. His groundbreaking book, "Pedagogy of the Oppressed," has sold more than a million copies and is deservedly being commemorated this year - the 40th anniversary of its appearance in English translation - after having exerted its influence over generations of teachers and intellectuals in the Americas and abroad.

Since the 1980s, there have been too few intellectuals on the North American educational scene who have matched Freire's theoretical rigor, civic courage and sense of moral responsibility. And his example is more important now than ever before: with institutions of public and higher education increasingly under siege by a host of neoliberal and conservative forces, it is imperative for educators to acknowledge Freire's understanding of the empowering and democratic potential of education. Critical pedagogy currently offers the very best, perhaps the only, chance for young people to develop and assert a sense of their rights and responsibilities to participate in governing, and not simply being governed by prevailing ideological and material forces.

When we survey the current state of education in the United States, we see that most universities are now dominated by instrumentalist and conservative ideologies, hooked on methods, slavishly wedded to accountability measures and run by administrators who often lack a broader vision of education as a force for strengthening civic imagination and expanding democratic public life. One consequence is that a concern with excellence has been removed from matters of equity, while higher education - once conceptualized as a fundamental public good - has been reduced to a private good, now available almost exclusively to those with the financial means. Universities are increasingly defined through the corporate demand to provide the skills, knowledge and credentials in building a workforce that will enable the United States to compete against blockbuster growth in China and other southeast Asian markets, while maintaining its role as the major global economic and military power. There is little interest in understanding the pedagogical foundation of higher education as a deeply civic and political project that provides the conditions for individual autonomy and takes liberation and the practice of freedom as a collective goal.

Public education fares even worse. Dominated by pedagogies that are utterly instrumental, geared toward memorization, conformity and high-stakes test taking, public schools have become intellectual dead zones and punishment centers as far removed from teaching civic values and expanding the imaginations of students as one can imagine. The profound disdain for public education is evident not only in Obama's test-driven, privatized and charter school reform movement, but also in the hostile takeover of public education now taking place among the ultra-rich and hedge fund zombies, who get massive tax breaks from gaining control of charter schools. The public in education has now become the enemy of educational reform. How else can one explain the shameful appointment by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of Cathleen Black, the president of Hearst Magazine, as the next chancellor of the New York City public school system? Not only does she not have any experience in education and is totally unqualified for the job, but her background mimics the worst of elite arrogance and unaccountable power. Surely, one has to take note of the background of someone who should be a model for young people when such a background includes, as reported in The New York Times: "riding horses at a country club where blacks and Jews were not allowed .... lending a $47,000 bracelet to a Manhattan museum ... and [refusing] interviews since her appointment."(1) With friends like Rupert Murduch, it should come as no surprise that she once worked as a chief lobbyist for the newspaper industry in the 1990s "fighting a ban on tobacco advertising,"(2) which is often targeted toward the young. It seems that, when it comes to the elite of business culture, ignorance about education now ranks as a virtue. Then, of course, there is the sticky question of whether such a candidate qualifies as a model of civic integrity and courage for the many teachers and children under her leadership. Public values and public education surely take a nose dive in this appointment, but this is also symptomatic of what is happening to public education throughout the country.

Against the regime of "banking education," stripped of all critical elements of teaching and learning, Freire believed that education, in the broadest sense, was eminently political because it offered students the conditions for self-reflection, a self-managed life and critical agency. For Freire, pedagogy was central to a formative culture that makes both critical consciousness and social action possible. Pedagogy in this sense connected learning to social change; it was a project and provocation that challenged students to critically engage with the world so they could act on it. As the sociologist Stanley Aronowitz has noted, Freire's pedagogy helped learners "become aware of the forces that have hitherto ruled their lives and especially shaped their consciousness."(3) What Freire made clear is that pedagogy at its best is not about training in techniques and methods, nor does it involve coercion or political indoctrination. Indeed, far from a mere method or an a priori technique to be imposed on all students, education is a political and moral practice that provides the knowledge, skills and social relations that enable students to explore for themselves the possibilities of what it means to be engaged citizens, while expanding and deepening their participation in the promise of a substantive democracy. According to Freire, critical pedagogy afforded students the opportunity to read, write and learn from a position of agency - to engage in a culture of questioning that demands far more than competency in rote learning and the application of acquired skills. For Freire, pedagogy had to be meaningful in order to be critical and transformative. This meant that personal experience became a valuable resource that gave students the opportunity to relate their own narratives, social relations and histories to what was being taught. It also signified a resource to help students locate themselves in the concrete conditions of their daily lives, while furthering their understanding of the limits often imposed by such conditions. Under such circumstances, experience became a starting point, an object of inquiry that could be affirmed, critically interrogated and used as resource to engage broader modes of knowledge and understanding. Rather than taking the place of theory, experience worked in tandem with theory in order to dispel the notion that experience provided some form of unambiguous truth or political guarantee. Experience was crucial, but it had to take a detour through theory, self-reflection and critique to become a meaningful pedagogical resource.

Critical pedagogy, for Freire, meant imagining literacy as not simply the mastering of specific skills, but also as a mode of intervention, a way of learning about and reading the word as a basis for intervening in the world. Critical thinking was not reducible to an object lesson in test taking. It was not about the task of memorizing so-called facts, decontextualized and unrelated to present conditions. To the contrary, it was about offering a way of thinking beyond the seeming naturalness or inevitability of the current state of things, challenging assumptions validated by "common sense," soaring beyond the immediate confines of one's experiences, entering into a dialogue with history and imagining a future that would not merely reproduce the present.

By way of illustration, Freirean pedagogy might stage the dynamic interplay of audio, visual and print texts as part of a broader examination of history itself as a site of struggle, one that might offer some insights into students' own experiences and lives in the contemporary moment. For example, a history class might involve reading and watching films about school desegregation in the 1950s and '60s as part of a broader pedagogical engagement with the civil rights movement and the massive protests that developed over educational access and student rights to literacy. It would also open up opportunities to talk about why these struggles are still part of the experience of many North American youth today, particularly poor black and brown youth who are denied equality of opportunity by virtue of market-based rather than legal segregation. Students could be asked to write short papers that speculate on the meaning and the power of literacy and why it was so central to the civil rights movement. These may be read by the entire class, with each student elaborating his or her position and offering commentary as a way of entering into a critical discussion of the history of racial exclusion, reflecting on how its ideologies and formations still haunt American society in spite of the triumphal dawn of an allegedly post-racial Obama era. In this pedagogical context, students learn how to expand their own sense of agency, while recognizing that to be voiceless is to be powerless. Central to such a pedagogy is shifting the emphasis from teachers to students, and making visible the relationships among knowledge, authority and power. Giving students the opportunity to be problem posers and engage in a culture of questioning in the classroom foregrounds the crucial issue of who has control over the conditions of learning, and how specific modes of knowledge, identities and authority are constructed within particular sets of classroom relations. Under such circumstances, knowledge is not simply received by students, but actively transformed, open to be challenged and related to the self as an essential step toward agency, self-representation and learning how to govern rather than simply be governed. At the same time, students also learn how to engage others in critical dialogue and be held accountable for their views.

Thus, critical pedagogy insists that one of the fundamental tasks of educators is to make sure that the future points the way to a more socially just world, a world in which critique and possibility - in conjunction with the values of reason, freedom and equality - function to alter the grounds upon which life is lived. Though it rejects a notion of literacy as the transmission of facts or skills tied to the latest market trends, critical pedagogy is hardly a prescription for political indoctrination as the advocates of standardization and testing often insist. It offers students new ways to think and act creatively and independently, while making clear that the educator's task, as Aronowitz points out, "is to encourage human agency, not mold it in the manner of Pygmalion."(4) What critical pedagogy does insist upon is that education cannot be neutral. It is always directive in its attempt to enable students to understand the larger world and their role in it. Moreover, it is inevitably a deliberate attempt to influence how and what knowledge, values, desires and identities are produced within particular sets of class and social relations. For Freire, pedagogy always presupposes some notion of a more equal and just future; and as such, it should always function in part as a provocation that takes students beyond the world they know in order to expand the range of human possibilities and democratic values. Central to critical pedagogy is the recognition that the way we educate our youth is related to the future that we hope for and that such a future should offer students a life that leads to the deepening of freedom and social justice. Even within the privileged precincts of higher education, Freire said that educators should nourish those pedagogical practices that promote "a concern with keeping the forever unexhausted and unfulfilled human potential open, fighting back all attempts to foreclose and pre-empt the further unraveling of human possibilities, prodding human society to go on questioning itself and preventing that questioning from ever stalling or being declared finished."(5) The notion of the unfinished human being resonated with Zygmunt Bauman notion that society never reached the limits of justice, thus, rejecting any notion of the end of history, ideology or how we imagine the future. This language of critique and educated hope was his legacy, one that is increasingly absent from many liberal and conservative discourses about current educational problems and appropriate avenues of reform.

When I began teaching, Freire became an essential influence in helping me to understand the broad contours of my ethical responsibilities as a teacher. Later, his work would help me come to terms with the complexities of my relationship to universities as powerful and privileged institutions that seemed far removed from the daily life of the working-class communities in which I had grown up. I first met Paulo in the early 1980s, just after my tenure as a professor at Boston University had been opposed by its President John Silber. Paulo was giving a talk at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and he came to my house in Boston for dinner. Given Paulo's reputation as a powerful intellectual, I recall initially being astounded by his profound humility. I remember being greeted with such warmth and sincerity that I felt completely at ease with him. We talked for a long time that night about his exile, how I had been attacked by a right-wing university administration, what it meant to be a working-class intellectual and the risks one had to take to make a difference. I was in a very bad place after being denied tenure and had no idea what the future would hold. On that night, a friendship was forged that would last until Paulo's death. I am convinced that had it not been for Paulo and Donaldo Macedo - a linguist, translator and a friend of Paulo's and mine - I might not have stayed in the field of education. Their passion for education and their profound humanity convinced me that teaching was not a job like any other, but a crucial site of struggle, and that, ultimately, whatever risks had to be taken were well worth it.

I have encountered many intellectuals throughout my career in academe, but Paulo was exceptionally generous, eager to help younger intellectuals publish their work, willing to write letters of support and always giving as much as possible of himself in the service of others. The early 1980s were exciting years in education studies in the United States, and Paulo was really at the center of it. Paulo and I together started a Critical Education and Culture series with Bergin & Garvey Publishers, which brought out the work of more than 60 young authors, many of whom went on to have a significant influence in the university. Jim Bergin became Paulo's patron as his American publisher; Donaldo became his translator and co-author; Ira Shor also played a important role in spreading Paulo's work and wrote a number of brilliant books integrating both theory and practice as part of Paulo's notion of critical pedagogy. Together, we worked tirelessly to circulate Paulo's work, always with the hope of inviting him back to America so we could meet, talk, drink good wine and deepen a commitment to critical education that had all marked us in different ways.

Paulo, occupying the often difficult space between existing politics and the as yet possible, spent his life guided by the beliefs that the radical elements of democracy were worth struggling for, that critical education was a basic element of progressive social change and that how we think about politics was inseparable from how we come to understand the world, power and the moral life we aspire to lead. In many ways, Paulo embodied the important but often problematic relationship between the personal and the political. His own life was a testimony not only to his belief in democratic principles, but also to the notion that one's life had to come as close as possible to modeling the social relations and experiences that spoke to a more humane and democratic future. At the same time, Paulo never moralized about politics; he never evoked shame or collapsed the political into the personal when talking about social issues. Private problems were always to be understood in relation to larger public issues. For example, Paulo never reduced an understanding of homelessness, poverty and unemployment to the failing of individual character, laziness, indifference or a lack of personal responsibility, but instead viewed such issues as complex systemic problems generated by economic and political structures that produced massive amounts of inequality, suffering and despair - and social problems far beyond the reach of limited individual capacities to cause or redress. His belief in a substantive democracy, as well as his deep and abiding faith in the ability of people to resist the weight of oppressive institutions and ideologies, was forged in a spirit of struggle tempered by both the grim realities of his own imprisonment and exile and the belief that education and hope are the conditions of social action and political change. Acutely aware that many contemporary versions of hope occupied their own corner in Disneyland, Paulo was passionate about recovering and rearticulating hope through, in his words, an "understanding of history as opportunity and not determinism."(6) Hope was an act of moral imagination that enabled educators and others to think otherwise in order to act otherwise.

Paulo offered no recipes for those in need of instant theoretical and political fixes. I was often amazed at how patient he always was in dealing with people who wanted him to provide menu-like answers to the problems they raised about education, people who did not realize that their demands undermined his own insistence that critical pedagogy is defined by its context and must be approached as a project of individual and social transformation - that it could never be reduced to a mere method. Contexts indeed mattered to Paulo. He was concerned how contexts mapped in distinctive ways the relationships among knowledge, language, everyday life and the machineries of power. Any pedagogy that calls itself Freirean must acknowledge this key principle that our current knowledge is contingent on particular historical contexts and political forces. For example, each classroom will be affected by the different experiences students bring to the class, the resources made available for classroom use, the relations of governance bearing down on teacher-student relations, the authority exercised by administrations regarding the boundaries of teacher autonomy and the theoretical and political discourses used by teachers to read and frame their responses to the diverse historical, economic and cultural forces informing classroom dialogue. Any understanding of the project and practices that inform critical pedagogy has to begin with recognizing the forces at work in such contexts, and which must be confronted by educators and schools everyday. Pedagogy, in this instance, looked for answers to what it meant to connect learning to fulfilling the capacities for self and social determination not outside, but within the institutions and social relations in which desires, agency and identities were shaped and struggled over. The role that education played in connecting truth to reason, learning to social justice and knowledge to modes of self and social understanding were complex and demanded a refusal on the part of teachers, students and parents to divorce education from both politics and matters of social responsibility. Responsibility was not a retreat from politics, but a serious embrace of what it meant to both think and act politics as part of a democratic project in which pedagogy becomes a primary consideration for enabling the formative culture and agents that make democratization possible.

Paulo also acknowledged the importance of understanding these particular and local contexts in relation to larger global and transnational forces. Making the pedagogical more political meant moving beyond the celebration of tribal mentalities and developing a praxis that foregrounded "power, history, memory, relational analysis, justice (not just representation) and ethics as the issues central to transnational democratic struggles."(7) Culture and politics mutually informed each other in ways that spoke to histories, whose presences and absences had to be narrated as part of a larger struggle over democratic values, relations and modes of agency. Freire recognized that it was through the complex production of experience within multilayered registers of power and culture that people recognized, narrated and transformed their place in the world. Paulo challenged the separation of cultural experiences from politics, pedagogy and power itself, but he did not make the mistake of many of his contemporaries by conflating cultural experience with a limited notion of identity politics. While he had a profound faith in the ability of ordinary people to shape history and their own destinies, he refused to romanticize individuals and cultures that experienced oppressive social conditions. Of course, he recognized that power privileged certain forms of cultural capital - certain modes of speaking, living, being and acting in the world - but he did not believe that subordinate or oppressed cultures were free of the contaminating effects of oppressive ideological and institutional relations of power. Consequently, culture - as a crucial educational force influencing larger social structures as well as in the most intimate spheres of identity formation - could be viewed as nothing less than an ongoing site of struggle and power in contemporary society.

For critical educators, experience is a fundamental element of teaching and learning, but its distinctive configuration among different groups does not guarantee a particular notion of the truth; as I stated earlier, experience must itself become an object for analysis. How students experience the world and speak to that experience is always a function of unconscious and conscious commitments, of politics, of access to multiple languages and literacies - thus, experience always has to take a detour through theory as an object of self-reflection, critique and possibility. As a result, not only do history and experience become contested sites of struggle, but the theory and language that give daily life meaning and action a political direction must also be constantly subject to critical reflection. Paulo repeatedly challenged as false any attempt to reproduce the binary of theory versus politics. He expressed a deep respect for the work of theory and its contributions, but he never reified it. When he talked about Freud, Fromm or Marx, one could feel his intense passion for ideas. Yet, he never treated theory as an end in itself; it was always a resource whose value lay in understanding, critically engaging and transforming the world as part of a larger project of freedom and justice.

Vigilant in bearing witness to the individual and collective suffering of others, Paulo shunned the role of the isolated intellectual as an existential hero who struggles alone. He believed that intellectuals must respond to the call for making the pedagogical more political with a continuing effort to build those coalitions, affiliations and social movements capable of mobilizing real power and promoting substantive social change. Politics was more than a gesture of translation, representation and dialogue: to be effective, it had to be about creating the conditions for people to become critical agents alive to the responsibilities of democratic public life. Paulo understood keenly that democracy was threatened by a powerful military-industrial complex, the rise of extremists groups and the increased power of the warfare state. He also recognized the pedagogical force of a corporate and militarized culture that eroded the moral and civic capacities of citizens to think beyond the common sense of official power and the hate mongering of a right-wing media apparatus. Paulo strongly believed that democracy could not last without the formative culture that made it possible. Educational sites both within schools and the broader culture represented some of the most important venues through which to affirm public values, support a critical citizenry and resist those who would deny the empowering functions of teaching and learning. At a time when institutions of public and higher education have become associated with market competition, conformity, disempowerment and uncompromising modes of punishment, making known the significant contributions and legacy of Paulo work is now more important than ever before.


1. David M. Halbfinger, Michael Barbaro and Fernanda Santos, "A Trailblazer with her Eye on the Bottom Line," The New York Times (November 18, 2010). P. A1.
2. Ibid.
3. Stanley Aronowitz, "Forward," "Critical Pedagogy in Uncertain Times: Hope and Possibilities," ed. Sheila L. Macrine, (New York, New York, Palgrave MacMillan, 2009) pp. ix. 
4. Stanley Aronowitz, "Introduction," Paulo Freire, "Pedagogy of Freedom" (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998), p. 5.
5. Zygmunt Bauman and Keith Tester, "Conversations with Zygmunt Bauman" (Malden: Polity Press, 2001), p. 4.
6. Paulo Freire, "Pedagogy of Hope" (New York: Continuum Press, 1994), p. 91.
7. M. Jacqui Alexander and Chandra Talpade Mohanty, "Introduction: Genealogies, Legacies, Movements," J. Jacqui Alexander and Chandra Mohanty, eds. "Feminist Genealogies, Colonial Legacies, Democratic Futures" (New York: Routledge, 1997), p. xix.

Source: Truthout *Reposted for fair use and non-commercial educational purposes

Posted 19 August 2011
High Speed Rail

Last evening a vote was taken at the county board meeting on a symbolic resolution in support of high speed rail along with integrated rail travel options. The resolution was nothing more than symbolic because during the discussion, it is acknowledged that the "devil is in the details" and the financial standing both at the federal and state level does not bode well for this type of project. In fact just last week during a speech at the local IBEW, Senator Durbin acknowledged in response to a question about high speed rail that the federal budget is so tight he does not think that such funding will be included in the re-authorization of the highway bill. All of this stated and as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "Hitch your wagon to the stars."

Posted originally on the HalfwayInteresting blog, 18 August 2011
Jefferson County, Wisconsin  Farmland Preservation

A colleague of mine at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, shared with me the collaborative work that his class did with Jefferson County in drafting a Agricultural Preservation and Land Use Plan, developed as an amendment to the comprehensive plan. I have been sharing this will a number of people because it is always fun to learn how other states approach preserving farm land plus the students did an outstanding job. You can view the ppt presentation here    and the draft report here     scroll down the page until you find 21 Feb. There you will find the draft plan.

A class in 2007 produced this report on which the 2011 work is built

Jefferson County is situated between Milwaukee and Madison. The preservation model has 3 parts: land use (focus is farmland preservation planning areas and zoning, rezoning policy, long range urban service areas, limited service areas, rural hamlets, environmental corridors, and glacial heritage area), economics (focus is commercial agriculture, niche agriculture and organics, food processing, bioenergy, and agricultural support businesses), and incentives focus is farmland preservation tax credits, agricultural enterprise areas, and purchase of agricultural conservation easements). Wisconsin has a bit of an edge due to a recently passed Chapter 91 of Wisconsin State Statues, Wisconsin Working Lands Initiative. The main components include:
1. Expansion and modernization of the state's Farmland Preservation Planning/Zoning Program. This program allows conditional use permits for rural housing and requires a per acre conversion fee for rezoning.
2. Establishment of an Agricultural Enterprise Area (AEA) Program that allows priority areas for continuation of agricultural use and provides opportunity to increase tax credit.
3. Development of a Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement (PACE) Program that encourages/supports voluntary local PACE programs and provides up to $12M in state grants/year.

Posted originally on the HalfwayInteresting blog, 18 August 2011
Champaign County vs. McLean County

I am trying to learn more and more about McLean County because often times this county is used as a model, most recently related to the county board approving $15,000 for the local Convention and Visitor Bureau based on what happens in McLean and the many ongoing conversations to create an airport authority as exists in McLean, and my students more times than not looked at McLean as a model in urban planning accomplishments. I have posed this to many folks in the community so now I am doing so here because the blog readership is most knowledgeable. And there have been over time a number of thread discussions about economic development, best practices, continuing to make Champaign county the best place to live, etc.

Here are some of the aspects that have been shared with me. The county is predominately Republican and has been for years. The county board has a Republican majority and has for years. The county structures will be almost parallel after the 2012 election. McLean has 10 districts with 2 members/district and 4 of the districts are rural. These individuals since 1973 have voted to put in place a zoning ordinance for the preservation of farmland (Section 5 of the Ag section of the zoning ordinance) because the view is that agriculture has high value and is economic development. A friend/colleague is the zoning administrator. He points out that one does not see the scattering of lights throughout the agriculture area when one flies into BMI as compared to what we see here. In addition, they have taken steps to preserve the streams and develop a greenway around the communities in the county. During a conversation with the zoning administrator, I learned that 360 wind turbines are now up. In siting fees alone, these turbines generated $600,000 for the county let alone the amounts in property taxes, predominately going to the rural schools. The $600,000 is actually a low permitting fee amount. (Potentially in Champaign County if all 30 turbines are built the amount will be $135,000 @ $4500/turbine.) An intergovernmental agreement resulted in the well used Constitutional Trail, an abandoned railroad bed. The McLean County RPC is structured entirely differently than the RPC here.

The city of Normal under the mayoral terms of Mayor Kris passed the first "green building" ordinance in the state, not just south of I-80. This resulted in the building of the LEED-rated Children's Museum and the Bank of Illinois building along with the renovation of downtown Normal.

We all know that there are two insurance headquarters in B-N plus two factories along with two institutions of higher education.

I am looking forward to your insights.

Posted on 10 August 2011
Use of public tax dollars to fund Convention and Visitors Bureau

To: Democratic Caucus
From: Pattsi Petrie
Re: COW 9 August agenda pp. 131-137
Since the COW caucus meeting will be only 15 minutes because 15 minutes have been set aside to fill out the strategic planning survey, I am sharing the information that I have obtained through research and talking with constituents related to the 1999 motel/hotel tax resolution and the approval of $15,000 for the CVB. I had some background knowledge on this topic, but did not feel this knowledge was sufficient thus the additional research.
The primary question that I asked myself is based on all of the research/data along with written articles and books showing that there is basically little to no return rate to a city/community in funding the building of sports venues. Indeed, this is a macro comparison, but not in concept. As Jim Bouton, former Yankee pitcher, author of Ball Four and Foul Ball, stated when I brought him here for one of the Planning Institutes that I planned—“if sports venues are such an outstanding economic investment, why are not the sports team owners building them?” The parallel to this question is “if CVB are the necessary entity for tourism, then why are not all those businesses that will benefit—motels/hotels, restaurants, stores, etc.—funding the entity?” A further extension of this question might be—why does not a community fund the establishment of a 5 star restaurant that will draw people to the community from miles away?
I started this research by looking for research articles that do an economic analysis of the figures that CVB present to make the argument that without the CVB all of these monies would not come into a community. It is important to obtain a more objective data analysis than what is provided by CVB because these bureaus have a vested interest in preserving their entity, roles, purpose, etc. In essence, I found nothing in the tourism literature, economic literature, urban planning literature.
Next approach is to start contacting colleagues who do work/research in this area. First I posted my question on PLANET, the academic urban planning listerv, and ILAPA FORUM, the Illinois American Planning Association Chapter discussion forum. Via PLANET, I received responses from colleagues at Cornell U., which has an outstanding program in tourism. Then I made personal contact with UIUC faculty who do work/research in tourism plus an economic s professor who analyzes the use of economic incentives. On previous occasions, I have strongly urged elected officials to read Greg Leroy’s book, The Great American Jobs Scam. Greg, an economist, does an excellent job of analyzing the use of economic incentives.
Basically the take away from the above stated efforts is that tourism is important for any state because of economic infusion. The other macro take away is that it is close to impossible to create a model to analyze what the return rate might be and what is the correlation/causation of this return rate. This is the reason that I have had so much trouble finding research articles. People explained to me that it would take a huge grant to do the research. The view is that such research is important because it is tax dollars that usually support CVB. Even those who strongly support the importance of tourism, express that the way to fund such is not through “bed taxes and matching state funds,” but through
independent means. The CVB ought to be a membership organization. Let those who will benefit do the funding. The economist strongly stated that no economic incentives ought to be used because the community recuperation does not match investment. My own research about TIF agrees with this comment.
The UIUC faculty member working in tourism emphatically pointed out through sharing the background history of the local CVB that the effectiveness of such depends on who directs the agency. I inquired why Danville could bring the Walldogs two successive years and generate such an idea. The historic response had to do with who is directing the DACVB. This individual also pointed out how difficult it will be to establish the metrics being requested by Mayor Prussing for all of these reasons: it is hard to separate the effect of Urbana and Champaign and UIUC; many events that bring people to the community already exist due to UIUC and has nothing to do with work the CVB does; there are many conferences, institutes, etc. held that do not depend on the CVB, etc. As a piece of history of the local CVB at the time C-U lost the HS basketball tournament to Peoria, the numbers generated by the CUCVB were much lower than those generated by Peoria. This individual saw both sets of figures and felt, based on years of knowledge about the local CVB, that the C-U presented figures had merit. Nonetheless, the larger figures won it for Peoria and the local CVB director was fired because of the loss. The point is that these figures can be made to look any which way.
When I posed this issue to two different constituent “kitchen cabinets,” the overwhelming response was not to use hotel/motel monies to support the CVB. Simply put, “there are much better ways to spend this money and what exactly does the CVB do for the county?” One constituent pointed out the duplication of the Chamber and CVB.
The level of the money that the county receives probably will diminish when Motel 6 is annexed or closes, leaving only the bed and breakfast facility.
Some alternative ideas of how the monies could be used to benefit the county and potentially increase tourism:
1. With the present remaining monies, $7,000—hire an IT intern to help work on the county web site. The reason given to me that the web site has not been redesigned is because the IT is short of staff. This is measurable. The web site idea is included in the original resolution.
2. There are more registered centennial farms in this county than any other in the state, due to a concerted effort by the CCFB. Yet this has not been turned into a tourism attraction. By working with an art and design class, landscape architecture, ACES, NRES, etc. and collaborating with the farm bureau, the centennial farms could be turned into a huge drawn in conjunction with what Prairie Fruit Farms already is pursuing. This is measurable.
3. Use some of the monies for grants to bring interest to the county—why not the Walldogs in collaboration with 40 North. The committee structure mentioned in the 1999 resolution would be the perfect conduit to sort through grant applications.
4. Establish the committee with the charge to generate ideas and budget for use of these monies, which are not much in the scheme of things, with the stipulation that all actions can be measured for results.
5. A constituent urged that the monies be put toward the development of county bicycle pathways. This is measurable.
The above ideas are “trial balloons” to start the conversations by asking ourselves what is it about the county that would draw tourist or cause people who come for other reasons decide to stay an extra day? What could be added to the county that would enhance all of this?
It is too bad that we will not have any time to have an exploratory conversation about this resolution.

Originally posted on HalfwayInteresting blog on 21 July 2011

Perth, Sydney, and Melbourne

Why write about these three cities in Australia? Because I just returned from attending the World Planning School Congress held in Perth and as always there are so many "take aways" to share. This congress meets every five years--the first one ten years ago occurred in Shanghi, then five years ago in Mexico City, and the most recent one in Perth. It is a global meeting of individuals who teach urban planning in higher education institutions. Why take four days total to travel down under? Basically it is always good to have the chance to challenge the USA way of thinking about urban planning, learn what approaches are being used from a global perspective, and have a chance to experience in depth the city and country where the congress is held. The latter happens through contact with local planners and "mobile workshops" during which congress attendees have the opportunity to learn about planning issues happening in Perth, in this case, through the "eyes" of those involved in the project. There was a post conference held in Sydney. Again an opportunity to learn about the city of Sydney through the eyes of the city planners and what the government of New South Wales is doing to plan for 2030. (Perth is in Western Australia and Melbourne is in Queensland.)

I not only was an attendee, but also a presenter at the congress. This is the fifth time that the local John Street watershed project has been explained in detail at conferences, not only planning, but also public works conferences by those involved in making the project happen. The purpose for mentioning this has to do with emphasizing the significance of the project in creating a paradigm shift in how to manage storm water brought about by an informal neighborhood group working within a watershed and the recognition that has occurred about a new approach to planning, working within the context of a community, and many layers of collaboration resulting in the positive intent for change.

Back to some of the interesting "take aways" that might become part of the conversation here in Champaign County to continue to make this the best community in which to live and a model of urban planning.

1. Integration of all means of transportation, walkability, livability, shopping, and residents. Indeed, these are much larger cities and gasoline costs $1.39-1.50/liter, but these aspects do not negate the lessons observed of creating integrated transportation so even tripping is made easy and a reasonable alternative to using a car. Compactness of all types of shopping, ease of walking, available transit, and safe cities work nicely together to create livable cities. I rarely, if ever, saw behemoth cars and observed bike sharing.

2. Diversity--the recent census indicates the United States is becoming more diverse--a majority of the minority--and C-U has diversity, mainly via the university population. Yet we have a long way to go. The best example was brought to mind as I passed a couple--the female appeared to be from India and the male from China and they were speaking German. The integration of the many various populations is constantly visible. I inquired about any forms of discrimination. The response that this is not even a topic for discussion--the includes parity of employee pay.

3. Use of alternative means of energy--think of Perth as San Diego--in other words lots of sun. This applies to Sydney and Melbourne also. Nonetheless, the recognition of the importance of alternative energy is so visibly apparent by the fact that 3 of 4 roofs are covered with solar panels. There was a governmental incentive program, which now is out of funds due to the popularity of the incentive. There is little wind energy, some down the western coast from Perth, but this is not as economically efficient as the solar approach.

4. Two-button toilets--here is a country surrounded by water, salt water, and coming out of a 8-9 year drought--with vicious floods in Victoria--so the federal government has mandated two-button toilets. We do not have these extreme conditions, but we have an aquifer that needs protection. It would be interesting to ponder our ability to move in the same direction. The water situation is so dire that there are now two desalination plants near Perth and some on the east coast.

5. Farmland and organic foods--this is a huge country, maybe even larger than the USA and definitely 500 miles wider, low population related to size, need to increase population for work force, and facing issues of sprawl in all three cities. The planners recognize this as a serious problem because the sprawl, as is happening here, is using up farmland where organic foods are grown. The importance of this land is acknowledged. Provisions are being put in place to accommodate the expected population growth without extending the present sprawl. The emphasis is on organic, not only in Australia, but also New Zealand. Only organic is gown in New Zealand. A colleague who teaches at the University of Auckland explained to me that, unfortunately, this great food is exported to China, leaving very little for the New Zealand residents.

As always, I am interested in learning from the residents of C-U how important these "take aways" are for our community.

There is more to share about this country in another posting.

Posted on 25 April 2011
Local Foods as Economic Development--Nancy Creamer

Last Friday, 22 April 2011, I attended a most interesting lecture given by Nancy Creamer, North Carolina State U., about local foods. This was followed by a meeting of many interesting people/entities on Saturday at Prairie Fruits Farm. I have two reasons for telling you about the lecture. First, there was no representation of the commercial farm community or other economic development entities at either the lecture or meeting. Now maybe notice about the talk did not receive sufficient publicity. Second based on her presentation of what is happening in NC and the involvement of the NC farm bureau, extension, NC counties, etc., I see huge economic development possibilities for our county.

You can look at the lecture announcement here--check both lectures on the 19th and 22nd

Nancy Creamer is the sister-in-law of Michelle Wander, prof in NRES, and sister of the owner of Blue Moon Organic Farm, which is a CSA and sells produce at the Urbana Farmers Market.

Information about Nancy Creamer

The major take away from the lecture is the wholistic approach toward local foods as a means of economic development. There is a 10% campaign to encourage people/dorms/restaurants, etc. to purchase 10% of the foods used to be locally grown. There is data showing the extensive economic return rate to the areas. One of the attendees at the Saturday meeting pointed out that none of the goat cheese produced by Prairie Fruits Farm ought to be sold outside the county if we were supporting the 10% concept. The campaign is amazingly effective, even Fort Bragg and the NC academic institutions are on board. The other aspect that intrigued me is that the local farm bureau is totally supportive of the concept and what is happening by under the umbrella organization of North Carolina food net. Look at these web sites for more information   there is an abundance of information

North Carolina general assembly passed the following laws to establish a Food Policy Council

Session law 2009-530
Senate bill 1067

Laura Jackson, U. of Northern Iowa Leopold Center, and her husband were among the many at the Saturday meeting. Here is what is happening in Iowa.

During the Friday lecture, I met Stephanie Brown who works with connectSI

This group was one of several that put together the 2010 Sustainable Living Expo held at Dixon Springs last Oct. You can look at the program here. There will be a 2011 expo at the same site.

There was an article in the N-G on 23 April front page of the local section about the Illinois Stewardship Alliance. A representative of this group attended the Saturday meeting, as was someone from The Land Connection

I could go on, but it is time to mention my thoughts as to what are possibilities here in Champaign County besides a summer education seminar. It was suggested that the county owned lands be identified and evaluated as to present use. There might be lands available for local food growing. I am finding this out as I write this article.

I would like to eventually have a CB study session on local foods as economic development.

I wonder why it is that Iowa and NC are so far ahead of us here. Why there is a restaurant in Springfield that uses basically only local foods. How can the CCFB, EDC, CC, NAACP, UIUC, CU Public Health, etc. be integral in moving some of these ideas forward.

And of course, I see all of this tied into the LRMP, in preserving local agriculture production, and the decisions about Olympian Drive.

Think about the tourism aspects, say connected with the upcoming marathon and Ebertfest. Rick Bayless, the famous Chicago chef, is growing his own foods for the restaurant in vacant lots and roof tops. Alice Waters, who owns Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, almost single handedly has turned around the use of local foods in her restaurant and the local schools in Berkeley. She has developed food school yards, community gardens in vacant lots, etc. In Boulder, CO, neighbors are getting together to turn sunny spaces into food gardens rather than grass on their home sites to grow their own food and sell any excesses at the local farmers market. The revenue from this is then used to extend the home farm program. All of this is economic development and keeps revenues within the community.

Posted on 21 April 2011
Originally on HalfwayInteresting blog

Green Infratstructure Maintenance Conference

Another great, free conference occurred in our community on 13 April 2011 at the I-Hotel. Eliana Brown and Gale Fulton, both at UIUC, put together the outstanding conference program, sponsored by the UIUC Office of Public Engagement. You are asking yourself by now why am I writing about the maintenance of green infrastructure? Why in the world might this be an important topic.

Just driving around our community, one will see more and more use of green solutions for managing stormwater and flooding, which happens all to often here and many times in a most destructive mode. The church just south of Kirby on Duncan, east side of Duncan, has installed a huge rain garden to handle the run off from the parking lot. Drive through and by the work connected with the boneyard flooding. There are rain gardens integrated as place making for gatherings. Some of the rain gardens have pop up drains. The project on which I and many of my neighbors have been working for 2.5 years to control flooding within the John Street watershed is about to have a ground breaking ceremony on 2 May at 9 AM by Southside school for the next phase going west along John Street from State to Willis. This project not only will have a new pipe for 40-years rain protection, but also permeable street pavement, sidewalks, alleys, and a series of rain gardens in the curbings along with a large rain garden where McKinley T's into Daniel to increase the protect from 40 years to 60-70 years. All of these are green solutions for stormwater management. This now circles back to why a conference on how to maintain these new approaches is so important. During the conference many communities far ahead of us in implementing these approaches shared their various learning curves plus the USEPA made it very clear, during that presentation, that EPA is moving steadily toward these approaches, some already in place as new rules and many on the horizon. Translated this means it behooves all of us to get on board and learn about these approaches. Oh, by the way, alternative designs to manage stormwater on the whole cost at least 40% less than the conventional CE approach. This point was made very clear during recent presentations to a Champaign County Board subcommittee assigned to choose a firm to work on the next phase of the stormwater management design for the Bartel area of the county campus around Brookens.

I would enjoy an exchange of ideas on this topic and how this approach can be integrated into the community to a greater degree. The John Street watershed steering committee will be back in action again this summer helping individuals build rain gardens to enhance their homes.

The following are the educational materials that I have been sharing should people want to learn more about stormwater management and alternative approaches. I include them for the same reason here. The are literally thousands on the internet so I selected a few that I know are very good.

The following shows the plan for the Denton County, TX campus with the first building being a LEED silver. There will be 3 more buildings added and the whole campus is sustainably designed. When you look at the plan, you can see the 4 two-story cisterns on this first building.

The following is an information manual on stormwater management from the St. Anthony Falls Lab, University Minnesota

The following is the program of the Green Infrastructure Maintenance Conference I attended

Here is what Portland, OR is doing--mentioned by the MSA group  (one of the firms interviewed for the Bartel stormwater project)

Kansas City, KS is building 10,000 rain gardens

Madison, WI is working toward 1000 rain gardens

Terrific "how to" manual about building rain gardens

In reviewing what I learned at the Green Infrastructure conference, there are a few web sites that might interest all of you.

1. Burnsville, MN rain gardens and stormwater retrofits

2. New Jersey stormwater management manual

3. Dubuque, IA stormwater management plan

4. Philadelphia Green--a program to green up the city of Philadelphia

5. EPA website about stormwater and green infrastructure

6. City of Chicago green alley program

7. Jim Patchett consulting firm and presentation

Posted on 7 April 2011
Originally on HalfwayInteresting blog

Champaign County Redistricting Commission progress and public engagement in process

Last night the county redistricting committee decided to meet again next Wednesday, 13 April, again in the Shields meeting room at Brookens--all the way across town, and canceled the scheduled meeting on 20 April. One more time, "John Q. Public" was not in attendance. There were non commission members there last night, but each and everyone had a vested interest, such as county board and farm bureau members. The question or elephant in the room is why this huge lack of interest in what is happening here in the county. At a recent lecture, I learned the phrase, "hand on the shoulder." So the county citizen, so far, does not feel the hand on the shoulder and thus are not interested in what this redistricting will mean to them for the next decade.

During public participation last night, I again pointed out the lack of citizen involvement in this process that is supposed to be open, transparent, and available for all. I also pointed out for the several articles in the News-Gazette that the web site to view the maps is never included or advertised by the commission. Nor has the commission taken the lead to produce large versions and post such at the public libraries. So far there is absolutely no initiative by the commission. The chair, Rick Winkle, walks a very narrow line word for word of the CB resolution establishing the commission and procedures. Definitely the "lawyerly" approach, which he is.

If you would like to view the revised maps, here is the url to do so

If you would like to view the comparison tables, here is the url to do so

In fact so much so that there were a few minutes last night when it appeared that the 3 new maps presented during the evening would not even be given consideration. This is totally not in line with the resolution. One new map was presented by Eric Thorsland during public participation and the other two by commission members. This was most disturbing to watch. Nonetheless, the commission members prevailed causing this meeting next week. So on the 13th, the commission will continue to consider the 3 maps that are up on the web site, culled from the original 22 plus one submitted by the Champaign County Farm Bureau. In addition, the 3 new maps will be run through the program being used by RPC/GIS to develop the statistics connected with each map.

It is very apparent to me (I have attended all, but one meeting) that the approach to develop a map is not as pure as was dreamed by those who pushed this process. The commission structure is constricting in that a map is produced in a size that is not easy to read; discussion follows; maybe suggested changes; and then a week or so later the commission sees the revision. A "best practice" would be for the members of the commission to be able "to roll up their sleeves," tackle the maps, and watch the suggested changes right away so further adjustments can be made while the discussion is fresh and vibrant. But alas, this just is not the process.

Then the constriction will magnify when the map(s) arrive at the CB. (In fact back to chair Winkle, the resolution states "a" map is to be sent to the CB. His interpretation, as of last night, is that this means "one" map. As a CB member being presented just one map possibility will not be satisfactory. In decision making at a minimum, at least three options ought to be presented.)

Back to the citizen input involvement that I have consistently mentioned. Chair Winkle, who is now involved in taking the state redistricting matter "show on the road," totally feels that the commission has met this obligation by the 15 minutes scheduled before each commission meeting as sufficient public input. This goes against any and every theory of how to engage the public--using such a static approach rather than a dynamic one. What a shame.

One last piece of information connected with this process. As I have mentioned publicly on several occasions, a UIUC professor who is presently doing research on redistricting commissions and known by Chair Winkle as a colleague at the IGPA, last week attended the commission meeting. Unfortunately, his arrival is late in the process and the semester to engage his graduate students to create a map using the professor's designed computer program, which potentially is much better than BARD, which is being used by RPC. One more lost opportunity and lack of initiative by Winkle to engage a colleague in what Winkle consistently mentions is the only such example of a county using a redistricting commission. Right now I am very disappointed in the lack of leadership for the commission and lack of initiative by the commission members to actually come up with the "best possible" map for the county citizens.

As always, I continue to encourage the citizens to become engaged on the 13th and when the map(s) are passed forward to the CB. My offer still stands to take any and all comments to the commission next week should you not be able to attend. Several constituents have done so.

Posted on 18 March 2011

CB decision on Olympian issue made 17 March 2011

The good, the bad, and the ugly might be a good description of the more than 12 years that this issue has been alive and periodically in the decision-making domain. I have not been deeply involved throughout the whole time line so my understanding comes from talking with others and reading documents to gain the past history before I became one of the decision makers. The essence is that this is an extremely interesting case study. It is for this reason that I am writing it up, at least the cognitive scaffolding of it (with the caveat that additions and corrections might be made as more information comes to light).

If ever there was a decision made by exhaustion, the one about Olympia will fall under this descriptor. That was the basic argument last night--this has been discussed for years; ought to have been decided a decade ago, which would have saved monies; and there is no time to look at any other alternatives.

I keep having to remind myself that I am a trained urban planner. As such, I am still not of the thinking that these roads are necessary. I am one of a few on the CB who think this way. Based on my experience while campaigning for the CB, I do not think there is overwhelming community consensus that this is the best of use of taxpayer dollars, even though there is a significant amount coming back to the community via federal dollars for the project. Further, those who expressed opinions on the issue did not see the need to stimulate economic development in this manner. Even recently I received messages stating these thoughts. Without question there is sufficient available land for any development that might be courted for the area, just drive along west Olympia Drive in Champaign, along north 45 toward Thomasboro/Rantoul, or check the Economic Development Corporation web site to view the list of available lands and empty buildings within the county.

to be continued

Posted on 18 March 2011

How to find information about openings on county board committees:

I am posting information about county board committee vacancies here. Unfortunately, the number of applications per opening is virtually none or more specifically just one per opening. This again happened with the recent 3 appointments confirmed by the board. I have been trying to figure out why the apathy, how to turn this around, and how to better shine sunlight on the announcement for these openings. Disappointingly, the place that these are posted is on the county web site, which my guess is that very few read. There is virtually no news coverage by the N-G of these openings, nor those in Champaign, Urbana, and Savoy. Further, there is little extra effort on the part of the county to send vacancy openings to possibly connected entities--in other words the effort is minimalistic. This still does not answer the question as to why so much apathy throughout the county.

One can view the current openings here

One can view the list of 2011 upcoming openings here

One can view general information about committees here  

Posted St. Patrick's Day 2011

More interesting county board issues:

There are so many exciting issues at the Champaign County level. Already several have written about the redistricting commission and changes to the Land Resource Management Plan (LRMP) and amendments to the zoning code, that I will move on to other issues. Before I do, I continue to encourage each and everyone of you to stay engaged and remind you that you can keep up with the redistricting commission at   

The set of 22 maps has been generated and can be viewed at this web site.  In addition Andrew Levy, the RPC staff person, has placed tables in an excel spreadsheet for each of the plans.  These tables include population by race for each block.  Also included are precincts and districts allowing you to sort and summarize by these geographies.  These data are most significant to review so you can give knowledgeable input about the redistricting during public participation.

Information about the LRMP can be viewed in the 1 March CB packet.

The two relatively new issues for the CB are the re-establishment of the strategic planning committee and looking at the long-range needs of the county campus area.

The strategic committee met for the first time on 9 March.  

Scroll down the page to find this committee. You can read the strategic plan and resolution here 

signed August 2008. It is my understanding that Bob Rich, director of the UIUC Institute of Government and Public Policy, worked with the previous CB strategic planning committee.

I attended this first meeting to learn about the previous history and as an urban planner I have natural interest in planning for the county plus my responsibility to the residents of district 6. I have a number of take away thoughts based on the meeting that I shared with the committee members. First is my curiosity as to why the choice was someone from the institute of government rather than someone from one of several disciplines at the university that are trained to think from the macro level and plan regionally, such as urban planning, regional geography, even environmental economics, as examples. Second, I am not clear how a strategic plan can be developed without first developing county goals and objectives as part of a county comprehensive plan. (Maybe it is my training and academic background.) This said, planning literature shows the progress as setting goals, then objectives associated with the goals, moving toward strategies to reach the objectives, and finally the tactics to implement the strategies. It is hard for me to imagine anyone in business establishing strategies and tactics in front of having in mind the goals and objectives for the business.

An illuminating question by a committee member questioned that comprehensive plans have to do with land use, not finances, which was the primary driver for shaping this new task and the previous task. I pointed out that this was definitely not the case. When I got home a quick and dirty internet search turned up the following excellent examples of county comprehensive plans. What is listed is far from complete and not to be argued as the only good ones, but as excellent models for reference. It is exciting to discover what other counties have done and what we might aspire to doing. Take some time to look at these and maybe do your own searching for other examples:    go to the bottom of the page to look at the county comprehensive plans.

Upon reflection of the discussion during the committee meeting has to do with the fact that the county tends to be a decision reactor rather than a decision leader. The county has not set any visual picture as to what the county might want to be in 10-25 years from now. The county solely responds to Urbana and CUUATS re: Olympian Drive; Champaign re: closing the recycling center; dated concepts related to planning for the county campus rather than leading to develop a sustainable, maybe zero energy use campus and becoming a county model; often fights about use of agricultural land rather than viewing agriculture just as important an economic development as what has developed along Apollo Drive; the county is not leading on the use of rail lines through the community nor the potential of a “bullet” train; runs away from establishing a building code resulting in the situation at Cherry Orchard in Thomasboro; etc. If you have taken time to look over the above comprehensive plans referenced, I hope that you are inspired and excited about what can be done right here in Champaign County.

Here are some examples for more “green/sustainable” approaches that can be considered:  

Last topic for this posting has to do with long-range planning for the Champaign county campus. Essentially the campus already exists. So why am I referring to the master plan for the Denton County, TX county campus. 

As I write this post, I happen to be in Denton, TX. I discovered this relatively new county building with two two-story cisterns and solar panels attached to the window awnings on my way to watch a track meet. This piqued my curiosity to try and find out information about the building. In doing so, I found the campus plan. Again, it is worth taking the time to look at this and imagine what of this plan can be overlaid to our county campus to move it forward in being sustainable and maybe even toward zero energy use and off the grid. None of these are out of our reach; would save the county immense amounts of money, as would a paradigm shift in the design of stormwater management; and we have all of the needed expertise to do this right here in this county.

I am interested in comments and reactions to this post. By all means do so on the blog or email me directly.

Posted 7 March 2011 Halfwayinteresting blog

This is in response to a posting by Brad Uken, manager of the Champaign County Farm Bureau, concerning the deterioration of rural roads due to the drop in the amount of motor fuel tax

This is a timely posting related to all of the discussion about Olympian Drive. When and if the solution becomes that north Lincoln is extended to an extension east of Olympian Drive, the present configuration to do so will naturally tempt the 700-1000 trucks per day (this is the number of trucks now using the present section of north Lincoln. The range of number is due to the construction season, meaning concrete trucks. Of this number 300-400 are associated with SuperValue. These will naturally move to Newell on Apollo. This data was given to me by John Dimit, director of the EDC.)to drive the oil and chip road section of north Lincoln that connects to Ford Harris. This road is in Somer Township. It will not be long before this road will not only need repair, but probably a major upgrade. Little consideration is being given during the conversations about Olympian as to what will happen next when the projected industries come on board related to increased truck traffic and any disturbances for those people who live in the area, such as needing to expand the Lincoln Ave. from 2 lanes to 4 lanes, the upgrade of north Lincoln to Ford Harris, and then the renewal of the argument of taking Olympian to north 45 and finally to 130 to complete the circle. This will take a lot of farm land to accomplish all of the concrete expansion plus cut up the acreage. For the consistency that the extension of Olympian appeared in many versions of the Urbana comprehensive plan along with the CUUATS plan, there was no effort by any of these entities including the county to set up the right of first refusal for these acres to accomplished what is in the plan.

Posted 22 February 2011

This is a response to a posting by Eric Thorsland concerning the Champaign County redistricting commission

Just set up something in Survey Monkey. It would be very interesting to provide some type of venue for the general public to express views since the public is not coming to the redistricting committee meetings, at least so far.

The following is what I have recently sent to Rick Winkel, who chairs this committee, and Andrew Levy, the RPC staff member who works with the committee. (I am posting this in the spirit of continuing to try to stimulate community interest in what is happening.)

I have been sharing the progress of the redistricting committee with an individual who has been deeply involved in political campaigns for years. This individual sent me the following thoughts about the mapping process that you might find interesting since the individual has done all of this before.

"So they're running BARD, which has the ability to create many different maps with many different weighting schema. Rather than doing anything 'by hand', why not have all the commission members just write down their different weights on the different attributes of districts (compactness, preservation of old districts, keeping similar areas together, and so on), and run all the different maps. One thing they'll quickly discover is just how wacky a map one can get from seemingly straightforward weights on attributes.

I'd want simulations of many hundreds of maps with slight changes in attribute weights to get a sense of just how sensitive district design is to each attribute, holding the others constant."

Since Champaign County is the only one in the USA trying this approach, I really would like us to use the opportunity to engage in the process in such a manner that there are outcomes that have reliability and validity. This would enhance the chance of what was done being given merit. If we as a county do not do this, then there is no way that there will be standing to what was done.

Posted 8 February 2011 Halfwayinteresting blog

In response to a posting by Alan Nudo about proposed changes to the county Land Resource Management Plan (LRMP)

As I have done before and continue to do, county residents do come and attend any CB meeting. Since I am frustrated in that there is need for a study session on the LRMP, I would like to point out that there are several serious hiccups along the pathway of a learning curve about urban/regional/rural planning and associated issues. As Eric T. pointed out there have been considerable opportunities of members of this community/county to become engaged in so many different processes; yet, it was the same sub group coming to the table, not a broad-based contingent. The county spent approximately $250,000 for BigSmallAll to produce a document, like most planning documents here, not being used as the first or second rung of the "planning ladder." A major reason for this has to do with "short term memory," planned obsolescence of the documents, lack of willingness to read, understand, ask questions, and even go the extra mile to attend educational opportunities. For just under a decade, one of my major responsibilities while teaching urban planning at the university was to plan and implement the annual Planning Institute. A two-day institute filled with on-topic educational sessions directly designed to facilitate the learning curve of the "citizen planner." All a local citizen planner had to do was get to the university to learn a lot about how to work with the issues that are regularly on the agenda. Nonetheless, taking advantage of this easy, efficient learning opportunity was rarely taken advantage of by any county decision makers. Folks from surrounding communities attended, folks from surrounding states attended, folks from far away states attended. The county contends that this are absolutely no funds to enable CB members to attend educational opportunities. Several CB members are spending their own dollars for registration fee and gas to learn about wind energy, traveling to Normal to do so, and then to Springfield to learn about the Open Meetings Act and FOIA.
The same observational comments apply to all of the many free on topic lectures held at UIUC. I posted the information about the David Orr lecture. Virtually no citizen planner took advantage of learning about sustainability. Same applies for the architecture and landscape architecture lectures. So yes, study sessions are always good. It is in-house folks, however, sharing the information without expanding our intellectual horizons by using the expertise at the university. To quote my son-in-law, "what is wrong with the decision makers not to make better use of the knowledge at the university"? We want this university in town, we love the sports, we love the economic advantages of having students spending money, but we do not use the wealth of knowledge just down the street.

Posted 11 January 2011 Halfwayinteresting blog

In response to a posting by Alan Nudo about the crossroads decision making concerning Olympian Drive and extension of north Lincoln

As a CB member, I did, indeed, receive the letter mentioned by Alan Nudo. I was not a member of the committee because I was not on the board during this time period. Nonetheless, I attended the last meeting, described by Alan. I concur with his description that caused me major concern between what I knew was the charge and what was actually happening. I also agree that the governmental "holes" of authority are allowing to be created many levels of frustration for those who would be immediately impacted by the eventual decision. Very unfortunately the CB has not taken a formal stand on this situation; yet, due to previous intergovernmental agreements the county engineer is moving ahead. One last aspect that appears to not have much visibility and brought to my attention by a district 6 constituent. This has to do with the archeological artifacts found in the proposed area, the status of this inquiry within IDOT, and why inquiries and information about the process and progress to determine whether there is archeological significance in the area have not been conveyed to the public.
As always I encourage all county residents to stay involved with this issue. Even if the project could be paid for with external funds, there is a future budgetary question of maintenance and how this would be accomplished when right now no entity in the county can keep up with road and sidewalk maintenance.

Posting 13 December 2010 Halfwayinteresting blog

Regularly, irregularly, I have volunteered to post about the Champaign County Board. The purpose is to engage county citizens about the board activities/business, encourage increased citizen participation, and create the environment for more and more understanding about the county board functions and decisions. To begin as I have mentioned on several occasions, I plan to be available at the Champaign Public Library to meet with constituents on the Thursday when the county board meets. Specifically, here is the schedule from January to June 2011: January--27, 5:30-6:30P; February--24, 5:45-6:30 P; March--17, 5:30-6:10 P; April--21, 5:30-6:30 P; May--19, 5:30-6:30 P; and June--23, 5:30-6:30 P. There is an open invitation for fellow board members to join in the conversation on these dates. If you are curious about the upcoming county board meetings and agendas, these can always be viewed here

On 15 December, the Redistricting Commission will be meeting for the first time in the Lyle Shields' meeting room at Brookens beginning at 6 P. One can view the agenda and full agenda, including the county board charge to this commission here  I continue to encourage all county citizens to become very active in this process because it will determine the next 10 years of running the county.

For those who are interested in serving on a county board or commission, those vacancies can be viewed here  It takes many steps through the county web site to find this page, which might be discouraging for constituents to considering applying for a position. All too often committee/commissions lack a full continent and/or sufficient applications to fill vacancies. Maybe the News-Gazette could on a weekly basis, such as what is done in the Sunday paper of listing activities, list these vacancies within all of the government entities with a web site link to read more details and access an application. When Tom Kacich wrote extensively about the Redistricting Commission application call, the success of this visibility resulted in 37 applicants. Such success could be repeated through regular news articles. Since the goal ought to be that the base of applicants is diverse and broadened and the most knowledgeable/experienced person is appointed to any vacancy

Beginning January 2011, I plan to keep a journal on my web site about my role as a county board member. The web site is  I welcome comments, ideas, suggestions, etc. from not only my district 6 constituents, but all county citizens. It will be most enjoyable working with fellow board members on the health, safety, and welfare of the county.

Update about county board committee vacancies:

CB is looking for a new member for the Zoning Board of Appeals. Currently we have members from Newcomb, Sidney, Stanton, Pesotum, Hensley, and Urbana Townships. The new member cannot be from these townships. We do like to have a nice geographic representation on the Board. I believe that Mr. Bluhm, who is leaving the Board because of term limits, is from the Ogden area.

With the passing of Mr. John Chato, there is another opening on the CU MTD Board. This is a Democratic position. (I have requested that this opening announcement be sent for distribution to organizations that might have people with specific expertise.)

Posted 2 November 2010

For the political junkies, here is a very interesting article about how to "Nudge the Vote" published in the NY Times Magazine 31 October 2010 citing the research work of a number of academics, including Gerber and Green, Yale U, who have done some outstanding research about what works and what does not work in political campaigns.

Posted 27 October 2011 on Halfwayinteresting blog

Listening to and collaborating with people to improve their communities is what I have practiced as an urban planner and what I taught my students at the university to do. Over my 40-odd years of living here, I have volunteered my time and knowledge, with others, to make our county a great place to live.                              

I believe in open, participatory government. And as I walked throughout the county talking with residents as a Census worker this past spring and through the neighborhoods of the sixth district talking with voters this election season, I have seen just how important one-on-one conversations with constituents are. Without them, you can not really know people and what is important in their lives, which is an invaluable part of being a responsive public official.

A good example of my commitment to open citizen collaboration is the work I have done alongside residents with the John Street Watershed. That group demonstrated what community meetings held in an environment of consensus-building are capable of accomplishing. Over an 18-month period we worked to come up with a strategy to mitigate flooding and manage heavy storm water in a way acceptable to the residents.   The results are solutions to the recurring flooding and the building of relationships across the Champaign Public Works Department, the Champaign City Council, the UIUC Landscape Architecture program, and the affected residents. I presented our results at a national planning conference recently, and several local residents and city staff presented the story of this success at the Illinois American Planning Association conference last September. This is the sort of community involvement I believe is often missing in County Board decision making, and it is why I am on the ballot this November.

When on the County Board, my main focus will be sustainability: sustainability for our budget by eliminating what is unnecessary and growing the tax base through economic development and wind farm creation, sustainability for our environment by increasing energy efficiency in county operations, and sustainability for our society by drawing the community into participating in county decision making. It is important when facing challenges in the present to keep our focus on the long run. And the more open, participatory dialogue we have about what is happening in the county, the better the future can be for all of us.

My web site contains more details about these ideas and what I have been doing during the campaign [].  Please do email me [] with any questions you have about my campaign or ideas you have for county government.  I thank you for being engaged and reading my post. Also thanks to Eric Bussell of Halfway Interesting for hosting this pre-election discussion.

P.S.—If you are interested in the details of the John Street Watershed project and its success, please take a look at:

Posted on 27 September 2010 @ 7:47 A on Halfwayinteresting blog

In response to a posting by Alan Nudo on the topic of the size of the county board

There are several important details omitted from this posting. First, the referendum is only advisory. So the referendum can be followed or not, if passed. Just a reminder, when you vote, this item is literally at the bottom of the ballot so be certain to vote all the way to the bottom. Next very unfortunately, the referendum rather than state are you in favor or not of reducing the board size, definitive number of districts and representatives are stated. This was all done before the new census data is available to better determine what configuration might best service the interests of the county. In addition, the discussion surrounding this referendum did not include how can we as the present board improve the decision-making process of future boards, again for the best interest of the county. How decisions presently evolve has room for improvement, as do all processes, through several means--size of board, decision processes, how districts are drawn, public participation, etc.
In addition, the redistricting commission is appointed by the present board chair and approved by the present board. All to be implemented or not by a newly elected board, whatever that configuration might turn out to be. The spirit of a redistricting commission is admirable; nonetheless, as many argued it will be difficult to create a non partisan situation.
The bottom line is that a newly elected board has two very intriguing issues to work on straight away--board size and redistricting.

posted @ 1:59 P

To continue this conversation, I attended all of the CB meetings when this issue was on the agenda. Indeed, there were 3 different proposals placed for the CB vote/choice. None of the proposals had any concrete data to substantiate why one or the other might work better for the county. Even though the Farm Bureau and as I understand RPC has run several redistricting map renditions, these have not been for public consumption so the public could have made comments at the CB meetings. In addition, the public is being offered a chance to vote on a referendum locking in a number of districts and reps without much education being given to the public as to what this might yield; rather than asking the public would you prefer less members on the board and more districts. Or maybe it would have been better to have given the public the chance to vote on the 3 proposed possibilities? The potential of an even numbered board has been pointed out by many as to the possible problems. Though McLean county has an even numbered board; however, the chair rarely votes, but in a tie.
I have always been confused about the discussion as to CB urban members can not/do not represent the rural interests; yet the urban interests are always represented. CB members are elected to think about the county as a whole though elected to represent a specific district. It is important to think regionally, as more and more folks here are mentioning.

Posted 28 September 2010 @ 7:34 A

Several small points of clarification" 1) Eric, the state statue related to redistricting reads districts are supposed to be contiguous and balanced--so the CB commission directive to redistrict without voter data probably will not work; 2) Alan, it would be so helpful for the voters to bring visibility to the map constructed by RPC, maybe an article with map in the N-G--the general public just does not wander through the county web site; 3)my thoughts about the CB size, decision-making process, responsiveness to constituents has been posted on my web site since January 2010--two major concerns--for all of the talk of multi-member districts, district representatives tend to cluster in one area of a district (look at CB districts 6 & 9--historically) (this is the same for district 5 city of Champaign city council--one district and 2 at large members live in district 5--slightly skewed)so how does this meet the argument of representation? This concern overlays should a chair be elected at large rather than from the elected CB members. Second concern has to do with the engagement of CB members to constituents. The 3 at-large members of the Champaign City Council have made themselves available to meet with city residents once a month at the CPL. This is a great precedent.

Posted 15 September 2010

Is Economic Development a jobs scam?

This is the theme of a book written by Greg LeRoy, an economist, titled The Great American Jobs Scam or subtitled Corporate tax dodging and the myth of job creation. LeRoy is the founder and director of Washington, DC-based Good Jobs First, an organization seeking to make economic development subsidies more effective and accountable. One more revelation—I brought Greg LeRoy to our community as a featured speaker for one of the many UIUC Planning Institutes that I designed and implemented.

Why is this an important read right now? The immediate reason is all of the conversations occurring related to the Olympian Drive extension and what this will do for the community economically. Last night during the County Board Committee of the Whole meeting and the same type of meeting a week ago, there was allowed a total of 25 minutes of public participation on the topic and 90 minutes of prepared presentations by those with vested interest. We have all read variations of the cost of the project, amount of land to build whatever road, numbers of jobs that will be generated, and the total economic stimulus to the community. Though rarely is follow up data provided to show that “X” number of jobs and “Y” amount of stimulus actually were generated.

What Greg LeRoy includes in this book will give the community citizens the tools to ask questions about the costs and benefits of any economic development project. Using many case studies from across the country, he begins by pointing out that many projects end up being a form of tax dodging, moves on to documenting the skewing of how companies decide where to locate—usually predetermined before the exploration begins and then the game plan to pit one city against the other to up the “anti” of economic incentives, which is just “icing on the cake.” This leads to a creation of the rise of an economic war between the states or communities—competing for the same project by falling into the vortex of competing for a company so there is a move from one state to another without actual new jobs created, for example Boeing and Chicago and the tremendous amount of monies given away to Boeing by the state of Illinois. In other words, what is the actual cost per job to bring that job to a community. Rarely is this part of the calculation. Factually, the decision where to locate or relocate a business does depend on the type of business, but there are common factors, such as does the CEO like the community, quality of schools, community safety, quality of parks, cultural attractions, geographic beauty, transportation opportunities, and quality of workforce.

To do such an actual cost/job calculation, LeRoy points out the corporate assault on the income tax shifting the burden to the low and medium income citizen. He proceeds to provide facts and figures of the cost to school districts and other major taxing bodies due to property tax abatements. Even more detailed data has been provided by a series of investigative articles on the loss of tax dollars to the Chicago school district due to the 147 tax increment finance districts (TIF) now established in Chicago. Remember the timeline for such districts is 23 years. The extent of the lost monies and an Illinois state statue combine to a result that the citizens of the rest of the state of Illinois are now paying through tax dollars for the Chicago school system. Mr. LeRoy often mentioned the research work on the cost of economic incentives related to development done by Professor Peter Fisher, University of Iowa.

The chapter titled Subsidizing sprawl, subsidizing Wal-Mart provides sufficient information to begin the questioning process whether there are economic benefits to a community connected with sprawl and big box stores. This is followed with many questions about publically built convention centers and sports stadiums under the title, “loot, loot, loot for the home team.” There are a number of books written explaining the economic loss to a community that publically funds such venues.

Fortunately for the reader, Greg LeRoy provides the following suggestions for building a new consensus for reform:

  • Disclosure, disclosure, disclosure—hidden taxpayer costs disclosure and big company tax disclosure to shareholders.
  • Clawbacks, or money-back guarantees.
  • Job quality standards.
  • Unified development budgets.
  • Give school boards full say on abatements and TIF.
  • Close corporate loopholes.
  • Repeal single sales factor.
  • Register and regulate site location consultants.
  • Put every deal to an official vote.
  • A federal “carrot” against job piracy.
  • Smart growth to end the ‘economic war among the suburbs or adjacent communities.’

§         Location-efficient incentives

§         Regional sharing of local sales tax revenues

§         Regional sharing of some property tax revenues

§         No “TIFing” of sales tax

§         No subsidies for pavin cornfields

§         No subsidies to sprawling retail

He concludes by pointing out that workforce development ought to be put first along with the bottom line that communities need reinvestment, not disinvestiment, such as economic gardening.

Read a part of the book on the web site or the entire book, and then share your thoughts.

A few references:

Peter Fisher, Professor University of Iowa