PLANNING AT FEDERAL LEVEL IN THE US

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I came across this article today and find out is a perfect case of Planning at Federal Level.  The Federal Government of Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Works, Housing and Urban Development should learn a lesson from this. Your comments are welcome.  Kabir M. Yari

>Federal smart growth

SEATTLE – Members of President Obama’s “green cabinet” vowed to implement smart growth at the federal level by coordinating the agencies responsible for housing, transportation, and the environment, delighting nearly two-thousand planners and local government officials gathered for a sustainability conference here. Shaun Donovan, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Ray LaHood, secretary of the Department of Transportation, and Lisa Jackson, director of the Environmental Protection Agency, detailed how they were working together to favor funding for initiatives for housing with better proximity to jobs, schools, and transit, for example, and give more priority to transportation projects that helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions, over traditional criteria such as relieving congestion. They also said the agencies have also stopped working at cross purposes in the array of programs they administer, unifying disparate initiatives under the mantra of sustainability. “It’s time the federal government spoke with one voice,” said Donovan.
The remarks by the administration officials, ironically, did not appear to be coordinated in advance by the staff of the respective agencies, missing the opportunity for a more cogent division of labor in delivering the message. Nonetheless, the audience was so thrilled to hear about the steps being taken at the federal level, after many years of dormancy, most seem to relish the policy-wonk tenor. They applauded enthusiastically throughout the speeches, delivered at the New Partners for Smart Growth conference, including at the description of changes in application procedures for federal grants. “We have been working on these issues for so long, to have this cadre of people as leaders is just amazing,” said Washington DC planning director Harriet Tregoning, who welcomed the officials as “rock stars.” “No one will work harder to make sure you are wildly successful.”
The three cabinet members wrote an op-ed essay that appeared in the Seattle Times linking sustainability efforts with jobs and prosperity, suggesting opportunities to be seized in the new green economy, though they did not sound that theme in the remarks. Nor did they address the mounting pressure to reduce federal spending because of massive deficits, or the decreased appetite to address long-term energy or environmental concerns such as climate change. Since HUD, DOT, and EPA announced the groundbreaking partnership last year, the Obama administration has been mustering limited funds and re-organizing grant programs to promote smart growth. Promising a “long overdue shift in American transportation policy” encompassing urban infrastructure such as high-speed inter-city rail, LaHood said he would stop supporting projects that were environmentally damaging, and coordinate investment in transit in neighborhoods where HUD is investing in housing. Donovan detailed the creation of the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, headed by former Reconnecting America executive director Shelly Poticha, which will mete out $140 million in grants for local smart growth efforts ranging from the redevelopment of vacant lots in cities to home financing that includes energy efficiency upgrades and location-efficient mortgages. “Every American is paying the price for Washington’s failure” to recognize the problems of sprawl, said Donovan, in terms of dependence on foreign oil, environmental damage, and the growing cost in family budgets of long commutes to work. He criticized the trend of “drive to qualify” where consumers sought out more affordable homes further from job centers.
DOT also established an Office of Livable Communities, and EPA yet another variation, the Office of Sustainable Communities, formerly known as the EPA’s smart growth unit, which remained remarkably active during the Bush administration when sustainability was not a big emphasis. It was unclear why the three agencies, vowing silo-breaking and alignment, gave the offices three slightly different names.
Jackson spoke by video, having canceled her participation due to a meeting with the president. Donovan, who earlier talked up the sustainability grants in Portland and took the train from there to Seattle, enthusiastically introduced HUD undersecretary Ron Sims, former King County executrive, who received a lifetime achievement award. Conference organizers said the 9th annual New Partners for Smart Growth gathering drew almost twice as many attendees as the year before. Further commentary on President Obama’s “green cabinet” can be viewed in this Citiwire column.

3 thoughts on “PLANNING AT FEDERAL LEVEL IN THE US

  1. The performance of cities all over the world are inter-related, interconnected and interdependent of each other, therefore Urban Planning can not take care of cities independent of other cities as Nigerian Constitution want us to. Take for instance the case of Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Aba, Onitsha etc. Urbanization of these cities are to some extent controlled by neighboring States and for the Constitution to say that only state governments have the power of Urban and Regional Planning within its areas of jurisdiction, means Urban and Regional planners will never understand nor plan for Nigeria’s urbanization problems.
    When the United Nations is organizing World Urban Forum and other innovative programmes through the UN-HABITAT to study and plan for cities all over the world for better urban productivity, i wonder how Nigerian cities can be treated independently by State Governments, thereby making the cities to continue decaying and diminish urban productivity. The Nigerian Constitution must be amended to allow for the planning, coordination and management of cities by the Federal Government for better urban productivity.
    Town Planning professional bodies have a duty to educate Nigerians on the dangers of limiting Urban and Regional Planning to State Governments, and call for Constitutional amendment to allow Federal Government’s intervention.
    TPL, Dr. Abubakar Sadiq Sani, MNITP
    ATOPCON President

  2. There is indeed the need to bring to the fore of political office holders in Nigeria, the proper place of Urban and Regional planning in the actualisation of National growth and development. This has become necessary inview of the seeming cluelessness and helplessness as to the ways of addressing the myriads of problems afflecting the nation, whose solutions are readily available when urban and regional planning is given a cardinal place in the scheme of affairs as agaisnt its current backstage position in most of the country.

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