Chapter 10.6

The Planning Food Chain
(Oregon Planners' Journal, December 1997)

By Richard H. Carson

Planning Intern. Falls over the doorstep when entering the building. Turns white when asked to check the tax maps. Eventually decides on a career in food service.

Permit Tech. Is sent to the front line, but not issued any ammunition. Usually someone with no planning background - which is a precondition for employment. They are people hired for their "customer service skills" which includes combat experience working for such places as McDonalds, Wal-Mart or at Target.

Assistant Planner. Gets to call themselves a "planner." The euphoria wears off after one week on the job - when they realize they are just a grunt. Spend their days being yelled at by developers in person and on the phone, writing endless repetitive staff reports, and are bossed around by everyone including the janitor. Commonly listed in the budget document as "Ass. Planner."

Associate Planner. This position was created to keep Assistant Planners from quitting. Usually a complaining Assistant Planner is promoted to Associate and given a coupon for a free "Whopper." Referred to in the budget as "AssO. Planner."

Senior Planner. This is planning nirvana - a little respect and a living wage. You get to do the good stuff like long range planning. Unlike current planning, no one can determine if you have screwed up for at least 20 years. With any luck you will be retired by then.

Principal Planner. A Senior Planner with principles. Position was developed before city managers could spell good.

Planning Director. Planners too stupid to know a good thing when they have it (see Senior Planner). A planner who learns what "management" really means - dealing with crazed developers, as well as the internal personnel problems of other planners (i.e. divorce, drinking). Spends their days trying to stop the non-management planners from either yelling at the customers or laughing hysterically from too much Prozac).

Planning Manager. Same as Planning Director, except they report to a Community Development Director.

Community Development Director. A former planner who sold their soul to the devil (see City Manager/County Administrator) and has been seduced by the dark side.

City Manager/County Administrator. Was never a planner. Thinks planners: 1) are a pain in the ass; 2) never do what you tell them; 3) and should be shot - preferably when it becomes legal. Often has a tattoo under the hairline that reads "666" (see Beelzebub, Prince of Darkness).

Other Planners:

City Planner. A historical term used in the City of Portland. A hold over from the late 1800s. Used to tell the difference between a government land speculator and a private sector land speculator.

Neighborhood Planner. Again a term used only in the City of Portland. Usually a neighborhood activist who is given a "government job" for supporting the Portland Planning Bureau's agenda.

Regional Planner. Someone who could not get a job in a city or county. Never talks to citizens. Known for luring real planners away from their duties by scheduling endless meetings that are pointless (see Dilbert). People who work for Tri-Met, Metro, the Port of Portland or any of the last vestiges of what are vaguely remembered as Councils of Governments (COGs).

State Planners. Have apparently gone extinct and have not been seen since the late 1970s (see Bigfoot).

Return to the Top
Common Sense
by Richard H. Carson