Magic thinking and the Palo Alto ‘Our…’ process

The Journal of the American Institute of Planners (July, 1969) outlines “Eight Rungs of Citizen Participation” (See below). I perceive the latest “visioning” exercise to lie on the lowest two rungs. If we want real power (i.e., to stand on the eighth rung) we’ll need to create a parallel process with greater public support.

1. Manipulation
Officials place residents on rubber-stamp advisory committees to “educate” them, engineer support, and “prove” that “grassroots people” are involved.
2. Therapy
Under the guise of engaging residents in planning, power-holders bring them together to adjust their “values and attitudes” to accept harmful change.
3. Informing
Information flows primarily in one direction, and is often presented at a late stage in planning, after residents’ opportunity for influence has largely passed.
4. Consultation
Consultation without guarantee of influence remains just a window-dressing ritual.
5. Placation
Residents may be awarded token concessions, but are still being planned for by others.
6. Partnership
Residents and powerholders share planning and decision-making responsibilities, and ground rules are not subject to unilateral change.
7. Delegated Power
Residents achieve sufficient decision-making authority to assure accountability.
8. Citizen Control
Residents govern a program or an institution, in full charge of policy and managerial aspects, and negotiate the conditions under which “outsiders” may change them.
David Schrom a Stanford teacher and co-founder of Palo Alto’s Magic Incorporated Community (not to be confused with his protogee, David Muffly, also an arborist) posted the above on Palo Alto Weekly website, apropos of a discussion of the disaster known as Alma Plaza or Alma Village, “planned community – PC- zoning” and the “Comp Plan” or “General Plan” and general gutting of such.
I found it while sitting thru, fairly randomly, a Policy and Services meeting where it will be discussed Karen Holman’s (of Budget subcommittee, she’s not here) question of why we charge $100 to rent the “community room” if the room is part of a public benefit (in letting builder over-build and be up-zoned). Fred Balin has also written extensively on this Giant White Elephant. And he’s in the room.

I have the opposite stance, and will probably say so, in about an hour — thereby foregoing chance to plug Ventura Park at Parks atari starting shortly next door. I think the project is such a mess that we do have to keep the vigil up.

Atari means “i attack you” — ghosts in machine seem to want to tell us here. (I was writing “start” and they changed it to “atari” maybe this is something Nolan Bushnell circa 1970 while in Utah snuck into all future Matrix I mean spellcheckers)

I am also thinking “sausages” or even “sausage” the rock band, for no obvious Plastic Alto reason.

Brother Les, what says sausages you:


About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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