Tight Budgets and the Need to Plan

Eric Damian Kelly's picture

Which of these families most needs to plan its family commitments and related budget items?

Family 1:  Wife is a bankruptcy lawyer whose business is booming; husband is an executive at a growing wind-energy company and has just received a nice raise, paid out of growing profits.  The kids are grown.  The couple's two Polish Lowland Sheepdogs are very healthy.

Family 2:  Wife is a plant manager for a U.S.-owned automobile company, facing mandatory unpaid time off this year; husband is a travel agent who sells high-end vacation packages to school teachers, planners and other middle-income individuals and families.  Son has graduated from college but cannot find a job and is living at home and working part-time at a burger place.  Daughter will be a college junior next year at an institution that has had its funding cut by the state and has thus announced a 15 percent tuition increase.

When applied to a family, the answer to this question is obvious.  When applied to a small business, the answer seems equally obvious.  When the scenario arises for a city or county, however, many people do not even recognize the question implicit in the facts.  In this difficult fiscal time for most local governments, it is important that we remind public officials that "we cannot afford not to plan."  It is also important that we, as planners, ensure that our planning advice and strategies recognize and assist our local governments in dealing with difficult economic time.  As I often tell audiences of planning commissioners, planning is in some ways a liberal agenda -- reaching out to those who lack power, ensuring that short-term decisions take account of long-term consequences for the environment and the earth, providing new opportunities for struggling communities.  It is, however, ultimately also a conservative activity -- ensuring that we effectively and efficiently allocate scarce resources.  

Eric Damian Kelly is a professor of urban planning at Ball State University and a vice president of Duncan Associates.
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