March/April 2020 President's Message

So much has changed in the past few months. We are gradually getting our heads wrapped around the fact that everything will be different going forward, and that the pandemic’s impact will be with us for many years to come. Our day-to-day lives have been radically changed as we adjust to working from home, staying an appropriate distance away from each other, and conducting business in entirely new ways. For some of us, the devastation of the pandemic has broadsided our lives directly. We are all in uncharted waters. But at least we are together.

For planners, the pandemic is challenging a lot of what we hold dear – the efficiencies and advantages of density and the exchange of social capital, the environmental and infrastructure benefits of transit, the community outreach and inclusivity that ensures decisions consider the needs of the whole community, the feasibility of design that encourages many “eyes on the street”, and the draw of thriving, diverse business districts. 

The way planners do business is completely different these days and everyone is learning how to participate virtually in meetings that used to be face-to-face. Students are coming out of planning school with degrees that they want to put to use, but the jobs are becoming very few and far between. The economic realities of the budgets that support planners’ lives and work are changing, and many planners will find they need to pivot to other roles. 

The Chapter has a tall order before it. The bylaws say that the purpose of the Washington APA chapter is to provide “leadership in the development of vital communities by advocating excellence in community planning, promoting education and citizen empowerment, and providing the tools and support necessary to meet the challenges of growth and change.” 

To help our members address the challenging times ahead, we will be initiating a few campaigns:

A COVID-19 Task Force – This group of planners will serve as a think tank to consider the changes in the profession as a result of the pandemic. We will be collecting and sharing ideas, and identifying the resources planners need today, as well as in the post-pandemic world. We will be reaching out to form this panel in the coming weeks – please contact me if you are interested in participating.

Continuing Education – Until safe in-person events are feasible, the Chapter will be pivoting to virtual training. The Chapter will use its new Zoom account for Section training and Department of Commerce Planner forums. The Fall conference will be held virtually jointly with the Oregon Chapter (October 14-16). We need your virtual session proposals by July 3rd, 2020. See here for more conference information.

Member Support – We will be working with the State’s three accredited Planning schools to identify how the planning community can help graduating students find positions that will benefit their planning careers. We will also be working with Chapter members who belong to APA Division members to establish the community and training that supports their careers (see the work Washington’s Transportation Division is initiating, discussed elsewhere in this issue).

Have other ideas how the Chapter can support planners? Get in touch! Stay safe!

Return to the March/April issue of the Washington Planner