Planners Across America
By Josh Stephens
Planners Across America provides an in-depth look at U.S. cities in the historical moment between two great crises—the Great Recession of 2008 and the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020. Collecting interviews with current and former planning directors all over the country—from Albuquerque to Memphis to Washington, D.C.—Planners Across America gives a new, unprecedented platform to a group of public servants laboring in relative obscurity but with immense influence on the shape and direction of U.S. communities.
The planners of the early decades of the 20th century are working toward a new version for the future. This work requires undoing many of the mistakes of the profession in the previous century, but the result, if the effort proves successful, would be communities resilient to environmental and economic shocks while offering economic prosperity to an inclusive cross section of the United States and world.
With interview topics ranging from long-term planning to growth management, infrastructure, and political controversies, this collection of 23 interviews offer a rare chance to gain insight and appreciation for the nation's top public sector planners.
Author: Josh Stephens
Foreword: James Brasuell
Book cover: Paperback
PDF/print version: Color
PDF Size: TK
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Josh Stephens is contributing editor to the California Planning & Development Report (www.cp-dr.com), the state’s foremost independent publication dedicated to urban planning. Josh previously edited The Planning Report and the Metro Investment Report, monthly publications covering, respectively, land use and infrastructure in Southern California. Publications to which Josh has contributed include Planetizen, Next City, The Architect’s Newspaper, Architecture Magazine, Planning Magazine, Common Edge Collaborative, Sierra Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Josh has written the “Planners Across America” interview series for Planetizen since 2015. Josh is the author of The Urban Mystique: Notes on California, Los Angeles, and Beyond, a collection of essays on cities and urban planning. Josh is a longtime board member, and former board president, of the Westside Urban Forum, a nonprofit dedicated to civic engagement in his native west Los Angeles. Josh earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Princeton University and his master’s degree in Public Policy from the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government.
“Planners Across America is an illuminating book that allows you to tap into the minds of planning directors across the country. I enjoyed reading and comparing the diversity of styles and experiences, and candid responses kept me turning page after page. If you aspire to learn more about planning leadership, this is a book to read.”
Mitchell Silver, FAICP, former President, American Planning Association
“We usually think of urban planning as a matter of local or maybe statewide concern—and it is. But planning is national too. American cities can learn from each other, and they are all subject to, and pioneers of, common trends. Planners Across America recognizes this reality and offers an ideal opportunity to appreciate both the diversity of and unity among America’s great cities.”
Bill Fulton, Director, Rice University Kinder Institute for Urban Research; former Planning Director, City of San Diego
“American cities form a constellation, each uniquely luminous while part of a whole, and these are the men and women who make them work—largely behind the scenes. To read these compelling interviews is to understand what makes these places so extraordinary.”
Anthony Flint, Senior Fellow, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and author of Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City
“Planners Across America tells the stories of the people behind the places. As our communities face many of the same urgent urban challenges, learning from this esteemed network who are individually and collectively leading the planning profession is essential.”
Marissa Aho, AICP, Policy Director and Chief Resilience Officer, Washington State Department of Natural Resources
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