By Dom Nozzi
It is essential that when the political winds are right, the good-guy bureaucrats need to be given the chance to shine so brightly that a change in the elected officials of a town either does not happen, or when it does, can be weathered. Such bureaucrats “shine brightly” by preparing and having adopted transportation and land development policies that are both effective in achieving progressive ends, and are “bullet proof” enough to be able to survive a change in the elected officials.
Ironically, in my experience working as a town planner in the southeastern US, we “smart growth” advocates are better off with Republican majorities, since they tend to have significantly more backbone than liberals, and we need backbone to save ourselves. So the key is to elect a right winger, and then get she or he on board with an issue.
Again, in my experience, local government planning staff have been much more timid in recommending progressive policies to politically liberal elected officials, because staff have so often gotten their heads chopped off when they propose policies the majority of elected officials had previously given a lot of lip service to.
Since bureaucrats can usually survive changes in elected officials, I’ve come to learn that it is critical who the local government is using to hire the bureaucrat (a city manager or department heads, for example), since the staff will often be in place for a long time.
We need a manager or director who will insist on only hiring staffers who are progressive on transportation and land use issues.