Planners in Politics
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Planners in Politics

Do they Make a Difference?

Edited by Louis Albrechts

In this innovative book, ten executive politicians with backgrounds in planning from around the world dissect their own political careers. Reflecting on the often structural impact of their work in political decision-making, they also consider the translation of their experiences back into academic life or professional practice.
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Chapter 9: Storytelling and city crafting in a contested age: one mayor’s practice story

James A. Throgmorton


Written from a first-person singular point of view, this ‘practice story’ narrates a planning theorist’s experience of being elected and serving as Mayor of Iowa City, Iowa (USA) from 2016 to 2018. While guided by a ‘Just City’ vision, the theorist pragmatically presumed that: (1) the direction cities change cannot be predicted or formally planned; (2) cities ‘unfold,’ with multiple actors (near and far) and actants being part of a very complicated step-by-step process of co-crafting the direction of unfolding; (3) mayors and other actors use storytelling of various kinds to influence the unfolding; and (4) unexpected events will occur. Two key conflicts emerge in the story: one between ‘Just City’ and ‘Growth Machine’ advocates, and the other between Iowa Citians and President Trump and his allies. The article concludes with lessons for other planning scholars and practitioners who want to influence their cities’ unfolding by seeking election to political office.

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