Starting from an earlier project on decision-making in planning through a project focused on understanding the power dynamics of the wider political context for the same project, I found some similarities and differences in approach from other authors dealing with these issues in research projects. These research projects made me understand that political decision-making has its own logic, and it relies on arenas with specific actors. Could this logic be influenced by the specific expertise of a minister/executive politician? Does the intellectual background, the practical experience, the epistemological basis, a past of direct engagement of a minister, mayor or vice mayor have an impact on her/his functioning? I started to wonder whether and how, in one way or the other, an executive politician with a background in planning could benefit from this background. So I invited 10 (ex)-politicians with a background in planning to tell their stories in their own words.
Ermínia Maricato and Giselle Tanaka
In a country marked by deep social and racial inequalities, the experience in two governments reveals the importance of a favourable correlation of forces for the realization of policies committed to social justice. The first Workers’ Party (PT), and the first woman’s government in Brazil’s largest city, Luiza Erundina’s mandate, implemented an innovative housing policy, in a moment referred to as a ‘virtuous cycle of urban policy’. In Lula’s first term as president of Brazil, the Ministry of Cities was conceived as a space for constructing a policy based on principals of urban reform. In an adverse political context, progressive forces were not able to confront the dominance of capital in the cities. However, one outcome that allows us to find hope in the current context of regressions in Brazil’s political space is the increasing number of politically engaged professionals, who can form the basis for beginning a new cycle.
Yoginder K. Alagh
My earliest role as an expert planner was heading the powerful perspective planning division of the Planning Commission with Indira Ganxhi supporting us in the context of critiques by the World Bank and Finance Ministry with Manmohan Singh as the Chief Economist. In the 1970s our strategies based on food grain growth studies with local data worked and became a policy model at home and abroad. Later we planned and implemented an agroclimatic growth strategy. In the manufacturing sector we developed a reform strategy of phasing decontrol and switchover to globally competitive clusters of industry, which received praise from policy experts like Lance Taylor and Robert Wade. In the more recent period, our strategy of reform of the Planning Commission had some impact, but the new body, the Niti Aayog, was not given fund allocation roles and so its Vision documents remained on paper. Our more recent work on a Framework Law for the Water sector had multiparty support and a draft legislation is in Parliament. It has an experience-based structure for dispute resolution.
This is the story of a 5 year-long journey through the realm of national government made by an academic with no political party affiliation. It was an exciting and demanding journey, whose (relative) success resulted from a fortunate combination of personal characteristics, national circumstances and supranational contexts. It was a journey that shows how an educational background with a weak professional reputation (geography), being a secretary of state of a domain with little social acceptance (spatial planning) in a ministry with no political weight (leadership by a party-independent minister) in a small and peripheral country in the EU context (Portugal) are not necessarily obstacles, and can even be an advantage, in putting innovative policies on the political agenda and fostering them at national and local level. However, this is also the story of the post-journey homecoming, and its effects on the traveller, his values, ideas, practices and priorities as an academic and citizen.
The chapter proposes a reflection on the experience of an academic planner appointed to the executive body of the Apulia regional council, southern Italy, for 10 years. After highlighting some dilemmas embedded in such a difficult double role in a context characterized by an old land use planning system and huge expectation of change, the article focuses on the case study of the so-called “area of Paduli”. The different processes taking place in this area involved the author in a blend of enabling and contrasting actions. They disclose how the author interpreted her role in politics, as involving continuous direct interactions with local municipalities and more or less organized citizens and groups, connecting top-down vision and bottom-up initiatives. This fed a new collective interpretation of ‘territory’, as an intermingling of material and immaterial heritage to be protected and enhanced through social appropriation processes for more just and durable regional development.
Artur da Rosa Pires
The argument underlying this chapter is that academic background does influence political action and that conceptual and theoretical knowledge has a major impact on problem definition, agenda-setting and policy design. However, it further elaborates that argument, going beyond the cognitive dimension and calling the attention to the sometimes decisive role played by other skills, competencies, attitudes and even ‘global’ networks embodied in the ‘academic background’. The argument is empirically supported by a detailed presentation of a specific policy-making exercise that took place for over a year, dealing with the introduction of substantive changes on established practices in the design and focus of innovation-based regional development policy. The chapter then focus on the reconsideration of the learning–teaching process, following the return to academia, namely going beyond the emphasis on the cognitive dimensions and extending understanding to the capacity to enact transformative changes in society in the prosaic world of practice.
The chapter focuses on the interaction of the career of Jaime Lerner as an architect and urbanist and as a politician, former mayor of Curitiba and governor of the State of Paraná. It invites the reader to explore the formative years and the professional journey of a mayor who deeply shaped the quality of life and the identity of the city of Curitiba, and to reflect upon the resonances and interchanges with a political role. It narrates a personal story, illuminated by concrete examples, of the importance of the architect as the professional of proposal, and of the politician as an agglutinative force of realizing ideas on behalf of the City.
The transformation of local government and planning in South Africa has been, and still will be, a long journey. This paper provides some background for the way in which my political activism, professional planning/geographic work and local governance focus intersected in some of the positions I have held, including as a graduate student at Ohio State University (1978–1982); as a Professor of Town and Regional Planning and leader in some developmental NGOs in the 1980s fighting the apartheid state (1982–1991); whilst an elected political office bearer focussed on the constitutional and legislative provisions for particularly local governance in the new democratic state (1994–1999); as Chairperson of the Municipal Demarcation Board appointed by President Mandela (1999–2009); whilst City Manager in eThekwini (Greater Durban) (2002–2011); and as a director of City Insight (Pty) Ltd (2012 to date), working with local governments facing developmental challenges, and sharing experiences with Palestine, Libya, India and various African countries. The paper reflects on how planning has made a difference in my work spaces, allowing for a better appreciation of: the indivisibility of politics and planning; the importance of building organizations and institutions through planning; the importance of technology and planning skills in support of the oppressed; ways in which planning is democratized when there is easier access to information; that setting agendas is critical in plan making and taking; that the technical–political continuum requires firm leadership and that planners have great opportunities to be involved in policy and implementation programmes.
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.
For more than 40 years, I have dual tasked by working in planning and politics at the same time. I have served for more than 20 years as an elected representative at all three levels of government in Norway. I have been a planner for about 30 years – as a student of planning, a community planner and an associate professor of public planning. I have become increasingly convinced that both my planning theory position and my view of planning in practice are strongly influenced by experiences from my political work. I am equally convinced that the planner in me has been visible in my work as a politician. My knowledge, perception and experience of planning – as a practitioner, teacher and researcher – has shaped me as a politician and undoubtedly influenced my political work. The question is how. I present some tentative answers here in this chapter.