[Some writers] have targeted professional planners as part of the problem rather than as part of the solution. I would say emphatically that this suggestion is wrong. While any profession has members with a range of competencies, this profession’s members – who are certified by national examinations administered by ETS -- also are accountable to clients or, in the public sector, elected officials. It is usually these clients or officials who prefer not to take the environmentally astute courses of action that are almost always recommended by certified professional planners at some point, frequently off-the-record, in the planning processes. I wish that politically INDEPENDENT planning commissions were realities but this concept ended for all intents and purposes during the Post WWII period of urban renewal and suburbanization.
This is a complex subject, nationally as well as locally. Independent, professionalized planning, of the sort that had its heyday in first half of the 20th century, has largely disappeared -- though it's not only vested political interests who have been happy to see it go. Some of that older, professional tradition had a Progressive (capital P) "we know what's good for you" tone, and we should be glad when we see that the tone has gone away (where it has) and suspicious where it hasn't. City planning is a delicate business; as Jane Jacobs persuaded much of America more than 40 years ago, "independent" planners have damaged as much of the fabric of American cities as they have restored. As Jim notes elsewhere in his message, neighborhood organizations can be productive partners in planning processes -- provided that "progress" rather than "growth" is the benchmark.