Wednesday, March 30, 2016

NashvilleNext Receives National Planning Award from the American Planning Association

Press Release, Washington, D.C. – NashvilleNext, a three-year regional planning effort providing a 25-year vision for Metro Nashville/Davidson County, Tennessee, has been named recipient of the American Planning Association’s (APA) prestigious 2016 Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan.

APA’s Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan is presented annually to a plan that advances planning—the work of building and enriching communities. The award is named for Daniel Burnham, one of the nation’s most renowned urban planners.

A combined effort by city planners, 17 metro departments, and over 18,500 community participants, NashvilleNext provides a plan of action to achieve the community’s long-term vision. It addresses seven distinct elements, updates all 14 of Nashville’s community plans, and refreshes the planning commission’s multimodal transportation and right-of-way plans.

“NashvilleNext is a true community-driven plan to guide and grow Nashville in a way that benefits everyone,” said Doug Sloan, Executive Director of Nashville’s Metropolitan Planning Department. “Receiving this award is an honor for Nashville itself, as so many community members were involved in the planning and continue to work toward implementing our vision to become an even greater city.”

The planning process was guided by four core values or goals for the city: opportunity and inclusion, economic prosperity, healthy environment, and efficient government. The planning staff focused on the contributing interests that most affect the daily lives of residents. From the extensive public engagement, two themes emerged as key issues: preserving rural and neighborhood character, culture, and diversity; and improving affordability, transit, and economic opportunity.

“The thorough approach NashvilleNext took to understanding the diverse concerns of the community in updating its general plan is a model for comprehensive city planning everywhere,” said W. Shedrick Coleman, 2016 APA Awards Jury chair.  “Community involvement is the foundation of sound planning and the surest indicator of its success.”

Read more about NashvilleNext.

The 2016 APA National Planning Award recipients will be honored at a special luncheon on April 4, 2016, during the APA National Planning Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. The award winners will also be featured in the April 2016 issue of Planning magazine. For a list of all of the APA 2016 National Planning Excellence and Achievement Award recipients, visit www.

APA’s national awards program, the profession’s highest honor, is a proud tradition established more than 50 years ago to recognize outstanding community plans, planning programs and initiatives, public education efforts, and individuals for their leadership on planning issues.

The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities.APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the art, science, and profession of good planning–physical, economic and social–so as to create communities that offer better choices for where and how people work and live. APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago. For more information, visit .

My Comment: I guess we should feel honored and pleased, but somehow I don't.  What does it mean to say the plan had 18,500 participants.  That somehow is supposed to give the plan legitimacy. Some of the 18,500 participants are people who visited the website once or answered one survey.  Also, those at the meetings were not a representative cross section of Nashville; they were people who care a lot about planning issues or particular topics. If the session was on housing, there were not normal people at that session, there were advocates of affordable housing and the same for other session devoted to particular topics. 

I sort of feel like the process was a sham. I think the 18,500 participants were just props to justify a preconceived notion of what should be in the plan. I felt part of the plan was boilerplate text and they just changed the name of the city.  I don't really believe, "NashvilleNext is a true community-driven plan to guide and grow Nashville in a way that benefits everyone."

I did take part. I went to several of the public sessions.  I heard from some good speakers and enjoyed some thought provoking discussion. I put little sticky dots on various policy options. I played on the NashvilleNext website. I think all of this public participation however was designed to make it feel like like "a true community-driven plan."

I don't know how much this process cost. If you go to the NashvilleNext website you do not find that information. I think we would have been just as well served if the staff of the planning commission would have developed a plan, presented it to the Planning Commission, and after their approval it was sent to the Metro Council to be adopted after the Council had a public hearing. I would have felt like it was as much "my" plan as I feel the NashvilleNext is "my" plan. A mass of people cannot draw up a plan and 18,500 people can not develop a plan. Representative Democracy already has a mechanism for conducting the affairs of the public.

The plan is hundreds of pages long. I have not read it. I doubt many of the 18,500 participants have read it either, but it will give policy makers a justification for doing whatever they want to do, when they say, "It is in the NashvilleNext Plan. That is what the people of Nashville want."

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