Urban planners in the USA think THEY have it rough when the community’s Plan sits on the shelf and decision-makers ignore long-term goals for short-term expediency.
The acronym NIMTOO = “Not In My Term Of Office” comes to mine. That’s when local elected officials just don’t want to rock the boat and anger their constituents. They prefer to leave the tough decisions to their successors.
Today I learned about some of the really tough obstacles confronting Al Nuseirat Municipality, a city of 80,000-90,000 people in the Gaza Strip.
The local elected officials invited me to visit and talk about urban planning from the US perspective. I quickly learned that nothing in my education or experience as a city planner in California could have prepared me for the challenges in Al Nuseirat.
These local elected officials clearly understand the importance of thinking 5-10-20 years out and planning for a better future. They discussed some of the public planning processes and planning documents they have prepared for Al Nuseirat. They shared some of the resource demands and challenges with me, but then reality set in.
How does a community “plan” when Israel bombs infrastructure improvements? How does a community “plan” when there is no local economy and projects are funded by foreign donors who may, or may not, like the community’s plan? How does a community “plan” when current needs and demands overwhelm the local government’s capacity to respond?
Today I clearly saw the intersection of crisis management and long-term planning and my heart broke because I heard these elected decision-makers express their desire and respect for planning, unlike many elected officials I’ve talked with in the USA.
Living under occupation, at the mercy of an occupying power with an international community (especially the USA) supporting the occupation, community planning is a challenge, to say the least.
I returned to the house after this meeting convinced that the first goal of any community plan in the Gaza Strip must be the end of the occupation and siege.