The Planners Network (PN) is an association of professionals, activists, academics, and students involved in physical, social, economic, and environmental planning in urban and rural areas. Using “progressive planning” to “eliminate inequalities and promote peace and racial, economic and environmental justice,” PN “work[s] with other progressive organizations to inform public opinion and public policy.”
PN also helps “progressive planners” stay informed and network with one another by means of its monthly e-newsletter containing member updates, job listings, event announcements, and other resources; its quarterly magazine, Progressive Planning, which publishes reports and analyses relevant to that professional discipline; conferences featuring guest speakers and participatory workshops designed to help inform political strategies at the local, national, and international levels; a pn-net discussion listserv, which allows PN members to post and respond to queries, list job postings, and share resources and event announcements; and 21 local PN chapters—4 in Canada and 17 in the U.S.—that organize events and discussions around significant local issues. Further, PN has published a Disorientation Guide, replete with ideas for activist events, which serves as “a how-to manual for a progressive planning education.”
Depicting America as a nation rife with “racial, economic, and environmental injustice” as well as “discrimination by gender and sexual orientation,” PN seeks to “eliminate the great inequalities of wealth and power in our society” by promoting “fundamental change in our political and economic systems.” In PN’s calculus, the achievement of “greater equity” in “our global society”—whereby all people would have access to “adequate food, clothing, housing, medical care, jobs, safe working conditions, and a healthful environment”—is a “public responsibility” to be funded by taxpayers. “The private market,” says PN, “has proven incapable of doing so.”
PN’s earliest roots date back to 1975, when urban planner Chester Hartman sought “to put the few hundred North American ‘radical planners’ in regular touch with one another, to share ideas and experiences, discuss their work and lives, develop some sense of community and mutual support.” To jump-start his idea, Hartman distributed a newsletter that proposed “radical and socialist alternatives to mainstream urban planning.” In the years since then, Hartman has gone on to become an author, a university professor, the founding executive director of the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, and a fellow at both the Institute for Policy Studies and the Transnational Institute (in Amsterdam).
The first move toward formalizing PN’s status as an organization came at a 1979 conference on progressive planning at Cornell University. Two years later, PN held its own first conference—at the National 4-H Center outside Washington, DC—where it adopted a statement of principles, established several working groups, and formed a steering committee.
In 1985, PN issued a “Call for Social Responsibility in the Planning and Building Professions,” which denounced nuclear weapons, cutbacks in social-welfare spending, and America’s allegedly aggressive foreign policy. Further, the document called for “economic and racial justice at home.”
In March 2003, PN condemned the U.S. invasion of Iraq as “a war that imposes the will of the mightiest nation in the world on a population that is helpless.” America’s “occupation of Iraq will only expand inequalities and facilitate the plunder by the U.S. of Iraqi resources and labor,” said PN.
In 2004, PN—asserting that “urban and rural land should be planned in a way that fosters interactions and connections between people and the elimination of social, economic and ethnic barriers”—denounced Israel’s proposed construction of a separation barrier near the West Bank to stop Palestinian terrorists from entering the Jewish state. Asserting that the Israeli barrier would create “isolated Palestinian ghettos, comparable to the Bantustans of South African apartheid,” PN characterized the initiative as “the latest tactic to realize the Israeli government’s long-range plan to displace Palestinian people and gain control over the resources of the Occupied Territories.” Objecting to America’s close relationship with Israel, PN on another occasion said: “The U.S. supports, through its foreign aid, the construction of walls, very much like the Berlin Wall, that divide people based on ethnicity.”
In 2010, PN described as “odious” the Arizona Immigration Law deputizing state police to check with federal authorities on the immigration status of criminal suspects whose behavior or circumstances seemed to indicate that they might be in the United States illegally. According to PN, this law represented “an attack on the human rights and dignity of immigrants and people of color,” and “an affront to the extraordinary contributions and sacrifices that immigrants have made … to the social, cultural and economic fabric of the country.” Further, PN warned that the law would “ope[n] the door to racial profiling”; “threate[n] the basic civil liberties of all ethnic minorities in Arizona”; “breed mistrust between local law-enforcement officials and local communities”; and “instill fear and insecurity among the … undocumented immigrants who reside and work in the state.”