Well, that wasn’t he part of the quote that I was trying to emphasize, I’m not going to stand here and say that the government has cornered the market on corruption, the argument really isn’t about morality, its about social functions.
You are entitled to your assessment of Jane Jacob’s work but her contribution to urban design theory is undeniable. She was an author, an activist and advocate. She came on the scene at a pivotal time during the 1960’s as the urban renewal movement was spreading all over north america like a virus. She was one of the first and strongest voices against this movement and her writings on the subject of urbanism motivated many professionals and civic leaders to shift their own ways of thinking about the urban environment and policy. I would argue that any planner today who is a student of urbanism and is seeking to foster vibrant neighborhoods and walkable communities built with people in mind, not automobiles, is practicing on a daily basis what Jane preached, and probably owes her some credit for bringing the focus of planning back to protecting the quality of the human experience.
On the topic of regulations, I think the proliferation of landscape and planning ordinances, guidelines, and regulations actually result in a form of job security for LA’s and Planners, both private and public. The same way the complex tax code creates work for tax accountants and the IRS, the codes keep business coming to us. The difference is that accountants only have a federal and state code to become familiar with, an LA has a different code to follow in every jurisdiction (and depending on overlays, there could be several within a jurisdiction).
Though, I recognize the frustrations you must feel dealing with so many private consultants on a daily basis. It can be difficult to run over the same information time and time again. But keep in mind, the private consultants do not have the luxury of time to become as intimately familiar with the codes for your area as you do, and this reality is also part of the reason why you have a job. What would be the use of having someone review the plans if non-conformities were never found?
I agree that cross-training in the public/private sectors can be very beneficial. But I’m sticking to my point that the best design work is done by the private sector. Parts of the public sector are capable of providing their own design services, but in general terms they do not do it as well or as efficiently as the private sector.
My firm conducts 3rd party design review for a small community north of Nashville. In those instances even though we are a privately held company we are acting purely as “The Guardian”. It is a standing contract with the city and we are not paid for productivity, though we do have review-time guidelines which we adhere to, the focus is the same as if we were government employees…
-Does the design meet the regulations?
-Is the health, safety and welfare of the citizens being protected?
-If yes, good. If not, we give comments.
You may not be comfortable with Jane Jacob’s analogy of the “The Guardian and Commerce,” but I’ve yet to hear a more compelling one.