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Plan Fit or Plan Fat 


Insight into the motivations of the Coalition for Property Rights, discussed in “Town Holler” (June 18), is offered by their treatment of Public Health Office Dr. Ann Lindsay last September, as she offered her recommendations on the General Plan Update to the Board of Supervisors. When she commented that “the way we build the world around us, and the policies we implement through land use planning processes, have significant impacts on public health,” the realtors were incensed enough to ask the Board not to adopt her report and to accuse her of “social engineering.” Their publication this summer questioned her scientific integrity by suggesting she was being manipulated by the Planning Department.

Her statement — an axiom for life scientists, that species are dependent upon their habitats — did not invite expressions of concern from our realtors over some of the more dismal facts of our county’s health well known by Dr. Lindsay — we’re in the top five for diabetes, 37 percent obesity rate, etc. — but instead an attack on planning itself. Max Baucus, Chair of the Senate Financial Committee, had a similar reaction to a query as to why he would not allow single payer (health care paid for by the government) to be put on the table. Quoth Senator Baucus: “We’re a different country ... it’s kind of a ‘go West, young man,’ you know, in America…”

It is this exceptionalism, this immaturity, this allegiance to beliefs and feelings regardless of the facts, which distinguish us from other nations. In the wild days invoked by Senator Baucus, elders sent their young men west to make their fortunes, where there were no rules which could not be broken, where resources could be consumed without having to worry about neighbors. But we’ve already gone West. There is no longer any place for those young men to go with the Senator’s maverick anthem except into a world of exhausted resources, such as the salmon mentioned by Jennifer Kalt.

Plus, planning works. In Oklahoma City, for instance, Mayor Mick Cornett, chagrined when his city was dubbed the “Fast Food Capital of America” by Fortune magazine in 2007, challenged his city to lose 1 million pounds. In 16 months they’re nearing a 400,000 pound weight loss and having lots of fun doing it. They’ve added 72,000 jobs, have one of the country’s strongest housing markets, solid growth in agriculture, energy and manufacturing, have improved bicycle routes and public transportation and greatly enlarged parks and green spaces. Forbes magazine just nominated Oklahoma City as the “most recession-proof city in America.”

Like other species, our health is determined by our environment, which in turn is shaped by planning. It is time for us to measure our resources — water, energy, food, wildlife, health — just like the rest of the world.

Ellen Taylor, Petrolia

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