In my courses and research, I have sought to construct and articulate persuasive visions of what might constitute a just and sustainable future for cities and regions. I have also sought to teach practical and politically-astute ways to understand, address, and potentially resolve the conflicts which inevitably occur when visions conflict. When discussing conflict and its potential resolution through argumentation, negotiation, mediation, and collaborative processes, I drew heavily on my own diverse practical experiences. These included being a planner, a consultant, a researcher, an elected city councilman, and a human rights and environmental advocate.
Conceiving of planning as a process that is simultaneously political and technical, I encouraged students to read and listen actively; that is, to discern how particular planning-related arguments are constructed, how those arguments are linked to larger narratives, and how those narratives often tend to obscure or ignore the potential merits of other arguments and narratives. Given the planner's need to act within a context of differing interests and perspectives, I also taught students how to argue persuasively in the face of questions and counter-claims. To teach these skills well, I found it important to conduct most of my classes as a dialogue between the readings, the students, and myself.
After retiring in mid-2010, I shifted my attention to the governance of Iowa City. From 2012 through 2019 I served as an elected member of Iowa City's city council and simultaneously as mayor from 2016 through 2019. This work has led me to begin writing about (1) the relationship between planning and politics at the city scale and (2) how mayors and other elected officials play important roles in co-crafting the step-by-step unfolding of their cities' futures.
Areas of Interest:
Planning theory, persuasive storytelling, and the rhetorics of planning practice
Planning for sustainable places
History of urban and regional planning
Innovative approaches to resolving conflicts