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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The conditioning of the municipal planning team for administrative decentralization, in anticipation of local area planning of the city of Vancouver Perry, Oliver Ross


This thesis evaluates the preparedness of the professional staff in the municipal planning team for programs of administrative decentralization. Administrative decentralization is defined as the delegation of policymaking and programming authority from the central administration down to subunits or field offices. Its use in professional planning today is local area planning. The impetus behind this thesis is the problem presented by what is called the paradox of desenixsalization. That is, two contradictory motions, the irresistable force and the immovable object, are observed in modern local public administration. On the one hand, the citizen participation movement is refocussing its energies on the civic bureaucracy, demanding that it decentralize its decision-making authority. On the other hand, these civic bureaucracies are, on all accounts, resistant to such reform and incapable of handling these new demands. This paradox suggests that a reconditioning and reorientation of staff competence in the planning organization is required. The thesis is structured in tw© parts: first, the construction of an ideal set of new competencies required of the planner for decentralization; second, the application of this ideal set to a local planning organization. The first dtep is accomplished from a study of past experience in decentralizing planning services, current social planning theory, and administration-organization theory. Prom this analysis, eighteen qualities for the professional planner are concluded and organized into attitudes and values, knowledge, and skills and techniques. The second part of the thesis consists of the application of the ideal set. - A questionnaire containing the model's qualities is developed and applied to the professional staff of the City of Vancouver Planning Department. The form tests for the acceptability and availability of the new competencies as they relate to seven key personnel characteristics of planning organizations. These characteristics are: organizational position, service within the planning profession, personal age, professional background, professional allegiance, organizational allegiance, and experience with decentralization. Two conclusions from the model's application in the case agency stand out. First, organizational position, allegiance to the profession, and experience with decentralization are prime personnel characteristics in staff preparedness for decentralization. Second, the model's themes of politics-intervention and humility contain the crucial qualities for administrative decentralization in contemporary planning organizations inasmuch as they are both unacceptable to and unavailable in the case agency. With these discoveries, the research ends with some general anticipation of the evolving local area planning program sponsored by the City of Vancouver Planning Department. The ideal set of new competencies is also refined, and the paradox of decentralization is re-evaluated. The thesis predicts that future local area planning in Vancouver will be faced with the dilemma of matching policy and goals with program and delivery, that new approaches in planning style will meet with intra-departmental oonflict, and that there will be a tendency to follow the path set by the centralist-traditionalist counterpart. In the refinement of the model, the themes of politics-intervention and humility are reconsidered in view of their importance to decentralization. In the former theme, three new levels of intervention for the planner are distinguished, along with their respective competencies for the professional. In the latter theme, the distinction between professional and personal humility is sharpened. Lastly, the paradox of decentralization, upon reconsideration, appears to be overstated. The planning organization, as represented by the City of Vancouver Planning Department, is not the immovable object depicted in current commentary and theory. Rather, it appears to be in a state of transition between the inanimate bureaucratic form and the innovative organization implied in the ideal set of new competencies.

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