It is such a privilege to be part of the planning community and a distinct and humbling honor to lead the South Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association (SCAPA). As I work here in South Carolina, travel to projects around the country, and volunteer within this organization, I am continuously reminded of the “Big Tent” that planning embraces. Inclusiveness is not just a concept for planners, it is a way of life.

We exhibit our passion for inclusion through the way we work with communities and the manner in which we build our profession. I often speak about the agility of planning and that we have the luxury of many specialties within the planning profession that provides planners the opportunity to reinvent themselves without actually changing career paths. This also allows us to welcome individuals from all walks of life and backgrounds into planning. We embrace these unique perspectives, knowing that each new viewpoint makes our profession stronger. While we strive to make the planning profession elite and valued, the concept of elitism is not part of our lexicon and I hope that it never will be.

During the “silly season” that we are in with Presidential primaries, pontificating, and posturing, you often hear about one or another political party’s efforts to increase their reach to new constituencies referred to as them having a “Big Tent.” However, those are generally just words and platitudes aimed at securing votes. While I believe planning’s “Big Tent” is much more genuine, we still have work to do. It is important that we not only welcome inclusivity in planning but encourage, nurture, and create opportunities for inclusion as well.

Broadening our reach and providing meaningful opportunities for everyone to be involved in planning is firmly embedded in the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. Whether you are AICP certified or not, the tenets espoused within the Code are applicable to all members of SCAPA, board and commission members, and planning staff. The Code’s “Principles to Which We Aspire” offer many standards that speak of planning’s desired inclusiveness. A sampling include:

  • We shall give people the opportunity to have a meaningful impact on the development of plans and programs that may affect them. Participation should be broad enough to include those who lack formal organization or influence.
  • We shall seek social justice by working to expand choice and opportunity for all persons, recognizing a special responsibility to plan for the needs of the disadvantaged and to promote racial and economic integration. We shall urge the alteration of policies, institutions, and decisions that oppose such needs.
  • We shall contribute time and resources to the professional development of students, interns, beginning professionals, and other colleagues.
  • We shall increase the opportunities for members of underrepresented groups to become professional planners and help them advance in the profession.

I invite your ideas on how SCAPA can be a more inclusive organization. Additionally, I hope that you will consider getting actively involved with SCAPA by seeking an officer position on SCAPA’s Executive Committee. The call for nominations has been sent, and we desire a strong, diverse representation of our membership to step up and run for office. It is exciting what can be accomplished when we as individuals amass our time and talents to work together for the realization of common goals – that is planning!

It takes all of us to make SCAPA and the planning profession great. I thank you for allowing me to serve as your President.

-Ernie