Jena Skinner, AICP
Hollywood and Planners
Updated: Jul 16, 2020
Black Lives Matter is a movement that appears in the history timeline around 2013 as hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teen, Trayvon Martin in February 2012. As you are aware (or you live in cabin without electricity/internet/cellphones - which also means you proibably wouldn't be reading this, so never mind...) this even more powerful movement has become part of our consciousness. As an added bonus, online media providers have been offering $0 rentals on pivotal movies featuring true stories, like Brian Banks. This movie in particluar (as I have watched many), actually made me think about planning.
Brian banks is a biopic starring Aldis Hodge as the titular NFL linebacker who had spent time in prison after high school when he was falsely accused of rape. The movie follows his story from the time of his release from prison as he attempts to clear his name and pursue a professional football career. He does this by relentlessly contacting the California Innocence Project, even after they turned him down. Check out their story here.
During this movie, Greg Kinnear (as Justin Brooks) realizes that he, in defending and/or regurgitating the predictablility of the broken justice system and how it "works", he himself may be part of the problem. Well that got me thinking...
I question codes often: are they helping or hindering the public's use there of; is it creating needless red tape; can this code be understood by someone with a grade 8 reading level; where did those road standards come from as they create needlessly huge roads- and so on. I also have worked for government for upwards of a decade, and I know the mentality of what jurisdictions look for in a project. I can predict what issues will come up before they actually do, and I am most times right in my predictions. HOWEVER, it dawned on me that I was doing what Greg Kinnear's character was doing: working within a system giving recommendations and implementing/incorporating this and thats, in order to acheive an approval for my clients. Crap. Am I questioning the wrong thing, or more precisely, not challenging the jurisdiction enough in addition to the code? I think that I am. And it's lonely, but I am tired of how our communities are "growing" so safe that good projects are being denied and I don't want to be that safe anymore, rather; if I'm going down, I'd rather present some truth in the faces of the deniers about the system they have created.
My problem: I often struggle in our sexist world about how outspoken I am on a daily basis, as I have been silenced, disregarded, almost fired (people tried to get me fired, but were not successful). In contrast, there are male planners in this valley that speak their minds and they are honored in the process. People call them trailblazers, and brag about their bravery. Unfortunately, I don't know of any female planners around here that have acheived such determiners. The good news is, planning is my passion and if you're reading this, it must be important to you as well. So help me out. Send me a quick vibe of support. I may just change someone's life as a result.