By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The American Planning Association defines planning as a “dynamic profession that works to improve the welfare of people and their communities by creating more convenient, healthful, efficient, and attractive places for present and future generations.
Mayoral candid Ed Shadid believes there is a decline occurring in the City Planning department, to the detriment of a happier and healthier Oklahoma City.
”What all of those goals translate into is the creation of a ‘built’ environment, which influences our level of happiness,” said Shadid.
“I believe there are three principles which are most important in the way the design of the built environment influences our mental health: Happiness is driven more by experience than things; our physical health influences our mental health; and we thrive when we are part of a community.”
Shadid says that planners must be aware of the human experience that is created by the plan they have constructed.
“Planners oversee the placement and use of public capital facilities and systems such as streets, sidewalks and bridges, which facilitates our interaction with one another,” Shadid said. “People in general, like to be with one another and thrive when they are able to experience community.”
Shadid believes that planning, or lack thereof, represents both the greatest opportunity and the greatest threat to Oklahoma City’s short and long-term communal health.
He feels one of the threats is Oklahoma City’s struggle with mental health issues.
Two out of every three visits to an emergency room by a senior citizen are drug and alcohol related. In addition, Oklahoma City has the highest per capita opiate prescription rates in the world.
“Our populace, as a whole, is subjected to record amounts of physical and sexual violence towards children, high poverty rates, rampant domestic violence, depression and addiction.
“In looking for causes of these epidemics, we find that we have largely designed an automobile-centric city,” Shadid said. “This has led to many of us living in isolation from one another.”
“For 40 years (1960-2000) we hardly bothered to build sidewalks,” Shadid said.
According to Shadid this leads to the unequal availability of services, which he feels ultimately leads to a City’s decline.
Shadid said. “Almost every modern social problem including poor health, violence, lack of community life, lower trust, lower educational attainment, teen pregnancy and mental illness is more likely to occur in a society where there is social inequality resulting from unequal availability of services.”
Shadid contends the city is already seeing such an erosion of social capital, justice and delivery of basic social and public goods.
“Planning, elevated to its rightful pedestal in city government, can help shape our daily living experience in a way which is healthy.”
Shadid cites that planning can help produce a functional transit system which will allow many living in isolation, especially senior citizens who cannot drive and those living in poverty, to be more engaged in the community.
“Incorporating sidewalks and bus shelters placed strategically for the convenience of members of the community can have a tremendous impact on the development and use of a transit system,” he said.
Shadid points out that the popular Plaza District, with its group of 32 vibrant businesses is an example of how planning can foster community building.
Shadid feels the planning department is going through negative changes.
“The departure of Planning Director Russell Claus, and so many other planners just before him, should be a red flag for us as a city,” Shadid said. “The current decimation of our planning department poses risk to our collective financial, physical and mental health.”
After five years as Oklahoma City’s top planning official, Russell Claus is moving his family back to his homeland of Queensland, Australia in mid February. There he will serve as planning director in Rockhampton, Queensland.
Shadid says that city planning is the key to good and economic implementation saying, “Making planning a high priority of city government is crucial to the health of our city.”