Planning takes place in a highly political environment because (1) planning often involves issues in which citizens have a large emotional stake; (2) the results of planning decisions are often highly visible; (3) planning questions are more accessible to citizens than those handled at the state or national level; (4) citizens feel they have insight into planning questions and are not overly deferential to planners' expertise; (5) planning decisions often have large financial effects on property owners; and (6) planning decisions may have significant effects on property tax rates.
Planners exercise little or no power directly but rather affect events to the extent that they affect the political processes of the community. In the last several decades, the idea of planning as a nonpolitical process has given way to a more realistic view of the planner as one of a number of participants in the political process. The older view of the planner as presenting a finished plan to the community has now been supplanted by the view that planning is a community process, one that the planner facilitates and supports with technical expertise.
Depending on the community and the personality and ideology of the planner(s), a variety of planning styles can be identified: (1) the planner as neutral public servant; (2) the planner as builder of community consensus; (3) the planner as entrepreneur; (4) the planner as advocate, and (5) the planner as agent of radical change.