San José State University - URBP 200
Professor Asha Weinstein - Fall 2004

Personal Reflections Assignment Part B: Ethics Analysis

(Due in class on 10/18/04)

Purpose:

This assignment gives you a chance to think and write about how you, personally, would respond to an ethically challenging situation facing a professional planner.

Description:

In this assignment, you will write a memo as follows: Pretend that you have asked a trusted colleague (who does not work for the same firm) to advise you on a troublesome situation at work (see scenario below). Your colleague has said she will be glad to talk through the problem with you, but that she would first like you to write a memo explaining the situation and your thoughts on how you might respond.  In particular, she asks that your memo do the following:

  1. Briefly describe the situation facing you in no more than one paragraph. (Note: Be sure to use your own words to do this, and don’t copy directly from my assignment sheet when describing the situation.)
  2. Explain which elements of the AICP/APA ethics codes you are worried about violating and why, as well as discussing any additional ethical principles important to you.  (Note that you should refer to the code itself, which is section D of the “Principles in planning,” and not the "principles" set out at the beginning of the statement.)
  3. Describe three alternative courses of actions you are considering.
  4. Present the pros and cons of each alternative, plus a recommendation of which one you are thinking of choosing and why.

Format: 

5-6 pages, typed (Times New Roman font, 1-inch margins, 12-point type, line spacing set at “2”). The assignment should be about 1,750 to 2,100 words in length. Please note that six pages is the maximum for this paper; I will stop reading (and grading) after that point.

All citations to readings should be prepared according to the directions on the course syllabus.

Grading: 

You will be graded on (1) the quality of your analysis; (2) the clarity, organization, and grammatical correctness of your writing; and (3) whether or not your memo covers all topics specified. 

This assignment is worth 20% of your course grade. Note: I have no preconceived idea of the “right” action you should recommend, and I will in no way base your grade on the particular views you express.

Scenario:*

You work for a small planning consultancy named PlanRite, where you have had a long and happy career. You are a member of AICP.

PlanRight has just been hired for yet another project by the city of Paradise Valley, which is one of PlanRight’s most important clients. The future of the firm is, in fact, at the moment highly dependent on a steady flow of work from Paradise, and were PlanRite to lose this contract, management would be forced to lay off staff.

The Paradise Valley planning department has decided to apply for money through a state grant program that would be used to attract a developer to create a small shopping center in a low-income part of the community. The highlight of the mall will be a grocery store, something the community lacks. Currently the only local place to buy groceries is a small liquor/convenience store, and residents have complained for years that they want a grocery store with lower prices and greater selection. Many of them do not own cars, and traveling by bus several miles to the nearest big grocery store is a real hardship.

The city’s planning director, Ms. Farra Vizion, has hired PlanRite to analyze the potential market demand for a new shopping mall and grocery store. This analysis will be at the center of the city’s application for the state money. After PlanRite’s director has signed the contract and assigned you to do the work, you go to meet with Ms. Vizion. At the meeting, you are surprised to hear her say that she thinks that doing the market analysis will be a bit “tricky,” and that you therefore have to be “aggressive” in how you do the work to make sure that the grant application shows the mall will be highly successful. This should be easy, she adds, since you have complete control over what assumptions you use in the market analysis to estimate future trends (i.e., how fast the local population will grow in the next few years, how far people will travel to shop at this particular mall, and how much money they will spend at it). That afternoon you spend a couple of hours doing some quick, preliminary analysis and realize why Vizion used the word “tricky”—your preliminary analysis suggests there won’t be enough business to support the project.

* This scenario is adopted from one in Carol D. Barrett’s 2002 book Everyday Ethics for Practicing Planners (Washington, D.C.: APA Planners Press).


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