Nation’s Planners Condemn Sen. Lott Remarks

December 13, 2002

WASHINGTON, DC In an unusual move, the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) today condemned the remarks made by Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi on December 5 suggesting that the United States “wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years” if Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), the presidential nominee of the breakaway Dixiecrat Party and a strong racial segregationist, had been elected president in 1948.

“The AICP Board of Commissioners can no longer remain silent when one of our nation’s leaders espouses policies of racial segregation,” said AICP President Sam Casella of Tallahassee, Florida. “Sen. Lott’s comments legitimize the racial bigotry that has led to the racially discriminatory exclusionary zoning and housing policies that make it so difficult for professional planners to conduct the inclusionary planning they are pledged to implement.”

Under the AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, urban and regional planners are duty-bound not to engage in planning practices that exclude minorities from many communities. Racial discrimination underlies most of our nation’s domestic problems that planners are working to solve, the AICP Commission said. “We have a principled obligation to demand that someone holding such beliefs not lead the Senate,” Casella said. He added that two of AICP’s primary responsibilities are to support the ethics of its members who must often contend with similar bigotry in their capacity as planners in communities where residents supporting racial segregation attempt to subvert fair land use, environmental, and infrastructure decisions.

“Just which ‘problems’ does Senator Lott mean,” asked AICP President-Elect Daniel Lauber of River Forest, Illinois. “Is he referring to the development of racially integrated communities? Is he talking about the many suburbs that have been built to enable whites to live away from African-Americans? Does he believe that the color of people’s skin should exclude them from holding professional jobs like planners, doctors, or lawyers ù jobs from which African-Americans were actually barred by law under racial segregation? Does he think that African-Americans should not have full access to living the American Dream?

“Racial segregation in housing continues to be one of the great obstacles accessing quality education and decent living environments for a huge proportion of African-Americans,” added Lauber. “Professional city planners want to fulfill their obligations under the AICP Code of Professional Responsibility. When elected officials like Sen. Lott make statements that support racial segregation, it makes it difficult, if not impossible, for us to perform our jobs ethically and to practice sound planning.”

“The tragedy with racism is that it never really goes away,” noted AICP Commissioner Mark Winogrond of Venice, California. “It simply becomes more emboldened whenever we are more tolerant of it, whenever we stop challenging it. When the spotlight is on it, it retreats back into its ugly hole ù much the way Sen. Lott is now backtracking,” Winogrond added.

Located in Washington, D.C., AICP is the professional institute of the American Planning Association (APA). According to the AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, members of AICP are ethically obligated facilitate tolerant, inclusive communities, and to guard against exclusionary zoning and other discriminatory practices. The AICP ethics code states that AICP members must:

“Strive to expand choice and opportunity for all persons, recognizing a special responsibility to plan for the needs of disadvantaged groups and persons, and must urge the alteration of policies, institutions and decisions which oppose such needs; and

“Strive to increase the opportunities for women and members of recognized minorities to become professional planners.”

For further comments, contact:
• Sam Casella, AICP President: (Tallahassee, Florida)
• Daniel Lauber, AICP President-Elect: (River Forest, Illinois)
• Mark Winogrond, AICP Commissioner: (Venice, California)

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