James A. Throgmorton

Brown bag lecture on the intersection of planning and politics

Wednesday, November 2
12 noon - 1:00 pm
Hayes 328
All participants are invited to bring their own lunch to this lecture

About Jim:

James A. Throgmorton.

James A. Throgmorton

James A. (Jim) Throgmorton received a B.A. in history from Notre Dame in 1966, a M.S. in community development from the University of Louisville in 1972, and a Ph.D. in urban and regional planning from UCLA in 1983. He taught urban and regional planning at the University of Iowa for 24 years until retiring as an emeritus professor in 2010. He is the author of Planning as Persuasive Storytelling (1996), Co-Crafting the Just City (2022), and dozens of articles in scholarly journals and edited books. In collaboration with Barbara Eckstein, he also co-edited Story and Sustainability (2003). As an active resident of Iowa City, Iowa, he served as an elected member of its city council from late-1993 through 1995 and again from 2012 through 2019. During the last four years of his council term he also served as mayor. As mayor, he vigorously led efforts to foster a more inclusive, just, and sustainable city. 

Jim Throgmorton’s latest book and subject of this lecture are available to read through the UB Library collection

"Co-Crafting the Just City - Tales from the Field from a Planning Scholar Turned Mayor"

Lecture Abstract

Co-crafting the Just City: Learning from Practice and Critical Reflection

Urban and spatial planners often serve quite ably in local governments, but they (and the scholars who study and theorize what planners do) rarely govern. Consequently, despite recognizing the unavoidable political aspects of planners’ work, planners and scholars of planning often do not understand what it is like to serve as elected officials who are trying to improve the quality of their cities while being immersed in a complex, emotionally-charged, and politically-contentious flow of action. With the notable exception of Louis Albrechts’ (2019) Planners in Politics, very few planning scholars have treated elected officials as key actors who shape local planning. As Albrechts (p. 263) writes, “political decision-making often seems like a black box to planners.” My paper – which summarizes and builds upon on my new book, Co-crafting the Just City – seeks to shine light into that black box. Narrated from my perspective as a city council member and (for the last four years, as mayor), the book reports how, using democratic processes of governance, the residents and elected leaders of one city in the midwest of the United States (Iowa City, Iowa) tried from 2012 through 2019 to co-craft their city's future while being immersed in a complex and contentious flow of action. After summarizing what I learned and drawing upon recent publications (e.g., Gary Gerstle’s The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order), my paper will conclude with some specific recommendations about how planning theorists could help local elected officials, their planners, and others co-craft the unfolding of better cities.