The planning commission in any community has a responsibility to inform and educate the public about the purposes of planning. The commission should also report on how the specific problems about which people are concerned are being resolved. In many cities, especially the smaller ones, planning and development proposals stir up more public clamor than any other governmental activity. Good public relations are therefore vital for a planning commission. Without public opinion on its side, the commission's recommendations will lack the kind of support that is required to hurdle the inevitable political opposition of those who would gain from having things go the other way. As Fred Bair put it:

84The first responsibility of the public planner is to the public, present and future, and to the greater public... so the planner's public is broad in its generality. It is also deep. There is a lesson to be learned from a Nigerian chief who said, 'My people are a family in which some are dead, a few are here and many are coming' Serving the general public, the planner's supreme boss, isn't easy because the part of the general public which happens to be on the scene isn't much interested in what happens to the larger part of the general public which isn't there yet. One of the defects of democracy is that the unborn can't vote. The planner must plead their cause for them and it isn't easy. 1

However, the planner's unborn constituency can't be reached for its opinions. This requires that the message of planning should reach as broad a cross section of the "living" public as possible. Its preferences and reactions should be reasonably balanced against the needs of the unborn in making planning decisions. The commission's special tools for successful public relations are information about what has been happening (how much growth, how fast it's coming, how land is being used, and how much housing is available). The commission also needs to respond to the people's expectations for the future. The only way planning can make sense to ordinary citizens is to show them how the changes they see going on now are going to fit together. It is to be hoped that the current changes will fit future aspirations well enough so that the public can have decent expectations about its future in terms of its amenities, its property, its safety, and its children's welfare. Contacts with the public should communicate as much as possible about current programs and problems. They should also seek out and answer criticism. (For example, why is the commission approving so many apartments, mobile home parks, gas stations, fast food stands, and condominiums?)