We live in an age where the sound bite rules. And on the sound bite-savvy spectrum, you’ve got defense attorneys like the late Johnnie Cochran on one end and planners and developers as far on the other end as possible, argues Riverside government official Rick Bishop in a column posted yesterday.

Bishop uses Cochran’s famous seven-word summary of O.J. Simpson’s defense in 1995 – “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” – to demonstrate Cochran’s mastery of the concept. The phrase referred to the fact that Simpson couldn’t fit his hand into a bloody glove found at the murder scene.

Everyone’s doing it, or so it seems – advertisers, politicians and even many reporters (gasp) seek to shorten and sweeten their message with hopes of reaching an audience full of short-attention spans.

Everyone, that is, except the planning world, which “remains mired in old-fashioned report writing and long-winded presentations,” says Bishop. He mentions a report on patio covers that was 25 pages long. So he came up with a few humorous examples of ways planners could get their message across, without using an entire tree’s worth of paper to do so.

Here are a couple of his ideas:

Want to integrate European planning strategies that embrace smart growth, mixed-use, and pedestrian-oriented techniques? “If it looks like the Louvre, you must approve” should do the trick.

And

Want to show some deference to environmentalists but still need that new freeway to cut through sensitive habitat? Use “It may destroy the woods, but it will help to move goods.”

Here’s another:

Have a City Council that is sprawl-oriented? Hey, “It’s no offense to approve something dense.” Conversely, is the Council approving too many units? Try “Stop the propensity for an intensity of density.”

Check out the other ideas Bishop came up with, especially the one strategizing against a liquor store being put next to a planned community. I won’t steal all of his thunder, but I will give him props for rhyming “bourbon” with “suburban.” The Bard would be proud.

The Centre City Development Corp. is getting there, I think, with their motto, “Never underestimate the power of the waterfront.” Sure, it’s a little dramatic, but at least it’s short and snappy.

Thanks to a good friend of mine who covers development and growth for a daily newspaper in the bustling metropolis of Rogers, Ark. She forwarded me the article this morning with the subject line, “A little urban planning humor.” Didn’t know there was such a thing.

If you come up with some more good ones, send ’em in. I’ll post the best ones later today.

KELLY BENNETT

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