Rhetorical Analysis of the Office of Planning Website

Logo for the District Government Website, taken from their website.

In the District Government Website (DC.gov), the Office of Planning (OP) uses a series of sources to give its audience a picture of different complex local systems. More specifically, according to OP’s “About the DC Office of Planning” page they use historic resources research, community visioning, and the mapping and analysis of US Census data to guide the development of the District of Colombia (DC). In other words, they use outside sources to detect strengths and weaknesses to then create strategic plans and goals to not only revitalize spaces but preserve them. For example, every fiscal year OP releases a performance plan that emphasizes initiatives for improvement and highlights faults that hinder progress against goals for specific regions. For the Office of Planning, then, their mission is to preserve and revitalize neighborhoods, specifically distinctive neighborhoods like Dupont Circle because it leads to positive development of the complex local systems of the District of Colombia.

Logo for the District of Colombia Office of Planning, taken from their website.

In the District Government Website about us page, DC.gov explains that their website is a portal for District government services and information. More precisely, the portal has become a commonplace for over one hundred sub-websites of District government agencies to communicate their information about state, county and municipal functionality. For example, one of the sub-websites in DC.gov is the Office of Planning who as previously clarified provides a series of material that when put together communicates information about the District of Colombia’s different regions. What this means then is that DC.gov uses a variety of different agencies to weave together a complete and extensive data base of all things District of Colombia. For DC.gov, then, providing information and services on their website is important because it facilitates District business and residents to deal with their government. The successful relationship between the website and its audience is what contributes to the success of sub-websites like OP.

A picture of the director of the Office of Planning, Eric D. Shaw.

Who writes these websites? In the DC.gov portal, DC.gov, as suggested before, uses a multitude of authors to create their information database. More specifically, the sub-website (which from now on will be the main focus) for the Office of Planning is managed by a director and senior staff. For instance, OP writes in their ‘Directors Biography’ page, “Eric D. Shaw was appointed by Mayor Muriel Bowser to serve as Director of the DC Office of Planning January 2015.  As director, he manages a staff of 75 who are responsible for neighborhood and systems planning, urban design strategies, data and mapping, historic preservation and development review… He is a strong proponent of equitable development, innovative community engagement and community led implementation of plans”. For OP, this means that finding a leader who shares its common values of equitable growth, original community engagement and community led implementation of plans is essential for its success.

The Office of Planning achieves its goal of positive community development by gathering specific content for specific people equally. Source here.

It was just established who writes for OP, but who is the office writing for? The District Government Website writes in their ‘About Us’ page that their overall audience is visitors from the US and abroad, state and Federal agencies, and District residents and businesses. More specifically, (although not implicitly stated) from their list of divisions it can be inferred that OP targets neighborhood planners, city wide planners, zoning agencies, historic preservation organizations, geographers, and District residents and business. Why target this audience? OP provides very accurate and comprehensive material for not only District business but even for Federal agencies to use and therefore must target an audience that has use for their information. Providing information to the wrong audience would not leads to positive development of the complex local systems of the District of Colombia.

DC Office of Planning Functional Organization Chart September 2016

Now that we know the writer and audience of the Office of Planning let’s expose what information they provide and its sources. As previously mentioned the director of the Office of Planning appointed three senior staff or deputy directors who manage the three major divisions in OP that deal with place, policy, and project. More specifically, according to OP’s ‘DC Office of Planning Functional Organization Chart’ the three major divisions are: Citywide Strategy and Analysis (policy); Planning, Engagement, and Design (place); and Development Review and Historic Preservation (project). According to their website these divisions gather information by, “OP performs planning for neighborhoods, corridors, districts, historic preservation, public facilities, parks and open spaces, and individual sites. In addition, OP engages in urban design, land use, and historic preservation review. OP also conducts historic resources research and community visioning, and manages, analyzes, maps, and disseminates spatial and US Census data”. What this means is that OP uses a combination of internal and external sources to build their information data base. For the Office of Planning, then, using outside sources to make their database more complete is not a problem because it leads to the better development of DC.

Why should any of this matter? Websites like DC.gov provide agencies like the Office of Planning a platform to not only compile their information but to publicize it for other agencies to use for their initiatives. OP uses its platform to communicate information that contributes to initiatives that work towards redeveloping and preserving complex local systems. The importance of the information that OP provides is that it is not exclusive to any one party. Promoting transparency and inclusivity the Office of Planning becomes a common place that engages all communities of DC to participate in the positive development of their district.

A chart of the steps of community engagement. First, the Office of Planning informs; second, its audience consults the sources; third, its audience gains the desire of involvement; fourth, a collaboration is made; and finally, the community is empowered. Source here.

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