by Justin Pascone
Earlier this month, over 300 architects, advocates, and leaders from across the country came to our nation’s capital to say, in one voice: “We are architects. We build your homes, your schools, your hospitals, your offices and your houses of worship. We are concerned.” The context for this great chorus was AIA’s 2017 Grassroots Leadership Conference, this year held on March 8-10, 2017. The annual gathering brings together AIA leaders from chapters and components around the country, allowing members and staff the opportunity to provide input on AIA initiatives, share information and ideas, and agree on best practices with their peers from around the country. It also provides a unique forum for the AIA and its members to speak directly with their representatives in Congress.
Collectively, the AIA held over 150 meetings with members of Congress during the three days in Washington. They came to speak up for the profession, sharing the AIA’s agenda with their lawmakers and making sure that when policymakers vote on issues that matter to architects, architects are at the table. In a time of increased polarization and partisanship, it is important for architects to build these relationships with lawmakers and help ensure that the profession remains strong.
Guided by AIA’s Federal Agenda for the 115th Congress and the new administration, the AIA met with representatives on both sides of the aisle, including the offices of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Dianne Feinstein, Marco Rubio, Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, and Lindsey Graham. The agenda reflects the opinions of thousands of AIA members who answered last fall’s Call for Issues survey, and speaks to the values that define the profession.
On behalf of New York membership, meetings were held with our local representatives, including Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, as well as Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Hakeem Jeffries, and Daniel Donovan. Members spoke to issues that affect the profession on a national scale but are particularly relevant locally, including supporting the preservation of historic buildings and spaces through the Federal Historic Tax Credit, how we invest in our nation’s infrastructure, and helping young architects serve their communities through the National Design Services Act.
These issues pack an extra punch given the need to make architects’ voices known on Capitol Hill, in state capitals, and in city halls across the country. From environmental policies that shape how buildings are designed to changes in tax laws that impact a firm’s bottom line, issues affecting architects are on the table almost daily.
- On p3.19.17, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his support for tearing down the Sheridan Expressway and replacing it with a boulevard that stitches Bronx communities together. He intends to include $700 million for the first phase of the work in the state budget.
- On 03.16.17, President Donald Trump released his proposed federal budget. AIA President Thomas Vonier, FAIA, released this statement after reviewing the federal budget proposal. At the forefront of Vonier’s concerns are massive cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and National Endowment for the Arts, which threaten efforts to address urban growth, community development, and sustainability.
- For New York City, President Trump’s proposed budget would cut $140 million from city schools, $190 from Homeland Security grants, and $370 million from the New York City Housing Authority, in addition to the $76 million the agency was anticipating, according to top officials. The budget’s proposed transit cuts could also imperil the Second Avenue subway’s next phase.
- On 03.16.17, federal and city prosecutors announced their decisions not to press charges against Mayor Bill de Blasio and aides Ross Offinger and Emma Wolfe, as well as major donors, regarding their fundraising activities. The announcement essential clears the path for de Blasio’s re-election later this year.
- On 03.15.17, a federal judge in Hawaii issued a nationwide order last night blocking President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban on visitors from several predominantly Muslim countries. The revision was designed to pass legal muster, after the initial order in January ignited similar judicial rulings. As discussions on immigration continues, the AIA has joined with many American businesses, industries and universities in calling for fair and impartial immigration policies, and expressed deep concern about policies that restrict immigration from specific countries or regions based on overly broad factors, including religion.