Annual Report: Advocacy
Advocating for planning and good government is in APA's DNA. In 2015, our advocacy paid off on Capitol Hill when Congress passed important planning-friendly legislation. APA also made substantial progress toward our goal of encouraging and training members to become strong, effective planning advocates in Washington and their home communities.
Policy and Advocacy Conference
September's Policy and Advocacy Conference focused attention on critical community planning issues. Outstanding speakers included the Washington Post's Emily Badger, Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), HUD Acting Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development Harriet Tregoning, and keynoters Christopher Graves, from Ogilvy Public Relations, and Gabe Klein, author of Start-Up City and the former transportation director for Chicago and Washington.
In-depth policy sessions offered insider perspectives from congressional aides and experts on key issues and programs and a new skill-building track focused on advocacy, communication, and partnerships. Journalists from print, broadcast, and online media shared advice on scoring coverage of local planning stories.
Planners' Day on Capitol Hill
APA leaders met with Congressional leaders and staff in 50 Senate and 75 House offices, requesting three key congressional actions: passing a multi-year, sustainably funded transportation bill; reauthorizing and funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund; and supporting CDBG, HOME, TIGER, and other programs that benefit community and economic development. Participants added their ideas for strengthening transportation planning, advancing bike and pedestrian projects, expanding support for urban parks, and addressing economic inequality and social equity. Members across the country joined in on social media and through emails to Congress.
Planners' Day also was an occasion to celebrate APA's 2015 Great Places in America. Chapter presidents and members presented honorary certificates to members of Congress, demonstrating the relationship between good planning and great communities. Leaders of three Plan4Health coalitions also were there representing links between planning and public health.
APA's 2015 legislative priorities focused the year's advocacy efforts on transportation reauthorization, infrastructure investment, water planning, federal data, community development, social equity, and respect for local planning. We saw notable advances on several fronts:
- Passing the five-year, $305 billion Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act provides certainty and resources for transportation projects and planning. Several APA policy priorities made it into the final bill.
- Funding CDBG and increased support for HOME and Choice Neighborhoods.
- Approving $500 million for another round of TIGER grants.
- Extending the New Markets Tax Credit for five years, making permanent the minimum rate for the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, and restoring tax benefit parity for transit commuters.
- Reauthorizing LWCF with the highest level of funding since 2002.
Amicus Curiae briefs
APA filed amicus briefs in two significant U.S. Supreme Court cases: Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona and Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.
Still pending at the end of 2015 were APA's amicus briefs in the California Supreme Court in Lynch v. California Coastal Commission; Lamar Central Outdoor, LLC v. City of Los Angeles in the state's appellate court; and Scenic America v. U.S. Department of Transportation in U.S. District Court.
Policy and outreach programs
The Planners' Advocacy Network empowers members to speak up for planning with their members of Congress. Participants receive frequent briefings and training in advocacy skills and legislative issues. At year end the network had 373 members who hail from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Great Places in America 2008-2015
In its eighth year, APA's Great Places in America program designated 15 places and, for the first time, hosted celebrations in every location that were attended by chapter presidents and members of APA's Board.
In Washington, local planners and policy makers also got together at Tuesdays at APA, policy breakfasts, and other events.
"The best thing about APA policy breakfasts is hearing about new bills and understanding the speakers' takes on how they specifically apply to the planning community."
Tweeting (and Facebooking and Instagramming and …) the planning story
APA's growing presence on Twitter and other social media platforms extended our policy outreach. A new Twitter handle, @APAadvocates, attracted more than 900 followers — including nine members of Congress — in only 10 months.
Every year, more and more members and nonmembers connect with APA on a growing number of platforms. In 2015, we had the most followers on LinkedIn and Twitter and enjoyed the most extensive and enthusiastic engagement with our followers on Instagram.
APA's 2015 social media campaigns included:
- #PlanningMonth during National Community Planning Month was our biggest hit.
- #RenewLWCF drew attention to the need to fully fund and reauthorize funding for local and regional parks.
- #LoveYourWalk, coinciding with the fall release of the Surgeon General's Call to Action on Walking and Walkable Communities, encouraged planners to tweet about aspects of the built environment that facilitate their neighborhood walks.
How do you love planning? Count the ways and share them in October – National Community Planning Month....Posted by American Planning Association on Friday, September 25, 2015
Photos: Ben Zweig of Zweig Photography
Infographics: Susan Lee Deegan