APA Great Places and the Power of Advocacy

When James Rhodes, AICP, director for the Pitt County Planning Department in North Carolina, first decided to travel to Washington, D.C., to share the news that County Home Complex had been designated as one of APA’s 2017 Great Places in America, he was uncertain how his visit might play with representatives and senators and their staffs. Would they be uninterested or supportive? And would his visit affect Pitt County’s planning efforts long-term?

Upon arrival at APA’s annual Policy and Advocacy Conference, Rhodes quickly learned that his drive north was well worth the trip.

His meetings with Senate and House staff resulted in not only photo ops and congratulations, but also follow-ups and in-district visits. Rhodes’s outreach to his legislators even prompted visits from staff in Rep. G.K. Butterfield and Gov. Roy Cooper's offices at a local Great Places celebration, and renewed interest in planning work from county commissioners and state leaders.

James Rhodes, AICP, shares with David Simons, a staffer in Sen. Thom Tillis’s Washington, D.C. office, the planning story behind County Home Complex, a 2017 APA Great Place in America. Photo by Thomas Van Veen, Documentary Associates.

Pitt County is just one of the many communities with APA Great Places that has experienced firsthand how telling the planning story behind a cherished neighborhood, street, or public space can open doors to open lines of communications, and eventually, relationships with elected officials.

In Greenwood, South Carolina, planning and city staff showed representatives from Sen. Tim Scott’s office on a walking tour why Uptown Greenwood’s revitalization story received top planning honors. In Warren, Rhode Island, Rep. David Cicilline was on hand to celebrate planning and its true value to communities.

Planners’ Advocacy Network members like Kate Michaud, AICP, continue to leverage the relationships she established through Warren’s Great Neighborhood designation in her advocacy on federal budget, tax reform, and infrastructure issues to the Rhode Island congressional delegation today.

Suggest Your Great Place

APA is accepting suggestions for our class of 2018 Great Places in America now through Wednesday, April 25. Know of neighborhood, public space, or street that has brought a positive change through planning to a local community? Tell us about it.

A Great Place in your community demonstrates the importance of planning, provides an opportunity for promotion and tourism, and illustrates how local policies and projects strengthen our communities. Great Places can be suggested by elected officials, planners, and the public.

Nominate a place worth celebrating in four easy steps:

Designees are celebrated in September at APA’s Policy and Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C., and announced officially in October during National Community Planning Month.

We can’t wait to celebrate your planning stories!

Contact greatplaces@planning.org with questions about the nomination process.

Top image: Planning advocates from North Carolina prepare for their meeting with Sen. Thom Tillis’s staff during a busy Planners’ Day on Capitol Hill day in Washington, D.C. Photo by Thomas Van Veen, Documentary Associates.

About the Author
Emily Pasi is APA's outreach and communications manager.

April 9, 2018

By Emily Pasi