2010 National Planning Conference

2010 APA/AICP Annual Meeting

By Tre Jerdon
APA Research Associate, Planning Advisory Service

The APA/AICP Annual Meeting offers members an opportunity to hear about the association's highlights over the past year and the direction the organization will take in the coming year. Highlighting this year's program was the Leadership Honors ceremony featuring the accomplishments of individuals and organizations receiving recognition in a number of areas.

APA Executive Director and CEO W. Paul Farmer, FAICP, began the Tuesday morning meeting by welcoming attendees to the last few hours of a very, very successful conference. He reminded everyone that the director of the new White House Office of Urban Affairs, Adolfo Carrion, Jr., would be delivering the closing keynote shortly after this program, and that everyone should plan to attend. A former urban planner with keen ideas about how planners can continue creating communities of choice for everyone to enjoy, Carrion's collaborative relationships with 10 cabinet agencies within the Obama administration is uniting policies into an effective agenda for urban America. Farmer continued his remarks by reiterating the urgency of planning and planners in response to these difficult economic times. He expressed that the profession is not immune to the recession and many local governments have been forced to downsize planning department staff through layoffs. The private sector, Farmer stated, has responded to the crisis by developing more partnerships with companies overseas. This entrepreneurial spirit has allowed firms to save jobs and build networks with international partners.

In facing the economic recession, APA assessed many difficult areas and worked hard to maintain the organization's core services. APA had to think innovatively and confront the pressures at hand. APA's Board and AICP Commission responded by lowering dues for unemployed members and turning back the clock to 2005 when thinking about the conference rates for New Orleans. Conservative budgeting and careful consideration of the past conference survey gave APA room to improve upon and respond to these transitioning times. Farmer recognized APA's staff in the Chicago and Washington, D.C., offices for their dedication and hard work in maintaining the organization's core services for members.

Farmer continued by expressing the reality of the hurdles APA has dealt with over the past several months. Over the past year, the staff was reduced by 13, with the last 4 as layoffs. However, the organization had undertaken a very conscious growth strategy and went into the economic recession with pretty good strength. Working closely with allied organizations such as the American Institute of Architects (AIA), APA learned how they responded to some of the same challenges. Farmer stated that while they can project the current 43,000 membership base to decline for the next couple of years, APA is exploring new niches and partnerships to address this reduction. He also noted that membership is in all 50 states and represented in 75 countries. Student membership is at an all time high and APA Chapters and Divisions are significant resources for connecting members back home to planning activities and special interests.

The American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) has led a tremendous effort in advancing the profession through its Certification Maintenance (CM) program. There are currently 6,200 AICP accredited events offering a total of 55,000 CM credits. Farmer noted the upcoming Advanced Specialty Certification in environmental planning and transportation planning. The exams will debut later this fall.

Several APA programs have advanced the planning profession and invited diverse audiences to sessions, briefings, workshops and the like to learn about transformational efforts in communities here and abroad. Farmer highlighted the annual Great Places in America program, with a local New Orleans neighborhood receiving an honor later this afternoon, APA's annual Federal Policy and Program Briefing in Washington, D.C., the Delta Urbanism Symposia, and others as forums that actively support the engagement of planners and allied professionals. Farmer noted the 2009 Briefing as a profound moment in our history. Invited to the program in conjunction with the U.N. World Habitat Day, Dr. Anna Tibaijuka singled out APA as a leader in the planning movement and the work that is being done to promote a more sustainable future. APA Chief Operating Officer Charlotte McCaskill recalled that day as her proudest moment. Farmer remarked that while APA struggled for many years to get planning issues at the forefront of some agendas, APA is now getting frequent calls and invitations from high-level leadership, and continues fostering relationships that will perpetuate good planning efforts.

The awards portion of the meeting celebrated the achievements of students, chapters, divisions, and authors in a number of distinct categories including an AICP Student Project Award for Application of the Planning Process; the Karen B. Smith Award for Outstanding Outreach to the Community; APA Divisions Council Award for Communications Efforts; Journal of the American Planning Association (JAPA) Award; and Planning Accreditation 2009 Outstanding Site Visit Award. APA President Bruce Knight, FAICP, and AICP Commission President Paul Ingram, AICP, and several APA Board members and Advisors to the Board joined Farmer on stage to present the awards to honorees.

Recognizing the hard work of the Local Host Committee, Farmer asked that members present at this morning's meeting stand to be recognized for their continued support of APA and the National Planning Conference. The biennial induction of the AICP College of Fellows took place on Saturday, April 10, recognizing 37 newly inductees. Farmer encouraged anyone seeking this honor to get started early on the application and work closely with their local APA Chapter for support.

After concluding the awards portion of the meeting the election results were announced, followed by an open Q&A session for attendees.

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