Tips from Missouri: Telling the Planning Story at Your State Capitol

Planners from across Missouri gathered in Jefferson City last month to showcase the positive impact of planning in communities statewide.

Planners' Day at the Capitol — a first for APA's Missouri Chapter — provided a platform for showcasing the planning stories of 2017 Great Places in Missouri designees a chance to collaborate with partners; and an opportunity to connect with state legislators on both sides of the aisle.

While planning for the event, there were many unanswered questions and logistics the chapter had to work through. In the end, APA Missouri learned a few key lessons that may be helpful for other chapters considering hosting a day at their state capitol:

Great Places = Great Faces

Hosting a Planners' Day in conjunction with the Great Places in Missouri awards presentation was crucial.

Legislators representing districts in which designees were selected attended the ceremony and presented resolutions proclaiming the Great Place designations. This allowed us to have organic conversations about APA Missouri, the Great Places program, and planning in general.

Find the Friend, Feed the Foe

Most everyone knows that food helps, but we found that having a snacks-and-information table in the capitol rotunda, outside the senate and house chambers, was an excellent way to attract people and engage in conversation.

We had scheduled meetings with small groups of planners and specific legislators throughout the day, but it was difficult to get some legislators to agree to meet. Those amenable to meeting were typically legislators who already saw value in planning. However, having snacks (especially customized sugar cookies with the APA Missouri logo), allowed us to interact with a broader range of legislators, members of the public, and other organizations that were hosting outreach days at the state capitol.

Members of APA's Missouri Chapter with State Sen. Mike Cunningham. Photo courtesy Missouri Chapter.

Prep Your Planners

This is a vital part of any Planner's Day event and something we hope to improve upon next year.

Providing talking points, a handout, or any thoughts to get the conversations started are integral for making the attending planners feel comfortable and confident when speaking to legislators. We decided to focus on the basics: what is planning, why is it important, and what types of planning there are in Missouri.

For next year, we will be working on more specific talking points targeted for the area the planner and legislator are from and perhaps hosting a breakfast or happy hour to allow for more informal conversations.

Additionally, planners should seek out their personal representatives and visit their offices. Legislators tend to be more responsive to their constituents.

We also suggest having a map of the districts, a map of the capitol building with office locations, and a complete list of legislators to provide to all participating planners.

All in all, the chapter considered its first Planners' Day a success. There are already plans under way for next year's event, tentatively set for January 31, 2018.

Tools to Plan your Hill Day

Thinking about organizing a meeting for planners at your state capitol? Be sure to read through our tips on timelines and preparing for the big day in the Advocate's Toolbox.

Top image: Great Places in Missouri posters at the state capitol as part of Planners' Day at the Capitol in Jefferson City. Photo courtesy APA Missouri Chapter.

About the Author
Megan Clark is a planner with the Center for Resource Planning and Management at Missouri State University and chapter administrator for APA's Missouri Chapter. She has over five years of experience working for local and state government and holds a master's degree in Regional and Community Planning from Kansas State University.

March 24, 2017

By Megan Clark, AICP