Planners Call on Congress: "Fund Community Programs"

Planners ascend Capitol Hill every year on the final day of APA's 2017 Policy and Advocacy Conference to address the issues that impact their communities, and this year more planners made their voices heard through the halls of Congress than ever before.

On Tuesday, more than 120 meetings connected legislators and their staffs with planners from their states and districts. By the time the sun set on Planners' Day on Capitol Hill, planners from across the country had succeeded in becoming one loud voice for federal support of planning.

Planners urged their representatives to support programs that increase access to affordable housing, stimulate economic development, and address critical infrastructure needs in our localities.

Before advocates engaged with their congressional officials during their face-to-face meetings, Policy and Advocacy Conference attendees had two days of programmed training sessions and events to prepare for the culminating conclusion on Capitol Hill.

Two days before Planners' Day on Capitol Hill kicked off, advocates woke up bright and early to take on the Planners' Advocacy Network Bootcamp.

This action-oriented program featured a run-through of the advocacy opportunities available to planners, followed by hands-on training. Attendees were shown all of the new and engaging ways to interact with their elected officials, including how to send updated action alerts and how to make calls to Congress in new ways. Advocates learned how to cultivate a relationship with a legislator with cutting-edge social media programs like Facebook's Townhall feature.

Two seasoned planning advocates — Dylan Mullenix and Earl Anderson — followed the hands-on training with their perspectives on how easy it is to "Stand Up For Planning" because of the sheer scope of available advocacy opportunities.

At the conclusion of the session, planners took a pledge to take their advocacy efforts to another level during National Community Planning Month.

Advocates also had the chance to prepare for their Hill meetings with tips from former congressional staffer and advocacy guru Stephanie Vance. First timers to the Hill gained insights into making the case for issues that are top of mind for planners. On Monday night, some attendees got in pre-Planners' Day practice during the Senate-side reception celebrating the 10-year anniversary of APA's Great Places in America. In honor of that anniversary, some attendees presented honorary certificates to legislators with 2017 Great Places in their districts.

After the congressional meetings, planning advocates took a break for lunch and heard from some of the leading infrastructure advocates in Congress.

Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) stopped by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee room to discuss why planners' important role in their communities. Both congressmen highlighted the destruction from recent natural disasters. Blumenauer has addressed the issue by sponsoring the Safe Communities Act (H.R. 3804) so that planners have the resources they need to properly mitigate hazards in the future.

Co-sponsorship and support for Blumenauer's bill was added to attendees list of "asks" that were made throughout the day, underscoring the need for federal funding for programs that build safer, better prepared, more just localities.

Advocates who participated in Planners' Day on Capitol Hill advanced APA's Legislative Priorities by addressing communities' needs for HOME Investment Partnerships, Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER), Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), Choice Neighborhoods (CNI), News Starts, and the Safe Communities Act.

Planners who weren't able to join in person on Planners' Day were encouraged to influence federal planning policies by sending a letter to their elected officials, tweeting at their elected officials, or calling in to their elected officials' offices.

Thank you to the more than 250 dedicated and passionate advocates who traveled to Washington or wrote from home to tell their planning stories.

Top image: Planning advocates at the U.S. Capitol for Planners' Day on Capitol Hill 2017. APA photo.

About the Author
Trevor Grady is APA's government affairs associate.

September 27, 2017

By Trevor Grady