Several BSA members recently traveled to Washington, DC, to advocate on behalf of the architecture and design industry, particularly as it pertains to national economic recovery.
AIA Grassroots summary
by Mike Davis FAIA
Does hanging out in Washington, DC, and power walking through the House and Senate office buildings with armfuls of briefing materials after predawn flights sound like fun? A few of us were up for the challenge this year.
From March 7 through 10, 2012, I; BSA president Laura Wernick AIA; AIA Massachusetts director Vernon Woodworth AIA, LEED AP; and several other BSA and AIA Massachusetts members were accompanied by senior BSA and AIA Massachusetts staff to Washington, DC, for AIA Grassroots 2012, the AIA’s annual leadership and legislative conference. While on Capitol Hill, the delegation conferred with legislative aides and policy advisors for Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown, and 10 members of the House of Representatives from Massachusetts on behalf of the architects in the Commonwealth.
In the forefront of the AIA’s advocacy agenda for 2012 was the “AIA Agenda for Economic Recovery.” Issues briefs were developed around four specific goals: 1) relaxing regulatory barriers to private-sector lending for commercial and residential development, 2) incentivizing greater energy efficiency in building retrofits by expanding the federal energy-efficient commercial buildings tax deduction, 3) removing impediments to growth for small firms and 4) reforming federal transportation policy to promote prosperous transit-oriented communities. Worth noting: on March 21, the Senate passed a two-year, $109 billion transportation and infrastructure bill that was largely consistent with the AIA’s position. This bill is now being debated in the House, and all the Massachusetts representatives we spoke with expressed strong support for this measure.
After the lobbying—or, more accurately, the exercising of our rights as citizens—was over, conference attendees were treated to an open house at AIA National headquarters. BSA board officers and staff later attended a dinner hosted by AIA’s DC chapter at its newly opened District Architecture Center. Also on the social calendar was a late-night YAF (Young Architects’ Forum) reception at Buffalo Billiards in Dupont Circle, where those left standing rubbed elbows with candidates for AIA National office, including the BSA’s own candidate for AIA First Vice President, Peter Kuttner FAIA.
This year’s conference travel plans, unlike those for the last several years, were not affected by blizzards. The weather in Washington, DC, was sunny, with temperatures in the 60s all four days. Cherry blossoms were in evidence, and advocacy was in bloom.
Mike Davis FAIA, principal and vice president at Bergmeyer Associates, is the 2012 president-elect (2013 president) of the BSA. The former public policy commissioner to the BSA board of directors and co-chair of the AIA Massachusetts Government Affairs Committee, Davis is also civically engaged as acting chair of the Boston Civic Design Commission and a board member of the Boston Foundation for Architecture. He blogs about the AIA 2030 Commitment at mikedavisfaia.wordpress.com.
White House Business Council meeting summary
by Audrey O’Hagan AIA
On February 24, I, along with 24 other Boston-area business leaders, traveled to Washington, DC, to attend a half-day roundtable discussion at the White House. The event was co-hosted by the White House Business Council and Business Forward.
The conversation, moderated by Ari Matusiak, executive director of the White House Business Council, was “part of an ongoing effort to solicit feedback from business and civic leaders on what the Administration can do or not do to help spur job creation and inform the policy-making process” in concert with President Obama’s Blueprint for an America Built to Last.
Senior White House and Administration officials (among them Mark Doms, chief economist, U.S. Department of Commerce; Steven VanRoekel, chief information officer, Office of Management and Budget, White House; Lisa Brown, executive director, Government Reform for Competitiveness and Innovation Initiative, Office of Management and Budget, White House; and Dorval Ronald Carter, Jr., chief counsel, Federal Transit Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation) led discussions with the group of Boston-area professionals on a range of topics, including the current state of the economy; efforts to further economic growth, job creation and economic competitiveness; transportation and infrastructure; streamlining the permitting process; the first lady’s Healthy Food Initiative; and public-private partnering.
We addressed some of the concerns facing the architecture industry and small businesses today. The construction industry accounts for $1 out of every $9 of the US GDP. Getting the design and construction industry moving on a broader level is important to our overall economic health. We also explored potential public-private partnering opportunities relative to underused government-owned properties, and other issues outlined in the American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2012 Grassroots initiatives, including tax changes and small businesses, and the unintended impact of technical rules that prevent some smaller firms from taking advantage of 179D, the federal energy-efficient commercial buildings tax deduction.
The lively group comprised Boston-area university, banking, venture capital, real-estate, private equity and investment, and small-business leaders.
A surprise visit from Governor Deval Patrick occurred near the end of the day. He was at the Capitol meeting with President Obama as one of his co-chairs for the upcoming presidential campaign.
The Administration intends to host similar roundtable discussions with leaders from all 50 states. Massachusetts was the 11th state to be invited to participate.
Some online resources within the Administration, public-private partnerships and the AIA include:
Audrey O’Hagan AIA is principal of Audrey O’Hagan Architects in Cambridge and past president of the Boston Society of Architects. Her work has been published locally and nationally, and has received several notable awards and recognition. O’Hagan is a frequent speaker, juror and guest critic.
Above image courtesy of Business Forward.