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Grassroots 2010 AIA Leadership and Legislative Conference:
Component Leaders Take AIA’s “Blueprint for Economic Recovery” to Capitol Hill
by David W. Robb, Managing Editor
AIA’s five-point “Blueprint for Economic Recovery.” Graphic by Peter Kuttner, FAIA.
AIA members from Pennsylvania discuss the challenges facing architects with Jake Kuhns (far left), senior legislative assistant for Congressman Tim Holden (Penn.). From left to right, Kuhns; Sean P. O’Brien, AIA; Ryan P. Kennedy, AIA; Chris Dawson, AIA; and Wendy Tippetts, AIA.
AIA component leaders from central Florida talk strategy in the offices of Rep. Alan Grayson (Fla.), before meeting with staff members Rachel Swartz, staff assistant, and Aysha House Moshi, Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director. Left to right: Timothy J. Lemons, AIA; Dan Kirby, AIA; Clarice E. Sollog, Assoc. AIA; Karen D. Jones, Exec. Director, AIA Orlando; Michael D. Lingerfelt, AIA; and Richard T. Reep, LEED AP.
Despite increasingly dire forecasts of a snowstorm of historic proportions, more than 700 AIA component leaders descended on Washington, DC, last week for the 2010 AIA Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference.
While the predictions proved accurate—a record amount of snow fell in DC, shutting down the Federal Government in DC for nearly a week and paralyzing the entire region—the weather held off just long enough for AIA component leaders to take their message to Capitol Hill on Thursday Feb. 4 in the form of AIA’s “Blueprint for Economic Recovery,” a five-point plan from AIA’s Rebuild & Renew program to involve architects in a broad economic and jobs recovery program.
The “Blueprint” also is literally a poster-size illustration, designed to leave behind with elected leaders a more graphic representation of the AIA proposal. The five points of the plan are:
—Help struggling communities rebuild through already-funded programs such as the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. “This isn’t your grandfather’s WPA,” said AIA Senior Director for Federal Relations, Andrew Goldberg, Assoc. AIA. “Rather, it’s a simple but effective plan to rebuild communities. What we propose is a New Deal for the 21st century.”
—Unfreeze credit. The AIA says that millions of dollars of construction projects are languishing because lenders are not lending. “The bank wants 50% up front,” said one AIA member attending Grassroots who preferred anonymity, with a major project ready to go but unable to procure reasonable financing.
—Encourage the commercial sector to build green; AIA is pushing Congress to expand the Energy Efficient Commercial Building Tax Deduction from the current $1.80 per square foot to $3.00 per square foot.
— Provide relief for small businesses. To help laid-off workers, Congress created a 65% government subsidy to cover the cost of COBRA insurance. Employers pay this up front and apply for reimbursement through a payroll tax credit. For small businesses, this can create a cash-flow problem that potentially can lead to more layoffs. Timothy Lemons, AIA, a principal with L2 Studios, an architecture and interior design firm in Orlando, FL, says the COBRA requirement is “really a burden” for a small business such as his.
—Invest in K-12 schools. The AIA is asking Congress to pass legislation that would provide funding to local school districts to renovate and modernize K-12 public school. “A lot of schools pay more in energy costs than they spend to educate children,” said Grassroots attendee Michael D. Lingerfelt, AIA, owner of a firm in Orlando, Fla. “That’s a travesty.”
The Blueprint for Economic Recovery is “about jobs,” said Grassroots Chair, First Vice President, and 2011 AIA President-Elect, Clark Manus, FAIA, during the opening plenary session on Wednesday. “It is an agenda for our profession and a vision of the key role we play in rebuilding and renewing America.”
Before AIA members set out for the Hill, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY) provided an additional incentive: “It is very, very important that you come and speak to your congressperson. No one is more effective than a constituent of a congressperson. So your presence here with your message is tremendously important…as architects you have both passion and perspective. We need the architects, the people that make the crucial design decisions, to lead the way.”
Other AIA and national political leaders who spoke about the “Blueprint” included 2010 AIA President George Miller, FAIA; AIA CEO Christine McEntee; AIA National Vice President Mickey Jacob, FAIA; Sen. Maria Cantwell (Wash.); Director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs Adolfo Carrion, Jr.; Rep. Ed Perlmutter (Colo.); and Rep. Kathy Castor (Fla.).
See video coverage of Grassroots 2010 and additional stories in the Feb. 26 issue of AIArchitect.