2019 Strategic Council & Grassroots Update
by Rod Ashley, AIA, Strategic Council Representative
After leaving Washington, DC for other cities around the country, Grassroots once again returned to Washington DC for both the Leadership Training Days preceded by Governance Day activities. For now, Grassroots will continue to be held in DC odd years and will travel to New Orleans next year having been in Detroit in 2016 and San Diego in 2018. Traveling to Washington, DC for Grassroots always provides some special moments. From braving the cold winds and snows of winter weather, or threats of Congress not being in session, the time spent is always well worth it. This year the forecasters alerted us to snow but none had arrived by the end of the conference.
Prior to Capitol Hill Day and meeting with our respective legislators, the Strategic Council met the day before for its first assembly of the year. The morning began with a presentation by Kelly O’Keefe, Head of Creative Brand Management, VCU Brand Center and Creativity & Strategic Planning. Kelly was followed by Jay Younger, President and CEO of McKinley which preluded much of the rest of the day’s focus on the upcoming 2021-2025 AIA Strategic Plan.
Capitol Hill Day began with delegates gathering to discuss meeting schedules and other logistics for the day. A briefing was later held at the Capitol Visitors Center at the US Capitol. AIA leaders introduced topics to be presented, and Managing Director of Government Affairs and Policy Jim Brewer, Sarah Dodge, and former Congressman Jim Turner dove into the issues and how best to present and discuss these with the legislators delegates were soon to meet. Two upcoming bills to be lobbied for included Energy Efficiency and School Safety.
Energy Efficient Commercial Building Tax Deduction – Section 179D is not a new bill for Grassroots attendees. A federal tax deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot is offered those who qualify for upgrading systems to reduce energy demands in projects. Architects can qualify for this deduction only if the project is a local, state or federal) public building. This deduction has been effective in new construction but not as much with renovation or remodeling of existing buildings. This bill is presently sunsetting and there are some issues regarding language and other sections of the tax code that need to be updated to expand the definition of qualified projects.
School Safety is not a new subject for AIA, and the Institute has made great strides in providing concise information on how to better design our schools in response to the disasters that have been occurring. The AIA is proposing a federally funded federal clearinghouse that would collect and make available an array of information on better planning and design opportunities for school design. Many school districts do not know where to start when planning for new or remodeling projects, A clearing house would be staffed to provide training and technical assistance to those districts in need and a place to share information that other districts have learned through their own experiences.
After a long day on the Hill, the first annual AIA Congressional Reception took place at the Thomas Jefferson Building, formally known as the Library of Congress Building. Members of Congress and their senior staff attended and afforded the opportunity for more informal discussions throughout the evening. This event was a wonderful way to conclude a long working day on the Hill.
Grassroots kicked off with the introduction of candidates for national office and candidate speeches, followed by a Mayor’s Panel on Community Building illustrating the results of mayors & architects working together to solve community issues. Moderated by Allison Albericci, AIA, a 2018 Young Architects Award recipient, mayors from Winchester, VA, Dayton, Ohio, Rochester Hills, MI, City Councilor/Architect from Houston, TX, and Steve Benjamin, President of the US Conference of Mayors from Columbia, SC told their stories on how collaborating with architects early on in community improvements elevated the public conversation and led to more impactful solutions.
Pascale Sablin, AIA, another 2018 Young Architect Award recipient, moderated a panel discussion entitled People with Purpose. Panelists included Hildegard Vasquez, co-founder and head architect of Hache Uve from Panama; Ryan Gravel founder of Sixpitch; and Rick Archer FAIA and principal of Overland Partners and Haven for Hope. Each told their story of how their passions have led to their leading outstanding organizations enriching their own communities.
James McCullar, FAIA from New York was presented the Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture and spoke about the importance of good design in public places. AIA Chicago and AIA Philadelphia were recognized as components that have been serving AIA members for 150 years, and AIA Nebraska for serving its members for 100 years.
The afternoon started with the traditional breakout leadership sessions followed by the Region’s Grassroots business meeting. The two 2019 NW&PR Grassroots Scholarship recipients were in attendance. Francis Sinon from Guam and Jason DeMarco from Hawaii each gave a brief introduction and later followed up with written impressions of their experiences at Grassroots. The Region urges all components to encourage upcoming leaders to apply for next year’s scholarships which will be advertised early next year.
The following day continued breakout sessions again focusing on leadership and component support. The day concluded with well-known and respected keynote speaker Doris Kearns Goodwin, a presidential historian and author of numerous books and presentations.
Recently Strategic Councilors were updated on follow-up from Grassroots and what has taken place with legislators after Capitol Hill Day. The federal relations team reviewed feedback from member and component executives that was received regarding meetings with respective Representatives and Senators. Emails were sent to all offices that were visited thanking legislators and staff for taking the time to meet with AIA delegates. AIA has met with those legislators and staff who expressed interest in working with AIA on sustainability and/or school safety. AIA has also recently announced the introduction of HR 2210 – Invest in America Act, a bill that addresses revised investment regulations for developing projects and has the opportunity of creating jobs for architects.
It has been a busy past few months and Dave, Danielle, and I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in Las Vegas at the A’19 Conference on Architecture in a few days.