Want to Get Lawmakers' Attention? Pay Them a Visit
Washington State Architects Become Lobbyists for a Day
This Friday, Timothy Buckley, AIA, principal and sole employee of Greenstone Architecture, in Vancouver, Washington, will drive two hours north to Olympia, the state capital. There, he and about 50 other architects from around the state will meet face to face with lawmakers to discuss issues related to the architecture profession. “We’re closing the office for the day,” Buckley quips.
The annual lobbying event, called Capitol Connections, is sponsored by AIA Washington Council. “Architecture,” says executive director Stan Bowman, “is a profession that is heavily regulated and impacted by the decisions of lawmakers. It’s invaluable for architects to speak directly to elected officials.”
On the morning of February 19, Bowman will outline his group’s 2010 legislative agenda with participating architects. He’ll also coach them on how to communicate effectively with legislators. (“I tell them to just sit down and have a conversation.”) Then, after a catered lunch at Olympia’s Heritage Room, in a renovated American Legion building, the architects will walk to the Capitol for afternoon meetings with legislators.
AIA Washington Council is one of at least a dozen state groups nationwide to organize annual lobbying days for their members, says Paul Mendelsohn, the AIA’s vice president for government and community relations. “They help architects build relationships with lawmakers and have a say in the direction of public policy,” he says. “And they help give decisionmakers a more holistic view of what the architecture profession brings to the table and what some of our concerns are.”
In Washington State, Bowman hopes this year’s Capitol Connections will help convince lawmakers to revise the state’s licensure law for architects, which hasn’t been updated in 25 years. And he will urge members to explain to their elected officials why a rumored new tax on professional services—which could help the state crawl out of its budget deficit—would be detrimental to the architecture profession.
“It’s an amazing thing to see,” Bowman says of the annual civics lesson. “The architects talk to lawmakers in their offices, in hallways, just off the floor of the chambers. It’s a great process. And I think our members get a lot out of it.”
Want to know more about how architects can effectively lobby lawmakers? Stan Bowman, executive director of AIA Washington Council, offers up nine tips.