Lobby Hobby: How to Get the Most from Your Citizenship
We live in a democracy. Not many people (relatively speaking) do. One of the privileges of citizenship is the right to vote for elected officials who, in turn, represent us as public officials in State, Local, and Federal capacities. They work for us, and they listen (if they’re smart) to the voters that put them in office.
Lately, I have become much more involved in exercising my privilege as a citizen by lobbying on behalf of organizations that I am affiliated with. This February, I again participated in the AIA National Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference held in Washington DC. This is an opportunity to meet with legislators and their assistants to discuss issues important to architects, which have a trickle-down effect on the economy and jobs. Architects, after all, are the leading edge of a design and construction industry that accounts for one in nine dollars of our Gross Domestic Product.
This year, we presented four issues to our legislators: Unfreeze Credit = Create Jobs; support of the Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act (mainly to repeal the Form 1099 paperwork requirement); promote an increase of the Energy Efficient Commercial Tax Deduction from the current $1.80 to $3.00 / sq.-ft.; and encourage the passage of a long-term surface Transportation Bill that promotes a better public transit infrastructure.
Two weeks later, I was asked by Paul Mendelsohn, Vice President, AIA Government & Community Relations, to attend a field hearing on Transportation policy held by Rep. Mica (R, Fl) and attended by other members of his committee on behalf of AIA at the DuPage Airport. Because the discussion was tied to concrete examples of Washington dysfunction, it was difficult to find a place to express the AIA position. However, I did reach out to Congressman Lipinski, who is the only Chicago-area member of the Committee and is also my mother’s congressman.
The AIA promotes the term Citizen Architect as someone who “uses her/his insights, talents, training and experience to contribute meaningfully, beyond self, to the improvement of the community and human condition.” By participating through civic activism, by writing and publishing, bygaining appointment to boards and commissions, by staying informed on local, state and federal issues, I believe that is how we can live out the democratic principals that are so precious in our society (and so scarce in others).