Members are the key to our advocacy success

Martin J. Manning, P.E.
APWA President

All of us have seen it happen. An unfunded mandate passes Congress or your state legislature. The latest regulation conflicts with or preempts local authority. A new public policy direction at the national, state or provincial level fails to take into account the dynamic and changing needs of our communities and the public works infrastructure and services we provide. Funding needs go unmet.

Significant policy challenges confront us each year, of course. But many public works issues under debate do not end up with a bad result. In fact, there are plenty of success stories to talk about, and the reason there are is because so many dedicated APWA members are working hard at the local, the chapter and the national level to communicate with and to educate our partners, our elected officials, opinion-leaders and the public.

We have already seen the impact of such efforts in very concrete ways. The hard work of APWA's Homeland Security Task Force and the Emergency Management Committee, for instance, is bringing about increased recognition of the vital role public works plays in emergency response, preparedness and homeland security. Through their work and that of many others, APWA is now represented on a senior advisory committee of President Bush's Homeland Security Council, and other efforts are underway to bring public works and state and national emergency managers together.

Transportation is another important area. Recently, a federal regulation under TEA-21 was issued, providing rural local officials an enhanced role in the statewide transportation planning process. This took several years of working with our local partners and involved several APWA committees, chapters and many individual members working through the process, attending meetings and sending letters until the new rule was finalized.

In other ways, too, our voice is being heard and will continue to be heard. APWA members are sending letters in support of APWA policy positions on a number of other public policy priorities, including the need to close the multi-billion dollar funding gap facing our wastewater and drinking water infrastructure. We are working to ensure that APWA's policy goals for the reauthorization of TEA-21—increased investment, project delivery streamlining, and flexibility to meet local and regional needs—are shaping the reauthorization debate. And, we continue to support the benefits of technology deployment as we communicate the necessity of protecting local authority to manage local public rights-of-way.

Chapters are doing great work. Many are sending letters and adopting resolutions on state issues. Many, also, are teaming up with their state and local partners to ensure that the public works voice is heard on issues.

The key to sustaining our success rests on increasing our membership. Just as every member's educational benefits and networking opportunities expand as our membership grows, so too will the success of our advocacy efforts. The more voices we have, the greater our outreach in support of the value and importance of public works.

One way we are seeking to expand this outreach is by increasing the number of APWA members sending letters to policy-makers on public works issues. We have a network called the APWA Legislative Advocacy Task Force (LATF) which enables any APWA member to send messages quickly and easily to representatives in Congress. APWA members are already sending hundreds of letters when a public works issue arises. But to make an even bigger impact, we need to send thousands more letters.

Becoming involved in LATF is one of the most rewarding contributions you can make as an APWA member. Because it utilizes web-based technology, it is accessible and easy to use. LATF members are notified by e-mail alert of a breaking public works issue, such as an upcoming debate or vote on a bill in Congress, and directed to APWA's website. Letters on the issue are posted there, ready to be printed from your computer and sent to your legislator.

To register as an LATF member, log onto APWA's website, Then look for the icon which says "Join the APWA Legislative Advocacy Task Force," and follow the steps for enrollment.

APWA is doing tremendous work communicating the public works perspective on policy issues. As we expand our advocacy outreach, I know we will have even more success stories to talk about in the future, even as the challenges grow. Please accept my invitation to support the success of our advocacy efforts and become a member of LATF.

"Top Ten" a great honor
This month brings National Public Works Week, May 18-24. National Public Works Week provides the opportunity for public works professionals and departments to highlight to our communities the work that we do for all of our citizens. As I wrote in the March issue of the APWA Reporter, National Public Works Week is our chance to tell our story in an organized and meaningful manner.

Of course, a major highlight of National Public Works Week is the disclosure of the Top Ten Public Works Leaders of the Year, featured in this issue on page 13. The Top Ten award seeks to inspire excellence and dedication in public service by recognizing the outstanding career service achievements of individual public works professionals and officials. Being named one of the Top Ten in 1998 was certainly an honor for me, and I know that the ten people who have been selected this year will also appreciate the receptions and ceremonies in their hometowns. I can think of no greater honor than to be recognized by your peers as one of the leaders in your profession. Not only is this a great honor for each recipient, it is also a tribute to the contributions of the people working in their organizations.