I always enjoy going to Washington, D.C., and attending AIA Grassroots last week was no exception. Spending days in hotel ballrooms is not my favorite part of any conference, but Grassroots is all about reaching out to our elected officials concerning issues that are important to architects — so we headed for the Hill.
Texas Architects leadership called on the offices of Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Members of their staffs listened attentively to us as we detailed issues identified by the AIA advocacy folks. Chief among our talking points was a request for their support of the extension of the 179D Energy Tax Deduction, which allows architects to benefit from available deductions for work on public projects. Other Texas members attending the conference called on their congressional representatives across the Hill with a similar mission.
Following the success of our meetings and given the clear weather, Val Glitsch, FAIA; Michael Malone, AIA; Dan Hart, FAIA; and I decided to walk from the Hart and Dirksen Senate buildings to the National Portrait Gallery. Although walking with Michael and Dan does challenge one's pace, it wasn’t a bad walk, and my architectural education always improves on these kinds of occasions.
We walked past the Newseum (James Polshek, FAIA), the Canadian Embassy (Arthur Erickson, FAIA), and the National Gallery (John Russell Pope, original building architect, and I.M. Pei, FAIA, architect of the more recent East Building).
Like walking with Michael and Dan, Grassroots has a quick pace. We kicked everything off with the Council of Architectural Chapter Executives (CACE) meeting followed by an opening session by Judy Woodruff of the PBS NewsHour. The days were filled with workshops, and regional dinners dominated the evenings. The entire affair culminated with Austin’s own Roy Spence of GSD&M as the keynote speaker.
The big topic for the AIA Board of Directors, which met in advance of Grassroots, was board restructuring and governance — not a hot topic among members, but one that will affect how the institute functions! The idea, which has been developing over the last year or so, is to create a smaller board. And although, the Texas delegates have not been in favor of the proposal as presented, they were pleased to see it modified somewhat. Unfortunately, there was no movement on our largest concern: the elimination of regional representative seats. With a smaller board, it will be more difficult for members' voices to be heard, and we are preoccupied by the idea of AIA being governed by a small, liked-minded group of individuals.
As of today, Texas Architects leaders have not decided whether to recommend a “yes” or “no” vote on the bylaws change, which supports the board restructuring. The vote will occur at the National Convention in June.