What Happened at the 2019 Policy and Advocacy Conference

The 2019 Policy and Advocacy Conference took place September 23–25 in Crystal City, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. This annual conference is the place where planners can learn about the federal and state policies shaping local planning efforts and how to influence planning-specific policy decisions through advocacy.

Scroll through the feed to relive the highlights and catch up on our favorite moments.


The weekend before conference, APA leaders gathered in D.C. for a weekend of setting strategic goals for the organization.



Monday’s program featured training sessions designed to raise planners' advocacy game to the next level and workshops that dug into the issues planning advocates saw play out at the state level in 2019.

In State of the States: Legislative Roundtable, APA’s Catherine Hinshaw recounted key legislative trends in states across the country. The two issues most affecting state and local communities? Housing affordability and availability, and resiliency. Preemption was also a common theme.



This year's Burnham Forum on Big Ideas, presented in partnership with Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, shone a light on equitable redevelopment and inclusive growth strategies in older industrial cities that have experienced sustained job and population loss over several decades. Speakers Dr. Akilah Watkins-Butler, U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), and Akron, Ohio, Mayor Dan Horrigan discussed ways legacy cities are leveraging local assets and federal tools like Opportunity Zones to draw newcomers and encourage development that benefits everyone.




Tuesday was all about the issues, diving straight into engaging discussions on the issues that define APA's legislative priorities, including Opportunity Zones, housing affordability and availability, and federal and state legislation aimed at addressing the nation’s housing crisis.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Assistant Secretary Seth Appleton and U.S. Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.) joined attendees at Planning Home: Federal Housing Agenda to speak about the regulatory and legislative actions planners can expect from Washington in the coming months. In his remarks, Heck touted new legislation, titled the Yes In My Backyard bill, as one federal solution for increasing housing supply in local communities.

During lunch attendees took the "Road to 2020" in a special session with keynote speaker and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart.





Tuesday's afternoon sessions included a deep dive look into the recent Supreme Court decision in Knick v Township of Scott and a look to the future of surface transportation policy with the upcoming FAST Act reauthorization.




We also talked infrastructure with Brittney Kohler from the National League of Cities and U.S. Rep. Scott Peters (D-Cal.) before U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) wrapped up the day with a moving reception on Capitol Hill, where he urged planners to continue advocating for investments in our nation's critical infrastructure and to never quit fighting for policies that strengthen local communities.



Planners’ Day on Capitol Hill, APA’s signature advocacy event of the year and the final day of the conference, started off strong with the much-anticipated reveal of APA’s 2019 Great Places in America designees.

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) joined APA on Capitol Hill for the official announcement and praised planners for their tireless efforts to create communities where people can live, grow, and thrive.



Representatives from the 2019 Great Places spent the day sharing with their congressional representatives how planning has led to stronger, healthier, and more prosperous communities, while planning advocates urged their members of Congress to finish the work of fully funding critical transportation and community development programs in FY 2020 and to prioritize planning policies in the nation’s next surface transportation bill.

Nearly 200 meetings were held throughout Capitol Hill with planning advocates and their legislators.




U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) joined planning advocates for a luncheon to discuss the importance of getting transportation reauthorization done well and the role of planners in making it happen. He emphasized the importance of meeting face-to-face with elected officials.



Many attendees, including APA's President-Elect Leo Asuncion, Jr., AICP, spent the day meeting with congressional representatives, great places designees, and other planning advocates to share their experiences in the planning field so far, and their dreams for the future of the profession. Planning advocate Christie Holland documented her experience of Planners' Day as a first-time attendee and emerging professional.





What's Next?

While the 2019 Policy and Advocacy Conference came to a close, it does not mean planning advocacy ends. Planners can keep advocating for good planning policies at the federal and state levels by continuing to connect with their elected leaders.

Join the Planners’ Advocacy Network to receive special training to enhance your advocacy skills, and stay up to date on policy that impacts the work we do in our communities. Together, we can continue to shape federal and state policies.


Top image: Sara Patenaude, PhD, a member of APA and its Georgia Chapter, meets with Chelsea Grey, legislative assistant to U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), during 2019 Planners' Day on Capitol Hill. APA photo by Pixelme Studio.

About the Author
Brenna Donegan is APA's communications associate.

October 2, 2019

By Brenna Donegan