The Iowa Caucus: An Opportunity for Planners

Throughout the Iowa caucus season, Iowans become accustomed to the myriad opportunities to hear from, and in many cases meet, the presidential candidates that descend on the state. Planners in Iowa also have the ability to take advantage of this rare opportunity to advocate for issues important to their profession.

An example of a planner seizing this opportunity is Elizabeth Presutti, AICP, who is general manager of the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART). This summer, DART was contacted by Hillary Clinton’s campaign to tour DART Central Station, a certified LEED Platinum building in downtown Des Moines funded in part through a 2010 TIGER grant. Clinton’s campaign was rolling out its energy policy, and visiting the DART facility was an opportunity for the candidate to hear firsthand how energy efficiency practices can be implemented in public buildings.

While the primary goal of Clinton’s tour was to showcase the green aspects of DART Central Station, Presutti noted the visit also helped underscore the value of public transportation to the community.

“Seeing people get on and off the buses at the facility — that human element — makes a big impression on politicians,” Presutti said. “It helps them, and often times a broader public through the media coverage, to understand the benefit of this building and public transit to their constituents.”

In addition to hosting Clinton on a tour, Presutti added that DART regularly hosts site visits for other elected officials including members of Congress.

Presutti was asked why it is important for planners to have a role in advocacy and to take advantage of these opportunities. “Federal policy often leads to state and local policies,” she said. “Decisions at the federal level on issues such as transportation, energy, and housing all affect the built environment and how our communities grow and develop.”

As the country waits for the election cycle to play out, planners recognize that their work may be affected by policies implemented by the new president. Presutti’s work shows the proactive role planners can have in educating elected officials to help shape these policies.

Want to host a site tour for presidential candidates or elected officials visiting your community? Use APA’s checklist to help you prepare!

About the Author

Dylan Mullenix is Iowa State Chair of APA's Planners' Advocacy Network.

Image: Elizabeth Presutti and Hillary Clinton speaking to a DART facilities employee during the tour. Photo by Grace Wenzel with Happy Medium.

March 20, 2016

By Dylan Mullenix, AICP