Thanks to all membership for allowing me to participate and attend the Trustee Mid Year Meeting and Advocacy Day in Washington DC this May. As my first venture into the world of Trustee work, I learned that the Trustee group operates much like any board where staff provides data, updates, and reports on ongoing work and business. At this meeting we voted on actions including approving the budget audit, appointing members to leadership positions on Education, Government Affairs, and Communications Committees, and passing policies such as Climate Change, Ethics, and Administrative Policies.
With a little bit of shame, I admit I wondered if I would be bored by two days of meetings in the basement of a hotel talking about esoteric East Coast issues that could not possibly relate to what we do and deal with in Alaska. But instead I came back with a renewed excitement about the work I do and what membership in ASLA does for Alaska and the excellent country of 50 states that we live in.
We are supporting the Frameworks Communication Project. ASLA is working with a consultant to more effectively communicate the value of our profession to a diverse audience of different socioeconomic, cultural, political, ethnic, etc. backgrounds. I struggle daily in public practice to communicate with coworkers and the public about the value of our profession. We are probably the only state left that is a wild frontier, which is why many of us live here but also why I think many of us struggle to communicate the value of our work. This study will produce communication methods and language that may help us in our everyday frustrations.
Government Affairs and Licensure is still a top priority for ASLA. In Juneau, we received a grant this year from ASLA to support state advocacy for AELS proposed code changes regarding our profession. Licensure laws in many states are threatened and ASLA works very closely with chapters to support and promote advocacy and licensure efforts. In Alaska, we are proactively strengthening our licensure position with a voting AELS board member and code improvements. However, if other states lose licensure, Alaska is threatened. At the federal level, ASLA supported the huge success of reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund. ALSA is an active participant in climate change discussions and uses the ‘Smart Policies for a Changing Climate’ publication as a vehicle for this conversation with many federal agencies, organizations and interest groups.
The Alaska state chapter budget is strong, but the ASLA national budget took a revenue hit in 2018 resulting in a $400,000 realized loss. This was due to a significant decrease in advertisement sales for the Landscape Architecture Magazine and a decline in membership. The magazine sales loss mirrors an industry trend of readers moving to digital media. ASLA has hired a new marketing and development team to focus on new types of sales and marketing.
The membership decline has been occurring for the last few years and is a major focus of ASLA this year. Loss of members affects the bottom line of our budget and it affects the strength and value of our entire practice. We have lost many members in Alaska of late. Why are members not finding value in ASLA? Are we not communicating our value well? Do LA’s think the value does not match the cost of membership? Do we not provide the right services?
Please ask your colleagues and coworkers. If you can’t answer the questions they have, let me try or anyone else on the Chapter board. We devote a lot of our time to the board because we see direct and tangible value to our profession in Alaska and we want to make sure everyone sees and benefits from this.
The first night of the meeting was an orientation for new Trustees to go over the mission, values, vision and culture of ALSA. Two weeks ago, I went to a staff retreat for my new job at the Parks and Recreation Department and we came up with the same values, vision and culture. We are in this profession to lead our community, state, and country in stewardship, planning and design of our environment. We are dedicated, excellent, ethical, collaborative, and accountable leaders who know we can change our world through our work.
How exciting it is to be reminded of all the good work we and our colleagues around the country are doing in the face of monumental social and environmental problems we face.