During rare breaks between meetings last week, Advocacy Day teams huddled in hallways and the Longworth House cafeteria to compare notes about their visits with elected officials. With conversations still fresh in their minds, preservation advocates jotted down which congressional representatives agreed to join the Preservation Caucus, which ones needed more prodding to do so, who needed more education about preservation issues, and who requested follow-up information. The two sponsors of Advocacy Day--Preservation Action and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers--wasted no time in following up on the notes and recommendations from their preservation foot soldiers on Capitol Hill. Both organizations report some extremely positive outcomes from the more than 200 meetings that took place.Fifty-nine additional signatures were added to the “Dear Colleague” letter which requested level funding for the Historic Preservation Fund, bringing the total number of signatures to 98. This is significantly higher than last year’s 60 signatures, showing that Hill advocacy last week really paid off. As Erik Hein, president of Preservation Action, explained: “These numbers are a good thing since it shows broad support for continued funding for SHPOs and THPOs through the historic preservation fund. This support is particularly important in this spending climate.” The deadline for signatures has been extended until noon today, March 16. If a member's name is not on the list, advocates should call him or her immediately.The current list of sponsors can be found here on Preservation Action's website.
Advocacy Day participants were also successful in convincing four new legislators to join the Preservation Caucus, bringing the total number of members to 123. During their meetings with congressional staff, preservation delegates stressed that preservation creates jobs. A number reported back from their meetings that the jobs message resonates with lawmakers and that elected officials expressed interest in both historic rehabilitation tax bills and the historic schools bill. Two new sponsors signed on to H.R. 2555, the Historic Homeownership Revitalization Act, and Preservation Action anticipates that more will sign on in the coming months. To learn more about the tax credit bills visit Preservation Action and PreservationNation.org Preservation & the Historic Tax Credit section of our website. Elizabeth Hebron, government relations director for the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO), explains that follow-up to Advocacy Day extends throughout the year. She notes that a yearly Hill meeting in D.C., is nice, but a conversation throughout the year is better. She and her national partners work with their members to cultivate relationships with key elected officials, both on Capitol Hill and in their individual districts, especially new members who have expressed an interest in historic preservation.
Hebron recommends that preservationists “continue the conversation” with Congressional members by inviting legislators and/or staff to events such as the opening of a historic tax credit building and preservation conferences; meeting legislators and staff in their districts and taking them on a quick tour of main streets or historic districts; and writing letters to the editor of the local newspaper about the importance of historic preservation to the community.
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