As Preservation Action celebrated 40 years of advocacy for historic preservation policy, National Historic Preservation Advocacy Week participants found the most essential tool in historic preservation under threat. Panelists and speakers gave the rally cry for preservationists to increase their activity on the historic tax credit and historic preservation funding and to hold legislators accountable.
Despite an ice storm that delayed and cancelled flights, preservationists truly weathered the storm to make it to Washington, DC. Nearly 140 members were able to make it in – sadly several delegations could not make it due to the hazardous conditions – to participate in a full day of training and informational meetings before heading to nearly 200 meetings on the Hill.
Pictured Above: Elm Terrace historic rehabilitation in Portland, ME receives award at “Preservation’s Best Congressional Reception. Pictured (left to right), Darlene Taylor, Preservation Action; Senator Angus King (I-ME); Erin Cooperrider, Community Housing of Maine; Cullen Ryan, Community Housing of Maine; Michael Phillips, National Trust Community Investment Corporation.
Preservation Pitch: Talking to the Media
The theme of the panel discussions and speakers was Preservation Pitch. The Wall Street Journal’s Bureau Chief of Global Real Estate, Constance Mitchell-Ford, started the day with the first ever advocacy panel on how to talk to the media.
Constance shared how reporters and editors filter through press releases and email announcements for stories. She advised preservationists to how to make their story pitches. Because there is no preservation beat, she advised, get to know reporters, know the sections of the paper, match your pitch to the reporter’s beat.
Attention grabbers she noted were big numbers, famous names, politics, and high impact. She noted she gets 250 emails a day and about 50 of them are story pitches.
Note: the Wall Street Journal’s following weekend edition featured a story, “Historic Sites on the Block” by Amy Campoy, about preservationists advocating for funding.
Preservation Pitch: Talking to the Hill and the Administration
In pitching preservation to the Hill, a representative of Rep. Rush Holt’s office was joined by Alan Spears, National Parks Conservation Association and Ben Kershaw, American Alliance of Museums. Francisco Carrillo, Legislative Affairs, Department of Interior also shared perspective on how the Executive works with Congress and how preservationists can work with the agencies.
The question and answer session covered preparing for a meeting by doing research on the Member of Congress, knowing their committee assignments and knowing what’s being said about the Member in the news. Panelists noted the important role of our members from across the states in advocacy visits as the local experts in how historic preservation works in a Member’s district. Ms. Siani advised that to get meetings scheduled with the Member in the district, start sending those requests in now; and Mr. Carillo also noted that Secretary Jewell is open to visits in the states and encouraged preservationists to reach out to the Department of Interior to request meetings and site visits.
Focusing on This Year’s Legislative Issues
What we call the Preservation Partners, comprised of federal and national preservation agencies and organizations, led a panel discussion on the key issues for advocacy day: expanding the Congressional Historic Preservation Caucus, preserving the historic rehabilitation tax credit and funding for the HPF.
Darlene Taylor, Preservation Action, Bambi Kraus, National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, Elizabeth Hebron, National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, and Tom Cassidy, National Trust for Historic Preservation, walked through the message points for the Hill visits and an understanding how the Caucus works and the legislative climate for the funding and tax credit issues.
Just as more state legislatures are passing historic tax credit bills and communities are rebuilding because of new investment and growth spurred by historic tax credits, House Ways and Means Chairman David Camp (R-MI) introduced a proposal to eliminate the federal Historic Tax Credit. As preservationists went through training sessions and state delegation advocacy schedules and policy updates, they were also armed with a coalition letter signed over 325 organizations to protect the tax credit.
Interior and White House Officials Discuss Historic Preservation Funding
Administration representatives joined us to discuss FY 2015 budget priorities. Rachel Jacobson, Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks was the keynote Luncheon speaker. She outlined National Park Service priorities in cultural resources, funding to the SHPOs and THPOs, and focusing resources on young people. She recognized the Preservation Action Foundation’s Advocacy Scholars.
Preservation Action organized a Domestic Policy Briefing which featured Michael Degnan of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. An hour after President Obama released the budget, Michael presented highlights of the President’s FY 2015 budget. Key funding included $2.6 billion for the Department of Interior, $56.4 million for the HPF – the same as the current FY 2014 funding numbers, $46.9 million for grants to states and territories and $9 million to tribes. It also includes $500,000 grants for underrepresented communities. Additional funding for historic preservation was a request for $6 million under the proposed Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative grants to SHPOS and THPOs to digitize legacy data into an online National Inventory. He discussed a Centennial Initiative for the National Parks Service which requests $40 million to prepare for and celebrate the centennial.
Honoring Nellie Longsworth, founding President of Preservation Action
With threats in Congress to eliminate the historic tax credit – this is a pivotal moment – but Preservation Action is no stranger to the battle for the field’s greatest tool. When cities across the country were destroying empty and ignored historic structures as part of urban renewal, Nellie Longsworth, founding President of Preservation Action, was at the forefront of America’s preservation movement working to protect historic places. Nellie rallied preservationists and helped create the tax credit and save the credit when attacked.
Nellie was honored during the Preservation’s Best Congressional Reception with the Pioneer in Preservation Award. Bill Parson, Chief of Staff to Maryland Congressman Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s read a tribute to Nellie that was introduced in Congress on March 4 and submitted to the Congressional Record. University of Maryland provided a videographer, Christina McHenry, and Peg Breen, President of New York Landmarks Conservancy and a member of the Preservation Action Executive Committee interviewed Nellie on the early days of Preservation Action.
Nellie gave us a legacy of action and major credit goes to her for building coalitions to lobby from the grassroots to the grasstops to make the rehabilitation tax credit a reality. With nearly 200 preservationists in Washington, DC for this year’s National Historic Preservation Advocacy Week, the grassroots voice of preservation was on hand to start saving the tax credit and to urge Members of Congress to reauthorize the Historic Preservation Fund.
Preservation’s Best of 2013 Awards
Celebrating the success of the rehabilitation tax credit and the best projects from 2013 that used the credit, Preservation Action was joined by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Trust Community Investment Corporation to host the Preservation’s Best Congressional Reception. In determining the candidates for Preservation’s Best, we considered finished projects that prove the historic rehabilitation credit is the most significant tool the federal government created for historic preservation.
Congressional Historic Preservation Caucus Co-Chairs Michael Turner and Rush Holt saluted preservationists and the representatives of the six development projects that received the Preservation Best awards. Each project will be highlighted as part of our Preservation Stories series later this month.
- Boyle Hotel, Long Angeles, CA
- Brewhouse Inn & Suites, Milwaukee, WI
- Elm Terrance, Portland, ME
- Harvest Commons, Chicago, IL
- Macon Lofts, Macon, GA
- Mill No. 1, Baltimore, MD
Members of Congress noted that through federal incentives like the Historic Tax Credit, historic preservation is driving economic development and community revitalization. The projects demonstrated how the credit was taking historically significant buildings, that are dated and abandoned, and turning them into viable community assets in a 21st Century economy. The “Preservation’s Best of 2013” highlighted exemplary Historic Tax Credit projects that are revitalizing our cities and small towns, and breathing new life into communities.
Advocacy Scholars: Supporting the Next Generation of Preservation Advocates
During a Capitol Hill breakfast with preservationists, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, and Megan Brown, Certified Local Government National Coordinator at the National Park Service, student winners of Preservation Action’s first-ever Advocacy Scholars competition were recognized for their winning historic preservation policy papers.
The Advocacy Scholar winners are Marais Bjornberg of University of Minnesota, Julia Larson of University of Oregon, Clint Tankersley of Georgia State, Alexander Toprac of University of Maryland, and Max Yeston of Columbia University.
Following the breakfast, the Scholars joined State delegations advocacy meetings with members of Congress from their home states. The scholars program is sponsored by HRI Properties and the Preservation Action Foundation.
Advocacy in the States – Hometown Focus
As preservationists return to the their home states, Preservation Action is counting on grassroots activists to meet with members of Congress in their districts to help save the tax credit, join us in preservation events, and learn more about the success of historic preservation in their communities.
During the Breakfast on the Hill, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, member of the House Ways and Means Committee charged preservationists to educate members of Congress on the value of the Historic Tax Credit and let Chairman Camp and every member of Congress know that the tax credit is a significant investment tool.
Five steps to for in-District Advocacy:
The Congressional in-District work periods are times to continue advocating for the tax credit and historic preservation funding. Remember Ms. Siani from Holt’s office said to get invitations out ASAP.
Meet the Member of Congress and their District staff in their District office.
Invite them to tour a project with you. Invite them to tour a historic site.
Help Us, Help You
Thank you to all of our State Coordinators that scheduled their state delegation’s meeting, prepared materials, and rallied their state-wide advocates.
Knowing who you meet with and how the meetings went is essential for Preservation Action and National Conference staff for their continued advocacy. Reports from the Hill meetings allows us to help you. Please complete your Hill report forms online through SurveyMonkey, or by downloading the PDF form and emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxing to 202-463-1299. Any format is accepted, because we want this information. Also, let us know what district events you have planned with your member of Congress.
Thank you for your Advocacy!