By Brian Sturm
On Wednesday, February 13th, I spent the day with Kansas legislators in Topeka advocating for the profession of landscape architecture, along with a group of fellow landscape architects from the Prairie Gateway Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (PGASLA). Kansas Advocacy Day, as we call it, is an annual activity for members of the PGASLA.
Having been a casual member of this chapter for over a dozen years, I have known multiple colleagues who have done it. And last month, of the nine of us there in Topeka, more than half had participated on many previous occasions, but it was my first time. On Kansas Advocacy Day, you are asked to speak face-to-face with legislators about the value of landscape architects, the nifty work that we do, and the licensure that protects our profession.
Without question, it was an eye-opening experience. I learned the daily grind of a legislator closely resembles that of a high school student signed up for eight periods of class. Our meetings with these folks, in many cases, lasted only 15 minutes, while they scrambled from one committee session to the next. And, keep in mind, we were not the only special interest group roaming the halls of the Statehouse that morning vying for the attention of our representatives.
Fortunately, a lot of the heavy lifting was done in advance by the government relations firm our chapter retains for just this reason. Our lobbyist Sandy Braden, of Braden, Heidner, Lowe and Associates, set up a schedule, so we would have the chance to sit down with, at the very least, our own representatives or senators in the Statehouse. Those legislators that day happened to include the Senate majority leader, minority leader, and several chairs and ranking members of significant committees.
I left the experience feeling very thankful to the senators and representatives who listened to us with sincerity, asked questions, and thanked us for our commitment to our issues. I was also grateful that Kansas is not a state in which our licensure as landscape architects is currently under threat of deregulation. It is no mean feat to grab the attention of these busy politicians. But, most of all, I left Topeka that day thankful to be part of this profession - one that attracts not only creative souls, but folks who are passionate about protecting our ability to practice what we do.