ARCHITECTURE & POLITICS: A NON-PARTISAN TAKE FROM CHAPTER PRESIDENT CYNTHIA WILLIAMS

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, you know that primary elections for Presidential candidates are in process. The Ohio primary is March 17. The AIA has posted non-partisan candidate profile statements on several issues, including climate change and housing. I urge you to read these statements before voting.

These same issues were the focus of the national AIA Grassroots Leadership Conference that I attended last week, along with AIA Cincinnati Vice-President John Jaskiewicz and Executive Director, Julie Carpenter. We were inspired by the mayors of three cities who have creatively responded to the challenges of inclusivity, affordable housing, and natural disasters.

Carpinteria, California

In Carpinteria, California, Mayor Wade Nomura saw that while 55% of the population of this beachside town is Hispanic, few of the civic leaders were. Keenly aware of what it feels like to be shut out of a community- his parents were in a Japanese internment camp in the aftermath of World War II- one of his first acts as mayor was to print all city documents in both English and Spanish, thus opening the door for more equity among residents. A landscape contractor by trade, he led his 440 square mile community through recovery from wild fires and mudslides that killed 45 people, and he is now advocating for legislation to control the noxious smell that emanates from corporate cannabis farms that once grew flowers with a more pleasing fragrance.

Kansas City

In Kansas City, Mayor Quinton Lucas effectively reduced the definition of “affordable” housing by more than half. Having experienced homelessness as a child, he has focused on access to capital by creating a $75 million housing trust fund to finance new construction and rehabilitation of existing housing. Additional development incentives are available but only for projects resulting in units that cost the occupant no more than the affordable rate.

Wauwatosa, Wisconsin

In Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, Mayor Kathleen Ehley worked with her community to respond to increased frequency of flooding that had de-valued homes near the river. They relocated 64 homes that were in the area prone to flooding, and enacted legislation to require any new construction to be flood resistant. The area now includes a market, tennis courts, a stage, and a skate park. Adjacent residential communities are now thriving.

Each of these mayors spoke of the value of the architect’s voice in shaping the conversation. Allow your voice to be heard: check out the AIA’s Guide to Engaging with Civic Leaders and by all means VOTE on March 17. 

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