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ASLA Presidential Candidates Forum Question 2: Thomas L. Mroz Jr., FASLA

Question 2: What should ASLA’s top federal and state policy focuses be in the coming year?  

Candidate Bio

At the federal level, most of ASLA’s policy activities fall into three broad categories: Climate Change and Resilience, Infrastructure, and Public Lands. All three are important, but right now Climate Change and Resilience is at center stage. With ASLA’s release of its Smart Policies for a Changing Climate report in 2018 and public buzz around the Green New Deal, we need to keep our professional society fully engaged in this conversation as ideals and aspirations make their way into concrete policies and legislation.

Under the Climate Change and Resilience umbrella, topics of focus for me are community development, vulnerable communities, and community engagement. As we reimagine and repurpose our urban and suburban communities into vibrant places for the future, we must fully consider the need for a more comprehensive, less compartmentalized approach to land use. This includes strengthening incentives for brownfield and grayfield redevelopment and looking beyond economic and environmental elements, giving equal consideration to the social and cultural aspects of our projects. Mixed income, affordable housing, easily accessible transportation systems, proximity to parks and public open space, environmental justice and genuinely participatory community engagement are all critical ingredients to building truly successful communities.

The Infrastructure category contains two major policy areas that are critically important to landscape architects: transportation, and water and stormwater. Top issues for transportation remain complete streets and accessible multimodal networks and transportation investment funding for BUILD (formerly TIGER). Water and Stormwater top issues are green infrastructure, clean water, and safe drinking water.

In the Public Lands category, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), as a major funding source for parks and public lands, consistently has been a top priority for ASLA, along with support for our National Parks. With the recent signing of the of the John D. Dingell Jr. CMR Act into law, LWCF now has permanent funding. This will allow more focus on policies and legislation relating to improvements and maintenance of our national parks and other public open spaces.

At the state level, licensure protection continues as the top priority. Because licensure is regulated at the state level, there are currently over 200 bills in 45 states having the potential to impact our practice as landscape architects. Occupational licensure reviews and outright deregulation are the top areas of concern. Even though all 50 states now recognize the role that regulating landscape architecture plays in the protection of health safety and welfare, the threat to reverse these protections has increased dramatically in the last three years. The key action we can take is to not only engage our state lawmakers when a threatening bill is introduced but to regularly engage in the education of what landscape architects do that protects public health safety and welfare. This is most effectively accomplished through regular visits with elected officials (at all levels) and on the local site tours.

Whether at the federal or state level, when it comes to policy advocacy there is strength in numbers and through ASLA our collective voice is far stronger.

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