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Thread: What is your view on APA chapters?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    What is your view on APA chapters?

    Earlier this year, I volunteered my time to help with my state chaper's public relations committee. It was a small group with two people and a chairman. The chairman told me there was a whole list of things he had planned for the spring as well as helping another committee prepare the upcoming fall conference downstate.

    Apart from proofreading the Annual Report, nothing else came through. A week ago, he resigned saying he couldn't devote enough time to his duties. In the e-mail attachment, there was a list of uncompleted tasks.

    This committee chairman also told me earlier this year that the Conference Committee was in dire of need of help. My mentor wanted to present at the conference as a speaker. I contacted that committee chair by e-mail and voicemail (BTW, I went to school with this guy). No returning phone calls. Nothing.

    I contacted the Chapter President. I only did this because she is an independent consultant with my firm, and I have worked with her on a few projects. I explained to her the situation about both committees. The Conference Committee Chairman (classmate) finally e-mails me back saying they don't need any help right now and the speaker list is full, but the are hoping that my firm goes to the conference as an exhibitor (more money in their coffers).

    Bottom line. this is just outright unprofessonal. I can't really say it's unethical (although two of the three above are AICP). No one is asking me to volunteer. I decided to do it because it was the right thing to do, I wanted to give back to my profession, help my mentor out, and indirectly promote my firm at the conference. If they don't want my help, it's their loss. I'm glad I'm moving out of state in a few years and don't plan on coming back soon to deal with this garbage.

    Has anyone had similar stories with their chapters? Maybe you have had better experiences.
    Last edited by nrschmid; 31 Jul 2008 at 5:58 PM.

  2. #2
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Chapters & Sections are hit or miss. One need only look at el Guapo & budgie's experience with the Kansas chapter as a worst case scenario.


    I happen to serve on a section executive committee (regional subgroup of a state chapter). I cannot tell you how much work it is to make sure it functions like it should (responsive, actually providing some value, training opportunities, social opportunities, networking, advocacy, etc.). Providing a two-hour seminar, for CM credit, requires a significant effort.

    What went on with your experience is nowhere near an ethical issue, but it is certainly not professional. Now that our particular section has righted itself and become more active, I think our members would have zero-tolerance of the level of responsiveness you encountered. That said, the folks in these positions are doing them IN ADDITION to their daily work. The catch is, to get elected, you have to have been around long enough to make some contacts and get your name out there. That usually means you are someone further up the food chain at your employer, often a department director or principal, to reach an elected position. These people also have some of the busiest schedules. I know I have struggled to keep up with my responsibilities (and clean up a mess the last person in my position left me), though I have managed to do so.

    I take it your chapter doesn't do formal calls for papers & speakers for their conference? They could save themselves a lot of headaches that way.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Fat Cat's avatar
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    Fat Cat

    I have volunteered for commitees for the state chapter but never heard back from them,
    I also note with interest that when I receive correspondence (news letter) from them that there is no AICP after my name, Curious,

    Although the APA does put the AICP after my name on their correspondence

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    You are right. Both of the committee chairmen are well-connected. However, both of them are in mid-level positions and are in their late 20's early 30's like me. I know everyone has busy schedules. Speaking as a dues-paying member and a volunteer, if they can't do something as little as return a phone call or respond to an e-mail within a couple months time, then maybe they shouldn't be serving in a leadership position. Serving in a chapter requires sacrifice, and sometimes that means putting in the extra hours after work to ensure tasks are done in a timely manner, not waiting until after you take the AICP exam (one excuse) or after you get back from a long vacation which starts at the end of the month (another excuse). I hold the officers to high standards. Period.

    Unfortunately, I don't have enough ammo to lodge any sort of complaint at this time. I don't want to appear as a hothead either. Plus, I am also a consultant whose firm has saught work from both communities, which means I have to keep my mouth shut even tighter. I am just outright disgusted at this point. The state conference is still months away and a lot can still happen in that time, so I try to keep things in perspective.

  5. #5
    The state chapters can be very mixed. This comes from someone who has served as newsletter editor for several. Some can be very good-kentucky's fror example. Some can be very political. Others seem to struggle. It all depends on the personalities involved in them and their level of committment. I will say that organization and strong leadership seem to be the keys.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian rcgplanner's avatar
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    I have been lucky, both state chapters I have been a member of have been very active. Minnesota puts on a great state conference, a decent monthly e-newsletter, and a few brown bag lunches a year.

    Indiana has an okay quarterly newsletter, 2 conferences a year, a smaller spring conference and a larger fall conference (unless it is an OKI year), a decent website, as well as a very active listserv which I have used several times at work to help answer questions or poll communities if I am working on research.

    I would say I feel like I get more out of my state membership then my National APA membership.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    I haven't been too involved with them, but the Southern New England states all seem to have very good chapters. The more I read about other dysfuncional chapters, the more I appreciate them.

  8. #8
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Ohio's chapter (Ohio Planning Conference) is very active.

    From what I understand, APA state and regional chapters have a greater degree of autonomy compared to specialty divisions. Note that many of them have names that don't mention the APA; Ohio Planning Conference, Michigan Association of Planners, Georgia Planning Association, and so on.

    Also, there's still some active but orphaned state chapters of the long-defunct, pre-merger American Institute of Planners and American Society of Planning Officials. When the organizations merged to become the APA, most of the state chapters of each organization also merged. Several chose not to merge, though, so the result is "orphan" groups like the Florida Planning and Zoning Organization, New Jersey Planning Officials, New York Planning Federation, Planners Association of Washington, and so on. Those states will have both an APA state chapter that was either an AIP or APSO chapter, and an active but orphaned chapter of the other pre-APA merger professional organization..

    Please correct me if I'm wrong.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Thank you for your replies. I think I should have rephrased my original post: what is your view on working in APA Chapters (serving on committees, volunteering with, etc.). Thanks suburb repairman.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Working for a similar organization (AIA),I've been disappointed in the washington state APA chapter. There just seems to be a lack of engagement in th community/profession. My office does over 50 short programs and 6 full-day/multiday forums a year; we also do comprehensive advocacy and legislative coverage, work with over a dozen committees, etc.

    I go to the local APA website (since I'm going into planning, not arch) and all I see is a brown bag lunch and learn once every month or so, afew lectures done by UW, some job postings and a sortof random collection of articles.

    It really worries me if this is an accurate reflection of the state of the two professions.


  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    reading your updated post:

    if you have an active chapter, I'd highly suggest working with them. Member organizations can be great for exploring aspects of the profession you don't get to handle at work, networking, etc. And if the APA isn't active, try the AIA. In our chapter, at least, we have committees with planners on them (urban design, etc).

  12. #12
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mobiusstrip View post
    Working for a similar organization (AIA),I've been disappointed in the washington state APA chapter. There just seems to be a lack of engagement in th community/profession. My office does over 50 short programs and 6 full-day/multiday forums a year; we also do comprehensive advocacy and legislative coverage, work with over a dozen committees, etc.

    I go to the local APA website (since I'm going into planning, not arch) and all I see is a brown bag lunch and learn once every month or so, afew lectures done by UW, some job postings and a sortof random collection of articles.

    It really worries me if this is an accurate reflection of the state of the two professions.

    I think part of the disparity in activity comes from the type of employer. Most planners work for the public sector, while architects are private sector. As a result, at least on the more local level, planners are less likely to take on a lobbying/advocacy role, as it may mean taking a position in conflict with their workplace or result in accusations of getting "too political" as a public employee. Of course, some local APA sections have embarked on some creative partnerships with their AIA counterparts; AIA will often represent the interests of APA locally in order to protect the public employees. While that explains the lack of advocacy and being "out there" publicly at the local level, it is no excuse for the lack of emphasis on professional development. The progressive chapters & sections have picked up this mantle, but many of them are well behind the curve.

    Part of our strategic plan (yes, our local section has one) is to reach out to the local AIA in the fall to start co-sponsoring events. It'll allow us to realize some economies of scale, increase interaction between the two groups, and allow more local, low-cost/free CM opportunities.

    Sections/Chapters of APA should be doing a helluva lot more than brown bag lunch-n-learns.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  13. #13
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    I've seen very little evidence to show that my local chapter does anything at all. I'd certainly attend events if they had them, and given that this is the most densely populated area of the entire country, I'm at a loss to explain why the chapter is so inactive.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    I came from New Jersey, their chapter is just ok. They have a yearly conference which is put on well, however when I was taking the AICP test, just a few weeks before their review class was to begin they canceled it due to not enough interest. They didn't follow up well with us after that either.

    Now, in South Carolina, I have to say that they are probably a model state chapter. SCAPA, or APA SC as it is now, has a great website, two to four seminars and conferences a year, monthly emails and other emails of interest for training and seminars in the area. They also have some very good planners within the state who write opinions on state laws and suggestions on how to utilize new state programs. There is also an email message board that planners can quickly sound questions off of no less than 100 other in state planners and professionals. I am happy with the SCAPA.
    @GigCityPlanner

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