“The best thing for AIA Colorado members to know is that the Government Affairs Committee is here for them,” said Anthony Ries, AIA and 2018 chair of the AIA Colorado Government Affairs Committee. “We can help amplify their voice.”
For Ries, government affairs and advocacy were the key reasons he joined AIA Colorado. At the time, he was working at Gerou & Associates, while also attending architecture school at University of Colorado, Boulder. He began working as a draftsman immediately after high school, but decided to attend college in his mid-twenties, ultimately continuing on to receive his MBA and Master’s of Architecture from CU Denver. Shortly after graduation is when he joined the Government Affairs Committee.
“I saw that the architects at Gerou & Associates were AIA Colorado members and that they had the opportunity to get involved with legislation around architecture. As you may be aware, Cheri Gerou, FAIA successfully ran for office and represented her district for a time, which was very inspirational.” recalled Ries. I’ve always had an interest in politics and now I see how architects can be involved in both our communities and in making the profession better.”
His interests compelled him to join AIA Colorado’s Government Affairs Committee, which he has now been an integral part of for years. Not only does Ries currently serve as the committee chair, but he previously chaired the committee in 2015.
What does the Government Affairs Committee do?
AIA Colorado and the Government Affairs Committee had many successes in 2017, including working with a broad coalition on the construction defects law to create better protections for architects and creating an official Policies and Positions document, which will better position the committee to proactively advocate.
Additionally, every Tuesday from January to May, the AIA Colorado Legislative Subcommittee meets to review proposed bills and make recommendations to the AIA Colorado Board on whether or not to take action.
“We will also be more proactive this year and in the future, looking at ways that we can protect licensing laws, protect architects from frivolous lawsuits and more.” said Ries. “We started small in 2016 with HB16-1076 Retired Architect Status. This was championed by Mike Wisneski, AIA and was really our first foray into crafting legislation. We hope to build upon that success.”
Ries explained that the committee is looking for ways to build relationships with legislators that will hopefully champion and support architects when proposed bills have the potential to impact the profession. “We have a couple legislators with whom we have great relationships already and are looking to expand our network of friends to architects.”
“We could use members’ help in building these one-on-one relationships with senators,” Ries said, suggesting that members host fundraisers or even just invite an elected representative to coffee.
Why does advocacy matter for architects and how can they get involved?
Ries continues his active involvement in the committee because he’s seen tangible results of architects using their voice to advocate for the profession. Recent examples include the outpouring of support from architects across the nation in opposing the original tax reform bill, which successfully sparked changes in the reform to more positively impact architects, and the successful work on construction defects laws to better protect architects on a local level. So far in 2018, the Government Affairs Committee is focusing attention on HB18-1190: Modify Job Creation Main Street Revitalization Act.
“This work matters because there are so many things happening in our community that could really benefit from an architect’s perspective, including affordable housing, development and land use” urged Ries.
Ries believes that architects can use their specialized expertise to influence issues in a positive way, whether it is serving on the Government Affairs Committee, contacting your representatives or joining a commission, zoning board or even city council.
“The Government Affairs Committee is your voice at the state house and nationally,” said Ries. “Members should know that they can reach out to Government Affairs Committee Members or AIA Colorado Staff if they see an issue in their community or an upcoming piece of legislation, and we can take a look at it with them. To me, this is the top reason to join AIA.”
The way issues come to the attention of the AIA Colorado Government Affairs Committee is both through the Legislative Subcommittee, as well as members at large. Once an issue is identified, the committee can make recommendations to the board of directors, but they also need the support of members to write a position paper and help champion the cause. That can be through meeting with your representative or spending a portion of your day testifying for, or against, legislation.
Advocating for licensure
AIA Colorado believes that licensure matters, and through advocacy we work to protect it.
“Licensure matters because architecture is not just designing something that is beautiful, but it’s also about designing a place where people live and spend so much of their time. There’s a lot to know to create a safe, healthy, productive environment, and architects are the ones trained to do that,” Ries explained.
Ries originally became an architect because to him, it was the perfect way to express both his artistic and analytical sides. He didn’t expect to add “citizen architect” to his resume, but through his Government Affairs Committee involvement, Ries has become an advocacy expert.
If you’re interested in learning more about getting involved as an advocate or attending a Government Affairs Committee meeting, email firstname.lastname@example.org.