A Day in the Life of a One-Day Lobbyist
It is an honor that we citizens can impact government, lawmaking and regulations in this country. I am always awed when I take advantage of this right and opportunity to express my opinions to our leaders on issues that impact our industry. Beyond our votes, if our voices are not heard, others may sway our leaders in directions we don’t agree with and that are counter to our business and the affordability of housing. A Day of Lobbying each year is very little to give to see that our voices are heard. It’s a great lesson in civics!
One of my Congressional visits was to Rep. Mark Walker (R), a freshman from North Carolina. He came from outside the political circles, serving as a pastor in Greensboro prior to running for Congress.
A group of eight of us gathered to meet with him, three of whom were first-time lobbyists. We filled the hall while we let his staff know we were there for our appointment, but there was some confusion – no appointment on the calendar. And although we had emails from his office, there was no need to pull them up. In fact, they quickly found a way to “squeeze” us in before the Congressman’s next appointment.
We were taken from his small but sunny outer office, to a rich wood-paneled room. The walls were covered with pictures and sayings that demonstrated his beliefs and interests. He crowded all eight of us and his Legislative Assistant into the room. Three of us were from his district, and introduced ourselves. His eyes were intent on each of us as we spoke.
Our group had split up who would talk about which issue, and my topic was the reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The Congressman listened actively as I spoke, asking good questions and showing interest. I showed photos on my IPad of flooded areas in Fayetteville. He was well informed about the impact of Hurricane Matthew and the costs of flood damage. We pointed out that 20 percent of flood damage claims occur in areas that are not flood zones. We discussed the cost of flood insurance, and the requirement for it with HUD and other loans, and the benefits of the NFIP program versus private flood insurance. He asked us to communicate with his office, but expressed confidence this would be resolved by the September expiration of the current flood insurance program.
Another on our team discussed the issue of drive by ADA lawsuits, which was more of a surprise to the Congressman. He delved into the details, and could see how allowing a right to cure the problem would be a benefit in preventing lawsuits and costly claims, keeping costs down and making housing more accessible.
Although he had to leave for a meeting, I was impressed that Congressman Walker fit us in to his very full calendar. Despite the timing, he gave us his full attention. He even let us have a photo opp!
We visited with staffs of other members of Congress on our One-Day Lobbying Tour, and those also were impactful meetings. Although the staffs were all well-informed, and represented their offices well, there is something more impressive with meeting face to face with the Congressman. It was an honor to meet with Congressman Walker on my Day in the Life of a One-Day Lobbyist.
P.S. We had several “first-timers” in our group, and one even posted on Facebook after her Lobby Day experience: “…if you had asked me years ago if I would have been at #CAPCON on an #NAA committee and lobbying with some of the best and brightest in our industry, I would have laughed right in your face. My #thursdaythought is, never sell yourself short or let being the “new kid” in a group hold you back.”
By Mary Gwyn, Chief Innovator of Apartment Dynamics in High Point, N.C.