President’s Message – October 2022

Hurricanes, Housing, and Hope

We’re returning to our normal routines here in coastal Georgia. Knowing Hurricane Ian largely spared our state is little comfort as damage reports roll in from my home state of Florida and our neighbors to the north. My family is still relying on second-hand information about a few relatives. I hope your people are all safe and accounted for. My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones, homes, and treasured places in the storm. We know that our low-income neighbors are most vulnerable and have fewer resources as they face the long road to recovery. We also know that climate change will continue to make storms more severe and put more of us at increased risk of extreme weather impacts. 

Planning has a critical role to play – and not just for a more resilient built environment. To promote equitable adaptation and recovery, planners need to continue our work to build relationships with vulnerable and underserved people. Our colleagues in New York found that “Neighborhoods would be even better equipped to shape their own recovery if they had pre-existing civic planning expertise and strong social capital, before recovery is an urgent concern. That means working closely with vulnerable communities on resilience now.” There is no better time to rethink how we engage on a day-to-day basis. 

Take some time to read the very relevant Planning article here.

One more, “thank you” to our Board and volunteers for organizing the Fall Conference. I hope everyone came away with renewed connections and a reinforced sense of purpose. I went from Columbus to Washington where I had the honor of representing you at the APA Congressional Fly-In. We had powerful conversations promoting policy solutions to the housing crisis across rural and urban communities. Y’all know Georgia is in the elections spotlight, and we are very popular with the pollsters and policy wonks alike! It was nice to be among friends who get excited about zoning and infrastructure. We also met with USDOT and HUD senior staff. I am happy to report that they recognize the sea change in directly funding local projects and the barriers jurisdictions face in applying, managing, reporting, and compliance; the feds committed to building new relationships with, and providing long term technical assistance for, local organizations to build our capacity. GPA will stay at the forefront advocating for sustainable funds and support for implementing IIJA and other new opportunities. This is a challenging and exciting time for planning. Let’s get to work!

Yours in service,
Whitney Shephard, PE
President of the Georgia Chapter of APA