It’s no accident: the NAA Capitol Conference recap

AfterThoughts – TAA Government Affairs Journal

The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop.” – P.J. O’Rourke

Washington, D.C. is a magical place, a land filled with rivers and trees, monsters and dragons, lords and ladies, and the federal government.

Washington is also a place where many people go to spend their vacation. I’m not sure what the attraction is, unless it’s closely related to the same impulse that causes drivers to slow down and look at serious car accidents.

Regardless, every year in March the National Apartment Association (NAA) holds its Capitol Conference in Washington, D.C. This is a chance for all the local and state associations to get together, reconnect, learn what’s going on in Congress and then spend a day visiting their congressmen and women advocating for the multifamily industry.

Each conference has a theme, and this year’s theme was “Invest in Your Political Capitol.” The theme reminds us that as members of a republic, we are all stakeholders in the decisions made by our elected leaders. Furthermore, as members of the multifamily housing industry, if we don’t advocate for our industry, who will?

There were many great activities and classes that were available. Some of my favorites that I attended were the State and Local Government Affairs Roundtable, the Government Affairs Keynote Luncheon and the Lobby Day on Capitol Hill.

The State and Local Government Affairs Roundtable was a chance to sit down with my counterparts from across the country and share what was going on in our respective jurisdictions. The topics were provided by NAA and the discussions were time limited, so think of it as speed dating for the political set.

Person 1: What color best describes your personality?

Person 2: Red, because of all the tape I have to cut through.

Person 1: What do you do for fun?

Person 2: I take long walks on the beach, I try new recipes from around the world, I knit and I lobby against higher taxes and fees by local municipalities who believe that the best way to raise revenues is to impose taxes on the multifamily housing industry.

The roundtable was truly beneficial as I was able to learn how to deal with some of the issues we face here in the Triangle. However, after completing the roundtable and listening to my colleagues, I was left with the following three “takeaways:” 1. I’m glad I don’t live in Los Angeles, 2. I’m glad I don’t live in New Jersey and 3. I’m glad I don’t live in Chicago.

My second favorite was the Government Affairs Keynote Luncheon. This was partially because it involved a meal but primarily because the keynote speaker was former Senator Alan Simpson.

Sen. Simpson could be politely described as a curmudgeon, which is a description he delights in. As case in point, he started his talk by quoting President Andrew Johnson: “Washington, D.C. is 12 square miles bordered by reality.”

Always his own man, he spoke the truth as he saw it and worked with whoever he could to get the job done: he didn’t about care your political party, your race, your origin or any other commonly dividing factor. His speech was one of humor and poignant advice on what needs to be done to fix the broken aspects of our country and how the multifamily housing industry should be go about getting their legislative agendas accomplished.

The next day, most of the delegates converged on Capitol Hill to follow through with Senator Simpson’s advice and speak to our elected leaders on behalf of our industry. TAA had a full day of meetings: our delegation was able to meet with Sen. Hagan (with AANC), Congressman Holding, and staff representatives of Congressman Price and Sen. Burr. We had met with Congresswoman Ellmers’ staff on Tuesday afternoon.

The three main issues we discussed were: immigration reform, housing finance reform and fair housing – disparate impact liability.

All the elected officials and their staff were cordial and open to what we had to say. Many asked good questions about our industry and policy goals, and several of them have followed up with me since the conference. It was and is a pleasure to share with them how the decisions made in Congress directly impacts TAA members.

The NAA Capitol Conference is a good chance to learn more about our industry, to connect with like-minded individuals from across the country and to speak to our elected leaders about the needs of the multifamily housing industry. Next year, will you consider joining TAA in Washington, D.C.?

You would have a great time, and that’s no accident.