PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE – SEPTEMBER 2018 NEWSLETTER
by Elizabeth Z. Bialek, PE. SF Section President
Civil engineering is a people serving profession. We design, build and maintain the foundation for our society – our buildings, bridges, roads, drinking water and energy systems, ports, and most of what makes our modern lives possible. Many of us entered the profession because we enjoyed the applied sciences and had a desire to make a difference in the world. Much of our education centered on analytical methods, mechanics of materials, environmental sciences, along with formation in logic, critical thinking, and ethics, which prepared us well for the challenges we face in our work. However, another important role of engineers is public policy advocacy. We are uniquely positioned to provide advice to government officials at federal, state and local levels on technical issues and policies affecting the public interest, including the ongoing sustainability of our nation’s infrastructure.
As civil engineering professionals, we have the right knowledge, skills and abilities to serve as leaders in our communities. Many of us have taken active roles on city councils, community boards and other civic organizations. We also have a few civil engineers serving legislative bodies. As ASCE members, we all support legislative advocacy in some way because ASCE actively works with Congress and key senior administration officials on developing legislation and implementing regulations that positively affect civil engineering. That said, there is an opportunity to become more actively involved. Region 9, the SF Section and local Branches are engaged at the state and local level on priority issues such as infrastructure funding, professional licensing, natural hazards impact mitigation, STEM education, sustainability, and other issues related to the profession. With this framework in place, it is easy for all of us to become more engaged with legislative advocacy.
ASCE’s Key Contacts program provides members with resources and training for legislative advocacy and has many events and avenues for directly communicating with policy makers. ASCE Key Contacts influence the policy process at the state and federal levels by developing relationships with elected officials. You can become an ASCE key contact by registering online at: www.asce.org/keycontacts. At the most basic level, Key Contacts subscribe to “Key Alerts” about pending legislative issues, and can take action using an online system to send either pre-drafted written messages to legislators, or by composing your own. Registration as an ASCE Key Contact also provides you with access to free webinars and issue briefings. For example, this past year, ASCE provided extensive resources to organize a campaign and train members to advocate for the important infrastructure initiatives that will be on the November ballot.
In addition, both at the national level, and state level, each spring, ASCE arranges “Legislative Fly Ins” to Washington DC and also Sacramento. These events provide participants with an inside look at the public policy process, and include legislative advocacy training and individual appointments for ASCE advocates to meet with members of Congress of the State Legislature. Be on the lookout for emails about these events next spring and sign up for ASCE’s Key Contact program to stay in the loop on infrastructure and policy issues, while also developing your own leadership and advocacy skills, which will serve you well in the work that you do.
On that note, also be on the lookout for the formal release of ASCE Region 9’s California Infrastructure Report Card later on this year. Like ASCE’s National Report Card, the state report card will provide snapshot of the condition of performance of California’s Infrastructure in the form of a report card. The state report card will be a helpful tool for raising awareness about our profession’s work to build and maintain the California’s infrastructure.
Finally, as our fiscal year comes to a close, I’d like to thank all Section and Branch officers for their outstanding service over the course of this past year. Together we have hosted many technical workshops and meetings throughout the section, including the Region 9 California Infrastructure Symposium, which was hosted by the Section this past March. Best wishes to everyone for continued success and professional development as ASCE members.