A Call to Action: APWA needs you to be an advocate for public works

Richard L. Ridings, P.E., R.P.L.S.
APWA President

There has never been a more critical time than now for all of us in public works to come together as advocates for public infrastructure. As I look ahead, it is clear to me that the future holds many challenges, not only for sustaining the needed investment in our public infrastructure but also for promoting a better understanding of the role public infrastructure plays in our lives.

Consider the following infrastructure facts:

  • We are $23 billion per year underfunded in water and wastewater.
  • It would cost over $87 billion just to replace our unsafe bridges.
  • We have only constructed two new major airports in the last 20 years, while traffic has doubled.
  • Congestion delays cost more than we are spending annually on mass transit and highways. Vehicle Miles Traveled increased 100 percent while we added less than 8 percent new freeway lanes.
  • Each $1 billion spent on public infrastructure provides 42,000 jobs.
Reductions in investment, of course, have lasting impacts, often requiring decades to overcome. But as we all know, the better the public and policy-makers understand the value, the importance, and the needs of our public works infrastructure, the more likely it will be treated as the high priority it justifiably should be.

I believe we as public works professionals are ready to accept the challenges. That is why I am launching a new initiative to increase our efforts on the advocacy front. To build upon the solid successes of APWA's advocacy efforts, I am extending an invitation to each APWA member to accept a Presidential Appointment and join a new grassroots network called the APWA Legislative Advocacy Task Force, which will focus on infrastructure and funding issues.

All current APWA Presidential Appointees, Chapter Leaders, Delegates and Board Members will become Presidential Appointees to this new group. Your commitment will then be to assist us in getting out the message about our everyday heroes in public works and how our legislative and funding issues can be improved. We will work with the Rebuild America Coalition and other associations to support local bond issues and sales tax increases, utility rate increases, progressive legislation, highway funding, mass transit expansion, safety improvements, and support of research and education.

Typical of action expected of appointees will be to write letters of support to your members of Congress in support of full funding of TEA-21 and approval of the new funding bill to replace TEA-21 in 2003. Sample letters will be prepared for you, and Infrastructure Facts, which complement the bill, will be included for your information through our APWA website.

This network of advocates will be a source for bringing public works advocacy to the local, state, provincial and national level. It will be supported in its mission through information made available on APWA's extensive website, via our infoNOW Government Affairs Community (an instant information update and e-mail action alert system), our Canadian Public Works infoNOW Community, the monthly Washington Report, and through such tools as the APWA Legislative Action Center. For specifics on how to become a member of the Task Force and its benefits, please see my invitation to join this important initiative below.

Through the Legislative Advocacy Task Force and APWA's ongoing advocacy efforts we will make a difference. As public works professionals, we know that public infrastructure is the lifeblood of every community. We know that all the things that make up public works—from the physical structures such as roads and water distribution and collection systems to the important services we provide such as solid waste removal and emergency planning—are essential to every community. We also understand that much of our infrastructure is aging and that its neglect will have serious consequences for the future of our economy and quality of life.

With our knowledge, our dedication and professional experience, I cannot think of more qualified advocates for public works than those of us who have dedicated our lives to it. Our job then, as advocates, is simply to rely on our experience and to relay the facts about the state of our infrastructure and the effect policy decisions have on our responsibilities as stewards of the public infrastructure and the communities we serve.

Armed with the facts and information and organized into a growing network of advocates, we will make a difference. Please accept my call to action and become involved in APWA's U.S. and Canadian advocacy networks. For more information about APWA's advocacy programs contact the APWA Washington Office at 202-408-9541.

Invitation to Accept New Presidential Advocacy Appointment

Dear APWA Member:

Welcome to your opportunity to become an inaugural member of the American Public Works Association (APWA) Legislative Advocacy Task Force! Your interest and enthusiasm are greatly appreciated and needed as APWA undertakes this unprecedented step towards strengthening our advocacy efforts.

As a Legislative Advocacy Task Force member, you will be called upon to regularly contact your elected representatives at the local, state and federal level when legislation and programs impacting public works are being considered. Crucial public works issues are on the horizon including the reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) and funding for water infrastructure. There is a continued need to raise awareness of the importance of investment in our overall infrastructure. Your voice—and other APWA members like you—is a critical addition to our advocacy program. You will fortify the APWA grassroots network and our ability to influence and protect public works interests at all levels of government.

To assist our members in Canada, we are launching a new Canadian Public Works infoNOW Community that will link all CPWA members for advocacy and information purposes. This special infoNOW Community will include information, alerts and updates unique to public works in Canada.

As a member of the Legislative Advocacy Task Force you will be called upon to respond to advocacy alerts and to make contact with your elected representatives communicating policy positions at the local, state, provincial and national level. Several tools are now available at your disposal to assist you in your efforts. These tools include:

  • The Legislative Action Center where you can access contact information for U.S. Senators and Representatives simply by entering your zip code.
  • The Government Affairs infoNOW Community that will allow you to regularly receive legislative updates via e-mail from the APWA Government Affairs staff to keep you informed daily about current issues and legislation in the U.S. Congress.
  • Link to the State Advocacy Resources where a quick click will provide you with key information and contacts specific to your state. For members from Canada, there is a new Provincial Advocacy link connecting you with key provincial leaders.
  • Links to Government to access federal resource and agency information.
  • The Washington Report delivered to you for a quick summary of all the legislative news you need to know from the U.S. Capitol.
All of these tools are found on the APWA Government Affairs website, which is located at, so check it out.

We are making a difference. Your membership on the Legislative Advocacy Task Force puts you on the front lines as the APWA grassroots network grows to include thousands of your peers. Thank you for your efforts and involvement—together we can advocate as a public works chorus to continuously improve the quality of life and services for our communities and citizens! To sign up, simply go to and click on the icon "Join the Legislative Advocacy Task Force."


Richard L. Ridings, P.E., R.P.L.S.
APWA President