Every March for well over a decade, Preservation Massachusetts has joined other organizations, agencies and individuals in Washington DC for National Preservation Advocacy Week. The reason for the trip, as you rightfully infer, is to meet with congressional delegations and discuss important federal policy and programs that impacts historic preservation. But it’s more than just setting up meetings and walking the halls, its constant education to those in our highest levels of government that preservation is important, it is a tool for communities and how it benefits their districts and our state.
A lot of “lobby week” coverage has been given to the protection and eventual protection of the federal Historic Tax Credit program, but our meetings go beyond tax credits. An important program we advocate for every year is the Historic Preservation Fund. Created in 1976, this program funds state historic and tribal historic preservation offices across the country, as well as grant programs and CLG (certified local government) funding. This is funding that helps the Massachusetts Historical Commission do their important regulatory work, allowing important places to be saved in our communities.
We also commented this year on infrastructure. With a lot of talk about “streamlining” the process, the impact on the important Section 106 process could be real. But without a formal piece of legislation, there is not much we can do except ask our delegation to be on the lookout and realize that the 106 process is extremely important, as it ensures local input into the federal decision-making process.
Without a doubt it was an interesting time to be in Washington DC and our congressional meetings went well. The Massachusetts Senators, Representatives and their staff all know how important our history is to our communities and that preservation as a tool and an ethic brings opportunities and benefits. Preservation Massachusetts president Jim Igoe and Associate Director Erin Kelly were joined by Boston Preservation Alliance’s Greg Galer and two new-comers; Michelle Prior of the BPA Young Advisors and Briana Paxton Grosiki of Place Economics.
In addition to great meetings and continual education and relationship building on Capitol Hill, it’s also great to be with colleagues from across the country. And our voices were heard. The week following our meetings, Preservation Action, our national legislative non-profit colleague shared the latest news from DC.
The FY18 Omnibus spending bill, which funds the government through September, was released this week and includes $96.91 million for the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF), a $16 million increase over FY17 levels. This is great news for the preservation community, especially after the Administration's request called for substantial cuts to the HPF. The increased funding levels included in the bill will have a substantial impact on preservation efforts across the country. The funding includes an $8 million increase for the Save America's Treasures program, $1 million increase each for SHPOs and THPOs, and $5 million for a new competitive grant program to revitalize historic properties of national, state, and local significance.
$48.925 million for State Historic Preservation Offices, $1m increase
$11.485 million for Tribal Historic Preservation Offices, $1m increase
$13 million for Civil Rights grants, equal to FY17
$13 million for Save America's Treasures grants, $8m increase
$5 million for HBCU preservation, $1m increase
$500,000 for underserved communities grants, equal to FY17
$5 million in competitive grants to revitalize historic properties of national, state and local significance, not included in FY17
To see some increases in preservation resources is great. As we continue to hear and know, historic preservation is truly a bi-partisan. No matter where you are from, what district or state, everyone has some place that means something special to them. The connection may be intangible, but the places are real, and they matter. And isn’t that a true barometer of preservation?
Many thanks to Greg, Michelle and Briana for walking the halls with us. And to Preservation Action, NCSHPO and the National Trust for Historic Preservation for all of their support, organizing and leadership!