Discussion: View Thread

  • 1.  How to make impact on public policies

    Posted 04-26-2017 12:05 PM
    I see many dedicated local politicians working to understand water, waste water, transportation and flooding issues.   Just one member of a city council, county board, or state legislator could inspire a dramatic up- shift in the way public tax dollars are spent. I'd love to hear from others about approaches you have taken as an engineer to impact public policies. What has worked for you, and what hasn't? 

    Barry Anderson P.E., M.ASCE
    Granite Falls MN

  • 2.  RE: How to make impact on public policies

    Posted 04-27-2017 09:31 AM
    One approach I have used is to volunteer for local government-formed committees on key engineering topics. For example, my county formed a citizens' stormwater management committee. That group initially was to provide only a "public perspective" on what should be done about flooding in the county. Ultimately, it was responsible for commenting on the work of county-hired engineers and then on the proposed regulations that came from that work - which had significant impact on new development, rehab, and overall stormwater flows. You can be certain that real estate developers were largely represented on that committee. What if a few of us engineers were not there? What might have happened.  

    We need to get directly involved like that. In being on that committee, it gave me a different sort of access to legislators than I would have had otherwise. I got to know these people and had side conversations that may (or may not) have influenced a decision on more sustainable practices. Often the solicitation for these committees is just a one paragraph announcement in a local newspaper. Sometimes it is prominently displayed on the local government website. But you definitely have to go looking for it.

    J. Grant Hauber A.M.ASCE
    Public-Private Partnership Specialist
    Newton Center MA

  • 3.  RE: How to make impact on public policies

    Posted 04-27-2017 11:00 AM
    Key here in South Florida is involvement in local groups such as civic associations and Sea level Rise Action Committee and similar coalition groups and make it known that one has engineering skills to offer      .......... engineers are in short supply who are willing to become well-informed about SLR, waste management, transportation, flooding, seawalls, etc. Once self-educated on these issues, an engineer can make real contributions to local problems and get solutions formulated. Patience and discussions are both required..

    Alexis Sommers Ph.D., A.M.ASCE
    Professor Emeritus
    University of New Haven
    Hollywood FL

  • 4.  RE: How to make impact on public policies

    Posted 04-27-2017 02:52 PM
    Much of my 31 years with first The Automotive Safety Foundation and then a predecessor, The Highway User Federation was devoted to assisting Governors, State Legislative Committees and Transportation Commissions in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of state highway programs.  On a contract basis my organization provided my services over a one or more year basis to assist advisory committees in examining facts about their programs concluding with reports on the strengths an weaknesses as compared with carefully selected similar states' programs.  While that is the essence of the process I was engaged in working in 22 states, there is much to be said about each investigative process on how each was accomplished and the varied conclusions. 
    I believe that another strength of the work was the fact that my employers and I represented a broad array of industries that did not represent the construction industries but the interest of a broader spectrum of US industries such as the auto manufacturers, auto insurers, AAA, etc.  It was often said that these state highway program reviews were aimed at improving "the bang for the taxpayers' buck".  
    Another important point of the program reviews was that they did not promise to deliver specific processes -- such as highway maintenance processes -- but how the highway maintenance program or process -- however specified -- compared with other state highway maintenance endeavors.
    Another strength of these reviews was the fact that an advisory committee made of local state officials representing important industries, the state legislature and such organizations as the state AAA met monthly to review progress and offer guidance on the review process.
    That is enough said to give you an idea of these 22 such reviews that I led mostly in the 1980 to 1995 period with some states committing to several reviews.

    Marshall Reed P.E., M.ASCE
    Southport, NC, 28461

  • 5.  RE: How to make impact on public policies

    Posted 04-28-2017 09:38 AM
    When I didn't like the direction our Legislature in Alaska was heading 30 years ago, I ran for office, was elected, and served in our Legislature and as Lieutenant Governor.  Engineers generally have the right skills to think logically, but must understand that the public process is not always logical.  And it takes a lot of time to get a little done. I encourage engineers to get involved on boards, commissions, advisory boards and panels, service organizations, and even run for city councils and and legislatures to impact public policy. Having a winsome attitude and being prepared also help a lot in getting things done.

    Loren Leman P.E., M.ASCE
    Anchorage AK

  • 6.  RE: How to make impact on public policies

    Posted 04-28-2017 09:38 AM
    I spent 8 years on the State of Idaho Department of Environmental Quality Board for the on site septic system committee. It is referred to as the Technical Guidance Committee and writes all regulations to aid the health districts to approve properly designed septic systems. The problem you may run into that I did, it became political. If someone has a product that they want approved, they will get a senator or congressman to come to the meeting and help push the product. If we decided that it was not an acceptable product, we would get threats to disband the committee. Than cant happen without a lot of rule changes. 
    My point is be ready to fight. I am no longer on the committee due to the fact that I will speak up and not afraid to tell the people pushing a product that I don't believe in it and would not support it. There are a lot of products out that should not be on the market, they don't work. 
    When it comes to on site septic would have to say that 20+ years experience in wastewater gives me a little more knowledge than most. It is something that I really like doing and my opinion is important. I have aided in the development of several wastewater treatment systems. 
    In the end the head of DEQ decided that he did not like my opinion and had me thrown off the committee. Was it right, NO. I learned a lot and did a lot of good, that is all you can hope for. 
    It also aids in your continuing education if your State will allow it. I spent one years close to 600 hours researching products and treatment systems to fully understand how they work. It was a lot of effort but worth it in the end.

    George Miles P.E., M.ASCE
    Alligator Engineering Inc
    New Smyrna Beach FL