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From left to right, Suzy Staffer, Sherry SHPO, Preservation Pete and Connie Constituent.

And Suzy Staffer and Congressman Stuffington, too.

No, I haven't gone crazy and these aren't my imaginary friends. They're all characters from an advocacy 101 skit that I had the privilege of taking in yesterday as the training portion of Preservation Lobby Day 2009 kicked off in grand style. Today, I'll be following Team Way Outside the Beltwayers as they complete an all-day, twelve-meeting marathon on what will be my first real trip to Capitol Hill. Here are just some of the notes I scribbled down as I tried to figure out what to expect:

  • Wear comfy shoes, as some of the buildings on Capitol Hill are far apart and downright cavernous by design.
  • Be a big time early bird. Remember that you'll have to be screened by security in every building you enter, and those lines can be up to 20-30 minutes long sometimes. Also, build in time to get lost. The office numbers/locations are unpredictable at best, especially for first-timers.
  • Because many Hill staffers are fresh out of their college poly sci classes, you might find yourself in a meeting with someone who looks like they aren't a day over 21. It's not a bad thing, especially if it puts you in the role of educator. Just be mentally prepared for what can be an initial curveball.
  • Do your homework. Things to pay close attention to are voting records, congressional committee memberships and personal interests. If you forget or don't have time, ask a few quick questions while all the hands are still shaking.
  • Don't expect that you'll get a full hour. In truth, fifteen or so minutes is average (and sufficient if you play your cards right).
  • For staffers, if you're wavering between first name only and Mr. or Ms. X, just ask. It's totally okay to do so.

    ... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

Ready, Set, Lobby!

Posted on: March 9th, 2009 by Jason Clement

 

One-sheeters and leave-behinds? Check. Perfected elevator speech? Check. Shoes that can be slipped on and off quickly when passing through security? Check. Unwavering passion for all things preservation? Duh!

Preservation Lobby Day 2009 is here, and my time with the Washington State delegation (which from this point forward will only be referred to by their adopted nickname, Team Way Outside the Beltwayers) got off to an action-packed start today during our advocacy training (and veritable lobbying pep rally). Hopefully you saw last week's post announcing that we'll be following them from meeting to meeting during their time here in D.C. If not, check it out and then head over to PreservationNation.org to meet the entire team.

The marathon (and that's not just a figure of speech; I'm told there is often some running involved) of meetings starts tomorrow morning at 10:30 AM, and we'll be live from Capitol Hill until about 5:30.

So, check out the pictures above and stay tuned as we hit the Hill!

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

Protecting What's Deep in the Heart (& Dirt) of Texas

Posted on: March 6th, 2009 by Jason Clement

 

Something

The Wilson-Leonard Site in Williamson County, Texas contained one of the oldest and most complete human burials ever found in North America.

If you've ever been to Texas and driven up I-35 through the Austin-Waco corridor, you know that Williamson County is a beautiful place.

Located just close enough to the Hill Country to get some of the beautiful, rolling landscape, it's a place where you find sleepy small towns, Texas-size blue skies and roadside smokehouses that all sell the "world's best" beef jerky. And, if you're lucky enough to find yourself passing through during the spring, you'll experience the surreal blankets of bluebonnets that so many country singers mention in their songs.

However, aside from boasting a good share of the postcard-perfect images associated with the Lone Star State, Williamson County is also home to a 2.5-acre parcel of land that contains archaeological evidence from every prehistoric time period in Texas. Located in a deeply stratified area in the county's southwestern Brushy Creek Valley, the Wilson-Leonard Site contained one of the oldest and most complete human burials ever found in North America.

If you've never heard of it, think back (or just Google) to the early 1980s when archaeologists from the University of Texas found the remains of an 11,000-year old female who they nicknamed Leanne (or the “Leanderthal Lady” to play off the name of a nearby city, Leander). That all happened at the Wilson-Leonard Site.

Now the place that brought us such fascinating discoveries is at the center of a controversy that could have repercussions for archeological resources across the country.

In 1991, the site was donated to the Archaeological Conservancy by the Wilson Land & Cattle Company and Will R. Wilson, Sr. The donation was subject to a reverter clause that included several conditions requiring the property to be used "predominantly to provide an archaeological laboratory for intermittent research excavations, restoration of Indian artifacts and habitats, exhibition of artifacts and restored habitats to the public, or for any other archaeological purpose."

Fourteen years later, in 2005, much of Williamson County was facing intense pressure from development and skyrocketing land values. The original grantor of the gift, Will R. Wilson, Sr., signed a reverter deed purporting to re-convey the property to his son, claiming that the Archaeological Conservancy had failed to use the property for ongoing active excavation. Though the Archaeological Conservancy filed suit to reestablish its title to the property, a bench trial ruled in favor of Mr. Wilson - a decision which could impact the future conveyance of property for preservation and/or archaeological purposes.

As a result, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, along with the Society for American Archaeology, the Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation and the Archaeological Institute of America, represented pro bono by the law firm of Andrews & Kurth in Austin, stepped in to support an appeal by the Archaeological Conservancy, filing an amicus curiae brief earlier this month. The brief used extensive research to make the case that protection and preservation in place is itself an important “archaeological purpose” – perhaps the most important in the long-run because of the fact that developments in science and technology are continually expanding our ability to interpret archaeological sites and artifacts. Once a site has been excavated, the in-place information it contains is no longer available for on-site study. Deferring excavation for a decade or two will inevitably increase our ability to understand and interpret the archaeological remains and the prehistoric culture they represent.

If the trial court's decision is upheld and the Wilson-Leonard donation is revoked, land donations across the country could be in jeopardy, especially those held by the Archaeological Conservancy. Please stay tuned to PreservationNation.org as we continue to monitor this case and the wounding precedent it could set, both deep in the heart of Texas and beyond.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

As the Ink Dries: The Economic Stimulus & Historic Preservation

Posted on: February 17th, 2009 by Jason Clement

 

Moments ago, President Barack Obama signed the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law in Denver, Colorado, the city where he claimed the Democratic nomination for president.

With the final draft clocking in at over 1,000 pages, this extensive bill is easily one of the most costly pieces of legislation in the history of the United States. And, given the tough times we're all facing, it's also one of the most critical.

Just in time for this historic event, we have updated our stimulus tracker and analysis page to reflect what the final draft means for preservationists. We invite you to not only take a look at the bottom line, but to also sound off using our open comments feature.

What do you think the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act means for preservation?

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

My Message to the Bully Pulpit: Remember Historic Preservation

Posted on: February 10th, 2009 by Jason Clement 2 Comments

 

Something

President Obama takes questions during a campaign-style town hall meeting in Elkhart, Indiana on Monday.

Just hours ago, an $838 billion economic recovery bill cleared the Senate in a 61-37 roll call vote.

Now, after all the over-strategizing, finger-pointing, vote-speculating, speech-making and line-item-slashing that has followed President Barack Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan through both chambers of Congress, one would think that a short breather might be in order.

Not today. At 2:30 this afternoon - just 120 minutes after this major milestone - conferees from both the House and the Senate began hammering out the differences between their two versions of the stimulus, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) saying that he hopes to have the "first cut" by tomorrow afternoon.

If you're thinking, "Wow, what a turnaround," consider the barrage of other stimulus-related headlines that have been beamed out of Washington lately. Over just the past few days, we've heard President Obama ratchet up his rhetoric on Capitol Hill with words like "catastrophe" and "lost decade." We've seen images of him hosting intimate Oval Office meetings with on-the-fence moderate Republicans. And of course, there's the video from yesterday of his campaign-esque town hall meeting in Elkhart, Indiana - a setting that was tailor-made for photo ops with President Obama speaking behind a giant banner emblazoned with the words "Making America Work."

If all of this means anything, it's that the bully pulpit is back.

Just like President Theodore Roosevelt (who of course coined the phrase), President Obama has both realized and started tapping like mad the unrivaled platform that comes along with the American presidency. But, as he continues to influence Congress from afar and get the results that we all need, it's imperative that we as preservationists continue to stress the importance of our mission every chance we get.

As an example, in his first-ever White House press conference last night, President Obama had this to say about our nation's aging schools:

Education - yet another example. The suggestion is why should the federal government be involved in school construction. Well, I visited a school down in South Carolina that was built in the 1850s. Kids are still learning in that school, as best they can. When the railroad - it's right next to a railroad, and when the train runs by, the whole building shakes and the teacher has to stop teaching for a while. The auditorium is completely broken down; they can't use it. So why wouldn't we want to build state-of-the-art schools with science labs that are teaching our kids the skills they need for the 21st century, that will enhance our economy and, by the way, right now will create jobs?

In some ways, I think President Obama is dead on in his answer. Besides, who would argue for anything but the best for our children and the learning facilities that they report to each day? What I find unfortunate about his response, though, is the wall it builds between old and "state of the art." As we all know, those two things aren't mutually exclusive.

Like the charming historic storefronts that make our Main Streets places where we want to bring friends and spend time, our older and historic schools are places that add character and livelihood to our neighborhoods. In some cases, they're where our parents went to school and served as cheerleaders or members of student council. Above all, they're inspiring and they tell stories.

To quickly circle back to the Main Street analogy, when's the last time you heard someone say that about a new shopping center with state-of-the-art retail space and miles of parking?

As President Obama continues to host town halls (he hit Fort Meyers, Florida today) and highly-publicized White House cocktail parties as a means to indirectly push Congress along, I hope that he will remember the inspirational words he used to describe the importance of preservation and adaptive reuse not too long ago during his campaign and transition days.

What's old is old, yes, but it can all be new again - and "make America work" in the process - with the right leadership and a bold vision.

Learn more about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan and what it means for preservation on our evolving stimulus tracking and analysis page, as well as our ongoing work to protect neighborhood schools.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.