Message from the President of APATX
APATX President Chance Sparks, AICP, CNU-A
Greetings Texas Planners!
As the COVID public health emergency carries on, APATX has carried on with its business of finding ways to serve the membership best. You may have received a link to a survey a few weeks ago that sought to inform the Chapter of what our members were experiencing. The results have been helpful as we position for what’s next.
Let me begin first with what APATX is already doing in response. Most of these efforts reflect our fiduciary responsibility to the Chapter to ensure stable finances. Before you ask, no, the Chapter is not in financial trouble. I will say, however, that if any of you have contact with people who served as past leaders of APATX, that you please thank them. Past Chapter leadership made smart decisions over the years designed to help the Chapter weather storms, locate conferences in new/riskier destinations, and insulate the Chapter finances when the National Planning Conference comes to Texas.
That said, APATX took several responsible steps in recognition of the environment:
- The travel budget for the APATX Chapter President was suspended. We do not anticipate travel needs, given the current status of the health emergency. If I do need to travel, I’ll handle it on my dime.
- The travel budget for the APATX Professional Development Officer was suspended. AICP test preparation is transitioning to a digital environment.
- Budgets related to physical presence at other conferences have been suspended, such as the booth at Texas Municipal League.
- We are holding section grants for the time being, though sections can make requests if needed. Most of these grants were related to in-person events. We are exploring services to help the sections deliver content and activities in a digital environment.
- We extended deadlines for the awards and conference session submissions. We may reopen these based upon response as well as ultimate decisions regarding the state conference.
- We are shifting the conference registration window based upon ongoing conversations about the physical conference.
- We have not acted on the selection of any conference sites beyond 2021.
- Mike McAnelly offered to reduce his Chapter Executive Administrator salary. We told him no.
Secondly, one of the critical results of the survey was a clear indication that 60-80 percent of our membership does not anticipate having access to travel budgets or travel authorization through their employer for the remainder of their fiscal year. As a result, APATX has taken the following steps:
- We have initiated conversations with Destination El Paso regarding various conference options. We expect to have a direction on how to proceed by June 1st.
- We will be reaching out to annual and conference sponsors to understand their perspectives and capacity.
- We have appointed an APATX Executive Committee Task Force for Digital Conference Delivery. This group will be evaluating various platforms and logistics to hold a conference as a supplement to or in place of a physical conference.
- We have initiated discussions with the Houston Local Host Committee regarding their desires for elements of the national conference content, including mobile workshops.
- We have contacted surrounding state chapters to explore partnerships and coordination on any digital conference alternative developed.
- We have begun discussions regarding approaches to deliver Council and Commission training.
In closing, our number one focus is the well-being and needs of our membership. We are here to serve you and are working on our agility to fit this new reality. Responding to a pandemic certainly was not how I anticipated spending the first six months as President. Still, I’m confident we’ll come out the other side of this a better organization with innovations to serve our members over the coming months.
Chance Sparks, AICP, CNU-A
American Planning Association, Texas Chapter