I attended the NYSAPLS conference in Albany, N.Y., last week as a lecturer and speaker on a panel discussion. The conference was well attended; in fact, according to Jennifer Mauer, the association’s director, they had a record attendance for both audience and vendor participation. The main thrust of the event was for continuing education, and that seemed to succeed very well based on how quiet the vendor expo was during classes.

The continuing education requirements were closely managed. Attendees were assigned badges with barcodes, and these barcodes were scanned as individuals entered and exited each class. CEU hours and partnerships with neighboring states were computed and coordinated of ahead of time. Rules were set that included “cell phones off”-only surveying-related activities were allowed. At least by my account it was a job well done.

A number of software companies specializing in surveying applications were in attendance as were a plethora of aerial mapping companies. Another interesting display was manned by The Department of the Geographer to the Continental Army. They made an appearance in the exhibit hall with a Colonial era re-enactment display. Tents were set up, people were dressed in period costumes, and devices from days or yore were there for inspection and discussion. The accuracy of the mapping they did back then is amazing.

Of course, there was much discussion about the promised infrastructure stimulus, which this country has needed for decades. I have been speaking with several organizations recently regarding the ability to be heard by the incoming administration. Most of the organizations have government outreach programs. Following are a few you might be interested in.
  • The ASCE has several links and associations with and to various levels of the government. Here is one for state-level participation: www.asce.org/govrel/stategovrel.cfm
  • Another good site to view is the ASCE Infrastructure Report Card. This Web page has a headline that says “Small Steps for Big Improvements in America’s Failing Infrastructure.” Some of the news crawls on the site indicate a frightening level of decay in our civil projects. For example, 27 percent of America’s bridges are defective, and federal funding for drinking water provides only 10 percent of the national need …. www.asce.org/reportcard/2005/index.cfm
  • The ASCE has a Congressional Fellows Program. It allows an opportunity for an ASCE member to spend one year working in the U.S. Congress. “The Federal Legislature deals with a multitude of technical issues, many of which directly impact how Civil Engineers conduct their professional practice. Congress will make decisions with, or without, input from the civil engineering community.” http://www.asce.org/pressroom/publicpolicy/cfprogram.cfm
  • The ASCE also has a weekly electronic newsletter that provides information on a variety of engineering issues and activities. http://www.smartbrief.com/asce/
  • The ACSM has a Government Affairs Committee for communicating with various government agencies. This committee’s purpose is to promote and influence legislative and regulatory activities within the public arena. http://www.acsm.net/govtaffairs.html
  • Another ACSM website to keep an eye on is the Government Affairs Update page. http://www.acsm.net/govtupd.html
  • The American Council of Engineering Corporations (ACEC) also has reach-out capacity to get ideas into the government. I understand that several owners of some civil engineering companies joined with the ACEC recently to get information to the Obama Administration regarding the ability to get “shovels in the ground.” Their job was to affirm the industry’s ability to expedite and facilitate moving projects into construction. http://www.acec.org/advocacy/committees/statelegislation.cfm
If you know of any other resources, please post them below. All of us need to do our part to reach out to the incoming administration to ensure that our voices are heard.