News: Preservation Funding at Risk

Extremely important news from the National Trust for Historic Preservation:

Dear Preservationist,

As early as today, the U.S. Senate could vote on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill. It is likely that a harmful amendment to this bill will be offered that would prohibit preservation-related activities under the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program – the single largest source of federal funding for historic preservation.

This change would be devastating to preservation projects that capitalize on existing historic resources to create jobs, improve the quality of life, and protect the environment. With the help of advocates like you, we overcame a similar threat to the program last month. Now we must rise to the challenge again to defend this important program.

The bill also carries damaging new language (Section 128) that would waive National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) review provisions designed to protect historic and cultural resources from disaster recovery projects. This measure is redundant and sets a harmful precedent of waiving the NHPA.

Please contact your U.S. Senators TODAY and ask them to vote NO on any amendment eliminating preservation-related transportation enhancements, and to OPPOSE Section 128 of the THUD appropriations bill.

Visit PreservationNation for more information on the importance of the Transportation Enhancements program to your state and the National Historic Preservation Act.

Thank you for standing up for historic preservation!

Your friends at the National Trust for Historic Preservation

CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION NOW.

Please take a minute to complete this form to have it automatically sent to your representatives. It barely takes any effort and could make all the difference in your community. As discussed on Preservation in Pink a few weeks ago, transportation enhancement grants are vital to historic preservation and to your town, state and our nation. Please don’t wait. Contact your senators today.

U.S. Post Offices

Ripton, VT post office inside the general store.

The press is abuzz with articles about the government’s potential plans to shut down the smaller, less profitable, less used post offices across the country. There have been articles featured in papers from The New York Times to every local paper and news channel and NPR. Even Vermont’s generally anti-anything-preservation-related newspaper, Seven Days, featured a recent article about a small town post office. For a quick news story, check out ABC news and read or listen to the brief. Is your post office on this list? Look it up.

The overview of the news? The US Postal Service is facing $7 billion in debt this year, and predict exponential amounts of debt within the next decade. The Postal Service is considering closing almost 3,700 post offices (mostly in rural areas), ending Saturday delivery, raising stamp prices and changing healthcare benefits for employees.

If these post offices do close, some small communities will no longer have a civic or casual meeting place. Rural areas are difficult to understand if you live elsewhere, but often the post offices serve an important purpose. Residents worry that they will just disappear without a post office and will be metaphorically annexed or forgotten.

Bottom line: the government thinks it is a good idea. The people who will be losing their post offices think it’s a bad idea. For those of you not affected: do you care? What do you think?

Is consolidating post offices a good idea? Or is it one of those ideas like shutting down neighborhood schools and consolidating them into larger schools? In my opinion, it’s like the latter idea. It seems to me that finding a community gets harder and harder in this age, and erasing something that creates and enables community is not a good idea. Find a better way to solve the post office deficit. Perhaps not sending the junk mail telling me that I can buy stamps online will help. Just a thought.

While on the subject of post offices, does anyone else think that most of them are in hideous buildings: strip malls or vinyl sided, just-plain-ugly buildings? No wonder why no one wants to use a post office!? I love when I can walk into a post office in a historic building – that is the experience people need in order to appreciate the post office.

If writing one real letter per month would help to save the small post offices, would you do it? I love writing and receiving real letters. Granted, I love email, blogs and the internet, but something about a letter or a postcard is so much more thoughtful. Would you ever write a sincere thank you note via email? Just curious.

In a restaurant in Bethel, VT.

What do you think? Are post offices vital to communities? Is your post office vital to you and your community? What about Saturday delivery? (I’d rather keep Saturday delivery and get rid of Monday or Wednesday if we had to. You?) I consider this a preservation issue, how about you?

Historic Preservation FY12 Budget – HELP!

An important message from the National Trust for Historic Preservation:

Take Action on Funding for Historic Preservation!  Ask your Representative to Support the Historic Preservation Fund!

Right now Congress is making important decisions about the Fiscal Year 2012 budget, and your Representative needs to hear that funding for historic preservation matters in your community. You can help make the case for preservation!

Ask your Representative to sign on to the Dear Colleague letter sponsored by Congressional Historic Preservation Caucus co-chairs Michael Turner and Russ Carnahan that requests $70 million for the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) and ask that they also submit a programmatic request to fund the HPF at that amount for FY12.

The preservation community realizes that during tough economic times we all need to tighten our belts and therefore the FY12 funding request for the HPF is 10% less than the total funding these programs received in FY08. We also recognize a long overdue increase for funding to State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO’s) and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPO’s) and support the administration’s budget request for increase to these programs. The breakdown of our $70 million request for the Historic Preservation Fund includes:

  • * $50 million for the SHPO’s
  • * $11 million for THPO’s
  • * $9 million for grant programs like Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America

The deadline for this action is Tuesday, May 17th, so please contact your Representative TODAY. Check here for a list of signatories who have already committed to the Dear Colleague letter, and for questions or additional information contact policy@nthp.org.

PLEASE HELP! Programs, jobs, historic resources — so much depends on this Historic Preservation Fund budget. All you have to do is sign the letter. You don’t even have to write the letter or look up the appropriate representative. It will take seconds.

SIGN THE LETTER HERE.

Spread the word. Ask your colleagues and friends to sign. Thank you!


Friday Vermont Links

Today is the annual downtown & historic preservation conference (combined this year!) in Poultney, VT. The entire conference sounds like fun, but I’m most looking forward to the Streets as Places theme.

Some news from Vermont:

The Vermont Division for Historic Preservation has awarded $186,000 in grant money for preservation and restoration projects throughout the state.

Lake Champlain has reached its record high water level and it seems as though the entire state is flooding. The Charlotte-Essex (NY) ferry is shut down due to high water levels. Rivers and lakes throughout the state are flooding towns across the state. This will create damage for all buildings and displace people and businesses for a time.  If you are aware of a historic building in danger, be alert, now and when the water recedes.

On the night of Sunday April 17, a fire broke out in the historic Brooks House on Main Street in Brattleboro. The five-story French Second Empire building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building was home to many businesses and apartments; their fate is unknown at this time.

On a lighter note, the site of the University of Vermont’s first baseball diamond will be recognized on April 30 in the Old North End of Burlington.

Have you heard of the Checkered House Bridge project in Richmond, VT? The metal truss bridge is going to be widened. You can learn more about this unique project on its website.

In connection to Vermont and its tourism, what are your thoughts on covered bridge preservation? A Richmond (Virginia) Times Dispatch article seems to debate the fate and purpose of such a thing. A necessity? An obligation? Too much money? Would a state like Vermont, known for its covered bridges, think it’s a frivolous expense?

A Very Fine Appearance: The Vermont Civil War Photographs of George Houghton was released earlier this month. The book includes over 100 photographs from the Vermont infantry experience during the Civil War. Photographs were all taken by Brattleboro resident George Houghton. You can buy the book in hardcover or paperback through the Vermont Historical Society.

Happy Spring! Happy weekend!

This Just In: Wilderness Battlefield Saved!

WalMart has abandoned its plans for a special use permit to build a new supercenter on the grounds of the Wilderness Battlefield. Read all of the details here from civilwar.org. Additional information about the former proposal is here.

From the National Trust for Historic Preservation (via Preservation Nation blog), a statement from President Stephanie Meeks:

The National Trust for Historic Preservation commends Walmart for taking this important step. By withdrawing the current proposal, the company has created an opportunity for all parties to work together to find an appropriate solution — one that will allow Walmart to pursue development elsewhere in Orange County, while ensuring that this important part of America’s Civil War heritage is protected. We and other members of the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition are greatly encouraged that Walmart is willing to find another location for development — one removed from the battlefield — that we can all support. We also look forward to working with Walmart and others to ensure that the current site will never again become the subject of a development battle.

This is outstanding news for the preservation community as well as everyone else. Keep in mind, WalMart still plans to purchase the land, just not develop it. And another store will be built elsewhere, but the most important part is that the fight to preserve Wilderness Battlefield has been won (for now). As preservationists, we can temporarily breathe a sigh of relief, but of course, we’ll still be alert.

Hooray for Wilderness Battlefield!

The Next Generation of Heritage Professionals

Who Will Advocate for Next Generation of Heritage Professionals? A Cautionary Tale for University Preservation Programs.

This is an important issue, addressed by Jeff Guin of Voices of the Past and Northwestern State University of Louisiana, on the Voices of the Past blog. Click to read the well-written, composed, and emotional full post by Jeff. I’ll share pieces of it here. The story begins like this:

Losing a historic structure is a sad thing. Losing generations of folks to expertly protect cultural heritage is much, much worse.

This past week, Louisiana’s Board of Supervisors for higher education rubber-stamped a proposal from Northwestern State University of Louisiana to eliminate the university’s bachelor’s and master’s degrees in heritage resources just as these groundbreaking interdisciplinary programs were hitting their strides. The Master of Arts in Heritage Resources (MAHR) was on track to triple its number of graduates in the next year.

In the article, Jeff explains how the program is self-sustaining and low-cost, and how the program has grown in size and popularity over the past few years, mostly due the tireless efforts of the faculty. The mission of the MAHR program is:

To provide students with opportunities to become highly motivated, knowledgeable, and skillful professionals who, by working with federal and state agencies, historic preservation groups, and property owners as well as others, are able to develop integrated preservation strategies to protect and manage the total range of the country’s heritage.

This program was supported by the community and the students and professionals in the preservation field. Yet, the University chose to cut the MAHR program before others that are not as financially beneficial to the school (see Jeff’s article). Now the faculty and the students are left without a home in the university and the outstanding work of the program is hanging in limbo.  While Jeff obviously has close connections with the MAHR program, his concern reaches far beyond Northwestern State University:

But the fact is that if this could happen to a high-quality, nationally respected and emerging program here, it could indeed happen anywhere. As governments hint at dramatically reducing deficits over the next several years, it’s clear the necessary cuts will be trickling down to the rest of the nation–just as they did in Louisiana–with potentially disastrous consequences for heritage preservation education.

And what a scary thought that is. As we can see from the budget cuts and closing of state parks, heritage is often one of the first resources to suffer. Maybe that’s because the value of heritage can be intangible and remains very subjective in some circles, unlike the importance of medicine and the broad appeal of a business degree. If something like the cuts at Northwestern State can happen anywhere, then I can’t say that there is a solution right now. But it shows the importance of supporting your local heritage programs and the work that we, as a connected field, have before us.

To Jeff: thank you for sharing this important issue with all of us. To those in the MAHR program at Northwestern State: thank you for the work you accomplished.

Friday Links

In the spirit of a Happy Friday and in promoting connectivity to the rest of the preservation world, here are some fun related links I’ve stumbled upon across the web:

Feel like proclaiming your love of preservation and historic sites on a map! If you love maps, this is perfect for you.  Visit the National Trust’s website to add your name to a list of supporters who want to put history back on the map. Click here.

You’ve heard of Americorps – well how about HistoriCorps? From the website: HistoriCorps is an initiative of Colorado Preservation, Inc. to engage volunteers in historic preservation projects. Volunteers and students work with trades specialists including: logworkers, masons, window restorers, roofers, and solar energy technicians to preserve historic resources on and near public lands. PreserveNet had some internships posted from HistoriCorps a few months back, but you can always volunteer. Working preservation vacation anyone?

Wondering what kids are learning about historic preservation in elementary school? Well, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency has a website dedicated to preservation education for elementary school students called Architeacher.

Most of us say how far reaching preservation can be; now there is a website called HISTPRES: Unique Jobs in Historic Preservation that is showing everyone just how true that is. It is updated often with all sorts of job, all that can be tied into preservation.

Have you heard that remains of an 18th century ship have been found at the World Trade Center? Yes, for real!  What was it doing there? In the 18th and 19th century, wood cribbing was used to extend shorelines, according to the article.

Flamingos, we may have been outdone at weddings: talk about a wedding featuring flamingos. Click and scroll down to about midway through the post at Green Wedding Shoes. You cannot miss the flamingos. This couple’s reasoning: their Florida ties. Regardless, what an awesome idea.

Happy Friday!

(Readers, do you like sharing links? Should I continue to do this weekly, biweekly? Let me know. I’ll do my best to seek out exciting sites and stories worth mentioning.)

New Lead Regulations

On Earth Day (April 22, 2010) the EPA set into effect new regulations concerning the testing of and removal of paint that may be contaminated with lead. Not to alarm anyone, but lead was used as a pigment in commercially available house paint until 1978. By then the paint industry had substantially reduced the percentage (by volume) of lead in paint, but it was still used.  The short, basic version of these new regulations is that anyone working with potential lead paint must be certified and licensed. Only those certified and licensed are legally able to determine if there is lead in your paint and/or legally able to conduct lead abatement. Certification will cost the contractors more money, but it helps homeowners and renters in the long run by making sure the forms are not being tampered with by someone not wanting to deal with lead abatement. Federal law mandates that sellers and landlord disclose any information about lead paint.

Here is part of the EPA press release:

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that renovations and repairs of pre-1978 housing must now be conducted using safe practices to protect children and pregnant women from exposure to lead-based paint. Almost a million children have elevated blood lead levels as a result of exposure to lead hazards, which can lead to lower intelligence, learning disabilities, and behavior issues. Adults exposed to lead hazards can suffer from high blood pressure and headaches. Children under six years old are most at risk.

“Our lead-safe program will protect children and families from lead-based paint hazards associated with renovation and repair activities in houses built before 1978,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “This rule requires contractors to follow some simple and effective lead-safe work practices to prevent children’s exposure to dangerous levels of lead. Lead poisoning is completely preventable.”

In addition to the rule becoming effective, EPA has issued three additional actions:

o A final rule to apply lead-safe work practices to all pre-1978 homes, effectively closing an exemption that was created in 2008. The rule will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

o A notice of proposed rule making to require dust-wipe testing after most renovations and provide the results of the testing to the owners and occupants of the building. For some of these renovations, the proposal would require that lead dust levels after the renovation be below the regulatory hazard standards. EPA will take comment on the proposal for 60 days. The agency expects to finalize the rule by July 2011.

o An advance notice of proposed rule making to announce EPA’s intention to apply lead-safe work practices to renovations on public and commercial buildings. The advance notice also announces EPA’s investigation into lead-based paint hazards that may be created by renovations on the interior of these public and commercial buildings. If EPA determines that lead-based paint hazards are created by interior renovations, EPA will propose regulations to address the hazards.

The moral of the story? The EPA is stepping up regulations to make living conditions safer for everyone. You can help. Don’t panic about lead; be aware and know what you can do. Check out the EPA’s basic information about lead and the Lead-Free Kids program.  And most importantly, do not let anyone who is not newly certified tell you if you have/do not have lead in your home. For example, as a preservationist I can tell you the facts about lead added to paint with years and percentages, but I cannot professionally or legally confirm or deny that your pre-1978 home has lead paint. Got it?

Historic Preservation Budget at Risk

While historic preservation involves beliefs, theories, ethics, local organizations, grass-roots movements, and more, the success of historic preservation as a national program is very much dependent on politics and the federal budget. Federal programs like Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America are able to operate because of federal funding. Both are proven successful programs: saving important pieces of American heritage, improving the economy, and being overall win-win programs.

Many people have already heard, but for those not in the loop of preservation news: about two weeks ago the White House announced that the 2011 budget would eliminate ALL of the funding for both Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America, citing that the programs lasted longer than planned and apparently the lawmakers in Washington are not happy with their performance.

Eliminating Save America’s Treasures alone means already a 25% decrease in the preservation funding. Twenty-five percent!! There are a lot of knowledgeable people blogging about these budget cuts and what it will do to historic preservation, so rather than reiterate everything they are saying, here are a few snippets and the original sources.

[If you know the story already and want to help, click here and tell your Congressmen what you think — it takes one minute, if that!]

From Donovan Rypkema’s blog, Place Economics:

Naively I sincerely believed that as we have broadened the definition of the roles that historic preservation plays in society, as we have documented the wide range of positive economic impacts of historic preservation, as we have demonstrated the contribution of historic preservation to Smart Growth, sustainable development, affordable housing, downtown revitalization – that after all of this I thought our message had finally gotten through…

This announcement had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the federal deficit. The rounding errors in the budgeting process are ten times greater than the annual amount spent on these two programs combined. Here’s the analogy. You have a household income of $80,000 per year, but decide “We need to cut back.” So what do you do? Eliminate $0.04 from your monthly expenditures. That’s right…four cents a month of an $80,000 a year income is the equivalent of these cuts…

Most of the developed countries in the world had a major heritage conservation component in their stimulus packages. Why? jobs, job training, local impact, labor intensity, affects industry most adversely affected, impacts local economies, long term investment, etc. etc. Historic preservation element in the US stimulus plan? $0.

Also from Donovan Rypkema, an explanation of the Save America’s Treasures effectiveness:

Between 1999 and 2009, the Save America’s Treasures program allocated around $220 million dollars for the restoration of nearly 900 historic structures, many of them National Historic Landmarks. This investment by the SAT program generated in excess of $330 million from other sources. This work meant 16,012 jobs (a job being one full time equivalent job for one year…the same way they are counting jobs for the Stimulus Program). The cost per job created? $13,780.

This compares with the White House announcement that the Stimulus Package is creating one job for every $248,000. Whose program is helping the economy?

Dwight Young, for the National Trust of Historic Preservation, further discussing Save America’s Treasures:

Since its establishment in 1998, Save America’s Treasures has been a hugely successful tool for preserving the buildings, structures, documents, and works of art that tell America’s story – and for creating jobs and boosting local economies, too. The program has spotlighted some world-famous icons like the Star-Spangled Banner, Mesa Verde, and Ellis Island. It has also opened people’s eyes to the importance (and fragility) of the lesser-known treasures in their own hometowns. That alone, if you ask me, makes it a great program…

Major chunks of our history are represented in these irreplaceable places and things, and Save America’s Treasures has helped ensure that we can continue to experience and learn from them. Given all that it has accomplished, it’s easy to see why this terrific program has earned the right to have “treasures” in its name – and why we have to make sure it doesn’t disappear.

From Pat Lally, for the National Trust for Historic Preservation:

But here’s the biggest irony in the President’s Budget Request (and a little-known fact). Technically speaking, Save America’s Treasures and the other core national preservation programs under the HPF cost the American taxpayer nothing. You see, this account, by law, is funded by the revenue received from offshore oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf. Years ago, Congress had the foresight to place historic preservation in this dedicated account along with other “conservation” activities. Their rationale was that as non-renewable resources are expended (such as fossil fuels), some of the associated revenue should help pay for the conservation and preservation of other non-renewable resources, such as sensitive ecosystems and nationally-significant buildings, collections, and objects.

Makes sense, right? Well, the problem is that both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have budgeted much of this money for purposes other than historic preservation, and that simply has to stop. In fact, some of the other conservation activities that are funded by oil and gas leasing revenue are increased substantially in this Budget Request, just as we were slashed. It seems to me that preservationists need to make it loud and clear to their lawmakers as to why we need every penny of the $150 million that we’re supposed to get from Washington every year.

The final irony is that, among federal programs, Save America’s Treasures stands out as a model of efficiency and effective spending. You see, every grant recipient under this program is required to find a dollar-for-dollar, non-federal match. To date, Save America’s Treasures at the National Trust has raised almost $57 million in non-federal and private matching funds. As a result, Save America’s Treasures has been enormously successful in leveraging private-sector financing and creating productive and sustained partnerships with large corporations, foundations, and individuals that provide matching contributions. Here is just a small glimpse into some of the places and things that Save America’s Treasures has helped preserve for future generations: Ellis Island, Mesa Verde National Park, Valley Forge, Thomas Edison’s Invention Factory, and the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the “Star Spangled Banner.

And those are just some of the blog posts, but more can be found on the National Trust website and Save America’s Treasures website.

What does this mean? It’s not good. But it is the proposed budget so there is still time to act. The easiest, fastest step that preservation friends can take is to tell Congressmen. That link is a form that takes maybe one minute to fill out – with a name and address it will automatically send it to the appropriate Congressmen.

Historic preservation is not a frivolous endeavor; it is proven to boost the economy, which be a major point for people who are only worried about the economy right now. As Pat Lally said, it does not make sense to cut the budget for Save America’s Treasures or more broadly, historic preservation.

Do something! It’s incredibly to click that link and fill out your name. Send it to everyone you know. If we don’t save historic preservation programs, we’ll be taking a giant step backwards and many people will be without jobs — how does that help the economy?

Here’s the url in case the link didn’t work: https://secure2.convio.net/nthp/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=536