February Thaw Notes

I hope it’s sunny where you are today; what’s more beautiful than a sunny Friday? It’s rainy and cloudy in the Lake Champlain Valley, but it’s going to be over 50 degrees — that’s practically the middle of spring. Spring fever, anyone? Old Man Winter will be back tomorrow, however.  Whatever your Friday looks like, I hope you’re happy, loving your job or your studies, and appreciating the historic and modern environments in which we all live.

A question for all readers:

Are you a member of a preservation organization? How about a young preservationists group? A school sponsored preservation club? I’m interested to know the range of groups and their missions, however small or larger. If you could leave a comment below or email me at preservationinpink@gmail.com, with information about your group, I’d appreciate it. Thank you!

And an important note from the news: our time for preservation advocacy and activism is becoming more important than ever. If you’ve read Preservation Nation lately, you’ve seen that President Barack Obama has proposed cutting critical preservation funding in his budget. A snippet from the article by Margaret Foster:

Yesterday, President Obama sent his 2012 budget proposal to Capitol Hill, delivering a painful blow to preservationists: Two federal grant programs, Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America, were eliminated, slashing the Historic Preservation Fund by 23 percent. Other sources for historic preservation were also cut severely. Funding for National Heritage Areas was reduced by half. And the National Park Service’s construction budget, the account that funds maintenance on historic structures, took a 35 percent hit.

National Trust President Stephanie Meeks was “profoundly disappointed by the cuts in historic preservation funding,” she said in a statement yesterday. “By choosing to eliminate this critical [Save America’s Treasures] program, the Administration is abandoning the federal government’s primary role as stewards of our history. Viewed as a piece of the overall budget, this program is obviously miniscule. … Without adequate funding, we will lose many of the important places that help us understand who we are as a nation.”

Chin up, preservationists — we’re used to uphill battles.  Follow the issue of preservation funding at Preservation Nation.

And a random note: are you a Twitter user? For me, it’s all Preservation in Pink blog posts that are sent to twitter, and not much else from here, but sometimes Twitter is a good way to catch preservation news that I’ve missed across the blogosphere and other places. Should PiP be following you? Let me know!

Have a great weekend.

Friday Links

Happy Friday! Here are some preservation related links from around the web:

Neon signs in New York City.

An excellent article about the value of sense of place (and historic preservation) from the Urban Land Institute.

Take advice from Sabra and change the [preservation] world with kindness. Write a letter to someone, a business, or an organization that has acted in favor of preservation.

How to preserve Auschwitz? (Thanks for the link, Adam.)

A barn collapses in Saratoga County, New York. (Thanks for the link, Luke.)

Wondering about the biggest snowstorms in history?

Need a summer field school? How about San Gemini, Italy Program – a 12 week summer course. (Thanks for the heads up, Andrew.)

Save America’s Treasures Grant Winners announced for 2010.

A winter sky is much different from a summer sky.

More on the Preservation Budget

There are debates all around about the Save America’s Treasures program and whether it’s a good or a bad thing for it to be cut from the budget. From what I can gather, the majority feel it’s a bad move on the part of Congress. Even if you’re not a fan of the Save America’s Treasures program, the fact of the matter is that Congress feels it appropriate and permissible to slash the historic preservation budget (that includes park funding!) It’s not as if an alternate program has been proposed in place of one that supposedly does not work. It is simply an attack on historic preservation, a field that only wants to improve the quality of life in this country and has proven again and again that historic preservation works.

Because this is such an important issue, I’m sharing links from Donovan Rypkema’s blog, both of which he encouraged others to link. So here you go, the links and select quotes, but go ahead and read the entire posts:

Preservationists Outraged as Obama Cancels Building Restoration Programs by Lloyd Alter

We have noted before that the greenest brick is the one already in the wall, and that renovation and restoration are labor-intensive, giving twice as much stimulus bang for the buck than new construction. They are green jobs, creating more efficient buildings and saving energy at a lot less cost than covering the roofs with solar panels.

But that didn’t stop President Obama from cancelling two programs, Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America, that cost $220 million over ten years. The White House says “Both programs lack rigorous performance metrics and evaluation efforts so the benefits are unclear.”

Except that isn’t true, there are performance metrics, that prove that the programs created jobs at 1/18th the cost of last year’s stimulus programs.

What’s Obama got Against Historic Preservation? by Knute Berger

The Save America’s Treasures program, created by Bill Clinton in 1998, is the only federal bricks-and-mortar grant program for preservation and is designed to leverage matching private sector and non-profit funding for projects. It is run by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in conjunction with the National Park Service. It has been slated for elimination…

On top of those cuts, Obama has proposed slashing National Heritage Area funding in half, bad news for Washington state which is in the process of creating a National Maritime Heritage Area to boost cultural tourism in coastal areas, from the Pacific to Puget Sound.

So what are we supposed to do? Keep talking, keep sharing, keep caring about the fate of historic preservation. This is a field that faces uphill battles day after day, something we acknowledge when we “sign up” for a life of historic preservation work, and at some point, we all have to convince others of the worth of preservation. It looks like it’s that time again. Let’s keep historic preservation in the game.

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