Kris Cook, CAE, is the Executive Director of the National Affordable Housing Management Association (NAHMA) and the 2008-2009 Chair of the ASAE Public Policy Committee.
1. As chair of ASAE’s Public Policy Committee, what are some of the most important legislative or regulatory issues at the federal level for the association community?
ASAE regularly surveys its members to track their top issues of concern, and the number one issue has been, and will likely continue to be, health care reform. I think there is so much riding on the current federal policy debate that almost every American, every business, every association, will want to follow the process and perhaps weigh in with their thoughts and questions. I think most Americans agree that health care reform is needed – but that’s where the consensus seems to end. As the process moves forward, I’m hopeful that it is focused on informed discussion aimed at tackling some of the key health care challenges, such as cost and availability – and that it doesn’t devolve into dueling sound bites and scare-tactic rhetoric aimed more at next year’s mid-term election outcomes than meaningful reform.
Other key federal issues impacting the association community are the Congressional focus on nonprofit governance reform, restrictions on lobbying issued by the Obama administration related to implementation of the Recovery Act, compliance with the new IRS Form 990, bills or other initiatives that would negatively affect the business travel industry, possible reduction of the charitable tax deduction for donors whose income exceeds $250,000, campaign finance reform, and postal reforms. ASAE regularly posts policy updates on these issues at www.asaecenter.org/advocacy.
2. From your perspective as the Executive Director of NAHMA, what is the key to the country’s economic recovery?
I think two areas are very important – and are related – the housing industry, and employment opportunities. NAHMA and other advocates for multifamily (apartment) housing for years have talked about the need for a balanced national housing policy. We believe that the over-emphasis in the previous six to eight years on the “ownership society” and owning your own home helped propel some Americans into purchasing their own homes – some with risky financing – when perhaps the best solution for their housing needs at the time was renting. This over-emphasis on home ownership helped fuel the housing bubble, and when the bubble collapsed – well, we all know what’s happened as a result. Economic recovery will need to include restored health to the home-ownership market, but it will also need to include a vibrant and healthy multifamily housing industry – so that Americans have the opportunity to choose quality, affordable homes that meet their financial and lifestyle needs. Unfortunately, the country’s financial meltdown has caused investments in the main program that funds development and preservation of affordable multifamily housing to all but cease. The second key area is unemployment: without work, Americans can’t afford the basic necessities of life – food and clothing, housing, medical care, etc. An economic recovery without jobs for Americans is not a sustainable recovery.
3. How is NAHMA using some association best practices to advocate for multifamily property owners and managers?
In ASAE’s Seven Measures of Success, the seven measures are aligned in three categories: Commitment to Purpose, Commitment to Analysis and Feedback, and Commitment to Action. While NAHMA stays focused on the seven measures, we find the three broad categories serve as very helpful benchmarks for all that we do. For example, we are very committed to the strategic planning process, and our current plan is short (just under 3 pages) but very detailed (outlining some 20 key goals across 3 program areas). More than half of the goals are advocacy related – and these goals direct all that we do – and don’t do – on an ongoing basis. While the high-level goals are enumerated, strategies and tactics are not. Instead, ongoing development and implementation of strategies and tactics is left to our committees and staff – which provides an excellent opportunity for continuing analysis and feedback between members, staff and other stakeholders. It also helps us be very flexible in our advocacy approach as external circumstances may alter the environment in which we work (such as a national presidential election). To keep the feedback broad, we publish an online “question of the month” survey to all members on the latest topics of concern, and we always publish the previous month’s answers, as well as use these to help direct our advocacy efforts. All of this dovetails into our commitment to successful action, which we track via a one-page strategic plan dashboard tool, as well as a detailed quarterly report of activities and results.
4. ASAE talks about associations as “economic drivers”. How do you see the association community as a whole driving economic recovery?
I believe that virtually every American – whether he or she realizes it or not – is a member of or is affiliated with at least one type of association, charitable organization or professional society. Thus collectively, the association community represents the interests of virtually every American – whether it’s their profession, industry, union, cultural or lifestyle interests, you name it. To me its basic math: the American people are the lifeblood of our country’s economic engine – and associations serve the interests of the American people.