On February 24, 1999, the House Democratic Leadership Committee named a landscape architect, Congressman Bob Weygand, FASLA, (D-RI), Co-Chairman of the Livable Communities Task Force. The overall goal of the Livable Communities initiative is to help communities across the nation grow in ways that ensure a high quality of life and strong sustainable economic growth.
"It is a great honor to chair this committee with my colleagues," Weygand said. "By preserving historic treasures and improving infrastructure in and around our homes and metropolitan centers, we can make our communities attractive places to live."
"Our Society has been working with the Council for Environmental Quality on issues relating to sustainability and livability over many years. Landscape architects are really at the forefront of thinking on everything from sprawl to urban revitalization. That’s why it’s so fitting that Bob, an ASLA fellow, is heading the task force," said Pete Kirsch, executive vice president of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).
The Livable Communities Initiative was introduced to help communities across America grow in ways that ensure a high quality of life and strong, sustainable economic growth in a partnership with the federal government.
Landscape architects have long been keenly interested in issues of livability. From the Olmsted-inspired parks movement of the late-nineteenth century to today’s brownfield reclamations, the profession has contributed to America’s quality of life in many ways. Alone among design professionals, landscape architects balance concerns of functionality, aesthetics and the environment.
The White House livable communities agenda includes these four proposed initiatives for the FY2000 budget:
Better America Bonds to grant bonding authority to states and local communities to preserve open space, clean up brownfields and protect water quality. In addition, these federal funds could also be used to revitalize old neighborhoods to make them productive economic centers for the community to work in. Interested communities would submit proposals to the Environmental Protection Agency, which would confer with other involved federal agencies before awarding any funds.
Community Transportation Choices to ease traffic congestion in metropolitan areas through the creation of regional transportation strategies, the improvement of existing roads and transit and the broader use of existing transportation. The Clinton Administration has proposed more than $6.1 billion to improve public transportation.
Regional Partnerships for Smart Growth to help reduce barriers in developing locally led regional growth strategies across city lines. To ensure continued economic competitiveness in the global economy, the administration has requested $50 million to design smart growth partnerships and to expand the TEA-21 program.
Schools as Centers of Communities to encourage public participation in the design and planning of school construction. To accommodate the growing number of children by baby boomers, it is estimated that 5,000 new schools must be built and existing schools are in desperate need of modernization. These new and renovated schools would be built to benefit the entire community, not just a limited segment of the local population.
These proposals are expected to generate considerable design and planning work, much like the recently passed Transportation Equity Act for the 21st century (TEA-21). To assist landscape architects to understand and take advantage of these business opportunities, ASLA is planning a series of audio-conference seminars on the new White House initiatives.
Landscape architects are typically the lead design professionals on projects such as creating parks and recreational systems, renewing inner-city neighborhoods, preparing environmental impact plans and designing alternative transportation options such as bike paths or scenic parkways.
The American Society of Landscape Architects, celebrating its centennial anniversary in 1999, is the association that represents the landscape architecture profession in the United States. More than 13,000 members nationwide belong to the Society. Landscape architects hold undergraduate or graduate degrees and are licensed in 46 of the 50 states after passing a rigorous three-day exam.