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CAI's Inaugural Government Affairs Conference & Capitol Hill Day Billed as a Success by Everyone in Attendance

2/10/2000  -  Alexandria, VA

Bankruptcy and telecommunication issues were the two main focuses of CAI's first comprehensive Government Affairs Conference & Capitol Hill Day held February 3 and 4 in Washington, DC. Community association managers, board members and practitioners from 18 different states and Washington, DC, gathered at the Washington Monarch Hotel to learn more about the issues facing community associations today.

On Wednesday, February 3, staff members of CAI's government affairs department prepped attendees as to what they might expect when they get up to the Hill. "It's important that you have the facts before you open your mouth or take action," said Rodney D. Clark, CAI's vice president for government and public affairs, to open the conference. "Through this next day and a half, you will get the facts." In presenting the facts, CAI staff conducted a detailed presentation of the issues to be covered, and gave tips as to the best way to present CAI's position to their representatives.

Also, several special guests were present to help CAI's members prepare for their trips to Capitol Hill. Devin John Doolan, Esq., CAI Maryland Legislative Action Committee Lobbyist and former member of the Maryland General Assembly, spoke on how important it is to have grass roots advocacy in place, and how best to get your message across. He stressed how important it is to "support the [government] officials who are friendly to our side ... and then get out into the communities on a regular basis to ensure the superstructure we're building really works."

Dennis Brown, CAE, vice president of state government relations for the Equipment Leasing Association of America, followed Doolan with his "Ten Lessons from a State Capitol Vagabond." This Top 10 list included such items as "Learn the formal rules of the legislature", "Do not make surprise visits" and "Be respectful of opposing viewpoints to foster future allies."

Also presenting her list of things to do and not to do while making Hill visits, Melanie Pullen Gness, president of T. Alexander & Associates Strategic Communications, told the group that it's okay to say, "I don't know, I'll get back to you on that one. Just be honest." She also stressed the importance of being informed on the issue you're presenting. "Do your homework," she said. "Research the issue, as well as the legislator you are meeting with. Learn all you can about the person. Then, stick to your strong points. This will lead to your credibility."

Other special guests in attendance were Representative Anne Meagher Northup (R-KY); Charles Mahtesian, a staff writer for GOVERNING Magazine; Richard W. McDonnell, PAC/Grassroots program manager for the American Institute of Architects; Grace Cummings, chief of staff for Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA); and Karen Penafiel, director of government affairs for the Building Owners & Managers Association (BOMA), International. Congresswoman Northup specifically stressed the importance of CAI members' involvement in the political process and urged conference participants to return next year with more neighbors and colleagues to help raise awareness of community associations to an even higher level.

Once on Capitol Hill, CAI members met with their Congressional offices. After spending several hours on the Hill, the participants gathered in the Senate building for a reception, where the mood was very positive. "The Capitol Hill meetings certainly topped off the event and demonstrated what a difference CAI members make when they are informed and passionate about our issues," said Clark. "Every participant began or strengthened relationships that will only grow in importance as community associations face more and more federal challenges. All attendees were terrific ambassadors for community associations and CAI."

The Community Associations Institute is a nonprofit association created in 1973 to educate and represent the nation's 205,000 community associations—condominium associations, homeowner associations and cooperatives. CAI members include homeowners, associations and related professionals and service providers.

Phone: 703-970-9235