ACS New York Section

Government Affairs Committee

2008 Annual Report

Dr. Lori Zaikowski, Chair

     In the New York section of the ACS it is the task of the Chair-elect to set the agenda for the section-wide meeting that coincides with the transition from Chair-elect to office of Chair of the section.  The first meeting is generally intended to set a tone for the ensuing year and always features an outside speaker, who often helps achieve that aim.  In late fall of 2007 chair-elect, Marc Walters, with enthusiastic support from District 1 Director, Dr. Anne T. O’Brien, selected Mr. Glenn Ruskin, Director of the Office of Legislative and Governmental Affairs(OLGA) {subsequently renamed Office of Public Affairs (OPA)} to give the keynote address at the meeting.  It became clear that the aim of the Section to become an active participant in policy matters was timely and in synch with initiatives that were already in progress in Washington under the direction of OLGA.

     In 2007 the NY Section Chair, Joan Laredo-Liddell, formed a Government Affairs Committee (GAC) and appointed Dr. Lori Zaikowski committee chair.  In 2008 this committee began to function in earnest by planning activities with the assistance and cooperation of officers in OPA.  On May 30, 2008 the chair of the NY Section (Marc Walters) and the chair of the NY GAC (Lori Zaikowski) participated in a WEBEx conference with Brad Smith, OPA Manager of Grassroots and Member Involvement.  We discussed the concept that the structure of a GAC might depend on the size of the local section.  The New York Section, with the designation, Very Large Section, encompasses 18 Congressional districts!  While we are reminded that it is our right as well as professional responsibility to influence public policy, to be effective in this role the NY Section must give special attention to the effect of committee size on efficiency.  In 2008 we began to process of planning the composition and function of the NY GAC with the aim of giving voice to our membership as citizen professionals (and students).

     We decided that a visit to Capitol Hill and meetings with NY Congressional staff under the guidance and aegis of OPA staff would be of great benefit both to the NY Section, and its congressional representatives.  In preparation, Brad Smith sent Lobby Face Books to provide information about Congressional members in our districts with key roles in budget, education, labor, science, and appropriations.  We learned that coordination with OPA is essential because GAC functions in concert with OPA on both state and federal policy matters.  Thankfully, there is something in GAC activities for everyone because policy positions are written by non-partisan committees at ACS (e.g. SOCED).

     In an additional training event, the GAC Chair participated with other GAC representatives nationwide in a Web Seminar in July 2008 organized by OPA.  The WEBinar provided guidance on how to interact with legislators through visits to their district offices.

     In a superb cap-off the year 2008 the GAC Chair and NYACS Chair traveled to Washington, D.C. on Dec. 4-5 (ACS “fly-in”) to visit with the staff of key New York congressional representatives.  Walters and Zaikowski arrived on the evening of Dec. 4 for a preparatory meeting with OPA staff Brad Smith, introduced above, and James Brown, Manager of Legislative Affairs.  On Friday Dec. 5, accompanied by James Brown, Walters and Zaikowski visited the Capitol Hill offices of Sen. Clinton and Schumer and Rep. Israel, and Bishop where, they pressed the importance of making science an evaluated part of No Child Left Behind.  They returned to New York that evening resolved to sustain and broaden contact with congressional representative and staff in their New York offices.  Planning the ongoing meetings along with building the committee membership closed out the year 2008.