Historic Preservation is “the weakest kid on the block”

A thought-provoking post by historic preservation economist Donovan Rypkema entitled, appropriately, “A Time For Reflection” discusses the proposed funding cuts to two federal preservation funding programs: Save America’s Treasures (SAT) and Preserve America. His post calls for preservationists to rethink the way we’ve been presenting our case for preservation, since clearly the positive impacts (economic redevelopment, jobs creation, sustainable development, downtown revitalization, etc.) have not become widely known enough to Americans and to our elected officials. Otherwise they would not be labeled as programs whose “benefits are unclear” and easy targets for cutting, particularly in an era where jobs creation is so important. It is critical that we explain how preservation fits in to the revitalization of businesses and communities to elected officials in order to eliminate these types of short-sighted cuts seen as “easy” to pacify those who complain about federal spending.

According to the Rypeka post: 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.”

The National Trust for Historic Preservation discusses some of the reasons the SAT program is effective including: 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.”

Historic Preservation Advocacy Week is the first week of March. While you may not be able to go to Washington to speak to your representative, it is a good time to visit local officials, or write letters and make phone calls to explain why you historic preservation is important to your community and to your country, both in terms of economic sense and quality of life. For some talking points, see these reports by Preservation Action, or contact TPI. Or submit the online form regarding this issue on the National Trust for Historic Preservation website.

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