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This year was a good year for the Montana Association of Planners, and I wanted to give membership a review of the organization’s activities. There is a lot to say, so this is a long email, but it’s worth the read if you are curious about what all MAP does.

We started out focused on the 2019 Legislative Session. It was a slow year for bills affecting the planning profession. We had a handful of MAP members make the trip to the Capital building to testify. The feedback we received was positive. Lobbyist tend to get pigeon holed as left or right of the aisle, which than creates the perception that our organization is taking sides as well. Our members who testified were received as credible sources of information. After all, we are the experts on these issues.This is something we can hopefully expand upon in the future. Thanks to the members who volunteered to testify.

The Legislative Committee’s work did not end with the session. Starting at the 2017 MAP Conference in Miles City, we have been engaging membership on a Call to Action. The Call to Action focused on the future of the planning laws in Montana, what is working and what isn’t, and where we are headed as an organization. Through these sessions, we identified the need to address the Montana Subdivision and Platting Act. We planners just don’t think it’s resulting in the best outcomes for our communities any longer. The Legislative Committee, and the MAP Board decided we needed to be proactive, and start a discussion with other trade organization and NGO’s about the future of the MSPA. The Committee met a half dozen times this summer, and called a meeting hosted by MAP in Helena with MACO, The League, MAR, MBIA, and MARLS. This group has continued to meet, and while we don’t have any solid proposals yet, I can say the conversations have exposed that we share many of the same values, and that we all want the best outcomes for our communities. Hopefully, we will have some proposals for legislation to share with you this spring.

In July, we welcomed a number of new Board members, the largest shift as long as I’ve been involved with MAP. It’s good to get some fresh faces, new ideas and new energy.

We had a fantastic conference in Chico hosted by the Park County Planning Department. Mike and Lawson did a superb job organizing the event. We had the perfect mix of sessions focusing on what is going on locally, and throughout the state. The dinner up at West Creek Ranch was something none of us who attended will ever forget. And that bus ride back…we all go down together!

Behind the scenes the MAP Board has updated our strategic plan, and set priorities for what we want to accomplish by this time next year. The update will be posted once our new website is complete.

Speaking of which, our main objective right now is finishing our website rebuild. Let’s be honest, our current website is embarrassing. The new website will be a game changer for how we communicate with membership, other organizations, and the public. We are very close to being done. It is really just down to plugging in content. You are seeing some of the fruit of that labor in this slightly more appealing email design and updated logo.

Here is what you can expect:

  • The website will be far more professional looking.
  • Content will be more relevant and up to date.
  • Posting jobs/RFP’s will be easier.
  • All our legislative activities will be posted, and archived on the site.
  • All conference information will be on the site. We will no longer need a separate site for our conference info.
  • Long emails like this, and legislative updates will also be available on the website as a blog.

Our other priorities for the coming year include:

  • Promoting MAP mini-grant program
  • Outreach materials on MAP for new/existing members
  • Develop a communications strategy
  • Explore 501(c)3 status and/or becoming an APA Chapter

Financially, MAP had a decent year. After the email glitch in 2018 that caused a big dip in membership numbers, our numbers are back up to our seven year average (around 115-120). Thank you so much for being members. None of this happens without your dues. The Conference in Chico hit our revenue goals; thanks again for those involved and those who attended. We of course had some big expenditures this year, mainly because of the legislative session and for the firm updating the website. Even then, it looks like we will finish the year with a balanced budget (around $14k in revenues and $14K in expenditures). Our long term savings and reserve fund are right at the recommended level (around $34K).

For this coming year, keep an eye out for that strategic plan update, our work on the MSPA, and some deep reflection about the long term direction of the organization.

I look forward to seeing everyone next year in Missoula for the 2020 MAP Conference. October 20-22.

Thank you for your support of planning in Montana.

Andrew