[ApaIllinois] AICP Certification Maintenance

ILAPA Editor editor at ilapa.org
Thu Dec 14 13:23:57 CST 2006

December 14, 2006 

Fellow Illinois APA Members: 

Recently, the AICP Commission sent information about the proposed  
Certification Maintenance Program to all AICP planners across the country.  If you have not received the information,  go to the planning.org website to view the 
proposal.  It sets forth continuing education  requirements to maintain your AICP 
status.  As you may expect, the proposal has  caused a fair amount of discussion. 

The debate of this proposal is good and will result in a better end product for members.  However, some  of the debate is based on certain misconceptions. Clarification is important so all AICP  planners can evaluate the proposal on its merits. 

So, rather than reinvent the wheel and compose an email describing the origins and reasoning behind the proposal, I have cut and pasted (see below) from an email that I received from  the President of the Virginia Chapter.  I believe that it provides good information and good perspective on this topic.  If you skim over the specific references  to Virginia APA and their programs, the rest is relevant to Illinois planners.  

As suggested by the VAPA President, read  the proposal, think about how this will affect you in your urban, suburban or  rural planning office, whether you work for a municipal government, a non-profit  or a private consulting firm.  Think  about the positive and negative aspects.  Then provide your input to the AICP Commission.  Feel free to copy me (as current  President of Illinois APA (for another 17 days, but whose counting) and Karen  Stonehouse as incoming IL APA President (send emails to pastpres at ilapa.org, president at ilapa.org, and/or vicepres at ilapa.org).  This topic will be discussed at the national conference in Philadelphia next spring before adoption by the  AICP Commission. 

I hope you all have a safe and joyous holiday season. 

Mark Koplin 


    Before the misconceptions snowball out of control I think the
membership's concerns need to be addressed and the record set straight.
People do not seem to understand the history or the intent of this
    You may have noticed that the VAPA Board members generally do
not post on the listserve, although most of us are members. I personally
do not post because I like to read the free flow of comments and do not
want to influence the discussion one way or the other. However, my
silence on this issue may not be helping the discussion so I would like
to offer a few clarifications as well as some history. I apologize for
the length but I believe this information will help people weigh the
pros and cons as they formulate their thoughts.     

    First, let me say that I appreciate everyone's thoughts. I can
assure you that the AICP Commission will take all of them very
seriously. While I am trying to forward all the postings on this
listserve to the AICP President, AICP President Elect and our former
VAPA President and current Region II AICP Commissioner Terry Harrington,
it would also be very helpful if people wrote their thoughts and sent
them directly to the Commission at AICP-CM at planning.org.

    The history of Certification Maintenance has been years in the
making. For a long time the APA leadership, which includes all the
presidents from every APA chapter, have been debating continuing
education with the AICP. All the points that have been raised here have
also been discussed at the national level. How do we promote the values
to our profession, ensure that certified planners are well informed on
past and emerging planning issues, and demonstrate that AICP membership
is a sign of, as Bill writes below, a devotion and competence in the
profession as well as ethical behavior? How do we balance these
overarching needs of the profession with the needs of the individual
member who must deal with budget constraints and work load pressure?

    For the record, all the APA chapter presidents have unanimously
supported this idea of continuing education in the form of a formal
motion to the AICP Commission twice a year since the idea's inception.
This idea came from and was strongly promoted by the chapters - not
national AICP.     

    What is being put forth for comment is a well thought out and
much researched proposal from the AICP Commission. However, as they say
the devil is in the details and it may not be completely clear what the
intent is. Of course there are always unintended consequences that need
to be vetted which is why commenting about how this applies to your own
personal situation is so important.     

    Many have stated that this appears to simply be an effort by APA
to get people to the national conference. While it would be great if we
could all attend the national conference it is well understood that the
conference is expensive and time consuming. It is not the answer for
many in their quest to fulfill their CEU's. What the AICP Commission is
proposing is that the majority of the credits be collected by APA
"sponsored" events. This includes anything that VAPA sponsors or
co-sponsors. VAPA not only sponsors its own annual conference but has
also co-sponsored, among other things, in the last year the VCPA CEPTED,
CPEAV, and the Virginia AARP events. The provision of APA sponsored
training was needed to ensure a quality control measure as well as
supporting training the APA organization offers itself. As we all know
if the AICP creates the need for training thousands of planners then
some wonderful people and some not-so-qualified people will come forward
offering courses for their own profit. There needs to be some kind of
mechanism to protect the membership and the organization as a whole.     

    We are blessed in Virginia to have many great organizations that
offer training - from our three planning accredited universities to the
state agencies to various non-profits and membership organizations. VAPA
itself will also need to step up and become more active sponsoring
events with its allied professions, its regional sections, and its
writings. We will need to offer more opportunities to receive continuing
education credits at the local level and at limited or no cost. For
example, our sections will need to start organizing more training on
regional issues of interest.      

    It would be helpful to view this proposal as something we can
ALL help formulate to promote our profession and its unique credentials
as opposed to something being pushed down to the little guy by
nationals. That is why the AICP Commission very much wants to hear from
you. If the parameters as written don't work for you than state why and,
most importantly, what would work for you. How many credits are
feasible, how would you most likely access the training, what timeframe
is appropriate?     

    One person wrote that planners do not make as much money as
engineers and attorneys. For the most part this may be true. However,
even GIS Professionals who are our colleagues in local government are
required to maintain their credentials through continuing education. The
chapter presidents argue that if we want the public, media, and
politicians to take our profession seriously than we must ourselves take
it seriously. This means one can not simply pass a test and then do
nothing to further our education in the field for the rest of our
careers. And let's be honest, we all know there are planners who have
shown no interest in proven trends and new technologies. Should they be
given equal AICP membership weight as the planner who actively
challenges themselves to learn everything from new legislation to new
design principals? Many believe that AICP should mean something above
and beyond the title "planner" to the public. I know that when seeking
professional financial advice that a CPA requires years of training and
holds much more weight than someone who does not have those initials.
AICP should convey the same thing.     

    Finally, one person raised the subject of licensing. It is true
that other professions are required by the state to be licensed.
Virginia does not require this of planners but it may interest some to
know that places like New Jersey do require it. Neither APA nor VAPA is
suggesting all states license planners. Certification Maintenance of
AICP membership solely applies to planners who sit for and pass the AICP

    While the AICP Commission wants to hear from everyone there are
two groups in particular that I personally very much want to comment.
The first is the rural, one person shop planner who has no staff, no
time, and no money. These types of planners can play a substantial role
in how their communities are shaped simply due to all the hats they must
wear. It is essential they stay on top of professional planning trends
for the sake of their localities. The AICP Commission needs to know how
they can do that - not necessarily easily but in an achievable fashion.
APA will argue they have online training and CD training modules. Does
this work? If not, why? What would? Do VAPA sponsored section events and
conferences help?     

    The second group is planning directors.  There are some planning
directors that never set foot in a conference and instead reserve their
budgets for their staff. Even without going to organized training some
of these planning directors manage to stay progressive in their planning
techniques. How do they do this? As managers of staff budgets how do
they propose administering continuing education for the AICP membership?
What do they see as working or not working? This goes for both public
and private sector planning directors.      

    Hopefully I have shed a little light on the subject and assured
the membership that this is intended to promote the certified planner as
a valued professional. Please continue to submit your comments on this
listserve and to the Commission. If you have any questions before
submitting your comments, please feel free to contact me or Terry


    Happy Holidays,

    Denise M. Harris
    VAPA President

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