The most important national organization of planners in the United States is the American Planning Association (APA). In addition to the national organization there are state chapters and many hundreds of local chapters. The national organization publishes two magazines. The Journal of the American Planning Association (JAPA), which comes out quarterly, is the more scholarly of the two. It provides articles on current research and theoretical issues in planning. The APA also publishes Planning, which comes out 11 times a year. It is the trade magazine of the profession in the United States. If you want to keep up with what is happening in planning—names, places, programs, controversies, court cases, and the like—it is the best available source. In addition to these two periodicals, the APA, through its Planning Advisory Service (PAS), publishes numerous technical, how-to- do-it reports for the practicing planner.
The work of the planner takes place within a complex legal framework and it is strongly affected by public funding, since one of the biggest, if not the biggest, shapers of the pattern of development is public capital investment. The APA thus lobbies Congress and, at times, state legislatures on a wide variety of matters, some instances of which are discussed later in this book. It is, more than any other organization, the voice of planners in Congress and the state legislatures. Because the law is not only what is passed by legislative bodies but also the precedents established in litigation, the APA takes positions on court cases and from time to time files amicus curea (friend of the court) briefs in cases involving land-use controls, environmental regulations, eminent domain, and related matters.
A second national organization is the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). This organization certifies planners. The planner who satisfies the organization's professional experience requirements and passes a written exam is certified and can put the letters AICP after his or her name. Some planning jobs require AICP certification, and the certification may carry a certain weight with the user of planning services. For example, a municipality that purchases the services of a planning consultant may be reassured that the consultant is AICP certified.