ASPA is canceling its 2020 Annual Conference. Our National Council’s unanimous decision is based, of course, on the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, as well as recent government guidance issued by the State of California and City of Anaheim.
We value our members' and attendees’ health and safety above all other considerations. As we have known for some time, to hold this event at this time would be irresponsible. Due to a variety of factors, we were unable to share this sentiment broadly until now.
Some have remarked about the timing of the conference cancellation and asked why it had not been done sooner. Please know that we have been championing your health and safety for many weeks. The virus spread has been quick and our strategy had different phases, depending on its course.
In late February, I instructed the National Office staff to stay the course; identify alternatives for those who were from, at that time, the countries most impacted prior to the National Council meeting; and cease new registrations beginning March 8 until we better understood the virus’ path and received the Council’s guidance on how to proceed. I also instructed the team that we must make a final decision at least two weeks prior to the conference to allow enough time for attendees to cancel hotel reservations without penalty and mitigate travel losses. Bill Shields and team took the additional steps to hold off on non-essential expenses, including conference materials.
You should know that taking this course of action took tremendous behind-the-scenes work, the vast majority of which we could not share publicly, on the part of ASPA’s executive leadership team. Internal deliberations and negotiations on this action began more than two weeks ago. Had we cancelled the conference when some suggested, it would have resulted in a severe hotel penalty, placing ASPA in a critical state. Only in the past two days, following extensive back-and-forth, has the hotel proposed reasonable alternatives. We maintain that the force majeure clause of our contract applies and are in the final stages of bringing this matter to conclusion.
It is increasingly apparent that this strategy was the right call and we appreciate your patience as we work out the final details. While still operating at a loss due to sunk costs, we likely will be in a much better financial position than would otherwise be the case. Having our professional ASPA team guide us through the process made all the difference. We could not have weathered this initial storm without Bill Shields, Karen Garrett, Kay Lam, and Amy Omang’s direction. Please be sure to thank them. They will be in touch with you about refund options, and if you are so inclined, donating the registration fee as a tax deductible gift in the coming days.
I want to thank you for your patience as we have worked through this crisis—and will continue to do in the coming days and weeks. ASPA is who and what it is because of you. Your actions and support advance excellence in public service.
Paul Danczyk, PhD
Director of Executive Education in Sacramento USC Sol Price School of Public Policy
American Society for Public Administration