When Environmental Justice Hits the Local Agenda

Exempel på långsiktigt och utvecklande samverkansarbete kan man aldrig få för många av. Lärdomar finns att utvinna och förståelse för komplexiteten och behovet av tålamod och målmedvetenhet i arbetet.

Ett redovisat exempel från Spartanburg, South Carolina i USA. Startskottet var ett larm om förorenad mark och behovet av att koordinera insatser mellan flera delstatliga och federala aktörer liksom informationsarbetet mot invånarna synliggjorde behovet av definierade roller och samordning.

Det är inte ovanligt att samverkansinsatser har sin start i en upplevd krissituation vare sig det gäller miljö, ekonomi eller sociala dimensioner.

Lika drivande som akuta situationer är för beredskapen att handla lika olämpliga är de för det tålmodiga arbete som behövs när många organisationer med egna kulturer ska finna samverkansformer. Då krävs att någon processägare tydligt utkristalliseras vars särställning accepteras av alla relevanta aktörer.

In 1997, residents attended the first of many community meetings held to discuss environmental contamination. Questions about what contaminants might be found at the dump site surfaced in 1998. That same year, Harold Mitchell founded ReGenesis, a community-based environmental justice organization, to provide leadership and to represent neighborhood interests in the effort to assess and clean up the two sites.

ReGenesis worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state environmental agency to assess levels of contamination, and a plan for cleanup followed. 

Intressant i detta case är att en för ändamålet nystartad ideell organisation kom att ha en så framträdande roll. Stadens administration och det större county var ju del i den myndighetsmässiga försummelse som möjliggjort problemen. Att denna nya organisation kom att bli samarbetspart med EPA(Evironmental Protection Agency), USA:s motsvarighet till naturvårdsverket, gav tyngd och trovärdighet som fristående aktör utan egna särintressen.

During these discussions, the idea of redeveloping Arkwright and Forest Park gained support.

As the focus of ReGenesis evolved, the organization continued to link other entities from the public and private sectors into the revitalization efforts. Several public forums in 2000 brought together stakeholders from federal and state agencies, business and industry, universities, and other interested parties and ultimately led to the formation of the ReGenesis Environmental Justice Partnership.

Med denna erhållna roll kom sedan ledningen i staden och county för att ansluta.

Two local partners—Spartanburg County and the city of Spartanburg—joined with ReGenesis to form a core steering committee for the partnership. In addition to Mitchell representing ReGenesis, Elena Rush, director of Spartanburg County’s community and economic development department (CEDD), and Mike Garrett, former city engineer for Spartanburg and current public works director for Spartanburg County, made up the committee. These three stakeholders decided early on to hold regular meetings to keep communication flowing and to coordinate activities among members of the larger partnership effort.

Arbetet i såväl styrgruppen som de forum för medborgardialog är kopplat så maximal transparens nås och möjlighet för medborgare att påverka även styrgruppens arbete finns.

This committee handles planning for partnership meetings and community forums, which are usually held in conjunction with each other. Partnership meetings involve representatives from federal and state government, business and industry, and other interested parties, whereas community forums are held mostly for the benefit of neighborhood residents.

Before each round of meetings, the team lays out the respective meeting agendas and determines which issues need to be addressed. Team members also serve as sounding boards for each other on how to approach certain issues. For example, the committee tailors the agendas to their potential audiences. Technical details are summarized, and consultants are available to provide explanations and keep the discussions focused.

Ganska snart insåg lokala myndighetspersoner behovet av att inventera vilka aktörer, såväl lokala som federala, som behövde involveras i arbetet. Det aktuella partnerskapet gjorde att den lokala förvaltningen helt omvärderade sitt arbetssätt vilket förändrat all myndighetsutövning.

From the outset of the county’s involvement in the partnership, County Administrator Jim Hartmann and Elena Rush could see that a number of relationships needed to be built and/or strengthened to respond to and address the environmental justice issues being brought forward.

They determined that there needed to be better coordination within county government, with other governments, and with community-based organizations and neighborhood groups. Together, they worked to develop several new processes and encouraged these processes to be institutionalized within county government.

The emergence of the ReGenesis Environmental Justice Partnership has served to drive home the need for the office and the community development services it provides.

Även relationerna mellan administrationen i staden och county förbättrades och gammalt groll lades åt sidan.

For many years, the city and county did not have a good track record for establishing cooperative relationships on joint projects, and public controversies between the two were common. Poor communications between the two governments appeared to be a major contributing factor.

..undertook a joint effort to push for more and better information sharing between city and county government and made it a practice to hold weekly lunch meetings..   ..encouraged their respective staffs to develop deeper professional relationships. They hosted joint training sessions to allow staff to come closer together. .. that cooperation between the two governments is now almost an automatic function.

Relationerna mellan de lokala myndigheterna och medborgarna har också succesivt utvecklats ju mer man lär sig om varandras behov och ansvarsområden.

When the ReGenesis effort began, residents of Arkwright and Forest Park lacked an understanding of the city and the county’s respective roles and responsibilities. The two local governments also had a learning curve to go through to understand the needs and wants of the neighborhoods.

..director of Spartanburg County’s community and economic development department attend one of the ReGenesis-sponsored community forums. Only after this dialogue began did the neighborhood residents start to see the county and city as their allies. …“We all began to see the bigger picture.”

Länk till hel artikel

http://webapps.icma.org/pm/8605/fleming.htm

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