Community Organizers’ Personal Experiences with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Permit-Granting Process

Rogers, Alexandria, Nema Kebbeh, Shelbi Matlock, Anna Angus, Monika Sata, and Kristen Abraham

The present study was completed by students in the Health Disparities Research Coordination Network of the ReBUILDetroit Consortium. This study was designed to identify and understand the barriers and facilitators to community members’ meaningful involvement in Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s (MDEQ’s) permit-granting process. Previous research found that facilitators to community members’ meaningful public involvement include effectively publicizing public hearings using a variety of communication methods such as newspapers, direct mail, public notices, television, involving citizens in the decision-making process early, and carefully listening to and valuing the comments of citizens that attend hearings (Baker, Addams, & Davis 2005). Past research also indicates that barriers to community members’ meaningful involvement include not allowing citizens to convey information, leaving citizens with the feeling of not being heard during meetings, and imposing on community members that public hearings are not meant to change the minds of public officials (Adams, 2004).

This study used qualitative interviews to understand the perspectives of community activists regarding the participation of community members and personal experiences regarding the permit process with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in the tri-city area (zip code 48217, Ecorse, River Rouge). The study also used a background questionnaire. It was hypothesized that the community organizers/activists would identify discriminatory actions, lack of efficient communication, and confusing processes as barriers to community member’s meaningful involvement in the MDEQ permit granting process. It was also hypothesized that possible facilitators to community members’ meaningful involvement in the MDEQ permit granting process would include effectively communicating with citizens about the hearings, convenient hearing times and locations, and making information about permits and hearings easily accessible and understandable. This poster will include a presentation and discussion of the barriers and facilitators to community members’ meaningful involvement in Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s (MDEQ’s) permit-granting process identified through individual interviews with community organizers.